X-Message-Number: 19128
Date: Sun, 19 May 2002 21:52:04 -0700
From: Mike Perry <>
Subject: Immortality (again)

Brett Bellmore:

>"....Living for an infinite period of time IS impossible."
>Mike Perry:
>"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..."
>Nah, I've actually looked at that. Given the speed of light as an absolute,
>there's no way the volume and mass available to you can continue to increase
>exponentially, as that scheme requires,
>  for more than a short while.

"That scheme" by no means would require that volume and mass must increase 
exponentially (I assume you mean "as a function of time"). They would have 
to go to infinity with time (or some other means developed to store 
information), but the rate of growth could be slow, and the speeds involved 

>Not to
>mention the fact that other people might ALSO find some use for the

It's true that you would have to depend on a universe which allowed for an 
indefinite increase in information content. (An expanding universe would 
seem the most likely prospect.) All beings within would, one hopes, 
eventually cooperate so none were shortchanged of the growing memory space 
each required, which must also be so managed as to accommodate new 
individuals that came into being.

>Secondly, the scheme ignores the possibility of some common failure mode
>which could propagate through the dispersed network, taking them all out.
>Such as the dispersed person becoming suicidal?

I'll grant that it stops well short of any *proof* that immortality is 
possible; some things could certainly go wrong. (But on the other hand, 
possible suicidal impulses might be analyzed and countered beforehand.)

>Further, for dispersal to actually constitute survival on an ongoing basis,
>the dispersed units would have to be in communication. There too, the speed
>of light limitation gets you; The further apart the units get, the slower
>that communication, and if they're to remain in sync, the slower your
>subjective experience. So even if you did get an infinite objective lifespan
>that way, I think you'd still end up with a finite subjective lifespan,

Again, not necessarily. A function that goes to zero can still have an 
infinite integral (like 1/x).

>Alternatively, in as much as what we really want (Well, what I really want)
>is an extremely long subjective lifespan, anything which accelerates your
>thought processes without shortening your objective life span would have to
>be considered a form of life extension, right?

Yes, and more generally, anything that gives extra subjective time could be 
considered life extension. Actually, Tipler in *The Physics of Immortality* 
considers the possibility of an infinite speedup of thought processes in a 
collapsing universe. Effectively there is infinite subjective time and thus 
a form of immortality, though his cosmology, which predates the discovery 
of the accelerating universe, is not taken too seriously anymore, as far as 
I know. But it's worth adding that the issue of whether immortal life is 
possible in our universe (using reasonable criteria for what would 
constitute "immortal") is far from settled, but that means it hasn't been 
ruled out. For me it happens to be an important issue, important enough 
that I've considered ways one might be said to survive (with memories 
intact, of course) even if one is doomed in *this* universe. But I'll pass 
on that for now.

Mike Perry

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