Re: Incomplete Singularity

From: Samantha Atkins (
Date: Wed Oct 11 2000 - 01:21:37 MDT

Adrian Tymes wrote:
> Having been pressured by someone else on this list to pressure my
> relatives into buying the ultimate life insurance of cryo (I intend to
> get it for myself, but they do not and will not, so the only result of
> pressuring them would be to damage my relationships with them), I asked
> myself why so many of our friends and loved ones will not spare us the
> pain of knowing that some day, well within our own extended lifetimes,
> they will be gone forever.
> The answer, I think, or at least part of it, is that a commitment to
> immortality - or a commitment to eventual permanent death - commonly
> defines part of who and what a person is. I think I can safely assume
> that everyone on this list can easily see themselves being a hundred, a
> thousand, even a billion (or insert whatever big number) years old and
> still enjoying life, in whatever form has been obtained at that time.
> But such is not the case for everyone. Many people see themselves at
> seventy/eighty/whatever and having done everything they want to do,
> growing bored and tired of life. We embrace the infinite, they embrace
> the finite, and both sides define their dreams and aspirations around
> it.

I can't see getting bored with life. I could see getting bored with my
"self" if I wasn't continuously growing, adding new abilities and
hopefully getting at least a bit wiser. I think more people get tired
of seeing themselves as stuck in the same meaningless loops and same
sorry state of self than get tired of the rest of life. If I thought I
would never get any smarter or wiser or any other thing I care about
than right now and that there was nothing at all to be done about it -
then no, I would not wish to continue that state indefinitely.
Fortunately that is not the case.

Perhaps part of what happens to others is that they believe that they
ARE those limitations irrevocably and that these limits can only be
escaped by ceasing to be.

> Unlike the infamous frog in slowly boiling water, there is no gradation
> from finite to infinite; even the cocept causes immense future shock.
> Some individuals can adjust themselves from one to the other, and the
> chances of doing so are greater with greater realization that the
> necessary technology - including social technology of mindsets and so
> forth, to keep coming up with new things to do - is available, but to
> force the issue is to ask someone to reject that person's own sense of
> no wonder it is so vigorously and emotionally resisted.

Well, I wouldn't say it is available just yet. :-) As for the
gradation, dunno. It seems to me to be largely one foot in front of the
other toward goals you actually care about. I don't spend a lot of time
contemplating being infinite or rather, immortal. Perhaps I should.

> This is ironic if true. With all the power that shall be available to
> us, the one thing we might desire most - to bring the rest of humanity
> along with us - might be one of the few things that remains impossible
> even for us.

A very intersting question is whether we should allow these folks to
self-condemn themselves to oblivion once we have the means to keep them
from dying. That question will be a lot more than hypothetical real
soon now. Which is more inline with our ethics? What are the ethics
that come from viewing oneself as an immortal and others as immortal (at
least in potential)? I would think that would lead to quite different
ethical viewpoints than does assumed mortality.

> Which leads to a disturbing thought. What if the Singularity arrives,
> but the only people who can take advantage of it are those who want to
> take advantage of it...and, given the extreme rate of change this
> entails, only a small fraction of the human race is comfortable making
> this change? The best and brightest, who might otherwise lead the norms
> into a new era, will - out of pure self-interest if nothing else - join
> us, leaving the masses ignorant, confused, and mostly stagnant.

Some would say that this can't be or shouldn't be helped. I am not so
We don't let children accidentally kill themselves. Why should we let
those that have not awakened to their own nature as immortals do
themselves in in their slumber? "We are not responsible", many would
say. But only those who are awake are able to respond to the
situation. What should we do?

> Previous radical advances, for instance the Industrial Revolution, were
> one-off advances, or at least a finite series of major changes, and thus
> could be gradually adopted. The Singularity promises an eternal state
> of flux; one either embraces eternal upgrades and intellectual
> expansion, or stays at whatever level one happens to be at and watches
> those who made the other choice go beyond comprehension.

There may be an infinite number of levels that are interesting enough to
linger at for longer or shorter times. What is the use of being
immortal if one can't spend an eon engaged in whatever one wishes rather
than always rushing to incorporate every single latest advance?

> I doubt that everyone would leave the relative luddites to their own
> devices. Some would seek to exploit them like beasts, while others
> would seek to help those who refuse help; neither option seems to
> promise effective aid.

No immortal would have much use for the simple labor of unenhanced
humanity or for their gene pool and certainly not for their raw
chemicals. So exploitation seems pretty unlikely.
> Or is this even a matter of concern? For our sakes and theirs, should
> most of us look back on them as no more interesting than the fragments
> of the eggshell from which we emerged? Intellectually, this would seem
> to be the safest approach, but instinct and a reading of history say
> that, whenever there emerges a power discrepancy of that magnitude
> between the elite and the common, the common act to balance that
> discrepancy, with negative consequences for the elite.

It is a matter of concern from the point of view of simple compassion.
I would not consider it "growth" to leave compassion behind. In the end
I think you will find that either you have to consider their wishes as
the delusions of the immature and to some extent do what "is good for
them" or that you leave the Earth or some similar place to them to make
their own destiny or that you pop them in a VR where they can safely
live out their choices (including "death") until they decide to do
something different.

In the meantime you need to set up the pre-Singularity in such a way
that everyone benefits economically. It is really becoming high time we
wiped poverty, not simple relative poverty but the starving homeless
kind, off the face of this planet. It would also help if everyone knew
they would be taken care of as far as their basic needs and a reasonable
amount more no matter what. If you can do that then you don't have to
worry much about an uprising of the masses while we are still

> All of this, though, does lead to an observation of use right now:
> trying to get support for your ideas, don't ask people to change just to
> suit your own desires. The personal decisions of others are personal,
> and based on their own values - even if they are insane when judged by
> your values. Know what is flexible about someone, or at least what is
> usually flexible about most people, before trying to bend it - and a
> desire for or against immortality (including cryo) is rarely flexible.

Most people's value system is in point of fact insane or at least not
exactly rational. Hey, it isn't easy to put together a rational,
coherent value system. Most western philosophers gave up. Interesting,

- samantha

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