Accelerating Future Transhumanism, AI, nanotech, the Singularity, and extinction risk.


Phil Bowermaster Responds to Annalee Newitz: “Five Arguments Against Four Arguments Against Immortaility”

Phil Bowermaster responds here. Me, I can appreciate the io9 post as a masterpiece of generalization from fictional evidence; including images, I count eleven specific appeals to fictional evidence. This appears to be an early form of co-processing, where content from an external device (in this case, poor television shows) heavily intertwines itself with the thinking processes of the writer, to the point where reality cannot be distinguished from fiction.

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  1. Are you being ornery?

  2. The woman’s got a chain tattooed around her arm.

    I wouldn’t fuck with anybody who is THAT BAD-ASS.

    (unlike George Carlin, who told people with barb wire tattoos to come back when they got the real deal around their arms so he could squeeze it on real tight)

  3. So we should forgo life extension research because it might have adverse social consequences and will be hijacked by the ‘elite’?

    You mean, like just about every technology that has ever come into being? Has Newitz ever read a history book?

    Bowermaster also seems to miss the point:

    Technologies such as motor cars and the internet were indeed the province of the elite in their inception – but it wasn’t that long before they filtered down to the lower economic echelons of society.

    Both Bowermaster & Newitz seem not to recognise that the ‘elite’ stand to enhance their fortunes vastly by mass-producing the immortality technology and sell it cheaply
    to the poor. They don’t grasp that as was said in Wall Street, greed, or self interest can be good.

    Sci-fi, as always, provides interesting thought experiments as to how an immorality-conferring technology could be made available to the poor, profiting the rich:

    In his book ‘Necroville’ Ian McDonald a form of nanotech enables eternal life. The poor can get an ‘Immortality Contract’ by agreeing to a period of servitude to the corporation that makes it available.

    This is not very palatable I grant you, but it enables everyone to have access to immortality. So the profit motive will, ironically, liberate the poor.

    But what happens next in the story highlights why Newitz’s assertions are nonsensical.

    Any ‘elite’ that tries to make the technology so expensive the poor are excluded, or to use it to economically and/or socially enslave the populace is breeding violent revolution.

    While some may try to do this, most will have the sense to see that it would end them, in a way that no other form of elitism could.

    Also democratic governments would hardly stand by and allow only an elite to have immortality.

    Comparing things like the ‘digital’ divide to life eternal is spurious. This is a profoundly different thing. People would kill to possess it, and I think most sensible societies know that.

    If or when the technology to indefinitely extend life arrives, I strongly suspect it won’t be long before it’s made available to all to prevent social chaos.

    Then the only real question will be one for religious people: if you believe in an afterlife, why would you want to be parted from dead loved ones forever?

  4. Dman —

    I’m not a subscriber to the digital divide argument; I merely used it as an example where fear of the establishment of a permanent elite looks to be ill-founded. I expect that life extension technologies will follow internet access as something more or less universally available, and that this will likely occur in a bottom-up, market-driven way — although a top-down approach such as you seem to be suggesting might work, too.

    “If or when the technology to indefinitely extend life arrives, I strongly suspect it won’t be long before it’s made available to all to prevent social chaos.”

    But this technology won’t appear all at once in the form of a magic pill that you take one time and then live forever. And even if it did take such an abrupt and dramatic form, it would be years before we would have much evidence that it was really working. (If the super-rich are making themselves live longer and longer, I expect most of them would keep a fairly low profile about it.) It’s possible that by the time people began to truly establish that something was happening, the technology wold be ready for more widespread distribution.

    Also, I think you might underestimate how resistant some elements in society will be to this technology. There are a lot of dumb arguments against life extension, many of which will be taken up by different political and religious factions. Newitz is only scratching the surface.

  5. I wonder if Newitz is actually serious. Her argument seems facetious. I think she’s more against obsession with life extension and the idea that it will be real when it’s not yet. The images from fictional sources may be meant to suggest that folks are equating fiction with reality.

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