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IEET > Security > Eco-gov > Resilience > SciTech > Life > Access > Enablement > Innovation > Vision > Technoprogressivism > Staff > Mike Treder

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Life sucks and then you die…


Mike Treder
By Mike Treder
Ethical Technology

Posted: Jun 12, 2009

...but it doesn’t have to be that way!



As an existentialist, I am committed to the recognition that most of life is suffering. To be born is to die, and to live is to experience pain and agony.

Only the tiniest fragment of humanity has ever been so fortunate as to “enjoy” life, even briefly. The vast majority of humans who have ever lived have perished in anonymity, their hopes, dreams, joys, passions, laughter, tears, toils, fears, and even names lost forever, abandoned to oblivion.

Where is the redemption in a world like that? Where is the logic? There is none, and mankind’s long quest to find extrinsic meaning in life is a fool’s errand.

However, as Pee-wee Herman once said, everyone has a big BUT. In this case, the big but is that we don’t have to accept things as they are. Indeed, the whole history of humankind is that we take arms against a sea of troubles: we resist the inevitable, defy the obvious, and take solace in the belief that we can make things better.

First, we tame fire. Then, we stop chasing food and corral it. We create writing, build cities, enact laws. We invent printing, devise the scientific method, shun superstition, and practice medicine. We recognize human rights, outlaw slavery, enfranchise everyone, and promote tolerance.

But that’s not all. After subduing nature and trampling so much of her beauty, we gain a dawning awareness that having dominion over the Earth is maybe not such a good idea after all. Playing nice with Gaia might in the long run turn out better.

So, we renounce our profligate ways, look toward renewable sources of energy and sustainable lifestyles, and seek to make amends for the great damage we have done. We are growing, maturing, taking responsibility for our actions and attitudes.

All this is good and commendable. We may yet deserve our self-claimed label of homo sapiens—“wise man”—although we have a long way to go.


There’s only one big problem, namely that “life sucks and then you die.” It still sucks for most of us, and we still all die!

But, aha, it doesn’t have to be that way.

If we have proven anything in the last 10,000 years of advancing civilization, and especially in the last 300 years of the scientific era, we have shown an ability—indeed a compulsion—to kick against the pricks, no matter how painful that might be, until we break free from whatever bonds held us down. We will not be satisfied with the status quo. Life can be better, and we can make it so.

We can have more freedom, more equality, more solidarity. We can do more to reduce suffering, increase education, and provide abundant opportunities for all. We can use our intelligence, our creativity, our learning, and our technology to improve on things as they are. We can, we must, and we will.

Today we are finally approaching the very real potential of overcoming the greatest limitations that existence has placed upon us. We are beginning to see the glimmers of significant life extension, of healthspans that could cover centuries, if not eons. Our rapidly accelerating technological prowess may soon enable substantial reengineering of the human condition and such radical augmentation of our bodies and ourselves that we may no longer be recognizably human, but will have attained a state of transhumanity or even posthumanity.

This is the technoprogressive ideal: that we take responsibility and make ourselves better than we are, the best that we can be, not only for ourselves but for all our human sisters and brothers and for all our earthly flora and fauna relatives. E pluribus optimus, if you will.


Mike Treder is a former Managing Director of the IEET.
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COMMENTS


Thank you for the out-of-season Valentine, Mike!





Mike,

Yes the objective facts of life are grim.  Run a query on the Wolfram Alpha search engine:

Life expectancy, male


Look at the graphs and tables.  The chances of death double about every 8 years after 20, and the cummulative probability of death has reached 10% by age 60.  After age 60 the human body really falls apart very very quickly, look how the survival curve takes a huge plunge after that age.

For all the talk of gains in life expectancy, medicine hasn’t changed the rate of aging one iota… it is simply that infant mortality was reduced last century.  All the claims about vitamins and supplements have so far proved to be hot air also.  Death might be conquered eventually, but I fear we are long way from that point, far too little too late for this generation.

—-

I still think it’s possible there’s some kind of universal morality/meaning behind everything, it may simply be the case that the universe is just very very poorly optimized.  One possible answer to the problem of evil is that ‘Good’ simply has greater intrinsic complexity than ‘Bad’, and the only way to get to the good is to pass through the bad (since the complex has to be built from the simple).  In any event, we’ll get to the bottom of it eventually.

Quoting mathematican David Hilbert:

“Wir müssen wissen : wir werden wissen! “

“We must know : we will know!”





I totally disagree with the increase education remark. Education should be individual based not governed by a higher power - unseen and unfair.
To me life sucks - is society has forgotten about the individuality of people. Just like communisim or facist societies. Unknowanly we are there doing what we should through a so called democractic system.
Sorry education is the key and so is individuality (lets stop being numbers and start being a valued part of society) - the more education in the right direction will heal and help grow an individual.





“If we have proven anything in the last 10,000 years of advancing civilization, and especially in the last 300 years of the scientific era, we have shown an ability:indeed a compulsion:to kick against the pricks, no matter how painful that might be, until we break free from whatever bonds held us down.”

In other posts, it is theorized that we are living in a simulated world. What if the simulator can thwart our efforts to improve this world?





Quote—“As an existentialist, I am committed to the recognition that most of life is suffering. To be born is to die, and to live is to experience pain and agony. “

Quote - “We are growing, maturing, taking responsibility for our actions and attitudes. All this is good and commendable. We may yet deserve our self-claimed label of homo sapiens:“wise man”:although we have a long way to go.”

Quote - “We can have more freedom, more equality, more solidarity. We can do more to reduce suffering, increase education, and provide abundant opportunities for all. We can use our intelligence, our creativity, our learning, and our technology to improve on things as they are. We can, we must, and we will.”

Quote - “This is the technoprogressive ideal: that we take responsibility and make ourselves better than we are, the best that we can be, not only for ourselves but for all our human sisters and brothers and for all our earthly flora and fauna relatives.”


!! Now the forefather of existenialism and personal responsibility would be proud to hear you say these things -  namaste _/|\_

Yet is this solely a technoprogressive ideal?

To achieve these goals, a cultural and social change is necessary, on a global basis. And to achieve this, the mindset of the world populace needs to be aligned to this common goal. Well not even the Buddha managed this, although there are still some 350 million Buddhist adherents around the globe.

If everyone took your values above and embraced them wholly, then we would indeed begin to see a change in the world for the better.

It is man’s negative qualities that are a result of his own selfishness which are the cause of his own suffering and the world’s social problems. And this selfishness is itself a consequence of a derivative attitude and outlook towards the world around him. Selfishness is a consequence of Self and separation : because we only understand the world in terms of duality, of subject and object, of this and that, of you and me, of yours and mine.

To overcome this selfishness it is necessary to see that we are connected rather than separate from the world around us. It is the Self created, the ego created, that is bound to a life of separation and selfishness, and suffering. Yet the underlying prime mover of life -  the I consciousness is free and not affiliated with this Self created.

It is our own ignorance and failure to understand and reconcile this I consciousness, this lifeforce, with the Self that we think we really are, that is the root of our separation and selfish attitude.

You may be asking what all this has to do with technoprogressiveness, trans-humanism and A.I?

Techo-progression is a certain thing, (unless we all decide to turn our backs on technology), so attempting to extend our lifespan is a certain thing, therefore the extension of our selfishness and suffering is a certain thing : now ask yourselves what kind of an extended life would that be?

Trans-humanism may be realised if you step aside from your own ignorance of Self, and view your own ego in its separation, and then contemplate what your I consciousness really is. If you can achieve this, what you may find is not necessarily human at all, because it has no nature, is pure, is unmoveable and disaffected by your mind and thoughts. Thus you have the opportunity to progress beyond your own limitations as a perceived individual human mind : the next step in evolution ?

Regarding A.I : To attempt to create an independent intelligent algorithm without really understanding ourselves, I believe would be a great mistake. Only by understanding ourselves firstly can we hope to pursue and be successful in such a vast endeavour. The perfect cannot originate from the imperfect, or the naïve? Unless that is, some bright spark mixes the wrong quantities of wisdom and intelligence elixir by pure accident : and what’s the likely hood of that ever happening?

So lets all join hands and minds and embrace the new future together.Resistance is futile?





It is refreshing to hear acknowledged that life is indeed for most of us most of the time sufferring. That is outside of a Buddhist frame which presupposes that we can transcend sufferring through spiritual development, that life on earth is a blessing and that we are bound by karma, or a theistic model such as christianity or islam which blames us for our sufferring but promises heaven if we adhere to certain precepts. However I doubt that our technology is the answer. We still don’t feed the world and I see G.E as threatening rather than enhacing our potential resources for food. Who is to blame for children born into a life of starvation, disease, deprivation war etc? Karma, choice, original sin, lack of technology or inadequate sharing of resources or what? Yeh life sucks.





As a fellow existentialist, I feel secure in the accuracy of my prediction that the single great, transformational development in life extension will come to fruition two to three weeks after I die. And so, we must soldier on and work for the betterment of humanity, drawing peace of mind from our altruistic acts. All this wishful thinking by we 50-somethings (and older) is fueled by egocentric fantasy, IMO. Let’s find joy in helping future generations and stop arguing about what’s going to happen in our lifetimes.





“Let’s find joy in helping future generations and stop arguing about what’s going to happen in our lifetimes. “

Funny how I can agree with this, and yet say the exact opposite. My statement would be: “Let’s find joy in helping current generations and stop arguing about what’s going to happen after our lifetimes. “





The secret to joy in life is to give it away. Live for something bigger than ourselves, work for the betterment of the other. There is a rush to making a large gift to charity, ironically a bigger rush to making an anonymous gift.

Studies have shown that once we have the basic essentials of life, that more money actually decreases our happiness. The existential struggle that you talk about is largely about trying to buy happiness by working harder etc. etc.

So give it away. Live frugally and give everything else away, let your life be filled with joy. Note - joy is not happiness. Happiness is determined by the stuff that happens to us. Joy comes from a life well lived.





Right on! Life doesn’t have to be a bitch…all the time!  You can be less unhappy than others, for sure!!





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