X-Message-Number: 24952
Date: Sun, 31 Oct 2004 00:41:02 -0700
From: Mike Perry <>
Subject: Re: Forever Friendly versus Techno-Hell 
References: <>

In my last message I argue against the existence of techno-Hells by way of 
analogy with the non-existence of an infinite, unbalanced sequence of coin 
tosses. Mike Price takes issue with this analogy, but passes up this line 
of argument because he says that, nevertheless, the infinite, unbalanced 
sequence *does* have a physical existence. His argument is that, in effect, 
on each coin toss the number of sequences to that point must double, which 
I would say is in accordance with the many-worlds hypothesis (and I think 
we both accept that). So really all the possible infinite sequences will 
eventually exist (after infinite time, that is), including the unbalanced 
ones. I can't argue with this reasoning yet it does not trouble me because 
still, the ratio of less balanced to nearly balanced goes to zero, and that 
is what I would consider important. To see why, let's consider the 
following thought experiment.

I am stuck in a miserable, dark dungeon, something like the main character 
in Poe's "Pit and the Pendulum." My life is not threatened, however, and I 
am not in great pain, but it's not exactly great living. Every day, 
however, the jailer tosses a coin. If heads comes up, I will be released, 
and I have good reason to think the coin is unbiased. On this basis then, I 
am confident of eventually getting out. There is about a million-to-one 
chance, for example, that I will have to stay in the dungeon as long as 20 
days, for instance, but that is all. Almost certainly I will be out before 
then. Each time the coin is tossed, according to many-worlds, my reality 
splits and one copy of me gets out and the other doesn't. So yes, in some 
sense, there is a copy of me that never gets out--the techno-Hell option. 
(Since my life is not threatened I'm actually immortal, and that version 
that never gets out will, in some sense, actually, eventually exist.) 
However, with probability of zero that that will be "me" I am unworried. 
If, for instance, someone were to offer me a million dollars to undergo 
such an ordeal I'd probably accept.

Actually, the above example is one in which only certain, very unbalanced 
sequences are bad--the ones with no heads at all. But the same 
considerations would apply more generally to unbalanced sequences. Suppose, 
for instance, I don't get out *unless* a balanced sequence, equal numbers 
of heads and tails, has occurred since the ordeal started. The chance of 
this is much less likely than the chance of at least one head (in 
particular the number of days must be even for a balance to be possible at 
all), yet even here I will eventually get out, as can be shown by 
considering the relevant probabilities.

I said "in some sense" the zero-probability outcome will exist but I think 
in another, realistic sense it will not--the ratios are more important than 
the absolute numbers. The question to consider, then, is whether the 
techno-Hell likelihood would in fact be like the unbalanced sequence and 
also effectively nonexistent. I realize Mike Price is convinced the answer 
is no--that techno-Hells would have a nonzero ratio to techno-Heavens and 
thus be robustly and intrusively present. I can't disprove this, but I 
don't really see how anyone could prove it either, or develop a compelling 
argument in its favor. My feeling that techno-Hell is unlikely to have a 
nonzero ratio is based on a gut-level confidence in the ultimate prevalence 
of good will among advanced, sentient beings. Such beings are unlikely to 
develop in ways that would promote the techno-Hell because, I think each 
will conclude that such a perverse outcome would detract from its 
individual happiness if it were to be involved, however sadistically 
gratifying it might be. I think the unlikeliness of a bad turn would 
compound with time and become increasingly unlikely as the being advanced, 
so the ratio of bad to good versions of beings would go to zero, and ditto 
for any would-be Hells versus would-be Heavens.

Time will tell if I'm right. For what it's worth, here are two 
organizations that, it's fair to say, are dedicated to trying to make 
techno-Heaven predominate infinitely over techno-Hell, thus fulfilling my 

Society for Venturism: http://www.venturist.org
Society for Universal Immortalism: http://www.universalimmortalism.org

Best wishes and love to all forever,
Mike Perry

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