“How much do you make?”
“Go screw yourself.”
Even though egalitarianism is one of my terminal values, there’s one case of the egalitarian instinct that should be abolished, and that’s the taboo against talking about money.
I’m instinctively curious about everything — I remember many cases where I was inquisitive about someone’s financial position, only to have them react with anger. You can get seriously hated for asking how much someone earns, or in turn, telling people how much you earn.
I suspect that one of the reasons people get upset is because it feels like a case of power assertion. In any conversation between two people, one person is going to be more successful than the other, or more attractive, or intelligent, or physically stronger, etc. — there are all of these invisible “ranks” where one of you has risen over the other on society’s ladder.
But yet we’re not allowed to mention them. If I told you tomorrow that I’m much smarter than you are, you’d be pretty upset and hate me for it, even if it were true.
And in the case of money, pretending that it doesn’t exist is a common temptation to both the rich and the poor. The rich get to pretend that they’re just ordinary hardworking people, and the poor get to fit in. Isn’t an obvious solution to income inequality to pretend it doesn’t exist?
But that’s not true egalitarianism. It’s running away from the issue; and it leads to less egalitarianism, not more. How can we be egalitarian if no conversation about income occurs?
And ignoring differences in income further increases our susceptibility to the just world fallacy. We subconsciously assign positive traits to people who are better off, even if they absolutely don’t deserve it, and are better off only due to luck. That’s because we subconsciously want to believe that the world is fair.
“Lerner also taught a class on society and medicine, and he noticed many students thought poor people were just lazy people who wanted a handout.
So, he conducted another study where he had two men solve puzzles. At the end, one of them was randomly awarded a large sum of money. The observers were told the reward was completely random.
Still, when asked later to evaluate the two men, people said the one who got the award was smarter, more talented, better at solving puzzles and more productive.
A giant amount of research has been done since his studies, and most psychologists have come to the same conclusion: You want the world to be fair, so you pretend it is.”
And the more you believe that the world is just, the more shame you feel having a low income (or the more righteous you feel at having a high income), which further contributes to the desire to not talk about money, which leads to a feedback loop.
But the world is not just. And so we shouldn’t act like it is. I don’t mean this in the sense of “The world is unfair, deal with it”, as this addage is commonly used to imply. I mean this in the sense of “The world is unfair — but it doesn’t have to be! But if you want to change it, the first step is to acknowledge that it’s currently unfair!”.
But if we accept that the just world fallacy exists, then we can start talking about income. I can say that even though I may earn more than you, you are still a better person than I am. Conversely, we can also accept that differences in income, intelligence, strength, and conscientiousness exist — but why should that stop our loving friendship? To be friends with someone who is an identical clone of yourself is boring — like talking to yourself. It’s these differences between us that make our friendship exciting and novel!
Not talking about money is also unoptimal. We pay a huge premium if we keep how much we earn a secret.
Discussing a problem is one of the most effective ways to frame, understand it, and come up with a solution to solve it. Most people are significantly more creative and think more critically when discussing a problem, regardless of the discussion partner.
Problems such as: “How much of our pay should we be saving?; Are stocks as safe as the “experts” are telling us? Why are we taking on so much debt even though we earn more than our parents or grandparents did?; Does it make sense to pay off the mortgage early?”
It’s impossible to start discussing any of these issues if you don’t share your income. And yet most people don’t. That’s why most people are utterly horrible at personal finance; 30% of people have no savings, one third don’t have money for retirement, and about half of us have less than $500 dollars in savings.
Not talking about money also hurts us because we can’t get customized money advice on our situation. Sure, there are books out there on personal finance, but none of them are customized; we can only get that from people who genuinely know us. To give that up over the taboo of talking about money is silly.
And furthermore, not discussing income leads to a severe case of information asymmetry, and you getting screwed out of your wallet. By knowing how much your peers make, you’re in a much better position to demand pay raises, and greater income from your bosses. It’s basic economics — if you don’t know how much your co-workers are getting for the same job, then your boss can pay you the bare minimum needed to make you stay, rather than how much he actually wants you there.
This leads to things such as:
“Several minority groups, including Black men and women, Hispanic men and women, and white women, suffer from decreased wage earning for the same job with the same performance levels and responsibilities as white males (because of price discrimination). Numbers vary wildly from study to study, but most indicate a gap from 5 to 15% lower earnings on average, between a white male worker and a black or Hispanic man or a woman of any race with equivalent educational background and qualifications.
A recent study indicated that black wages in the US have fluctuated between 70% and 80% of white wages for the entire period from 1954–1999, and that wage increases for that period of time for blacks and white women increased at half the rate of that of white males. Other studies show similar patterns for Hispanics. Studies involving women found similar or even worse rates.
Overseas, another study indicated that Muslims earned almost 25% less on average than whites in France, Germany, and England, while in South America, mixed-race blacks earned half of what Hispanics did in Brazil.”
If we don’t talk about money, we can’t assist each other in times of financial troubles. There’s even a common philosophy that says My money is mine, and yours is yours, but that sounds unoptimal. The old adage “shit happens” is true, because unexpected situations really happen. Your house might burn down, or you may get a serious illness, or your car might fail and you desperately need to buy a new one. One doesn’t “choose” to have these things happen to them, and it is in these cases that friends need to help one another. As someone who has experienced temporary homelessness, I know this firsthand. It’s a classic case of game theory cooperation (that’s what friends are for, right?).
Furthermore, there’s also the hedonistic treadmill to take into consideration — beyond a certain level of meeting basic needs, spending more money doesn’t make you happier; with only one exception, and that is spending that money on friends. The Ayn-Randian trend is silly because humans are naturally social creatures, our happiness is dependent upon how much we are needed by others.
We should also start talking about money because we all need reassurance in our decisions to make them succeed.
As emotional creatures, we need reassurance.
Financial advisors get paid a lot of money for assuming these hand holding duties. And they do not always give the best possible advice. Sometimes that’s because they are compromised by having goods and services to sell. Other times it is just because they do not know the people they are trying to advise well enough.
Our friends know us well. And our friends have our best interests at heart. We should be talking about money with our friends a lot more than we do. They have the ability to give us what we need to deal with the emotions attached to money problems and wouldn’t think of charging a big hourly fee for doing so.
Furthermore, sharing your plan helps turn thoughts into actions. Books tell us the benefits of buy-and-hold; talking about money supplies the reassurance needed to make it happen in the real world. Speeches explain the benefits of saving; talking about money permits the back-and-forth that expands the good idea into a workable plan that inspires changes in human behavior.
Finally, not talking about money should irk you because it’s a case of shying away from knowledge; it feels irrational.
If my friend has a higher income than I do, I desire to believe that he has a higher income than I do. If my friend has a lower income than I do, I desire to believe that he has a lower income than I do. I wish to know the truth; for knowing something does not change the territory, only my map of the territory. And having a more complete map is always desirable. I will not shy away from the truth because I fear it.
You should care less about income being a case of power assertion, and more about the fact that talking about income will help all parties involved. The truth should never be offensive.
Furthermore, I dislike keeping secrets from friends; ever since my Transhumanist coming of age, I’m trying my best to keep as few secrets as possible from others. So I have decided to discard this taboo in favour of optimization — those that matter won’t care, and those that care won’t matter.
I Reject your Reality and substitute my own!
I’ve noticed that there are quite a number of people who claim to want things; for instance, I know people who claim to want to become multi-billionaire CEOs, or that they want to get rich, or invent something, or become the president/prime minister of somewhere. Or you might want to win a Nobel Prize, or perhaps end poverty and save the world. This might even be you. These are people who claim to want something more than anything else in the world.
And then after saying that, they go home and play video games or watch TV.
It’s not about the fact that your dream is overly-ambitious. I’ve been far more ambitious, and respect many more who want to achieve things far harder than the above stated examples.
It bugs me because it lacks the essence of a desperate attempt.
It’s a lack of respect to those who genuinely try to do the impossible.
What I mean by a desperate attempt is that you must actually go, be optimal, and go freaking do it. Claiming to try is not enough. I’m talking about living your life in accordance with this one goal, to stake the chips of your life on it. I’m talking about sacrificing your pride, emotions, and sense of self to do it.
Extraordinary things require a desperate effort.
Is your extraordinary wish to get rich off the stock market?
Then fight for it. Download all the books talking about the stock market that you can find, sacrifice all other activities to read through all of it. Get in touch with people you know have succeeded. Ask, pester, and harrass them for advice and help. Find allies. Do you have social anxiety? Bad Luck, cut off the mental part of you that causes you to hesitate, and just freaking do it. Keep brainstorming and thinking of ideas to achieve your goal. Test all of them. Constantly ask yourself how this can be done. Become a person that can achieve it. You have to fight for it.
Is your extraordinary wish to end poverty?
Then fight for it. Find every plausible method of attack, and keep working at them. Study Economics, Science, Population dynamics, political science, psychology, sociology, mathematics, and every field that might be relevant. Sacrifice the years of your life, your childhood, and your social life to get it done. Dedicate every aspect of your life to it. You have to make a desperate attempt.
I say all this not because this exact sequence of actions matter, but in order to convey a very particular emotional tone (an emotional tone is a modular component of the emotional symphonies we have English words for – common to sorrow, despair, and frustration). This tone feels like a calm anger. Yes, that’s an oxymoron, but that’s the best way I can describe it. It’s a clenched fist at the back of your head, showing you the way. It’s a combination of dedication, desperation, and desire.
Because what makes you think your extraordinary wish will come true if you give it anything less than an extraordinary, desperate, effort?
Most of all, putting fourth a desperate effort is to engage in an eternal battle with your instinctive self.
Tuxedage: I need to study.
Tuxedage: I must study!
Brain: Hell No!
Tuxedage: You can go screw yourself! I’m going to do this whether you like it or not!
I’m talking about fighting an eternal internal conflict against the evolutionary instincts that keeps you away from your goal. You want to be lazy. You don’t want to put in effort. You’d rather get a small slice of hedonism now than some far off abstract goal.
But this is not about you. You know you have something you want to do more important than yourself. Desperate attempts are never pleasant; they are meant to hurt.
Now, don’t get me wrong; there’s nothing wrong living a hedonistic lifestyle. There’s a reason it’s called an extraordinary effort, and an extraordinary goal. Not everyone should do it.
But if you know you have something you want more than anything else in the world…
On the hardware side, I’m a ridiculously lazy person. Work is not merely unpleasant, it’s actually physically painful for me — and usually a lot more painful than any physical injury. It hurts so much that I used to cut myself repeatedly just so I can distract my mind from the pain of work. (And I still have the scars to prove it).
And I really do think that if anyone else were put into my brain, they’d rather commit suicide than expend the amount of mental energy that I do.
But because I’ve fought my inner self for such a long time, I’ve compensated by developing an incredible amount of willpower on the software side. You know the sudden burst of energy you get when you’re really angry at something? I’ve managed to harness that and maintain that emotional tone for weeks. I’ve stopped doing that ever since my transhumanist coming-of-age, since it’s detrimental to my ability to empathize with people. But my point is still valid.
All that comes from fighting myself every single day. It comes from declaring yourself as your greatest enemy, and making a desperate attempt to defeat it. And suffice to say, because I do, there’s only one person in the world that I currently hate — and that is myself.
If you don’t utterly despise yourself as a result of constant internal battle, then your effort isn’t desperate enough.
Because it’s easy to claim you’re putting in a desperate effort. It’s easy to delude yourself into thinking that you’re already trying your best, even though you really aren’t. Some people are even born with advantageous hardware, and high conscientiousness — they can function on a level that appears desperate, without actually being desperate. But that isn’t true desperation.
And it’s also equally easy to say “I hate myself — because I’m putting fourth a desperate effort” using words alone. But only when you truly feel anger at yourself, when you look yourself in the mirror with disgust; and when you wish you could rid yourself of your body and kill your inner self, you don’t really hate yourself.
And look; I’m not saying that every single successful person in the world does this. I’m quite aware that this level of dedication is not normal.
But if there’s anything you want something even more than your own life, if you have a “dream” that must come true, then you should not expect anything less.
Because an extraordinary wish requires a desperate effort.
“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. “Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. … “
-Matthew 6:1, Bible.
I’m not a Christian any more, but I’ve decided to quote the bible because this post was written with religious people in mind.
If you desire to be selfish, let your selfishness be known. If you desire to be charitable, do so in the most optimal manner. There is a special type of hatred I reserve for those for whom signalling generosity is more important than the charity itself.
It happens far more commonly than most people assume. Anecdotally, I’ve noticed that it’s particularly common amongst religious people, especially people of the Baha’i faith. For many of them, it is tradition to go on “service trips”, expensive oversea flights to 3rd world countries in order to help build a house for a few weeks, or volunteer for some menial labour, before going back to their 1st world homes. These flights can cost upwards of a thousand dollars, and the total cost of all expenses can be twice of that.
After they go home, they would feel pleased with themselves, for they have helped people in need. What’s wrong with that?
It’s wrong because that’s not charity. It’s wrong because it’s not optimal. It’s wrong because people who do shit like this are under the impression that they are doing what’s morally just and righteous, despite caring more about being seen as morally just and righteous than actually increasing the world’s utility.
The best way to increase the world’s utility is to apply some basic goddamn economic principles, and take that few thousands dollars worth of time and money, and donate it to an optimal charity, preferably at http://www.givewell.org/. I also personally recommend the SIAI, and Methuselah Foundation charities, but if you’re not donating to either of these two, get an efficient charity at givewell.com
Why is this optimal? Because money is power. If you live in a 1st world country, and if you’re reading this you probably do, then working at any job, even a minimum wage one, and donating the money to a 3rd world country, is hundreds of times more efficient and utility maximizing than taking that money to travel to that country yourself, and volunteering at a job you’re probably incredibly inefficient in. It’s called division of labour, and it’s the idea that sparked the industrial revolution. Do the thing you’re the most efficient in, and pay someone else to do the task that you’re bad in. Save the cost of the air ticket, and donate it too.
Consider that the price of a human life is about $2000. Approximately the cost (plus opportunity cost) of going to a 3rd world country.
So you can lay a few bricks, or paint a few rooms — or you could save a human life. If you chose the former, and still pretend to be charitible and generous, then with all the tact I can muster, you can go fuck yourself. If you see anyone that does this, call them out on their bullshit, and give them no mercy.
Understand that I’m not against people going on holidays. I’m not against people spending money on themselves. If your personal idea of fun is to go to third world countries to volunteer, there’s nothing wrong with that. Just don’t think that you’re actually doing charity, or that you’re helping people. What I’m against is people doing charity in the least efficient manner, for the sake of gaining personal hedonistic pleasure, under the illusion that what they’re doing can be said to be “good”. What I’m against is people who care more about being seen doing charity than achieving charity.
Because don’t give me that shit about the intentions being more important than the action. All of your hedonistic fuzzy feel-good feelings is a feather on a scale when a life is at stake. The world does not care what you think. It needs more than people wanting to do good, it needs people who are actually competent at achieving it. To invoke Godwin’s law, consider that Hitler, Stalin, and Mao were all people who genuinely wanted to help the world, but then screwed it over by being incredibly incompetent at knowing how to help it.
If you genuinely want to maximize good, the best way to do that may involve never being thanked for your work. It may involve never seeing the person you’re helping. And that’s okay, because you genuinely want to help that person, and you’ve helped him the best way you could.
Similarly, if you’re trying to choose a career that will maximize good, don’t be a doctor. Be a wall street banker or a CEO, or any other job that maximizes your income, and donate 90% of your income to charity. Doctors don’t increase societal utility by much, because economically, you’re providing your services where marginal demand meets marginal costs. In other words, you’re trading your services for something equally valuable, which is money. That’s not maximizing good, and that’s not charity. Instead, you should try to earn as much income as possible, and donate all that you can spare to efficient charities.
The world needs more than good intentions. It needs efficiency. Don’t assume that having the first means achieving the second.
My belief in the possibility of indefinite life extension explained.
There is a significant chance that indefinite life extension, in a completely healthy painless state, will be possible in our lifetime. I am using the term “indefinite life extension” rather than immortality because true immortality is impossible, at least according to the laws of physics as we currently understand it. That, and the fact that immortality has a number of negative connotations associated with it, such as being unable to die despite being in terrible suffering.
Indefinite life extension, on the other hand, is simply the ability to live until you no longer desire to live. Whether that may be in 10 years, 100 years, or a million years is simply up to the person to decide.
For me, I find living pretty fun. I enjoy life on average, even if I may not enjoy certain moments in my life. That’s why I want to live for one more day, one more month, one more year, one more century, and one more millenium. I think I may even be up for living a few billion or trillion years.
But this essay is not meant to persuade you that living forever can be fun. It’s not meant to persuade you that nobody actually hates living; when people say they want to die, it’s suffering, rather than life that they wish to escape from. It’s not meant to convince you that there are no physical laws of the universe that say that life must be suffering.
This essay is about the serious, life-changing possibility of indefinite life extension. Within your lifetime. I genuinely believe that any rational person should at least consider this, even if they reject the argument at the end. It’s important enough for you to dedicate a day or two to consider this issue.
Why? Because even the smallest probability in living a billion years is meaningful, when you multiply the expected utility. If you find living fun, and most people do (the people that don’t tend to commit suicide), you should find living twice as long twice as fun. There’s no arbitrary age when living changes from being fun to non-fun, when the polarity flips, and people should die. There ARE problems associated with aging, such as disease, weakness, and sickness, but having indefinite life extension would also mean taking care of those problems as well. People can’t live forever if they get sick and die.
If you think living twice as long should be twice as fun (after all, having fun for two days is twice as fun as having fun for only a single day), then living a hundred times as long should be a hundred times as fun, and so on. Because there is no diminishing marginal utility on living ( People don’t stop having fun after they hit an arbitrary age), then you might say that having a 50% chance on living twice as long is equally as desirable as a 100% chance of living regularly, given that everything else (such as friends, environment, family) stay the same.
You may not FEEL like living twice as long is twice as fun, but the math works out. Trust the Math, not your intuition – making decisions based on how you feel about things can be misleading, because something that doesn’t feel fun can be really fun (such as charity!) and something that isn’t really fun can feel really fun (such as winning the lottery! Research has shown that people severely estimate how fun more money would be, and most lottery winners actually end up less happy. )
The only way things can stop being fun is a change in environment, such as the death of a friend or family. That’s a problem with the environment, not a problem with living forever in and of itself. That’s why I’m trying so hard to get my friends (You) to seriously consider living forever, so that the next few billion years will be fun too.
Plus, historically speaking, the future is always more fun than the past! Our current quality of life is better than it has ever been, with not having to care about an 80% mortality rate, or being tortured for being a heretic, or not having to worry about being chased by a giant cat and eaten.
If we take a billion years as the amount of time you can add to your lifespan if you seriously consider indefinite life extension (and I have reasons to believe that it will probably be longer than that, due to things like increased simulation speed, but I won’t go into that for now), then living for a billion years will be ten million times more fun than living for a hundred years.
So we can say something like “A 0.00001% chance of living for a billion years is about equally as desirable as a 100% chance of living for a hundred years, assuming that the amount of fun doesn’t change.”
(And if it changes, it’s far more likely to increase rather than decrease, based on historic trends. )
But let’s ignore that for the moment for ease of calculation. If these two options are equally as valuable, I merely have to convince you that the probability of living indefinitely is higher than 0.00001% for you to gamble your life for this.
The good news is that you don’t have to gamble away your entire life. The most you will ever risk is a few days of your time to ponder this decision. In the most pessimistic view, you may even risk a few years of life, because the technology to live indefinitely may not be free. And since money is time, you may spend a few years working to obtain it. But even so, working is usually funner than non-existence, so comparing losing a few years of your life to having to work is not necessarily a fair comparison (And if non-existence is funner than work, I’d suggest trying a new job.)
The even better news is that the probability of indefinite life extension is significantly higher than 0.00001%. If I’m allowed to make a suggestion based on the things I know so far, I believe that it’s much closer to 30%~ or so, making this a really good investment for the level of risk incurred. (Have you ever seen an investment with an average expected ROI of 3 million? )
A list of all the potential ways death can be vanquished would be very long, so I’m only going to list the most promising ones, the combined probability of any one of them succeeding within our lifetime is about 25% or so.
These technologies are: Uploading, cryonics, genetic engineering, nanotech cellular repair, biomedical telomere rejuvenation, and creating AGI.
Furthermore, the rate at which technology is discovered in general is accelerating exponentially. More technological progress has been made in the last 20 years than all of human history before that. This is because getting technology usually allows us to advance science at a faster rate, thus increasing the rate at which new technology is discovered too!
The human genome project is a good example of this concept because it is easily quantifiable. In 1990 scientists had managed to transcribe only one ten-thousandth of the genome over an entire year. Yet their goal was to sequence the entire genome in 15 years. After seven years, only 1 percent had been sequenced. Most people said they would not finish on time.
But, in fact, the project was on track. The rate of progress was doubling every year, which meant that when researchers finished 1 percent they were only seven steps away from reaching 100 percent. The project was completed in 2003, a few years before schedule. People assumed it would take centuries because they thought scientific progress was linear.
This phonemonen is very easy to underestimate because human brains are not evolutionarily hardwired to intuitively grasp exponential growth. There are certain fields, such as computer speed, that double every year. Other technological fields are slower. Since most of the methods of indefinite life extension I have mentioned above are more difficult to quantify and chart out than genome coding, I cannot say exactly how fast they are progressing, and if progress doubles every month, or every 10 years.
However, I will use Real GDP per Capita (Real means that it is adjusted for inflation) in order to illustrate, in general, the average rate of technological progress. Because Real GDP per Capita is a measure of the average rate of all the things in the economy, it can be a good measure of how fast, in general, human society is progressing.
The World’s Real GDP per Capita doubles every 15 years, and has done so for the last few thousand years. This means that if one were to expect to live for 75 more years, he could expect to find that by the end of 75 years, the world would be in year 4400, and the equivalent of 2400 years of this year’s technological progress would have passed. ( 2^5 * 75 = 2400)
If this shocks you, then you already realize that humans are naturally bad at grasping exponential growth. If you want to accurately predict the state of the world in 75 years, you would have to imagine the world in year 4400, rather than in year 2085.
In order to convince you that indefinite life extension is entirely within our grasp, I will need to talk about it’s methods. If you know nothing about how we can live indefinitely, and yet try to calculate the odds of not dying in the next 75 years, your mind will come up with a blank page. As a result, you may severely underestimate its likelihood, because you may subconsciously believe that your lack of knowledge can be extended to all of humanity’s lack of knowledge, when this may not be the case.
The first method is uploading. To do a thorough scan of the brain, and simulate all neurons in your brain in a computer. If there is a part of you that is responsible for consciousness, we can take that too, and simulate it. If we have to simulate you to the quantum level, there’s no reason that cannot be done as well.
Yes, even if we upload you, you are still you. You are not a copy. Your identity is a mathematical algorithm, a rather complex one, but still a mathematical algorithm nonetheless. This is because the universe (including you!) is turing complete, and any turing complete language can be simulated by any other turing complete language. Your identity isn’t in specific atoms, because if you die but the atoms in your body still exist, you do not exist. You are a collective of thoughts, feelings, ideologies, and emotions. Your identity is conserved regardless of what hardware is running you. We know this to be true because most of the atoms in our body are changed every few years, and yet we do not treat this as a form of death.
We know that we will have enough computational power to fully simulate a person in a few decades. This is because of Moore’s Law; computational power doubles every year, and has doubled for the last 100 years. The main factor limiting this method of life extension is the ability to scan the human brain at a deep enough level to allow for simulation to occur.
I will be plotting these factors and the odds of any of these problems interfering with this method of life extension. I will put the approximate date that these probabilities are calculated with to be 2085.
Sufficient computational power for simulation, and simulations can be run relatively cheaply: 0.82
Humans are turing complete entities: 0.92
The capacity to scan the human brain to the necessary ontological level exists: 0.1
Science-interfering societal collapse does not happen: 0.90
Government interference with uploading does not happen: 0.75
Other unforeseen black-swans do not happen: 0.80
Total odds: 0.04073, or 4%
The second possible method of life extension is through cryonics. In simply terms, this means that after you die, but before cellular damage has occured, your body is frozen, but in a way that preserves the cellular structure to a near-atomic level. It is not merely “freezing” a corpse, but doing so in a way that preserves the detail of every cell and organelle. In the future, you will be revived, either through uploading, or by scanning you at an atomic level, and rebuilding you through nanotechnology and atomic engineering.
Some people argue that if all the atoms in your body are reassembled, it will not still be you. They are wrong, because it has been scientifically proven in Quantum Mechanics that atoms are indistinguishable, not just empirically, but philosophically (not just as far as we can observe, but as a mathematical certainty) Atoms are simply probability amplitude distributions, the result of the universal wavefunction factorizing (a fancy term for saying “an illusion created by something more fundamental” )
Consider that the definition of death has been before throughout history, as our medical knowledge, and therefore our ability to extend lifespan, increases. For thousands of years, humanity has assumed that when the heart stopped, a person died. However, after the invention of defibrillation and pacemaker, this was no longer the case, because it became possible to artificially stimulate the heart. Therefore the current definition of death is “brain death”, when the brain is no longer operational.
It is exceedingly likely that this current definition will soon be revised; the laws of physics do not prevent us from reviving people who are brain dead. Consider that although the brain no longer works, all the information that makes the brain do what it does still exists, down to the atomic level. A far better definition of death is informational-theoretic death, or when it is physically impossible to revive a person, because the necessary information in order to revive that person has already been lost.
The probability of Cryonics being successful has been calculated by a number of people, I like this particular estimate, which is neither overly-optimistic nor pessimistic, by Robin Hanson (Economist).
Civilization still exists and has kept growing in technical capability. 0.8
Your cryonics org and it successors have kept you continuously frozen. 0.8
Someone is willing and allowed to pay modest costs to revive you. 0.8
Brain science has workable input/output models of relevant brain cell types. 0.5
Usual freezing quality preserved relevant model-needed details. 0.8
Cheap scanning tech slices & 2D scans brains at model-needed spatial, chem resolution. 0.8
Error correction codes reconstruct most connections across slices, fractures. 0.8
Cheap computers can real-time sim entire scanned sets of connected cells. 0.8
Sim life seems worth living enough that they don’t prefer suicide. 0.8
Such sims of you are as worthy as your kid of your identifying with them. 0.8
Total Probability: 0.9329, or 9%
Is that all to cryonics? No, there is much more I will not cover. But I will direct you to these two FAQs if you wish to find out more, or you may ask me directly.
The third method that is Genetic engineering, cellular repair, and Telomere rejuvenation. These three, although slightly different methods, are so interconnected that it is easier to lump them all together, and call it the “biological” methods of solving aging.
We know that it is entirely possible for biological lifeforms to live indefinitely, because there are a number of animals that are not biologically programmed to die, and therefore can live indefinitely. One example is the Turritopsis nutricula, also known as the immortal jellyfish.
According to scientists studying the proccess of aging, there are currently seven major problems that are to be overcome before allowing indefinite life extension. They are:
Mutations in Chromosomes causing cancer due to nuclear mutations/epimutations:
These are changes to the nuclear DNA (nDNA), the molecule that contains our genetic information, or to proteins which bind to the nDNA. Certain mutations can lead to cancer. Non-cancerous mutations and epimutations do not contribute to aging within a normal lifespan, so cancer is the only endpoint of these types of damage that must be addressed.
Mutations in Mitochondria:
Mitochondria are components in our cells that are important for energy production. They contain their own genetic material, and mutations to their DNA can affect a cell’s ability to function properly. Indirectly, these mutations may accelerate many aspects of aging.
Junk inside of cells, aka intracellular aggregates:
Our cells are constantly breaking down proteins and other molecules that are no longer useful or which can be harmful. Those molecules which can’t be digested simply accumulate as junk inside our cells. Atherosclerosis, macular degeneration and all kinds of neurodegenerative diseases (such as Alzheimer’s disease) are associated with this problem.
Junk – outside of cells, aka extracellular aggregates:
Harmful junk protein can also accumulate outside of our cells. The amyloid senile plaque seen in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients is one example.
Cells – too few, aka cellular loss:
Some of the cells in our bodies cannot be replaced, or can only be replaced very slowly – more slowly than they die. This decrease in cell number causes the heart to become weaker with age, and it also causes Parkinson’s disease and impairs the immune system. Another example are neurons, which our body does not replace.
Cells – too many, aka Cell senescence:
This is a phenomenon where the cells are no longer able to divide, but also do not die and let others divide. They may also do other things that they’re not supposed to, like secreting proteins that could be harmful. Immune senescence and type 2 diabetes are caused by this.
Extracellular protein crosslinks:
Cells are held together by special linking proteins. When too many cross-links form between cells in a tissue, the tissue can lose its elasticity and cause problems including arteriosclerosis and presbyopia.
Once these problems are addressed, biological immortality is obtained.
I will freely admit that I do not know enough about human biology to calculate the probability of solving all of these problems. It would be fairly arrogant to claim otherwise, as I am not a full time gerontologist. However, I do know that the people alive today most knowledgeable on this, such as Aubrey de Grey, believes in a 90% chance we obtain a significantly increased lifespan within the next 100 years, as most of these problems become solved, and “robust human rejuvenation”, 50% probability, within the next 25 years.
I do however, admit that it’s probably very likely that he is overly optimistic, due to a wide range of biases such as the affect heuristic. For this reason, I will give an overly-pessimistic adjustment on his probability estimated by a factor of ten. Therefore the probability of biological immortality is 0.09. I admit that this is fairly arbitrary, and done for the sake of obtaining a more accurate final probability estimate, than merely guessing.
The final method is self-recursive AI, also known as the technological singularity. The logic is simple
A: We will build computers of at least human intelligence at some time in the future, let’s say within 100 years.
B: Those computers will be able to rapidly and repeatedly increase their own intelligence, quickly resulting in computers that are far more intelligent than human beings.
C: This will cause an enormous transformation of the world, so much so that it will become utterly unrecognizable, a phase Vinge terms the “post-human era”. This event is the Singularity
Self-recursive AI, sometimes also called AGI, once created, will almost definitely solve the problem of aging.
“However, I strongly support the goal of AI, because success in that area – if, as Luke says, it’s done right – will indeed solve all other technological problems, including the development of medicine to defeat aging.” -Aubrey De Grey
The question then is the probability of AGI being invented in the next 75 or so years.
This has already been calculated through Bayesian inference and statistics by a wide variety of different people far more knowledgeable than I am.
The absolute reasonable lower probability estimate on AGI being invented is 0.01, and I will be using this figure for calculation purposes.
Uploading Success: 4%
Cryonics Success: 9%
Biological Methods Success: 9%
AGI success: 1%
Total Probability of any one succeeding: 24.798%
Therefore a reasonable estimate of the possibility of indefinite life extension is approximately 25%.