[Link] Immortality Project

by [anonymous]1 min read20th Mar 20136 comments

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An interesting article on the Immortality Project at UC Riverside. This is the website.

This seems like something for LWers to look into - they're offering grants and essay prizes.

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Despite the negative comments, this is not all bad:

With the help of expert jurors, Fischer expects to give 10 research awards of $250,000 each this spring to neuroscientists, physicians, psychiatrists, sociologists and others to conduct experiments and studies about, among other things: Can out-of-body experiences be simulated? Will it be possible to extend life by extraordinary amounts? Does belief in a heaven or hell make people less likely to commit crimes?

These are real questions of psychology and cognitive science worth exploring, not some spiritual mumbo-jumbo. The next bit, though, is not as promising:

Next year, an additional $1.5 million is to be distributed among 15 philosophers and theologians, financing research for essays and books about differing aspects of immortality.

Hopefully at least one of those philosophers (forget the theologians) can do something useful, like maybe address the issues about identity preservation and cryonics/uploads/augmentation.

I wonder if MIRI applied for any of the grants?

Alas, this is not about immortality by not dying, but life after death on a higher plane of existence. Perhaps an essay about cryonics and uploading might fit their brief, but it sounds like that isn't what they're looking for, and curing old age isn't in their scope.

I stopped reading the article after I got to "Templeton Foundation". Don't think this is quite what you're thinking it is.

Beware of the confirmation bias.

Fischer, who attended the seminar, raised the question of hubris, noting how religion and literature recount punishments to those who seek immortality or omniscience, including Adam and Eve's expulsion from the Garden of Eden in the Bible and the Faust legend of a doctor selling his soul to the devil.

"The whole perception is that we overreach when we seek immortality, and then we get into trouble," he said.

[...]

Death, he said, "seems like a scary thought." But the best reaction, he added, is to live "as long as possible in a healthy and productive way and figure out how to accept death gracefully when it comes."

To steal a joke from Tom Lehrer —

Fischer has a cause: immortality. He's against it.

Fischer has a cause: immortality. He's against it.

Your statement is worse than uncharitable, given his essay:

Fischer argues (against the immortality curmudgeons, such as Heidegger and Bernard Williams), that immortal life could be desirable, and shows how the defense of the (possible) badness of death and the (possible) goodness of immortality exhibit a similar structure; on Fischer's view, the badness of death and the goodness of life can be represented on spectra that display certain continuities.