Why Don't Futurists Try Harder to Stay Alive?, asks Rob Wiblin at Overcoming Bias

Suppose you want to live for more than 10 thousand years. (I'll assume that suffices for the "immortalist" designation). Many here do.

Suppose in addition that this is by far, very far, your most important goal. You'd sacrifice a lot for it. Not all, but a lot.

How would you go about your daily life? In which direction would you change it?

I want to examine this in a sequence, but I don't want to write it on my own, I'd like to do it with at least one person. I'll lay out the structure for the sequence here, and anyone who wants to help, by writing an entire post (these or others), or parts of many, please contact me in the comments, or message. Obviously we don't need all these posts, they are just suggestions. The sequence won't be about whether it is a good idea to do that. Just assume that the person wants to achieve some form of Longevity Escape Velocity. Take as a given that it is what an agent wants, what should she do?


1) The Ideal Simple Egoistic Immortalist - I'll write this one, the rest is up for grabs.

Describes the general goal of living long, explains it is not about living long in hell, about finding mathy or Nozickian paradoxes, about solving the moral uncertainty problem. It is just simply trying to somehow achieve a very long life worth living. Describes the two main classes of optimization 1)Optimizing your access to the resources that will grant immortality 2)Optimizing the world so that immortality happens faster.  Sets "3)Diminish X-risk" aside for the moment, and moves on with a comparison of the two major classes. 


2) Everything else is for nothing if A is not the case -

Shows the weaker points (A's) of different strategies. What if uploads don't inherit the properties in virtue of which we'd like to be preserved? What if cryonics facilities are destroyed by enraged people? What if some X-risk obtains, you die with everyone else? What if there is no personal identity in the relevant sense and immortality is a desire without a referent (a possible future world in which the desired thing obtains)? and as many other things as the poster might like to add.


3) Immortalist Case study - Ray Kurzweil -

Examines Kurzweil strategy, given his background (age, IQ, opportunities given while young etc...). Emphasis, for Kurzweil and others, on how optimal are their balances for classes one and two of optimization.


4) Immortalist Case study - Aubrey de Grey -


5) Immortalist Case study - Danila Medvdev -

Danila has been filming everything he does hours a day. I don't know much else, but suppose he is worth examining.


6) Immortalist Case study - Peter Thiel


7) Immortalist Case study - Laura Deming

She's been fighting death since she was 12, went to MIT to research on it, and recently got a Thiel fellowship and pivoted to fundraising. She's 20.


8) Immortalist Case study - Ben Best

Ben Best directs Cryonics Institute. He wrote extensively on mechanisms of ageing, economics and resource acquisition, and cryonics. Lots can be learned from his example.


9) Immortalist Case study - Bill Faloon

Bill is a long time cryonicist, he founded the Life Extension Foundation decades ago, and to this day makes a lot of money out of that. He's a leading figure in both the Timeship project (super-protected facility for frozen people) and in gathering the cryonics youth togheter.


10) How old are you? How much are you worth? How that influences immortalist strategies. - This one I'd like to participate.


11) Creating incentives for your immortalism - this one I'll write

How to increase the amount of times that reality strikes you with incentives that make you more likely to pursue the strategies you should pursue, being a simple egoistic immortalist.


12, 13, 14 .... If it suits the general topic, it could be there. Also previous posts about related things could be encompassed.


Edit: The suggestion is not that you have to really want to be the ideal immortalist to take part in writing a post. My goals are far from being nothing but an immortalist. But I would love to know, were it the case, what should I be doing? First we get the abstraction. Then we factor in everything else about us and we have learned something from the abstraction.

Seems people were afraid that by taking part in the sequence they'd be signalling that their only goal is to live forever. This misses both the concept of assumption, and the idea of an informative idealized abstraction.

What I'm suggesting we do here with immortality could just as well be done with some other goal like "The Simple Ideal Anti-Malaria Fighter" or "The Simple Ideal Wannabe Cirque de Soleil".      



So who wants to play?





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24 comments, sorted by Click to highlight new comments since: Today at 11:51 AM

How about a post discussing methods?

Methods for what?

Living long enough to have a chance at immortality.

Doesn't any optimal strategy start (and continue for about 80% of it) with "get as much money as possible"? Which isn't to say that there aren't some other relevant aspects, but I'm not sure the question requires a sequence quite this long.

I don't think that optimizing for money is that simple. Of the top of my mind:

Someone who will optimize for money in the beggining, following class 1 of strategies, should optimize for political power as well. Should keep a close circle of engaged, powerful friends who cooperate when it comes to that. Should live with other people to avoid risks of dying home alone. Should control happiness to stay motivated to get the money. Should exercise frequently (getting a walking desktop computer seems appropriate), may want to go polyphasic and work three shifts.

There are other kinds of things as well: Living near Massachussetts General Hospital? Or a cryonics facility? In a suburban area to live longer? Despite the costs in power that come with that?


Should exercise frequently (getting a walking desktop computer seems appropriate), may want to go polyphasic and work three shifts.

I don't think that there good evidence that going polyphasic is good for lifespan. There little evidence about long term health effects and a good chance that it hurts some systems.

At what point does the reduction in all cause mortality justify changing your behavior? Continuing to commute to your high paying job might be tempting if you only have $400k, but it's probably a better idea to start freelancing from home even if it means a paycut. Driving is dangerous.

While an interesting abstract question, I don't think it would actually ever be relevant in real life (because of the high pay differential between most freelance and permanent jobs). The real life answer would be "if after proper investigation, driving turns out to be dangerous even if you drive safely in a safe car, rent an apartment close to your job so you can walk there".

I feel like most trade-off questions are actually trading off non-immortality things you actually want (e.g. living in a nice suburban place, a family) versus immortality rather than different paths to (im)mortality as such.

rent an apartment close to your job so you can walk there".

sure but this might involve spending more money or in some other way losing money, which was my point.

Well, yes, I did mention that there are some other relevant aspects, and naturally they would require you to reduce earnings slightly. However, I think most of these are orthogonal to maximising earnings (you rent an apartment, you don't give up the highest paying job you can get), which makes strategy considerations fairly easy.

There is an unspoken assumption here that immortality is unconditionally good. Pre-written bottom line and such.

Suppose, hypothetically, that a mathematical model of human societies shows that immortality is detrimental to humanity as a whole, in a sense that it slows down progress, increases the odds of stagnation, results in more suffering, etc. Maybe even that it reduces the odds of long-term survival of the human species against freak events that caused extinction of species in the past.

Would you revise your stance on immortality or look for ways to explain the conclusions away?

How is this in any way relevant?

If someone were to write the same proposal from the point of view of a sequence on how to most effectively maximize animal welfare through research and optimal philanthropy, it would hardly be relevant to discuss whether it is unconditionally good to maximize animal welfare. Sure this discussion might be useful to have, but when an article starts with "Suppose that" you don't start by fighting this hypothetical.

You know what, you are right. I let my aversion to diego's writings get the better of me. I still don't like it when rationality is replaced by advocacy, but he did state it as a hypothetical.

Neither. I'd accept that immortality is bad for the species as a whole but I still wouldn't want people to die. So I would have to find (or fund) ways to change humanity so immortality doesn't slow down progress etc.

It might be far easier to modify people to not want to live forever. For example, painlessly and predictably being switched off at, say, 100, without any signs of aging, seems far less unpalatable than the current process of dying slowly and unpredictable over decades.

But not as palatable as not being switched off. Why are you trying to defend killing everyone?

Besides, if people have to be modified to enjoy the paradise you want to give them, then it isn't a paradise, just a Brave New World dystopia.

Well, not necessarily, but if your response to wanting something is to stop wanting it... don't do that to me!

I'd add that harm from immortality would have to be fairly big, and that society will have a variety of other improvements.

Would you revise your stance on immortality or look for ways to explain the conclusions away?

Neither. I'd look for ways to do better, ways around whatever obstacles the mathematical model predicted.

This is just another argument of the form, "Suppose X, that you think is good, was bad! Wouldn't X then be bad?"

Would you revise your stance on immortality or look for ways to explain the conclusions away?

I'm pro-immortalist, and think I would revise my stance. I actually think that most immortalists would, since most of us don't actually expect to become personally immortal within our lifetimes. For example, I'm in my early 20s, and I think there is a less than 10% chance I'll live long enough for life-extension technologies to come on line.

Although I'm not sure it fits within the intent of the proposed sequence, here's something related that I would like to see: An overview of the current state of immortalist tech and research. Cryonics, SENS and related projects, and the like.

Please see this excellent essay by Bruce Klein, founder of the Immortality Institute...


Immortalist Philosophy

The immortalist philosophy is based upon the idea that humans only have one life and one chance to live. There are no alternative states to the current state other than oblivion. Thus, what we experience now and the life we have now is the only alternative.

Many people may look at the prospect of immortality with a large degree of skepticism. There is a pervasive feeling in society today that humans should not tamper with the cycle of life or that physical immortality is impossible, to boring, or just plain silly.

Why Should We Live Forever? One should not be intimidated or put off by the idea of physical immortality. This has nothing to do with a religious or spiritual immortality and more to do with a sustainable form of life that is never-ending and attainable in the physical world we live in now. Most would argue it can't be done. But this is usually a reflex response brought on by conditioning by the influence of religion and society.

Things, however are starting to change. Advancements in science and technology are opening up new possibilities in the field of life extension. We are on the threshold of great breakthroughs in nanotechnology, biotechnology, and artificial intelligence.

The columniation of this research and experimentation will give way to actual methods that will enabling us to heal and replenish our bodies in a perpetual state of youthfulness. At some point in the future, a realization will crystallize within the consciousness of humankind that "death in not inevitable."

Throughout history, the questions surrounding death have stumped humankind. Ever since humans evolved the ability to contemplate our existence, we've asked the question "what will happen to me after I die," yet we have yet to have the chance to ask the question, "what happens if I could live forever."

The Only Alternative Is Life An Immortalist does not want to find out what happens after death. There are more than a few good examples in nature of what happens. All humans, until now, have had a beginning, middle and then die. An immortalist would suggest that "life" is the answer to the question that has perplexed humankind for so long. Simply stated:

Nothing Happens After Death We only die - no afterlife, no second chances, no reincarnation. Thus, this only leave us with one simple option - embrace life.

At the onset of death, consciousness is obliterated by hypoxia. Neuronal connections built up over a lifetime are destroyed by the lack of oxygen. The essence of what makes us who we are is destroyed by this process. Cryonics, if implemented quickly enough may save this identity, however the prospects of cryonics are still unknown and tenuous. Therefore, it's much preferred not to die altogether, and only rely upon Cryonics as a sort of safety net or 'life' insurance.

Thus, staying alive is exceedingly important thing. There are no second chances after death, baring the success of Cryonics. One way of looking at death is to try and remember a time before birth... this is what one should expect after death, a void never to be filled again.

Is the idea with the case studies to conduct an email interview with the subjects? Or just collect publicly available information from around the internet?

I was thinking the latter, since the evaluation is supposed to be only of a very very specific fact about them, not about, say, "their latest book" or whatever they want to display these last few days.

Laura and Danila may want to display their strategies.

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