Re: Moravec article available

From: Zero Powers (
Date: Tue May 02 2000 - 20:01:15 MDT

>Robin forwards Moravec:
> > An
> > immortal cannot hope to survive unchanged, only to maintain a limited
> > continuity over the short run. Personal death differs from this
> > inevitability only in its relative abruptness.
>This is a dilemma, but I'm not sure I agree with Moravec's experession
>of it. He suggests that change will be forced on us by evolution and
>competition, leading to some inevitable common outcome. This would be
>a sort of monocultural climax ecosystem.
>However we see here on Earth a diverse ecology which includes organisms
>that cover a wide spectrum of rates of adaption. There are species
>which are almost unchanged from hundreds of millions of years ago,
>and others which are less than a million years old. This suggests
>that the ultimate end point is not necessarily the same for everyone,
>but may include similar degrees of diversity.
>In that case we have a choice, not between adapt or perish, but between
>adapt or stagnate. It may turn out that there is an ecological niche
>for organisms who are wedded to their past, who refuse to change.
>Their very stubbornness will become their raison d'etre. They are
>monuments to themselves, as unchanging as stone.
>This is not a very appealing picture for Extropians, but it does seem
>that the alternative leads to the kind of outcome Moravec describes.
>Even if we embrace change, not because the universe forces it upon us,
>but for our own philosophical reasons, the outcome may be much the same
>in either case. We will become unrecognizable to ourselves, like the
>character in Egan's Diaspora who had rewritten himself so many times he
>considered himself his own grandchild.
>It is still a more optimistic picture than Moravec's, because even if
>we change as much or more than when we die, it is still our own choice
>and our own path. His more pessimistic view assumes that the path is
>not ours to choose, that competition is so harsh that we have no control
>over where we end up.

I don't take Moravec's outlook to be nearly so pessimistic as you seem to.
I think the "problem" you may be having with his picture is the seeming
equivolence he suggests between change and death. When I look back at who I
was, say, 10 or 20 years ago, that person no longer exists. He has changed
a great deal to become the person I am today. In a sense you could say that
the "me" of 20 years ago is dead, because he is just as non-existent today
as if I had died 20 years ago.

I believe this is more like what Moravec has in mind. No matter how it
happens, if you live long enough, you are bound to change significantly,
albeit perhaps fairly gradually. The only way for you to be the same person
100 years from now (not to mention 100,000 years from now), would be for you
to lock yourself away from the rest of the world and to severely limit your
experience of life. If you're going to live like that why on Earth would
you want to live forever?

Plus, when you add such things as drastically improved human-machine
interfaces, neural implants and/or modifications, mind-uploading, telepathic
technology, ubiquitous, wireless "always on" ultra-high bandwidth
human-machine and human-human network connections, there seems little doubt
that, if you find yourself still living 100 years from now chances are that
the "you" of 100 years from now will be so different from the "you" of
today, that you will agree that the "you" of today is effectively "dead".
However, I don't think that will be cause for mourning. Instead it will be
cause for celebration.


"I like dreams of the future better than the history of the past"
--Thomas Jefferson

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