X-Message-Number: 24850
Subject: Reply to Michael C. Price about Immortalism
Date: Mon, 18 Oct 2004 04:31:54 US/Eastern

   Michael C. Price wrote:

>  we are left with his observation that people 
> naturally discount the value of money (and other things) in the 
> future.  I presume this discounting is hard-wired into our brains 
> by evolution; by this reasoning we should get on with reproducing
> like crazy and not even bother to try to live to 200.  

     Hard-wiring is a red-herring and is also a way of dismissing
the matter as irrational, but I won't argue this point at present.
Your conclusions are a non-sequitur -- reproducing like crazy 
will not necessarily extend my life. You are confusing survival
strategies of species with survival strategies of individuals. 

>   Values are subjective, not objective. 

    Yes!!  But values should be based on objective facts.

> An immortalist (such as myself) does not discount the future 
> in the way that a life-extensionist (like Ben) does.  
> Ben says, in his essay,:
>   "To put the argument in the most forceful terms, if you knew 
>   for a certainty that you were going to be obliterated without 
>   hope of further life at the age of one million years, would that 
>   be significantly more tragic than an age of ten million? Ten 
>   billion? Ten trillion? "
> I would rather turn the question around:
>   "Is it less tragic to die at the age of 100 years than 100 million
>   years."
> For my value system the answer is YES, it more tragic to die
> the older you are, because more memories are lost the older
> you are when die.

    If you want to argue against my position it is better not to
mangle it before you reply. Turn the question back to the one
I pose: "Is it significantly less tragic to die at the age of one 
million than one trillion years of age?" ("significantly" added
for emphasis, although it was implicit). Even though a trillion
years is a million times longer than a million, by my values
the difference is not significant -- and I am skeptical that it
is even significant by yours -- skeptical that you are not 
"discounting" future life.  I do have a preference of one
trillion over one million, but from my present position the 
difference is practically negligible -- silly to worry about.

    And there is another factor, illustrated by listing goals:

(A) live until next year
(B) live to age 100
(C) live to age 1000
(D) live to age one million
(E) live to age one trillion

   (A) may not be difficult. Going from (A) to (B) will entail a
monumental breakthrough in the history of mankind. Without
getting from (A) to (B) there is no hope of getting from (D) to
(E) -- which enormously discounts the value of putting effort
into the latter. It is not only a waste of time, it detracts from
time that could be spent on the former. Worrying about how
to become "immortal" is worse than worrying about how
to get from (Y) to (Z). 

>   Is the "death" of an hour old embryo more tragic
> than that of a hundred year old?  Obviously it depends on
> your values.

   Yes, but this is irrelevant to the points I have been arguing
concerning sentient beings. 

>  Ben has, like the fox in Aesop's sour grapes fable, 
> convinced himself that he doesn't really want immortality after all.  

   I did not say that I don't want immortality. I will repeat my 
position in the form of a syllogism:

I want to live as long as possible
It is possible to live eternally (be immortal)
Therefore, I want to live eternally (be immortal)

   The first statement is a statement of my values and
the second statement is my appraisal of the facts. If I
am correct about the facts -- that it is not possible to
live eternally -- then the final statement cannot be 
true. Values are subjective, but must be based on facts. 
If I believed it is possible to be immortal (second statement)
then it would follow that I want to be immortal.  Your 
supposition of "sour grapes" is wrong. 

> Ben says "with enough time a fatal event is inevitable. 
> (I don't believe in "back-ups" -- see my essay The Duplicates 
> Paradox.) ". 

    I now think that "backups" is irrelevant because I think a fatal
event is inevitable with or without backups. Web publishing
has the wonderful advantage of allowing alteration of text -- which
I do frequently. I will correct this and other aspects of my 
essay when this debate has passed. 

> I disagree with Ben's conclusions (or rather lack of them) in his 
> associated Duplicates essay:  
> http://www.benbest.com/philo/doubles.html
> Ben should be applauded for stating 
> that the Duplicates problem is presently unsolved in his opinion, 
> but for me back-ups are a fine way to be truly immortal.  
> I diverge from Ben's views about backups -- and therefore
> about the possibility of true immortality -- at the point when 
> he says:
>      "Which duplicate is me?" cannot be answered with the 
>       word "both" because one person cannot be in two locations 
>      at the same moment. 
> My answer is "both", because the "me" in the question is usually
> framing the question *before* the copying takes place.  
> Ben-before-copying asks: which duplicate (Ben1 or Ben2) 
> *will be* me?  The answer is both Ben1 and Ben2.
> Asking the question *after* copying is trivial, since we would
> have to specify *which* Ben was asking the question.  I also
> think identity can overlap, to varying degrees, between 
> individuals i.e. Ben1 and Ben2 initially share 100% identity
> (in the first instant after copying they are identical, mentally)
> and they subsequently, increasingly diverge.

   You have presented the objective arguement, just as I presented
it in my essay. Subjectively I cannot accept the fact that I can 
exist in two or more people and necessarily survive if all but one
perish. I have never had success discussing this matter with
people who cannot *understand* the subjective arguement 
(understand it well enough to reply to the issues that matter
to me). I experience a contradiction between the objective argument
and the subjective argument -- and don't believe there should be
a contradiction. So the Duplicates Paradox remains a paradox
to me -- an unsolved problem. I have more important things
to think about and have doubts that speculative philosophy
could resolve the matter, anyway. Perhaps when and if I am 
in the position of worrying about how to get from (C) to (D)
I will find it more relevent. 

    -- Ben Best, speaking for

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