Why live forever?

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  • #1
saltydog
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A scientist, Ray Kurzweil, predicts that immortality could be possible in 20 years, in his new book, "Fantastic Voyage: Live Long Enough to Live Forever." (didn't read it, should I first before I post?).

Anyway, he proposes the following question to philosophers: Why are eternal lives worth living?

I suppose my first though is "why is any life worth living?". I'm not a nihilist. But would I want to live like "highlander" in that movie? Well, in reality it wouldn't be like highlander. More age, in my view would just bring up "new" health problems we've never seen before: Alzheimer's disease was unknown until we started living long enough for it to be expressed in the population. Same dif with living 125, 150, 200 years: something new would express itself, something like "inflammation of the nanobots" or whatever. Suppose for the sake of argument, we ignore these things. Why live forever?
 

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  • #2
learningphysics
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saltydog said:
A scientist, Ray Kurzweil, predicts that immortality could be possible in 20 years, in his new book, "Fantastic Voyage: Live Long Enough to Live Forever." (didn't read it, should I first before I post?).

Anyway, he proposes the following question to philosophers: Why are eternal lives worth living?

I suppose my first though is "why is any life worth living?". I'm not a nihilist. But would I want to live like "highlander" in that movie? Well, in reality it wouldn't be like highlander. More age, in my view would just bring up "new" health problems we've never seen before: Alzheimer's disease was unknown until we started living long enough for it to be expressed in the population. Same dif with living 125, 150, 200 years: something new would express itself, something like "inflammation of the nanobots" or whatever. Suppose for the sake of argument, we ignore these things. Why live forever?
Yes, I think you've come to the heart of the issue. The answer to the question: "Why live forever?", is the same as the answer to the question: "Why live?"
 
  • #3
vsage
I don't think I would enjoy living for a long time if I didn't have my health. I think clinging to life through constant injections/operations to preserve the increasingly delicate equilibrium that has to be maintained for someone 200 yrs old to stay alive is to be despised. Maybe I'm making the wrong assumption the years 100-200 would be full of illness. Still, I don't think the world could handle millions of people living twice or three times longer than they do now.
 
  • #4
saltydog
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learningphysics said:
Yes, I think you've come to the heart of the issue. The answer to the question: "Why live forever?", is the same as the answer to the question: "Why live?"
I don't think "why live forever" is the same as "why live": I can think of a bunch of reasons for living and I can think of one reason for NOT living forever:

Well, the first thing comes to my mind is, "where you gonna' put them?". Even if we live in outer space, we'll likely have limits in space craft capacities. Seems some kind of restriction: either limit the number of people living a long time, or limit the number of babies born, would have to be implemented. But by placing limits on who procreates, we reduce the diversity of the gene pool which itself may pose problems. Some might argue that with high technology, we can compensate for a poorly diverse gene pool. I don't think so: there will always be some pathogen that "gets by".

No, it seems to me if people were given the opportunity to live a very long time, the human population would be severely reduced, causing the diversity of the gene pool to drop too low. This loss of diversity would allows the potential for some hitherto unknown pathogen to wipe out the few remaining individuals who remain: A diverse forest is a strong forest.

Thus, in my opinion, I don't think living a long time (as a Homo sapien) is a benefit to the survival of humanity: Death is part of (biological) life.
 
  • #5
Icebreaker
Give me the opportunity, and I shall test your hypothesis.
 
  • #6
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vsage said:
Maybe I'm making the wrong assumption the years 100-200 would be full of illness.
Some people call this the Tithonus error.
 
  • #7
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saltydog said:
I don't think "why live forever" is the same as "why live": I can think of a bunch of reasons for living and I can think of one reason for NOT living forever:

Well, the first thing comes to my mind is, "where you gonna' put them?".
Why does that objection count against "why live forever" more than against "why live"? A 30-year old person takes up exactly as much space as a 300-year old person.

No, it seems to me if people were given the opportunity to live a very long time, the human population would be severely reduced
Why reduced? Death reduces the amount of people in existence; ending death ends this reduction. Everything else being equal, immortality would either increase the human population (for the obvious reason) or cause it to hit the same size limit earlier.

Note also that brain uploading (also one of Kurzweil's favorite topics) would solve both the pathogen problem and the population problem (except on the very long term). It's the most effective way by far to reduce your ecological footprint. :smile: Other technologies will help us overcome the limits to growth, too; if immortality happened, it would be against a background of rapid technological progress instead of as an isolated development.
 
  • #8
Icebreaker
If you can extend your life indefinitly, then wouldn't there be no point in reproduction?
 
  • #9
Anyway, he proposes the following question to philosophers: Why are eternal lives worth living?
I would think if one lived an eternal life, they would be focused on goals, instead of the day by day living circumstances (considering that they do live in an adequate quality of life). Much good would come from it (as a society) as long as people worked in perfect concord with one another. Compitition would be changed into mutual ambition , ofcourse worry would be almost absolute, the list goes on and on.

Ofcourse because they would have ALOT of time on their hands, and time to do nothing; therefor becoming lazy they would need a ton of self-motivation. The aspect of a goal, something to revolve their lives around comes in at that point.
Scientists would not die before they got to finish their theories, people would be able to travel around the world. Life (in my opinion) would be much more joyful, the pressure would be gone, no one has a weight in the back of their minds, all would be good as long as the people where lived very responsible lives in concord with one another.

______________________________________
In seeking wisdom thou art wise; in imagining that thou hast attained it - thou art a fool.
Lord Chesterfield
 
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  • #10
saltydog
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Ontoplankton said:
Why does that objection count against "why live forever" more than against "why live"? A 30-year old person takes up exactly as much space as a 300-year old person.
I don't quite understand your question in the first sentence: live because life has pleasure to experience and some other worthy reasons I could express. Living forever, well resource limitations might be involved as well as some other things I mentioned below. The second: Well during those 300 years, it's conceivable that 15 generations will have been born. But if none are dying, where would all these people go? That leads to the next question:


Why reduced? Death reduces the amount of people in existence; ending death ends this reduction. Everything else being equal, immortality would either increase the human population (for the obvious reason) or cause it to hit the same size limit earlier.
My first impression is that the very old would be very interested in protecting their lives: The older you get, the wiser you become. Unlike the jungle, in a civilization it's the more wise that wins (in general). Now granted, wisdom inflicts a certain amount of empathy for others but when it comes to survival, it's "self-perservation" first (in general, family ties are exceptions). Faced with dwindling resources, the very-old would protect their longevity by restricting births. Well, you might say we would do that anyway even without very-old people. I kinda' suspect it would be more severe with "very wise" people in charge.

Note also that brain uploading (also one of Kurzweil's favorite topics) would solve both the pathogen problem and the population problem (except on the very long term). It's the most effective way by far to reduce your ecological footprint. :smile: Other technologies will help us overcome the limits to growth, too; if immortality happened, it would be against a background of rapid technological progress instead of as an isolated development.
Oh great . . . guess I should have read the book first. I don't understand how that solves the pathogen problem? Even if mind is downloaded into another body or even a machine, I would not be surprised if "new pathogens" develop which attack whatever "container" is used, even machines.
 
  • #11
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saltydog said:
I don't quite understand your question in the first sentence: live because life has pleasure to experience and some other worthy reasons I could express. Living forever, well resource limitations might be involved as well as some other things I mentioned below.
I agree that immortality would increase population growth. Still, each individual extremely old person takes up as much space and resources (per year) as each individual young person. The cost in resources per year of life stays the same.

The older you get, the wiser you become.
Seems like an excellent argument for immortality to me.

Faced with dwindling resources, the very-old would protect their longevity by restricting births.
If we hit resource limits before we drastically decrease our reproduction rate for other reasons, then it's true that we will have to choose between having fewer children on the one hand, and dying more on the other hand. I would hope that in that case, we would restrict our own births voluntarily. If not, then the only alternative to involuntary non-reproduction would be involuntary death; i.e., a society where people are killed to conserve resources. That doesn't sound much better to me.

I don't think it will come to any of this, though. Predicting the political problems of far-future immortals is not something we can do with any degree of confidence, especially if they've become transhuman in other ways than just a longer lifespan.

Oh great . . . guess I should have read the book first.
I haven't read the book either, so I don't know if he talks about uploading in it. He has a web site at http://kurzweilai.net.

I don't understand how that solves the pathogen problem? Even if mind is downloaded into another body or even a machine, I would not be surprised if "new pathogens" develop which attack whatever "container" is used, even machines.
You mean computer viruses? I really can't see computers getting infected by ordinary viruses, bacteria, and so on.
 
  • #12
Kerrie
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i would embrace the idea of living till 150, so long as i am not a burden to society. my time would be spent on reading and learning.
 
  • #13
Chronos
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If all natural causes were removed, there is still a 50-50 chance you would perish involuntarily [accident, suicide or homicide] by age 776. There is barely a 1% chance you would live to see your 5100 birthday. But assuming perfect health, I could live with that. Although I admit the prospect of having the kids living at home well into their second century is not very appealing.
 
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  • #14
loseyourname
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saltydog said:
I don't quite understand your question in the first sentence: live because life has pleasure to experience and some other worthy reasons I could express. Living forever, well resource limitations might be involved as well as some other things I mentioned below. The second: Well during those 300 years, it's conceivable that 15 generations will have been born. But if none are dying, where would all these people go? That leads to the next question:
Isn't his idea to upload our minds into machines? Humans that took this path would essentially become unwritten collections of autonomous, self-aware programs. There is no reason that they would have to use up a whole lot of physical space or resources. This is actually the first step in the evolution of the ET's in 2001, well before they learned to free their minds from matter altogether and become 'star-children.' It's interesting that someone out there thinks this might actually be possible. If it is, it might actually be the key to human survival as well as the sustainability of organic evolution in general on this planet. If humans ceased to use up the huge amount of physical resources they now do, problems of overpopulation and ecosystem destruction would be solved.
 
  • #15
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Ontoplankton said:
I haven't read the book either, so I don't know if he talks about uploading in it. He has a web site at http://kurzweilai.net.
Thanks Ontoplankton for this reference. It led me to, "Facing Up to the Problem of Consciousness" that you guys have been exploring. Now I see why. If I may say so, Chalmers states, "To account for conscious experience,we need an extra ingredient in the explanation". Yea, I know this is off the subject of the post but I really would like to know what he thinks about "emergent" propreties providing the answer? Anyway I e-mailed him and asked.

I would think if brain uploading it used and Chalmers is correct, would not "conscious experience" fail to be uploaded UNLESS it is precisely the emergent property of that which is uploaded.
 
  • #16
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saltydog said:
Thanks Ontoplankton for this reference. It led me to, "Facing Up to the Problem of Consciousness" that you guys have been exploring. Now I see why. If I may say so, Chalmers states, "To account for conscious experience,we need an extra ingredient in the explanation". Yea, I know this is off the subject of the post but I really would like to know what he thinks about "emergent" propreties providing the answer? Anyway I e-mailed him and asked.

I would think if brain uploading it used and Chalmers is correct, would not "conscious experience" fail to be uploaded UNLESS it is precisely the emergent property of that which is uploaded.
Chalmers' concept follows (directly or indirectly) from the use of such terms as "mere autonomous self-aware programs", as though such things were less than what we actually already are. As it is, if we are nothing more than "autonomous self-aware programs" (and I see no reason why we should assume otherwise), then we have nothing to worry about (with regard to uploading our programs into some other type of computer and continuing our existence therein).
 
  • #17
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Mentat said:
Chalmers' concept follows (directly or indirectly) from the use of such terms as "mere autonomous self-aware programs", as though such things were less than what we actually already are. As it is, if we are nothing more than "autonomous self-aware programs" (and I see no reason why we should assume otherwise), then we have nothing to worry about (with regard to uploading our programs into some other type of computer and continuing our existence therein).
I think that I shall spend time with this. Self-awareness seems to be at the heart of the matter and seems right to pursue it from the perspective of emergence (it's the best scientific attack we have I believe). I've often though it would be difficult to build a simulation to exhibit mind but I'm starting to think the internet as a whole is not a bad start. I wonder if any quantitative studies have been made in an attempt to detect anything "emerging" from the internet that's more than simply a sum of its constituent parts?
 
  • #18
loseyourname
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Mentat said:
Chalmers' concept follows (directly or indirectly) from the use of such terms as "mere autonomous self-aware programs", as though such things were less than what we actually already are. As it is, if we are nothing more than "autonomous self-aware programs" (and I see no reason why we should assume otherwise), then we have nothing to worry about (with regard to uploading our programs into some other type of computer and continuing our existence therein).
You know, this uploading idea is very similar to the last paragraph of chapter 13 in Consciousness Explained. I'm sure you remember, when Dennett consoles Otto by saying that his theory of the self provides a potential explanation of how immortality could be achieved, as the self is not necessarily tied to any one material conglomerate, but instead could conceivably exist in many different media, including artificial media.
 
  • #19
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loseyourname said:
You know, this uploading idea is very similar to the last paragraph of chapter 13 in Consciousness Explained. I'm sure you remember, when Dennett consoles Otto by saying that his theory of the self provides a potential explanation of how immortality could be achieved, as the self is not necessarily tied to any one material conglomerate, but instead could conceivably exist in many different media, including artificial media.
Classic stuff, that.
 
  • #20
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saltydog said:
Anyway, he proposes the following question to philosophers: Why are eternal lives worth living?
To do physics, math and work.
 
  • #21
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saltydog said:
I think that I shall spend time with this. Self-awareness seems to be at the heart of the matter and seems right to pursue it from the perspective of emergence (it's the best scientific attack we have I believe). I've often though it would be difficult to build a simulation to exhibit mind but I'm starting to think the internet as a whole is not a bad start. I wonder if any quantitative studies have been made in an attempt to detect anything "emerging" from the internet that's more than simply a sum of its constituent parts?
I don't know about that, but I have heard some interesting reports about auto-pilot computers. Apparently, a series of auto-pilot computers are programmed to interact with one another, so as to maintain optimum flying. They, in essence, play Dennett's party game (at the beginning of Consciousness Explained). Now, according to what I've heard, there have been cases where the plane has executed advanced and complicated maneuvers that were not directly programmed into any one of the computers, and were not initiated by the human pilot.

This sounds like "emergence" (at a very primitive level, of course) to me :smile:.
 
  • #22
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sid_galt said:
To do physics, math and work.
I like how you think, sid_galt :cool:.
 
  • #23
saltydog
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Well, I got an e-mail from Dr. Chalmers. He said that he discusses "emergence" in his book "The Conscious Mind". Can anyone comment on this? That's very tempting from me to pursue finding a copy of his book.

So what's his thoughts about the connection of emergence to consciousness? Should I tell him about my butterflies (I think I'll not bother him though)?

Salty
 
  • #24
loseyourname
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I haven't read that book, but I do know from reading papers of his that he considers consciousness to be a fundamental component of information-processing systems, rather than an emergent component. He even speculates that very simple information-processors, such as thermometers, might have a very primitive form of consciousness. I can't elaborate, however. hypnagogue seems to know the most about his work. If he doesn't see the thread, maybe you can PM him and ask if he'll comment.
 
  • #25
saltydog
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I read an interesting review of his book "The Conscious Mind". The reviewer said:

"According to Chalmers a machine that functions in a way that is indistinguishable from humans has experiences that are indistinguishable from humans (a version of strong Al). This would be true whether the system is made out of silicon chips, beer cans, or the population of China - provided only that in their detailed activity, these systems instantiate the same causal relationships, i.e., function in the same way."

Well, that sounds like marble-mind to me. Of course he has his detractors.
 

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