(urth) An Evil Guest science errors

Gwern Branwen gwern0 at gmail.com
Mon Jan 4 13:19:01 PST 2010

On Mon, Jan 4, 2010 at 11:28 AM, James Wynn <crushtv at gmail.com> wrote:
> Perhaps Chase is using different variables based on empirical data in other
> non-aging cultures.

Which would be? Woldercon?

> Perhaps un-aging cultures tend toward more violence and
> risk.

The intuitive arguments are for exactly the opposite: if your lifespan
is indefinitely long, you jeopardize indefinitely many years with
violence or risk, whereas with aging, no matter the risk you take you
can lose no more than 120 years of life. A ceiling on losses
encourages risk-taking. (Consider recent financial bail-outs...)

I am reminded of some old quips:

  Q- Why does the devil keep his deals?
  A- Because as an immortal he has an infinite time horizon of other
deals he jeopardizes if he betrays any given deal. Therefore the
opportunity cost of any betrayal is too high.

  Q- What does that make politicians then?
  A- Lower in ethical reliability than the devil.

> And for self-slaughter, we're talking suicide. We simply cannot know
> the rates of suicide in cultures where life goes on and on.

If the suicides are caused solely by exogenous factors, then Reis -
and certainly Wolfe - cannot know this without aging having been cured
in a normal human society, which it has not, so the statement is
unjustified. If suicides are caused solely by internal reasons, then
Reis's statement about deaths being inevitable within 2-300 years is
false since people will live as long as they want to.
Any mix of endogenous or exogenous factors simply makes his statement
a greater or lesser mixture of false and unjustified.

On Mon, Jan 4, 2010 at 11:43 AM,  <brunians at brunians.org> wrote:
> When you are talking about something totally speculative, you can make up whatever result you like, basically, and justify your assumptions however you like.
> Hey, the Shivapuri Baba took up smoking at the age of 107, and died at the age of 137.

Entertainingly, I was recently reading
http://www.overcomingbias.com/2009/12/animal-smoking-studies.html and
http://www.overcomingbias.com/2009/12/smoking-followup.html arguing
that the actual studies suggest that smoking is only harmful to people
with bad/vulnerable lungs (for whom it is harmful enough to skew all
the other statistics which we know and fear).

On Mon, Jan 4, 2010 at 12:21 PM, Jeff Wilson <jwilson at io.com> wrote:
> Those more modestly equiped with Excel or Windows' built-in CALC.EXE can
> check this by treating it as a survival chance of .9997 per year, and raise
> that value to (for example) 100 years with
> =0.9997^100     (for Excel)

Quite right. If I had thought harder, I would've realized that was the
easier way to do it - but I'm a Haskeller and the iterate pattern is
what my mind jumped to.
(It does have the slight advantage of showing all the intermediate
results, but that's very slight.)


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