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The Art of Not Dying: the First Emperor’s Pursuit of Immortality (laphamsquarterly.org)
101 points by lermontov 72 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 78 comments



My small town in Japan was heavily influenced by a scholar who was searching for this elixir for Qin Shihuang. There's a park dedicated to the scholar, Jofuku:

https://www.shinguu.jp/en/spots/detail/A0005


Being mummified was a clever move. If his brain were preserved long enough, then he may hypothetically have been brought back to life. A bit like cryogenics.


well, maybe. I don't know how chinese mummification worked, but Egyptian mummification removed the brain, which was considered something useless and generally evil or a source of problems (the soul is in the heart, right?)


I'd give it roughly the same chance that I give the heads sitting in cryogenic storage being brought back to life: 0.


As a thought experiment, if you knew for certain that in a hundred years an individual who was long dead was brought back to life, and you had to guess whether the recently deceased was a cryogenic patient from 2018 or a mummified Emperor from antiquity - would you be ambivalent about the choices? If not, then you don't really think they're equally good paths to extra life.


Your thought experiment got me thinking (which I guess is the point lol!):

Imagine you knew for certain that in a couple hundred years individuals could be brought back to life at great expense, AND that it was at least 1/100th as feasible for mummified remains as it was for cryopreservation.

Who do think scientists would put more effort into bringing back? Another 'Joe Blogs' from 2018, or a mummified Emperor from antiquity?


The former, because the difference in preservation methods make success far, far more likely. And as the process improves, the cost will decrease.


Thought experiments of this kind are dissimilar to say Einstein fantasizing about elevators in that they do not yield insight over and beyond that which is already readily apparent. So rather than a thought experiment you should stick to real experiments and the experimental proof derived from there.

As it sits today the mummy and the frozen patient are both dead as a doornail and nothing in present day science will bring them back.

Keep in mind that if you want to play this game your best bet would be someone that's been freshly dead for about 20 minutes or so rather than the two cases you use to illustrate your point, and as long as that's not close to feasible the bet cryogenic people are making is really no different than believers sending their fortune to the church after death in order to be guaranteed a seat at the table in the afterlife.

Religion masquerading as science is more disgusting to me than mere religion, at least the latter are somewhat transparent about it all being fairy tales and fiction.


> Thought experiments of this kind are dissimilar to say Einstein fantasizing about elevators in that they do not yield insight over and beyond that which is already readily apparent.

They do. That's why you don't want to partake in them, because it's pretty obvious that you would say cryo-preserved brain has more chance of being restored. And of course you would judge cryo-restoration to be more probable than a seat in the afterlife.

But since this seems to be emotional topic for you, you just shut out your reasoning and yell "it all has 0 probability" (it doesn't, as another poster explained).


> They do. That's why you don't want to partake in them [...]

No, this thought experiment does not yield new insights. This conversation went roughly as follows:

jacquesm: "I assume that action A is impossible as far as we know, therefore the probabilities of A1 respectively A2 happening are both 0."

ALittleLight: "Assumimg A were not impossible, would A1 or A2 be more probable?"

(where A="restoring a dead brain", A1="restoring a mummified dead brain", and A2="restoring a cryonically frozen dead brain")

This thought experiment cannot bring any insights, because the assumptions of the two posters are mutually exclusive.

> But since this seems to be emotional topic for you, you just shut out your reasoning and yell "it all has 0 probability" (it doesn't, as another poster explained).

Please don't get personal.


My point is actually that the poster I was responding to does not believe it is impossible to restore a cryogenic patient. If that person did believe it is impossible then they would be ambivalent about guessing which person was restored to life (the cryogenic patient or the mummified Emperor from antiquity).

You're correct that thought experiment I posed cannot offer analytic insight - it doesn't tell us anything about the mechanism for restoring life to frozen people or allow us to update our beliefs as to the likelihood of this being possible. The thought experiment does offer an introspective insight into beliefs that you already hold though - specifically that you believe there is a non-zero possibility of cryogenic enabled resurrection occurring.

Let's work through the thought experiment with my answer (M) and the answer of an imaginary interlocutor (I).

Experiment: In 100 years someone long dead is restored to life. Is this person a mummy or a cryogenics patient?

I: Could be either with equal probability. I believe that both are impossible and therefore I'm ambivalent about the choice.

M: I'd guess the cryogenic patient. While I think the odds of both are low, the odds of the cryogenic patient are better in my estimation. Because I believe that the odds of the cryogenics patient are greater than the odds of the mummy, I logically cannot believe that both are zero.

In other words, if you aren't ambivalent about the choice, you cannot logically hold the belief that both are impossible. If you are ambivalent, then you are free to think that both are impossible. Because I suspect you have an intuitive reluctance to claim ambivalence, I doubt you really think that the odds of cryogenic resurrection are zero.


Your logic divides by zero in this case.


Looking back ~125 years, if you said to the average person that we could identify him decades later from an object he touched, before the idea of fingerprint identification was well known, it would have sounded ridiculous. These days, decades old murders are solved with DNA -- hypothetically needing nothing more than a single cell. In both examples, we assumed simply that the information (fingerprints or DNA) was preserved. The technology for cryonic retrieval might be very far off, and the economics might not make sense, but if the mental information was preserved, then a possibility exists.


> I don't get why people so dismissive about cryonics

Lack of proof combined with zealotry.

> The information is there, preserved

maybe. And even if it is there that's a far cry from retrieving it, further from re-uploading it into something capable of making sense of that information, further still from getting something that becomes self-aware (and won't go instantly insane), and further than that from bringing the whole thing back to life. It is about as far from reality as the afterlife as peddled by religion at this point, with the caveat that maybe one day it will be done. But I wouldn't hold my breath. (Pun intended...).

> Maybe it won't make economics sense to reconstruct the preserved minds.

But it makes good economics sense to offer this 'service' to people who are gullible and aware of Pascal's wager.

> But saying it's zero chance sounds very close to an argument for logical impossibility.

It is very close to zero. So close that we might as well consider it an impossibility. It falls right into the 'wouldn't it be nice if' category of wishes. See also: Theranos and other bs along those lines.

> Looking back ~125 years, if you said to the average person that we could identify him decades later from an object he touched, before the idea of fingerprint identification was well known, it would have sounded ridiculous.

1858 wants a word with you.

> And today we know that you can uniquely identify a person and construct a model of his face from the DNA in a single microscopic cell.

You are vastly over-selling the capabilities of the DNA facial reconstruction software as we have it today.

It accounts for some double digit amount of variation. Even so, that at least has a chance of happening once you have enough information to factor in the effect of nourishment and aging. But the chances of abuse and false positive are so large that the only place where you'll see it used is missing person cases and cold case revival, and that's a good thing imo.

> The info is there

Sure, but that 'mere matter of engineering' in the middle is where the problem lies and given the challenges in any of the sub-steps required to make this a reality it is SF at best in the present and a scam at worst.


https://www.popsci.com/dna-evidence-not-foolproof

https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2016/06/a-reaso...

""By one estimate, the lab handled DNA evidence from at least 500 cases a year—mostly rapes and murders, but occasionally burglaries and armed robberies. Acting on a tip from a whistle-blower, KHOU 11 had obtained dozens of DNA profiles processed by the lab and sent them to independent experts for analysis. The results, William Thompson, an attorney and a criminology professor at the University of California at Irvine, told a KHOU 11 reporter, were terrifying: It appeared that Houston police technicians were routinely misinterpreting even the most basic samples.""

https://www.fbi.gov/news/pressrel/press-releases/fbi-testimo...


0 and 1 are really extreme probabilities. It's often better to think of a probability of 0.001 being closer to 0.5 than to 0. As odds ratios it's easy to see that 999:1 is closer to 1:1 than to infinity:1.

0 probability means that even infinitely many pieces of evidence will not change your assessment: no matter how many heads you see restored from cryogenic storage, you will still believe that the probability is 0, and will have to find other, increasingly unlikely, explanations for the evidence.

For a more in-depth and slightly more rigorous discussion, see 0 And 1 Are Not Probabilities: https://www.greaterwrong.com/posts/QGkYCwyC7wTDyt3yT/0-and-1...


> 0 probability means that even infinitely many pieces of evidence will not change your assessment

Well no, this isn’t really what probability 0 means. An event is not impossible if it has a probability of 0. More importantly probability informs you about how many times you should expect an event to occur, not what to do with this information if the event does or does not arise.

In the Bayesian view, your probability measures how confident you are about an event occuring. In the frequentist view it measures the expected number of times an event will occur in n trials. But neither of these really mean you’d be impossible to convince :)

Probabilities 0 and 1 are legitimate, and correspond to the statements “almost never” and “almost surely” in mathematics [1]. A good theoretical example of probability 0 is picking any given real number x out of an interval a < x < b. The probability of choosing x is 0 but it’s not impossible. A “real world” analogue of this would be flipping a coin infinitely many times and never getting heads. That is not impossible, but it has probability 0.

I wouldn’t personally use probability 0 for cryogenics either, but if someone insisted on it the way to interpret that would be to say, “Out of uncountably many trials, a successful resurrection occurs only countably many times.”

_____________________

1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Almost_surely


> I wouldn’t personally use probability 0 for cryogenics either, but if someone insisted on it the way to interpret that would be to say, “Out of uncountably many trials, a successful resurrection occurs only countably many times.”

It'd be a weird universe in which uncountably many cryogenics trials occurred, but I concede that the concept of almost-certainty would be relevant in that universe. On the other hand, seeing even trillions of occurrences (each with probability 0) I would still be forced to conclude that it was more likely that something with non-zero probability occurred, e.g.: I'm in a simulation, I'm going mad, I've been hallucinating for the last million years (I'm assuming here that one can only see a million cryogenic revivals a year), etc.


I think there's a legitimate question as to whether every real number is actually physically real. [1] It seems credible that our universe can only actually present us with a finite number of possible sensory experiences, in which case an event with probability 0 actually couldn't ever happen. That said, even if the universe can present you with an infinity of observations you can certainly only consider a finite number of classes of them, leading to the same outcome.

[1] https://arxiv.org/abs/math/0411418


Yep, this is why I wouldn't personally use 0 probability to describe anything in the real world. It technically works, it's just the realm of pure measure theory rather than anything applicable to finitely many trials.


> More importantly probability informs you about how many times you should expect an event to occur, not what to do with this information if the event does or does not arise.

Bayesian probability absolutely tells you what to do when evidence of an event arises: Bayes' theorem precisely tells you how to update your certainty when evidence arises (and "seeing" an event is only fairly strong but not certain evidence of its occurrence).


It doesn't matter. Bayes' rule will not allow to update prior probability of 0. Zero times anything is zero or undefined.


0.001 is closer to 0 than 0.003 ;)

All probability's have error bars, so 0 +/ 10e-20 is still very much 0.


Thanks, I can count :) Of course 0.001 is closer to 0 than 0.003, but my point is that linear distance is not a very good way of comparing probabilities-as-degrees-of-certainties: rather than differences of probabilities one should consider the ratios of odds ratios (or differences of log-odds-ratios) because these better represent how we update our certainty in the light of evidence.

Frequentist probabilities can have error bars (if I repeat some experiment N times and observe no successes, I estimate the probability as "0 with error bars"), but I'm not sure that Bayesian probabilities-as-degrees-of-certainty naturally have error bars. If you're uncertain of your certainty, isn't that the same as just being less certain? As I say, I'm not sure of the mathematics here.


Bayesian has direct error bars and error bars on your error bars, and error bars on the ... It’s however generally ignored. Edit: I believe I preformed this experiment which updates my prior probability.

Anyway, my point is not that you should interpret probability functions in a linear fashion just that non linear interpretations are not nessisarily more accurate.

Suppose I am playing a chess I have non zero odds for a 2 win streak, but the odds of winning 1 googleplex games in a row is 0. Not becase it’s some probability ^ a googleplex but rather I am not going to play that many games. Sure, you might say their are some error bars on that zero, and error bars on those error bars etc, but still the direct estimate is still a 0 probability.


> Anyway, my point is not that you should interpret probability functions in a linear fashion just that non linear interpretations are not nessisarily more accurate.

Was I supposed to understand that from your previous comment? I didn't, and I don't see how I could have.

> their are some error bars on that zero

There'd better be, because the true probability is somewhere within those error bars: I'd be very confident (but not certain!) that the true probability is not zero. What if you turn out to have been imagining all your life up till now, a googleplex is much less than you think, and you're actually an immortal chess-playing machine? That's unlikely, but I'm fairly sure the probability is not zero.

Zero is a probability (unlike the title of the page I linked to) but it's a very special one, mostly of theoretical interest.


In that case 'I' am not me, so the probability would still be zero as 'I' do not exist. But even more so there are a finite number of possible chess games and it’s less than a googleplex so even if I where in a time loop their are not that many games playable.

You are welcome to try and come up with a possibility, but really it's 0 with error bars on something not conceivable.

Edit, by which I mean if my understanding if the game is flawed then the estimate is less accurate, but that does not directly improve the odds. Thus that’s an error bar as again it does not directly change the actual probability.


No need to bring the brain back to life. When memories and the connectome are finally understood, simply scan the brain, even by destroying the original if needed: cut it into slices, scan it, then upload it to a robotic body, or even a simple computer simulation (good enough for me!)

I do not want to be "flesh and bones" when we will have better alternatives.

I want to see gamma rays, I want to hear X-rays, and I want to smell dark matter. Do you see the absurdity of what we are? I can’t even express these things properly, because I have to conceptualize complex ideas in this stupid, limiting spoken language, but I know I want to reach out with something other than these prehensile paws, and feel the solar wind of a supernova flowing over me.


> When memories and the connectome are finally understood

IF.

> simply scan the brain

Simply?

> I do not want to be "flesh and bones" when we will have better alternatives.

IF.

> Do you see the absurdity of what we are?

We are no more absurd than your vision of what you wish to become, with the one note that we are what we are and your wishes will very likely remain just that.

The whole cryogenics movement is strongly reminiscent of a religion: it costs lots of money, it makes vague promises of an afterlife and 'freethinkers' are relentlessly attacked by the true believers.

Show me the proof, until then it's just another scam.

> and feel the solar wind of a supernova flowing over me.

There is some hot air involved here, but not that one.


If, if, if: yes I know, there is no guarantee. There is no proof. I make bets. There is little profit to be found where there is no risk involved. Immortality is just that biggest profit possible, for which many risks must be taken.

You know what's worse than my bets: someone not making them. That person sure is never coming back when the body and brain rot and turns to dust.

Anyway, if that is what you want, and you made an informed decision, I respect our differences


> I make bets. There is little profit to be found where there is no risk involved. Immortality is just that biggest profit possible, for which many risks must be taken.

Every day carries the risk that your essential self will be destroyed - through a violent accident (even just a fall), a stroke, a disease... and every day, your mental capacity deteriorates slightly. If you are serious about taking on big risks for the chance of immortality, you should be planning on preserving the state of your brain in the immediate future.

Of course, if you don't think the technology for doing the preservation is good enough yet, then bold talk of taking big risks is premature.


That would be irrational. I would say the odds of my bet are 1 in 1000 maybe. If I stop enjoying the certain life I have now, the low probability of the bet are not good enough to compensate for that. I just try to not take too many risks. No MMA!


>>I want to see gamma rays, I want to hear X-rays, and I want to smell dark matter. Do you see the absurdity of what we are? I can’t even express these things properly, because I have to conceptualize complex ideas in this stupid, limiting spoken language, but I know I want to reach out with something other than these prehensile paws, and feel the solar wind of a supernova flowing over me. <<

For anybody that does not get the reference this is from Battle Star Galactica. It is a rant by the old Cylon model. His name and model number escape me at the moment.


Brother Cavil. I really feel like that - stuck in a body of flesh: limited in its sensory capability, very fragile, almost impossible to repair.


I don't know man, the human body is an incredible machine... I think it's more six of one, half dozen of the other. The one truth you can count on is: there's gonna be tradeoffs.


I want to be the one making the tradeoffs, like I do for a PC or a car


This doesn't the answer the "how does cloned consciousness work" question.

For re-vitilization, I don't give a fuck if it's a perfect copy of me walking around. I want it to be me, the current stream of consciousness. To the abyss I say, no thank you.


I wonder where this strong intuition about consciousness comes from.

Your "the current stream of consciousness" idea requires existence of something beyond all the information you have conscious access to and the procedures your brain performs. Namely, some "marker" which makes this particular realization of your consciousness unique, and which cannot be copied in any circumstances.

What do you think this "marker" is?


Well, that's the question. Since theoretically if I can be reconstituted perfectly, I can be copied perfectly, it is more incomprehensible to me to that two identical consciousnesses exist (two Me's with a capital M) than it is that Me is unique somehow, I work from the second assumption. Questions that still need answering include "what about slow cellular replacement with electronic parts?", to which I have no answer.

What do you think the marker is?


I think there's no marker. Both instances of you feel like each of them is you, if the copying was sufficiently faithful.

Concepts of the original and the copy are external to them. When you imagine the situation you take a place of external observer who has the information about who is the original and who is the copy.

ETA: It's something like imaging your death. You cannot truthfully imagine it first person, and (imperceptibly) slip into third person view.


I agree – if the cloned/copied/othewise renewed consciousness is not that which is currently residing in my head right now, there’s really no point to it, no matter how much philosophically it might be “me”. The only situation I can envision a clone/copy being satisfactory is that in which I had some grand goal larger than myself that I wished to complete and could hand off to the clone.


if it is a copy of me good enough to remember my memories, good enough. Whether my "clone" shares my goal or not is not my problem. If it ends up being a totally different person, so be it. Free determination is more important than my personal survival.

I am making a bet, that is better than the alternative of 0 chances. If I did everything I could, why should I be concerned about the actual outcome? A bet is a bet, not a guarantee.


Better not go to sleep then. You woke up from the abyss this morning.


> You woke up from the abyss this morning.

Actually I woke up directly (and, apparently, seamlessly) from a dream. (I went lucid a little too carelessly surged to a waking in the same manner as you come up from the bottom of a swimming pool).

To be fair, though, I did wake up into the dream from the abyss. But since the abyss is timelessness, how would we know the difference?


I have real deal insomnia for this exact reason.


I mean, okay to the second part, but as to the first part, who is going to pay to run your simulation?


Me. On the death of my physical body, my assets will be transferred to a trust fund with 90% going as a bounty to whoever can bring me back to "life", preferably not in flesh and bones (only 50% if I get put in a human body)

Part of it fiat, part of it will be crypto with the interdiction to sell 2/3 of it, just in case fiat money has some 1929 like catastrophy.

I think greed will be a good enough incentive and motivator, if more people do the same thing, for a company to develop the technology and collect the bounties.

And with BIP39 some assets can also be stored in your brain- so as to not be destitute if this scheme works.


I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain. Time to die.


I'd rather have my experiences and actions (reactions) recorded for later. Even if we don't know how to upload a person now, we might know later. Recording is possible even now with the tech at our disposal. Deep Learning shows that you can build a model with enough input-output pairs.

On a parallel topic - I think the data we are creating today, especially since the expansion of internet and sensors, might be used by future AGI to simulate the conditions that led to its creation for What-if scenarios & AGI pre-history. We might be in such a sim right now. Previous ages left too little information, so they can't be simulated as well. On the other hand, we leave tons of digital breadcrumbs, so we could be a prime target.


And I'm sure you have a rigorous evidence-backed argument backing that up.


Just as rigorous and evidence-backed as the people claiming they will save your head for the future to bring it back (or some construct of you).


Go look it up; they aren't claiming that. You're fighting a strawman. What they are claiming that they are preserving some record of the information that makes you up on the hope that it would be sufficient for future engineers to reconstruct some version of you. All they are claiming is that cryonic vitrification or aldehyde-stabilized cryopreservation preserves in an information-theory sense the microstructure of the brain to sufficient detail that the connectome can be reconstructed by physically realizable scanning mechanisms, which we might not have now but are permitted by the laws of physics.

That's a much weaker argument, but one which actually IS supported by actual scientific papers in the field. And it's all that cryonics organizations have ever argued for.


> What they are claiming that they are preserving some record of the information that makes you up on the hope that it would be sufficient for future engineers to reconstruct some version of you.

Yes, that's what they are claiming, but there is zero proof this is going to happen. In fact, given the long term stability of real world artifacts that are far more durable than dewar flasks there are substantial obstacles in the way of success here besides the non-viable scientific parts of it.

The whole point is that this is a 'hope' about as useful as the hope that there is a heaven or a life after death.

Death is final, until proven otherwise, and once if it is proven that it isn't we will know the pre-conditions required for successful preservation.

Keep in mind that freezing the brain actually destroys it further, the resulting structures may look like they still preserve information when in fact they probably won't, just like a frozen and then thawed out steak still looks like the original but has structurally been completely altered.

> All they are claiming is that cryonic vitrification or aldehyde-stabilized cryopreservation preserves in an information-theory sense the microstructure of the brain to sufficient detail that the connectome can be reconstructed by physically realizable scanning mechanisms, which we might not have now but are permitted by the laws of physics.

The laws of physics have little to do with it, it all depends on how much - if anything - of value is still present and recoverable from dead tissue. So far there is no proof that high level constructs such as memories and identity would be preserved through such a cycle.

> That's a much weaker argument, but one which actually IS supported by actual scientific papers in the field.

Actual scientific papers are not the equivalent of proof, they are merely the advancement of theories in the scientific sense, lacking - for now - evidence supporting those theories.

Cryonics organizations are very careful to ride that fine line between selling hope and selling bull-shit. They have to because that's where the gullible nerds will be more than happy to part with their money.

The short version of all this is:

Hope Springs Eternal.

And hope for an eternal life is common to Catholics looking for salvation, uploaders, cryogenic preservers and rapture kooks. And they all have another thing in common too: they all die anyway, just like everybody and everything else that is alive.


Why do you have such a strong emotional hostility towards cryonics?

First off, you don't understand how cryonics work, from the organizations to the procedure. It is not freezing, but vitrification, as anti-freeze is essentially pumped into the circulatory system to avoid the damage from icing you mentioned (toxicity of the anti-freeze is another problem).

It may or may not work, but it is purely based in physical phenomena. Tissues, organs and simple organisms have been lowered to cryogenic temperature and then brought back, and extending that process to humans is not irrational. Animal brains have been vitrified and the structure of the connectome was still intact.

The alternative to cryonics is for your brain to rot or be incinerated. Are you saying that the chances of reviving or reconstructing a well preserved, vitrified brain is the same as a pile of ashes? If so, that seems the more irrational point of view.


I have roughly the same feelings towards anybody giving false hope of some kind of afterlife, it's not 'emotional hostility', just a serious problem with people selling bs and preying on the weak.

As for the chances of rot vs ashes vs cryogenically preserved: the chances are - as of now - equal: 0.


"As of now", sure, but the whole point of cryonics is that this may be different in the future. The definition of death has changed over the years. It used to be that death was simply cessation of respiration and heartbeat, which used to be (mostly) irreversible. Now with cardio-pulmonary machines that can take over those functions, there is brain death, which is cessation of brain function. Information-theoretic death seems to be the next boundary, which is the destruction of all information contained within the brain, making the recovery of the original person impossible. Cryonics seeks to address that latter definition.


You don't solve a problem by changing definitions.

Let me give you an example that might explain it better:

People who believe in dowsing rods have a perfect answer to when dowsing doesn't work: you didn't dig deep enough to find the water. Works every time!

That same argument holds in the case of cryonics: you didn't wait long enough.

For evidence free statements requiring belief the proper label is religion, not science. So to me cryonics is a religion.

As for the definition of death: there is a fairly gray area as to what constitutes a dead body, for instance some cells in your body get the message rather later than others because our bodies are best thought of as a cluster of living bits flying in very close formation: each individual cell is alive. But for the whole to be alive too certain conditions have to be met. That's why hair will grow a bit longer after you are already dead, that's just those cells doing what they are supposed to do until the conditions for their individual survival are no longer present.

Bringing a brain dead person back to fully functional is by no means a given, and their 'connectome' is still very much present.

I expect humanity to have established several space colonies before we will be able to cheat death. And it better work out that way because if not then there will very quickly be no room for new entrants (aka children), unless it is as slaves and vessels for the oldies to rejuvenate.


The population in the west is already declining. Life extension would probably be beneficial and make the birthday decline even further.

The alternative to cryonics is total destruction of the human body with no possibility of being brought back. When given the choice between no chance at all and a chance, no matter how remote, of survival, picking the latter is the most rational approach (assuming your goal is not to die, of course).

You seem to be under the misconception that cryonics promises bringing you back to life. It does not. It simply preserves your body, in the hope that future technology will be able to do that.


> as of now

Don't shift the goal posts.


I think the chances are close to zero - desiccation of the brain tissue destroys the proximal and distal dendrites and therefore the connections that represent our memories and consciousness.

Freezing causes the water to expand and rupture the cell membranes, which also causes irreversible damage and information loss.

I hope we can discover a better preservation technique until we get neural uploading sorted, I think we are closer than ever in history, and I'm optimistic!


Freezing isn't used by anybody. Cryonics organizations use vitrification, which preserves the brain (and body) in a sort of liquid-glass state. The antifreeze used is massively toxic should the patient ever be warmed up, but at liquid-N2 temperatures it serves to preserve structure without the freezing damage you talk about, and nanotech-assisted recovery OR structural scanning would occur at that temperature.

The newer techniques of room temperature preservation (with no hope of biological recovery, but very high hopes of structural preservation) apply structural scaffolding that keeps such neural microstructure in place, fossilizing the smallest relevant structures in a way a simple polish-and-scan destructive process can pick up, today.

The latter point shows just how little jacquesm knows about this space. A rather large prize purse was recently won by a startup that preserved, through demonstrated scan-and-upload, a mammalian brain. Of course the brain-emulation software wasn't there to make a little VR mouse, but recovery of the brain's connectome was demonstrated.


Was I the only person hoping this article would go into the daoist concept of immortality and its meeting with modern day sciences understanding of physiology?


Possibly! But I'm curious as to these connections - could you expand?


Yes please, seconded!


For a different perspective, I recommend The Western Lands by William S. Burroughs.


No one wants to die. However it seems that it’s mostly powerful people truly believe it’s possible to escape death. Lawrence of Arabia, Walt Disney, and Peter Thiel come to mind as examples. Clearly there’s something about amassing a large amount of power in life that lends itself to believing you can overcome death.


Maybe they've seen in life that if you try you can maybe achieve stuff ? And when you have billion you don't lose anything by spending some of it in high-risk/high-reward projects.


Obviously if they're powerful, they think they can accomplish anything.

But maybe they've witnessed history. Every king, industrialist, or self-absorbed person has tried exactly the same thing, living forever. I have no problem when any rich person tries to do this, it's just frustrating when they claim that this desire is unique, when "not wanting to die" is probably the most basic desire of just about everyone, and has been through the ages rich and poor.


To me fear of death is a sign of not really having been born yet. If you can't make 50 years worthwhile, you can't make 50000 years worthwhile, and if you can't cope with being limited to 80 years or so, you will not be able to cope with the heat death of the universe. It also stands to reason that if you feel it's impossible to give up 100 years of grown personality and memories, it will be even harder and more painful to give up orders of magnitude more of that. It seems like power in that those who want it the most deserve it the least because they are the worst at using it.

On a very basic level, if I feel myself to be entitled to live forever, then I couldn't rightfully deny that to anyone else. So at some point this would mean less new births. If it didn't, it would mean an even more crass explosion of the human footprint, an even more extreme choking out of other lifeforms -- and it could very well mean both. But that would suck, since being healthy and alive isn't just great because I can see 5000 million particles rendered in 3 lines of CSS, or watch the clouds go by, it's also because of the flora and fauna, and because of other people. Beings that surprise me, that come into the world and "become". Knowing there will be future question marks born is something way more sublime for me than "attack ships on fire" or having this one video that got 7234 million views.

Life isn't just me, it's also a river in which I am a drop. If I want to not be a drop, so I can keep seeing the river, well... if everybody does that, there is no more river, and if I want to reserve immortality for just myself, I am an asshole. I don't mean to brag, but I figured that out as a kid, and no immortality advocate I read or heard or saw so far managed to put a meaningful dent in it.

Yes, I am for medicine, I think it's great when people can live longer and stay healthy longer (even though we then ignore their wisdom when it's inconvenient, e.g. [0]), but no, I cannot draw you an exact line, except that I know "immortality" as extreme and as espoused by technophiles or emperors or preachers does not interest me, at all. If anything I'm curious about the biographies of the people looking for it; they point at some clouds that may or may not have a moon behind it, but I can't help but look from the finger to their arm to their shoulders to their head. I feel that's where the majority if not all of the action is.

Last, but not least: even if you managed to completely overcome all aging and disease, assuming no asteroids and other surprises: the only way to ensure you will live "forever" is to severely restrict the agency of anyone else but you. Other humans acting would be a potential threat, in infinite time it would become an infinite threat, while at the same time you have an infinite lifetime to lose. Nothing might be too crazy and machavellian, and like junkies people might just keep going down the spiral long after they lost all joy in it.

[0] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=17721280 <-- 99 years...


Personally, I think the optimal aim is agelessness. There are issues with immortality, as there is with any unlimited concept. I think what most people fear is a fixed time limit. I want to be the master of my own destiny, and not have biology telling me when to go. if we become ageless, people still die from trauma and suicide, but we lose that pressure of knowing we have such a limited time. That might be good for altruism, long term outlooks, and delayed rewards. Plus it addresses another major issue: the slow decline into frailty.

I think by becoming ageless we can gain many advantages of immortality and avoid many of the problems.


All these issues can also be overcome with a "live and let live" attitude, and expanding ones empathy beyond oneself, and tentatively even beyond the present. At least to me, the main difference between me living for 1000 years, and me and 9 other people living 100 years each, is that 10 people would probably be more interesting, even though I would only get to see a tenth of it.

Like that Roman dude said, the mind is a fire to be kindled, not a vessel to be filled, so it seems with life. To have or to be... if only I could live 1000 years, if only 10000, if only 100000... is it so absurd to at least consider it possible that we would treat it just like we treat RAM and CPU now?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jevons_paradox

Sure, it's apples and oranges in a way, but satisfaction really is something that happens in the mind and not just the external circumstances, so I don't see why we wouldn't be able to consider any amount of time "not long enough" at some point. Doesn't mean we would, but if we did, we would have gained nothing, other than less diversity of persons.

> We feel free to express ourselves because we are ready to fade into emptiness. When we are trying to be active and special and to accomplish something, we cannot express ourselves... So we have enjoyment, we are free.

-- Shunryu Suzuki

> Of short duration are those who praise as well as those who are praised, those who remember and those who are remembered. And even that happens just in one corner of the world, and even there not everybody agrees with one another, a single person doesn't even agree with themselves. This whole Earth however is but a dot.

-- Marcus Aurelius

This does not change meaningfully, to me, if you replace Earth with Universe and short duration with 10^10000 years. It's the same basic problem, and even I am constantly in flux, not ever the exact same person I was an instant ago. So why not get over that? For me letting go of some things doesn't mean giving anything up, it's more like having the hands free to receive better things; I like the tiny actual place I have in reality more than an imaginary big one that requires all sorts of ballast and images, layers of abstraction and alienation.


> If you can't make 50 years worthwhile, you can't make 50000 years worthwhile, and if you can't cope with being limited to 80 years or so, you will not be able to cope with the heat death of the universe.

If we reverse this logic, if 50 years are enough, then so are 5 years or 5 months or 5 days. Or is "50 years" a magical number where the rules of the game change, so that the fourty-nineth year can make a difference but the fifty-first can't?


The Earth is the cradle of humanity, but mankind cannot stay in the cradle forever. - Konstantin Tsiolkovsky


Even the quote itself just demonstrates the not seeing the woods for all the trees I mentioned... as if throwing a baby on the floor would make it grow up, instead of the other way around.

But it doesn't stop there does it, and it's a perfect example of the shit you find if you just dig the tiniest bit.

http://www.calvertjournal.com/opinion/show/1487/roscosmos-pr...

> However, Tsiolkovsky’s interests did not lie just in the fields of engineering and rocket design; he was also interested in social reform. In 1928 he published a book called The Unknown Intelligence in which he argued that humans would colonise our galaxy and introduce the philosophy of panpsychism, a sinister form of anthropocentric perfectionism with a eugenic streak. Tsiolkovsky believed that atoms have their own form of intelligence and that if all the lower forms of life were eliminated, then the suffering of the “human, higher atoms” would be lessened, as they would not have to go back to the bottom of the pyramid of existence but would be reused again in the highest form of matter — humans. To achieve this, Tsiolkovsky suggested sterilising all fauna and aquatic life, and most of the flora on Earth, leaving only those plants necessary for nutrition. His plans did not stop there, but embraced the full extent of eugenics: he proposed using the same remedy to eliminate all “imperfect” members of humankind, so that only the best, healthiest and most intelligent people would be allowed to reproduce. Their offspring would then go on to create a higher caste of Nietzschean Übermenschen and, ultimately, reach the much longed-for goal of immortality.

Nietzsche would have laughed his ass off I guess.. just consider the opposite of the Übermensch, the last man:

> The earth has become small, and on it hops the last man, who makes everything small. His race is as ineradicable as the flea; the last man lives longest.

> 'We have invented happiness,'say the last men, and they blink. They have left the regions where it was hard to live, for one needs warmth.

How do you get from that to sterilizing all life on Earth so you don't have to be a bird or a dog every now and then? That's so incredibly impoverished, and fits perfectly into what I outlined.

> We have more life than we know what to do with. We have life far beyond the point where it becomes a sick caricature of itself. We prolong life until it becomes a sickness, an abomination, a miserable and pathetic flight from death that saps out and mocks everything that made life desirable in the first place.

-- Scott Alexander ( http://slatestarcodex.com/2013/07/17/who-by-very-slow-decay/ )

> You ever look at their faces? ... “I’m pro-life!” [makes a pinched face of hate and fear; his lips are pursed as though he’s just sucked on a lemon.] “I’m pro-life!” Boy, they look it, don’t they? They just exude joie de vivre. You just want to hang with them and play Trivial Pursuit all night long.

-- Bill Hicks

> The real damage is done by those millions who want to 'survive.' The honest men who just want to be left in peace. Those who don’t want their little lives disturbed by anything bigger than themselves. Those with no sides and no causes. Those who won’t take measure of their own strength, for fear of antagonizing their own weakness. Those who don’t like to make waves—or enemies. Those for whom freedom, honour, truth, and principles are only literature. Those who live small, mate small, die small. It’s the reductionist approach to life: if you keep it small, you’ll keep it under control. If you don’t make any noise, the bogeyman won’t find you. But it’s all an illusion, because they die too, those people who roll up their spirits into tiny little balls so as to be safe. Safe?! From what? Life is always on the edge of death; narrow streets lead to the same place as wide avenues, and a little candle burns itself out just like a flaming torch does. I choose my own way to burn.

-- "Sophie Scholl - The Last Days

> If only we try to live sincerely, it will go well with us, even though we are certain to experience real sorrow, and great disappointments, and also will probably commit great faults and do wrong things, but it certainly is true, that it is better to be high-spirited, even though one makes more mistakes, than to be narrow-minded and all too prudent. It is good to love many things, for therein lies the true strength, and whosoever loves much performs much, and can accomplish much, and what is done in love, is well done.

-- Vincent van Gogh

> A man has made at least a start on discovering the meaning of human life when he plants shade trees under which he knows full well he will never sit.

-- D. Elton Trueblood

There, that's some quotes with some actual wisdom behind them, with actual brains and guts. A petty "me me me" isn't the solution to age-old problems, it's regression. Even after 3 decades of gobbling up sci-fi stories, even though I don't "lack imagination" to consider "uploading brains into virtual worlds", but simply imagine additional things, I can't unsee the people and their ticks. I can't unsee how we treat the poor and voiceless today, and how we show no signs of letting up. This new age transhumanism religious stuff, and it's nothing more, comes from the worst and the weakest, not the most noble humanity has to offer. I stand by that, and am still open for counterexamples, but require no more examples of it.


"the only way to ensure you will live "forever" is to severely restrict the agency of anyone else but you."

Such a lack of imagination. What about virtual worlds where you're ego would be uploaded, leaving no physical remains to be fed? What about changing you're body for something that don't need to eat food? What about the tremendous immensity and ressources of space that await colonization? What about being able to go to deep sleep and live 50 years every 500 or so? I could go on "forever".


I considered all of these and more before making my comment, and still made it as I made it. It's still there for you to reply to, and then maybe I can entertain you.


The whole discussion is a side track, the essence of who we are is and always was immortal. Do you honestly believe in a universe that would throw away the results of the experiment?

There's no proof either way, but it seems the least likely alternative to me. As to Buddha, Gandhi, Tesla, Einstein and many more otherwise respectable thinkers.

Examine what you're not supposed to think, what is collectively ridiculed; that's where truth is hiding in plain sight.


> Do you honestly believe in a universe that would throw away the results of the experiment?

It does not. 'Results' are the survival of our genes. That's how we came to be here. Also, survival of our ideas, in culture and technology.




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