Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Oddly Depressing

Time magazine waxes on about "The Singularity" in the credulous way that it is good at:
For Kurzweil, it's not so much about staying healthy as long as possible; it's about staying alive until the Singularity. It's an attempted handoff. Once hyper-intelligent artificial intelligences arise, armed with advanced nanotechnology, they'll really be able to wrestle with the vastly complex, systemic problems associated with aging in humans. Alternatively, by then we'll be able to transfer our minds to sturdier vessels such as computers and robots. He and many other Singularitarians take seriously the proposition that many people who are alive today will wind up being functionally immortal.
This somehow strikes me as a very depressing idea. I'm not sure I'm Classical enough to insist that previous generations were definitely better than the current one, but I think that functional immortality in this world would make any group of people far worse. Though it would probably be "solved" moderately quickly by the fact that:

a) Most people couldn't afford this kind of existence, whereas traditional biological existence is cheap
b) Imagining for the moment that "functional immortality" either through keeping the body alive via medical technology or via porting were even possible (which I rather doubt) I think most people who tried it would get tired of it after a while and go ahead and die
c) Someone who managed to maintain an interest in keeping up this "functional immortality" would probably become so divorced from real human existence as to be irrelevant -- rather like the minor deities and fay of pagan and Christian folklore.


JackieD said...

Is anyone else reminded of 'That Hideous Strength'?

Joseph said...

If this is not subsidized by the government, the price should go down and eventually become affordable by more people.

I've noticed many singularitarians seem to think that longevity is incompatible with a belief in an afterlife. On the contrary, even an immortal lifespan is a mere aleph-null years and there are much larger cardinalities.

To the preceding commenter: I won't be reminded of That Hideous Strength until the singularitarians start immolating themselves. (I will admit that some of the comments during the Schiavo controversy came close...)

Gregory said...

I just found your blog via Eric Sammons and SQPN; it looks interesting.

My prediction is that if the ability to transfer our minds into a "sturdier vessel" is ever achieved, people will be surprised to find that their selves don't transfer into the vessel. A new entity will exist which preserves all of their memories, but it will either not have consciousness, or will be a new consciousness. The original person will still die when their body dies.