Re: [sl4] Is belief in immortality computable?

From: Charles Hixson (
Date: Sun May 17 2009 - 12:58:10 MDT

Matt Mahoney wrote:
> I posted this question to the Singularity list (see ) but so far nobody knows. Maybe somebody on SL4 knows.
> My question is whether belief in immortality is computable. The question is important because if not, then we could never arrive at a satisfactory solution to the problem of death. We would forever be trying to solve the problem even after we have solved it.
> Assume an AIXI model in which the environment is known to the agent or easily learned. If the agent is rational and believes itself immortal, then it would make decisions in favor of maximizing payoffs over an infinite future rather than a finite one. For example, if you could increase your monthly retirement income by delaying your retirement date, then if you were immortal you would never retire. However, at no point would an observer know your decision.
> To put it another way, belief in mortality is recursively enumerable but not recursive. An observer might be able to examine your source code and get the answer, but generally, the problem seems incomputable because of Rice's theorem. But perhaps I am missing something?
> -- Matt Mahoney,
To me the question seems ill-defined. It is involved with the
definition of the self, and nobody has a good, commonly acceptable, and
usable definition of the self. (Usable implies that it isn't fuzzy
enough so that any actual disagreements can be hidden by ambiguities.)

E.g.: Is it dying if, over a period of time, you loose almost all of
your current memories? What if this happens just because you get bored
with them, so you edit them out?

Also, what if the universe is finitely bounded in time? Does not dying
(in some sense) for over a giga-year or so mean that you're immortal?
It would seem that the answer was no, but what if you adjusted your
perceived time rate so that time kept speeding up? (I'm sure there's
some limit somewhere.)

Or what about merging minds with others? If you can't separate out
again, have you died?

And some people believe that if you exist in multiple instances, and any
one of this dies, then you have died. Some people believe that
uploading prevents (or ensures) early death.

Without a good definition of self, these questions are unanswerable.
Immortality isn't the sticking point. (A literal definition would say
that immortality is impossible in a universe finitely bounded in time.
If that suffices, then you don't need a definition of self. A simple
"You can't do it" would suffice. So I've been assuming you meant
something else.)

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