X-Message-Number: 19108
Date: Sat, 18 May 2002 00:16:21 -0700
From: Mike Perry <>
Subject: Immortality, SF writers

Brett Bellmore, #19099:

>Regarding their dismissal of immortality... It's reasonable, given what we
>currently believe about physics. "Immortality" means that you live forever,
>that nothing can kill you. And yet, we live in a statistical universe, and
>arbitrarilly violent events can occur, with comparably low probability. Any
>finite probability, however low, must eventually integrate to unity with the
>passage of finite time. Living for an infinite period of time IS impossible.

Not necessarily, one possibility being to extend oneself by backups or 
redundancy so that, for example, a given catastrophe is likely to have less 
and less effect, relatively speaking, as time progresses. One's components 
would not have to be physically connected, just communicate, and might 
eventually stretch to considerable distances in space. As Ettinger says in 
*Man into Superman*, "If a star goes nova, only a few planets may be 
lost--a trifle, a toenail." I elaborate on this idea in my book too, and no 
doubt it has been considered by many others. My feeling is that this is one 
more instance where the SciAm "experts" are straining a bit unduly to put 
down any thought of serious life extension.

On SF writers: I am greatly saddened too by their rejection of cryonics and 
their acceptance of destruction (burial or burning) in the "normal" manner. 
Well, they too are human, all too human, as Nietzsche would say, but I had 
expected better, given their interests. A. E. Van Vogt, for example, was an 
inspiration to me with his story "Resurrection" in which dead humans are 
brought back to life by visiting space aliens. (The aliens are really not 
so benevolent, and one of the humans eventually gets rid of them.) The 
science in this story is left pretty nebulous, especially when it comes to 
getting back memories from the dried remains of the dead so they know who 
they are. But for me the important thing was that it opened the possibility 
that death might be a problem to be solved scientifically, to bypass the 
dependence on putative superhuman assistance. I was twelve at the time, and 
it helped steer me away from traditional religion toward scientific 
immortalism, for which I am grateful today. To Van Vogt I suppose this was 
just another story. If you are really interested in reanimation after 
"death" you must also consider the quality of preservation; you want to do 
better than the grave or the fire. Like so many others, Van Vogt didn't 
seem interested, and died and was not preserved in any special way.

Mike Perry

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