Faisel Butt

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Why Nick Bostrom is wrong about the problems we face as humanity

Please watch the linked TEDtalk :“Nick Bostrom on our biggest problems”

NB's argument for death of ageing being a problem for humanity is the loss of information. Doubling the lifespan of people would only result in more information being lost when they die.

Although we should seek ways to prolong our lives it is not in any way one of humanity's biggest problems. The process of natural death and birth at the current rate does not seem to interfere with the progress of humanity.

The lost information in the library of Alexandria isn't comparable to the information an individual possesses. When people die of ageing they have usually spread their ideas and the information relevant to humanity. The library was the accumulated knowledge of a civilisation that cannot be retrieved.

NB completely overlooks the quality of information and its relevance to humanity.

Death is a problem for humanity when it's premature. When people die before they have chance to fulfil their potential and contribute to humanity. A substantial amount of people die prematurely of preventable causes. This is where we lose information relevant to humanity.

Should we succeed in preventing these deaths in the future, the challenge is to create societies where everyone have access to knowledge and education in order to harvest their potential.

Extrapolating deaths to include the possible future offspring as NB does is just a way to inflate numbers for dramatic purposes. Following this logic abortion, contraception, homosexuality and abstinence are all major problems of humanity.

NB states the abstinence of trans-humanism as a big problem. Surely we can benefit from this technology, but is being in a constant state of happiness and comfort really beneficial to humanity? I believe that overcoming challenges is how we grow as humans. Branches on trees grow towards the sunlight because the part that does not receive sunlight grows faster.

  • Dec 26 2012: Nick Bostrom is an excellent example of one of humanities biggest problems.

    Too many people are never satisfied because they always want more.

    His selection of biggest problems are subjective and reflect priorities that are not widely shared.
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      Dec 27 2012: Hi Barry

      Although I don't think Nick Bostrom personally is one of humanity's big problems, he does in this case spread misinformation disguised as science, which I believe is a big obstacle for human progress in the world today.
  • Dec 30 2012: I would suggest that the hunger for longevity in the first place was bestowed upon ourselves by way of our own vanity and any conversation regarding it is ridiculous and a waste of time...to try and change what is, for what one wants is redundant...furthermore the hunger for longer life is the bi-product of selling the import ants of ourselves to ourselves but yet we are the single entity destroying everything...so we should do it for as long as we can? And this is some how a benefit to our surroundings and ourselves?

    I have a question for you; why do people believe living longer individually will bring on answers that thousands of years of accumulated thought has not?

    I just read and replied to your conversation with George and I agree so I just left this here if you want to talk...and I have not heard the Nick talk...
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      Dec 31 2012: Hi Same

      Thanks for your comments.

      I can only attribute the quest for longevity disguised as a problem for humanity to lack of perspective. Again I am not opposing the idea itself, but if we double our lifespans while people still die of easily preventable causes - is that really the best use of resources for humanity? It certainly goes directly against the argument of lost information.

      In my opinion misinformation is one of the biggest problems we are facing. An example is American presidential candidate Rick Santorum who while campaigning talked about 5 % of all deaths in Holland being from involuntary euthanasia - something that was completely made up. His spokesperson later defended him by saying that Santorum spoke what was in his heart. How personal opinions somehow can refute facts is beyond my comprehension.

      As the world gets more complex and harder to grasp, we tend to look for easy solutions, but far too often these solutions are in opposition to rationality and logic. I strongly believe that rationality and logic are essential tools for human progress.
      • Jan 1 2013: Less than 5 minutes ago: I wonder if everyone realizes that the conversations reading mankind has existed for thousands of years and that even this exact conversation has happened thousands of times throughout our history...so why does ever generation think they are asking brilliant questions and suggestions...our world is shit cause we will not remove the shit we are afraid of and it will only get better at being bad.
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          Jan 5 2013: Let me ask you this; when do you think the world was in a significantly a better state than now?
      • Jan 7 2013: Well that is an easy one...before we arrived...there was balance...mankind/thought is the only imbalance I know of...it creates voids and fills them with imagination and excuse...the earth uses the reason of unconditional acceptance of all (being that whatever lands on me stays), man uses the reason of illumination by choice but convinces it self it is apart of that which defines love "unconditional acceptance"...
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          Jan 8 2013: Hi Same

          Regardless of how you feel about humanity - we are here and there are 7 billion of us. Rather than seeing humans as a disturbance of the balance on earth, one should look into how we can improve our conditions for existence on this planet.

          There are a couple of brilliant TEDtalks that I think you should watch.

          This one is Robert Wright on non-zero sum interactions:

          And watch any talk by Hans Rosling.

          I think we still are in a very early stage of development, and the path we have taken to get here is not pretty. But on a large scale things are going in the right direction.
      • Jan 9 2013: That confuses me...anyone who claims we are going in the right direction...we are consumers growing at an exponential rate and cannot feed everyone now...they claim food prices will rocket up and the ones that control us think 43% of us are shit...the world is over heating and 98% of scientists back that understanding...so what the heck are you talking about, I think people get confused with creativity and positive change...so please what is getting better, keeping ourselves alive...by what means if that is a positive, chemicals? Like what r u talking about...I understand the need to have a positive attitude but there is a thing called reality and some believe acknowledging it is a negative and I believe it is ignorant to deny our own demise as it will not get better simply dreaming of a pretty picture...so no I have no idea what you are referring to...so give me some examples ...cause maybe I am clueless and blind I have no problem being corrected...but if your basing this on creativity then sorry no we will over populate and starve if not freeze before we have phones that talk for us...but I will out of respect view your suggestion thank you...I will reply after.
  • Dec 27 2012: The library of Alexandria wasn't lost in fire.
    It was just stolen.
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      Dec 27 2012: Nick Bostrom states in the talk that it burned down, as does Wikipedia.

      However, the way the library was lost isn't really relevant for the discussion.
  • Dec 27 2012: Longer healthy productive life for me=good idea. I don't know about you other people. Let's be fair. Most of life's best answers are what is called in B-School mixed solutions. Be happy!
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      Dec 27 2012: Hi George

      I do not have a problem with longer, healthier and more productive lives. Not at all. I disagree with Nick Bostrom's way of trying to promote this idea. Just because it is desirable for the individual does not in any way make it a problem for humanity. And by doing so he completely ignores actual problems that we face.

      Rather than presenting the ideas of this technology with all the positive and negative implications it might have, he uncritically presents it as a solution to humanity's problems.

      Some of the examples he uses are ways to eradicate negative emotions and doubts. There is a much greater debate to be had here that Nick Bostrom completely ignores in favour of mindless enthusiasm for transhumanism.

      I also have a problem with the arguments he uses. For instance the information that is lost when when people die. It is simply a false argument that I suspect is based on personal emotions rather than scientific exploration of the subject matter.
      • Dec 30 2012: I agree 100% and I believe you answered my question, thank you.