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[Recommendation] Steven Universe & cryonics

8 tadrinth 11 October 2016 04:21PM

I've been watching Steven Universe with my fiancee (a children's cartoon on Cartoon Network by Rebecca Sugar), and it wasn't until I got to Season 3 that I realized there's been a cryonics metaphor running in the background since the very first episode. If you want to introduce your kids to the idea of cryonics, this series seems like a spectacularly good way to do it.

If you don't want any spoilers, just go watch it, then come back.

Otherwise, here's the metaphor I'm seeing, and why it's great:

  • In the very first episode, we find out that the main characters are a group called the Crystal Gems, who fight 'gem monsters'. When they defeat a monster, a gem is left behind, which they lock in a bubble-forcefield and store in their headquarters.

  • One of the Crystal Gems is injured in a training accident, and we find out that their bodies are just projections; each Crystal Gem has a gem located somewhere on their body, which contains their minds. So long as their gem isn't damaged, they can project a new body after some time to recover. So we already have the insight that minds and bodies are separate.

  • This is driven home by a second episode where one of the Crystal Gems has their crystal cracked; this is actually dangerous to their mind, not just body, and is treated as a dire emergency instead of merely an inconvenience.

  • Then we eventually find out that the gem monsters are actually corrupted members of the same species as the Crystal Gems. They are 'bubbled' and stored in the temple in hopes of eventually restoring them to sanity and their previous forms.

  • An attempt is made to cure one of the monsters, which doesn't fully succeed, but at least restores them to sanity. This allows them to remain unbubbled and to be reunited with their old comrades (who are also corrupted). This was the episode where I finally made the connection to cryonics.

  • The Crystal Gems are also revealed to be over 5000 years old, and effectively immortal. They don't make a big deal out of this; for them, this is totally normal.

  • This also implies that they've made no progress in curing the gem monsters in 5000 years, but that doesn't stop them from preserving them anyway.

  • Finally, a secret weapon is revealed which is capable of directly shattering gems (thus killing the target permanently), but the use of it is rejected as unethical.

So, all in all, you have a series where when someone is hurt or sick in a way that you can't help, you preserve their mind in a safe way until you can figure out a way to help them. Even your worst enemy deserves no less.


Also, Steven Universe has an entire episode devoted to mindfulness meditation.  

Identity map

7 turchin 15 August 2016 11:29AM

“Identity” here refers to the question “will my copy be me, and if yes, on which conditions?” It results in several paradoxes which I will not repeat here, hoping that they are known to the reader.

Identity is one of the most complex problems, like safe AI or aging. It only appears be simple. It is complex because it has to answer the question: “Who is who?” in the universe, that is to create a trajectory in the space of all possible minds, connecting identical or continuous observer-moments. But such a trajectory would be of the same complexity as all space of possible minds, and that is very complex.

There have been several attempts to dismiss the complexity of the identity problem, like open individualism (I am everybody) or zero-individualism (I exist only now). But they do not prevent the existence of “practical identity” which I use when planning my tomorrow or when I am afraid of future pain.

The identity problem is also very important. If we (or AI) arrive at an incorrect solution, we will end up being replaced by p-zombies or just copies-which-are-not-me during a “great uploading”. It will be a very subtle end of the world.

The identity problem is also equivalent to the immortality problem. if I am able to describe “what is me”, I would know what I need to save forever. This has practical importance now, as I am collecting data for my digital immortality (I even created a startup about it and the map will be my main contribution to it. If I solve the identity problem I will be able to sell the solution as a service http://motherboard.vice.com/read/this-transhumanist-records-everything-around-him-so-his-mind-will-live-forever)

So we need to know how much and what kind of information I should preserve in order to be resurrected by future AI. What information is enough to create a copy of me? And is information enough at all?

Moreover, the identity problem (IP) may be equivalent to the benevolent AI problem, because the first problem is, in a nutshell, “What is me” and the second is “What is good for me”. Regardless, the IP requires a solution of consciousness problem, and AI problem (that is solving the nature of intelligence) are somewhat similar topics.

I wrote 100+ pages trying to solve the IP, and became lost in the ocean of ideas. So I decided to use something like the AIXI method of problem solving: I will list all possible solutions, even the most crazy ones, and then assess them.

The following map is connected with several other maps: the map of p-zombies, the plan of future research into the identity problem, and the map of copies. http://lesswrong.com/lw/nsz/the_map_of_pzombies/

The map is based on idea that each definition of identity is also a definition of Self, and it is also strongly connected with one philosophical world view (for example, dualism). Each definition of identity answers a question “what is identical to what”. Each definition also provides its own answers to the copy problem as well as to its own definition of death - which is just the end of identity – and also presents its own idea of how to reach immortality.


So on the horizontal axis we have classes of solutions:

“Self" definition - corresponding identity definition - philosophical reality theory - criteria and question of identity - death and immortality definitions.


On the vertical axis are presented various theories of Self and identity from the most popular on the upper level to the less popular described below:

1) The group of theories which claim that a copy is not original, because some kind of non informational identity substrate exists. Different substrates: same atoms, qualia, soul or - most popular - continuity of consciousness. All of them require that the physicalism will be false. But some instruments for preserving identity could be built. For example we could preserve the same atoms or preserve the continuity of consciousness of some process like the fire of a candle. But no valid arguments exist for any of these theories. In Parfit’s terms it is a numerical identity (being the same person). It answers the question “What I will experience in the next moment of time"

2) The group of theories which claim that a copy is original, if it is informationally the same. This is the main question about the required amount of information for the identity. Some theories obviously require too much information, like the positions of all atoms in the body to be the same, and other theories obviously do not require enough information, like the DNA and the name.

3) The group of theories which see identity as a social phenomenon. My identity is defined by my location and by the ability of others to recognise me as me.

4) The group of theories which connect my identity with my ability to make plans for future actions. Identity is a meaningful is part of a decision theory.

5)  Indirect definitions of self. This a group of theories which define something with which self is strongly connected, but which is not self. It is a biological brain, space-time continuity, atoms, cells or complexity. In this situation we say that we don’t know what constitutes identity but we could know with what it is directly connected and could preserve it.

6) Identity as a sum of all its attributes, including name, documents, and recognition by other people. It is close to Leibniz’s definition of identity. Basically, it is a duck test: if it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it is probably a duck. 

7) Human identity is something very different to identity of other things or possible minds, as humans have evolved to have an idea of identity, self-image, the ability to distinguish their own identity and the identity of others, and to predict its identity. So it is a complex adaptation which consists of many parts, and even if some parts are missed, they could be restored using other parts. 

There also a problem of legal identity and responsibility. 

8)  Self-determination. “Self” controls identity, creating its own criteria of identity and declaring its nature. The main idea here is that the conscious mind can redefine its identity in the most useful way. It also includes the idea that self and identity evolve during differing stages of personal human evolution. 

9) Identity is meaningless. The popularity of this subset of ideas is growing. Zero-identity and  open identity both belong to this subset. The main contra-argument here is that if we cut the idea of identity, future planning will be impossible and we will have to return to some kind of identity through the back door. The idea of identity comes also with the idea of the values of individuality. If we are replaceable like ants in an anthill, there are no identity problems. There is also no problem with murder.


The following is a series of even less popular theories of identity, some of them I just constructed ad hoc.

10)  Self is a subset of all thinking beings. We could see a space of all possible minds as divided into subsets, and call them separate personalities.

11)  Non-binary definitions of identity.

The idea that me or not-me identity solutions are too simple and result in all logical problems. if we define identity continuously, as a digit of the interval (0,1), we will get rid of some paradoxes and thus be able to calculate the identity level of similarity or time until the given next stage could be used as such a measure. Even a complex digit can be used if we include informational and continuous identity (in a Parfit meaning).

12) Negative definitions of identity: we could try to say what is not me.

13) Identity as overlapping observer-moments.

14) Identity as a field of indexical uncertainty, that is a group of observers to which I belong, but can’t know which one I am.

15) Conservative approach to identity. As we don’t know what identity is we should try to save as much as possible, and risk our identity only if it is the only means of survival. That means no copy/paste transportation to Mars for pleasure, but yes if it is the only chance to survive (this is my own position).

16)  Identity as individuality, i.e. uniqueness. If individuality doesn’t exist or doesn’t have any value, identity is not important.

17) Identity as a result of the ability to distinguish different people. Identity here is a property of perception.

18) Mathematical identity. Identity may be presented as a number sequence, where each number describes a full state of mind. Useful toy model.

19) Infinite identity. The main idea here is that any mind has the non-zero probability of becoming any other mind after a series of transformations. So only one identity exists in all the space of all possible minds, but the expected time for me to become a given person is dramatically different in the case of future me (1 day) and a random person (10 to the power of 100 years). This theory also needs a special version of quantum immortality which resets “memories” of a dying being to zero, resulting in something like reincarnation, or an infinitely repeating universe in the style of Nietzsche's eternal recurrence.  

20) Identity in a multilevel simulation. As we probably live in a simulation, there is a chance that it is multiplayer game in which one gamer has several avatars and can constantly have experiences through all of them. It is like one eye through several people.

21) Splitting identity. This is an idea that future identity could split into several (or infinitely many) streams. If we live in a quantum multiverse we split every second without any (perceived) problems. We are also adapted to have several future copies if we think about “me-tomorrow” and “me-the-day-after-tomorrow”.


This list shows only groups of identity definitions, many more smaller ideas are included in the map.

The only rational choice I see is a conservative approach, acknowledging that we don’t know the nature of identity and trying to save as much as possible of each situation in order to preserve identity.

The pdf: http://immortality-roadmap.com/identityeng8.pdf





Estimate the Cost of Immortality

-4 Algernoq 13 December 2015 11:38AM

How much money would it take to engineer biological immortality for at least half of the world's population, within 20 years, with 99% confidence?


A Map of Currently Available Life Extension Methods

11 turchin 17 October 2015 12:10AM

Extremely large payoff from life extension

We live in special period of time when radical life extension is not far. We just need to survive until the moment when all the necessary technologies will be created.

The positive scenario suggests it could happen by 2050 (plus or minus 20 years), when humanity will create an advanced and powerful AI, highly developed nanotechnologies and a cure for aging.

Many young people could reach the year 2050 without even doing anything special.  

But for many other people an opportunity to extend their life for just 10-20 years is the key to achieving radical life extension (at least for a thousand of years, perhaps even more), because they will be able to survive until the creation of strong life extension technologies.

That is why even a slight life extension today means a potentially eternal prize. This map of the currently available life extension methods could help in it. The map contains a description of the initial stage of plan A from the “Personal Immortality Roadmap” (where plan B is cryonics, plan C – digital immortality and plan D – quantum immortality).

Brain is most important for life extension

The main idea of this map is that all efforts towards life extension must start from our brain, and in fact, they must finish there too.

First of all, you must have the will to conquer aging and death, and do it using scientific methods.

This is probably the most difficult part of the life extension journey. The vast majority of people simply don't think about life extension, while those who do care about it (usually when it's too late) use weak and non-scientific ways and methods; they simply don't understand that the prize of this game is not ten of healthy latter years, but almost eternal life. 

Secondly, you need to develop or mobilize the qualities inside yourself which are necessary for simple, daily procedures, which can almost guarantee life extension by an average of 10-20 years. e.g. avoiding smoking and alcohol consumption, daily mobility, daily intake of medicines and dietary supplements.

Most people find it incredibly difficult to perform simple actions on a permanent basis, for example even taking one pill every day for a year would be too much for most people. Not to mention quitting smoking or regular health check-ups. 

A human who has the motivation to extend his life, a proper understanding of how to achieve it and the necessary skills to realize his plans, should be considered as almost a superman. 

On other hand, while all of our body systems are affected by aging, our brain damage during aging plays the biggest role in total productivity reduction. Even though our crystallized intelligence increases with age, our fluid intelligence, our memory, and the possibility of making radical changes and acquiring new skills all decrease significantly with aging.

And these abilities decrease at the very time when they are needed most – to fight the aging process! Young people usually don't care too much about the aging process, because it's beyond their planning horizon. These qualities are vital in order to build the motivation and skills required to maintain health. 

Thus, this leads to the idea of the map, which says that all main efforts to combat aging must be focused on brain aging. If you can keep your brain youthful, it will create and implement new skills to extend your life, helping you to find new information in a sea of new publications and technologies.

If Alzheimers is the first sign of aging to reach your body, you will have to crawl for a tablet of validol without even knowing that it is harmful. And even worse, you will crystallize some harmful beliefs. A person can think that he is a genius in some fields, receive approval from others, but continue his journey in the wrong direction – in the direction of death. (Of course early detection of cancer and a healthy heart are really important to extend your life, but it will be too difficult to deal with such problems if your brain is not working properly).

The second reason to invest in brain health and regeneration is a direct connection of its state with the state of many other systems in your body through nervous and hormonal connections. 

In order to preserve your brain health we have to use antidepressants, nootropics and substances which promote its regeneration.

The example of Rita Montalchni is incredibly interesting (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rita_Levi-Montalcini). She administered a nerve growth factor (NGF) as eye drops and lived for 101 years while her twin sister died when she was 91. (Bearing in mind the average life duration difference of twins is six years, we can conclude that she gained about four years.)

Thus, providing that we understand the priority of tasks, life extension now can be reached through three fine-spun blocks: a lifestyle, a medication and the prevention of aging itself.

Collective efforts in life extension

This map doesn't include one really important social aspect of aging prevention. If we could absorb all the money (through crowdfunding), which people use to buy supplements (around 300 billion per year), and use it to perform experiments in the field of life extension instead, we could invent new anti-aging medicine and other life extension tools. These methods and medicines could be used by those who initially donated money for such experiments; they could also benefit from sales of such products. Thus, such crowdfunding would include IPO too.

You won't find other social aspects in the map such as promotion of the idea of the fight against aging, political activism and art. All of these aspects are mentioned in the main Immortality Roadmap.

The map also doesn't include a temporal aspect. Our knowledge about the best methods of life extension changes almost daily. This map contains ideas which are valid in 2015, but it will require a significant update in just five years. If you aim to extend your life you must perform a constant analysis of scientific research in this area. Currently many new methods are appearing every day, e.g. ways of lengthening telomeres and gene therapy. Additionally, the older you are the riskier new methods you should try.

The map of ideas

In fact, the map contains a systemized analysis of ideas, which can lead to life extension, but not a bunch of well-proven tips. In an ideal situation such a map should contain links to research about all the listed items, as well as an evaluation of their real effects, so any help on improving the map will be welcomed.

This map (like all my other maps) is intended to help you navigate through the world of ideas. In this case it includes life extension ideas.

Moreover, one single idea may become a salvation for a person, e.g. eradicating a certain chronic disease. Of course, no single person can complete all of the ideas and suggestions in this map or indeed in any other list. I'm pretty sure that people will not be able to implement more than one advice per month – and I'm no exception.

My approach: I drink alcohol on really rare occasions, I don't smoke (but sometimes I use nicotine wrapping with nootropic objectives), I sleep a lot, I try to walk at least 4 km every day, I avoid risky activities and I always fasten my seatbelt.

I also invest a lot of effort in preventing my brain from aging and in combating depression. (I will provide you with a map about depression and nootropics later).

The pdf of the map is here, and jpg is below.


Previous posts with maps:

Simulation map

Digital Immortality Map

Doomsday Argument Map

AGI Safety Solutions Map

A map: AI failures modes and levels

A Roadmap: How to Survive the End of the Universe

A map: Typology of human extinction risks

Roadmap: Plan of Action to Prevent Human Extinction Risks

Immortality Roadmap


Future planned maps:

Brut force AIXI-style attack on Identity problem

Ways of mind-improvement

Fermi paradox map

Ways of depression prevention map

Quantum immortality map

Interpretations of quantum mechanics ma

Map of cognitive biases in global risks research

Map of double catastrophes scenarios in global risks

Probability of global catastrophe

Map of unknown unknowns as global risks

Map of reality theories, qualia and God

Map of death levels

Map of resurrections technologies

Map of aging theories

Flowchart «How to build a map»

Map of ideas about artificail explosions in space

Future as Markov chain


EDIT: due to temporary hosting error, check the map here: https://www.scribd.com/doc/286606304/Life-Extension-Map

On immortality

-2 Algon 09 April 2015 06:42PM

Edit: Hello again. After a fair bit of discussion with some of you, I can say with great relief my belief in an infinite universe with infinite minds in it has gone down. Now, that is not to say that I think that it won't rear its ugly head once more, but it seems to have been beaten back for a while. If you're wondering why I sound relieved, well, that because an infinite, mind hospitable universe is a terrible place. Though some have presented me with some arguments against the whole immortality thing to do with consciousness, well that's a little harder to discuss.I don't think the path I'm taking on the philosophy of mind thing is wrong, but there's a ways to go yet. But I've seen the groundwork, and it looks good to me. Anywho, I've got about 40 -50% belief that its right in the argument I presented below, whereas before it was a little under 70%. Now, I think I'll make another one of these in a few years, because this is an important topic. This whole thing, or something like it may well be right, and utilitarian ethics is going down in that case. And that's bad news for a lot of people, including me. So I'll see you a few years down the line, when I've learnt some more physics, and have brushed up on my arguments.  


Hello there, 

This is my first time writing a LessWrong post (welcome thread aside), and I thought I'd start with something that has occupied most people's minds at one point or another: death. Essentially, I am reasonably sure that immortality already exists from a reductionist point of view, albeit with one assumption that some may not agree with. And depending on whether or not the universe will last forever, then immortality is guaranteed for everyone, throughout all time. it is I think I'd be correct in saying that many people on this site are familiar with the whole Boltzmann brain idea, but I'll go through it anyway, to set the stage.

So, let's get started with the basic idea. In this universe, things seem to run on probabilistic laws known as quantum mechanics. These allow for very strange consequences, which were previously thought eradicated. The idea was originally conceived Boltzmann for a deterministic, infinite world, but it works just as well for a probabilistic one. According to the laws of probability, it is possible that any structure could spontaneously form at random points in the universe. The expected time it would take for that to happen would be far vaster than the length of the universe. A brain could also appear in the midst of space at any time whatsoever, existing for a brief moment in the starry void before fading away. And, in a universe that lasts for an infinite amount of time, it will happen. An infinite amount of times. And so will every other possible combination of atoms. So, doesn't that mean that we would reappear? Well, yes. A structure the same as the universe is right now, with you perfectly recreated would form an infinite amount of times. So, I say to you, is this not immortality? Is this person appearing an infinite amount of times, the very same you that now exists?

 Well, I think so. This is just a simplification, but its a decent example. Suppose two books could be made, which are identical in structure, and we would call them the same book, despite there being two of them. There is no special stuff that makes any of these objects unique, only their structure, which represents how they(people) have changed due to their interactions with the world from a given starting point. So, if we exist for an infinite period, are we not immortal?

But there are still some problems. Just because the same life is repeating over and over again, it doesn't mean that you'll be living forever. To live you need some change, different thoughts, ideas and so on. If you have the same ones over and over again, and cannot even remember the full past, then you're no truly immortal. Well, not so fast. That idea is dependant upon the world being deterministic in nature. Your future actions could go down any number of paths, though they're not 'up to you' in the traditional sense. So the future you is not determined, you're structure from this point in time could take any number of paths, and in an infinite universe, it will take all possible paths.  But the problem is still there. 50 years from now, when I'm dead and gone, my particular branch of life will be over. I will have died and that will be the end of this incarnation of me.

After you die, and have whatever thoughts come to the dying, that will be the end, no? Well, what if your body, just after your last thought, was reassembled straight after? This too is possible, so would you not be carrying on with your life? And you happen to live a few more years, and in this world, someone invents the an immortality pill, and you go on to life forever?

 So, death is trounced, is it not? Our woes are for nought, and we need not truly worry about death.  But hang on, this whole thing was based on an infinite universe. So death is still in play! Well, here's where things start to get a little more iffy. Now, I wholly believe in this, and I think it perfectly reasonable, but others may baulk at this. So, why does our universe exist? Better yet, why does anything exist at all? Wait a minute, don't leave just yet, this probably isn't going where you think it is. Now, some have proposed multi verse theories, which may circumvent this whole problem, and provide an infinite number of universes. But I don't think that's necessary. Its reasonable to keep your assumptions to a minimum, so I think assuming that our reality is the only one should also go. 

 So there you have it. What do you think?.

Immortality: A Practical Guide

34 G0W51 26 January 2015 04:17PM

Immortality: A Practical Guide


This article is about how to increase one’s own chances of living forever or, failing that, living for a long time. To be clear, this guide defines death as the long-term loss of one’s consciousness and defines immortality as never-ending life. For those who would like less lengthy information on decreasing one’s risk of death, I recommend reading the sections “Can we become immortal,” “Should we try to become immortal,” and “Cryonics,” in this guide, along with the article Lifestyle Interventions to Increase Longevity.

This article does not discuss how to treat specific disease you may have. It is not intended as a substitute for the medical advice of physicians. You should consult a physician with respect to any symptoms that may require diagnosis or medical attention.

When reading about the effect sizes in scientific studies, keep in mind that many scientific studies report false-positives and are biased,101 though I have tried to minimize this by maximizing the quality of the studies used. Meta-analyses and scientific reviews seem to typically be of higher quality than other study types, but are still subject to biases.114

Corrections, criticisms, and suggestions for new topics are greatly appreciated. I’ve tried to write this article tersely, so feedback on doing so would be especially appreciated. Apologies if the article’s font type, size and color isn’t standard on Less Wrong; I made it in google docs without being aware of Less Wrong’s standard and it would take too much work changing the style of the entire article.



  1. Can we become immortal?

  2. Should we try to become immortal?

  3. Relative importance of the different topics

  4. Food

    1. What to eat and drink

    2. When to eat and drink

    3. How much to eat

    4. How much to drink

  5. Exercise

  6. Carcinogens

    1. Chemicals

    2. Infections

    3. Radiation

  7. Emotions and feelings

    1. Positive emotions and feelings

    2. Psychological distress

    3. Stress

    4. Anger and hostility

  8. Social and personality factors

    1. Social status

    2. Giving to others

    3. Social relationships

    4. Conscientiousness

  9. Infectious diseases

    1. Dental health

  10. Sleep

  11. Drugs

  12. Blood donation

  13. Sitting

  14. Sleep apnea

  15. Snoring

  16. Exams

  17. Genomics

  18. Aging

  19. External causes of death

    1. Transport accidents

    2. Assault

    3. Intentional self harm

    4. Poisoning

    5. Accidental drowning

    6. Inanimate mechanical forces

    7. Falls

    8. Smoke, fire, and heat

    9. Other accidental threats to breathing

    10. Electric current

    11. Forces of nature

  20. Medical care

  21. Cryonics

  22. Money

  23. Future advancements

  24. References


Can we become immortal?

In order to potentially live forever, one never needs to make it impossible to die; one instead just needs to have one’s life expectancy increase faster than time passes, a concept known as the longevity escape velocity.61 For example, if one had a 10% chance of dying in their first century of life, but their chance of death decreased by 90% at the end of each century, then one’s chance of ever dying would be be 0.1 + 0.12 + 0.13… = 0.11… = 11.11...%. When applied to risk of death from aging, this akin to one’s remaining life expectancy after jumping off a cliff while being affected by gravity and jet propulsion, with gravity being akin to aging and jet propulsion being akin to anti-aging (rejuvenation) therapies, as shown below.

The numbers in the above figure denote plausible ages of individuals when the first rejuvenation therapies arrive. A 30% increase in healthy lifespan would give the users of first-generation rejuvenation therapies 20 years to benefit from second-generation rejuvenation therapies, which could give an additional 30% increase if life span, ad infinitum.61

As for causes of death, many deaths are strongly age-related. The proportion of deaths that are caused by aging in the industrial world approaches 90%.53 Thus, I suppose postponing aging would drastically increase life expectancy.

As for efforts against aging, the SENS Research foundation and Science for Life Extension are charitable foundations for trying to cure aging.54, 55 Additionally, Calico, a Google-backed company, and AbbVie, a large pharmaceutical company, have each committed fund $250 million to cure aging.56

I speculate that one could additionally decrease risk of death by becoming a cyborg, as mechanical bodies seem easier to maintain than biological ones, though I’ve found no articles discussing this.

Similar to becoming a cyborg, another potential method of decreasing one’s risk of death is mind uploading, which is, roughly speaking, the transfer of most or all of one’s mental contents into a computer.62 However, there are some concerns about the transfer creating a copy of one’s consciousness, rather than being the same consciousness. This issue is made very apparent if the mind-uploaded process leaves the original mind intact, making it seem unlikely that one’s consciousness was transferred to the new body.63 Eliezer Yudkowsky doesn’t seem to believe this is an issue, though I haven't found a citation for this.

With regard to consciousness, it seems that most individuals believe that the consciousness in one’s body is the “same” consciousness as the one that was in one’s body in the past and will be in it in the future. However, I know of no evidence for this. If one’s consciousness isn’t the same of the one in one’s body in the future, and one defined death as one’s consciousness permanently ending, then I suppose one can’t prevent death for any time at all. Surprisingly, I’ve found no articles discussing this possibility.

Although curing aging, becoming a cyborg, and mind uploading may prevent death from disease, they still seem to leave oneself vulnerable to accidents, murder, suicide, and existential catastrophes. I speculate that these problems could be solved by giving an artificial superintelligence the ability to take control of one’s body in order to prevent such deaths from occurring. Of course, this possibility is currently unavailable.

Another potential cause of death is the Sun expanding, which could render Earth uninhabitable in roughly one billion years. Death from this could be prevented by colonizing other planets in the solar system, although eventually the sun would render the rest of the solar system uninhabitable. After this, one could potentially inhabit other stars; it is expected that stars will remain for roughly 10 quintillion years, although some theories predict that the universe will be destroyed in a mere 20 billion years. To continue surviving, one could potentially go to other universes.64 Additionally, there are ideas for space-time crystals that could process information even after heat death (i.e. the “end of the universe”),65 so perhaps one could make oneself composed of the space-time crystals via mind uploading or another technique. There could also be other methods of surviving the conventional end of the universe, and life could potentially have 10 quintillion years to find them.

Yet another potential cause of death is living in a computer simulation that is ended. The probability of one living in a computer simulation actually seems to not be very improbable. Nick Bostrom argues that:

...at least one of the following propositions is true: (1) The fraction of human-level civilizations that reach a posthuman stage is very close to zero; (2) The fraction of posthuman civilizations that are interested in running ancestor-simulations is very close to zero; (3) The fraction of all people with our kind of experiences that are living in a simulation is very close to one.

The argument for this is here.100

If one does die, one could potentially be revived. Cryonics, discussed later in this article, may help in this. Additionally, I suppose one could possibly be revived if future intelligences continually create new conscious individuals and eventually create one of them that have one’s “own” consciousness, though consciousness remains a mystery, so this may not be plausible, and I’ve found no articles discussing this possibility. If the probability of one’s consciousness being revived per unit time does not approach or equal zero as time approaches infinity, then I suppose one is bound to become conscious again, though this scenario may be unlikely. Again, I’ve found no articles discussing this possibility.

As already discussed, in order to be live forever, one must either be revived after dying or prevent death from the consciousness in one’s body not being the same as the one that will be in one’s body in the future, accidents, aging, the sun dying, the universe dying, being in a simulation and having it end, and other, unknown, causes. Keep in mind that adding extra details that aren’t guaranteed to be true can only make events less probable, and that people often don’t account for this.66 A spreadsheet for estimating one’s chance of living forever is here.


Should we try to become immortal?

Before deciding whether one should try to become immortal, I suggest learning about the cognitive biases scope insensitivity, hyperbolic discounting, and bias blind spot if you don’t know currently know about them. Also, keep in mind that one study found that simply informing people of a cognitive bias made them no less likely to fall prey to it. A study also found that people only partially adjusted for cognitive biases after being told that informing people of a cognitive bias made them no less likely to fall prey to it.67

Many articles arguing against immortality are found via a quick google search, including this, this, this, and this. This article along with its comments discusses counter-arguments to many of these arguments. The Fable of the Dragon Tyrant provides an argument for curing aging, which can be extended to be an argument against mortality as a whole. I suggest reading it.

One can also evaluate the utility of immortality via decision theory. Assuming individuals receive a finite amount of utility per unit time such that it is never less than some above-zero constant, living forever would give infinitely more utility than living for a finite amount of time. Using these assumptions, in order to maximize utility, one should be willing to accept any finite cost to become immortal. However, the situation is complicated when one considers the potential of becoming immortal and receiving an infinite positive utility unintentionally, in which case one would receive infinite expected utility regardless of if one tried to become immortal. Additionally, if one both has the chance of receiving infinitely high and infinitely low utility, one’s expected utility would be undefined. Infinite utilities are discussed in “Infinite Ethics” by Nick Bostrom.

For those interested in decreasing existential risk, living for a very long time, albeit not necessarily forever, may give one more opportunity to do so. This idea can be generalized to many goals one has in life.

On whether one can influence one’s chances of becoming immortal, studies have shown that only roughly 20-30% of longevity in humans is accounted for by genetic factors.68 There are multiple actions one can to increase one’s chances of living forever; these are what the rest of this article is about. Keep in mind that you should consider continuing reading this article even if you don’t want to try to become immortal, as the article provides information on living longer, even if not forever, as well.


Relative importance of the different topics

The figure below gives the relative frequencies of preventable causes of death.


Some causes of death are excluded from the graph, but are still large causes of death. Most notably, 440,000 deaths in the US, roughly one sixth of total deaths in the US are estimated to be from preventable medical errors in hospitals.2

Risk calculators for cardiovascular disease are here and here. Though they seem very simplistic, they may be worth looking at and can probably be completed quickly.

Here are the frequencies of causes of deaths in the US in year 2010 based off of another classification:

  • Heart disease: 596,577

  • Cancer: 576,691

  • Chronic lower respiratory diseases: 142,943

  • Stroke (cerebrovascular diseases): 128,932

  • Accidents (unintentional injuries): 126,438

  • Alzheimer's disease: 84,974

  • Diabetes: 73,831

  • Influenza and Pneumonia: 53,826

  • Nephritis, nephrotic syndrome, and nephrosis: 45,591

  • Intentional self-harm (suicide): 39,518




What to eat and drink

Keep in mind that the relationship between health and the consumption of types of substances aren’t necessarily linear. I.e. some substances are beneficial in small amounts but harmful in large amounts, while others are beneficial in both small and large amounts, but consuming large amounts is no more beneficial than consuming small amounts.


Recommendations from The Nutrition Source

The Nutrition Source is part of the Harvard School of Public Health.

Its recommendations:

  • Make ½ of your “plate” consist of a variety of fruits and a variety of vegetables, excluding potatoes, due to potatoes’ negative effect on blood sugar. The Harvard School of Public Health doesn’t seem to specify if this is based on calories or volume. It also doesn’t explain what it means by plate, but presumably ½ of one’s plate means ½ solid food consumed.

  • Make ¼ of your plate consist of whole grains.

  • Make ¼ of your plate consist of high-protein foods.

  • Limit red meat consumption.

  • Avoid processed meats.

  • Consume monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats in moderation; they are healthy.

  • Avoid partially hydrogenated oils, which contain trans fats, which are unhealthy.

  • Limit milk and dairy products to one to two servings per day.

  • Limit juice to one small glass per day.

  • It is important to eat seafood one or two times per week, particularly fatty (dark meat) fish that are richer in EPA and DHA.

  • Limit diet drink consumption or consume in moderation.

  • Avoid sugary drinks like soda, sports drinks, and energy drinks.3



The bottom line is that saturated fats and especially trans fats are unhealthy, while unsaturated fats are healthy and the types of unsaturated fats omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids fats are essential. The proportion of calories from fat in one’s diet isn’t really linked with disease.

Saturated fat is unhealthy. It’s generally a good idea to minimize saturated fat consumption. The latest Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends consuming no more than 10% of calories from saturated fat, but the American Heart Association recommends consuming no more than 7% of calories from saturated fat. However, don’t decrease nut, oil, and fish consumption to minimize saturated fat consumption. Foods that contain large amounts of saturated fat include red meat, butter, cheese, and ice cream.

Trans fats are especially unhealthy. For every 2% increase of calories from trans-fat, risk of coronary heart disease increases by 23%. The Federal Institute for Medicine states that there are no known requirements for trans fats for bodily functions, so their consumption should be minimized. Partially hydrogenated oils contain trans fats, and foods that contain trans fats are often processed foods. In the US, products can claim to have zero grams of trans fat if they have no more than 0.5 grams of trans fat. Products with no more than 0.5 grams of trans fat that still have non-negligible amounts of trans fat will probably have the ingredients “partially hydrogenated vegetable oils” or “vegetable shortening” in their ingredient list.

Unsaturated fats have beneficial effects, including improving cholesterol levels, easing inflammation, and stabilizing heart rhythms. The American Heart Association has set 8-10% of calories as a target for polyunsaturated fat consumption, though eating more polyunsaturated fat, around 15%of daily calories, in place of saturated fat may further lower heart disease risk. Consuming unsaturated fats instead of saturated fat also prevents insulin resistance, a precursor to diabetes. Monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats are types of unsaturated fats.

Omega-3 fatty acids (omega-3 fats) are a type of unsaturated fat. There are two main types: Marine omega-3s and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). Omega-3 fatty acids, especially marine omega-3s, are healthy. Though one can make most needed types of fats from other fats or substances consumed, omega-3 fat is an essential fat, meaning it is an important type of fat and cannot be made in the body, so they must come from food. Most americans don’t get enough omega-3 fats.

Marine omega-3s are primarily found in fish, especially fatty (dark mean) fish. A comprehensive review found that eating roughly two grams per week of omega-3s from fish, equal to about one or two servings of fatty fish per week, decreased risk of death from heart disease by more than one-third. Though fish contain mercury, this is insignificant the positive health effects of their consumption (for the consumer, not the fish). However, it does benefit one’s health to consult local advisories to determine how much local freshwater fish to consume.

ALA may be an essential nutrient, and increased ALA consumption may be beneficial. ALA is found in vegetable oils, nuts (especially walnuts), flax seeds, flaxseed oil, leafy vegetables, and some animal fat, especially those from grass-fed animals. ALA is primarily used as energy, but a very small amount of it is converted into marine omega-3s. ALA is the most common omega-3 in western diets.

Most Americans consume much more omega-6 fatty acids (omega-6 fats) than omega-3 fats. Omega-6 fat is an essential nutrient and its consumption is healthy. Some sources of it include corn and soybean oils. The Nutrition Sources stated that the theory that omega-3 fats are healthier than omega-6 fats isn’t supported by evidence. However, in an image from the Nutrition Source, seafood omega-6 fats were ranked as healthier than plant omega-6 fats, which were ranked as healthier than monounsaturated fats, although such a ranking was to the best of my knowledge never stated in the text.3



There seems to be two main determinants of carbohydrate sources’ effects on health: nutrition content and effect on blood sugar. The bottom line is that consuming whole grains and other less processed grains and decreasing refined grain consumption improves health. Additionally, moderately low carbohydrate diets can increase heart health as long as protein and fat comes from health sources, though the type of carbohydrate at least as important as the amount of carbohydrates in a diet.

Glycemic index and is a measure of how much food increases blood sugar levels. Consuming carbohydrates that cause blood-sugar spikes can increase risk of heart disease and diabetes at least as much as consuming too much saturated fat does. Some factors that increase the glycemic index of foods include:

  • Being a refined grain as opposed to a whole grain.

  • Being finely ground, which is why consuming whole grains in their whole form, such as rice, can be healthier than consuming them as bread.

  • Having less fiber.

  • Being more ripe, in the case of fruits and vegetables.

  • Having a lower fat content, as meals with fat are converted more slowly into sugar.

Vegetables (excluding potatoes), fruits, whole grains, and beans, are healthier than other carbohydrates. Potatoes have a negative effect on blood sugar, due to their high glycemic index. Information on glycemic index and the index of various foods is here.

Whole grains also contain essential minerals such as magnesium, selenium, and copper, which may protect against some cancers. Refining grains takes away 50% of the grains’ B vitamins, 90% of vitamin E, and virtually all fiber. Sugary drinks usually have little nutritional value.

Identifying whole grains as food that has at least one gram of fiber for every gram of carbohydrate is a more effective measure of healthfulness than identifying a whole grain as the first ingredient, any whole grain as the first ingredient without added sugars in the first 3 ingredients, the word “whole” before any grain ingredient, and the whole grain stamp.3



Proteins are broken down to form amino acids, which are needed for health. Though the body can make some amino acids by modifying others, some must come from food, which are called essential amino acids. The institute of medicine recommends that adults get a minimum of 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day, and sets the range of acceptable protein intake to 10-35% of calories per day. The Institute of Medicine recommends getting 10-35% of calories from protein each day. The US recommended daily allowance for protein is 46 grams per day for women over 18 and 56 grams per day for men over 18.

Animal products tend to give all essential amino acids, but other sources lack some essential amino acids. Thus, vegetarians need to consume a variety of sources of amino acids each day to get all needed types. Fish, chicken, beans, and nuts are healthy protein sources.3



There are two types of fiber: soluble fiber and insoluble fiber. Both have important health benefits, so one should eat a variety of foods to get both.94 The best sources of fiber are whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, legumes, and nuts.3



There are many micronutrients in food; getting enough of them is important. Most healthy individuals can get sufficient micronutrients by consuming a wide variety of healthy foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and lean meats and fish. However, supplementation may be necessary for some. Information about supplements is here.110

Concerning supplementation, potassium, iodine, and lithium supplementation are recommended in the first-place entry in the Quantified Health Prize, a contest on determining good mineral intake levels. However, others suggest that potassium supplementation isn’t necessarily beneficial, as shown here. I’m somewhat skeptical that the supplements are beneficial, as I have not found other sources recommending their supplementation. The suggested supplementation levels are in the entry.

Note that food processing typically decreases micronutrient levels, as described here. In general, it seems cooking, draining and drying foods sizably, taking potentially half of nutrients away, while freezing and reheating take away relatively few nutrients.111

One micronutrient worth discussing is sodium. Some sodium is needed for health, but most Americans consume more sodium than needed. However, recommendations on ideal sodium levels vary. The US government recommends limiting sodium consumption to 2,300mg/day (one teaspoon). The American Heart Association recommends limiting sodium consumption to 1,500mg/day (⅔ of a teaspoon), especially for those who are over 50, have high or elevated blood pressure, have diabetes, or are African Americans3 However, As RomeoStevens pointed out, the Institute of Medicine found that there's inconclusive evidence that decreasing sodium consumption below 2,300mg/day effects mortality,115 and some meta-analyses have suggested that there is a U-shaped relationship between sodium and mortality.116, 117

Vitamin D is another micronutrient that’s important for health. It can be obtained from food or made in the body after sun exposure. Most people who live farther north than San Francisco or don’t go outside at least fifteen minutes when it’s sunny are vitamin D deficient. Vitamin D deficiency is increases the risk of many chronic diseases including heart disease, infectious diseases, and some cancers. However, there is controversy about optimal vitamin D intake. The Institute of medicine recommends getting 600 to 4000 IU/day, though it acknowledged that there was no good evidence of harm at 4000 IU/day. The Nutrition Sources states that these recommendations are too low and fail to account for new evidence. The nutrition source states that for most people, supplements are the best source of vitamin D, but most multivitamins have too little vitamin D in them. The Nutrition Source recommends considering and talking to a doctor about taking an additional multivitamin if the you take less than 1000 IU of vitamin D and especially if you have little sun exposure.3


Blood pressure

Information on blood pressure is here in the section titled “Blood Pressure.”


Cholesterol and triglycerides

Information on optimal amounts of cholesterol and triglycerides are here.


The biggest influences on cholesterol are fats and carbohydrates in one’s diet, and cholesterol consumption generally has a far weaker influence. However, some people’s cholesterol levels rise and fall very quickly with the amount of cholesterol consumed. For them, decreasing cholesterol consumption from food can have a considerable effect on cholesterol levels. Trial and error is currently the only way of determining if one’s cholesterol levels risk and fall very quickly with the amount of cholesterol consumed.



Despite their initial hype, randomized controlled trials have offered little support for the benefit is single antioxidants, though studies are inconclusive.3


Dietary reference intakes

For the numerically inclined, the Dietary Reference Intake provides quantitative guidelines on good nutrient consumption amounts for many nutrients, though it may be harder to use for some, due to its quantitative nature.



The Nutrition Source and SFGate state that water is the best drink,3, 112 though I don’t know why it’s considered healthier than drinks such as tea.

Unsweetened tea decreases the risk of many diseases, likely largely due to polyphenols, and antioxidant, in it. Despite antioxidants typically having little evidence of benefit, I suppose polyphenols are relatively beneficial. All teas have roughly the same levels of polyphenols except decaffeinated tea,3 which has fewer polyphenols.96 Research suggests that proteins and possibly fat in milk decrease the antioxidant capacity of tea.

It’s considered safe to drink up to six cups of coffee per day. Unsweetened coffee is healthy and may decrease some disease risks, though coffee may slightly increase blood pressure. Some people may want to consider avoiding coffee or switching to decaf, especially women who are pregnant or people who have a hard time controlling their blood pressure or blood sugar. The nutrition source states that it’s best to brew coffee with a paper filter to remove a substance that increases LDL cholesterol, despite consumed cholesterol typically having a very small effect on the body’s cholesterol level.

Alcohol increases risk of diseases for some people3 and decreases it for others.3, 119 Heavy alcohol consumption is a major cause of preventable death in most countries. For some groups of people, especially pregnant people, people recovering from alcohol addiction, and people with liver disease, alcohol causes greater health risks and should be avoided. The likelihood of becoming addicted to alcohol can be genetically determined. Moderate drinking, generally defined as no more than one or two drinks per day for men, can increase colon and breast cancer risk, but these effects are offset by decreased heart disease and diabetes risk, especially in middle age, where heart disease begins to account for an increasingly large proportion of deaths. However, alcohol consumption won’t decrease cardiovascular disease risk much for those who are thin, physically active, don’t smoke, eat a healthy diet, and have no family history of heart disease. Some research suggests that red wine, particularly when consumed after a meal, has more cardiovascular benefits than beers or spirits, but alcohol choice has still little effect on disease risk. In one study, moderate drinkers were 30-35% less likely to have heart attacks than non-drinkers and men who drank daily had lower heart attack risk than those who drank once or twice per week.

There’s no need to drink more than one or two glasses of milk per day. Less milk is fine if calcium is obtained from other sources.

The health effects of artificially sweetened drinks are largely unknown. Oddly, they may also cause weight gain. It’s best to limit consuming them if one drinks them at all.

Sugary drinks can cause weight gain, as they aren’t as filling as solid food and have high sugar. They also increase the risk of diabetes, heart disease, and other diseases. Fruit juice has more calories and less fiber than whole fruit and is reportedly no better than soft drinks.3


Solid food

Fruits and vegetables are an important part of a healthy diet. Eating a variety of them is as important as eating many of them.3 Fish and nut consumption is also very healthy.98

Processed meat, on the other hand, is shockingly bad.98 A meta-analysis found that processed meat consumption is associated with a 42% increased risk of coronary heart disease (relative risk per 50g serving per day; 95% confidence interval: 1.07 - 1.89) and 19% increased risk of diabetes.97 Despite this, a bit of red meat consumption has been found to be beneficial.98 Consumption of well-done, fried, or barbecued meat has been associated with certain cancers, presumably due to carcinogens made in the meat from being cooked, though this link isn’t definitive. The amount of carcinogens increases with increased cooking temperature (especially above 300ºF, increased cooking time, charring, or being exposed to smoke.99

Eating less than one egg per day doesn’t increase heart disease risk in healthy individuals and can be part of a healthy diet.3

Organic foods have lower levels of pesticides than inorganic foods, though the residues of most organic and inorganic products don’t exceed government safety threshold. Washing fresh fruits and vegetables in recommended, as it removes bacteria and some, though not all, pesticide residues. Organic foods probably aren’t more nutritious than non-organic foods.103


When to eat and drink

A randomized controlled trial found an increase in blood sugar variation for subjects who skipped breakfast.6 Increasing meal frequency and decreasing meal size appears to have some metabolic advantages, and doesn’t appear to have metabolic disadvantages.7 Note:  old source; made in 1994 However, Mayo Clinic states that fasting for 1-2 days per week may increase heart health.32 Perhaps it is optimal for health to fast, but to have high meal frequency when not fasting.


How much to eat

One’s weight gain is directly proportional to the number of calories consumed divided by the number of calories burnt. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has guidelines for healthy weights and information on how to lose weight.

Some advocate restricting weight to a greater extent, which is known as calorie restriction. It’s unknown whether calorie restriction increases lifespan in humans or not, but moderate calorie restriction with adequate nutrition decreases risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, inflammation, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and metabolic risk factors associated with cancer, and is the most effective way of consistently increasing lifespan in a variety of organisms. The CR Society has information on getting started on calorie restriction.4


How much to drink

Generally, drinking enough to rarely feel thirsty and to have colorless or light yellow urine is usually sufficient. It’s also possible to drink too much water. In general, drinking too much water is rare in healthy adults who eat an average American diet, although endurance athletes are at a higher risk.10



A meta-analysis found the data in the following graphs for people aged over 40.


A weekly total of roughly five hours of vigorous exercise has been identified by several studies to be the safe upper limit for life expectancy. It may be beneficial to take one or two days off from vigorous exercise per week and to limit chronic vigorous exercise to <= 60 min/day.9 Based on the above, I my best guess for the optimal amount of exercise for longevity is roughly 30 MET-hr/wk. Calisthenics burn 6-10 METs/hr11, so an example exercise routine to get this amount of exercise is doing calisthenics 38 minutes per day and 6 days/wk. Guides on how to exercise are available, e.g. this one.



Carcinogens are cancer-causing substances. Since cancer causes death, decreasing exposure to carcinogens presumably decreases one’s risk of death. Some foods are also carcinogenic, as discussed in the “Food” section.



Tobacco use is the greatest avoidable risk factor for cancer worldwide, causing roughly 22% of cancer deaths. Additionally, second hand smoke has been proven to cause lung cancer in nonsmoking adults.

Alcohol use is a risk factor for many types of cancer. The risk of cancer increases with the amount of alcohol consumed, and substantially increases if one is also a heavy smoker. The attributable fraction of cancer from alcohol use varies depending on gender, due to differences in consumption level. E.g. 22% of mouth and oropharynx cancer is attributable to cancer in men but only 9% is attributable to alcohol in women.

Environmental air pollution accounts for 1-4% of cancer.84 Diesel exhaust is one type of carcinogenic air pollution. Those with the highest exposure to diesel exhaust are exposed to it occupationally. As for residential exposure, diesel exhaust is highest in homes near roads where traffic is heaviest. Limiting time spent near large sources of diesel exhaust decreases exposure. Benzene, another carcinogen, is found in gasoline and vehicle exhaust but exposure to it can also be cause by being in areas with unventilated fumes from gasoline, glues, solvents, paints, and art supplies. It can cause exposure from inhalation or skin contact.86

Some occupations exposure workers to occupational carcinogens.84 A list of some of the occupations is here, all of which involve manual labor, except for hospital-related jobs.87



Infections are responsible for 6% of cancer deaths in developed nations.84 Many of the infections are spread via sexual contact and sharing needles and some can be vaccinated against.85



Ionizing radiation is carcinogenic to humans. Residential exposure to radon gas is estimated to cause 3-14% of lung cancers, which is the largest source of radon exposure for most people 84 Being exposed to radon and cigarette smoke together increases one’s cancer risk much more than they do separately. There is much variation radon levels depending on where one lives and and radon is usually higher inside buildings, especially levels closer to the ground, such as basements. The EPA recommends taking action to reduce radon levels if they are greater than or equal to 4.0 pCi/L. Radon levels can be reduced by a qualified contractor. Reducing radon levels without proper training and equipment can increase instead of decrease them.88

Some medical tests can also increase exposure to radiation. The EPA estimates that exposure to 10 mSv from a medical imaging test increases risk of cancer by  roughly 0.05%. To decrease exposure to radiation from medical imaging tests, one can ask if there are ways to shield parts of one’s body from radiation that aren’t being tested and making sure  the doctor performing the test is qualified.89


Small doses of ionizing radiation increase risk by a very small amount. Most studies haven’t detected increased cancer risk in people exposed to low levels of ionizing radiation. For example, people living in higher altitudes don’t have noticeably higher cancer rates than other people. In general, cancer risk from radiation increases as the dose of radiation increases and there is thought to be no safe level of exposure. Ultraviolet radiation as a type of radiation that can be ionizing radiation. Sunlight is the main source of ultraviolet radiation.84

Factors that increase one’s exposure to ultraviolet radiation when outside include:

  • Time of day. Almost ⅓ of UV radiation hits the surface between 11AM and 1PM, and ¾ hit the surface between 9AM and 5PM.  

  • Time of year. UV radiation is greater during summer. This factor is less significant near the equator.

  • Altitude. High elevation causes more UV radiation to penetrate the atmosphere.

  • Clouds. Sometimes clouds decrease levels of UV radiation because they block UV radiation from the sun. Other times, they increase exposure because they reflect UV radiation.

  • Reflection off surfaces, such as water, sand, snow, and grass increases UV radiation.

  • Ozone density, because ozone stops some UV radiation from reaching the surface.

Some tips to decrease exposure to UV radiation:

  • Stay in the shade. This is one of the best ways to limit exposure to UV radiation in sunlight.

  • Cover yourself with clothing.

  • Wear sunglasses.

  • Use sunscreen on exposed skin.90


Tanning beds are also a source of ultraviolet radiation. Using tanning booths can increase one’s chance of getting skin melanoma by at least 75%.91


Vitamin D3 is also produced from ultraviolet radiation, although the American Society for Clinical Nutrition states that vitamin D is readily available from supplements and that the controversy about reducing ultraviolet radiation exposure was fueled by the tanning industry.92


There could be some risk of cell phone use being associated with cancer, but the evidence is not strong enough to be considered causal and needs to be investigated further.93, 118


Emotions and feelings

Positive emotions and feelings

A review suggested that positive emotions and feelings decreased mortality. Proposed mechanisms include positive emotions and feelings being associated with better health practices such as improved sleep quality, increased exercise, and increased dietary zinc consumption, as well as lower levels of some stress hormones. It has also been hypothesized to be associated with other health-relevant hormones, various aspects of immune function, and closer and more social contacts.33 Less Wrong has a good article on how to be happy.


Psychological distress

A meta-analysis was conducted on psychological stress. To measure psychological stress, it used the GHQ-12 score, which measured symptoms of anxiety, depression, social dysfunction, and loss of confidence. The scores range from 0 to 12, with 0 being asymptomatic, 1-3 being subclinically symptomatic, 4-6 being symptomatic, and 7-12 being highly symptomatic. It found the results shown in the following graphs.


This association was essentially unchanged after controlling for a range of covariates including occupational social class, alcohol intake, and smoking. However, reverse causality may still partly explain the association.30



A study found that individuals with moderate and high stress levels as opposed to low stress had hazard ratios (HRs) of mortality of 1.43 and 1.49, respectively.27 A meta-analysis found that high perceived stress as opposed to low perceived stress had a coronary heart disease relative risk (RR) of 1.27. The mean age of participants in the studies used in the meta-analysis varied from 44 to 72.5 years and was significantly and positively associated with effect size. It explained 46% of the variance in effect sizes between the studies used in the meta-analysis.28

A cross-sectional study (which is a relatively weak study design) not in the aforementioned meta-analysis used 28,753 subjects to study the effect on mortality from the amount of stress and the perception of whether stress is harmful or not. It found that neither of these factors predicted mortality independently, but but that taken together, they did have a statistically significant effect. Subjects who reported much stress and that stress has a large effect on health had a HR of 1.43 (95% CI: 1.2, 1.7). Reverse causality may partially explain this though, as those who have had negative health impacts from stress may have been more likely to report that stress influences health.83


Anger and hostility

A meta-analysis found that after fully controlling for behavior covariates such as smoking, physical activity or body mass index, and socioeconomic status, anger and hostility was not associated with coronary heart disease (CHD), though the results are inconclusive.34


Social and personality factors

Social status

A review suggested that social status is linked to health via gender, race, ethnicity, education levels, socioeconomic differences, family background, and old age.46


Giving to others

An observational study found that stressful life events was not a predictor for mortality for those who engaged in unpaid helping behavior directed towards friends, neighbors, or relatives who did not live with them. This association may be due to giving to others causing one to have a sense of mattering, opportunities for generativity, improved social well-being, the emotional state of compassion, and the physiology of the caregiving behavioral system.35


Social relationships

A large meta-analysis found that the odds ratio of mortality of having weak social relationships is 1.5 (95% confidence interval (CI): 1.42 to 1.59). However, this effect may be a conservative estimate. Many of the studies used in the meta-analysis used single item measures of social relations, but the size of the association was greatest in studies that used more complex measurements. Additionally, some of the studies in the meta-analysis adjusted for risk factors that may be mediators of social relationships’ effect on mortality (e.g. behavior, diet, and exercise). Many of the studies in the meta-analysis also ignored the quality of social relationships, but research suggests that negative social relationships are linked to increased mortality. Thus, the effect of social relationships on mortality could be even greater than the study found.

Concerning causation, social relationships are linked to better health practices and psychological processes, such as stress and depression, which influence health outcomes on their own. However, the meta-analysis also states that social relationships exert an independent effect. Some studies show that social support is linked to better immune system functioning and to immune-mediated inflammatory processes.36



A cohort study with 468 deaths found that each 1 standard deviation decrease in conscientiousness was associated with HR being multiplied by 1.07 (95% CI: 0.98 – 1.17), though it gave no mechanism for the association.39 Although it adjusted for several variables, (e.g.  socioeconomic status, smoking, and drinking), it didn’t adjust for drug use, risky driving, risky sex, suicide, and violence, which were all found by a meta-analysis to have statistically significant associations with conscientiousness.40 Overall, it seems to me that conscientiousness doesn’t seem to have a significant effect on mortality.


Infectious diseases

Mayo clinic has a good article on preventing infectious disease.


Dental health

A cohort study of 5611 adults found that compared to men with 26-32 teeth, men with 16-25 teeth had an HR of 1.03 (95% CI: 0.91-1.17), men with 1-15 teeth had an HR of 1.21 (95% CI: 1.05-1.40) and men with 0 teeth had an HR of 1.18 (95% CI: 1.00-1.39).

In the study, men who never brushed their teeth at night had a HR of 1.34 (95% CI: 1.14-1.57) relative to those who did every night. Among subjects who brushed at night, HR was similar between those who did and didn’t brush daily in the morning or day. The HR for men who brushed in the morning every day but not at night every day was 1.19 (95% CI: 0.99-1.43).

In the study, men who never used dental floss had an HR of 1.27 (95% CI: 1.11-1.46) and those who sometimes used it had an HR or 1.14 (95% CI: 1.00-1.30) compared to men who used it every day. Among subjects who brushed their teeth at night daily, not flossing was associated with a significantly increased HR.

Use of toothpicks didn’t significantly decrease HR and mouthwash had no effect.

The study had a list of other studies on the effect of dental health on mortality. It seems to us that almost all of them found a negative correlation between dental health and risk of mortality, although the study didn’t say their methodology for selecting the studies to show. I did a crude review of other literature by only looking at their abstracts and found that five studies found that poor dental health increased risk of mortality and one found it didn’t.

Regarding possible mechanisms, the study says that toothpaste helps prevent dental caries and that dental floss is the most effective means of removing interdental plaque and decreasing interdental gingival inflammation.38



It seems that getting too little or too much sleep likely increases one’s risk of mortality, but it’s hard to tell exactly how much is too much and how little is too little.


One review found that the association between amount of sleep and mortality is inconsistent in studies and that what association does exist may be due to reverse-causality.41 However, a meta-analysis found that the RR associated with short sleep duration (variously defined as sleeping from < 8 hrs/night to < 6 hrs/night) was 1.10 (95% CI: 1.06-1.15). It also found that the RR associated with long sleep duration (variously defined as sleeping for > 8 hrs/night to > 10 hrs per night) compared with medium sleep duration (variously defined as sleeping for 7-7.9 hrs/night to 9-9.9 hrs/night) was 1.23 (95% CI: 1.17 - 1.30).42


The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute and Mayo Clinic recommend adults get 7-8 hours of sleep per night, although it also says sleep needs vary from person to person. It gives no method of determining optimal sleep for an individual. Additionally, it doesn’t say if its recommendations are for optimal longevity, optimal productivity, something else, or a combination of factors.43 The Harvard Medical School implies that one’s optimal amount of sleep is enough sleep to not need an alarm to wake up, though it didn’t specify the criteria for determining optimality either.45



None of the drugs I’ve looked into have a beneficial effect for the people without a special disease or risk factor. Notes on them are here.


Blood donation

A quasi-randomized experiment with a validity near that of a randomized trial presumably suggested that blood donation didn’t significantly decrease risk of coronary heart disease (CHD). Observational studies have shown much lower CHD incidence among donors, although the authors of the former experiment suspect that bias and reverse causation played a role in this.29 That said, a review found that reverse causation accounted for only 30% of the effect of blood donation, though I haven't been able to find the review. RomeoStevens suggests that the potential benefits of blood donation are high enough and the costs are low enough that blood donation is worth doing.120



After adjusting for amount of physical activity, a meta-analysis estimated that for every one hour increment of sitting in intervals 0-3, >3-7 and >7 h/day total sitting time, the hazard ratios of mortality were 1.00 (95% CI: 0.98-1.03), 1.02 (95% CI: 0.99-1.05) and 1.05 (95% CI: 1.02-1.08) respectively. It proposed no mechanism for sitting time having this effect,37 so it might have been due to confounding variables it didn’t control.


Sleep apnea

Sleep apnea is an independent risk factor for mortality and cardiovascular disease.26 Symptoms and other information on sleep apnea are here.



A meta-analysis found that self-reported habitual snoring had a small but statistically significant association with stroke and coronary heart disease, but not with cardiovascular disease and all-cause mortality [HR 0.98 (95% CI: 0.78-1.23)]. Whether the risk is due to obstructive sleep apnea is controversial. Only the abstract is able to be viewed for free, so I’m just basing this off the abstract.31



The organization Susan G. Komen, citing a meta-analysis that used randomized controlled trials, doesn’t recommend breast self exams as a screening tool for breast cancer, as it hasn’t been shown to decrease cancer death. However, it still stated that it is important to be familiar with one’s breasts’ appearance and how they normally feel.49 According to the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, no study has been able to show a statistically significant decrease in breast cancer deaths from breast self-exams.50 The National Cancer Institute states that breast self-examinations haven’t been shown to decrease breast cancer mortality, but does increase biopsies of benign breast lesions.51

The American Cancer Society doesn’t recommend testicular self-exams for all men, as they haven’t been studied enough to determine if they decrease mortality. However, it states that men with risk factors of testicular cancer (e.g. an undescended testical, previous testicular cancer, of a family member who previously had testicular cancer) should consider self-exams and discuss them with a doctor. The American Cancer Society also recommends having testicular self-exams in routine cancer-related check-ups.52



Genomics is the study of genes in one’s genome, and may help increase health by using knowledge of one’s genes to have personalized treatment. However, it hasn’t proved to be useful for most; recommendations rarely change after knowledge from genomic testing. Still, genomics has much future potential.102



Like I’ve said in the section “Can we become immortal,” the proportion of deaths that are caused by aging in the industrial world approaches 90%,53 but some organizations and companies are working on curing it.54, 55, 56

One could support these organizations in an effort to hasten the development of anti-aging therapies, although I doubt an individual would have a noticeable impact on one’s own chance of death unless one is very wealthy. That said, I have little knowledge in investments, but I suppose investing in companies working on curing aging may be beneficial, as if they succeed, they may offer an enormous return on investment, and if they fail, one would probably die, so losing one’s money may not be as bad. Calico currently isn’t a public stock, though.


External causes of death

Unless otherwise specified, graphs in this section are on data collected from American citizens ages 15-24, as based off the Less Wrong census results, this seems to be the most probable demographic that will read this. For this demographic, external causes cause 76% of deaths. Note that although this is true, one is much more likely to die when older than when aged 15-24, and older individuals are much more likely to die from disease than from external causes of death. Thus, I think it’s more important when young to decrease risk of disease than external causes of death. The graph below shows the percentage of total deaths from external causes caused by various causes.



Transport accidents

Below are the relative death rates of specified means of transportation for people in general:


Much information about preventing death from car crashes is here. Information on preventing death from car crashes is here, here, here, and here.



Lifehacker's “Basic Self-Defense Moves Anyone Can Do (and Everyone Should Know)” gives a basic introduction to self defence.


Intentional self harm

Intentional self harm such as suicide, presumably, increases one’s risk of death.47 Mayo Clinic has a guide on preventing suicide. I recommend looking at it if you are considering killing yourself. Additionally, if are are considering killing yourself, I suggest reviewing the potential rewards of achieving immortality from the section “Should we try to become immortal.”



What to do if a poisoning occurs

CDC recommends staying calm, dialing 1-800-222-1222, and having this information ready:

  • Your age and weight.

  • If available, the container of the poison.

  • The time of the poison exposure.

  • The address where the poisoning occurred.

It also recommends staying on the phone and following the instructions of the emergency operator or poison control center.18


Types of poisons

Below is a graph of the risk of death per type of poison.


Some types of poisons:

  • Medicine overdoses.

  • Some household chemicals.

  • Recreational drug overdoses.

  • Carbon monoxide.

  • Metals such as lead and mercury.

  • Plants12 and mushrooms.14

  • Presumably some animals.

  • Some fumes, gases, and vapors.15


Recreational drugs

Using recreational drugs increases risk of death.


Medicine overdoses and household chemicals

CDC has tips for these here.


Carbon monoxide

CDC and Mayo Clinic have tips for this here and here.



Lead poisoning causes 0.2% of deaths worldwide and 0.0% of deaths in developed countries.22 Children under the age of 6 are at higher risk of lead poisoning.24 Thus, for those who aren’t children, learning more about preventing lead poisoning seems like more effort than it’s worth. No completely safe blood lead level has been identified.23



MedlinePlus has an article on mercury poisoning here.


Accidental drowning

Information on preventing accidental drowning from CDC is here and here.


Inanimate mechanical forces

Over half of deaths from inanimate mechanical forces for Americans aged 15-24 are from firearms. Many of the other deaths are from explosions, machinery, and getting hit by objects. I suppose using common sense, precaution, and standard safety procedures when dealing with such things is one’s best defense.



Again, I suppose common sense and precaution is one’s best defense. Additionally, alcohol and substance abuse is a risk factor of falling.72


Smoke, fire and heat

Owning smoke alarms halves one’s risk of dying in a home fire.73 Again, common sense when dealing with fires and items potentially causing fires (e.g. electrical wires and devices) seems effective.


Other accidental threats to breathing

Deaths from other accidental threats to breathing are largely caused by strangling or choking on food or gastric contents, and occasionally by being in a cave-in or trapped in a low-oxygen environment.21 Choking can be caused by eating quickly or laughing while eating.74 If you are choking:

  • Forcefully cough. Lean as far forwards as you can and hold onto something that is firmly anchored, if possible. Breathe out and then take a deep breath in and cough; this may eject the foreign object.

  • Attract someone’s attention for help.75


Additionally, choking can be caused by vomiting while unconscious, which can be caused by being very drunk.76 I suggest lying in the recovery position if you think you may vomit while unconscious, so as to to decrease the chance of choking on vomit.77 Don’t forget to use common sense.


Electric current

Electric shock is usually caused by contact with poorly insulated wires or ungrounded electrical equipment, using electrical devices while in water, or lightning.78 Roughly ⅓ of deaths from electricity are caused by exposure to electric transmission lines.21


Forces of nature

Deaths from forces of nature in (for Americans ages 15-24) in descending order of number of deaths caused are: exposure to cold, exposure to heat, lightning, avalanches or other earth movements, cataclysmic storms, and floods.21 Here are some tips to prevent these deaths:

  • When traveling in cold weather, carry emergency supplies in your car and tell someone where you’re heading.79

  • Stay hydrated during hot weather.80

  • Safe locations from lightning include substantial buildings and hard-topped vehicles. Safe locations don’t include small sheds, rain shelters, and open vehicles.

  • Wait until there are no thunderstorm clouds in the area before going to a location that isn’t lightning safe.81


Medical care

Since medical care is tasked with treating diseases, receiving medical care when one has illnesses presumably decreases risk of death. Though necessary medical care may be essential when one has illnesses, a review estimated that preventable medical errors contributed to roughly 440,000 deaths per year in the US, which is roughly one-sixth of total deaths in the US. It gave a lower limit of 210,000 deaths per year.

The frequency of deaths from preventable medical errors varied across studies used in the review, with a hospital that was shown the put much effort into improving patient safety having a lower proportion of deaths from preventable medical errors than that of others.57 Thus, I suppose that it would be beneficial to go to hospitals that are known for their dedication to patient safety. There are several rankings of hospital safety available on the internet, such as this one. Information on how to help prevent medical errors is found here and under the “What Consumers Can Do” section here. One rare medical error is having a surgery be done on the wrong body part. The New York Times gives tips for preventing this here.

Additionally, I suppose it may be good to live relatively close to a hospital so as to be able to quickly reach it in emergencies, though I’ve found no sources stating this.

A common form of medical care are general health checks. A comprehensive Cochrane review with 182,880 subjects concluded that general health checks are probably not beneficial.107 A meta-analysis found that general health checks are associated with small but statistically significant benefits in factoring related to mortality, such as blood pressure and body mass index. However, it found no significant association with mortality.109 The New York Times acknowledged that health checks are probably not beneficial and gave some explanation why general health checks are nonetheless still common.108 However, CDC and MedlinePlus recommend getting routine general health checks. The cited no studies to support their claims.104, 106 When I contacted CDC about it, it responded, “Regular health exams and tests can help find problems before they start. They also can help find problems early, when your chances for treatment and cure are better. By getting the right health services, screenings, and treatments, you are taking steps that help your chances for living a longer, healthier life,” a claim that doesn’t seem supported by evidence. It also stated, “Although CDC understands you are concerned, the agency does not comment on information from unofficial or non-CDC sources.” I never heard back from MedlinePlus.



Cryonics is the freezing of legally dead humans with the purpose preserving their bodies so they can be brought back to life in the future once technology makes it possible. Human tissue have been cryopreserved and then brought back to life, although this has never been done on full humans.59 The price of Cryonics at least ranges from $28,000 to $200,000.60 More information on cryonics is on LessWrong Wiki.



Cryonics, medical care, safe housing, and basic needs all take money. Rejuvenation therapy may also be very expensive. It seems valuable to have a reasonable amount of money and income.


Future advancements

Keeping updated on further advancements in technology seems like a good idea, as not doing so would prevent one from making use of future technologies. Keeping updated on advancements on curing aging seems especially important, due to the massive number of casualties it inflicts and the current work being done to stop it. Updates on mind-uploading seem important as well. I don’t know of any very efficient method of keeping updated on new advancements, but periodically googling for articles about curing aging or Calico and searching for new scientific articles on topics in this guide seems reasonable. As knb suggested, it seems beneficial to periodically check on Fight Aging, a website advocating anti-aging therapies. I’ll try to do this and update this guide with any new relevant information I find.

There is much uncertainty ahead, but if we’re clever enough, we just might make it though alive.




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[Link] Immortality Project

-4 [deleted] 20 March 2013 08:18AM

An interesting article on the Immortality Project at UC Riverside. This is the website.

This seems like something for LWers to look into - they're offering grants and essay prizes.

Does evolution select for mortality?

12 DanArmak 23 February 2013 07:33PM

At a recent Reddit AMA, Eric Lander, a professor of biology who played an important part in the Human Genome Project, answered this question:

Do you think immortatility is technically possible for human beings?

His response:

I don't think immortality is technically possible -- evolution has installed many many mechanisms to ensure that organisms die and make room for the next generation. I bet it is going to be very hard to completely overcome all these mechanisms.

This seems to me, at first blush, to exhibit the Evolution of Species Fairy fallacy. Evolution doesn't work to benefit species, populations, or the "next generation". If a mutation arises that increases longevity, and has no other downsides, then animals with that mutation should become more common in the gene pool, because they die less often. I remember reading that the effect would not be very strong, because most animals don't die of old age. But why would there be the opposite effect?

I am loath to attribute a very basic error to a distinguished professor of biology. Is there another explanation? Is the claim that evolution selects for mortality true?

Note: Eric went on to add:

I'm also not convinced immortality is such a good idea. A lot of human progress depends on having a new generation with new ideas. Immortality may equal stagnation.

This seems to be blatant rationalization of a preconceived idea that death is good. (I doubt he truly believes that extra progress is worth everybody dying.) So perhaps his first statement is also a form of rationalization. But it seems improbable to me that he would make such a statement about biology if he didn't think it well-founded. More likely there's something I'm misunderstanding.

ETA: one of the first Google results is this page at nature.com, The Evolution of Aging by Daniel Fabian, which goes into some depth on the subject. The bottom line is that it agrees with my expectation that evolution does not select for mortality. Choice quotes:

The Roman poet and philosopher Lucretius, for example, argued in his De Rerum Natura (On the Nature of Things) that aging and death are beneficial because they make room for the next generation (Bailey 1947), a view that persisted among biologists well into the 20th century. [...] 

A more parsimonious evolutionary explanation for the existence of aging therefore requires an explanation that is based on individual fitness and selection, not on group selection. This was understood in the 1940's and 1950's by three evolutionary biologists, J.B.S. Haldane, Peter B. Medawar and George C. Williams, who realized that aging does not evolve for the "good of the species". Instead, they argued, aging evolves because natural selection becomes inefficient at maintaining function (and fitness) at old age. Their ideas were later mathematically formalized by William D. Hamilton and Brian Charlesworth in the 1960's and 1970's, and today they are empirically well supported. Below we review these major evolutionary insights and the empirical evidence for why we grow old and die. 

How could a distinguished professor of biology, a leader of the HGP and advisor to the US President, get something so elementary wrong, when even a biology undergrad dropout like myself notices this seems wrong?

ETA #2: Gwern points to the Wikipedia article on Evolution of Ageing, which lists several competing theories of the evolution of aging (and therefore mortality). This shows the subject is more complex than I had thought and there may be good reason to believe mortality is selected for by evolution (or at least is reliably linked to something else that is selected). 

I should be glad that I didn't discover an obvious error being committed by a distinguished professional, even if he may be ultimately wrong!

If MWI is correct, should we expect to experience Quantum Torment?

3 Furcas 10 November 2012 04:32AM

If the many worlds of the Many Worlds Interpretation of quantum mechanics are real, there's at least a good chance that Quantum Immortality is real as well: All conscious beings should expect to experience the next moment in at least one Everett branch even if they stop existing in all other branches, and the moment after that in at least one other branch, and so on forever.

However, the transition from life to death isn't usually a binary change. For most people it happens slowly as your brain and the rest of your body deteriorates, often painfully.

Doesn't it follow that each of us should expect to keep living in this state of constant degradation and suffering for a very, very long time, perhaps forever?





I don't know much about quantum mechanics, so I don't have anything to contribute to this discussion. I'm just terrified, and I'd like, not to be reassured by well-meaning lies, but to know the truth. How likely is it that Quantum Torment is real?



Best shot at immortality?

4 tomme 22 March 2012 10:29AM

What looks, at the moment, as the most feasible technology that can grant us immortality (e.g., mind uploading, cryonics)?

I posed this question to a fellow transhumanist and he argued that cryonics is the answer, but I failed to grasp his explanation. Besides, I am still struggling to learn the basics of science and transhumanism, so it would be great if you could shed some light on my question.

On "Friendly" Immortality

5 [deleted] 05 December 2011 04:39AM

Personal Note: I would like to thank Normal Anomaly for beta-ing this for me and providing counter-arguments. It am asking him/her to comment below, so that everyone can give him/her karma for volunteering and helping me out. Even if you dislike the article, I think it's awesome that they were willing to take time out of their day to help someone they've never met.


 Imagine that you live in a world where everyone says "AI is a good idea. We need to pursue it."

Sounds great!

But what if no one really thought that there was any reason to make sure the AI was friendly. That would be bad, right? You would probably think: "Hey, AI is a great goal and all, but before we start pursuing it and actually developing the technology, we need to make sure that it's not going to blow up in our faces!"

That seems to me to be a rational response.

Yet it seems like most people are not applying the same thought processes to life-extending technology. This website in particular has a habit of using some variant of this argument: "Death is bad. Not dying is good. Therefore life-extending technologies are also good" However this is missing the same level of contemplation that has been given to AI. Like AI, there are considerations that must be made to ensure this technology is "friendly".

Most transhumanists have heard many of these issues before, normally sandwiched inside of a "Death is Bad" conversation. However these important considerations are often hand-waved away, as the conversation tends to stick to the low-hanging fruit. Here, I present them all in one place, so we can tackle them together, and perhaps come up with some solutions:

  1. Over-population: For example, doubling the life-span of humans would at the very least double the number of people on this planet. If we could double life-spans today, we would go from 7 billion to 14 billion people on Earth in 80 years, not counting regular population growth.

    Although currently birthrates are falling, all birthrate information we have is for women being fertile for approximately 25 years. This has not changed much throughout history, so we cannot necessarily extrapolate the current birthrate to what it would be if women were fertile for 50 years instead.
    In other words, not only will there be a population explosion due to people living longer, but I'd be willing to bet that if life-extension was available today, birth rates would also go up. Right now, people who like to have kids only have enough money and fertile years to raise on average 2-3 kids. If you doubled the time they would have to reproduce, you will likely double the amount of children that child-rearing families have.

    For example, in modern society, by the time a woman's children are out of the house and done with college, the woman is no longer young and/or fertile. Say for example you had a child when you were 25. By the time your children were 20 you would be 45, and therefore not at a comfortable age to have children. However, if 45 becomes a young/fertile age for women, families might likely decide to re-reproduce.

    It's one thing to say: "Well, we will develop technology to increase food yields and decrease fossil food consumption", but are you positive we will have those technologies ready to go in time to save us?                                               
  2. Social Stagnation:  Have you ever tried having a long conversation with an elderly person, only to realize that they are bigots/homophobes/racists, etc? We all love Grandpa John and Grammy Sue, but they have to die for society to move forward. If there were 180 year-olds alive today, chances are pretty strong that a good amount of them would think that being anti-slavery is pretty progressive. They would have been about 90 years old when women got the right to vote.

    We don't so much change our minds, and we grow new people and the old ones die.                                                                                          
  3. Life sucks, but at least you die: The world is populated with people suffering with mental disorders like depression, social issues like unemployment, and physical deprivations like poverty and hunger.

    It doesn't make sense to extend life until we have made our lives worth extending.                                                                                       
  4. Unknown Implications: How will this change the way society works? How will it change how people live their lives? We can have some educated guesses, but we won't know for sure what far-spread effects this would have.

I have a friend who is a professional magician and "psychic", and about a month ago I convinced him to read HPMoR. After cursing me for ruining his sleep schedule for two days, we ended up having a discussion about some of the philosophies in there that we agreed and disagreed with. I was brand-new to LW. He had no prior knowledge of "rationality", but like most of his profession was very analytically minded. I would like to share something he wrote:

We have a lot of ancient wisdom telling us that wishes are bad because we aren't wise, and you're saying... that if we could make ourselves wise, then we can have wishes and not have it blow up in our faces.

See the shortest version of Alladin's Tale:
Wish One: "I wish to be wise."
The End.

Since... I am NOT mature, fully rational, and wise,  
I really think I shouldn't have wishes,  
Of which, immortality is an obvious specific example.

Because I'm just not convinced  
That I can predict the fallout.

I call this "The CEV of Immortality", although at the time, neither of us had heard of the concept of CEV in the first place. The basic idea being that we are not currently prepared enough to even be experimenting with life-extending technologies. We don't know where it will lead and how we will cope.

However scientists are working on these technologies right now, discovering genes that cause proteins that can be blocked to greatly increase life-spans of worms, mice and flies. Should a breakthrough discovery be made, who knows what will happen?  Once it's developed there's no going back. If the technology exists, people will stop at nothing to use it. You won't be able to control it.

Just like AI, life-extending technologies are not inherently "bad". But supporting the development of life-extending technnologies without already answering the above questions is like supporting the development of AI without knowing how to make it friendly. Once it's out of the box, it's too late.




(Provided by Normal Anomaly)

Overpopulation Counter-argument: Birth rates are currently going down, and have fallen below replacement in much of the developed world (including the US). According to an article in The Economist last year, population will peak at about 10-11 billion in about 2050. This UN infographic appears to predict that fewer people will be born in 2020-2050 then were born in 1980-2010. I am skeptical that birth rate will increase with life extension. Space colonization is another way of coping with more people (again on a longer timescale than 40 years.) Finally, life extension will probably become available slowly, at first only a few extra years and only for the wealthy. This last also applies to “unknown implications.”

Social Stagnation Counter-argument: This leads to a slippery slope argument for killing elderly people; it’s very unlikely that our current lifespans are at exactly the right tradeoff between social progress and life. Banning elderly people from voting or holding office would be more humane for the same results. "Life sucks" Counter argument: This is only an argument for working on making life worth extending, or possibly an argument for life extension not having the best marginal return in world-improvement. Also, nobody who doesn’t want to live longer would have to, so life extension technology wouldn’t result in immortal depressed people.


These counter-arguments are very good points, but I do not think it is enough to guarantee a 100% "Friendly" transhumanism. I would love to see some discussions on them.

 Like last time I posted, I am making some "root" comments. They are: General comments, Over-population, Social stagnation, Life sucks, Unknown consequences. Please put your comment under the root it belongs to, in order to help keep the threads organized. Thank you!


Life is Good, More Life is Better

6 Rubix 14 October 2011 05:21AM

Let it be noted, as an aside, that this is my first post on Less Wrong and my first attempt at original, non-mandatory writing for over a year.

I've been reading through the original sequences over the last few months as part of an attempt to get my mind into working order. (Other parts of this attempt include participating in Intro to AI and keeping a notebook.) The realization that spurred me to attempt this: I don't feel that living is good. The distinction which seemed terribly important to me at the time was that I didn't feel that death was bad, which is clearly not sensible. I don't have the resources to feel the pain of one death 155,000 times every day, which is why Torture v. Dust Specks is a nonsensical question to me and why I don't have a cached response for how to act on the knowledge of all those deaths.

The first time I read Torture v. Dust Specks, I started really thinking about why I bother trying to be rational. What's the point, if I still have to make nonsensical, kitschy statements like "Well, my brain thinks X but my heart feels Y," if I would not reflexively flip the switch and may even choose not to, and if I sometimes feel that a viable solution to overpopulation is more deaths? 

I solved the lattermost with extraterrestrial settlement, but it's still, well, sketchy. My mind is clearly full of some pretty creepy thoughts, and rationality doesn't seem to be helping. I think about having that feeling and go eeugh, but the feelings are still there. So I pose the question: what does a person do to click that death is really, really bad?

The primary arguments I've heard for death are: 

  • "I look forward to the experience of shutting down and fading away," which I hope could be easily disillusioned by gaining knowledge about how truly undignified dying is, bloody romanticists.
  • "There is something better after life and I'm excited for it," which, well... let me rephrase: please do not turn this into a discussion on ways to disillusion theists because it's really been talked about before.
  • "It is Against Nature/God's Will/The Force to live forever. Nature/God/the Force is going to get humankind if we try for immortality. I like my liver!" This argument is so closely related to the previous and the next one that I don't know quite how to respond to it, other than that I've seen it crop up in historical accounts of any big change. Human beings tend to be really frightened of change, especially change which isn't believed to be supernatural in origin.
  • "I've read science fiction stories about being immortal, and in those stories immortality gets really boring, really fast. I'm not interested enough in reality to be in it forever." I can't see where this perspective could come from other than mind-numbing ignorance/the unimaginable nature of really big things (like the number of languages on Earth, the amount of things we still don't know about physics or the fact that every person who is or ever will be is a new, interesting being to interact with.)
  • "I can't imagine being immortal. My idea about how my life will go is that I will watch my children grow old, but I will die before they do. My mind/human minds aren't meant to exist for longer than one generation." This fails to account for human minds being very, very flexible. The human mind as we know it now does eventually get tired of life (or at least tired of pain,) but this is not a testament to how minds are, any more than humans becoming distressed when they don't eat is a testament to it being natural to starve, become despondent and die.
  • "The world is overpopulated and if nobody dies, we will overrun and ultimately ruin the planet." First of all: I, like Dr. Ian Malcolm, think that it is incredibly vain to believe that man can destroy the Earth. Second of all: in the future we may have anything from extraterrestrial habitation to substrates which take up space and consume material in totally different ways. But! Clearly, I am not feeling these arguments, because this argument makes sense to me. Problematic!

I think that overall, the fear most people have about signing up for cryonics/AI/living forever is that they do not understand it. This is probably true for me; it's probably why I don't grok that life is good, always. Moreover, it is probable that the depictions of death as not always bad with which I sympathize (e.g. 'Lord, what can the harvest hope for, if not for the care of the Reaper Man?) stem from the previously held to be absolute nature of death. That is, up until the last ~30 years, people have not been having cogent, non-hypothetical thoughts about how it might be possible to not die or what that might be like. Dying has always been a Big Bad but an inescapable one, and the human race has a bad case of Stockholm Syndrome.

So: now that I know I have and what I want, how do I use the former to get the latter?

Lifeism, Anti-Deathism, and Some Other Terminal-Values Rambling

4 Pavitra 07 March 2011 04:35AM

(Apologies to RSS users: apparently there's no draft button, but only "publish" and "publish-and-go-back-to-the-edit-screen", misleadingly labeled.)


You have a button. If you press it, a happy, fulfilled person will be created in a sealed box, and then be painlessly garbage-collected fifteen minutes later. If asked, they would say that they're glad to have existed in spite of their mortality. Because they're sealed in a box, they will leave behind no bereaved friends or family. In short, this takes place in Magic Thought Experiment Land where externalities don't exist. Your choice is between creating a fifteen-minute-long happy life or not.

Do you push the button?

I suspect Eliezer would not, because it would increase the death-count of the universe by one. I would, because it would increase the life-count of the universe by fifteen minutes.


Actually, that's an oversimplification of my position. I actually believe that the important part of any algorithm is its output, additional copies matter not at all, the net utility of the existence of a group of entities-whose-existence-constitutes-utility is equal to the maximum of the individual utilities, and the (terminal) utility of the existence of a particular computation is bounded below at zero. I would submit a large number of copies of myself to slavery and/or torture to gain moderate benefits to my primary copy.

(What happens to the last copy of me, of course, does affect the question of "what computation occurs or not". I would subject N out of N+1 copies of myself to torture, but not N out of N. Also, I would hesitate to torture copies of other people, on the grounds that there's a conflict of interest and I can't trust myself to reason honestly. I might feel differently after I'd been using my own fork-slaves for a while.)

So the real value of pushing the button would be my warm fuzzies, which breaks the no-externalities assumption, so I'm indifferent.


But nevertheless, even knowing about the heat death of the universe, knowing that anyone born must inevitably die, I do not consider it immoral to create a person, even if we assume all else equal.

Notion of valued Identity — Physically

7 HoverHell 03 February 2011 08:53AM

Let's locally define “VI” as “whatever you want to preserve by the means of personal immortality” (“means” such as anti-aging, cryonics, mind uploading, etc.)

Question is: how do you define your VI physically, in a way that makes physical sense?

* Note: Please avoid using the bare term “identity” unless you can define it non-vaguely (and even then it's better to apply some different identifier.)

* Edit: If you cannot (quite expectedly) give a precise answer, please at least point to the direction where, you think, it might be (i.e. way of finding and verifying that answer).

Kazakhstan's president urges scientists to find the elixir of life

7 Document 10 December 2010 04:17AM

...according to this front-page Reddit headline I just saw, which links to this Guardian article. I wonder if he's heard of KrioRus, whether he's signed up (Wikipedia says they offer services "to clients from Russia, CIS and EU"), and what his odds would be if he were (would it be possible to emigrate to Russia to be closer to the facility, and if not, what would be the best possible option?). Given his being a head of state, presumably it'd be pretty tough for an advocate to even get close enough to try to make the case.

Searching the Reddit comment thread for "cryo" turned up nothing.

Help: Is there a quick and dirty way to explain quantum immortality?

2 erratio 20 October 2010 03:00AM

I had an incredibly frustrating conversation this morning trying to explain the idea of quantum immortality to someone whose understanding of MWI begins and ends at pop sci fi movies. I think I've identified the main issue that I wasn't covering in enough depth (continuity of identity between near-identical realities) but I was wondering whether anyone has ever faced this problem before, and whether anyone has (or knows where to find) a canned 5 minute explanation of it.