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ds1973

Immortality, would you take it?

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You've persuaded me now that you simply don't understand the importance of saying what you mean,

And you've persuaded me you're only interested in arguing semantics and over rationalizations of metaphysically impossible scenarios.

If you ever determine what your own position is about the nature of values, perhaps you could share with the group.

Why does a discussion about indefinite lifespans require one to define the nature of values? You want a definition of "value"? A value is something of worth, or merit, as in something that is worth persuing. So life, is a value worth persuing which its logical extension would be to conquer aging and all disease. That we could accomplish this doesn't mean one cannot simply choose to reject such technology and just die. So there is no threat of losing the value of life if it is possible with technology to avoid almost any death precisely because you could always just kill yourself. So what else would you like to define, perhaps the word "is"?

Edited by Johnny

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Well, all I can say about living for ever is that I would not want to be around when the earth dies. Then what? It's better to live a short wonderful life than a long and moderate/boring one.

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The posts in this thread are about two different topics:

  • what if humans were indestructible/immortal; and,
  • what if, through medicine and other technology, man's life could be extended very significantly

Though they seem similar at first glance, they're actually completely different questions that truly deserve two separate threads.

  • The first question is like asking: what if humans were like rocks?
  • The second is asking: what if humans were humans, with very long life-spans?

If humans were like rocks, humans would not have values. If humans had long life-spans, they could live more, gain more values, assuming this is useful life-span, not being semi-consiously bed-ridden.

(I know, I'm repeating exactly what's already been said in post #2.)

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Humans can never have immortallity. We can however have extremely long lifespans, and we all agree (more then likely) that, it is a good thing.

Only up to a point. There is the matter of finite brain/memory capacity. If you live long enough you would have to lose information about your past to make more room for new information. Then there is the more serious matter: boredom. After how many years will boredom set in. You know how it goes. Same old, same old. Been there, done that, got the T-shirt.

Bob Kolker

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I'd take it in a heartbeat. There is always something to look forward to. Here is my proof. According to astronomers, the Milky Way and Andromeda galaxies are moving towards each other at a rate of 300,000 mph. Unfortunately that means they won't come in contact for 3 billion years. I would very much like to be there for that. (Of course it goes without saying that it is a way out of context wish - not even allowable outside sheer fantasy.) I'd like to be dancing a jig on my 26,000th pair of robo-legs with a sweet girl , as brand new worlds whisk by in the night sky above me.

Or collide with Earth, smashing it to pieces, and sending my immortal ass to float in space for eternity.

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Only up to a point. There is the matter of finite brain/memory capacity. If you live long enough you would have to lose information about your past to make more room for new information. Then there is the more serious matter: boredom. After how many years will boredom set in. You know how it goes. Same old, same old. Been there, done that, got the T-shirt.

Bob Kolker

Actually the idea of a finite brain(in the way that I think you mean it) is a little outdated. It turns out that the brain is really quite plastic and will continuously adapt to new environments. Things that are not used for awhile will likely get buried and perhaps eliminated, but nothing currently indicates that you will run out of space. I would say at worst you might make too many integrations and have a very generalist outlook becoming a little absent minded or disinterested in small issues, but heck, being dead is surely less fun then being Yoda.

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I'd take it in a heartbeat. There is always something to look forward to. Here is my proof. According to astronomers, the Milky Way and Andromeda galaxies are moving towards each other at a rate of 300,000 mph. Unfortunately that means they won't come in contact for 3 billion years. I would very much like to be there for that. (Of course it goes without saying that it is a way out of context wish - not even allowable outside sheer fantasy.) I'd like to be dancing a jig on my 26,000th pair of robo-legs with a sweet girl , as brand new worlds whisk by in the night sky above me.

Or collide with Earth, smashing it to pieces, and sending my immortal ass to float in space for eternity.

How would you cope with the finite information storage capacity of your brain and nervous system? It is finite. If you live long enough you will have to dump stored information do make room for New Stuff.

Bob Kolker

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How would you cope with the finite information storage capacity of your brain and nervous system? It is finite. If you live long enough you will have to dump stored information do make room for New Stuff.

Bob Kolker

While I would agree that the storage capacity is finite, I don't think anyone really knows what its storage capacity is. Needless to say, it is doubtful evolution would have produced a brain that had a storage capacity for 3 billion years when the organism itself can only do a little over a 100.

So, in this fantasy projection, I would simply have massive backups (some kind of electro-bio-chemical whatitz ) of experiences and stuff while always keeping some vitals ever present. Maybe I could do millennia backups: Thoyd Loki: The 600th Millennia. Then I could go back and reexperience Rosa, my wife from my 322nd millennia, and spend a couple thousand years just kicking it with my backups. Not really pressed for time am I? Reflection in this scenerio really could be an indulgence.

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So, in this fantasy projection, I would simply have massive backups (some kind of electro-bio-chemical whatitz ) of experiences and stuff while always keeping some vitals ever present. Maybe I could do millennia backups: Thoyd Loki: The 600th Millennia. Then I could go back and reexperience Rosa, my wife from my 322nd millennia, and spend a couple thousand years just kicking it with my backups. Not really pressed for time am I? Reflection in this scenerio really could be an indulgence.

You are right. It is a fantasy. Our cells are programmed to die after about fifty divisions. The ones that don't die become cancerous.

See

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Telomere

Bob Kolker

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How would you cope with the finite information storage capacity of your brain and nervous system? It is finite. If you live long enough you will have to dump stored information do make room for New Stuff.

Bob Kolker

Our brains "finiteness" is a technicality that a long lived person need not concern himself with. Our brain's dump information all of the time. You don't need thousands of years to start losing data, It starts happening before preschool. Try naming all of the kids from your first grade class or if you have moved a lot, try to remember all of your past phone numbers. Heck, I don't even remember all of the area codes from places I have lived.

Our brains keep what information is relative to our lives plus a bunch of random facts that were accidentally well integrated. The detailed information would come and go but if you lived your life in a rational way, the information which you kept long term would probably consist of broader and more correct abstractions. But that is just a guess. Once I have lived a couple thousand years, I'll write here again to confirm the hypothesis. :)

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I want to be immoralty more then anything. So, yes, i'd take it.

But scientifically, how do you get past the dying cells? Clone fresh batchs of cells and restart the process? It's nice to think about but it would be very costly, not everyone would live forever.

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This topic may one day be the most important subject of debate in human society. What will Objectivism have to say about it? It seems wrong to conclude that because life is the standard of value, an indefinite lifespan is necessarily desirable. For all living organisms life is the standard of value. Humans are the one living organism that can reflect on this fact, and thus the one living organism that must be given a reason to live in order to want to continue to live. For us, that reason is the capacity for enjoyment. If enjoyment was not possible, I and I think most would choose to die. Therefore the argument for us as beings who can reflect on the quality of life is, would an indefinitely long life be a better life than what we have now?

I think there are very strong arguments that it would not. I also think there are very strong arguments that the ever-increasing growth of technology does not inherently have a positive effect on the enjoyability of human life. This view seems cynical no doubt, and the knee-jerk reaction as Objectivists might be to reject it outright, citing a formula such as "life is the standard of value, technological advancement is good by that standard, therefore technological advancement is desirable." But what if, for example, somehow one day something was invented that facilitated the choice 'to think,' that made humans choose to think automatically? (This is totally hypothetical obviously, whether such an invention is possible or not I do not know).

Such an invention would be good by the standard of life, but it would in my opinion remove all of the exciting, heroic elements from life, removing everything that we as Objectivists love and admire about human life. With respect to the current subject, knowing I have 600 years to live would certainly make each day much less exciting. In aggregate terms, it is hard to say which type of life would be more desirable. Absolutely everything would be revolutionized by such an invention (e.g., the structure of the family, of long-term romantic relationships--could you be with the same person for 200 years?--of schooling and careers and professional sports and politics and what planet people live on and population size and everything else). It is hard for us to even conceive of what it would mean psychologically to live in such a world.

My concluding thoughts are these: (1) This subject requires much more thought than merely citing a principle of Objectivism that seems to apply and leaving it at that. (2) It is possible that although technological advancement by nature seems to be positive by the standard of life, it is not necessarily inherently positive with respect to the enjoyability of life (it is possible that the enjoyability of life could peak at a certain stage of technological advancement and then begin to decline with increasing advancement). (3) This subject makes it clear that such a drastic change in the structure of human society raises a whole slough of new issues for philosophy.

I ask that you please think about this stuff before rejecting it all off hand, that's all.

Edited by youngman

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Sense of Smell May Predict Lifespan

If this study stands up, it seems to me it could be developed into a tool for older people in making their decisions about the rate at which they should be spending their savings.

 

 

A couple of fine-thinking essays related to this thread are these:

 

Would Immortality Be Worth It?

Stephen Hicks (1992)

 

Can Art Exist without Death?

Kathleen Touchstone (1993)

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True immortality, as far as we know, is in reality absolutely impossible.

 

 

The entire universe is dying a slow death of entropy.  According to current physics, a true "eternity" of operation is impossible, it would require an infinitely replenishing energy source to balance the losses all living processes, movement, thought, etc. require. No such a source exists or is theorized to exist, everything will die, and come to a cold, static, end.

 

That said, since any technology offering "immortality" would at most extend life, I would likely take it to the extent it actually extends my life (rather than end it : which would be the case if someone offered to make an exact replica based on me, then kill me, and let the replica live thinking it were me).

 

The last billions of millennia where we fight against the forces of entropy to eek out the last heat and energies of the universe to support our very thoughts, may be the most productive and rewarding of our very long lives.

Edited by StrictlyLogical

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This is an interesting topic.

 

What is mortality? We know that we are alive for a finite period of time, that as human beings our life is not a given and it will either abruptly or otherwise come to an end.

 

I was discussing time with some friends recently. The argument that came up was:

 

All the facts which characterize the world as it is, are those facts which exist now. The now is all that is happening.

 

The past is all that has happened. As it is not happening now, the past is not a fact that characterizes the world now. It is non-existent. There are what we would call remnants of what happened in the past which still exist (such as a memory, a scar, historical artefact etc) - but they are facts which characterize the world as it is - so they do not belong in the past but in the now. The future is what has not happened. It also does not exist now.

 

So what relevance has this got to mortality.

 

We can never know our beginning or our end - to know our own death requires we are conscious of it, which is impossible. To know of our own birth requires we were conscious of it before consciousness became a possibility, which is impossible. All we will ever know is the now, we can know of no beginning nor end. Therefore we will 'forever' exist in the now. In that sense at least, we are immortal.

 

I am not subscribing to this line of reasoning, but thought it might be worth pondering! 

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Jon, the view you expressed of not knowing one’s own beginning is certainly right, and likewise that aspect of one’s own death. Lucretius had the latter point right: “When we are here, death is not come. When death is come, we are not here.”

 

You wrote: “All we will ever know is the now, we can know of no beginning nor end. Therefore we will 'forever' exist in the now. In that sense at least, we are immortal.” That reminds me somewhat of Rand’s next-closing line as narrator for the death of her heroine of We the Living. “A moment or an eternity—did it matter? Life, undefeated, existed and could exist.”

 

There is no present self without memory, a working memory at least, and for the more extended self, a long-term semantic memory (knowledge of facts, language) and a long-term episodic memory (including autobiographical memory). I expect you have noted that in your remarks the now ranges from time to strike one key to time to have a human life. There is something right about that. The existence of one’s present self requires memory making past episodes and past learning part of one’s present self, and the happiness of the present is an assembly from the past, short and long.

 

You floated the idea that “the past is not a fact that characterizes the world now. It is non-existent.” That goes too far. The geological formations of the earth today are present indicators of their real past process of formation. The processes of the past were real, their order and their durations are real facts we aim to discover. The past is a reality, totally set, and some of it can be learned by us now, becoming part of our semantic memory and enriching us with reality. Very particular facts of past existents are not facts of present existents, to be sure. But facts of the past—what existed and occurred in the past—belong to some of the past, to the present, and to all of the future.

 

The future is not totally set, but it too has its now facts of it already, such as the conservation of mass-energy. It has further now-set facts ready for us to discover.

 

One’s mortality is an available fact of the future, even though the time of that occurrence in the future is not a present determinate fact. I don’t mean it’s simply unknown, I mean there is nothing to that issue there to be known. The future is a fact. Hopefully a good one for you and for those you care about, hopefully some of them beyond your own full stop, beyond you in the very real future, future always becoming a fully determinate now. With memory of you, as those now ceased whose memory has been part of you.

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Boydstun,

I get what you are saying about the past. Another way of looking at it is as follows:

Geological formations exist now. They are, in their current state, facts that characterise the world as it is. We can only deduce what was from what is. We reconstruct the past from present resources.

A memory of an event isn't a time machine that we use to revisit something that has happened, of course. The very fact of memory is proof that its subject has not reached its conclusion - if all we can know of an event is our memory of it, that event remains a current event (if only in the form of a memory) until it is forgotten forever, at which point it has happened and ceases to be a fact of existence.

Does that make sense?

A geological formation exists now. We can reconstruct what has happened to it (to build a history), but what exists now is still only the reconstruction and the geological formation in its current form.

That is not to say the past didn't exist. It is to say that what still exists is not the past. The past no longer exists as by definition it is no longer happening, and therefore it is not a fact of the present. That makes it non-existent.

To say otherwise implies the past, present and future exist all at once, and this might make even less sense!

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No, Jon, it's not correct that the past is nonexistent. It's just not a present existent, and that is not the same thing as nonexistent.

 

Existence as a whole includes all existents. It includes all the actual things and their identities, which includes their potentials and their histories. All of those things are part of existence. It includes all the actual things of the past and what identities and potentials they had. It includes all present existents and their identities (on this we agree). It includes all potentials of present things. There is no implication that past, present, and future exist at the same time, only that they all exist, that they and all existents in them are all part of existence.

Edited by Boydstun

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Jon,

 

Consider also that what we experience as a present instant is about a fifth of a second in duration. All kinds of neuronal processes have begun and done within that one second. Drilling on down to nuclei of the atoms composing us, an event can have begun and done in 0.000000000000001 seconds. A fifth of a second is 0.2 seconds. That is a lot of pasts, presents, and futures within what we are experiencing as a present time. If all that exists within our present 0.2 seconds fully exists, then that's a lot of pasts and futures contained therein that fully exist. And anyway, we don't really want to limit our sense of what exists in the present to a maximum duration of 0.2 seconds. As I type, the sun is setting, and the cornbread is baking in the oven. These are what's happening right now. How big is the intended now? Surely it's more than our minimum span of perceptual awareness.

 

Stephen

Edited by Boydstun

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I guess the issue is that I think time is just a construct to make sense of change.

The world is defined by what actually exists. Your 2yo self doesn't exist now. It is not a fact that characterises the world now. That it was once a fact of reality does not mean that it is still a fact of reality.

What you are saying would be like watching a movie and seeing a scene, and then your description of that scene would, if complete, have to describe the entire movie because you would argue it is contained within that scene. Only anyone observing what is in that scene will not see any of that history. To see it, they would have to watch the movie from the start. But that would be to experience it now. It would be an addition to the scene, a discovery.

I am playing with ideas here, I'm not saying a subscribe to this way of thinking, its just not clear cut.

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The world is defined by what actually exists. Your 2yo self doesn't exist now. It is not a fact that characterises the world now. That it was once a fact of reality does not mean that it is still a fact of reality.

What is the implication of this though? Is there an implication for how we will act? how we should act? how we feel? how we should feel?

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Jon,

 

This discussion has been a good exploration. Quite stimulating.

 

I’d say your two-year-old self is still a fact of reality in your present life because all life requires a developmental history. Your present age is something that exists now. It and your developmental history are facts now. Your two-year self stands in real unbroken concrete relations to your present self, including a real, definite temporal separation.

 

In addition, our organs, most of our neurons, and some of our skills (perceptual, motor, memorial, and linguistic) we have now we’ve kept since two. To some extent the two-year old continues to live in us now.

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I'm glad you're enjoying it too Stephen.

A statement is true or false. If I stated "Stephen is a 2yo" my statement would be false. It is false because in reality you are not a 2yo. Your past self is not a fact that characterises the world now.

However your last paragraph is correct. There are parts of us which were happening when we were two which are still happening now. That part of our 2yo self that lives on is a fact that characterises the world so it exists. Our awareness of the parts of ourselves we know are no longer happening - that awareness exists but the subject of that awareness does not exist, even though it once did.

I'm going to take a paracetamol now.

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Snerd,

I'll answer but be aware I'm chucking ideas out there, I really haven't ironed out my thinking on this yet.

Implications

1 there is only varying degrees of transformation within space. Time and motion becomes motion and motion - or just motion. Time is relative (what hour is it at the centre of the sun; we use the sun to judge time here on Earth - time loses its context in the centre of the sun)

2. We are only conscious in the present of things which exist now. I would think that has implications for inductive reasoning

3. When we say something can be in two states at the same time (quantum) we cannot be correct. It would be like my moving along by walking but hopping simultaneously. An amusing concept but I assure you its impossible. It would be to claim something has two trajectories at once, or one object having to motive paths at once. Like a train moving both forwards and backwards at the same time. Its mystical.

4. We often talk about planning life long range. If we only live in the present, what this really means is always choosing to tranform the world around us in the most positive way we can. Its like karma - and paying it forwards - intervening in bad motions and steering towards good. We desire a better present so we must act to refashion it - there is no tomorrow if you like, only opportunities now.

5. Forgiveness and mercy - if someone genuinely corrects his or her faults are they worthy of forgiveness? That flawed part of them no longer exists so this would suggest they should be. Should criminals have corrective incarceration and once corrected be released? It makes sentencing an individual decision and release into the community dependent on whether his intentions towards others in the community have really changed.

I might change my thinking on this quite soon - I do not subscribe to these statements - its just an exploration of ideas at this stage.

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