A Deadly Proof Is Published But Is Your Mind Stable Enough To Read It?
    By Sascha Vongehr | December 21st 2013 12:18 AM | 10 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
    About Sascha

    Dr. Sascha Vongehr [风洒沙] studied phil/math/chem/phys in Germany, obtained a BSc in theoretical physics (electro-mag) & MSc (stringtheory)...

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    “Should I kill myself? May the artificial intelligence (AI), which humankind will depend on, ponder such questions, decide rationally, and drag us with it in a mercy killing?”

    This question taken seriously and answered scientifically is not going to go down well in Christian America, however, one publisher was daring enough. The annual DEATH AND ANTI-DEATH anthology’s VOLUME 11 has just been published. Distributed By Ingram (and on Amazon), the annual Death And Anti-Death Series has always discussed controversies related to death, life extension, and anti-death. A variety of differing points of view are usually presented, but Volume 11: Ten Years After Donald Davidson (1917-2003), is very different.

    As usual, the writers are professional scholars and the chapters contain original scholarship. It is also not surprising that they mostly feed into the desperate desire for everlasting life: Chapter five is “On What Persists After Death”, chapter six on Extreme Lifespans Via Perpetual-Equalising Interventions”, eight on Resurrecting The Dead Through Future Technology”, chapter ten on the plausibility of an afterlife. However, after those short chapters (only 19 pages on average), the easy-listening section is no longer.

    Relegated to the back (again, be grateful it got published at all), chapter 12 is a whopping 40 pages not afraid to delve, for example, into decision theory and evolutionary game theory to emerge with pure death – no sugar coating! As in some of the other chapters, the fashionable quantum gets mentioned, but this author publishes in the physics expert journals, being the only current philosopher who published in all three philosophically highly relevant fields, general relativity, quantum physics, and nanotechnology, directly in the peer reviewed, scientific expert journals, basically disregarding the academic “philosophy” swamp. Expect no quantum-woo saving your soul!

    Chapter 12, “Rational Suicide And Global Suicide In The Amor Fati Of Modal Totality” is introduced with the following abstract:

    Rational agents evolve rationalization and find, via decision theory, that they “should” commit suicide. Instead of an existentialist ‘leap to faith’ embrace of irrationality (Camus’ own ‘philosophical suicide’), irrationality is necessary for existence. Systems, like biospheres, whose evolution differs from that of competing subsystems like humans, are then considered. ‘Complacency Arguments’ (~ “why bother, all the possible is anyway under the Plenitude Principle”) contribute, but ‘Global Suicide’ solves the Fermi paradox mainly because a harmonious society is what improved itself away. ‘Suicidal Philosophy’ offers rational, peaceful exits.

    The chapter answers cutting edge questions like “Why are rational agents well advised to choose actions that make their desired results probable?” (section 2.3.2), and gives the definitive answer to the Fermi Paradox (3.6). Along the way, there are plenty of formal arguments one cannot find anywhere else in such a psychopathically straightforward manner as this:

    "Assume deciding for D1 gets me utility UD1-1 equal to one unit (= 1), and an undesired UD1-2 equal to negative 3 units (= –3), with probabilities PD1-1 = 0.7 and PD1-2 = 1 – PD1-1 = 0.3, respectively. We therefore write:

    UD1 = 0.7 – 0.3*3 = – 0.2. The result is negative, thus we decide instead for D2, which is successful suicide with PD2-1= 0.9, and unsuccessful suicide attempts leading to one negative unit of utility and the opportunity to try again:

    UD2 = 0.9*0 – 0.1*(1 + 0.1 +…) = – 0.111… . The result is also negative, but better than UD1."

    The scientific deriving of several novel concepts, like self-referential utility underlying fundamental irrationality and how to deal with it semi-rationally, should make this a seminal paper. Many topics, like the 'Complacency Argument' ("why bother if everything possible is anyway") have been mentioned before, but never this seriously. The article contains all of the following:

    1 Introduction
     1.1 Suicide Is Relevant Far Beyond Suicide      
    2 The Meaning of “Should” and the Rationality of Suicide
     2.1 Plenitude Principle, Tautological Modal Relativity
     2.2 Realisms, Determinisms
     2.3 Apparent Decisions without Choice, Darwinism on Transcendental Causality
      2.3.1 Apparent Causality and Natural Selection
      2.3.2 Decision as One Example for Evolved Teleology
     2.4 Basic Decision Theoretical “Should” and Simplest Argument for Rational Suicide
      2.4.1 Caring about Future Continuers
     2.5 Decision Theory with Probability and Utility Functions
      2.5.1 Clarification of Regret and Probability of Worlds
     2.6 Advanced Rational Agents and Rational Utility
      2.6.1 Rationality Becomes Self-Referential
      2.6.2 Rationality as Rational Utility
     2.7 Death as the Maximally Stable Rationality
     2.8 Irrationality
    3 Toward Global Suicide
     3.1 Why Bother? ‘Complacency Arguments’ and Desired Wisdom versus Desire
     3.2 Evolution Applies to Systems Generally
     3.3 Against Unsustainable Growth and Eternally Increasing Complexity
     3.4 Evolved Distribution of Suffering and Wellbeing
     3.5 Gaia Going Back to Sleep
     3.6 Drake Equation and the Solution to the Fermi Paradox
     3.7 A Last Rationalization

    For its almost Zen Buddhist conclusion, see here


    Reference: Vongehr, Sascha: “Rational Suicide and Global Suicide in the amor fati of Modal Totality.” Chapter 12, pages 229-268, in “Death and Anti-Death, Volume 11: Ten Years After Donald Davidson (1917-2003).” Charles Tandy (Ed.), Ria University Press (2013), Distributor: Ingram (Hardback: ISBN978-1-934297-17-9, Paperback edition: ISBN 978-1-934297-18-6) (on


    Interesting that you should link rationality with suicide.  Perhaps Chesterton was on to more than he knew when he wrote:
    The madman is not the man who has lost his reason. The madman is the man who has lost everything except his reason.
    — — The Maniac — —

    Robert H. Olley / Quondam Physics Department / University of Reading / England
    Nice quote - maybe I will use it, though if you start with quoting wise men about these kinds of things, you will find that indeed everything has been said before a long time ago. We can merely present it in more fashionable language, which today means, scientistic.
    John Hasenkam
    Congrats on the publication Sascha. Run off to a transhumanist forum and give 'em merry hell. I regard them as cowards. I just finished reading a bio on Einstein by Isaacson. Einstein certainly believed in the "Old One" and he certainly believed that this life is all there is. H was not formally religious. A text I read a few years ago, "Societies Without God", included an interview with a hospice worker in Denmark or Sweden who commented that in her experience those who best faced death were atheists, with religious people a long way behind. Only anecdotal but the reason could be that atheists have to front straight up to their inevitable mortality so have come to terms with it while religious people refuse to entertain the idea that this life is all there is. So when religious people see their death looming they are not ready for it, they have not previously reconciled themselves to their END. There is that strange paradox that religious people are often the ones most strenuously opposed to suicide and euthanasia. 
    The Sci-Fi author Robert Sawyer has written a triology concerning Neandertals inadvertently finding their way into our timeline. In their world they have become the dominant hominid with advanced technology. However they have no religious beliefs and so to them every individual life is all that there is and that is only sacred reality. I sometimes wonder if there would be an ethical transformation when people en masse accepted the inevitable, a theme Sawyer explores in that series. 

    Thanks for your contributions during the year. 
    Thanks for your contributions during the year.
    Well, thank you! :-)
    everything has been said before a long time ago."

    To be, or not to be, that is the question—
    Whether 'tis Nobler in the mind to suffer
    The Slings and Arrows of outrageous Fortune,
    Or to take Arms against a Sea of troubles,
    And by opposing end them? To die, to sleep—
    No more; and by a sleep, to say we end
    The Heart-ache, and the thousand Natural shocks
    That Flesh is heir to? 'Tis a consummation
    Devoutly to be wished.

    Hamlet, of course, continues by tormenting himself with the fear of the afterlife, which our rational system has rid itself of long ago :) Nevertheless these opening lines have already got to the heart of the matter - should Hamlet or Gaia carry on existing when death offers a pain-free sleep? Is it, in a word, "Noble"?

    Pure rationality has the opposite problem: it is self-evident that a powerful mind, using reason alone, cannot arrive at any conclusions whatsoever about whether a course of action is desirable or not unless it is pre-armed with the idea that some outcomes are better, more "Noble", than others. Such an idea is incorrigibly irrational. Clearly the sort of system you are talking about is clinging to the ungrounded idea that happiness is good and suffering is bad. Of course most humans think so but you can blame that on our evolutionary or divine origins - it makes no difference as we can only "intuit" such matters, we cannot prove them rationally.

    The fundamental flaw seems to be that the super-intelligence will be selectively irrational and value happiness (and non-suffering) whilst not valuing existence. Why is that more rational than valuing paper-clips?

    Clearly the sort of system you are talking about is clinging to the ungrounded idea that happiness is good and suffering is bad.
    Not sure what you mean - I talk about a lot of different systems. Generally, recursive rationality questions the value of values (such as "happiness").
    Thor Russell
    Is it going to be available for download somewhere soon? There only seems to be the hard copy available.
    Thor Russell
    I am sorry, I don't know.
    Good that you got published in such a manner...we'll see how seminal it becomes....

    Personally, I've always found value in rationality and mathematical thinking only in very specific contexts, like solving a computer bug, not in general.

    How many serious researchers or other people are out there depending on rationality optimization--is this a major surprise?
    Optimization of rationality is however what many think may render AI safe for us, more ethical than baby Jesus, because surely, a rational system will see that humans are nice and must be rescued. My point is not about human rationality, but about relative rationality of general systems, in other words, we are toast.