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Some Problems with Immortalism
for the next year is more important for me than the value
of being alive the following year, and much more important
than the value of being alive for one year 100 years in the
future. The present value of money can be compared with the
future value of money in a choice of present money or future
money – a mutually exclusive choice. A mutually exclusive
choice cannot be made with life because being alive in the
future requires being alive in the present – all the more reason
for placing greater value on life in the present; but diminish-
ing returns can and do still apply.
Let’s say that being alive in 2005 is 98 % as important to
me as being alive in 2004. Then I can calculate the value of
immortality for me as:
the sum of N from zero to infinity for
(0.98)N=1÷(1-0.98)=50.
That is, I value immortality 50 times as much as I value
being alive for another year. If this seems unreasonable, then
ask yourself: “Is being alive for one year at the age of 100
really as important to me as being alive for one year at the age
of one thousand or one million?” It must be that events far in
the future, even being alive, must be of less personal signifi-
cance or urgency than events in the present.
To put the argument in the most forceful terms, if you knew
for a certainty that you were going to be obliterated without
hope of further life at the age of one million years, would
that be significantly more tragic than an age of ten million?
Ten billion? Ten trillion? Even after ten quadrillion years, you
can never know that you have achieved immortality – that
would take eternity.
Imagine that you have a million dollars and that you are to
allocate that money entirely toward ensuring your survival in
any given year. If you allocate the entire million to surviving