[ExI] The Myth of Stagnation

JOSHUA JOB nanite1018 at gmail.com
Sun Nov 8 07:13:08 UTC 2009

On Nov 7, 2009, at 5:48 PM, Max More wrote:

> The philosopher Bernard Williams once wrote a piece on "The Tedium  
> of Immortality". Although I have long thought his view reeked of  
> sour grapes, he expressed similar sentiments to those I've heard  
> many times over the years. "The Myth of Stagnation" is my rebuttal  
> to those sentiments.
> http://strategicphilosophy.blogspot.com/2009/11/myth-of- 
> stagnation.html
This was a very good article. What I found most interesting was the  
discussion of the end-game for life, what the limits actually are on  
consciousness in the Universe. There was a great novel, "Manifold:  
Time" by Stephen Baxter, which deals with what life at the "end" of  
the Universe would look like. We'd be squeaking energy out of black  
holes, managing their coalescence so that we could have the sweet spot  
between maximum survival time and our energy needs. It was both  
exciting and sad, watching as life reshapes the whole of existence to  
survive (exciting), and watching as entropy inexorably creeps up  
across the eons (sad).

Of course, in our Universe none of that could happen. Our best  
understanding of the cosmos is that its expansion is not decelerating,  
as we would expect, but has been accelerating for the last 7 billion  
years. Estimates suggest that we will lose contact with everything but  
the Local Group within a trillion years (because all other galaxies in  
the Universe will be traveling away at faster than the speed of  
light). Others place an uncomfortably short timeline of 30 billion  
years before a Big Rip (based on one explanation for the acceleration,  
in that timescale every point of space-time will move away from every  
other at the speed of light, ending any chance of life or  
consciousness or structure).

But I don't feel any of these pose problems for someone who wants to  
live forever. As a character in "Manifold: Time" says when faced with  
the "inevitability" of the destruction of life in the Universe eons  
hence, "The game itself is worth playing!" I don't think there is any  
reason to think we will face any such end however. As you suggest in  
your paper, we may be able to build universes (ideally then entering  
them, and escaping from our present one). Depending on where physics  
leads, there are some hints that we might even be able to travel to  
other, already existing, universes (which will likely have other laws  
of physics, which may pose a problem). I am confident that if there is  
a way to escape the death of the Universe, we will find it. And if  
there isn't one, than I want to have the knowledge that I survived  
until the end of all existence. What more could you possibly ask for  
than that?

On a psychological note: Humans are amazingly adaptable creatures, and  
when we want to, we can provide meaning to our lives. It will  
certainly take some major changes in our psychology and outlook to  
incorporate an indefinite lifespan into our lives, but I see no reason  
to think we couldn't. The most any person could argue is that everyone  
would find a point at which life just isn't worth living anymore.  
While I can't guarantee that is not the case, it certainly is no  
argument against life-extension. There is one thing we know for sure:  
age 100 certainly isn't it.

Joshua Job
nanite1018 at gmail.com

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