Scientific and philosophical possibilities for immortality

A question that has come up in a couple of recent conversations: Is there any hope within a scientific or philosophical view of reality for immortality, something like an afterlife that is typically promised in the major religions?

The most popular hope these days is the Technological Singularity, the idea that sometime soon we will create a superhuman intelligence, which will in turn create a super-superhuman intelligence, which will in turn create…, well, hopefully you get the picture.  The result will be a runaway explosion in technological capabilities resulting in an ability to upload us all into a virtual environment, a technological heaven, and go on living, at least as long as the environment, or ones like it, can continue running.

An objection, one that could be made for any of the scenarios this post will discuss, is that the uploaded version wouldn’t be us.  But this objection rests on the idea that there is an enduring self throughout our entire life.  All the atoms in our brain get replaced by metabolic maintenance every few years.  So physically, you are not the person you were five years ago, or the person you will be five years from now.  So why worry about what will happen to that future you in five years?  We can’t say continuity, because we lose consciousness every night.  Your affinity with the you of five years ago and the you of five years from now amounts to structural similarities, that is, to information, an affinity you will share with the other selves discussed below.

But the problem with putting too much hope into mind uploading is that the Singularity is far from guaranteed to happen in our lifetime, or at all.  There certainly doesn’t seem, in principle, any reason we might not eventually be able to copy minds, but “eventually” might be centuries from now.

There is speculation that life extension technologies may enable us to live longer, long enough that yet further life extension breakthroughs could extend even longer life, potentially providing a path for some people alive today to make it to the eventual technological afterlife.  While conceivable, this rationale seems aspirational at best.

Could future engineers somehow construct a virtual afterlife and retro-actively upload past minds to it?  A scenario that sometimes come up in science fiction, it takes pretty loose speculation to imagine how minds from the past could be retrieved.  More plausibly, such a simulation might be able to provide historical reconstructions of well known people, but here the argument that it’s not really us seems to carry much more weight.  These reconstructions might resemble the public version of us, but would be missing our deepest private memories and thoughts.

But maybe it’s already happened.  We could already be in a simulation, and the simulation owner might be using our patterns to simulate a wide variety of scenarios.  There may be several versions of us in several variants of the simulation, some of which might live much longer than others.  This isn’t so much an afterlife as a side-life.  Unfortunately there’s no way to know if we’re in a simulation.

Stepping outside of speculative technological solutions, the universe may be infinite.  If so, then every combination of atoms may eventually repeat itself, along with every variation more or less similar to that combination.  There would be an infinite number of regions identical to our observable universe, and an infinite number of them with every possible variation.  Importantly for this discussion, there would be an infinite number of you out there, living every variation of your life.

Along similar lines, if the many-worlds interpretation of quantum physics is true, then there are innumerable versions of you in other branches of the wave function, along with every variation of how your life might go.  In both cases, these would include low probability versions, including profoundly low probability versions, versions that, despite the infinitesimal probability, somehow live until the heat death of the universe.  Indeed, if either of these scenarios are true, then there are versions of the you reading this will discover it to be the case.

Another possibility are Boltzmann brains, brains that in infinite space and time, randomly form spontaneously with a full lifetime of memories, but then quickly dissolve.  You can’t rule out that you’re a Boltzmann brain right now.   But if space is infinite, then there are an infinite number of these brains creating every instance of your life, just scattered non-sequentially, including every variation of that life, along with ones perceiving immortal lives.

It’s important to note that these are extrapolations from scientific theories, and all are controversial.  Putting too much hope in them is risky.  They could be ruled out at any time by new discoveries.

If we broaden our view to metaphysics, then the hope can possibly become a bit more safe, albeit at the cost of never being empirically demonstrable.  Within platonism, all abstract concepts exist.  Which means an abstract concept of the state of a mind exists.  Not only that, but every stage of the mind throughout its timeline in every variation of what could happen to it, exists somewhere in the platonic realm.  That means that all the variations we discussed above exist in platonic space.  The problem with this view is that platonic objects are usually understood to be without spatiotemporal extent and causally inert.  It takes something like Max Tegmark’s mathematical universe hypothesis, a radical form of mathematical platonism, in which every platonic object is reified somewhere, for this hope to kick in.

It’s worth noting that none of these scenarios guarantee a pleasant immortality.  It seems inevitable that some portion of them would be hellish.

If none of them seem plausible to you, or you don’t buy the information argument above, then I’ll mention my own philosophical views, which lean Epicurean.  Death is merely non-consciousness, a state we were born out of, and visit every night.

Derek Parfit reportedly considered that the child we once were died long ago, and the you of this instant won’t exist in a few years, even with continuous evolution into an older person.  To exist is to change, and to change is for the current version to cease to exist.  Eventually these variations can amount to a different person.  Death could be seen as just another change.  The scenarios above seem to exacerbate rather than evade this reality.

Unless of course I’m missing something?

39 thoughts on “Scientific and philosophical possibilities for immortality

  1. Well you have certainly thought through a lot of possibilities. As you rightly say many of these alternatives could just as easily be hell realms as heavens. There is also the awful possibility that we could be continued or resurrected against our will. Which sort of afterlife would we be put into by our resurrectors? Scary thoughts….

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    1. I actually can’t say I’ve thought through these that much. I’m probably missing a lot of other possibilities. But definitely, there are just as many terrifying aspects to these scenarios as hopeful ones. Non-existence may be far preferable than many of them.


  2. I commented earlier that our technological era does not make us smarter, it actually makes us more ignorant. I’m not singling you out personally Mike, but your comment listed below reflects the type of ignorance I’m talking about, ignorance created by our technological culture.

    “There may be several versions of us in several variants of the simulation… Unfortunately there’s no way to know if we’re in a simulation.” (This notion of a computer simulation is a very narrow world view).

    The notion of a simulation is a direct correlation to our prevailing technology. It’s not really correct to state that technology makes us more ignorant, it would be more appropriate to express that technology stifles our ability to think creatively, or more explicitly, the ability to think outside the box of our current paradigm.

    There are other ways and means to address the idea of our universe being a simulation or something similar, other postulates which actually makes more sense and can be empirically verified. And that postulate is this: “Our universe is an expression.” This theory can be empirically verified by science, the very science which underwrites the architecture of expression. That science applies to any expression, regardless of whether that expression leads to the work of art expressed through a painting or the creation of a computer simulation through technological advancements.

    It’s all about the arts my friends, it’s all about the arts. Mankind has been expressing themselves with drawings on the walls of caves long before mankind expressed themselves through technological advancements. It’s all about expressing my friends, it’s expression all the way down, not turtles…


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    1. Lee,
      Thanks for clarifying that it’s not just me you’re considering ignorant. 🙂

      Actually, if you check the post again, you might note that I never used the word “computer”. You just projected that onto the description. Admittedly, this is normally thought of as a computer simulation, and I think it would be at least a computational one, but I was purposely vague about the technology.

      I fear your point about expressions is flying over my head. (I’m on pain meds this weekend, so not everything is clicking well.)

      I wonder if you’re aware of how much science was involved in early Renaissance art. A lot of the progress came from more sophisticated understandings of light, perspective, anatomy, and many other things.


      1. “I fear your point about expressions is flying over my head.”

        Fear not Mike, for the underlying form of expression is a “heady” subject for two fundamental reasons. First, it’s a subject that in our technological paradigm none of us are not familiar with and second, it’s a subject that will fly over the head of anyone on a good day, let alone a bad day. I hope you are feeling better soon.

        “I wonder if you’re aware of how much science was involved in early Renaissance art. A lot of the progress came from more sophisticated understandings of light, perspective, anatomy, and many other things.”

        Absolutely… Art and technology are twin brothers born of the same mother, the mother we refer to as necessity. And that necessity is the need to express. Fundamentally, discrete system are only capable of doing two (2) things; experiencing their own unique structural qualitative properties and second, expressing those same unique structural qualitative properties as they engage in meaning relationships with other discrete systems. It’s expression all the down….

        Maybe someday Philip Goff and Bernardo Kastrup will collaborate and come up with a schema that offers eternal salvation through a revised model of panpsychism. Unfortunately, the RAM architecture offers no such promise for discrete systems. This is in spite of the fact that RAM irrevocably reduces to a pragmatic panpsychism.


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  3. Thought I would give the perspective of a straight up singularitarian. Apparently there are varieties of us, and so I will say at the outset that I am of the variety that thinks “uploading” is pointless and unlikely to happen, except maybe in the far future for some pathologically egocentric persons. I will explain more below, but I wish to address Mike’s topics in order.

    On the “technological explosion”, we’re in the middle of it. The window of expectation, i.e., the window of time in which you can expect to have a reasonable guess as to what future technology and culture might be like is getting smaller. The far side of that window is the horizon, aka the singularity. Strictly speaking we’ll never “get” to the horizon, but I would say we “are” there when the horizon is one or two years out. I’m with Kurzweil putting that point in the mid 2040’s.

    On “superhuman intelligence”, that’s gonna happen. The question is, how super can you get? So Kurzweil predicts we’ll have a machine with human level computational capacity in about 10 (8?) years, and that seems on track as far as I can tell. So the question is, will that give human level intelligence? I’m inclined to think it will, because I see the path ( a global workspace, unitrackers, etc.). If I see it, that means people have already been working on it for a few years. And there are a lot of people working on this stuff.

    On “uploading”, I think that’s a red herring. I agree with those who say an uploaded version of me is not me, and the act of uploading would pretty much just be an act of vanity, like having a full size portrait made of yourself. (There are wealthy people who do this.) And the technology for this will be far in the future, far past what I would call the singularity.

    On “life extension technologies”, I’m disappointed at the short shrift given by Mike. Why “aspirational at best”? This is just an engineering problem, and one that is far more straightforward than uploading. We’re right now working up the technology to put nanobots in the body and do gene repair. Other damage repair should be manageable as well. I’ve said this before, but I still give myself (age 58) about a 50% chance of living indefinitely, barring disaster (including political disaster).

    On “virtual versions”, don’t know, don’t care. It’s not me. If this current life is a virtual one, then that is me and will continue to be me for a while anyway, probly, and so I’ll make the best of it.

    On “infinite space me’s” and “many world me’s”, see “virtual versions” of me. One comment on Boltzmann me’s. I haven’t (because cannot) done the math, but I will wager that the probability of my brain resulting from a Big Bang is much greater than my brain resulting from a Boltzmann scenario. To say this again, I wager that in an infinite universe, the number of Big Bang me’s far outnumber the Boltzmann me’s.


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    1. Thanks for the singularitarian take James.

      I’m not going to quibble about the predictions. We’ve had that discussion before. We’ll see. But I don’t think we’re nearly as far along as you think.

      I’m not as dismissive as you are about uploading. If I had the chance to do it, I would, particularly if there were any way the upload and I could share memories, so that I could remember being the upload. But even if I couldn’t, I’d still have a backup made for when my biological version died. I would consider it me waking up afterward. But that’s definitely a matter of personal philosophy.

      On life extension technologies, I didn’t mean to give it short shrift. Keeping a post like this short enough to be readable means passing through each topic at lightning speed. It may be just an engineering problem, but we haven’t solved even the first one yet. We’ve increased the probability that we’ll live a full lifespan, but no one has yet succeeded in actually increasing that lifespan. I’ll be more optimistic after that first victory. I’m a few years younger than you (53). I hope you can tell me “I told you so” in 50 years!

      Boltzmann brains were originally meant as a counter to Boltzmann’s thermodynamics theories, but given infinite space, I think they’re still considered a possibility, although perhaps the least plausible of the ones listed, since it’s basically rationalized solipsism.

      For that matter, I’m sure there are idealism scenarios I didn’t get into.


  4. You’ve presented quite a minefield for me here Mike. I consider each of these scenarios anywhere from zany (as in Ray Kurzweil’s technology nonsense and Sean Carrol’s multiverses) to metaphysically deluded (as in Max Tegmark’s belief that terms exist beyond human imagination), to supernatural (as in Dan Dennett’s belief that qualia exist beyond material based physics). This “live forever” ploy has been effective at least since Jesus Christ used it to create nothing short of Christianity. Have the preachers of panpsychism not yet found a way to tap into this particular incentive?

    I’ll try to bypass those to get into the continuity issue that you’ve mentioned regarding my own position. This is to say that given naturalism, physics based mechanisms are required in order to create qualia, and so there can be no virtual worlds for us to be uploaded into.

    Every morning when I wake, does a new person emerge? Well yes, but not because sleep divides them. I consider a new self to emerge each instant given new qualia production. Remove the qualia, then “I” no longer exist — that is until produced once again.

    For an evolved conscious entity these selves should effectively be joined through memory of the past, as well as anticipation of the future. This is experimentally visible when people are inflicted with an inability to remember anything. Here they shouldn’t feel connected to who they were. Furthermore perfect apathy should render a person unconcerned about what will come, thus disconnecting a present self with future selves — no hope or worry. Either should make survival difficult for the conscious form of life.

    Beyond virtual worlds there’s a situation that I like to use to demonstrate that even through other bodies equipped with qualia production mechanisms, “I” could never live forever. Let’s say that nothing short of magic were used to create a being who is exactly like me, except with his own body. While you might say that he’s “me”, note that each of us would subsequently feel different things. If one of us were kicked in the shin, the other would not feel that particular input. So clearly whatever technology is used to create something extremely like me, will still not be “me”. (I’m pleased that James seems to understand this.)

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    1. Eric,
      If memory and anticipation unite the moment to moment conscious “I” you discuss, then if a duplicate is made of you, why doesn’t the memory part at least somewhat unite you? If the new memories each copy acquired could be shared with each other, such that they would now anticipate what the other would experience, would that complete the circle?

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      1. You seem to have my perspective nearly right Mike. If he and I had the same memory then we would indeed be united in this regard. Then as for completing the circle, everything that one of us experiences (input, which includes memory), thinks (processes), or does (output), would need to occur in the other as well. Here we’d be one conscious entity with two bodies. Of course more magic would be required for that!

        If while writing this sentence I were to die without realizing my doom, would it matter to me? Nothing actually could matter to me there since I’d instantly be dead. And if my duplicate were to take over and finish this comment, that’s essentially what I’m saying is already happening every instant of my continued life — a new self takes over each moment from the past entity.

        So if you ever do have the opportunity to get copied (which I consider technologically ridiculous in any meaningful capacity) then I hope that you take it. In that case I’d still have your blog in my life. You’d actually be dead while it survives to do the writing, not that either of us would know the difference.

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        1. Eric,
          So, if I’m understanding you correctly, the real issue you have with the other selves described in the post is that you just consider them implausible. (You used the words “zany”, “deluded”, and just now “ridiculous”. ) Given that you have said before that you think it is possible in principle for a machine to produce consciousness, just not current computers (note that I never used the word “computer” in the post), what about that scenario makes it ridiculous? Or do you now see consciousness as something that can only happen in biology?

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          1. Right Mike, I consider them implausible. We’ve discussed multiverses before, and I don’t care how smart or charming Sean Carrol happens to be. I consider him to be using some uncertain physics to sell a ridiculous idea.

            On Kurzweil, maybe 8 years ago a friend handed me one of his books, and it must have been at least two decades old by then. Not only were his near term predictions already off, but what got me was the utter silliness of his way out proposals. Here matter was some kind of magical stuff that we’d be able to do anything with. I recall predictions about how we’ll be harvesting stars and such in order to turn them into our own whatnots. He went “beyond sci-fi”, though futurists seem to only become more famous for saying crazy things without ever being held accountable.

            Things get less silly with Tegmark. I simply consider some people fooled into believing that human terms exist beyond our imaginations.

            Then finally as you know, I consider the mainstream notion that qualia exist as a product of information processing alone, to require a void in causal dynamics. This might be the case, but conflicts with my own causal brand of metaphysics.

            I don’t actually mind saying that a humanly fabricated computer could be sentient / conscious. I even consider the human brain to exist as a non-conscious computer that creates a conscious computer. My point however is simply that we’ll need to have the physics right in order to build the conscious variety. Imagining that information processing alone happens to be sufficient, skips a crucial step as I see it (as illustrated by my “thumb pain” thought experiment).

            How might neuron firing create sentience in a non-supernatural way? The only solution that I can think of which should retain sufficient fidelity, is that sentience must arise by means of certain electromagnetic radiation which results from neuron firing. Thus I believe that we might some day knowingly create the physics which produce sentient entities. And once our mental and behavioral sciences begin hardening up, will we also be able to functionalize such sentience? Will we be able to give the experiencing entity choices about what it wants to do, or essentially provide the agent with agency? I consider this step challenging, though I suppose it’s plausible in some capacity.

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          2. Kurzweil appropriates plausible concepts, or potentially plausible ones, and mixes in neo-religious nonsense. And many of his timelines are hopelessly optimistic. I’m not about to defend them.

            But transhumanism is broader than Kurzeil, and across longer time spans, harder to dismiss, at least logically. (Emotionally, many people have already decided it’s forever impossible, but then people once decided that about many things we take for granted in modern technology.)

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          3. My point on Kurzweil is that here’s a guy who’s popular, even with the position that all the matter on Earth, as well as our solar system (including the sun), and perhaps all the matter in our light cone (unless we can go faster than light, in which case more), is going to be converted into “computer” (or apparently a code word for conscious entity substrate). Hmm…

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          4. I haven’t read Kurzweil so can’t comment on his description of it, except to note again that his reported time spans are silly.

            But the idea of converting large portions of non-stellar matter to computational or cognitive substrate, over long enough time spans (millions or billions of years), isn’t as crazy as it might first sound. Although there are likely thermodynamic and cost-benefit limitations that would prevent all of it from being converted.


  5. I lean towards the conclusion often expressed in SF that immortality ultimately would be boring. There is also the perception that what makes us interesting is the shortness of of lives. We ever hear time’s winged chariot.

    As I’ve said before, mind uploading seems the furthest away to me technologically. It requires a full understanding of consciousness plus the ability to scan a brain and translate that into something that runs on a computer. Uploading is, by far, the most challenging. It wouldn’t surprise me at all that it remains forever beyond reach on a number of technological issues.

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    1. I tend to agree that boredom would be a major issue. Eventually we would have done everything and life would have little to offer. Still, I wouldn’t mind having the option to decide when I’ve reached that point.

      I’m far less pessimistic than you on uploading, but then my view of consciousness is pragmatic and functional. The challenges are difficult enough that I don’t expect to see it in the next 20 years, possibly even in the next century. But ultimately, in my view, it’s an engineering problem involving a physical system, one that I think a civilization that has sufficiently mastered nanotechnology will be able to solve.

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      1. I agree with the potential boredom possibility, but my standard response is ask me how I feel again in 1500 years.

        Something which I haven’t seen addressed in all of the talk about uploading is augmentation. Actual uploading may be centuries away, but brain augmentation may be around the corner. Elon Musk is putting money into it anyway, but regardless, augmenting our own mental abilities may be a thing. And by the time uploading becomes a possibility we might be mostly in the machine already.



        1. Good point about augmentation. It’s one of what I’m sure are a multitude of scenarios I missed.

          Interestingly, this gets into Chalmers’ thought experiment about replacing one neuron at a time and what it says about our intuitions. If we slowly augment ourselves, so that we’re gradually more and more machine, is the result any more us than it would have been if we’d done it in one shot?


          1. To be sure, my point was not so much about replacing neurons as *adding* neurons. Maybe adding neurons hooked up to GPS sensors, or time of day sensors.
            “Hey Mike! How’s your new Apple Headwatch?”
            “So what time is it?”
            “So how do you know?”
            “I don’t know. It just feels like 8:47 …. 8:48 now”

            Maybe hook one up to twitter.


            Liked by 1 person

  6. I suppose that a copy of me is not me.
    So, technically, we die every instant and a new, very similar copy, is created following the laws of physics.
    In this case, immortality means eternal gradual change.

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    1. That’s one way to look at it. But I think a better way is simply to understand the concept of “me”,of the self, is not a precise one. We have a version that works well enough for our current day to day lives, one roughly equivalent to our body as we perceive it over time. But as we broaden our view, that version of the self may be shown to have a more limited domain than many are comfortable with.

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  7. Try this instead. Find a woman who is willing to have a child (or several) with you. Voila, immortality.

    Now you may protest that your memories, attitudes, and physical characteristics are only weakly preserved with this method. True! – but go back and read Parfit’s point. The child I was is only weakly connected to me-now in memory, attitude, and physical characteristics.

    Now let’s pirate Philosopher Eric’s point that selves can be connected by anticipation of the future. Regardless of the nonexistence of uploading and the very slow progress of life extension, there are still plenty of future lives out there. Anticipate them! It’s called “empathy”. Self-concern is only empathy for our future selves. There are some people who have very little empathy for their future selves. It makes their lives very small. There are some people who have lots of empathy for lots of people. It makes their lives bigger. I find that more attractive.

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    1. Good points. But not everyone has, or is able to have children.

      And I think we have to be careful about telling people what they should feel. Some may take satisfaction from living on through others, but for those who don’t, being told they should, can amount to shaming them into silence about their existential anxieties.


    2. I see what you’re saying Paul, though I do push back against the Parfit perspective. My countless individual past selves (and I consider “self” the sentient part of me) are joined through memory. But I don’t have any of my son’s memories, nor he mine. There is some overlap in the sense that we have various shared experiences, but they’re experienced differently in the end. And sure, I have hopes and worries about his future that are not too unlike his, but again, these are from the perspectives of different conscious entities. So I am of Andre’s perspective that self exists under gradual change.

      Then to Mike’s point about non-precise self, I do propose a precise definition which I consider extra useful. Here self exists as the stuff that feels good and bad. Anything that has it, has “self”. Take it away, as in anesthesia or some kind of perfect apathy, and no self will exist. And while some of us do seem far more compassionate than others, I consider this through the theory of mind and care associated with a given conscious entity, not an ability to directly experience what it is like to exist as another conscious entity (as in the observations of Nagel).


    3. While the concept of self/identity is pretty fluid, the main idea in preservation of identity is information. The five year old you shares way (way) more information with 50 year old you than you share with your five year old son. This information is both in genes and in memory, but I think in this discussion people favor memory over genetics. BTW, this memory includes not just potential recollections but also learned skills.



      1. Sure, there’s more lost quantity of information between the generations than within one lifetime. Or at least within one ordinary lifetime – Methuselah length lifetimes could be a different matter. But to my mind the important point is that it’s a matter of degree, and there’s no sharp cutoff. One you’re in for a penny – looking forward to your own future despite losses of memory and changes in character – why not go in for a pound?


  8. Since the body is changing all of the time, there is no possibility that the same “body” could become immortal.

    The question becomes whether there is some essence to the body/brain that is the real “you” that could become immortal. This would be the same as having a “soul”. It would be a “you” whether your body died at 200 years, 20 years, 2 years, or 2 months. This “you” would need to have everything essential about you but would need to be independent of memories and experience The 2 year old “you” could not have the memories or experience of the 20 year old “you”.

    To me, there is no persistent “you” because the “you” changes with time and experience – it is formed from time and memories. So the question of immortality seems meaningless.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Interestingly, there is one thing that does stay mostly consistent throughout our lives: our genetic profile. The individual molecules composing it are constantly replaced, but the information more or less stays the same. And that appears to be what our evolved impulses are centered around. (Dawkin’s selfish gene metaphor.)

      That said, while I agree with your reasoning, it doesn’t banish our evolutionary programming, to continue surviving, but it might make it easier to accept our ultimate inability to fulfill that programming.

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      1. I don’t know whether you saw this paper but our DNA might be a lesser part of what makes you “you” than it used to be thought.

        “In evolution, Dr. Jose’s framework suggests that organisms could evolve through changes in the arrangement of molecules without changes in their DNA sequence.

        And in conservation science, this work suggests that attempts to preserve endangered species through DNA banks alone are missing critical information stored in non-DNA molecules”.

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        1. I hadn’t seen that article. Thanks. But I’ve learned to be leery of these kinds of claims until at least some substantial portion of the relevant profession is convinced. Claims for non-DNA heritability seem to be much more prevalent than evidence for it.


  9. I see life and the self as being a perspective rather than a thing. I am who I am because I have a first-person perspective (1PP). If you upload an identical copy of my brain and the information contained therein then this copy is not me because it does not have the 1PP. Consciousness (and the mind) are 1PP (subjective) perspectives rather than physical arrangements of neurons.

    You say we visit non-consciousness every night and will do at death. But that is to project a third-person perspective (3PP) onto my 1PP. Only I can ‘visit’ non-consciousness and ‘experience’ death through 1PP. To say that consciousness switches on and off is to project a 3PP onto minds, onto my 1PP, which I don’t think is possible.
    All good things, Mike.

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    1. Dr. Michael,
      If you mean that the uploaded version wouldn’t have the same 1PP, I can see that stance. Although it’s worth noting that the you of today doesn’t have the same 1PP as the you as a child or the you ten years from now.

      But if you mean that the uploaded version wouldn’t have a 1PP at all, I’d ask what crucial functionality would be missing?

      On non-consciousness and death, if we take the strictly 1PP view, then certainly we never experience the lack of 1PP. I had oral surgery Friday and was put under anesthesia, so I had a break in my 1PP. But I didn’t experience it as a break. One moment they were prepping me, the next they were wrapping things up for me to leave. I never experience non-consciousness, only the change in circumstances that allow me to infer it happened. So from a 1PP, I will never experience death. (I might experience the process of dying, but not death itself.)

      Best to you too!


    1. Thanks. I don’t know enough about the science in this area, or Mitteldorf, to assess. I do remember reading something recently about how transfusing young blood into old organisms makes a difference, but not sure how far the science is reached yet on it.


  10. Ah man I’m trying to get a whole novel published about this and I can’t find a publisher willing to do so. I wish the English-lit MFA’s safeguarding this publishing world would read blogs like yours more often! Sounds like I’m with James in focusing on the effective ending of aging as the first hope for us / me. I have a free preview of the prologue of the novel up on my website:

    The Yale philosopher and literary critic Martin Hagglund has written a book that argues (among other things) that the religious view of an immortal life is actually one that we wouldn’t want. His book is called This Life: How Mortality Makes Us Free. (That’s the UK version. The US version is subtitled Secular Faith and Spiritual Freedom.) I wrote a review of his book that will come out with the paperback version in a few months in which I argued that mortality isn’t what sets us free, it’s living *indefinitely* that gives us some hope to find meaning in life. I met Hagglund at a local event and he basically agreed with me that living 10,000+ years etc. is fine. He basically just defined mortality as the *possibility* of death rather than the certainty of death. For a glowing review of his book by another transhumanist-leaning philosopher (and long-distance friend), see this post from John Messerly at Reason and Meaning:

    Liked by 2 people

    1. When it comes to fiction, I’d consider just going indie, self publishing. The stigma of self publishing is gone, and people are pretty willing to give indie fiction a try, since all they’re looking for is entertainment. (Non-fiction is a different story. There are some self published non-fiction successes. I know I’ve bought my share. But it’s a tougher sell, particularly if you’re selling anything controversial.)

      I’m agree that the religious ideas of the afterlife are not appealing. In truth, just about anyone else’s idea of the afterlife don’t appeal to me. I want to go on living the life I want to live, not sing in a heavenly choir, work in Osiris’ gardens, or exist in any of Egan’s mathematical playgrounds.

      And the idea that mortality sets us free, or makes us great, or whatever, all strike me as furious rationalizing why our current reality is okay. But I’d be fine living my life as long as I wanted. But definitely, the ability to decide when I’ve had enough seems crucial. I’m reminded of this recent Existential Comic:


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