A thought experiment about immortals

December 18, 2008    By: Geoff J @ 12:44 am   Category: Theology

Let’s imagine that there were a race of immortals. I mean real immortals that literally cannot die — not pseudo immortals we read about in fiction that are hard to kill but can die if you know the trick (decapitate, stake through the heart, burn, whatever). And by cannot die I mean they outlive every planet and every star. They are truly immortal with no beginning and no end. Now let’s further imagine that these immortals are vastly intelligent and they all have matching mental and physical potential and capacities, which capacities are far beyond our mortal human capacities. Further let’s imagine they live within the also-beginningless universe and that there are Universal laws by which they are bound.

Do you think it is safe to assume that this race of immortals would figure out how to be maximally happy over the infinite time they exist? I mean if they are that intelligent then it would be the reasonable thing for them to do after all.

If they lived in our universe I suspect that they would learn how to maximally get along together (read: love one another) and of course through their scientific knowledge they would be maximally powerful and efficient so they, having libertarian free will (or so I’ll assume), would be the unified masters of the universe. They would be able to maximally manipulate and control the universe. They would be able to communicate in the maximally efficient way and store and access knowledge in the the most efficient way as well. They would be the ultimate “things that act” as described by Lehi. In fact it seems to me they would become a Zion-like society that was completely unified in their maximal knowledge and maximal mutual empathy/love and maximal power over the universe. (I assume that because I believe that is the way intelligent agents would reach maximal happiness and that all intelligent agents seek maximal happiness).

See where I’m going with this thought experiment yet? (If not, check out this post).

It seems to me that if human spirits truly are beginningless (and that is a big “if” for a lot of LDS) then this scenario ought to be considered.

Of course if we were this hypothetical race of immortals then why are we here on earth as mortals right now? If you have any guesses on that let us know.

53 Comments »

  1. The I see with this statement is the working definition of “Maximum Happiness”. I can NOT tell from your words if you mean M.H. for the GROUP or M.H. for each INDIVIDUAL (and I assert that these are vastly different things). Even though I try to love my neighbor(s) we do NOT share the same values.

    Currently my M.H. (besides the love of my family) is the joy of discovery, of learning, of creating. Earlier my M.H. was thrill seeking. At another point it was the accumulation of things. I assume everyone is (are?) at different points in the matrix of M.H.

    I believe that M.H. changes from person to person and changes over time for a particular person. I certainly don’t want to go to a heaven where everyone is maximally identical, where there is no diversity of thought or action – that sounds like hell, not heaven to me.

    Comment by ed42 — December 18, 2008 @ 8:06 am

  2. ed42: I can NOT tell from your words if you mean M.H. for the GROUP or M.H. for each INDIVIDUAL (and I assert that these are vastly different things). Even though I try to love my neighbor(s) we do NOT share the same values.

    I’m not sure why you would assume you wouldn’t share the same values with your neighbors after an infinite time spent together — especially if you were sharing all of the same knowledge/information. Further, it seems to me that the only sustainable maximal happiness would be the happiness that applies to all members of the group. And these immortals would logically attain eternally sustainable happiness.

    I agree that with mortals the situation is different than it would be for immortals, but that means it is rather moot that different things have brought you happiness as you have changed over your earthly life.

    that sounds like hell, not heaven to me

    Perhaps they do get bored. Maybe that could explain why we (spiritual amnesiacs, all of us) are here now.

    Comment by Geoff J — December 18, 2008 @ 8:39 am

  3. Only if said race of immortals was maximally self-absorbed.

    I think the common Sunday School notion that the whole eternal point is maximal happiness is utter rubbish.

    We aren’t wired to just be happy. We will never fulfill the full measure of our creation until we have the infinite capacity for both happiness and sorrow. Maximizing happiness utterly trivializes our eternal purpose and makes the hereafter sound like nothing more than the best vacation ever.

    “Blegh” says I.

    Comment by Seth R. — December 18, 2008 @ 9:17 am

  4. Seth: Only if said race of immortals was maximally self-absorbed.

    What specific question or comment is this responding to?

    Also, capacity for sorrow need not mean feeling sorrow consistently. And if 100% of this race of immortals shared a mutual joy together then “self-absorbed” is entirely the wrong description of it. “Zion” in the scriptural sense of the word is a better description.

    Comment by Geoff J — December 18, 2008 @ 9:22 am

  5. I think Bill Murray in Groundhog’s day is instructive on this point.

    Comment by Doc — December 18, 2008 @ 9:52 am

  6. Ok, let’s assume there are an infinite number of these immortals residing in an infinitely large space for an infinite period of time wherein an infinite amount of movement has occurred. This leaves an infinitely large possibility that an infinite number of these immortals have never come across any other immortal and thus have not learned all the things needed to be learned.

    It makes it all seem futile in terms of converting the whole, but so important in converting the individual.

    In any case, to me, I guess the questions about these immortals are about quantity and environment.

    Comment by Matt W. — December 18, 2008 @ 10:00 am

  7. That is a different thought experiment than mine Matt. I will assume that there are a finite (though vast) number of these immortals for my experiment.

    But as an aside — in your experiment are there beings that no other intelligent being is aware of? Not even God? (However you define God in your experiment that is)

    Comment by Geoff J — December 18, 2008 @ 10:06 am

  8. Yes, there must be, in keeping with the idea that God can not know the biggest number of an infinite set.

    In you thought experiment, are we dealing with a finite number of beings in a finite or infinite space. I would say my application still applies in an infinite space.

    Comment by Matt W. — December 18, 2008 @ 10:16 am

  9. Without beginning, gods of gods found themselves making worlds of worlds without end. If no beginning or end, why a maximum? Several millennia ago, the ecclesiast foresaw nothing new. A few centuries ago, some foresaw the end of science. All of this reflects only a paucity of imagination.

    Comment by Lincoln Cannon — December 18, 2008 @ 10:20 am

  10. Matt — I’m assuming finite space and matter as well (though incomprehensibly large)

    Lincoln — I don’t think giving examples of short-sighted humans changes this experiment.

    Comment by Geoff J — December 18, 2008 @ 10:34 am

  11. Why would a group of immortals with LFW necessarily seek the happiness of the group? Why would we suppose they have the capacity for happiness, at least as we understand it in a gospel context?

    Why isn’t it possible that one learns how to enslave the others, bringing about his view of maximum happiness throughout eternity?

    Perhaps they would instead learn to not have emotions at all, but be more like Vulcans, solely using logic.

    While immortal, perhaps their view of MH isn’t the same. What if one is more of a Christ being, and another is a Lucifer being? Would they share a common goal or view, in order to achieve a common happiness?

    I don’t see how being immortal would change any of this, if they all had LFW. This would suggest that someday Lucifer and his minions would eventually figure out they are doing the wrong program, repent, and turn around and embrace God and Christ, in order to “maximize happiness”, at least as Mormons would understand it. Then again, perhaps God and Jesus would see the errors of their ways and deliver Lucifer out of Outer Darkness and onto his own throne? Just how do we determine as a group what really is good/bad, if all have Immortal knowledge, all have LFW, and all have potentially competing views on how to accomplish things?

    Gerald

    Comment by Rameumptom — December 18, 2008 @ 10:51 am

  12. Why would a group of immortals with LFW necessarily seek the happiness of the group?

    Because it seems very likely to me that one cannot attain optimal happiness exclusively of one’s neighbors. I think it is a Universal law that happiness is a group enterprise. (Thus the first and second great commandments).

    Why would we suppose they have the capacity for happiness

    Because they are intelligent free willed beings and the capacity for happiness is implicit in their situation. Whether we call it “happiness” or joy or peace or contentment or whatever, it seems self evident that intelligent rational beings seek that over misery.

    While immortal, perhaps their view of MH isn’t the same.

    I doubt it. If they shared the exact same information and could fully understand all available perspectives why shouldn’t we assume they would come to the same “view”. That is what the godhead does and I am speculating that this society would essentially become something like an extended godhead.

    What if one is more of a Christ being, and another is a Lucifer being?

    Then they would not be sharing the same information and perspectives and would not exist in this thought experiment.

    Comment by Geoff J — December 18, 2008 @ 11:41 am

  13. This would suggest that someday Lucifer and his minions would eventually figure out they are doing the wrong program, repent, and turn around and embrace God and Christ, in order to “maximize happiness”

    Exactly. See here.

    This thought experiment does lead to universalism in my opinion.

    Comment by Geoff J — December 18, 2008 @ 11:43 am

  14. they…would be the unified masters of the universe.

    Yes, but would each have a Battle Cat? That is the real question.

    Comment by Jacob J — December 18, 2008 @ 11:46 am

  15. Hehe. I was hoping someone would catch that.

    And of course the answer is yes, they each would have a Battle Cat. (How could one be optimally happy without one?!)

    Comment by Geoff J — December 18, 2008 @ 11:50 am

  16. Matt (#8): Yes, there must be, in keeping with the idea that God can not know the biggest number of an infinite set.

    I forgot to mention that a massive problem with this assumption is that it leaves open the real possibility that there are malevolent beings in existence that could conquer and enslave God. That possibility is not good for one’s theology…

    Comment by Geoff J — December 18, 2008 @ 12:31 pm

  17. Geoff wrote: Then they would not be sharing the same information and perspectives and would not exist in this thought experiment.
    <<

    Then how can they experience LFW, if there is no difference in choice or experience? If all is the same for all, then there is not a multiple of immortals with LFW, but there are a multiple of immortals with one mindset: Borg.

    Do you think that Christ and Lucifer had extremely different experiences in the premortal existence – at least at first? Or did their experiences differ, simply because LFW allow them to view things differently, even though they saw the same things?

    Comment by Rameumptom — December 18, 2008 @ 1:54 pm

  18. Rameumptom: Then how can they experience LFW, if there is no difference in choice or experience?

    I never said “there is no difference in choice or experience”. Those are your words.

    Here is what I said:

    If they shared the exact same information and could fully understand all available perspectives why shouldn’t we assume they would come to the same “view”.

    I am assuming that the the things we learn about in the scriptures reveal some of the universals that lead to happiness. If they are universals then it makes sense for rational, intelligent, free-willed beings to gravitate toward them. They never lose their freedom to choose they just make the most rational choices — the choices that lead to loving relationships.

    Do you think that Christ and Lucifer had extremely different experiences in the premortal existence – at least at first?

    I am not even convinced Luicfer is a literal person. Seems more like a archetype to me. I believe in “the devil” I am just not sure of the personhood of the devil. See here.

    Comment by Geoff J — December 18, 2008 @ 4:53 pm

  19. Or . . .

    Maybe they would be like the Q continuum on Star Trek TNG,(which meet the criteria of your thought experiment), which were maximally bored, and constantly bickering.

    Comment by SteveP — December 18, 2008 @ 4:58 pm

  20. Hehe. If the one God, the Godhead, really does consist of a vast divine concert of perfected beings it might be a little like Q — minus the bickering and disagreeing and rogue behavior of course.

    (If they were maximally bored it would explain the veil for us on earth at least. This life in general ain’t boring.)

    Comment by Geoff J — December 18, 2008 @ 5:00 pm

  21. Remember at the end of the Truman Show, when he sails his boat into the side of the giant dome?

    Comment by BHodges — December 18, 2008 @ 5:04 pm

  22. so Geoff am I right in thinking that in this thought experiment your natural conclusion would result in all imortal beings becoming identical? So if 50% of said immortal beings preferred to wear a white shirt and the other 50% preferred blue, given enough time and knowledge the white shirt wearers would realise they weren’t at there maximum happiness and convert to blue shirts?

    so in that sense there is literally only one way to live and be at maximum happiness. there couldn’t exist therefore 2 immortal beings of equal, maximum happiness who are identical in every single way apart from color of shirt?

    would the left handed immortal beings have to train there right hands or vice versa? I guess to be maximally happy, you’d master both hands right?

    Comment by barcelo — December 18, 2008 @ 6:22 pm

  23. Geoff:

    I forgot to mention that a massive problem with this assumption is that it leaves open the real possibility that there are malevolent beings in existence that could conquer and enslave God. That possibility is not good for one’s theology…

    Ah, but in my thought experiment all power is predicated upon righteousness and all those other little caveats. Or the God in my experiment knows all kinds of beings, just not every single individual with the available kinds.

    Comment by Matt W. — December 18, 2008 @ 6:47 pm

  24. I suggest that there is no conception of perfection well defined enough to make perfect individuals identical that isn’t essentially arbitrary in many (if not most) respects.

    Is there any rational reason for a perfect person to prefer strawberry over banana or red over blue?

    The idea that perfect people are clones of each other would seem to require the artificial imposition of an enormous number of value preferences that don’t actually add any value.

    It is related to the time honored question, does God command something because it is good, or is something good because God commands it? I suggest the former. If the latter were the case, we would run into all sorts of classic theological problems that inevitably end in reducing God to a timeless abstraction – mighty fortress or iron pillar, makes no difference.

    Comment by Mark D. — December 18, 2008 @ 7:10 pm

  25. barcelo — I think Mark D answered it pretty well. It seems to me that in a celestial Zion there could be plenty of room for varying trivial preferences of the kind your mention.

    Comment by Geoff J — December 18, 2008 @ 8:16 pm

  26. Matt W — Well I won’t begrudge you your own thought experiments. But I am not sure it is internally coherent to say that God “knows all kinds of beings” in one breath and in the next breath say that there “must be” beings that God is not aware of because he has finite capacity in an infinite universe. If in your thought experiment God has finite knowledge capacity and the universe has infinite amounts of space and matter then no matter how much God knew there would be an infinite amount of space and matter that he was totally unaware of. Likewise, if God has finite knowledge capacity and the universe has infinite number of spirits/souls then no matter how many God knew there would be an infinite number of spirits/souls that he was totally unaware of. Therefore it would not make sense based on your assumptions to claim he knows all kinds of beings.

    Comment by Geoff J — December 18, 2008 @ 8:18 pm

  27. Matt W. (#23),

    I don’t think the idea that all power is predicated upon righteousness is tenable. I don’t think the power of a crime syndicate is, for example.

    It is, however, a key question in theology why the dominant power in the universe should be righteous. I suggest that question reduces to the proposition that people are happier in the long run if they are righteous, the universal desire to be happy, and strength in numbers.

    Comment by Mark D. — December 18, 2008 @ 8:40 pm

  28. Geoff: Just because there are infinite amounts of space and matter, this does not mean there are infinite kinds of space and matter. In a universe with Universal law, it would only require a perfect understanding of that universal law to know all kinds of beings, not actually experience contact with every single quark/spirit/etc. Thus even though there would be an infinite number of spirits/souls, it would still be safe to say that in the general sense, he knew all kinds of beings.

    Comment by Matt W. — December 19, 2008 @ 8:32 am

  29. this does not mean there are infinite kinds of space and matter

    The point is that if there will always be an infinite amount of space, matter, and beings that God doesn’t know about then he could never actually know how many kinds there are. He would just be guessing/hoping/projecting that the finite sample he does know about is representative of the infinite rest he does not know about.

    Comment by Geoff J — December 19, 2008 @ 8:41 am

  30. plenty of room for varying trivial preferences of the kind you mention

    For the record, I believe there is room for differences on a major scale. As an ethical consequentialist, I think that the “right” decision is the one that leads to the best outcome. As a believer in God’s limited foreknowledge, I think there is room for disagreement among gods as to the correct course of action. Ergo, lots of room for real and meaty differences among perfect beings. They are “perfect,” I believe, in their perfectly benevolent intentions. The only omni I a fully committed to is omni-benevolence. I’ve been meaning to post on this particular heresy of mine since my original ethics posts but I never get to it.

    Comment by Jacob J — December 19, 2008 @ 10:15 am

  31. Good points Jacob. I agree.

    Comment by Geoff J — December 19, 2008 @ 10:20 am

  32. Rather, a rational being will seek to maximize satisfaction—and what provides satisfaction may vary from individual to individual.

    Comment by Matthew Chapman — December 19, 2008 @ 11:26 am

  33. (Complete Post)

    You are aware, of course, of the Cosmological Anthropic Principle, which states that the Universe is the way it is because if it were not, humankind would not be here to observe it.

    It seems to me that you are positing a Strong Cosmological Deific Principle, in that the Universe is structured in such a way as to create gods.

    I would argue that happiness is a subjective internal state, whereas satisfaction is an objective measure relating to defined goals. I believe it is an unwarranted assumption to believe that the gods—or anyone—would seek to maximize happiness. Rather, a rational being will seek to maximize satisfaction—and what provides satisfaction may vary from individual to individual.

    Comment by Matthew Chapman — December 19, 2008 @ 11:27 am

  34. Matthew: that the Universe is structured in such a way as to create gods

    I don’t think this is quite accurate. The notion is that gods simply are and are co-eternal with the universe. So the universe doesn’t create gods and gods do not create the universe in this proposal. It is really a metaphysic of being (as opposed to a metaphysic of becoming) that this idea is leaning on. I’ll probably post on that soon.

    I agree that happiness is ill-defined in this brief discussion. I don’t have any real objection to you calling it “satisfaction”. For our purposes here that works too.

    Comment by Geoff J — December 19, 2008 @ 11:49 am

  35. Geoff, this is completely ad hoc, but I guess I am speculating that God is universally aware at some sort of macro level. Anyway, I am not so sure it makes a difference as this doesn’t really dig into whether there is one god or many.

    Comment by Matt W. — December 19, 2008 @ 2:42 pm

  36. I don’t think the problem is that it is ad hoc — the problem is that it is incompatible with the idea you expressed in #8 (even if you assume a “macro level”).

    Also, I think we can take it as a given based on the revelations that there are many gods (small g) and I think a compelling case can be made that there is only one God, although whether the one God is a single divine person or the title assigned to a divine concert of gods is an interesting mystery. The question this post brings up is whether it is possible that if the divine concert idea is true then perhaps all of us have already always been gods and part of the one God. Basically taking the “ye are gods” idea to a literal extreme. As I mentioned in the post, if that were true we would have to figure out a reason we came here to earth. Of course this discussion is just out-there speculation and this is a radical idea to say the least but I think that the radical idea JS taught about all of our spirits being beginningless raises this as a possibility.

    Comment by Geoff J — December 19, 2008 @ 3:03 pm

  37. “Maximal happiness” is just as meaningless as “greatest possible integer”. However, I believe we are headed, if we freely choose, to a Zion Society of maximally powerful, knowing and loving persons who indwell in divine unity.

    Comment by Blake — December 19, 2008 @ 3:49 pm

  38. Jacob J. “As an ethical consequentialist,” — made me laught. So you think you’re ethical as a consequantialist? I’d say consequentialism leads precisely to the impossibility of ethics because it bases judgments on expediency and economic self-gain.

    Comment by Blake — December 19, 2008 @ 3:52 pm

  39. Exactly. I am ethical. I am a consequentialist. It’s a good combo, you should try it.

    But seriously, I don’t know why “maximal happiness” needs to mean anything in the sense you are talking about. I don’t rely on such a concept, at any rate. All that is required is a way to judge one states of affairs to be preferable to another. No need to claim there is some maximum.

    I’d say consequentialism leads precisely to the impossibility of ethics

    And I’d say that the way you avoid expediency and economic self-gain is by pretending there are “basic” rights, even though these basic rights end up in conflict, which should be a clue that they are not basic to goodness. Can goodness be in conflict with itself?

    Comment by Jacob J — December 19, 2008 @ 4:16 pm

  40. Jacob: I reject consequentialism for many reasons. So you reject the notion of “basic” rights? How about the right to love whomever you choose? Does that conflict with anything you know? Given my agape ethic, that is the basic right.

    Further, I would doubt the friendship of anyone whose friendship was qualified by some kine of consequentialist expediency — a friend as long as one has utility. But that isn’t really friendship but calculated and conditioned expediency. No true friends. No true love. I’d say that is sufficient to reject such economics masquerading as ethics.

    Comment by Blake — December 19, 2008 @ 5:52 pm

  41. Blake (#38),

    I think you are making an unfair caricature of consequentialism. I can’t think of any consequentialist theory that would justify “self-gain” as an end in itself.

    The key issue here is why should we follow ethical rules? Certainly a very naive form of consequentialism would say that ethical rules should be broken whenever the short term global benefit of doing do is positive.

    A more realistic consequentialism would say that this is illusory and that we follow ethical rules for two reasons: (1) some rules are sufficiently fundamental that it is virtually impossible to achieve a greater good by violating them (2) the benefits of collective faithful adherence to legitimate ethical rules is greater than the net global benefits to be had by breaking them some of the time.

    Comment by Mark D. — December 19, 2008 @ 6:03 pm

  42. Mark: the problem has always been threefold: (1) consequentialism cannot justify truly fundamental rights (the notion of right is always subordinate to whatever consequence you privilege); (2) rule utilitarianism has never been able to come up with any concrete rules that works with counterexamples and (3) the rules conflict and there is no rule for resolving the conflict.

    Self-gain is ethical egoism — gain for the greatest number is utilitarianism. However, any ethical theory that bases its ethical commitment on the outcome cannot really be an ethical theory. It is a theory of utility that subordinate the value of persons and cannot justify it.

    Comment by Blake — December 19, 2008 @ 8:15 pm

  43. Where does Skeletor fit into all of this?

    Comment by kristen j — December 19, 2008 @ 10:03 pm

  44. Blake: You imply that consequentialism requires value relativism, or in other words, the proposition that all utility metrics are intrinsically subjective.

    Any ethical utility metric must be predominantly objective in character, or the the ranking of consequences derived therefrom would indeed be arbitrary. I submit, however, that all consequences for any given decision may be ranked ethically according to a partial ordering.

    For example, we might say that no ethical utility metric rates eating ice cream higher than saving a child’s life. But ranking strawberry over banana isn’t properly speaking an ethical question, such that an arbitrary number of individual (and potentially fully ordered) utility regimes may follow the partial ordering that fundamental ethics requires.

    Your second and third objections indeed apply to rule utilitarianism, which this is not, though the ideas are related. I maintain there are systems of ethical rules that approximate the partial ordering required of an ethical utility metric, but that such systems can never anticipate the proper decision in every situation, any more than any finite legal system can.

    Comment by Mark D. — December 19, 2008 @ 10:21 pm

  45. Blake,

    How about the right to love whomever you choose?

    Very good, you give me an example of a right which we do not know, in principle, how to violate. Of course, your theory of ethics requires more fundamental rights than this and these fundamental rights often end up in conflict. You say consequentialism fails because it cannot justify truly fundamental rights, but to me, this recommends it. Do people have fundamental rights to life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness? I don’t think so, or we wouldn’t take these rights away from people so often in the name of justice.

    Comment by Jacob J — December 20, 2008 @ 12:04 am

  46. Jacob: My theory of ethics is an agape theory – so not only does it not require more, loving others by free choice is precisely what it requires! It is truly the fundamental right.

    Further, if you believe in capital punishment, then the right to life is not absolute. For those of us who don’t, no such problem. Further, you couldn’t possibly take away my right to pursue my own happiness although you may truncate the means by which it is accomplished.

    Marl: I don’t require a subjective value metric; quite the opposite. It is the value extrinsic to the will itself that is the root problem for consequentialist ethics. If a “system” can never anticipate the proper decision, but it nevertheless morally requires it, then it follows that we can never fulfill the moral duties (optimal economic assessment of valuation) because we can’t know what they are. We always fail in any moral decision. That is just another problem with consequentialist theories if you’re going to have rules that merely approximate.

    Kristen: Skeletor fits into this because Skeletor is a consequentialist whose rule of decision is to take out those who make life miserable for him and his ultimate purposes of evil. Thus, he will soon be after me and adopt Mark and Jacob as evil cohorts [grin].

    Comment by Blake — December 20, 2008 @ 12:10 pm

  47. Blake: Newtonian mechanics is an approximation. That doesn’t mean it isn’t reliable enough to form the basis of interplanetary space travel.

    The optimal route to Mars does indeed depend on the orbital mechanics of every solar bound asteroid, but complete neglect of the mechanics of every asteroid not on an imminent collision path is extremely unlikely to make a measurable difference.

    Suppose there is a contingent of explorers on a remote planetary outpost that is starving to death. Should we refuse the help of physics in guiding our rescue journey because the trajectory it recommends may be slightly less than optimal?

    Likewise the idea that all utility metrics are dubious simply because they can rarely be known to perfection. Should a triage nurse discard his or her medical knowledge when directing the order of patient treatment because he or she doesn’t have x-ray vision and an immaculate knowledge of each patient’s medical history? I don’t think so.

    In other words, your criticism is specious because the alternatives are worse. The optimal (and near-optimal) alternatives in the real world are governed by enormously complex factors that only a ethical utility metric can approximate. Preferring ignorance to imperfection is not an improvement.

    Comment by Mark D. — December 20, 2008 @ 1:51 pm

  48. Mark: Physics isn’t ethics. That is a pretty large category mistake.

    Comment by Blake — December 20, 2008 @ 2:38 pm

  49. Blake: You like to classify things as “category mistakes” without any actual argument. You don’t think that physics has any bearing on the optimal decision of a triage nurse? And that the decision of a triage nurse isn’t ultimately an ethical decision?

    Comment by Mark D. — December 20, 2008 @ 3:11 pm

  50. Do you think it is safe to assume that this race of immortals would figure out how to be maximally happy over the infinite time they exist?

    Nope. Happiness is an lot more than figuring out the techniques. Happiness is a choice. We see people reject happiness all the time and its orthogonal to their intelligence.

    Your scenario only makes sense if evil didn’t exist. But would happiness even be possible without it?

    Comment by Adam Greenwood — January 7, 2009 @ 2:50 pm

  51. As I mentioned in the post, if that were true we would have to figure out a reason we came here to earth.

    Perhaps rational happiness optimizers would try to enhance their longterm happiness will be enhanced by a short-term experience of its deprivation, and the deprivation of the concert, intelligence, and power they usually enjoy. Like whitespace in a painting.

    Comment by Adam Greenwood — January 7, 2009 @ 2:56 pm

  52. #51,

    Yeah, that is sort of what I am thinking too.

    Comment by Geoff J — January 7, 2009 @ 3:36 pm

  53. life becomes meaningless… i think,there’s no more to discover

    Comment by jeanne — March 30, 2009 @ 6:36 pm

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