I finally figured out what’s been bothering me about HPMOR, nearly a year after first reading it, and it wasn’t anything to do with problematic representations of gender but with the concept of rationality itself and the assumption that anti-death transhumanism is the…
Could you be more specific. I mean any system of thought originated in particular places at particular times. If there is a world out there with truths out there to be found we should expect that finding them happens at particular times and places. If physics is accurate and tells the truth then we shouldn’t expect people to have grokked quantum mechanics in feudal japan, feudal europe or in Africa. Why does being historically situated invalidate HPMOR’s conception of rationality?
It doesn’t, as far as I can tell. Post-Enlightenment Europe just happened to be the place where we could discover all these things. There’s a long line of causal graphs leading up to it and a million past events could have gone differently and led to the discovery of Bayes’ Theorem or Quantum Mechanics in Sub-Saharan Africa of Japan. There are reasons Europe came out on top, but those reasons are historical and geographical, not because of any mental superiority of Europeans.
But what I believe @Stormingtheivory (I can’t get tagging to work…) argues is that HPMOR presents rationality as something white, European men do, while rationality is universal. Pretty much every human has the capacity to be rational, and most sufficiently intelligent non-humans have the same capacity, which is something HPMOR tends to gloss over. For me, this isn’t a crippling flaw, but I understand the criticism.
I feel like I should be getting involved here since it’s such a huge important topic and since I’ve been mentioned as a source, but it’s so vast that I’m not sure where to even begin… Particularly since I both embrace a lot of the postcolonialist critique of science, but also I’m pretty absolutist when it comes to feeling that embracing death is just… well… irrational. I almost feel like the two problems aren’t really the same problem and that’s where I’m having trouble finding a way in? Like I just don’t think a postcolonial critique of HPMOR and LessWrong is most productive when applied to anti-death transhumanism.
Also there weren’t that many typos =_=
This fic bugged me when I read it, for various reasons, but the hardcore anti-death thing in particular.
Like, I can certainly see why someone would consider death an objectively bad thing, and they might even be right.
But I can think of a bunch of reasons why living forever might be considered an objectively bad thing, including but not limited to:
1) Overpopulation. Many people have an instinctive desire to breed as an evolutionary response to death and that ain’t gonna auto-vanish, so until you either find more space or figure out how to switch off that desire eternal life is a no-no. Unless you LIKE being crammed in like sardines.
2) Actually, what if we do switch off all the breeding, and then live forever. No new humans. We’re stuck with the ones we’ve got. I guess we could keep reproducing at a slow rate, but still… what are the kids gonna do when all the top slots are taken by their more-experienced elders? Rather than passing things on we’d be in competition with our kids, giving them nowhere to progress but away from us. Which isn’t going to be possible FOREVER. Forever is a seriously long time.
3) Non-universality. Unless you can make everyone immortal at once, market forces are gonna come into play. Hello overclass of immortal whoever-was-running-the-place-when-this-was-invented. Nice to know us mortal peons are now a worthless underclass in your dystopian paradise.
4) What the hell happens to a human psyche if you leave it running for thousands and thousands of years anyway? Maybe nothing. Maybe we all get hella concerned about the future. Or maybe we all get super apathetic and leave everything to later. Or super-bored and do awful things just to amuse ourselves. This is not a good thing to be uncertain about because once done it ain’t getting undone, is it?
5) What about the end of the world/universe? What happens then?
Basically, even without the objections that are predicated on irrational human nature (which even a rational person should be able to factor in!) I see Death as a (brutal and upsetting) agent of change. I fear the species-wide stagnation that could settle in without it more than I fear the death of any individual.
I could be wrong, but I have the feeling that death being good or bad is sort of a matter-of-opinion thing rather than a totally objective viewpoint.