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When Is Dead Dead? (2019) (thewalrus.ca)
46 points by Hooke 4 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 19 comments





I was a volunteer firefighter for a good portion of my youth and saw many traumatic deaths. It’s easy, as the article states, to realize they are dead.

At 11 years old I stood by my father in a hospital bed and held his hand and arm as he died. I don’t remember the details but other than the emptiness that doesn’t have words. But it was slow, similar to the article describes. Not lingering for weeks, thankfully, but not like the movies where someone says his final words and sorta gasps his last breath.

Both are sobering experiences and seeing children die is the absolute worst. I would be having the same debates the author has had.

None of this makes it any easier to face / accept my own mortality either.


Imho the problem lies with our constant breaking of natural laws through technology. Before modern medicine, nobody wondered when dead is dead.

While I don't believe in God, I think we shouldn't fuck with the way nature works.


/Before modern medicine, nobody wondered when dead is dead./

Not true! Widespread fear of being buried alive (due to stories of seemingly dead people waking up from time to time) led to the invention of safety coffins, for example...

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


Or the old naval tradition that, when a dead sailor was sewn into his hammock to be buried at sea, the last stitch went through his nose in the hope that the pain would wake him up if he was still alive.

To those who won't check the Wiki link, that includes the birth of "Saved by the bell" (mechanism and subsequent expression).

Is there actually proof of this? The OED thinks that it comes from boxing (where the bell signals the end of a round), and the first recorded uses of the phrase are in a boxing context.

That article could use some light editing, at least for that section. Right there in the section referenced it says that it comes from boxing:

"The "saved by the bell" expression is actually well established to have come from boxing, where a boxer who is still on their feet but close to being knocked down can be saved from losing by the bell ringing to indicate the end of the round."


In fairness, safety coffins only came in after modern medicine

Considering the number of stories (or at least legends that people were afraid of) of people assumed dead and buried while still alive, no, before modern medicine people were very unsure when dead was dead in marginal cases.

We aren't 'fucking' with the way nature works. You're failing to see the big picture here. We are part of what you call 'nature', surely you'll agree with that being a non-believer, so at least you should say 'I think the nature shouldn't fuck with itself'.

But, still, there would still be no 'fucking', seems like a total nonsense to me.


Also, since when is nature against fucking with... anything, really?

The universe is chaos. Order is artificial.

Are you suggesting that we should just let people die in all cases where left alone they would die naturally? Where do you draw the line?

Canonical reading on how to properly fuck with the nature's ways:

The Gift We Give To Tomorrow https://www.lesswrong.com/posts/pGvyqAQw6yqTjpKf4/the-gift-w...

Meditations on Moloch https://slatestarcodex.com/2014/07/30/meditations-on-moloch/


I think these are more like natural guidelines, or suggestions even.

> we shouldn't fuck with the way nature works

You get a lot of flack for your comment, but you point to the fork in the road where we will eventually have to make a choice: either to press forward and extend our lifespan indefinitely, or learn to accept that life is temporal. Or in other words; the choice between the trans-humanist project against laws that have governed life since life began.

Maybe well see a fork in humanity as a consequence: a section of humanity (a subset of those that can afford it) will take the life eternal pill, at which point they cease to be humans, or even alive in the normal sense, while the rest of humanity continues on the age-old cycle of birth, life and death.

When it comes to this choice I'm firmly on your side, and not because of any religious conviction either, but we are not there yet. The choice is on the horizon however.


I'm not so sure that it is. I'm someone who experiences a lot of medicine and is completely reliant on it, so my view is different to the one that healthy people get.

We might have made some huge strides in the simple cause and effect in single processes in the body and be able to manipulate them in weird and wonderful ways, but our understanding of how they all interact to produce a functioning human is basically non-existent.

The treatment of my condition (MS) and the development of drugs to try and control it is basically just throwing spaghetti at the wall...

The immortality you talk about requires either: understanding what consciousness is and how we could move it from one physical entity to another without destroying it. or; Keeping the body that the consciousness exists in alive indefinitely.

I think we're about as close to either of those as we are to visiting another star.


> either to press forward and extend our lifespan indefinitely, or learn to accept that life is temporal

I think that’s an unfair description of the dichotomy.

I’m as transhuman as they come — I want to help build the von Neumann machines that build a Dyson swarm that starlifts to extend the life of Sol and I want to benefit from those extra trillions of years — yet I know life is still temporary and will eventually cease.

Even with biological immortality and cures for all ills, there are accidents that give us a half-life of around one thousand years; even with mind backups, there is entropy; even if the expansion of the universe can be turned into a truly endless power source, there is Heisenberg uncertainty.


So, no medicine?



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