All of Jowibou's Comments + Replies

Canada, mid 1960s. Brother tried to teach me but I mostly ignored him. Used bike with training wheels, which I raised higher and higher and removed completely after a couple of weeks.

That car sure looks old! That correlates with low income, and lower intelligence.

I know plenty of very smart people who have old crummy cars that get them from A to B and act as pretty effective countersignals.

Instead of trying to like things because it's instrumentally useful, I think it's far better to strive for optimal instrumentality from one's liking.

Ideally wouldn't this be a loop, rather than either/or?

Perhaps my discomfort with all this is in cryogenic's seeming affinity with the sort of fear mongering about death that's been the bread and butter of religion for millennia. It just takes it as a fundamental law of the universe that life is better than non life - not just in practice, not just in terms of our very real, human, animal desire to survive (which I share) - but in some sort of essential, objective, rational, blindingly obvious way. A way that smacks of dogma to my ears.

If you really want to live for millennia, go ahead. Who knows I might deci... (read more)

9Will_Newsome14y
Please, please, please don't let the distaste of a certain epistemic disposition interfere with a decision that has a very clear potential for vast sums of positive or negative utility. Argument should screen off that kind of perceived signaling. Maybe it's true that there is a legion of evil Randian cryonauts that only care about sucking every last bit out of their mortal lives because the Christian background they've almost but not quite forgotten raised them with an almost pitiable but mostly contemptible fear of death. Folks like you are much more enlightened and have read up on your Hofstadter and Buddhism and Epicureanism; you're offended that these death-fearing creatures that are so like you didn't put in the extra effort to go farther along the path of becoming wiser. But that shouldn't matter: if you kinda sorta like living (even if death would be okay too), and you can see how cryonics isn't magical and that it has at least a small chance of letting you live for a long time (long enough to decide if you want to keep living, at least!), then you don't have to refrain from duly considering those facts out of a desire to signal distaste for the seemingly bad epistemic or moral status of those who are also interested in cryonics and the way their preachings sound like the dogma of a forgotten faith. Not when your life probabilistically hangs in the balance. (By the way, I'm not a cryonaut and don't intend to become one; I think there are strong arguments against cryonics, but I think the ones you've given are not good.)

Good arguments and I largely agree. However postponable does not equal evitable. At some point any clear minded self (regardless of the substratum) is probably going to have to come to accept that it is either going to end or be transformed to the point where definition of the word "self" is getting pretty moot. I guess my point remains that post-death nonexistence contains absolute zero horrors in any case. In a weirdly aesthetic sense, the only possible perfect state is non-existence. To paraphrase Sophocles, perhaps the best thing is never to ... (read more)

1Morendil14y
Let's rephrase this with the troublesome terms unpacked as per the points you "largely agree" with: "to hope for a life measured in millenia is a delusional escape from the mature acceptance of a hundred-year lifespan". In a nutshell: no! Hoping to see a hundred was not, in retrospect, a delusional escape from the mature acceptance of dying at fourty-something which was the lot of prehistoric humans. We don't know yet what changes in technology are going to make the next "normal" lifespan, but we know more about it than our ancestors did. I can believe that it strikes you as weird, and I understand why it could be so. A claim that some argument is irrational is a stronger and less subjective claim. You need to substantiate it. Your newly introduced arguments are: a) if you don't die you will be transformed beyond any current sense of identity, and b) "the only possible perfect state is non-existence". The latter I won't even claim to understand - given that you choose to continue this discussion rather than go jump off a tall building I can only assume your life isn't a quest for a "perfect state" in that sense. As to the former, I don't really believe it. I'm reasonably certain I could live for millenia and still choose, for reasons that belong only to me, to hold on to some memories from (say) the year 2000 or so. Those memories are mine, no one else on this planet has them, and I have no reason to suppose that someone else would choose to falsely believe the memories are theirs. I view identity as being, to a rough approximation, memories and plans. Someone who has (some of) my memories and shares (some of) my current plans, including plans for a long and fun-filled life, is someone I'd identify as "me" in a straightforward sense, roughly the same sense that I expect I'll be the same person in a year's time, or the same sense that makes it reasonable for me to consider plans for my retirement.

Clearly some of my underlying assumptions are flawed. There's no doubt I could be more rigorous in my use of the terminology. Still, I can't help but feel that some of the concepts in the sequences obfuscate as much as they clarify on this issue. Sorry if I have wasted your time. Thanks again for trying.

Of course I can think about such a world. Where people get into trouble is where they think of themselves as "being dead" in such a world rather than simply "not being" i.e. having no more existence than anything else that doesn't exist. It's a distinction that has huge implications and rarely finds its way into the discussion. No matter how rational people try to be, they often seem to argue about death as if it were a state of being - and something to be afraid of.

1Vladimir_Nesov14y
I give up for now, and suggest reading the sequences, maybe in particular the guide to words and map-territory.

Fair enough but I still think think that the "situation of yourself being dead" is still ploy-like in that it imagines non-existence as a state or situation rather than an absence of state or situation. Like mistaking a map for an entirely imaginary territory.

1Vladimir_Nesov14y
You can think about a world that doesn't contain any minds, and yours in particular. The property of a world to not contain your mind does not say "nothing exists in this world", it says "your mind doesn't exist in this world". Quite different concepts.

Clearly, I'm going to need to level up about this. I really would like to understand it in a satisfactory way; not just play a rhetorical game. That said the phrase "the situation of yourself dying" strikes me as an emotional ploy. The relevant (non)"situation" is complete subjective and objective non-existence, post death. The difficulty and pain etc of "dying" is not at issue here. I will read your suggestions and see if I can reconcile all this. Thanks.

2Vladimir_Nesov14y
This wasn't my intention. You can substitute that phrase with, say, "Consider the subjective point of view of yourself-now, on the situation of yourself being dead for a long time, or someone else being dead for a long time for that matter." The salient part was supposed to be the point of view, not what you look at from it.

1) Who said anything about morality? I'm asking for a defence of the essential rationality of cryogenics. 2) Please read the whole paragraph and try to understand subjective point of view - or lack thereof post-death. (Which strikes me as the essential point of reference when talking about fear of death)

2Vladimir_Nesov14y
See What Do We Mean By "Rationality"?. When you ask about a decision, its rationality is defined by how well it allows to achieve your goals, and "moral value" refers to the way your goals evaluate specific options, with the options of higher "moral value" being the same as options preferred according to your goals. Consider the subjective point of view of yourself-now, on the situation of yourself dying, or someone else dying for that matter, not the point of view of yourself-in-the-future or subjective point of view of someone-else. It's you-now that needs to make the decision, and rationality of whose decisions we discuss.

I suppose I'd see your point if I believed that drug addiction was inevitable and knew that everyone in the history of everything had eventually become a drug addict. In short, I'm not sure the analogy is valid. Death is a special case, especially since "the time when you are dead" is from one's point of view not a "time" at all. It's something of an oxymoron. After death there IS no time - past present or future.

3Vladimir_Nesov14y
Whether something is inevitable is not an argument about its moral value. Have you read the reversal test reference? Please believe in physics.

Since I can see literally nothing to fear in death - in nonexistence itself - I don't really understand why cryonics is seen by so many here as such an essentially "rational" choice. Isn't a calm acceptance of death's inevitability preferable to grasping at a probably empty hope of renewed life simply to mollify one's instinct for survival? I live and value my life, but since post-death I won't be around to feel one way or another about it, I really don't see why I should not seek to accept death rather than counter it. In its promise of "eternal" life, cryonics has the whiff of religion to me.

6Morendil14y
It's certainly best to accept that death is inevitable if you know for a fact that death is inevitable. Which emotion should accompany that acceptance (calm, depression, etc.) depends on particular facts about death - and perhaps some subjective evaluation. However, the premise seems very much open to question. Death is not "inevitable", it strikes me as something very much evitable, that is which "can be avoided". People used to die when their teeth went bad: dental care has provided ways to avoid that kind of death. People used to die when they suffered infarctus, the consequences of which were by and large unavoidable. Fibrillators are a way to avoid that. And so on. Historically, every person who ever lived has died before reaching two hundred years of age; but that provides no rational grounds for assuming a zero probability that a person can enjoy a lifespan vastly exceeding that number. Is it "inevitable" that my life shall be confined to a historical lifespan? Not (by definition) if there is a way to avoid it. Is there a way to avoid it? Given certain reasonable assumptions as to what consciousness and personal identity consist of, there could well be. I am not primarily the cells in my body, I am still me if these cells die and get replaced by functional equivalents. I suspect that I am not even primarily my brain, i.e. that I would still be me if the abstract computation that my brain implements were reproduced on some other substrate. This insight - "I am a substrate independent computation" - builds on relatively recent scientific discoveries, so it's not surprising it is at odds with historical culture. But it certainly seems to undermine the old saw "death comes to all". Is it rational to feel hopeful once one has assigned substantial probability to this insight being correct? Yes. The corollary of this insight is that death, by which I mean information theoretical death (which historically has always followed physical death) holds no particular
4Vladimir_Nesov14y
Apply this argument to drug addiction: "I value not being an addict, but since post-addiction I will want to continue experiencing drugs, and I-who-doesn't-want-to-be-an-addict won't be around, I really don't see why I should stay away from becoming an addict". See the problem? Your preferences are about the whole world, with all of its past, present and future, including the time when you are dead. These preferences determine your current decisions; the preferences of future-you or of someone else are not what makes you make decisions at present.

Is it so irrational to not fear death?

Surely you aren't implying that a desire to prolong one's lifespan can only be motivated by fear.

-2timtyler14y
Re: "Is it so irrational to not fear death?" Fear of death should be "managable": http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terror_management_theory#Criticism
3Paul Crowley14y
No, that could be perfectly rational, but many who claim not to fear death tend to look before crossing the road, take medicine when sick and so on.
2ata14y
As with most (all?) questions of whether an emotion is rational, it depends on what you value and what situation you're facing. If you can save a hundred lives by risking yours, and there's no less risky way nor (hypothetically) any way for you to save more people by other means while continuing to live, and you want to save lives, and if fear of death would stop you from going through with it, then it's irrational to fear death in that case. But in general, when you're not in a situation like that, you should feel as strongly as necessary whatever emotion best motivates you to keep living and avoid things that would stop you from living (assuming you like living). Whether that's fear of death or love of life or whatever else, feel it. If you're talking about "fear of death" as in constant paranoia over things that might kill you, then that's probably irrational for most people's purposes. Or if you're not too attached to being alive, then it's not too irrational to not fear death, though that's an unfortunate state of affairs. But for most people, generally speaking, I don't see anything irrational about normal levels of fear of death.
-1Vladimir_Nesov14y
Yes, it seems to be irrational, even if you talk about fear in particular and not preferring-to-avoid in general. (See also: Emotion, Reversal test.)

Thanks for the list Nancy, I will check them out. BTW your Zendo link points to Eleusis.

0NancyLebovitz14y
Corrected. Thanks.

Whether we like it or not, that "intimidation" may be the single most important factor in keeping the level of discourse in the comments unusually high. Status games can be beneficial.

2gregconen14y
Indeed. I'm not saying the karma system is a bad thing.

Glad to hear more people are thinking about rationality in reference to school age kids. Catch their brains while they're young. While you're at it - why not develop a game that teaches them to think clearly? And ermm...Hi.

7NancyLebovitz14y
Inventing new games isn't a bad idea, but there are already a bunch that would be worth promoting. Eleusis), Zendo), Penultima, and Mao are all games of inductive reasoning. And a list of games with concealed rules, some of them suitable for this project, and some of them just silly. Mao might be the best bet for getting started with a lot of kids-- it's already a popular game. For that matter, Twenty Questions might be a good place to start. There are some interesting claims of increased IQ at the WWF n Proof site-- I don't know how well founded they are, but the game implies the possibility of a similar game based on Bayesian logic.
0dougsharp14y
I'd be happy to collaborate on that type of game!

Have you found ways for them to nevertheless socialize with their peers?

Socializing with their peers isn't nearly as important as socializing with ordinary folks in society. Schools artificially stick a bunch of kids of the same age group together with one 'authority figure'; naturally, they learn to socialize from other kids and form 'kid culture' and act like a bunch of monkeys.

Rather than go to school and learn how to be kids, it's much better to let kids meet the neighbors and learn how to be people. Your neighbors may vary.

Children of widely different ages playing together are a wonderful but increasingly rare sight. I strongly agree that age segregation within schools is a big part of the problem. But in a sense it's a subset of what I'm talking about on the scale of the whole culture. I'm not advocating a return rigid to social ritual or an overly formal system - say, the Masai cattle raid or even the Scouts. But something must be found to fill the gap. Groups and subgroups of teenagers are left to make do in a system that merely tries to keep them together, under control -- and obediently consuming junk. And the rest of us end up with a social system that mirrors High School instead of schools that reflect society as a whole.

Socialization is a social/cultural problem in a larger sense. The fact that nowadays most people learn their social skills in High School is bound to be problematic. Since we no longer have much of a ritualized, entrenched system for socializing our youth, they largely learn their social skills from other teenagers - the blind, gullible, hormonally confused and deeply irrational leading the blind etc. They go on to carry the resulting status games, irrational behaviour -- and scars -- into the rest of their lives and the whole of society. This explains much of our (barely) post adolescent culture and politics.

5NancyLebovitz14y
The problem may be as much a matter of age segregation in school as it is a lack of a ritualized, formal system for socializing young people.
6thomblake14y
This is amongst the reasons I won't send my kids to school, and try to discourage anyone else from doing so.