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Transhumanist Children's Book Argues, "Death Is Wrong" 334

Posted by samzenpus
from the do-you-want-to-live-forever? dept.
destinyland writes "Hoping to inspire life-extending medical research, science fiction author Gennady Stolyarov has launched a campaign to give away 1,000 free copies of his transhumanist picture book for children, Death is Wrong. 'My greatest fear about the future is not of technology running out of control or posing existential risks to humankind,' he explains. 'Rather, my greatest fear is that, in the year 2045, I will be...wondering, "What happened to that Singularity we were promised by now...?"' Along with recent scientific discoveries, the book tells its young readers about long-lived plants and animals '"that point the way toward lengthening lifespans in humans,' in an attempt to avoid a future where children 'would pay no more attention to technological progress and life-extension possibilities than their predecessors did.'"
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Transhumanist Children's Book Argues, "Death Is Wrong"

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  • Huh? (Score:2, Insightful)

    This is here .... why?

    • Re:Huh? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Jhon (241832) on Sunday March 16, 2014 @01:02PM (#46499055) Homepage Journal

      Why is this here? Because it's arguing about extending human life.

      To say "death is wrong" is like saying "fly death is wrong" or "spider death is wrong". It isn't wrong. It's built in to the system.

      "And in spite of pride and erring reason spite, one truth stands clear -- what ever is, is right" (A. Pope -- An essay on man -- not sure if I have the quote exact, but it's pretty close).

      I'm all for advances in science improving the QUALITY of life and allowing us to live as long as we naturally can -- but to live forever? Even beyond whatever is currently our max (maybe 120 or 130 years)? It poses ethical questions itself -- not the opposite that it's WRONG to not live forever.

      • Re:Huh? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 16, 2014 @01:08PM (#46499115)

        To say "death is wrong" is like saying "fly death is wrong" or "spider death is wrong". It isn't wrong. It's built in to the system.

        Naturalistic fallacy.

        • Re:Huh? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Oligonicella (659917) on Sunday March 16, 2014 @04:22PM (#46500435)
          The original statement was "death is wrong". That's a moral judgement imposed on a natural system. His correcting it by pointing out it's built in and so isn't a breakdown of the system (the only real possible application of the word 'wrong' to life in general) isn't at all an argument, just a rejection of the original flawed reasoning. And, to get pedantic, since the system being debated is nature itself, there's nothing wrong with using nature as it works to support your rejection.
        • by sg_oneill (159032)

          No its not. A naturalistic fallacy is where someone justifies a moral stance by a physical condition. It is essentially a round-about variation of the is/ought problem.

          However, death has no real moral status, because we have no say over the matter. To say death is immoral presupposes that there is an alternative to death which IS moral, and for which we might chose.

          But there isn't. Death isn't a moral choice, its simply something that exists, and we're all going to get knived by it some day.

          Death *sucks*,

      • by TheLink (130905)

        "Death is wrong" is still stupid though. This is a nongeek/nerd article. Because any geek who knows his/her science knows what forever means AND thus logically won't want to live forever AND thus at a certain point Death is Right.

        0) I doubt people are psychologically able and stable enough to _enjoy_ a mere billion years of existence. A thousand years, ten thousand years, maybe. But a billion? Now guess how long is forever. So many can barely tolerate a single day of no Internet access ;).
        1) How many stars

        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by PopeRatzo (965947)

          This is a nongeek/nerd article.

          Well, it is a little bit. Transhumanism is an artifact of the techie community. It's the geek version of religious extremism.

          Further, transhumanism is strictly a fantasy of the 0.1%, who have now allowed their self-regard to reach a point where there is significant danger of creating a breakaway culture in which access to life-extending and death-defying technologies is strictly apportioned to a very tiny fraction of population, not incidentally, the very same people who ben

          • danger of creating a breakaway culture in which access to life-extending and death-defying technologies is strictly apportioned to a very tiny fraction of population, not incidentally, the very same people who benefit from the suffering of others.

            As opposed to the "non-breakaway" US culture, where a small portion of very rich people - coincidentally "the very same people who benefit from the suffering of others" - can afford medical procedures that the rest of the population can't?

            I really don't think anyone should welcome our transhumanist overlords. And any geek here who thinks they're going to be included in this immortalist revolution is delusional.

            You make it sound as if every transhumanist wished for immortality. I have strong transhumanist inclinations but I believe that immortality is a logical contradiction. How does that compute to you?

            • by PopeRatzo (965947)

              As opposed to the "non-breakaway" US culture, where a small portion of very rich people - coincidentally "the very same people who benefit from the suffering of others" - can afford medical procedures that the rest of the population can't?

              You're arguing for my position. Yes, of course they are one in the same.

              You make it sound as if every transhumanist wished for immortality. I have strong transhumanist inclinations but I believe that immortality is a logical contradiction. How does that compute to you?

              It

          • by Sperbels (1008585)
            Should I be more afraid of the .1% who seek immortality for themselves, or the self-righteous "geeks" who seem to want to impose nature's normal expiration date me.
        • 0) I doubt people are psychologically able and stable enough to _enjoy_ a mere billion years of existence. A thousand years, ten thousand years, maybe. But a billion? Now guess how long is forever.

          I doubt that there is an actual possibility for any entity to live for a billion years and still to be able to consider itself "itself". Unless you have the huge storage to keep the whole personality and all the memories mostly intact, if you picked two random points in the time line, the "same" entity in those two points would most likely be two completely different ones, making the continuity sort of a moot point.

          Also, you've just mentioned the reason why heaven in many religions is not far removed from h

        • I have never read more people's thoughts on the hopes that immortality through uplifting one's conscious or 'sour' or 'mind' or such into a computer as I have in the tech community. No greater percentage of any cross section I've ever been exposed to actually believed it was imminently possible and doable and were simultaneously ignorant of basic biology. I've even argued with them right here. Even religious people put up a big caveat of "Well, you're dead" first to excuse it. The first believe it with
      • by tlambert (566799)

        It isn't wrong. It's built in to the system.

        And that is wrong.

        • by Immerman (2627577)

          The system can't exist without it. Without the old dying to make room for the new evolution becomes impossible and we'd all still be single-celled organisms feeding on complex chemicals from volcanic vents. Or are you proposing that we've reached the pinnacle of evolution, or should take complete intentional control of our own development and population reduction from here forth? Because the first is a ridiculous claim, and the second has invariably been used as an excuse for atrocities against the human

          • by arth1 (260657)

            Indeed, and saying "Death is wrong" is in my view just another form of religion, most of which are based on the fear of death. It may be a good survival trait to have fear of death, but it leads to things like religions, including this new technological one, and prolonging life beyond when it serves an evolutionary incentive.

            Death is just the end part of life. Avoid it if you still intend to reproduce or care for young, and otherwise, it's just death. Nothing mystical or something you can or should beat.

            • Re:Huh? (Score:5, Insightful)

              by tlambert (566799) on Sunday March 16, 2014 @03:04PM (#46499951)

              It may be a good survival trait to have fear of death, but it leads to things like religions, including this new technological one, and prolonging life beyond when it serves an evolutionary incentive.

              We should probably take away the insulin from the diabetics and the classes and contacts from people who are near-sighted, and undo any laser surgeries we've done on peoples eyes.

              You know, to serve as an evolutionary incentive.

              In case you were wondering, evolution is not "survival of the fittest", it's "survival of those who successfully reproduce most", or we would have weeded things like near-sightedness out of the genome a long time ago, along with all other recessive traits.

              • by arth1 (260657)

                We should probably take away the insulin from the diabetics and the classes and contacts from people who are near-sighted, and undo any laser surgeries we've done on peoples eyes.

                You know, to serve as an evolutionary incentive.

                In case you were wondering, evolution is not "survival of the fittest", it's "survival of those who successfully reproduce most", or we would have weeded things like near-sightedness out of the genome a long time ago, along with all other recessive traits.

                Straw-man, as well as a severely wrong understanding of evolution. Evolution does not cause anything - it describes what happens. And what happens is that those who have viable offspring down the line are the ones whose genes survive. No time limit, no single generation. That you live is an evolutionary plus for the genes of your great-great-geat-grandmother.

                As for recessive traits, unless they are severe enough to cause you to lose against competitors without the same trait, they will not be bred out.

                • by Immerman (2627577)

                  Just FYI the appendix seems to be a functional "organ" even in modern humans - it houses a healthy colony of gut bacteria isolated from most digestive disorders, who can then repopulate the gut after serious infection. Without it you'd pretty much be limited to coprophagic behavior to reestablish a proper population of symbiotes.

              • You just let you own bias show. Reproducing most *is* being the fittest, special longevity wise. And, recessive traits aren't bad in and of themselves. Otherwise, bulls wouldn't have those recessive horns.
    • by l0ungeb0y (442022)

      Why is this here? It's here to tell you that we want the ability to transfer your consciousness to a chip just so we can hit CTRL+ALT+DEL over and over and over for shits and giggles. Any other brilliant questions?

    • It's here b/c it's relevant...and hilarious!

      A transhumanist childrens book called "Death is Wrong"

      i lol'ed

      also, I noted with joy at the category TFA was placed in..."sci-fi"...well played, samzenpus

  • by flightmaker (1844046) on Sunday March 16, 2014 @12:42PM (#46498873)
    There's already far too many humans on the planet. If we stop dying there'll be nothing to eat and nowhere to stand.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      There's already far too many humans on the planet. If we stop dying there'll be nothing to eat and nowhere to stand.

      That's a very narrow and conservative point of view that doesn't allow for any kind of technological achievement that we don't yet understand. What makes you think we will only ever live on this planet, do you really think we can't, ever, utilize the vast resources out side this planet?

      • by DarkOx (621550)

        do you really think we can't, ever, utilize the vast resources out side this planet?

        Given the vast distances and hostility of space and the fact that we have to use this planets resources to reach them in the first place, despite how much Star Trek I have watch, yes I thin that is a good possibility.

        • by khasim (1285)

          Seconded.

          Either postulate warp drive OR postulate "the Singularity".

          But requiring warp drive AND the Singularity to fuel your dreams of being an immortal star-traveller ... now you are WAY into the science FANTASY realm.

          I'd be more interested in what effect "the Singularity" would have on the people living in the third world. Will everyone become immortal? Or will it be just a few of the very rich (by world standards) and billions of people living their regular lifetimes?

          • by rk (6314)

            Well, in fairness, if you have immortality, warp drive is less of a concern. What's 40,000 years if you live for a billion?

            The one think the immortalists seem to miss is there's going to also have to be some huge advances in trauma medicine (unless you're talking we're to the point of uploading consciousness to robot bodies a la Moravec... that's so much change that if it were to happen hypothesizing on its results would be a series of science fiction stories, your guess is as good as mine what would actual

            • by khasim (1285)

              What's 40,000 years if you live for a billion?

              A lot of corn flakes that need to be brought along for breakfast food on the 40,000 year trip.

              Per person.

              Unless you're a robot. In which case, would you be able to tell that you were really traveling? Or could it be a video game? And do robots think faster than humans? Would a 40,000 year trip for a robot take the same subjective time (boredom) as a 100,000 year trip for a regular human?

              We have a lot of wars in just the last 2,000 years of civilization. Would th

      • by ClaraBow (212734)
        I'd be more optimistic about this scenario, if we could at the very least stop killing ourselves over silly things like religion and oil. Only then would I be hopeful about a possible future with unlimited resources. We use a vast of our recourse to secure imaginary borders and fight or our imaginary God! No so hopeful :(
      • narrow and conservative, aka it is possible by some mechanism that I do not understand the argument might be wrong, at least it is not statistically impossible.

        That is a great argument you have there.

    • by PsychoSlashDot (207849) on Sunday March 16, 2014 @01:10PM (#46499135)
      You know that birth rates are highest in areas where mortality rates are highest, right? It's not the stable, healthy, wealthy nations that are producing huge numbers of humans. It's the struggling, starving and poor nations that are breeding in excess. Part of longevity assumes appropriate availability of heath and nourishment resources. There's a strong reason to suspect that if we were effectively immortal, our birth rates would drop to sustainable rates, or less.
      • by Immerman (2627577)

        >There's a strong reason to suspect that if we were effectively immortal, our birth rates would drop to sustainable rates, or less.

        Really? Seems to me people like children. Maybe not everyone, and maybe not *today*, but at some point in their lives, once they've got the survival thing comfortably under control they're likely to want to have some - biological imperative versus rational opportunity. And if people are immortal then the sustainable birth rate is zero. Occasionally people will die by viol

      • by Kjella (173770)

        There's a strong reason to suspect that if we were effectively immortal, our birth rates would drop to sustainable rates, or less.

        You do realize that the sustainable rate is around two kids/woman because the oldest generation dies off, right? If we were effectively immortal, the birth rate would have to drop to zero to be sustainable. Not a big deal if we live to be 150, it'll just cause a slightly longer delay but true immortality would really throw a monkey wrench in how society works.

    • by zerofoo (262795) on Sunday March 16, 2014 @01:27PM (#46499267)

      and look out a window. The last time I landed in Las Vegas I was stunned at how much of the us is completely and totally unoccupied.

      Drive out to state college PA sometime - nothing but trees on either side of you for hours on end.

      I heard a stat a few years ago saying the entire population of the world could fit into the state of Texas at the density of NYC. Yes, that doesn't account for infrastructure, and food production, but the point is that the entire world would be left over for that.

      There is lots of room on this blue marble. Technology will find a way to support us all.

      • by s.petry (762400)
        Unoccupied sure, but stripped of forests and filthy. In the 1970s when flying you saw green everywhere, today you see brown. You hint at it, but I'll spell it out clearly. Population is not the problem, greed and pollution are the problems.
      • FWIW Vegas is an unsustainable parasite that wouldn't exist if not for gambling and prostitutes. However there are plenty of open spaces with dependable water in less desertified areas of the country.

    • by s.petry (762400)

      Glad to see that Ted Turner and other propaganda works on people like you, but I'll ask you to consider how narrow minded and wrong this really is. Lets ask a few pointed questions to see how well you grasp not only the complexity of the problem, but how you are wrong.

      Pollution is a major factor in climate change, loss of agriculture, availability of water, availability of fish/game, and causes decreased health. We live in a pollution based economy and who among the wealthy is willing to give up making as

    • There's already far too many humans on the planet.

      I suggest you remove yourself from the planet, then. That'll leave us one closer to your ideal number of humans...

      What? You thought that OTHER humans were the problem? Ahh, I see....

    • by Ost99 (101831)

      Current capacity is somewhere north of 50 billion. That's without any new technology.

    • No kidding, it would be rather scary. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/T... [wikipedia.org]
  • by Jmc23 (2353706) on Sunday March 16, 2014 @12:42PM (#46498879) Journal
    when quality of life is what really matters? Maybe once we can create a sustainable society where people are actually happy we can focus on resource drains like people who never die.
    • by ShanghaiBill (739463) on Sunday March 16, 2014 @01:05PM (#46499093)

      when quality of life is what really matters?

      Because it is possible for humanity as a whole to focus on more than one thing. Besides, most of the things that extend life also increase its quality. By a large margin, the most successful life extending technologies (so far) have been childhood vaccinations and public sanitation. Having your child not die probably enhances happiness as well as average lifespan.

    • by quantaman (517394) on Sunday March 16, 2014 @02:35PM (#46499769)

      when quality of life is what really matters? Maybe once we can create a sustainable society where people are actually happy we can focus on resource drains like people who never die.

      Why fight child poverty in North America when kids are starving in Africa? Why fight deforestation when global warming can do far more damage.

      We can fight more than one battle at once, maybe these people are content enough with their lives that they really don't want them to end so that's the quest they're pursuing.

      Btw, at any age being healthier probably translates into being happier.

    • by imidan (559239)

      I am happy enough that I would like to live a lot longer. I figure I could do another few hundred years. Those sad sacks can go off and die, if they really want to.

    • Interestingly, if you want greater happiness then you want longer lives. Surveys tend to show that older people are happier. Another reason quality of life beyond the basic necessities doesn't really matter is that you will always have those who have very nice lives bitching to beat the band about something they yet don't possess that has become a necessity for them.
  • by magarity (164372) on Sunday March 16, 2014 @12:50PM (#46498931)

    Wow, I get the strong impression the author has only lived and traveled in developed nations his entire life. Its fun to wish for the things he writes about but they're unrealistic given human history.
    It's especially awkward how he keeps saying he's not espousing a libertarian view and then does just that.

  • FFS (Score:5, Insightful)

    by koan (80826) on Sunday March 16, 2014 @12:53PM (#46498957)

    Grow up, death is desirable, just imagine someone like Zuckerberg alive forever.

    No one "promised" you a singularity, it was a prediction like flying cars (which are an absurdity when you think about it) and a very small percentage of population deserve such things.

  • for all the negative remarks, maybe i'm the only one who wonders how awesome this would be for space travel XD
    we would be able to explore a meaningful part of the galaxy XD.

    • by mooingyak (720677)

      for all the negative remarks, maybe i'm the only one who wonders how awesome this would be for space travel XD
      we would be able to explore a meaningful part of the galaxy XD.

      Not just able to, we might *need* to at that point.

    • by iggymanz (596061)

      generational starships or just time dilation by going near speed of light, don't need longer lifespan for space travel

  • Without death, there's no evolution possible as one generation can no longer replace the previous one. Immortality would be death of the specie (*), just the same as when cells become immortal we call it cancer and the organism dies. If it happened at once society would collapse as children would no longer inherit (and be able to afford a house), you'd no longuer be able to replace your boss at work, and indeed never get a job because nobody would move up the corporate ladder... A pretty good novel about th
    • by Antique Geekmeister (740220) on Sunday March 16, 2014 @02:50PM (#46499865)

      > Without death, there's no evolution possible

      Unless a species can modify its own biology, or the evolution of _technology_ or of _societies_ can be included. And in practice, it is: evolution is not just DNA biology, it involves entire ecosystems and behavior that are effective, but contained nowhere within the biology of a species.

  • The singularity is a fascinating idea that ain't going to happen. Vernor Vinge himself did a much better treatment [sdsu.edu] on what happens in this case.

    We're already living in the Age of Failed Dreams. Advancements in technology, aside from computing, have all but halted. Flying cars? We can barely improve planes; yes, that IS your fathers airframe. Cheap and limitless energy? Nope. Life extension? John Adams died at 90 over 200 years ago, and he wasn't THAT unusual; many more live that long today, but few

  • the new Childrens Storybook Fiction Writer overlords.
  • What happened to that Singularity we were promised by now...?

    I didn't promise anyone a singularity. Did you?

    Sure, it'd be nice if it came along before I shuffle off, but right now life's too short to keep getting annoyed because you think you're entitled to stuff from sci-fi.

  • by zerosomething (1353609) on Sunday March 16, 2014 @01:33PM (#46499311) Homepage

    It's really sad to see the comments about life extension being bad or we are going to overpopulate the planet etc. They truly show the lack of imagination and understanding of much of the /. readership. There are some truly closed minds here among people calling them selves Liberals, Libertarians and Progressives. The reactions are very much like those of a society and system of thinking that thinks a cat can steal the breath of a baby, a society where superstition is given more weight than science.

    The population models of Thomas Malthus were wrong. Paul Ehrlich's reuse of those models was wrong and reusing those same tired models will continue to be wrong. You are placing your hopes in Armageddon and self distraction instead of the creativity and ingenuity of humanity to make more from what we have than the last generation thought possible.

    Stop being small minded lovers of doom!

    • by iggymanz (596061)

      it's really sad to see comments from those who can't accept reality, you'll live less than nine decades and die. your imagination will not help you, technology will not change this.

      Even in greco-roman times people who took care of their health lived into their 70s.

      • it's really sad to see comments from those who can't accept reality

        What's really sad is that many of the people who say this sort of thing don't seem to realize that the same types of things have been said about many technological achievements throughout history.

    • I'm more concerned about stagnation rather than over population. We need new people to have new ideas.

  • An essence of life is the continuation and gradual improvement of the self-sustainment capabilities of the information pattern that is conserved; that is, the genome.
    Individual organisms are temporary containers (guardians) of the pattern, ensuring that the pattern survives (remains embodied in local matter and energy) for some more time. But each individual is almost always a redundant guardian of the information. There are many backups.

    The inevitability of either accidental catastrophic destruction of the

  • I welcome the centenarian SAT, wherein the desiccated (if not decrepit) demonstrate that they retain the mental flexibility to allow necessary social change to redefine the terms of continued living.

    The movement loses most of its gloss when retirement age gets bumped to 165. Under present conditions, the extremely gifted can amass enough wealth by the present retirement age to coast on equity for a long time.

    This of course all changes once life extension begins to rock the boat. Living forever will, howe

  • Long (or unending) life is pointless if your quality of life keeps gradually decreasing over time.
  • Not a bad idea. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by John Pfeiffer (454131) on Sunday March 16, 2014 @02:43PM (#46499815) Homepage

    I like this line of thinking. I mean, there's fish and lizards and stuff out there that live for hundreds of years... Why not humans?

    I for one think that a longer life might be the key first step to that bright-shiny technological future we've been promised; Imagine what some of the greatest minds of our time could accomplish with an extra hundred years, or even an extra sixty.

    Besides... Future generations should have a better life than us, otherwise what was the point?

  • With present technology we have no way of knowing whether immportality is even possible, aside from the whole desirability debate.

    If I were selling transhumanism to children, I would try to inculcate a love of science (finding out about the unknown) combined with an adventurous, can-do attitude toward technology. If you can influence a generation of children away from the fearful, suspicious anti-science culture of their parents, you will be the greatest children's author in history by increasing the possib

  • Most people here seem to be arguing about the effects of a cure for aging as though it would be cheap and readily available to anyone. Experience has shown that that's not always the case. Certain substances are hard to synthesize and certain operations are very difficult to perform without killing the patient.

    So, hypothetical scenario: the treatment is so incredibly difficult and expensive that you can extend your life and "freeze" the aging process, but only at the cost (in 2014 US dollars) of $1,000,00

  • Death is natural (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Suffering Bastard (194752) on Sunday March 16, 2014 @03:36PM (#46500161)

    I find it the essence of emotional immaturity to fear death so much we need to somehow eradicate it or even just call it "wrong." Death is quite right and quite natural. We'd do much better getting to know death as a good thing, as the natural term limit to our personal administrations, so that we can get out there and live...fully!

    I believe the most powerful thing you can do is make death your friend. Let it advise you, guide you, make you stronger. It takes work, maybe most of a lifetime, but I believe it's well worth it, and certainly a much more sensible approach than railing against the bars of your emotional crib, screaming over not having enough.

  • It's right next to the jetpack.

  • hell I'm still waiting to get a decent winter out of this so-called global warming a promised 'singularity' ain't even on my radar! And don't even get me started on the flying cars!

  • Many people reach a point in life at which death is no longer an enemy but a welcome friend. Perhaps it is better never to hang on to that terrible point in life. Perhaps we could look towards the idea of finding ways to make end days enjoyable and concentrate more on premature death preventions. Once we can do those things extending life longer than a reasonable span would seem to then be a goal to establish. Imagine America with one hundred million Alzheimer victims with a greatly extended life
  • by PHPNerd (1039992) on Sunday March 16, 2014 @07:58PM (#46501717) Homepage
    We'd be immortal, sure, but we'd be sad all the time, have incredibly low birthrates, watch some lesser race take over the world, and then sail into the west. What kind of life is that?

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