Robin Hanson (hanson@econ.Berkeley.EDU)
Mon, 29 Jun 1998 10:29:53 -0700

Damien Broderick <> writes:

>Death is intensely personal. Its theft of another human world hurts us
>deeply, if we have shared even in some small measure that internalised
>overlap of which Douglas Hofstadter writes so poignantly.

Indeed. But the ways in which people have come to terms with death are
perhaps even more personal. Suggesting that death can be long deferred
threatens the core of many people's being, inspiring fierce opposition.

> But death will not go away - unless we make it go away. ...
> For the first time since single-cell life coalesced on this planet, we are
> perhaps within reach of doing just that.

Death will not go away. The current causes of death will be replaced by
other causes. But dramatically increased lifespans are indeed cause for joy.

> But solving death, and life, is not a merely technical project.
> It embraces everything that makes us human. The first immortal generation
> will not be the children of just science alone, but of law, art, music,
> writing - all the humane arts.

A vivid example of this is cryonics. A technology which has a good chance of
lengthing the lives of most people who now "die" by orders of magnitudes is
taken up by only a few hundred. What makes those people different is mainly
their "humanity". Yes, these people tend to know science better than average,
but millions of others know science much better. The few hundred cryonics
customers, in contrast, seem to have taken the science seriously enough to
let it join with their soul. They love life strongly enough to face their
deepest fears head on.

Robin Hanson
RWJF Health Policy Scholar, Sch. of Public Health 510-643-1884
140 Warren Hall, UC Berkeley, CA 94720-7360 FAX: 510-643-2627