X-Message-Number: 24825
Subject: Re: Some Problems with Immortalism - by Ben Best
Date: Sat, 16 Oct 2004 03:59:56 US/Eastern

   I am replying to Bruce J. Klein's critique of my views
in CryoMsg 24820. 

   Bruce J. Klein wrote: 

> <>Some Problems with Immortalism - by Ben Best
> http://www.benbest.com/lifeext/immortal.html  <>
> Ben says that wanting to live forever is "unrealistic" and 
> "self-defeating." 

  More precisely, I want to live as long as possible and I don't
believe it is possible to live forever. I believe that it is self-defeating
to attempt to live forever by presenting one's position as an 
alternative to religion. I also think that one can never know that
one can live forever and that the belief that one has acheived
immortality is likely to reduce vigilance and hasten death. 

> He says that life has "diminishing returns" when 
> applied to life now verses the value of life in the future. 

   How impactful would it be to be told that you could only live 
a million years rather than a trillion years? Although a trillion
years is a million times longer than a million years, the 
psychology of "diminishing returns" makes the two figures
close to indistinguishable, at least from my perspective. It 
seems ludicrous to me that there are people who get upset
over the thought of not being able to live a googolplex number
of years -- or eternity -- when living to age 200 would currently
be such a monumental breakthrough unprecedented in the 
history of mankind. 

> He says that  wanting immortality is like wearing a "kill me" 
> sign as an affront to religion. 

     I want to live as long as possible, which would not preclude
"wanting immortality" if immortality were possible. 

     Assume a person wants to live as long as possible and can
choose between two strategies: (1) take up arms against the 
religions of the world and declare that the Death of God will be
the Life of Man or (2) make every attempt to advance the science
and technologies of cryonics and anti-aging medicine. I would
call approach (1) the "Salman Rushdie approach" to associate it
with the man who wrote a novel which resulted in the Ayatollah 
Khomeini issuing a religious edict condemning Rushdie to death. 
(The last I heard of Rushdie he was working on a newer novel 
entitled "All Mafia Kingpins are Homos".) 

> <>In reply to Ben's argument, I agree that thinking about "forever" may 
> not be easy now, but only because we're using limited thinking machines, 
> the biological brain.  Upgrades in our thinking ability, with 
> brain-computer interface technology, will give us the ability to 
> understand complex concepts. Are not computer programs great at infinite 
> loops?

   No, my problems with immortalism have nothing to do with my being
too mentally weak to  be "thinking about 'forever'" . People who spend 
their time trying to understand "forever" are far less likely to live 200 
years than people who spend their time trying to solve the practical 
problems of cryonics and anti-aging medicine. A computer that cannot
survive 200 years can hardly be said to be executing "infinite loops"
-- except from the point of view of computer jargon. 

> When possible, I think its advantageous for people to focus on physical 
> immortality because it gives an answer the question of death=oblivion. 
> Religion has a majority hold on this problem now with afterlife 
> scenarios - heaven. Physical immortality, on the other hand, gives a 
> more concrete alternative.
> We're alive now. We know it works. Let's make heaven on earth because 
> all indications point the fact that when people die, there's nothing.

     On the other hand, life extensionists and cryonicists need not present
themselves as alternatives to religion. Emphasizing the medical approach
is likely to be more productive than declaring war on religion. Many 

cryonicists and life-extensionists are, in fact, religious. I greatly appreciate
their help. We will need all the hope we can get if we are to achieve the
massive breakthroughs required to allow us to live hundreds or thousands
of years. 

   None of the above should be taken to imply that I do not recognize and
appreciate the real and substantial contributions made to cryonics and
life-extension by Bruce Klein, Mike Perry, David Pizer and numerous
other "immortalists". 

      -- Ben Best, speaking for himself

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