[ExI] Immortality, Absolute and Potential

Lee Corbin lcorbin at rawbw.com
Tue May 20 06:36:38 UTC 2008

Stuart writes

From: "The Avantguardian" <avantguardian2020 at yahoo.com>
Sent: Monday, May 19, 2008 12:46 PM
Subject: Re: [ExI] Christianity: where to now?

> Lee Corbin wrote:
>> Stuart writes
>> > One can't live forever and experience time.
>> On the face of it, that's an absurd claim!  After, what if
>> there are now people (who can't possibly know it, of course
>> but)  who in fact will never die?  It's not logically impossible!
> Angels dancing on pins are logically possible too, doesn't mean I would care to
> debate them with you. Do you understand the mathematical concept of infinity?

Oh yes, investigations of infinity is one of my main math
interests. I do all right up to measurable cardinals, (some
people who're really good at math will scoff), at which
point it all gets a bit too vague for me. 

The most relevant notion for our discussion here is the
distinction between absolute infinity and potential infinity.
Aristotle and most people before Georg Cantor abhorred
the idea of an absolute infinity, but were quite comfortable
(as you probably know) with potential infinity. In other
words, they credited the notion of some process going
on forever, or some enumeration continuing past any
finite stopping place, but declared that the idea of a
"completed infinity" to be nuts.  Cantor, in the opinion of
Hilbert and also practically everybody, proved them wrong.

But that's actually beside the point, since I totally agree with
you about any kind of "completed infinity" making any sense
with regard to immortality. In the ordinary sense of *days*,
alas, it can't even mathematically be obtained that there could
exist some "day omega", that is, a day infinitely far away
from today. 

But I renamed this thread to discuss the idea of a *potential*
immortality, if you will, following the mathematical analogy.
What this simply means is that (depending on cosmology)
some processes may never cease.  For example, it could
turn out that protons are "immortal"---and by that is
meant nothing more than the conception that they never decay.
And you know very well that this is a possibility according to
our best theories of modern physics.

> If you bring me three examples of infinity actually found in
> nature, then I may entertain having this discussion with you.

Well   :-)   how about the theory of protons?  And Andrei
Linde, among many others, has speculated that outside our
own bubble universe, other "bubbles" have been undergoing
creation arbitrarily far in the past (again, that's *potential*
infinity, not actual infinity).

>> You surely cannot be saying that such persons
>> [assuming that some person's process never
>> ceases, i.e., is coterminous with a proton that
>> never decays] actually experience time differently
>> from the rest of us!
> Yes that is exactly what I am saying, Lee.

I don't follow.  If such persons existed, we would have
absolutely no way of distinguishing them from the rest
of us who won't go on and on forever. In what way
would their experience at this time be any different?
(Perhaps I was seeing "at this time" and you were not
talking about that? Thanks for any clarification.)

>> But I have known people much less than 20 years old
>> who hated "wasting time". 
> It is impossible to waste anything of which there is
> an infinite amount. If someone lived forever, any
> fraction of their lives would still be forever. So
> they could be awake forever, asleep forever, and
> go to the bathroom forever. There would be no time,
> just one long *now* where everything happened
> concurrently. Time would cease to be a dynamic
> narrative and instead be like a static painting. In short,
> to live forever is not to live at all. 

"It is impossible to waste anything of which there is
an infinite amount."  I doubt that we should raise 
that to the status of an axiom.  Clearly you and I
are using the word "waste" a little differently. For
example, I consider it a waste that I'm not also
concurrently living in Istanbul, since (as you know)
I believe I could be in two places at once. More
pertinently, even if it does turn out that I get to live
forever---i.e., don't ever quite die just like (in some
theories) a proton never dies, then I would still
consider it a waste of time to engage in certain
pointless activities.

(I guess you're embracing a different concept of 
waste.  I guess we have to stop using the word
in this discussion!   :-)

"There would be no time, just one long *now*
where everything happened concurrently. Time
would cease to be a dynamic narrative and
instead be like a static painting."

But there again, unless we have a communication
difficulty, it sounds as though you think that *how*
long someone is *going* to live in an unknown
future impacts their experience now. Or have I
misunderstood?  Perhaps if you answer this, it
will help:  suppose person X is slated to live a
trillion years, and person Y, sadly, is going to be
killed next year in an automobile accident. Are
their experiences *now* any different?

>> Okay, so you want to live to be several hundred years
>> old. Why that figure?  Why wouldn't you be just as
>> happy to die tonight?  Or tomorrow night?  Your
>> claims aren't really believable to me, sorry. 
> Did I ask for your belief?

Stuart, I'm very sorry for the hostile tone that our discussion
seems to have brought about. Whatever I did to make you
a bit touchy, I really do wish I hadn't done it  :-)

I meant to say that I disagreed.  It would have been better
for me not to have said that, since it is obvious. Sorry.

> Some experience life as a pleasant dream that they are
> reluctant to awaken from. Others experience life as a
> nightmare that they fear will end. You own your own
> perspective on the world, Lee, and strangely, living in
> fear appears to be your comfort zone. Wallow away.

Oh come now.  Yes, at the top of my list, I do fear
earthquakes, nuclear terrorism, and economic collapse.
But I don't really fear death, for example. (I've said
before that dying before your time is like not getting
to go to some great party---nothing to be afraid of,
just a missed opportunity.)  And in the case of many
of us on this list, "before our time" means "ever!".

So far as I can tell, I'm not wallowing  :-)    I think that
I'm having a good time!

Best regards,

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