“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:
1.1 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
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 amazon.com)