X-Message-Number: 12334
Date: Thu, 26 Aug 1999 10:58:08 EDT
Subject: purpose of life

A couple of days ago Mike Perry mentioned something I once wrote, that "The 
purpose of life is to discover the purpose of life." That wasn't a very 
shrewd observation on my part, although true in a certain sense--the 
intellectual goal is to learn everything knowable about ourselves and the 

English and other contemporary languages are often ill suited to clear 
expression, and "purpose" can mean many things. However, the "purpose" or 
goal of life in the most basic or general sense is just to maximize pleasure 
or satisfaction or feel-good, and to minimize or eliminate pain or 
dissatisfaction or feel-bad, over future time. How to accomplish this most 
efficiently depends on biological knowledge we don't yet have, and on 
application of decision theory beyond the capabilities of most people. It 
could also be profoundly affected by possibilities dimly perceived, such as 
remote links between different brains and different times.

All you can do, at a given moment, is apply your best information and 
analysis, which will often coincide with common sense. You bets your money 
and you takes your chances.

To maximize feel-good (or to accomplish anything at all in the future) you 
must first survive (again disregarding certain esoteric remote 
possibilities). Death (oblivion or non-existence) is not to be feared, since 
dead people don't suffer; but, as the old saw goes, dead people don't enjoy 
life much either, and it is common sense to try to keep your options open. 
Survival is the condition precedent to every other potential achievement.

The only circumstances in which it would make sense to accept death would be 
a reasoned calculation that your future would otherwise entail a 
preponderance of pain over pleasure--or else a reasoned calculation that the 
future "expected gain" of success is outweighed by the present cost of the 
effort, which is essentially the same thing. No such reasoned calculation 
seems possible to me, so it never makes sense to accept oblivion. 

Cryonics basically is just common sense applied to the question of improving 
your chance of survival, and the chances of those you love. The cost can be 
so low that prudence simply does not allow rejection.

Robert Ettinger
Cryonics Institute
Immortalist Society

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