Re: [sl4] Is belief in immortality computable?

From: Warrigal (
Date: Thu May 21 2009 - 20:13:07 MDT

On Thu, May 21, 2009 at 11:46 AM, John K Clark <> wrote:
> Well, even if we prove that immortality is possible we won’t know that
> WE are immortal; but can we even do that?
> As I said immortality depends on Physics and Cosmology but as Gödel
> proved there is not even a complete theory of consistent mathematics, so
> there is probably not a physical theory of everything either.

Goedel's theorems do not apply at all here. His theorems state that
there is no set of axioms that can express certain things under which
every true statement can be proven. The analogous statement for
physics would be that there is no set of laws such that every
phenomenon expressible as a mathematical sentence (including things
like "the atoms can be read as a Turing machine that does not halt")
can be derived from these laws. We don't care about deriving every
phenomenon that is expressible as a mathematical sentence; we only
care about coming up with laws that merely imply every phenomenon that
can actually be measured. The analogous goal for mathematics would be
coming up with axioms that imply every statement that can be proven,
which is trivial.

> And even if there is such a theory figuring out all the implications of
> it is almost certainly not possible; you
> can learn the basic laws of the game Go in a few minutes but it takes a
> lifetime to get good at it and nobody
> is even close to being perfect at it.

Mechanical engineers do not design systems that can be proven correct
based on our theories of quantum chemistry. Go players do not use
strategies that perfectly match the minimax game tree.
Super-intelligent beings do not prove that every possible outcome
leads to them being immortal.

Now for a counterexample. Suppose that I am a super-intelligent being,
and I've figured out the laws of physics. It turns out that they're
Conway's Game of Life. Having done this, I know what actions I can
take that could kill me; since I'm rational and I desire life, I know
that I will not take any of these actions. I also know that the
universe is finite and wraps around; knowing this, I know that it
contains nothing but me. Since I will not kill myself and nothing
other than me will kill me, I will never be killed; I am immortal.


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