Monday, January 10, 2011


1. I think that life beyond Earth is likely to be uncommon, if it exists at all.

2. If life does exist beyond Earth -- even in vast quantities -- I still think that complex life is probably rare.

3. It's unlikely that we'll ever leave the solar system. In all likelihood, if we're still around at the end of the sun's life, we'll die with it.

4. It's unlikely that we'll ever accomplish anything of importance with respect to the overall processes of evolution and life on Earth.

5. The concept of a multiverse seems completely laughable to me -- not because I think it's impossible, but merely because it seems untestable and, in all likelihood, irrelevant to anything that we do with our time here.

6. I highly doubt Ray Kurzweil's claims of an impending technological singularity, and think that he has greatly misapplied several key variables, while potentially ignoring many others.

7. Artificial intelligence is likely a very, very difficult and expensive endeavor. I don't expect that it will occur in my lifetime.

8. We won't know the ultimate outcomes of any of the above unless we give them a try. Furthermore, we should abandon any tests, implementations, designs, or plans should they prove too costly, or even detrimental to sentience.

The problem, to me, is that I don't know what will be possible billions of years in the future, given the enormous number of variables involved in human consciousness and its physical manifestations, so anyone who claims to know for certain what will happen over such preposterous time spans, then proceeds to declare humanity in need of disappearing from the universe, strikes me as someone who has drawn a premature conclusion. "Of COURSE nothing important is going to happen elsewhere. This place sucks; let's kill ourselves, leaving the universe to its own devices, because that plan will eliminate our suffering, and we already know that nothing more important will ever happen anywhere, ever" just doesn't cut it for me.

Don't worry; I'm not a Jew-hating Holocaust denier.


  1. OH I see. So you believe that subsequent events far in the future can justify present suffering?

  2. Uhm.... but you know you are talking about something that is not you right?

    When you say: "let´s continue because someday, somewhere, someone might be happy and fulfilled", it doesn´t cut it for me also, because why should this hypothetical person (or group of) deserve such a chance when thousands of millions of others didnt have one?

    Other than that, we personally are not gonna be alive. Life is injust from the start.

    It´s more of a principle thing.

  3. I think that the only thing that can justify suffering is the elimination of a greater amount of suffering.

    I also think it's unlikely that anyone would ever need to be coerced into participating, and that the participants would instead live simply as a consequence of their assessment of the situation, with the results of their efforts being very obvious and in the immediate future (years at the most). By the time that anything far into the future would have any relevance to anyone (if it ever did, which I doubt), hopefully, humans would no longer be capable of suffering, anyway -- but the bottom line is that everyone who continues to live should understand why they are alive and agree to it.

    I am one such person, and personally wouldn't want to live alongside anyone who didn't want to live, if it was instead possible to help them end their lives. Hypothetically, though, if it took five people to operate the ship and only five people remained in the universe, with one of them wanting to die, I would hope that all five would have a rational conversation to the end of a consensus on the matter.

    Wouldn't you?

  4. Rafael: I'm not interested in anyone's happiness; I don't think that it's even possible to obtain "true" happiness, and instead see pleasure as a short-lived, useless relief from some kind of deprivation.

    My point is simply that any group of people in possession of a rational understanding of the consequents of the universe should at least volunteer to stick around to investigate it to the greatest extent possible. It's not our absolute duty, but it couldn't hurt, given that everyone involved would want to be involved. In an extreme and highly unlikely scenario, if the number of people involved began to dwindle, I would be in favor of some kind of counter measure for the same reasons that I'd be in favor of convincing someone of my own points of view by, for example, maintaining a blog. I don't think that anyone in such a scenario would be so irrational as to fail to see the best interests of whatever the agenda was at the time, and I also don't see why putting your own suffering above that of your society is ever acceptable.

  5. I don't see in what ways, exactly, I disagree with either of you, unless you're both claiming that you want people who'd prefer to live to die via some kind of imposed standard, simply because you personally want to die yourself. This has nothing to do with causing suffering, forcing people to do anything, seeking pleasure, obtaining some nonexistent state of happiness, looking for magical unicorns in the multiverse, etc.

  6. Also, by "This place sucks; let's kill ourselves," I was referring to the human species -- not individuals.

  7. Hey LS, I just have three questions:

    1. If the decision the commit suicide should not be an individual one, how about the decision to procreate?
    2. Should we try to spread to other planets to improve our chances of surviving disasters?
    3. When should we stop investigating our environment and cut the knot? All this time, things will be suffering.

  8. 1. The decision to procreate should also be made socially. I don't see what could justify procreation, so I'd expect that everyone would agree to not procreate in an "ideal" society. Obviously, the decision to murder someone is not permitted to be made "individually" in our society, and, in the long run, procreation is no different from that activity.

    An example of a decision to be made individually, for contrast: Whether to eat chocolate ice cream or vanilla ice cream, depending on preference

    2. I don't know enough about space travel to say whether it could ever be feasible to spread to other planets. It doesn't seem like a good idea at all from where I'm sitting, though: the risks are immense (what if someone else is out there, and they don't want us around?), and the sheer energy and time involved would mean that even a single mission would need to be planned with great precision and care. The only prospect I see as being acceptable is non-aging, "synthetic" people investigating Earth-like planets, but I would hope that they would only do so in order to help the life there, rather than because they wanted any discovered worlds all to themselves. Also, I'd hope that they'd first send a radio message of some sort, then give it however long it would take to hear something back before blindly exploring the cosmos while ignoring potential risks.

    3. If we cut the knot right now, that would entail mass genocide -- so it's obvious that, even if humans really do stop reproducing and decide to voluntarily phase themselves out of existence, it's going to be a while before we get to that point. This means that we should, during the "transition," focus on educating the populace, allocating resources, and fixing structural flaws inherent in our current systems. If it turns out that one of the flaws that gets "fixed" is aging, the central nervous system, or something related, then, should investigating the environment prove a viable option, human suffering would no longer be a concern of that agenda. However, even if this does not occur, it's important to remember that:

    1. Anyone involved in the surveying of the state of the universe would understand why they were doing so (if they didn't understand or were against it, it would defeat the purpose). If I were to decide to live in the face of my own suffering in order to determine what else is suffering and where, participants in an ideal society would understand, and would not forcibly prevent me from living.

    2. Without humans, there will be another 5 billion years of life on Earth, with at least a few billion, depending on what the sun does, hosting the suffering of animals.

  9. Of course, if time starts to run out, resources are stretched thinly, or an unfathomable amount of time goes by without evidence for any need to stick around, and if things in the future truly do involve a substantial amount of suffering, then the society should pull the plug on all projects.

  10. Just a thought I had today, in case anyone is monitoring this particular comments section:

    The continued existence of consenting humans (and, potentially, artificial intelligences and augmented humans, if those things are in fact doable technologically), after we've transitioned to a state of no reproduction (or something close to it) and more or less ideal conditions for staving off deprivations, probably wouldn't cause much suffering at all. By simply existing, and per the law of opportunity cost, we alter the results of resource distribution in a way which often causes a person or other sentient organism to suffer at our expense, but if, in the future, all humans consented to live (the rest would be euthanized, for the most part), and we no longer ate animals or used them for manual labor, then the only thing on Earth continuing to impose suffering would be...