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Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Can-Do Robot Cultist Max More "Chooses" Immortality, Remains Mortal Anyway

Apparently Ayn Raelian "Extropian" transhumanoid Max More ("Max More," Very Serious!) was offended when Adam Smith concluded his recent New Humanist synopsis of some of the chief sects of the Robot Cult with the quotation of a statement of mine deriding Natasha Vita-More (she's an artist!) thusly, "I hate to break it to Natasha Vita-More. It doesn’t matter how enthusiastic she is about it, she’s going to die."

In reaction, Max More sputtered: "I hate to break it to Dale Carrico, but HE is going to die. And it will be his choice. Those of us who have gone to the effort of making arrangements for cryopreservation (and who take additional measures) have some significant chance of returning from today's criterion of death." Get that? Everybody dies only because they "choose" to die, because they lack Max More's "can do" gumption to "choose immortality"! Mm hm.

Max More is, of course, completely deluded when he speaks of his "significant chance" of "returning" from the grave because of what he imagines to be the, er, Very Serious Very Sciency "measures" he has "taken" that skeptics, you know, basically sane people like me don't sign onto. Just to be clear here, what More is professing as a matter of faith is that when he dies -- and he will, as will every Robot Cultist, as will everybody else, as so will I (which isn't exactly news to me, or particularly upsetting to me as news goes, and certainly isn't something a death denialist of all people is needed to "break it" to me) -- again, when he dies More intends to have his head chopped off and plopped into a mist-shrouded dewar for hamburgerization the better to be rebuilt in "The Future" by swarms of nanobotic genies-in-a-bottle and thereupon scooped into a shiny imperishable robot body or "scanned" and somehow "therefore" "migrated" into an angelic eternal "info-self" in cyberspatial heaven all under the loving ministrations of a sooper-intelligent sooper-parental history-ending Robot God. That is to say, Max More believes, or is willing to pretend to believe for cash, like any fulminating fundamentalist, that he won't really be dead when he dies, all appearances to the contrary notwithstanding. And in so saying Max More is being palpably, laughably idiotic, repeatedly and in public, is indulging in a perfectly ridiculous pseudo-scientific fraud, and is possibly engaged in some sort of elaborate cry for help.

Max More is an adherent (hell, the adherent, Founder and High Priest) of the specifically "Extropian" sect of the Robot Cult, and so is a denialist both about death and about taxes, that is to say is both a market-fundamentalist and techno-transcendendalist, that is to say More advocates eating civilization and having it too but also preaches that if only we clap louder "technology" will gratify every infantile wish-fulfillment fantasy we have for free. As I said, Very Serious!

Of course, all the Robot Cultists believe this sort of flabbergasting nonsense, and it attests to the lack of standards in a society in which deceptive promotional norms, hyperbolic marketing forms, scientistic reductionism coupled with New Age narcissism and consumer techno-fetishism so utterly prevail that techno-transcendentalizing guru-wannabes like Max More and Ray Kurzweil can say this sort of thing and then get paid cushy salaries as "futurological experts" and "corporate consultants" rather than being meritocratically trundled off to sponge urinals or gather up roadside rubbish with sharpened sticks (then again maybe that's not such a good idea either). So, too, most of the Robot Cultists can be expected in conversation with critics of stunning rhetorical masterstrokes like More's "I know you are but what am I?" gambit. Nevertheless, I do think it is important to draw my readers' attention to the fact that this is one the most respected and influential intellectuals (as it were) of the transhumanist "movement," founder and prominent member of any number of transhumanoid organizations. The Robot Cult, ladies and gentlemen.

15 comments:

jimf said...

> [I]t attests to the lack of standards in a society in which
> deceptive promotional norms, hyperbolic marketing forms,
> scientistic reductionism coupled with New Age narcissism and
> consumer techno-fetishism so utterly prevail that
> techno-transcendentalizing guru-wannabes. . .
> can say this sort of thing and then get paid cushy salaries as
> ". . . experts" and "corporate consultants". . .

Deepak Chopra anyone? Tony Robbins? Andrew Cohen? Keith Raniere?
Werner Erhard? Ayn Rand? L. Ron Hubbard?

We live in a country that idolizes salesmen. Especially
real-estate salesmen.

Speaking of Sinclair Lewis, maybe you should just pop in a
DVD of _Elmer Gantry_ and relax!

"Love is the morning and the evening star!"

Dale Carrico said...

Deepak Chopra anyone? Tony Robbins? Andrew Cohen? Keith Raniere?
Werner Erhard? Ayn Rand? L. Ron Hubbard?


I'll say!

jimf said...

> [W]hen he dies he intends to have his head chopped off and
> plopped into a mist-shrouded dewar for hamburgerization the better
> to be rebuilt in "The Future" by swarms of nanobotic
> genies-in-a-bottle and thereupon scooped into a shiny imperishable
> robot body or "scanned" and somehow "therefore" "migrated"
> into an angelic eternal "info-self" in cyberspatial heaven. . .

The head in the Dewar is so. . . unstylish! This scene would be
**much** more suitable for Natasha (I'd love to see her paint
it!):

------------
For ten millennia the Sea of Vergil had served as a burial ground,
and the 1,500 square miles of restless sand were estimated to contain
over twenty thousand tombs. All but a minute fraction had been
stripped by the successive generations of tomb-robbers, and an intact
spool of the 17th Dynasty could now be sold to the Psycho-History
Museum at Tycho for over 3,000 dollars. For each preceding dynasty,
though none older than the 12th had ever been found, there was
a bonus.

There were no corpses in the time-tombs, no dusty skeletons. The
cyber-architectonic ghosts which haunted them were embalmed in the
metallic codes of memory tapes, three-dimensional molecular
transcriptions of their living originals, stored among the dunes
as a stupendous act of faith, in the hope that one day the physical
re-creation of the coded personalities would be possible.
After five thousand years the attempt had been reluctantly
abandoned, but out of respect for the tomb-builders their
pavilions were left to take their own hazard with time in
the Sea of Vergil. . .

The furnishings of the tomb differed from the previous one's.
Somber black marble covered the walls, inscribed with strange
gold-leaf heiroglyphs, and the inlays in the floor represented
stylized astrological symbols, at once eerie and obscure.
Shepley leaned against the altar, watching the cone of light
reach out towards him from the chancel as the curtains
parted. The predominant colors were gold and carmine, mingled
with a vivid powdery copper that gradually resolved itself
into the huge, harp-like headdress of a reclining woman.
She lay in the center of what seemed to be a sphere of softly
luminous gas, inclined against a massive black catafalque,
from the sides of which flared two enormous heraldic wings.
The woman's copper hair was swept straight back off her
forehead, some five or six feet long, and merged with the
plumage of the wings, giving her an impression of
tremendous contained speed, like a goddess arrested in a
moment of flight in a cornice of some great temple-city
of the dead.

Her eyes stared forward expressionlessly at Shepley. Her
arms and shoulders were bare, and the white skin, like
compacted snow, had a brilliant surface sheen, the reflected
light glaring against the black base of the catafalque
and the long sheathlike gown that swept around her hips
to the floor. Her face, like an exquisite porcelain mask,
was tilted upward slightly, the hooded, half-closed eyes
suggesting that the woman was asleep or dreaming. No
background had been provided for the image, but the bowl
of luminescence invested the whole persona with immense
power and mystery. . .

-- J. G. Ballard, "The Time-Tombs"
(1963)

Max More said...

Predictably you throw around "faith" and other lying terms, rather than attempting to address the actual evidence that cryonics has a reasonable chance of working and that you are not dead in any final sense at the point of "clinical death" -- as I argued in a chapter of my doctoral dissertation. I know my comment is a waste of time and that you are only preaching to your "minions".

Dale Carrico said...

Predictably you throw around "faith" and other lying terms... you are only preaching to your "minions".

Once again, I notice, you make recourse to the old standby, "I know you are but what am I," and in the space of a single paragraph! Most impressive, if also rather embarrassing.

Although you are eager to assume the high ground of "reasonableness" and "respect for evidence" here, actually reasonable people who respect evidence know well that it is the one who makes the extraordinary claim who has the responsibility to provide the extraordinary support.

The marginality of the claims of cryonics charlatans from consensus science is abundantly clear from the publication record (outside the noisy circle-jerk of True Believers whomping up glossy brochures for the rubes, natch), not to mention from a glance at the proportion of actual scientists in relevant fields who have signed up for your techno-transcendental resurrection scheme.

I seem to recall that your dissertation was not written for a biology department -- any more than mine was, but then I don't pretend to speak as a scientific expert now, do I?

Look, believe whatever you need to about your scary mortality if it gets you through the night, but don't expect me to condone the pretense that your faith is scientific, a proper basis for policy or practical conduct, or more "reasonable" than any other faith-based utterance one hears in the public square. I'm an atheist myself, but I don't much care about the private perfections others pursue so long as they don't misapply their beliefs in scientific or political domains to the cost of good sense more generally, which is the mistake you are making -- and making for a living, I'm afraid, which is pretty bad I must say.

Good luck to you.

Eudoxia said...

> And it will be his choice. Those of us who have gone to the effort of making arrangements for cryopreservation (and who take additional measures) have some significant chance of returning from today's criterion of death.

Oh, I'm sure cryonics might have a reasonable chance of working, if it was done scientifically and under a proper medical setting.

But in this day and age, signing up for cryopreservation is, to me, just paying a huge chunk of cash to have a bunch of Internet libertarians play doctor on you. As I told LessWrong the other day:

http://lesswrong.com/r/discussion/lw/e97/stupid_questions_open_thread_round_4/7abo

Dale Carrico said...

cryonics might have a reasonable chance of working, if it was done scientifically

Don't be an oxymoron!

Eudoxia said...

I know, I know, I try to think of it as the logical endpoint of clinical hypothermia, but CI's case reports keep getting in the way and destroying my fantasy :<

Dale Carrico said...

Nothing wrong with fantasy -- so long as it doesn't peddle itself as consensus science or fact-based policy analysis or serious philosophy or stakeholder politics and so on.

Max More said...

We have provided evidence for the reasonableness of cryonics (and always acknowledge the considerable uncertainties). You will find much of it here:
http://www.alcor.org/Library/index.html#scientific

Neuroscientist Sebastian Seung thinks cryonics worth testing for its ability to preserve the connectome. He discussed this in the last chapter of his recent book, and will engage in dialogue at the Alcor-40 conference in October. There are published papers, and we have several lines of evidence that cryonics through vitrification, under reasonably good conditions, is probably preserving identity-critical information.

It’s irrelevant that my dissertation was not written for a biology department. I was responding to your ignorant view of death being absolute and simple. It’s convenient for you to position all cryonicists as scared of our mortality, but that doesn’t make it true. I’m not scared of dying. I am scared of the dying process if it involves intense, prolonged pain or cognitive decline. But being dead is like nothing at all. I want to avoid death not because it terrifies me, but because I like living and want to do more of it.

It’s a cheap shot to say “the mistake you are making -- and making for a living, I'm afraid, which is pretty bad I must say”. I have supported cryonics for well over 25 years. I’ve been paid for working in cryonics for 1.5 years.

Dale Carrico said...

I said to you that extraordinary claims require extraordinary support and then you refer me to Alcor promotional materials, apparently forgetting that I have pre-emptively repudiated the usual Robot Cultic diversion of attention from the marginality of their assumptions and aspirations onto what I called "the noisy circle-jerk of True Believers whomping up glossy brochures for the rubes."

I cheerfully agree that, say, organ cryopreservation to facilitate transplantation, exploring methods of organismic suspension (including medically induced therapeutic comas), and so on are worthy of medical research dollars. One doesn't need to start handwaving about magical drextechian nanobots or cyberspatial soul-migration or any of that nonsense to grasp that sort of thing.

My utter rejection of such foolishness certainly provides no justification for you to declare my "view of death" to be an ignorant or simplistic one. Even on terms that would interest you, I have long maintained that medical techniques and monitoring devices have befuddled long orthodox conceptions of the beginning and end of life, properly so-called. To be honest, I think transhumanists share with anti-abortionists an opportunistic recourse to such befuddlement to flog their (different) marginal and counter-intuitive aspirations (as when anti-abortionists exploit sonogram imagery to render more apparently plausible pseudo-scientific "partial birth abortion" or when techno-immortalists exploit revival from once-fatal heart attacks to render more apparently plausible pseudo-scientific "uploading"). Nobody who declares my recognition of human mortality an error or a matter of choice has any business deriding my view of death as "ignorant."

You say you are not scared of dying and I truly hope that is true, since I have known too many people who are obsessed with techno-immortalism who not only never manage to overcome their mortality but manage to become a little less alive in life for their fear of dying. Like many others, I do share your distaste for disease and decline. Of course, one doesn't have to join a Robot Cult to see the good sense of defending, you know, medical science or access to healthcare... which is why so many more people defend healthcare than belong to your Robot Cult no doubt. But I definitely disapprove of the ways in which techno-transcendentalizing frames derange our sense of what legitimate medical research actually consists and displaces at least some dollars onto snake-oil scams that might have gone instead into actual medical research and the support of more sensible healthcare policy.

It’s a cheap shot to say “the mistake you are making -- and making for a living, I'm afraid, which is pretty bad I must say”. I have supported cryonics for well over 25 years. I’ve been paid for working in cryonics for 1.5 years.

Everything you are and everything you have as a public figure is connected to your flogging of techno-transcendental wish-fulfillment fantasies like cryonics, nano-santa, GOFAI, and so on as a so-called transhumanoid eminence of twenty-years' standing (I think that's about when I became aware of you at any rate). I don't know to what you refer when you say you have been "working in cryonics for 1.5 years" presumably in some more official capacity as a bottle washer or whatever, I don't exactly breathlessly follow the vicissitudes of your career as a futurological flim-flam artist on a blow by blow basis, but I do know you've long flogged this crapola in something like a professional capacity. No doubt you'll still think that is a cheap shot -- more than one I daresay -- but it isn't quite the one you seem to think I'm making.

Lou Less said...

Listen, Carrico, it's Deathists like you that keep us visionaries down and deny us immortality! You Deathist scum harm humanity more than the Jews do by causing economic meltdowns through stashing away all the money in their Jew Caves!

I REJECT YOUR REALITY AND SUBSTITUTE MY OWN

jimf said...

> . . .causing economic meltdowns through stashing away
> all the money in their Jew Caves!

I thought Mitt Romney was a Mormon!

> I REJECT YOUR REALITY AND SUBSTITUTE MY OWN

Tone 40, my boy, Tone 40. Have you mastered the
art of levitating ashtrays yet?

jimf said...

> Deathists like you that keep us visionaries down and deny us immortality!
> . . .
> I REJECT YOUR REALITY

"All religions. . . stem from our narcissistic wish to believe
that the universe was created for our benefit, as a stage for our
spiritual quests. In contrast, science tells us that we are
incidental, accidental. Far from being the raison d'être of the
universe, we appeared through sheer happenstance, and we could
vanish in the same way. This is not a comforting viewpoint,
but science, unlike religion, seeks truth regardless of how it
makes us feel. . ."

-- John Horgan
(quoted at
http://thelifeofmanquamanonearth.blogspot.com/2010/06/
john-horgan-says-something-rational.html )

Robert Gross said...

[i]Predictably you throw around "faith" and other lying terms, rather than attempting to address the actual evidence that cryonics has a reasonable chance of working and that you are not dead in any final sense at the point of "clinical death" -- as I argued in a chapter of my doctoral dissertation. I know my comment is a waste of time and that you are only preaching to your "minions".[/i]

Cryonics has a reasonable chance of working? Where's the evidence? Wouldn't it be more of a slam dunk to actually, I don't know, [i]post the evidence[/i] that something has a reasonable chance of working rather than merely [i]assert[/i] that it does? You know, just for $hits and giggles, maybe I *will* look up your doctoral dissertation on proquest or some other service that is available to, you know, actual academics who are in fact able to check up on these things. Because I get the sneaking suspicion you throw around that term "doctoral dissertation" in order add that extra patina of legitimacy to the claim while in the meantime counting on exactly no one actually taking the time to look at it.

By the way, you can check out my doctoral dissertation too. It's a lovely setting of some scenes from [i]Hamlet[/i] to music, in an eclectic mixing and matching of tonal and post-tonal styles. For reals.