Re: Eternity, Infinity, Religion and Transhumanism

Jacob Costello (
Mon, 18 Nov 1996 08:18:46 -0600 (CST)

As far as scenarios (to make this more concrete), Tipler's scenario seems to
offer true immortality, so at least one example of a possible means does exist.

> >This is a bit curious to me,
> >since one of the main driving forces behind my leaving Xtianity (and
> >ultimately bumping into transhumanism)that the idea of truly eternal
> >life ceased to automatically be appealing or even make any sense.
> Yes immortality won't make sense from our viewpoint today because we would
> be so incredibly modified that we cannot understand it in our current
> position. Hmmm. How would being a immortal uploaded digital being feel
> like? There have been posts based entirely on this fact. In my opinion to
> be a true atheist and not take technological immortality on faith, you must
> not make immortality your primary goal and point of focus. Extending life
> you can make a primary goal but not immortality itself because then it
> turns into faith.

The point was that understanding what is to be uploaded (or otherwise
increased) and understanding what it is to be immortal are conceptually two
different things. The "gods" that we'd like to become are going to face the
same difficulties with temporal eternity that an ordinary human would.
In particular, any immortal has to face up to the bizarre nature of an
infinite "quantity." The way one makes sense of an infinity is of course as a
limit, a mathematical abstraction. Consider the limit of f(x)=C/x as x goes
to infinity, where c is a constant. To connect this to eternal life, C
could be some arbitrarily large but finite span of time in your eternal life
(say, a centillion years for dramatic effect), and x can be the overall amount
of time in your life (this is how one has to make sense of temporal eternity).
The limit we are considering is of course zero time units. What does that
mean, precisely? It means that for any real number delta, no matter how
small, there is a real number R such that for all x>R time units, f(x)<delta.
(since limits aren't usually done formally with dimensions, i might not have
the definition quite right in that aspect.)
So say we've lived a centillion years out of our eternal life. The
above definition means that you can pick any arbitrarily small number(say
10 to the minus 100th for the fun of it) and there will come a time when the
proportion of your life to date that that centillion years makes up is less
than the delta you have picked, which is next to nothing. But we could have
picked any C, and any delta, with the same result. Any amount of time will
fade to nothing in comparison to the whole.
Certainly one of things most important to the nature of any being's
"way of existence" is its relationship to time. In achieving eternity, a
being's relationship to time is #qualitatively#, not merely quantitatively,
altered. For one thing, phrases like "the consequences of one's actions" have
fundamentally different meanings. Why do tommorrow what you can do a zillion
years from now?
This is all just as true for an upload as it is for a human. One can
easily reply that well, so the uploads will have to change the way they relate
to time. Fine, but how can we then claim that they're Us in any meaningful

jake costello