Re: Can You Live Forever? Esquire article

Michael S. Lorrey (
Wed, 12 May 1999 01:42:44 -0400

Anders Sandberg wrote:

> (But I'm sure there will be posthuman luddites claiming that physical
> reality is the only good reality - while safely living on the Net :-)

I don't know if any virtual realities we create will be as 'real' as our current one, and I am one who spends lots of time working on computers, however I also spend a lot of time in the wilderness, and prefer to live in the country where I can see deer in my yard in the morning. I spend much of my recreational time miles from the nearest computer, and far outside cell phone range. My cabin got running water only this past year (and its still not quite that functional), only has occasional electricity, when I want to cut the silence with the roar of my generator (I'm still shopping solar panels), and internal heat and lighting is propane. Even when I decide to transfer to an android body (which I see as not likely to be necessary given , I can imagine that I will still want to go camping, fishing, and hunting, while not being at all anti-tech.

> > Furthermore, at present rates of environmental destruction, "they" (who
> > remain fictional) will have no biosphere in which to return. In addition,
> > the motives for trashing biology do not appear conducive to biological
> > resurrection.
> Hmm, you seem to be making an awful lot of assumptions here. Why would
> a posthuman trash biology? The people becoming posthumans may discard
> their bio-bodies, but that doesn't mean they feel they have to wipe
> out the biosphere too. Why would present rates of environmental
> destruction hold in an era where people by assumption can do drastic
> morphological changes and can afford to? Why can't a crashed biosphere
> be restored?

Yes, the stats showing the relationship between standard of living vs. pollution per capita show that its a bell curve relationship, with the peak at around $10,000.00 per capita. Since there are no civilizations on the planet with more than around $20,000 per capita, we don't know if the curve continues to decrease toward zero, flattens out, or shifts into a new bell curve reflecting a new phase of technological civilization that would be reflected by a shift like the singularity. I would expect that humans in a transhuman/posthuman state, like we see the hi-techers in Vinge's Marooned in Realtime, would have sufficient tech to make a minimum impact upon the environment, if such were a priority for a person seeking to live a more feral existence but with the comforts of high tech.

> Yes, I'm Homo Proteus. But that doesn't imply that I turn my back on
> the biosphere - quite the opposite. I want not just to preserve it,
> but to extend it to new worlds.

Yes, but thats more of a Homo Progenitor or Homo Panspermia

> > In short, Wilson's message comes to: Let's not kill all of us in the attempt
> > to transcend. We had better take care of the environment, or it can't take
> > care of us. The singularity that concerns Wilson involves the
> > bio-destruction of the Earth. His concern comes from science rather than
> > from fiction.
> Sigh. And everything discussed on this list is fiction? The problem
> here is that Wilson (and you) seem to be stuck looking at things as
> they have always been, looking for solutions inside the box. Moving
> outside the box to something different is apparently not an allowed
> option according to you. I disagree. I think that moving out of the
> box is the only way of ensuring consilence.

Depends on what you consider to be the box. I like being human, so much so that I want to be more human, even a perfect human as I see perfection to be. I do plan on augmenting my brain for greater intelligence, knowledge retention and for communicating better, faster, more; achieving immortality, correcting the genetic flaws I've inherited. Technology is meant to serve the human, not the other way around. THAT, IMHO is the essential flaw of the borganist's argument, just as the essential flaw of the socialist is to assume that the purpose of the individual is to serve the community.

> > Passivity indeed constitutes a huge problem. Far too few people work to
> > reverse the damage done to the biosphere. Far too few work toward reversing
> > the destructive trend of overpopulation. Far too many shirk the
> > responsibility to live up to human values of compassion, comprehension, and
> > community, choosing instead to live in a fantasyland of denial.
> >
> > Consilience means to bring all "*their*" systems together, to unify
> > knowledge, and to bring consistency to all the sciences, and especially to
> > sort out which systems have validity and which do not.
> Sounds great. But did you notice the "their" you used? Why not an
> "our"? I think the consilience idea is a good idea, even if I'm not
> certain if it will work I think it is worthwhile to pursue. But it is
> dangerous to see it as something "we, the enlightened" brings on to
> unify "they, the passive" - it is everybody's project.

Its also to recognize that technology is economically systematized. A technology that is optimally more cost effective than other tech today may no longer be so tomorrow, while that which is not worthwhile today can be the next big thing tomorrow. Bringing a holy war of technological correctness to science and technology is counterproductive. Centralized, standardized science and technological development is as stupid as central state control of an economy.

> > >> If humans attain immortality via non-biological means, then it no longer
> > >> makes sense to call them human. Then they have died and gone to posthuman
> > >> afterlife.
> > >
> > >Sure. And I think that is a *good* thing. But I seriously doubt all
> > >humans will take that step, there will always be a pool of people who
> > >for a variety of good and bad reasons chose to remain human.
> >
> > Nietzsche took me Beyond Good and Evil (the title of my favorite Nietzsche
> > book) many years ago. Talk about "dangerous memes" -- "there will always be
> > a pool of people" looks to me like one of the most dangerous of all.
> I might of course be wrong about the persistence of homo sapiens, but
> given my current information on how people think and act it seems
> quite likely. Especially given that there are people holding your
> views who might gladly (?) form a rear-guard so to say.

As per my prior comments on the singularity discussion last year, if someone is calling Transhuman Anders an inhuman creature, that person is far more defining their own level of savagness and obsolescence than making a declarative objective statement about whether Anders is in fact human or not. As far as Anders is concerned, it is he who is human, and the narrow minded luddite is nothing but a monkey still in the trees screeching and throwing doo-doo at the tourists. Anders, in his magnanimity and wisdom may in fact regard that monkey as a human being, but not one to be overly concerned about having a rational informed opinion...

> > It seems to me that the only choice any living human has concerning
> > remaining human or not remaining human comes to this:
> > One can choose to grow up and take responsibility for the ecological
> > holocaust industrialized humanity has wrought (which means becoming fully
> > human in my estimation), or one can choose to cling to immature notions that
> > somehow it will all work out and one can remain enthralled by futuristic
> > fantasy. If one chooses the latter, one should know that one deserves the
> > wrath of following generations of humans, who may consider this negligence a
> > crime against humanity.
> Exactly. But the first option doesn't rule out becoming
> post-biological (in fact, it might even be argued that it would be
> environmentally friendly if we humans went post-biological). Getting
> the ecology to work might involve *more* high technology
> (cf. pollution levels as a function of technology; as efficiency
> increase, they decrease). You cannot just dismiss (say) a discussion
> about nanotechnology and its environmental impact as futuristic
> fantasy and remain intellectually honest; the honest thing to do is to
> rationally look at the claims made and the support of them, and then
> make a judgement.
> You (or Wilson) seems to have made a dichtomy between the "good guys"
> who are consilient, ecological and biological, and naive "bad guys"
> who are post-biological and suffers from passive optimism. Then you
> happily place everybody promoting posthumanity in the later category,
> without really caring to look whether that person really belong there
> or not. Maybe even these categories are bad?

If preserving the entire ecology right now means expending resources that will be required to bootstrap civlization into the next level on simple ecology preservation and restoration, I say store the DNA and start strip mining, it can be rebuilt later. Failure to go for infinity now will condemn future generations to a slow descent into hell on earth. Those who are the most virulent tree huggers, and claim to know the most about ecology always seem to me to blithly ignore that the Earth ecology has rebounded from far worse cataclysms in the past than humanity will ever direct upon it. Life is resilient, and evolution is a constantly changing phenomenon. I find the idea of preserving species that exist now at all cost to be totally anathema to the idea of evolution. Survival of the fittest is the rule, nature has no sentiments.

> > Excuse my harshness, but the situation in the "_real_ real world" as Wilson
> > puts it, requires the application of severe and intense measures to solve
> > the problems of today and tomorrow.
> Another dangerous meme, which has a track record with both some
> impressive successes and some horrible disasters. Without being
> connected to strong rationality and critical thinking it can easily
> become a recipe for "the goals sanctify the means"-type activism that
> does more damage than it helps.

Yes, in this area of New England, which less than 100 years ago was an ecological wasteland, the ecology has rebounded nicely with nothing more from man than to just get out of the way and let it happen. The moose, salmon, mountain lion, and wolves are back, and the deer, bear, and coyote populations are higher than before white man came. We are hunting the moose again (have been for over a decade now) to manage the herd, and restrictions on keeping salmon that are caught are supposed to be lifted in a few years.

Pictures from my great grandfathers day show rivers that were clogged with huge jams of thousands of logs being ferried downstream, scouring up the riverbeds and killing the fish with the tannic acid leaching from the bark. 90% of the land in NH was cleared and farmed with sheep to feed the mills their wool. In 1910 there were less than a dozen moose in the state, now there are over 15,000.

> > The way I see it, extropy means the movement toward more powerful ways to
> > enrich and expand life.
> Sure. But at least some of us have a much more generalized vision of
> life - carbon is a special case.
> > Opposition to consilience, IMO, comes from the meme that favors remaining
> > mechanical. I see signs everywhere that the Machine Age wants to become the
> > Bio-genetic Age. The consilience of genetic programming, artificial life,
> > molecular biology, neurobiology, cryonics, synthetic evolution, and so on,
> > holds tremendous promise when combined with other sciences to go beyond
> > neo-luddite mechanical prosthetics. However one defines life, it will
> > surpass human life by creative biological reproduction rather than by
> > selfish mechanical replication.
> Hmm, maybe this is the key to our whole quarrel: you see the posthuman
> as a mechanical creature, while I regard him as a biological (if
> inorganic) creature.

Yes, it is a rather racist and intolerant view of humanity.

Mike Lorrey