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advancedatheist comments on March 2015 Media Thread - Less Wrong

7 Post author: ArisKatsaris 02 March 2015 06:51PM

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Comment author: advancedatheist 05 March 2015 05:40:26AM *  8 points [-]

Death Is Optional A Conversation: Yuval Noah Harari, Daniel Kahneman [3.4.15]

http://edge.org/conversation/yuvalnoahharari-daniel_kahneman-death-is-optional

The money quote:

KAHNEMAN: You seem to be describing this as something that is already happening. Are you referring to developments such as the plans to do away with death? That absolutely would not be a mass project. But could you elaborate on that?

.HARARI: Yes, the attitude now towards disease and old age and death is that they are basically technical problems. It is a huge revolution in human thinking. Throughout history, old age and death were always treated as metaphysical problems, as something that the gods decreed, as something fundamental to what defines humans, what defines the human condition and reality.

Even a few years ago, very few doctors or scientists would seriously say that they are trying to overcome old age and death. They would say no, I am trying to overcome this particular disease, whether it's tuberculosis or cancer or Alzheimers. Defeating disease and death, this is nonsense, this is science fiction.

But, the new attitude is to treat old age and death as technical problems, no different in essence than any other disease. It's like cancer, it's like Alzheimers, it's like tuberculosis. Maybe we still don't know all the mechanisms and all the remedies, but in principle, people always die due to technical reasons, not metaphysical reasons. In the middle ages, you had an image of how does a person die? Suddenly, the Angel of Death appears, and touches you on the shoulder and says, "Come. Your time has come." And you say, "No, no, no. Give me some more time." And Death said, "No, you have to come." And that's it, that is how you die.

We don't think like that today. People never die because the Angel of Death comes, they die because their heart stops pumping, or because an artery is clogged, or because cancerous cells are spreading in the liver or somewhere. These are all technical problems, and in essence, they should have some technical solution. And this way of thinking is now becoming very dominant in scientific circles, and also among the ultra-rich who have come to understand that, wait a minute, something is happening here. For the first time in history, if I'm rich enough, maybe I don't have to die.

KAHNEMAN: Death is optional.

HARARI: Death is optional. And if you think about it from the viewpoint of the poor, it looks terrible, because throughout history, death was the great equalizer. The big consolation of the poor throughout history was that okay, these rich people, they have it good, but they're going to die just like me. But think about the world, say, in 50 years, 100 years, where the poor people continue to die, but the rich people, in addition to all the other things they get, also get an exemption from death. That's going to bring a lot of anger.

Comment author: Vaniver 07 March 2015 06:18:48PM 1 point [-]

The conversation is very nice, and Harari's book is fantastic so far (I'm about a fifth of the way through).