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22 November 2007

This is interesting.*

"Furthermore, if Glennon was right, it would follow that it is “undesirable” for a small child to grow up, since adults do not remember what it was like to be a small child and since small children do not have projects or intentions that extend over time spans as long as decades. This implication would be counterintuitive. It is more plausible that it can be desirable for an agent to survive and continue to develop, rather than to die, even if psychological connections eventually become attenuated. In the same way, it could be desirable for us to acquire the capacity to have a posthuman healthy lifespan, even if we could not remain the same person over time scales of several centuries.
We might say that the function of the farmer is to farm, and that of the singer is to sing, etc. But any particular farmer is a host of other things as well: e.g. a singer, a mother, a sister, a homeowner, a driver, a television watcher, and so forth ad infinitum. Once she might have been a hairdresser; in the future she might become a shopkeeper, a golfer, a person with a disability, a transsexual, or a posthuman. It is difficult to see how any strong normative conclusions could be drawn from the fact that she currently occupies a certain set of roles and serves a certain set of functions. At most we could conclude that when and insofar as she acts as a farmer, she ought to tend to her crops or livestock; but from the fact that she is a farmer, nothing follows about whether she ought to be or remain a farmer. Likewise, the most we could conclude from the fact that she is currently a human person is that she ought to do things that are good for humans – brush her teeth, sleep, eat, etc. – but only so long as she remains human. If she became a posthuman who did not need to sleep, she would no longer have any reason so sleep. And the fact that she currently has a reason to sleep is not a reason for her not to become a sleepless posthuman."

.....Nick Bostrom

*And mentions Gilgamesh, which always makes me sit up.

posted by - 8:56 PM

The dream of immortality is as ancient as the human race. Religion, mythology, fiction, and science have always promised us the possibility of defeating illness and death, but have as yet disappointed us. For all our technology and civilization we are still barely different from our animal brethren, except for the magnitude of our ability to destroy and our hubris. We shall evolve or die out; that is one thing we have learned, but it will be because our environment demands change, not because we desire it. Death is essential to the biology of the planet. What will grow if nothing ever die? Shall we become a deathless elite who abandons the business of life and death to less privileged creatures? I have lived since the Seventeenth Century, but even I expect to make my final contribution to the earth one day, and return whence I came.

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