X-Message-Number: 24853
From: "Michael C Price" <>
References: <>
Subject: Reply to Michael C. Price about Immortalism
Date: Mon, 18 Oct 2004 15:41:07 +0100

Ben Best wrote:
>    Michael C. Price wrote:
>>  we are left with [Ben's] 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. 

The obviousness of this conclusion should have been a clue that
you'd missed my point.  ;-)

> You are confusing survival
> strategies of species with survival strategies of individuals. 

No, I was not.  Let me clarify: 
The discounting is hard-wired in by evolution, but so are lots of
other *undesirable* things, ergo the fact that we are hard-wired 
to discount the future doesn't mean that we *should* discount the
future.  Just as we are hard-wired to invest in reproduction rather
than extend our lives greatly beyond the fertile period, yet as both
life-extensionists and immortalists we have chosen to value
extended lifespan / neural-information survival over genetic 
survival through our descendants.

>>   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.  

Do you agree with above statement?

> 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. 

Scepticism is often a healthy attitude, but you are wrong.  
My values rate any finite-length existence to be valueless,
and I am not alone in this view.  I agree with Bruce Klein
when he says:
>> Limited lifespan, living 10 more years, or 10 million more 
>> years, is irrelevant if death=oblivion.  The pursuit  of infinite 
>> lifespan is the best way to overcome this problem.

And I find your response to Bruce interesting: 
>    I find this statement incredible. If you have certain knowledge 
> that you cannot live 10 million years you would consider living 
> another 10 years to be irrelevant.  I know values are subjective, 
> but this seems so outrageous that I find it hard to believe you. 

You'll have not to believe me either, because that's my position
also, and has been since I was 11.   This is the real source of our
disagreement -- you can't imagine that anyone could actually
have immortalist values.  I, by contrast, have no problem imagining
that other people, even life-extensionists, don't share my 
immortalist values.

> 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, 

which is largely a bogus argument, since Ben and myself
both pursue anti-aging strategies, but I'll try to elucidate.

> 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. 

I think we are already at that stage; i.e. we can expect to 
live to a hundred using current anti-aging strategies.
However, that is the subject of another discussion;
perhaps I'll take it up with Doug Skrecky :-)

> 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. 

This is a strawman argument.

Perfectly true and absolutely irrelevant.  *Of course* an 
immortalist has to worry about staying alive tomorrow
before worrying about the next day, year, century etc.
This has nothing to do with how much I *value* living
forever as opposed to just another 100 or googolplex 
years -- both require that I live another year.

> It is not only a waste of time, it detracts from time that 
> could be spent on the former. 

No it doesn't.  Pursuing an anti-aging strategy increases
the chances of being alive at every time in the future.
Living forever means reducing my mortality risk right

> Worrying about how to become "immortal" is worse 
> than worrying about how to get from (Y) to (Z). 

My take is the complete opposite; worrying about how to 
become immortal is what makes me take anti-aging 
supplements *now*.
>>   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. 

Not if you regard sentience as a phase along the continuum 
of the complexity axis.  No point arguing about this, simply
increase the timescales to whatever time-frame you 
consider sentience to emerge in.
>>  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. 

You seem to be saying that below, where you imply
that your desire to live forever is conditional on immortality
being possible.  If this isn't what you mean then my apologies.

> 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. 

I don't see this at all.  There's no reason why you can't
value something you think you can't get.  Perhaps you 
are saying we *shouldn't* value the unachievable; but
that is itself another value, not a fact.

> If I believed it is possible to be immortal (second statement)
> then it would follow that I want to be immortal.  

And conversely, you don't value immortality because 
you don't believe immortality to be possible?

> Your supposition of "sour grapes" is wrong. 

Actually, what you've said sounds exactly like the 
fox in the fable, who decided he didn't want the grapes
[immortality] once he realised he couldn't reach them.
>> 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. 

Fair enough.  I will forgo any discussion of the Duplicates
Problem, for the moment, so that we can concentrate on the 
immortality issue.

Michael C Price

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