Respected Eliezer - I offer my deepest condolences - your letter made me cry - please read

From: Gaurav Gupta (
Date: Fri Nov 19 2004 - 00:39:26 MST


I deeply appologize for the incompetence and
negligence that most of us display in our attitudes
towards human life. Your brother was an irreplaceably
unique entity holding a special place within your
thoughts, as all brothers are. I am with you in your
thoughts of those gone by always.

You say that you accept that death removes one
completely from our existential system and you say
that you are enlightened enough to strive to avoid the
occurence. Yet you do not consider an option that must
require thought patterns of one belonging to Shock
Level 5, for which you say "if there is one then I do
not want to know about it" or words to that effect.
Your brother was what? As all of us are, he was a
collection of atoms and molecules and electrical
charge, etc. that combined and interated to make the
person. Why do you not consider that a matter
rearranger (a machine that somehow can completely and
exactly read the states and positions of all matter
within a given spherical radius) may be able to
reverse engineer what must have formed your brother?
The more time passes, the more dissipation shall occur
and the more work and uncertainty shall be introduced
into the matter rearrangement. If you succeed at the
creation of such a device soon enough then the device
shall be able to "catch" all relevant data before it
spreads out to unimaginable distances and before it
alters cohesion to the point of obliteration. Then it
is a matter of having a matter compositor "build" back
your brother. I know there are implications of
catastrophical side effects from such a operation
should it ever be possible, but it is a way - and it
should be explored.

I am sorry again that you had to lose Yehuda - may we
someday have the capability to not only avoid death
but also to be able to repair its occurence.

(I regret that the SIAI and I disagree so much on AGI

Gaurav Gupta

--- Eliezer Yudkowsky <> wrote:

> My little brother, Yehuda Nattan Yudkowsky, is dead.
> He died November 1st. His body was found without
> identification. The
> family found out on November 4th. I spent a week
> and a half with my family
> in Chicago, and am now back in Atlanta. I've been
> putting off telling my
> friends, because it's such a hard thing to say.
> I used to say: "I have four living grandparents and
> I intend to have four
> living grandparents when the last star in the Milky
> Way burns out." I
> still have four living grandparents, but I don't
> think I'll be saying that
> any more. Even if we make it to and through the
> Singularity, it will be
> too late. One of the people I love won't be there.
> The universe has a
> surprising ability to stab you through the heart
> from somewhere you weren't
> looking. Of all the people I had to protect, I
> never thought that Yehuda
> might be one of them. Yehuda was born July 11,
> 1985. He lived 7053 days.
> He was nineteen years old when he died.
> The Jewish religion prescribes a number of rituals
> and condolences for the
> occasion of a death. The rituals are pointless and
> tiring; the condolences
> are religious idiocies. Yehuda has passed to a
> better place, God's ways
> are mysterious but benign, etc. Does such talk
> really comfort people? I
> watched my parents, and I don't think it did. The
> blessing that is spoken
> at Jewish funerals is "Blessed is God, the true
> judge." Do they really
> believe that? Why do they cry at funerals, if they
> believe that? Does it
> help someone, to tell them that their religion
> requires them to believe
> that? I think I coped better than my parents and my
> little sister Channah.
> I was just dealing with pain, not confusion. When
> I heard on the phone
> that Yehuda had died, there was never a moment of
> disbelief. I knew what
> kind of universe I lived in, and I knew what I
> planned to do about that.
> How is my religious family to comprehend it,
> working, as they must, from
> the assumption that Yehuda was deliberately murdered
> by a benevolent God?
> The same loving God, I presume, who arranges for
> millions of children to
> grow up illiterate and starving; the same kindly
> tribal father-figure who
> arranged the Holocaust and the Inquisition's torture
> of witches. I would
> not hesitate to call it evil, if any sentient mind
> had committed such an
> act, permitted such a thing. But I have weighed the
> evidence as best I
> can, and I do not believe the universe to be evil, a
> reply which in these
> days is called atheism.
> Maybe it helps to believe in an immortal soul. I
> know that I would feel a
> lot better if Yehuda had gone away on a trip
> somewhere, even if he was
> never coming back. But Yehuda did not "pass on".
> Yehuda is not "resting
> in peace". Yehuda is not coming back. Yehuda
> doesn't exist any more.
> Yehuda was absolutely annihilated at the age of
> nineteen. Yes, that makes
> me angry. I can't put into words how angry. It
> would be rage to rend the
> gates of Heaven and burn down God on Its throne, if
> any God existed. But
> there is no God, so my anger burns to tear apart the
> way-things-are, remake
> the pattern of a world that permits this.
> I wonder at the strength of non-transhumanist
> atheists, to accept so
> terrible a darkness without any hope of changing it.
> But then most
> atheists also succumb to comforting lies, and make
> excuses for death even
> less defensible than the outright lies of religion.
> They flinch away,
> refuse to confront the horror of a hundred and fifty
> thousand sentient
> beings annihilated every day. One point eight lives
> per second, fifty-five
> million lives per year. Convert the units, time to
> life, life to time.
> The World Trade Center killed half an hour. As of
> today, all cryonics
> organizations together have suspended one minute.
> This essay took twenty
> thousand lives to write. I wonder if there was ever
> an atheist who
> accepted the full horror, making no excuses,
> offering no consolations, who
> did not also hope for some future dawn. What must
> it be like to live in
> this world, seeing it just the way it is, and think
> that it will never
> change, never get any better?
> Yehuda's death is the first time I ever lost someone
> close enough for it to
> hurt. So now I've seen the face of the enemy. Now
> I understand, a little
> better, the price of half a second. I don't
> understand it well, because
> the human brain has a pattern built into it. We do
> not grieve forever, but
> move on. We mourn for a few days and then continue
> with our lives. Such
> underreaction poorly equips us to comprehend
> Yehuda's death. Nineteen
> years of life and memory annihilated. A thousand
> years, or a million
> millennia, or a forever, of future life lost. The
> sun should have dimmed
> when Yehuda died, and a chill wind blown in every
> place that sentient
> beings gather, to tell us that our number was
> diminished by one. But the
> sun did not dim, because we do not live in that
> sensible a universe. Even
> if the sun did dim whenever someone died, it
> wouldn't be noticeable except
> as a continuous flickering. Soon everyone would get
> used to it, and they
> would no longer notice the flickering of the sun.
> My little brother collected corks from wine bottles.
> Someone brought home,
> to the family, a pair of corks they had collected
> for Yehuda, and never had
> a chance to give him. And my grandmother said,
> "Give them to Channah, and
> someday she'll tell her children about how her
> brother Yehuda collected
> corks." My grandmother's words shocked me,
> stretched across more time than
> it had ever occurred to me to imagine, to when my
> fourteen-year-old sister
> had grown up and had married and was telling her
> children about the brother
> she'd lost. How could my grandmother skip across
> all those years so easily
> when I was struggling to get through the day? I
> heard my grandmother's
> words and thought: she has been through this before.
> This isn't the first
> loved one my grandmother has lost, the way Yehuda
> was the first loved one
> I'd lost. My grandmother is old enough to have a
> pattern for dealing with
> the death of loved ones; she knows how to handle
> this because she's done it
> before. And I thought: how can she accept this? If
> she knows, why isn't
> she fighting with everything she has to change it?
> What would it be like to be a rational atheist in
> the fifteenth century,
> and know beyond all hope of rescue that everyone you
> loved would be
> annihilated, one after another, unless you yourself
> died first? That is
> still the fate of humans today; the ongoing horror
> has not changed, for all
> that we have hope. Death is not a distant dream,
> not a terrible tragedy
> that happens to someone else like the stories you
> read in newspapers. One
> day you'll get a phone call, like I got a phone
> call, and the possibility
> that seemed distant will become reality. You will
> mourn, and finish
> mourning, and go on with your life, and then one day
> you'll get another
> phone call. That is the fate this world has in
> store for you, unless you
> make a convulsive effort to change it.
> Since Yehuda's body was not identified for three
> days after he died, there
> was no possible way he could have been cryonically
> suspended. Others may
> be luckier. If you've been putting off that talk
> with your loved ones, do
> it. Maybe they won't understand, but at least you
> won't spend forever
> wondering why you didn't even try.
> There is one Jewish custom associated with death
> that makes sense to me,
> which is contributing to charity on behalf of the
> departed. I am donating
> eighteen hundred dollars to the general fund of the
> Singularity Institute,
> because this has gone on long enough. If you object
> to the Singularity
> Institute then consider Dr. Aubrey de Grey's
> Methuselah Foundation, which
> hopes to defeat aging through biomedical
> engineering. I think that a
> sensible coping strategy for transhumanist atheists,
> to donate to an
> anti-death charity after a loved one dies. Death
> hurt us, so we will
> unmake Death. Let that be the outlet for our anger,
> which is terrible and
> just. I watched Yehuda's coffin lowered into the
> ground and cried, and
> then I sat through the eulogy and heard rabbis tell
> comforting lies. If I
> had spoken Yehuda's eulogy I would not have
> comforted the mourners in their
> loss. I would have told the mourners that Yehuda
> had been absolutely
> annihilated, that there was nothing left of him. I
> would have told them
> they were right to be angry, that they had been
> robbed, that something
> precious and irreplaceable was taken from them, for
> no reason at all, taken
> from them and shattered, and they are never getting
> it back.
> If there should be a monument someday, somewhere on
> it will be "$1800, in
> memoriam Yehuda Nattan Yudkowsky, 1985-2004." It
> will not restore him to
> life. No sentient being deserves such a thing. Let
> that be my brother's
> true eulogy, free of comforting lies.
> When Michael Wilson heard the news, he said: "We
> shall have to work
> faster." Any similar condolences are welcome.
> Other condolences are not.
> Goodbye, Yehuda. There isn't much point in saying
> it, since there's no one
> to hear. Goodbye, Yehuda, you don't exist any more.
> Nothing left of you
> after your death, like there was nothing before your
> birth. You died, and
> your family, Mom and Dad and Channah and I, sat down
> at the Sabbath table
> just like our family had always been composed of
> only four people, like
> there had never been a Yehuda. Goodbye, Yehuda
> Yudkowsky, never to return,
> never to be forgotten.
> Love,
> Eliezer.

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