X-Message-Number: 3771
Date: Sun, 29 Jan 1995 01:37:03 -0500
Subject: SCI. CRYONICS The Problem


The most important of all problems is to find an appropriate set of values or
life guidelines for the individual--and after that, of course, to find ways
of achieving the goals implicit in the values. 

Some of the classic philosophers addressed the problem, but because of their
ignorance of the rules of the game--the laws of nature and the biology of the
species--results were pitiful.

Although today we are in a much better position to make progress, almost no
one is seriously interested. Even many of the greatest modern scientists
(Feynman comes to mind) have said or implied that such things are outside the
provenance of science. Almost everyone thinks that basic values are to be
found in custom, in revelation, in primitive sociology, or in individual
idiosyncrasy.  Yet it seems obvious to me that science--and science
alone--can do the job (or come as close to it as the nature of the universe

To ascertain appropriate values, we first need to know our own basic natures,
our fundamental biology. This includes what is often called the problem of
identity, which I prefer to call the problem of  survival criteria. To
achieve full success we will probably also need to know a good deal more than
we do now about physics, and especially about time or spacetime; but we can
make a start and go much further, and with much greater rigor, than


What should we want--i.e., what ought we to want, given perfect logic and
full information? 

After that, what strategy is appropriate to get what we want, in both the
short and long term, taking into account not only probability and game theory
but also the uncertainties in the premises, as well as the feedbacks? (We
must bear in mind that what we want, or think we want, today, will not
necessarily be what we decide is best tomorrow; and there will USUALLY be
conflicts between one value or goal and another. On top of that, it may prove
possible to change some elements of our basic biological natures, so we  may
have to reason from shifting premises.)

In particular, in light of our presently limited information, how should we
divide the problem into hierarchies or levels? I.e., we must be decisive,
 yet if possible still leave open  escape routes or alternative or fall-back
strategies if our working assumptions prove false.


What we "should" want and do, as intimated, is what a perfectly logical
person would do in possession of maximum information.

(Incidentally, a "logical" person does not mean one without emotions.
Emotions--as well as pre-existing or conditionally existing values--are part
of the premises or givens, even though they are also in many cases subject to
change and manipulation. The dependent and independent variables are
thoroughly mixed up.)

John Clark, in a recent Cryonet posting, said logic cannot determine
fundamental goals. But I didn't say logic alone--logic alone cannot even
figure out the simplest syllogism; it needs premises to work from. We need
logic AND appropriate information--in particular, as I said, about our own


I have been working for some time on a book of scientific philosophy, or
philosophical science, modestly intended to be the best and most useful of
human thought in this area to date. Working title is YOUNIVERSE: TOWARD A
SELF-CENTERED PHILOSOPHY.  (No, I don't think I'm the smartest person in the
world, or even one of the ten million smartest--just the one with the best
and clearest ideas in some areas, as far as I know.)

Some of the ideas are deceptively simple-sounding, and reminiscent of
warmed-over hedonism & epicureanism & utilitarianism--e.g. that the most
basic want or need or drive of any person is just to feel good--to make the
"self circuit" resonate optimally, so to speak--and the goal (with certain
reservations and qualifications) should be to maximize personal feel-good
over future time.   

The particular relevance of such a book and outlook is that, for the first
time in history, there is a possibility that individuals may live long enough
(through anti-senescence research and cryonics) to make grand personal
projects possible and meaningful. Additionally, even with limited life, it
can provide the individual with a sense of honesty and dignity otherwise
unavailable without self-deception.

But it is stupefyingly difficult even to sell the notion that scientific
philosophy is possible in my sense--that OUGHT is not arbitrary but can be
discovered. In part, that is because we have been conditioned to believe that
"ought" is based on sociology or ideology or religion, rather than on the
real and basic needs of the individual. 

No, I don't expect many to holler Hallelujah--maybe not any. Not right away,
certainly. Even cryonics is barely beginning to take hold after more than 30
years, and this is harder. But I am hoping to get  feedback from a few more
readers whose thought is enough like mine to understand me, but different
enough to make me more effective.

If there are any such, thanks in advance.

Robert Ettinger

Rate This Message: http://www.cryonet.org/cgi-bin/rate.cgi?msg=3771