Saturday, July 2, 2011

A concession to the antinatalist and voluntary human extinction communities

In a several-months-old post of mine, I said the following: is certainly possible that automated, technological means of redesigning the natural world could emerge at some point, capable of removing negative sensation from that environs. In both cases, given that we can't predict future suffering with any degree of accuracy for now, it makes more sense to voluntarily exist to the end of learning more about our predicament than it does to voluntarily disappear from the universe outright. How irresponsible the alternative must be, if it indeed turns out that trillions of planets contain or will contain mass-energy configurations similar in content and substance to whales and buffalo, and that we can do something about it!

I was reading this post today, and realized that I don't really agree with its content. A couple of thoughts:

1. As previously noted, life, if it truly does exist elsewhere in the universe, must be preposterously rare -- so rare that any attempt to find and subsequently help it would prove incredibly impractical. We don't go out of our way to search for hypothetical abducted children halfway across the world from where they were last seen, do we?

2. How are we ever going to leave this solar system? Even if we were to dispatch energy-efficient nanobots and program them to spend most of their time drifting through space, coasting off their initial energy use, how in the world would we ever find anything without at least some kind of indication regarding where it might exist?

Given these points, I have modified my original stance on this issue. There are three kinds of people to consider, here:

1. Those who would rather end their lives than suffer to any great degree. These people abhor pointless pain, and, quite reasonably, find the concept of life unbearable.

2. Those who would rather live forever, or at least long enough to mentally prepare for eternal nonexistence and/or a huge, uncontrollable unknown.

3. Those who would rather live forever, or at least some substantial period of time, merely because they enjoy life. Note, here, that many life proponents who are also death proponents would probably opt for eternal life if given the choice; their biologically programmed desires do not have expiration dates built into them, so when they say that they think death is "just a part of life," they're usually just lying to themselves.

I see no reason why all of these groups shouldn't be allowed to have things their way simultaneously. The solution, then, is to legalize assisted suicide while working on simulated realities and a cure for aging.

So, if some of us ultimately do decide to stick around, it should be for one or both of the following reasons:

1. We're biding our time until we feel more comfortable with making a decision after which there is no turning back -- regardless of how unlikely the contrary prospects are.

2. We enjoy living.

We're probably never leaving this solar system, and if we do, it's unlikely that we'll find anything of interest out there. Sure, we can look, but looking shouldn't be our raison d'être.


  1. Why not make it a goal of mankind? I mean, that's one of the problems right now, is that mankind has no goal worth talking about. We're just running on these ego games, these automatisms, endlessly and without checks or boundaries. Eventually these will blow up in our face. What happens after that, well...

    But until we as a species become dedicated to such a goal, there is not even any point of talking about it, except as speculation...

  2. Well, I have my doubts that we can even travel the 4 light-year distance necessary to get to Alpha Centauri. Our best space shuttles can apparently go about 17,500 miles per hour, so it'd take over 150,000 years to get there if we were to use them for that purpose. Worm holes are purely hypothetical to the point where they're basically science fiction, and even if they were real, they'd probably only be small enough for an atom or two to slip through.

    If we really wanted to do it, the best option would probably be to target as many of the "Earth-like" planets that Kepler finds as possible, deploy the best equipment we've got at the fastest speed possible, and permanently keep open a two-way radio communication (that way, even if the messages we receive from our probes are thousands of years old or older, there'd never be an interruption -- sort of like a news ticker at the bottom of a television screen).

    It'd be an interesting thing to try if we could only design something that didn't struggle just to roll over a couple of humps in the dirt on the Martian surface.