I’m reading Mortals at the moment, and thinking through the puzzles of death. I don’t know what to think about the Terror Management Theory stuff- largely because I feel so burnt by the replication crisis in psychology- but the cultural, ethical and philosophical problems are fascinating. Some points for discussion:
Oh, that replication crisis was never resolved? I think I remember reading about hat for something like a decade now. So much for soft science lol
1. I think I would rather not die. Since the effort of naval gazing is typically so unrewarding, I'd rather imagine what it would be like to lose one's humanity in that way so many fiction immortal characters do. Wouldn't it be so tacky to go full Bender and have some giant "Remember Me" tombstone commemorating your love for pogs and the Simpsons or whatever your temporal interest is? How about real change affected on a speck of dust suspended in a sunbeam?
2. The AI has better things to do because it's not what you describe it. If an AI floating in deep space contained some enormous number of simulated entities, it would be a single creature trying to figure out how to survive the heat death of the universe. I hope whoever reads this doesn't see my response as intellectually dishonest, it's not, the question isn't answerable in the framework provided.
3. Fear is relative. The aforementioned immortal would have that same experience of disconnection from all the experience of reward that life creates anyways. When you live forever, you stop being human, as evidenced by the current political climate created by boomers. That Alan Watts bit about being able to dream any dream, to have any experience you chose, that would be appropriate here. using fear of loss as a metric to gauge desire would leave a person chasing their tail. Try necessity.
4. Gee I think I fear loss of agency in a continued existence more than simply violating social strictures. Wouldn't it be horrible to exist as a conscious observer in a forever drama, born from it but now isolated eternally? The experience of survival would be pretty important here, the imagination of death as just "death" as opposed to the continued experience of refusal of social contact is pretty thematic here. "There are levels of survival we are willing to accept" - Elrond Half-elven.
Don't go to jail dude, even for a weekend. You'd really hate it.
5. There you go presupposing actual existence again. Spillover taking on a life of its own would either be insignificant or assume that information has a life of its own. If that was the case, exorcism would have a more useful role in society. Spoopy ghosts!
6. See 5. If I could survive forever as a human in youthful body by eating babies and stomping on puppies, I would. This is a very good argument against capitalism.
7. Ohhh, ok I see where you were going here now. Maybe I should have taken the questions as a whole instead of- haha got me again. Yes, humans being isolated makes it easy to dehumanize other humans. I consider myself "species fluid" like some sort of animal that ponders larger topics of alienation and oh, god damn it I'm not a very self aware reader am I?
8. This would be Buddhism.
9. I think the idea of a badly mauled human being still capable of movement and guttural speech would work better than a disembodied wraith fearing some kind of tempest. Definitely your buddy living through an explosion that should have killed him, reaching for you and sputtering a wet, completely detached request fo help would be much more entertain.
Thankfully I've received Christ in my heart and will be one of the 100k to be raptured into heaven, so death is just the beginning for me. Lucky I was here to witness the death and rebirth of our one true savior to you, you might have become some useless liberal arts major. Now you can go get a real job and fix these damn potholes in my street so I can pay my cable bill in person with a paper check I fill out when I get to the store.
Phil Ochs “When I’m Gone”
There's no place in this world where I'll belong when I'm gone
And I won't know the right from the wrong when I'm gone
And you won't find me singin' on this song when I'm gone
So I guess I'll have to do it while I'm here
And I won't feel the flowing of the time when I'm gone
All the pleasures of love will not be mine when I'm gone
My pen won't pour a lyric line when I'm gone
And I won't breathe the bracing air
when I'm gone
And I can't even worry 'bout my cares when I'm gone
Won't be asked to do my share when I'm gone
And I won't be running from the rain when I'm gone
And I can't even suffer from the pain when I'm gone
Can't say who's to praise and who's to blame when I'm gone
Won't see the golden of the sun when I'm gone
And the evenings and the mornings will be one when I'm gone
Can't be singin' louder than the guns
while I'm gone
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WHERE SHE GOES
All my days won't be dances of delight when I'm gone
And the sands will be shifting from my sight when I'm gone
Can't add my name into the fight while I'm gone
And I won't be laughin' at the lies when I'm gone
And I can't question how or when or why when I'm gone
Can't live proud enough to die when I'm gone
So I guess I'll have to do it
I guess I'll have to do it
Guess I'll have to do it
While I'm here
1. I'd rather be fondly remembered, yes, all altruism aside. Perhaps even moreso, I would hope for the things I care about to be remembered.
2. I agree with the other commenter that I would be creeped out by the situation in the first place. Probably I would tell them, but set it up so that the minds can choose to make themselves forget again if they want?
3. I fear it as pure unbeing primarily (oblivion fills me with dread whether it concerns me, others, or indeed non-sentient objects: I hate the thought of lost media, of any beautiful thing that is destroyed and unremembered. My Heaven would include some infinite, constantly-updated simulated museum of every object and every landscape that ever was.), but *also* as the loss of potentially-infinite opportunities.
4. Hard to say. I don't think I'd meaningfully be *me*.
5. It doesn't make me less afraid of death, no. I know what subjectively existing is, and I fear to lose *that*; tell me I'm made of neurons, or atoms, or cluster, or immortal soulstuff, it won't change my mind about the basic fact that whatever-this-thing-is-that-I'm-right-now, I want to keep it.
6. I do try to make art that will be remembered (see Question 1). However, though I do want that memory of me to live on, I view this as a pale shadow of anything that could reasonably be termed "immortality", so I'm not sure I agree with the decision of titling this "striving for immortality"; what I do that would fit this title better is things like exercise, keep a precise diet, etc. for lifespan benefits. I would still have enjoyed the chase of making art even if the art was lost (though I'd be terribly sad); not so much the health stuff if I found out it was useless and I'd have lived just as long either way.
7. Not very much. I think a majority of people are very good at not thinking about their own mortality in terms of what impacts their everyday actions.
8. Not really; but then I can't especially imagine serving a religion anyway. (I *would*, reluctantly, if I had 100% knowledge that I needed to bend the knee in such-and-such ways to get into the afterlife; but I find a God who saves everyone indiscriminately more likely on the whole than any one religion's proposals for the how-to-get-into-Heaven cheat-book.)
9. I feel like the question is its own answer? They're allegories for death who happen, if you think about it for a minute, to actually deny the existence of "death" as we actually know and fear it (oblivion). It's not especially mysterious.
1.: I hope that out of altruism I would go for the former but I would get much more satisfaction out of the latter.
2.: The premise heavily preloads this question, unfortunately: the existence of the AI-governed simulation-server already presumes that certain decisions have been made in the knowledge/happiness trade-off. Presumably, the beings simulated on the server are unaware they are in a simulation? They are kept in the dark about the existence of death and about the real nature of the universe etc. So as the AI my programming would almost certainly mandate that I do not tell them about their impending doom. If I (my current self) were magically swapped in for the AI in this situation I don't know what I would do as I am uncertain about the value of the situation to begin with. In general, I strongly lean towards knowledge over bliss, so my intution is that the whole premise is deeply unethical.
3.: While I fear the loss of opportunities as the result of my own sins of omission, i.e. not fulfilling my potential, I do not fear the loss of opportunities as a result of death as it would not be my fault (unless I caused my death voluntarily or negligently. What I fear about death is the loss of the things which I already have, such as the relationships with my loved ones and the grief and suffering it would cause to those who love me or depend on me.
4.: As someone who is relatively unafraid of death, I wonder if I had greater (intrinsical? extrinsical?) motivation if my fear of death were more pronounced.
5. Not less afraid of death per se but less afraid of not adequately communicating my mental states to the world.
6. No, not per se, I strive towards giving it my best shot to make a valuable contribution. So I would have no regrets if I gave it my best shot and nothing particularly memorable came of it (this may at first sight appear to contradict question 1, but I think it does not).
7. Non-American here: in my political context a perhaps surprising amount of long-term activists (particularly climae) are older people. Maybe because people here have less children than in the US?
8. My understanding is that the religions of the ancient Greeks/Romans did not really prioritise the afterlife? I.e. the idea was not completely absent but it did not really play a big role. So I imagine similarly to those religions, it would be a lot about pleasing (the) God(s) in exchange for good life outcomes.
9. I don't know, I don't get that part of ghost stories. I find them scary just in the ways I find other monsters scary. In addition, the variant that can turn you into a ghost as well is scary because becoming/being a ghost is usually depicted as a tragic, purgatorial fate.