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The Economist vs. life extension

from the non-visionary dept.
A normally-sensible publication, The Economist has come out against life extension in an article titled "Who wants to live for ever?" Excerpts: "Average life expectancy has risen greatly. The span of individual life has not. Would it be a good thing if it did? No…If people were to live a lot longer, and everything else stayed the same, old people would soon end up a huge majority. Ugh…Who wants it anyway? A world of seen-it-all-before, weary crumblies would be a depressing place to live in."

38 Responses to “The Economist vs. life extension”

  1. The Living Fractal Says:

    Missing the Point…

    Average life expectancy has risen greatly. The span of individual life has not. Would it be a good thing if it did? No…If people were to live a lot longer, and everything else stayed the same, old people would soon end up a huge majority. Ugh…Who wants it anyway? A world of seen-it-all-before, weary crumblies would be a depressing place to live in.

    I agree, a world full of 'weary crumblies' would suck, but the Economist is missing the true point of life exstension. That is, that the extension would not simply be in age, but also in physical appearance and health. It means that we'd be 300 but look 30. It means many things, that the article from which I quote the above paragraph is ultimately wrong, or at least misguided. The Economist grabs for a sentiment felt mutually by a certain stereotype of today's human individual, namely the Cynicist's stereotype, and the reason I suspect is due to the fact that the Economist is run by same. TLF

  2. WillWare Says:

    It's a cultural thing

    I saw another article (either here or Slashdot, I think) which led me to conclude that there is currently a strain of anti-immortality thinking going on in the U.K. As an American, I often find it hard to see the appeal in various kinds of British pseudo-science. I can see why people want to believe in angels or reincarnation or flying saucers (American irrationalities); each has its own appeal as a piece of escapist fiction. But crop circles? The first half-dozen were interesting, but the Brits have by now made hundreds of these things! Their proliferation (and the special I saw on the Discovery Channel where two guys showed how it was done) make it unquestionably obvious that these are human artifacts. And even if they were made by UFOs, where's the escapist appeal? I just don't get it. It's a cultural thing.

    Likewise, this incomprehensible phobia of immortalitiy is another cultural thing. Maybe one could understand it by reading more English lit. Maybe it's a rebellion-against-authority thing, where very old people are authority figures. I also have trouble understanding the Hindu view that more reincarnations are a bad idea. I think I'd find a great deal of comfort in a solid faith in reincarnation.

  3. Practical Transhuman Says:

    Rich people in general are socially conventional.

    The Economist is written for the rich and for those who aspire to become rich. But keep in mind that the personality of the typical "millionaire next door," in Stanley and Danko's phrase, is usually quite conventional: The B or C student who marries young, works steadily at some unglamorous business like dry cleaning for a few decades, joins civic organizations, attends some local mainstream church, is not particularly well read, etc. Despite romantic fantasies from writers like Ayn Rand and George Gilder about the entrepreneur being the steely-eyed revolutionary, in the real world financially successful people are quite cautious, conformist and happily adapted to the prevailing popular worldview, including an acceptance of their mortality. Hence they are not likely to jump on the Immortalist bandwagon in great numbers for quite some time.

  4. Kadamose Says:

    I agree with you on that one.

    I mean, who is stupid enough to write an article without considering the fact that with Nanotech life extension, age literally becomes irrelevant. Who is stupid enough to even think of a lifespan technology, which makes you 'live' longer, but does not have anything to do with stopping the 'aging' of the body? I would have to say that the author of this article is not only ignorant, but very stupid and shortsided as well.

  5. kurt Says:

    The Economist Article

    I've already sent a rant and rave to the Economist about this article. I told them that I have always admired the Economist's commitment to reason, freedom, and liberalism; but told them that thier anti-life extension attitude is anti-reason, anti-freedom, and anti-liberal. I concluded by stating that vastly-extended life-spans go hand-in-hand with entreprenureal freedom and individual liberty. One simply cannot claim to be liberal (in the classic, 19th century definition) and be against physical immortality.

    Since I really do like the Economist, and read it regularly, I urge all life-extensionist to send email to the editor on this issue.

  6. BarryM Says:

    Macromyopia in action

    John Perry Barlow (co-founder of the EFF) coined the term 'macro-myopia' to describe society's habit of overestimating the short-term effects of technology, and underestimating the long-term effects.

    There is certainly a tendency for non-specialist journalists to look at new light through old glass. That is, they project current concerns and limitations into a future that will usually find these concerns rescindent. For example, they state that "Demographers reckon the planet will have trouble handling just the 8.9 billion [people] forecast for 2050". That could be true if our infrastructures stagnate at present levels, but I think it is a fairly safe bet that they won't. So the article limits itself to the near-term concerns of most of its readership – rapidly approaching decrepitude.

    It should come as no surprise that the Economist comes out with this position. Looking at the facts as they stand today, it is a reasonable one. Recall also that the readership are ordinary business-folk, the most forward-thinking of which rarely look beyond the 5-7 year future. Of course, readers of this site know better cause we look further (but is that because we stand on the shoulders of giants, or on top of our egos? ;) ).

    Nor is there (presently) much point in taking the Economist to task for their position: a good refutation of their conclusions would require an understanding of MNT and computational neuroscience which is quite simply still in the realm of science-fiction for even well-educated (i.e. Economist-reading) layfolk…until it makes the headlines on CNN, it doesn't exist.

  7. Saturngraphix Says:

    Great Article

    Well,
    To someone like me, seeing that this article is in a level headed forum, I would disreguard the persons opinion about what he thought of the prospect of increased lifespan and look at the fact that someone in this rather non-fantacy magazine has brought to the attention of others the possibility of immortality.
    Chances are, the people whom read this paper are a bit older than there mid 20s and have their own ideas on how long they would like to live
    I would imagine that anyone with a little bit of intellect would start researching the prospect of immortality and cryonics and the simple minds will take this opinion to heart as there own
    problem solved
    I think this article serves a good purpose…let the ones whom cannot form a opinion of their own embrace death and the ones that do not take someones religion so seriously aware of the possibilities that may lie around the corner

    anyone agree?

    it is similar to someone of stature saying "Salvation may be over here but I dont like it because it scares me…so dont look over there people"
    hmm
    what do you think the natural human response will be?
    :)

    Saturn

  8. AndreasLigtvoet Says:

    Disappointing magazine, challenging question

    However disappointingly subjective the article, I do agree that the fact that a magazine like The Economist places such text, will make people think about the topic.

    The question whether a world with 150-, 500- or even 1500-year-olds is plausible or desirable (which is a matter of belief) is in my opinion less interesting than the question what the consequences of such a situation would be. Coming from a caretaker-society (The Netherlands) I am really curious how things like public healthcare, pension at the age of 65, provisions for the elderly and attitudes toward the elderly in general, will change.

  9. Iron Sun Says:

    Here we go again…

    A quote from Cicero at the end of the article in question:

    It is desirable for a man to be blotted out at his proper time. For as nature has marked the bounds of everything else, so she has marked the bounds of life. Moreover, old age is the final scene, as it were, in lifeís drama, from which we ought to escape when it grows wearisome and, certainly, when we have had our fill.

    This is telling. Ignore for the moment the fact that the Economist article doesn't consider the sort of complete bodily renewal that MNT may make possible in our lifetimes. The important thing is not how we go about living longer, it is what we do with all those extra years.

    Look at it this way: teenagers, as a psychic defence mechanism and as a means of asserting their own identities, are frequently contemptuous of the lifestyle choices made by the older generations. They laugh at the "unfashionable" way they dress and behave, honestly believe that they will still be going to raves in their dotage, and generally think that they will circumvent the descent into boring non-party-hardy maturity that thier parents have undergone.

    That has been the belief of every generation of the modern age. And yet, it keeps happening as people get older. I am 32 and in good physical condition. If I really wanted to throw myself into the moshpit, I could do so. But I'd rather have a dinner party with friends or spend time with my baby daughter. While I don't regret the wilder times of my youth and look back on them with fondness, I have matured and moved on.

    It would seem to me that a lot of immortalists, particularly those who vociferously denounce the view that a human lifetime may be enough, are playing Peter Pan and refusing to grow up. If we are all 300 but look 30, we will still have 300 years of living under our belts. Perhaps by that stage we will have long ago done everything worth doing, and see the future as just a dreary repetition of the same old thing. There may only be a limited amount of novelty to be experienced. An adult telling a bedtime story to a child and trying to conclude it with "happily ever after" will most likely be confronted with a chorus of "and then what happened? and then what? and then?" until they issue an exasperated, firm "good night".

  10. kurt2100 Says:

    Re:Here we go again…

    I have two comments to make about this. One, that I am 37 years old, have no kids, and am part of a start-up (optical components) in Taiwan. I still like to party-hardy. I also like to do things like backpacking and scuba-diving as well. I work pretty damn hard too. I am an American, but have live in Asia (Japan, Taiwan, and Malaysia) since 1991. As far as the concept of maturity goes, I think it relates more to knowing yourself more and becoming more effective at getting what you want out of life. I know that many people do "settle-down" when they enter thier early 30's, however I think this is more a manifestation of the ageing process than anything else. Since we are not immortal yet, there is no way to answer this question AT THIS TIME.

    Since I have been out of the U.S. since 1991, I have not been around the "immortalist/extropian" scene, so I do not know whether these people fit the "peter pan" profile or not. I can only say for myself that I like to live as active, outward oriented life as I did 10-15 years ago. In fact, because I am older, I enjoy it all the more. My second point is that maybe one does run out of life-style options because one "has done it all" by the time they are 30 years old. However, this must be purely an individual choice. For example, I can think of many other life-style options that can give you plenty of fun and adventure beyond 30 years of age. One may try the international life-style instead, whether it be the yuppy, expat life-style (Tokyo, Singapore, or Hong Kong) or the lonely-planet, backpack life-style (anywhere other than the aforementioned cities in Asia). It is balancing my life between these polar oposites that hasa been my life-style choice since 1991, and I have never looked back. And I'm even more of an immortalist activist than I was in the 80's.

  11. redbird Says:

    Re:Disappointing magazine, challenging question

    Today, we don't like the elderly because they refuse to move with society. In the future, there will be no elderly people, only people who have lived a lot longer than others. The guy next door might be 300 years old, he might be 30, but you couldn't tell the difference. He will have no need for welfare, since he can do everything he ever could, only all that much better considering how wise he probably has grown over his years. So, with the elderly disapearing, it's not a matter of changing views, but whether there will be a view at all.

    Here is some good ammo for all of us classical liberals out there: welfare states are not only evil because of their altruism (in the Ayn Rand sense, of course) but also because of their short sightedness and inability to cope with the changing world. The argument won't work against the un educated, but those into science fiction may be persuaded form liberlism to classical liberlism.

  12. mmehrle Says:

    Level of thinking…

    As one progresses further with this article, it becomes very clear that this (very shortsided) author readily makes judgements based on a contemporary level of thinking. He/she greatly underestimates the technical capabilities available to us (i.e. MNT) by the year 2050 (considering the laws 'accelerating returns) and therefore underestimates the caliber of 'oldtimers' one will encounter around that time. If I have the fortune to avoid the grim reaper that long I sure don't intend to sit at home and watch my paint dry. I more likely will be busy re-programming my nanobots to recreate that 2030 Bordeaux, and maybe take a well deserved vacation to the Moon with my then still-lovely wife (or Mars, but let's not go crazy ;-) Or maybe I decide to pick up chess for the next fifty years and devote myself to beat a simulation of Kasparov. Yup, sounds pretty crazy, but not as crazy as a simple shopping mall, Club Med or online banking would have appeared to the average settler around 1865 (and don't get me started on digital watches ;-) .

  13. Practical Transhuman Says:

    Time enough to develop new literary cliches?

    Iron Sun writes,

    "It would seem to me that a lot of immortalists, particularly those who vociferously denounce the view that a human lifetime may be enough, are playing Peter Pan and refusing to grow up."

    Frankly I'm getting tired of Transhumanists' being compared to Peter Pan, Faust, Tithonous, Victor Frankenstein, etc. As for the cliche about our "playing god," as my friend Mike Perry says: We're not "playing"!

    One, such comparisons trivialize how seriously and desperately we are fighting for our lives.

    Two, none of the received mythological and literary role models can possibly symbolize what we are about — though I do admit some admiration for Prometheus, the Secular Humanists' favorite.

    I find the comparison to Peter Pan especially inappropriate because I, personally, was "born old," in that I never felt all that comfortable with my chronological peer group and its corresponding youth culture. Sports, rock music, drug use and alcohol never appealed to me. Adults and their world seemed much more interesting and relevant. And I am trying to define my Immortal identity now in the context of constructive activities that would take several centuries, at least, to see through to completion. Hence I have on my wall a semi-serious "Millennium-At-A-Glance Planner," where I list goals I'd like to achieve over the next 1,000 years. I'm finding the reading of history a useful adjunct to developing a proper personal timescale spanning centuries.

    The big problem in understanding greatly extended life is that we have no model of immortality other than "non-death," when in fact it's quite possible that immortality can provide opportunities for worthwhile experiences so qualitatively different from what we can currently envision that it's almost futile to speculate about them. Just because our mortal ancestors couldn't come up any appropriate role models, doesn't mean that we have to let their limited perspectives constrain our imaginations and cause us to turn our backs on adventures that are only now becoming thinkable and nearly practical.

  14. Iron Sun Says:

    Re:Level of thinking…

    mmehrle:

    I more likely will be busy re-programming my nanobots to recreate that 2030 Bordeaux

    And you could sip it from your faux Bohemian crystal while looking at your faithfully-reproduced-to-the-last-molecule Da Vinci. I'd probably be doing the same, but it would all get a bit meaningless after a while.

    It reminds me of a passage from a book that all transhumanists should read, or read again, Iain Banks' Use Of Weapons:

    To one side of them was a small terrace and the bar, to the other a gulf of airy space. The ship, the GSV, went on beyond its apparent boundaries. Its hull was pierced multitudinously by terraces, balconies, walkways, open windows, and open bay doors. Surrounding the vessel proper was an immense ellipsoid bubble of air, held inside dozens of fields, which together made up the vehicle's real – though insubstantial – hull.

    He took up the recharged glass when it arrived,and watched a puttering, piston-engined, paper-winged hang glider zip past the terrace; he waved at the pilot, then shook his head.

    "To the Culture," he said, raising his glass to the alien. It matched his gesture. "To its total lack of respect for all things majestic"

    mmehrle:

    maybe take a well deserved vacation to the Moon with my then still-lovely wife

    Is loveliness only skin deep?

    Or maybe I decide to pick up chess for the next fifty years and devote myself to beat a simulation of Kasparov

    To use an analogy, that's like devoting years of your immortal life training to be a sprinter and then racing against a motorized cart programmed to roll exactly as fast as the personal best time of Donovan Bailey. I think if you were actually in the position of being able to do these things, you would find them unrewarding and empty of meaning.

  15. Iron Sun Says:

    Re:Time enough to develop new literary cliches?

    Frankly I'm getting tired of Transhumanists' being compared to Peter Pan, Faust, Tithonous, Victor Frankenstein, etc

    And Jayne Mansfield was tired of being compared to Marilyn Monroe.

    As for the cliche about our "playing god," as my friend Mike Perry says: We're not "playing"!

    You're playing with yourself. Stop it or you'll go blind.

    such comparisons trivialize how seriously and desperately we are fighting for our lives.

    A tad melodramatic, perhaps? Instead of fighting for your life, how about living it here and now?

    Hence I have on my wall a semi-serious "Millennium-At-A-Glance Planner," where I list goals I'd like to achieve over the next 1,000 years.

    I find that heartbreakingly sad. Although perhaps I should just butt out. If a fundamentalist Christian seems to genuinely be happy preparing for a day of judgement that the rest of the world knows isn't going to come, who am I to spoil their fun?

  16. Matthew_Gream Says:

    Cicero is outdated

    Cicero is outdated because humanity has just about surpassed itself. There was a time when humans were relatively unconscious animals driven by instinct to survive. Since then, we´ve developed a cerebral cortex and higher levels of consciousness and intelligence. It gets to the point where humans are really a mixed species (if you want to take this perspective): (1) the physical being, (2) the cognitive being. You can detach the latter from the former, and this is exactly what will happen when it becomes possible to upload minds out of the human body. The history of religion, spirituality and immortality has often been built on the idea that humans would live for ever, but it is not really humans that want to live for ever, it is their consciousness. Humans have created the technology to transcend their body, which is effectively the outcome of religion over the past several thousand years – only this time, it is not built on shades and mirrors, but the reality of technology that can offer the promise. There are still technological roadblocks on the map – but do not underestimate the power of creativity to forge a path.

    The Economist does have a point though – the point is that life extension technologies and immortality are worthless if there is little to live for. So in addition to the technologies, the world needs to be a great place to be, unless simulated worlds are perfected and it becomes possible to live in the ether. This is the crux of The Matrix (which is more philosophical than people give it credit for).

    Personally, I love all the good things in life, and I love to travel to see the diversity of the world, and to enjoy and learn about many things. Unfortunately I see the world becoming a homogenous place, a similar culture across the planet – as the golden age of travel has long passed. However, I expect immortality to arrive about the same time as space travel, so there is an entire universe to explore forever. Perhaps the Economist fails to factor this in ?

    Best regards,
    Matthew Gream
    Internet Terminal
    Post & Telegraph Museum, Copenhagen, Denmark

  17. Practical Transhuman Says:

    Re:Time enough to develop new literary cliches?

    Iron Sun writes,

    "Instead of fighting for your life, how about living it here and now?"

    Like the children in Never-Never Land, where "tomorrow" never arrives? Funny, but you were the one comparing Immortalists to Peter Pan!

    I'm sorry you don't value your life, "Iron Sun." (Does the name mean your nuclear fuel is exhausted?) Though I don't understand the psychology of people who disavow feeling suicidal, yet acquiesce to death. Especially in the emerging biotechnology-dominated world where we clearly have alternatives unavailable, if not unthinkable, to our death-rationalizing ancestors.

  18. Enon Says:

    Re:Level of thinking…

    What do you regard as intrinsically meaningful? How does that depend on you dying in the next 80 or so years? How will more time – more everything in fact – rob life of meaning? A tuned-up dopamine system will let you find and enjoy meaning much more than you can now. Any spot in the solar system will offer so much to do that by comparison today's San Francisco will seem like a mud village. With techno-telepathy and the ability to swap out your neruonal groups with equivalents of others' groups, no one will have an excuse to be bored. Of course, if you don't like life in the future, you'll probably still have alternatives. Death, of course (don't forget to wipe those backup copies!); but also simulation of whenever and whatever combined with forgetting that it's a simulation. That might even be a choice you already made- :)

  19. DavidMasterson Says:

    Re:Missing the Point…

    Okay. Instead of "weary crumblies", how about "bored teenagers"? If people will live greatly extended lives with full health and the population growth accelerates (because reproduction capabilities will last longer), how long will it be before population outstrips job creation? Worse yet, there will be robots to take over the "jobs", so people will be left to do what they want.

    In 300+ years, you could go through 10+ careers, assuming you (the average person) could find 10+ careers to hold your interest for 25+ years each. If you don't find something to keep your interest, boredom sets in and, as has been shown in the past, boredom in a large enough population will lead to anarchy.

    • "What do you want to do today, Clem?"
    • "I don't know, what do you want to do, Roscoe?"
    • "I know, why don't we nuke the White House?"
    • "Nah, its been done too many times before…"

    David

  20. Iron Sun Says:

    Re:Time enough to develop new literary cliches?

    Like the children in Never-Never Land, where "tomorrow" never arrives?

    No, like a zen master.

    "But Master Yoda told me to be mindful of the future."

    "Yes, but not at the expense of the present"

    A little bit of balance never hurt anybody.

    I'm sorry you don't value your life

    I value it far too much to be a miser about it.

    Does the name mean your nuclear fuel is exhausted?

    It's ironic, natch. It also has personal and mystical significance.

    Though I don't understand the psychology of people who disavow feeling suicidal, yet acquiesce to death

    No more than I understand people who equate acceptance of inevitability to fatalistic acquiescence. I would rather live a brilliant, short (~120 years) life than a twilight pseudo-immortality that leaches all the colour and meaning from existence. And saying that your plans won't lead to that state puts you in the same basket as a teenager claiming that they'll be listening to antiauthoritarian punk rock until they are in a wheelchair.

    Like I said in another post to this article, what's the point in spending 50 years learning to play chess better than a simulation of Kasparov? Extend the time frame just a little and that sort of chess mastery stars to look like "mastering" noughts and crosses. It is our finite lifespans that validate our experiences. I would rather live my life in the here and now than fantasize about how I would fill in a thousand years. To use an analogy, I would rather stop getting palm blisters and get out to meet real girls than make a checklist of sexual positions that Pamela Anderson and I would "do it" in once she fell madly in love with me. It seems to me that a lot of immortalists run the risk of turning into existential tourists, checking items off a list without any true appreciation of what it meant for real people living their lives in the shadow of death to actually achieve something.

  21. redbird Says:

    Re:Missing the Point…

    Part of the point of transhumanism and posthumanism is that it changes life, so that bordom *won't* set in. As a transhuman or posthuman, there is a lot more that can be done, so there is no reason to think that they will necessarily be bored based on how much plain humans can.

    Now, you bring up anarchy. Posthumanism will mean effective anarchy for the posthumans, since they will be much 'faster' than humans. Human governments won't be able to govern fast enough for posthumans, so it won't matter what governments do since they are so slow. To a lesser extent this will be true for transhumans. Anarchy is not a dystopia: it is often criticized as being too *utopian*. Anarchy is just the lack of archy, no more or less. Sort of like athiesm is the lack of belief, not a belief that no gods exist.

  22. redbird Says:

    Red Dwarf

    This reminds me of the Dispare Squid episode of Red Dwarf. Leaving out much of the plot, one the crew thinks they've woken up from an RPG, called Red Dwarf. Of course, as it turns out they all played the parts wrong and have spent four years of their lives living a meager existance in the computer. But, this was meant to be humor and when tied into the context of the plot, it makes sense that it would be so disapointing to be in a simulation. In reality, this would be a lot of fun (even if you aren't a fan of RPGs as they exist today would probably like it). Plus, with posthumanity, the simulation would be just one of many things being done at a time. You could be reading, playing the RPG, talking with a human, calculating ever bigger prime numbers, posting on nanodot, and still have 90% processing power left over to sell to other post humans who have a use for it (or just start saving power and have fewer cycles per second).

  23. The Living Fractal Says:

    Re:Level of thinking…

    In any case, I'm enthralled. The future should be our own if we just make sure to not trip over our own feet.

  24. Saturngraphix Says:

    Re:Time enough to develop new literary cliches?

    so imagine then if the human life was only about 5 years…would you fight to make it longer, say 80-100 or would you consider living that long to dull the color of existance…etc:?

    Perhaps your life can only have meaning if you take only a snapshot of it (present span) and thats fine..some people find the current lifespan long and tiring…but to think that your opinion is what everyone feels, well, I imagine you know you are fairly unique in your distaste for life…again, choice.
    I look back at my relitivly short time on here soo far and look at how many changes I have made to myself…wildly different now than even 10 years back but still, just as interested in the things around me.
    Someday (if being a immortal is indeed a possibility) I would like to visit mars, or perhaps a moon on neptune…see the solar system from deep space…see the galaxy as a whole
    once I can see the universe (the whole shape) with my naked eye then perhaps I will have enough and it may be time to shut down or die or whatever the case is…but until then, I think I am creative enough to find things just as colorful to live for as I did in the first 5 years of life

    Saturn

  25. fool Says:

    Quality vs Quantity… so what?

    Hmm, I really don't see what all the fuss is about.
    So the n-thing will give us a choice of end point.
    Iron Sun chooses an end point at a coupla hundred years or whatever,
    saying that he'll be done with existence by then,
    and Practical Transhumanist says he doesn't want an end point.
    Are these two choices mutually exclusive?
    I only see a problem if someone tries to interfere with your choice.

    People make wildly different lifestyle choices in the present,
    let alone what will be possible with n-tech.
    Why will lifespan as lifestyle choice be different?
    I have seen people who are quite ready to go at eighty,
    and let go quite peacefully.
    There are others who might be able to
    keep themselves amused for millenia.
    Who knows, IS?
    Maybe PT could pick apart a mountain with a pin, and enjoy it
    (but this may take some mind alteration, and PT don't do drugs).

    Although I hazard a guess that PT's millenial planner
    will look quite different even 25 years from now.
    The only way to really tell what it's like to live 1000 years
    is to live 1000 years.

    But looking at your personality profiles
    I'd lay odds that PT will autoterminate before IS does.

    Iron Sun:
    I am 32 and in good physical condition. If I really wanted to throw myself into the moshpit, I could do so. But I'd rather have a dinner party with friends or spend time with my baby daughter. While I don't regret the wilder times of my youth and look back on them with fondness, I have matured and moved on.

    Well yeah, people want to do different things than they've already done,
    just like kids wanna do something different than their parents.
    I prefer to see maturing as an expansion of scope,
    increasing diversity and subtlety of apprehension within yourself.
    There's no need to stop listening to punk
    just because you've discovered jazz or whatever.
    Perhaps someone could listen to only punk until they're 100.
    Now, you'd find this a tiresome waste of time:
    doesn't mean someone else has to.

    If we are all 300 but look 30, we will still have 300 years of living under our belts. Perhaps by that stage we will have long ago done everything worth doing, and see the future as just a dreary repetition of the same old thing. There may only be a limited amount of novelty to be experienced.

    Ah, but what about the possibility of
    deliberately forgetting experiences
    so you can do them for the first time, again?
    I think your answer would probably be:
    how is this different from death?
    My response would be:
    how do you know you haven't already done it?

    fool

  26. kurt Says:

    Re:Time enough to develop new literary cliches?

    I remember having this kind of a discussion about life-extension with Mike Darwin (one of the founders of Alcor) at a cryonics conference. He said that trying to explain the desirability of immortality to someone who is content with current lifespan is like trying to describe the color red to someone with congenetal blindness. Its simply doesn't work. Iron sun's attitude towards immortality is similar to the attitude that many people in my hometown have. They simply do not understand our desires, and we do not understand theirs. The difference is that they have no problem with me seeking immortality, because they see it (as I do) as a personal choice. They have do desire to force thier choice on me and I have no desire to force my choice on them. Live and let live.

    If iron Sun is content with the conventional life-pattern, thats fine with me. I have no desire to change him. I do not expect him to understand my choices anymore than I understand his. My only complaint is that, judging by his posts, he seems not to respect our right to make our life choices as he expects us to respect his life choices. It is this intolorance that is completely indefensible and is unacceptable in in a free, open society.

  27. Iron Sun Says:

    Re:Time enough to develop new literary cliches?

    You are free to believe or do whatever you want. I will not attempt to stop you. Unless I believe that your choices will have an adverse impact upon me or those I care about, in which case I will do everything in my power to stop you.

    And a little bit of robust debate does you good. For all you know I am taking a devil's advocate position to prick a few arrogant assumptions. Anyone who talks seriously about becoming a god needs to take a long hard look at themselves. If you say "don't restrain my will with your outdated notions, we are the beginnings of a new breed and will transcend all previous paradigms and archetypes" , then you must accept the fact that the Nazis felt the same way. If you object to being compared to the Nazis, perhaps its because the comparison hurts.

    Someone saying that they're "tired" of being compared to Faust/Peter Pan/The Nazis etc etc is a good way of avoiding the issue. Of course any comparison is going to be inaccurate to vaying degrees, but we need to be prepared to examine the degrees of similarity as well as difference.

    He said that trying to explain the desirability of immortality to someone who is content with current lifespan is like trying to describe the color red to someone with congenetal blindness

    How terribly condescending. The statement of a would-be elite. To use another grossly inappropriate metaphor, it's like a junkie heroin dealer telling a sixteen year old that smack is fun and sexy and you can stop whenever you want. Or (to choose a still more provocative example), a KKK Grand Dragon tells an unemployed, angry and impressionable young white that subhuman niggers stole his job and the Jews run the economy. Just because we hear a glib metaphor that reinforces the world view we want to be true, does not mean that it is true or appropriate.

    My only complaint is that, judging by his posts, he seems not to respect our right to make our life choices as he expects us to respect his life choices

    Oh, but I do. I will not stop you, I will just attempt to tell you that I think you need to really think about what you are planning. And if you want to proselytise, then I have the right to say whatever I want in rebuttal.

    I am studying toward degrees in computer science and applied chemistry in order to take part in the wonderful journey of discovery and achievement that lies ahead. I want to create a world in which my daughter can reach her full potential and live a joyous and personally meaningful existence. If she chooses to take a path that I disapprove of or think will hurt her, well that's a parent's burden. The choice will be hers and hers alone to make. All I can do is attempt to give her enough perspective to make a mature and considered choice.

    This is all I have to say on the matter.

    For now.

  28. DavidMasterson Says:

    Re:Missing the Point…

    I have never heard of anarchy being criticized as being too utopian. I think a utopian society has to have some rules that promote the well-being of both the individual and the society. If the rules only benefit the individual (as anarchy suggests), then you do not have a society, just chaos.

    But now you make the point that human governments will be too slow to govern transhumans. There is also no reason to believe that most transhumans will be any more altruistic than humans. Add to this the pressures created by explosive population growth and the seeds seem to be planted for a lot of chaos in the future.

    Surprisingly, DC Comics recently put out a comic that had some suggestion of what it could be like. The comic was called Kingdom Come and began by showing a world where the children of DC's superheroes (or metahumans ) were running amok in the world. Superman (and then the other original superheroes) had turned away from watching over the people of Earth and, so, without that influence, the meta-children began distorting the ideals that had been laid down until they were eventually just doing battle with each other regardless of who got hurt. The governments of Earth were powerless to stop this and, so, there was a coming apocalypse that was the basis of the comic.

    Unlike the comics, though, we don't have a Superman to come to the rescue.

  29. DavidMasterson Says:

    Re:Time enough to develop new literary cliches?

    so imagine then if the human life was only about 5 years…would you fight to make it longer, say 80-100 or would you consider living that long to dull the color of existance…etc:?

    Make it an apples to apples comparison, please.

    If I'm a rabbit who typically lives 5 years and were offered life extension to 100 years, I might not accept. There is only so much rabbit food that even a rabbit can stomach.

    Point is — its not about how long I lived, but rather how well.

  30. Adam Burke Says:

    Greg Egan

    Greg Egan's written a few novels playing with concepts of posthumanity, particularly Permutation City and Diaspora, which I recommend. His other novels are also good.

  31. kurt Says:

    Re:Time enough to develop new literary cliches?

    Like I say, your blind, so you don't know what the color red is like. BTW, I've thought about immotality for a long time (since the mid 80's), so I am well aware of the pit-falls (of not doing it).

    Perhaps your are meerly bored or burned-out with life. Since you are pursuing a career in computers, you may want to consider getting your next job in Asia. There are many IT jobs available for Gaijin in Tokyo, Hong Kong, and Singapore. Since you have a daughter, I would recommend Singapore out of this lot. Tokyo is a bit family "unfriendly" and Hong Kong is bleedin' expensive (I was just there a few days ago). On the other hand, after the first year, your daughter may come to like Tokyo. I know several American expats living in Tokyo whose kids love it. All three places are quite enjoyable. Some of the other Asian cities, such as Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur, may have IT positions available for Westerners as well. A change of cultures and life-style would re-invigorate your attitude towards life.

  32. fool Says:

    Mercury Potions and Jade Butt-plugs

    Practical Transhumanist:
    Frankly I'm getting tired of Transhumanists' being compared to Peter Pan

    Me too!
    On the whole, the extropian crowd display few childlike virtues.
    They seem to bring a dull and unimaginative view
    to topics which could use a fresh sense of wonder.

    As for the cliche about our "playing god," as my friend Mike Perry says: We're not "playing"!

    Yes, you've probably forgotten how to play.

    One, such comparisons trivialize how seriously and desperately we are fighting for our lives.

    Oh puh-lease.
    I mean, I get your point,
    but your TV news sensationalism also trivialises the issue.
    Maybe if we transported you to Chechnya, say
    you'd develop a more concrete notion of
    "seriously and desperately fighting for your life".

    Two, none of the received mythological and literary role models can possibly symbolize what we are about –

    What do you mean?
    The mythos is full of immortal figures.
    People have probably been interested in immortality
    ever since they became aware of their own mortality.
    Especially obsessed with the notion
    are self important, middle class, middle aged prats
    who begin to realise the futility of striving for earthly power
    when you can't take it with you.
    Perhaps they also feel that it is only a matter of time
    before the lesser beings realise their greatness
    and put them on top of the heap,
    with the main worry being exactly how much time this will take.
    Often, these type of people are enamoured of
    notions of perfectibility, absolute Right and Wrong,
    the grand upward climb of History etc etc,
    which on closer examination seem, to me, to be
    extensions of anal-circuit cleanliness fixation,
    obsessive-compulsive idealisations of sterility,
    ends-over-process death-oriention, basically.
    One way to take the sting out of this worldview
    is to try and take death out of the picture.

    I find the comparison to Peter Pan especially inappropriate because I, personally, was "born old,"

    I do not doubt this at all.

    I have on my wall a semi-serious "Millennium-At-A-Glance Planner,"

    Is it colour-coded and extensively cross-referenced?

    it's quite possible that immortality can provide opportunities for worthwhile experiences so qualitatively different from what we can currently envision that it's almost futile to speculate about them.

    You seem to spend a lot of time
    doing just that, none the less.

    Just because our mortal ancestors couldn't come up any appropriate role models, doesn't mean that we have to let their limited perspectives constrain our imaginations and cause us to turn our backs on adventures that are only now becoming thinkable and nearly practical.

    Which is why it's probably a good thing
    that the old farts eventually die off.

    fool

  33. redbird Says:

    Re:Missing the Point…

    "I think a utopian society has to have some rules that promote the well-being of both the individual and the society."

    That would be a represive society. Cuba, the former USSR, China, Singapore, and others are like this, pretending to be a happy society, while actually opressing people. A utopian society would be where everyone does what is expected of them without even thinking. If some one has to tell you that your doing something wrong, then your not living in a utopia.

    "There is also no reason to believe that most transhumans will be any more altruistic than humans. Add to this the pressures created by explosive population growth and the seeds seem to be planted for a lot of chaos in the future."

    I think you're one of those people who have misconceptions about selfishness. There's lots of literature available, and though Ayn Rand is the best known, her works are sometimes a bit long. Try a search on libertarian ideas, as that will probably lead to something. Many people are being selfish but thinking that they are being altruistic. Normal, widely used definitions for altruism and selfishness aren't of much use, as the words overlap each other in meaning. I'm getting OT, though, so back to my response proper.

    "Unlike the comics, though, we don't have a Superman to come to the rescue."

    Luckily, we live in the real world, and don't need a Superman since comic book situations are purely fictional and often involve supernatural happenings (though sometimes with misused scientific terms slapped on top).

  34. DavidMasterson Says:

    Re:Missing the Point…

    I think a utopian society has to have some rules that promote the well-being of both the individual and the society.

    A utopian society would be where everyone does what is expected of them without even thinking.

    These two statements are not in conflict with one another — in fact, they violently agree with each other.

    I think you're one of those people who have misconceptions about selfishness.

    Selfishness is a characteristic of the human race. In fact, its an in-grained part of all life. It's also called "survival of the fittest". It can be and has been controlled through other societal influences, but its a part of us all.

  35. Saturngraphix Says:

    Re:Time enough to develop new literary cliches?

    Well its all fine to think we are going to live however long we wish, truth is though, presently we could die at any moment. I think that breaking out the eon at a glance calender is a bit premature…best to try and stay alive for a ripe age of 85 with loads of wrinkles…then at least if the worst happens then its of no big loss.

    Cryogenics is a great option…if one can afford it and frankly for a middle class person like me, its a bit pricy for now…and I would have to do it not just for me but for wifey and kiddies also…so its no longer $50-100k but 200-400.
    I am still relatively young and healthy though so hopefully I will be able to come up with the dosh for the fridge in time(or the price falling down to make it feasable)…but I am not counting on it

    Soo, Immortality, I may not have the option unless something changes…but its a nice dream anyhow.

    I would like at least enough time to live in the orient for awhile also while young…among other places…just not enough time though…I feel like a rabbit with a tiny lifespan and a knowledge of how big the world is….just not enough time for this tiny sphere!

    Nanotech can be seen as a physical religion…the biblical promise "your kingdom will come". I can see why religion is so powerful in general…it allows people to not have a unknown short time limit

  36. kurt2100 Says:

    Re:Cost of cryonics

    Cryonic suspension is usually paid for with insurance. I, too, have a wife (no kids, though). So, I get a $400K policy, $100K goes to my neurosuspension, and the bulk – $300K, goes to my wife. Contact Alcor (www.alcor.com) for more information about cryonics and life insurance.

  37. Saturngraphix Says:

    Re:Cost of cryonics

    Last I heard, it is very few insurance places that cover for cryonics… I will investigate though… cheers for that Saturn

  38. Adam Burke Says:

    Letters in Reply

    I've just noticed that the Jan 18th edition of The Economist contains two letters responding to the life extension article, by Jonathan Monsarrat of Cambridge, Massachusetts and Robert Lightbourne of Metuchen, New Jersey. Mr Lightbourne says:

    Degeneration and death is such a waste of human talent.

    I have to concur.

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