Your Life-Defense Plan

Fundamentally, Transhumanism is about life — making it better, longer, and happier.  Unfortunately we live in a mostly malevolent, or at best indifferent, universe. Consider the fact that the universe is at least fourteen trillion light years in diameter, and out of that fourteen trillion light years we know of a single environment — roughly 1.34 × 10-9 light years in diameter- that isn’t immediately going to kill us. Crunching the numbers, this means that about 0.0000000000000000000000000957% of the universe is naturally human friendly — and even that miniscule planet we call home itself isn’t so safe either.

Every day we face unexpected threats. If we didn’t, the bottom would fall out of the insurance industry. Some threats aren’t so bad. There’s always the threat that the power will go out because of a storm and you’ll have to ration what battery power remains in your devices. Some threats are moderate. If you live in an urban area you run a higher risk of getting mugged and potentially injured. These type of threats are able to be recovered from. The power will come back on, and mental and physical therapy can restore you after a violent attack. This article is about the kind of threat that you can’t recover from. The most serious threats, the life-threatening ones, can’t be insured against or dealt with after the fact, because at that point it’s just too late. Instead, they must be planned for and avoided at all costs.

I’m amazed at the number of people who will do everything they can to stay alive, up until they die. They seem to think that life is valuable up until the point that most other people lose it. This mentality is exemplified in the aftermath of natural disasters. Miraculous stories of survival are broadcast around the clock in an inspiring display of the will to live- and yet those same people who miraculously survived will die scant decades later, without so much as putting up a fight. Transhumanism introduces a new view of life: that it is not necessarily human, that is is intrinsically valuable, and that it should be defended. As succinctly stated in the motto of the Terasem Movement: “Lives are good”. Accordingly, responsible Transhumanists need a plan to defend those lives, and more specifically their own. Before delving into a personal defense plan, I want to remind you that I’m not an expert in these areas, and I strongly encourage you to contact the experts in these areas.

Physical self-defense is a good place to start. After all, you can’t enjoy the benefits and wonders of the distant future if you don’t make it there. In addition to all of the wonderful things the human body can do, it can also be dangerous. In a natural, untrained state one can be mildly dangerous against those who also aren’t trained. Against someone who is trained, nothing can be done. It’s a fundamentally unfair fight because while the untrained individual is directing force in all directions, the trained individual has learned to organize and focus that force usefully. Learning a martial art is a good start but it’s just that — a start. Professor John Lott once said “Guns are the great equalizer between the weak and the vicious.” Regardless of your stance on gun control, you’ll probably want one if you end up in the wrong dark alley. Consider this: is potentially being unable to properly defend yourself worth permanent, irreversible death? If it isn’t your attitudes toward guns, or death, need to change.  [Editor’s note: these views on gun control, like every opinion expressed in every H+ magazine article, are those of the author and not official opinions of the magazine or the organization Humanity+]

Physical self-defense includes more than just evading the risk of being beaten. Also in this category is routine physical exercise, nutrition, and overall health. A virus can kill you just as dead as a person. Start a workout routine and stick to it. When you feel like quitting, remember that your life could literally be on the line. Keep well-nourished. Avoid fast-food and food loaded with simple sugars. Remember that junk food deserves its name.

The most important — and most obvious — step in a physical defense plan is to avoid death at all cost. Death used to be cardiac arrest- then CPR was introduced. So death was pushed back until neurons stopped firing- then cryonic suspension was invented. Currently, death occurs gradually, as the brain decays losing the information contained in its structure. This is called information-theoretic death. If you don’t think you’ll be around to take advantage of life extension technologies, arrange to have yourself preserved when you die, using the method you find most likely to assure your eventual resurrection. Even if you do think you’ll be around you may want to prepare for the worst anyway. The world is full of nasty surprises.

Mental self-defense is also necessary. Although not subject to direct physical harm like the body, viruses propagate through the mind in much the same way as they do through the body. Although many of these viruses are beneficial- cooperation, freedom, rule of law, democracy — many of them are actively harmful. Racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia, ad infinitum separate us from those who may otherwise have offered us valuable tools in our struggle for survival- even if we don’t personally engage in those behaviors ourselves. Although they are not physical, ideas have very real effects in our daily lives. It behooves us to study which ideas promote survival, individually and collectively, and which ideas prevent our survival, and act accordingly.

An incredibly useful characteristic of ideas is that they are extremely contagious, making sharing your ideas with others the easiest way to defend yourself mentally. Not only will sharing your ideas encourage others to adopt and perpetuate them, but they will reinforce these ideas in your own mind, essentially “vaccinating” you against contrary, but seductive, ideas. For example, encouraging your friends to adopt Transhumanism not only grows the community but also makes you more knowledgeable about Transhumanism, and enables you to effectively counter arguments against it that may have persuaded you otherwise.

Your financial security may be most important. If you don’t have the resources you need to keep your body and mind alive and well, physical self-defense is a moot point. Financial security takes on an entirely different meaning in terms of self-defense, namely, in terms of immortality. This is because those who don’t plan on dying soon have different motivations for the choices they make. Max More defines aenomics as the study of the economic problems of immortal existence. In order to defend yourself financially, you must not only educate yourself in common economics, but also in aenomics. Mortals handle their resources in terms of their lifespan, and perhaps slightly longer. The potentially immortal must learn to handle their money in ways that enable them to always have the resources they need, when they need them- even if they’re not around to manage them. Cryonics trusts have already been covered by this magazine and constitute a small part of the knowledge necessary to defend oneself financially. In addition, one should become knowledgeable in the areas of compound interest, exponential growth, and risk management.

Even if you’re not an expert in finance, now is the time to start increasing your financial security because of the effects of compounding interest. Set aside for now the fact that your planning for immortality and suppose you’re simply saving for retirement. If you place $100 in an investment account, and add $100 per month for the next fifty years, compounding monthly at 10%, you end up with $1,761,413.06. Now assume you waited for that promotion at work and it took you a year to get started. You now only have $1,593,306.07. Almost $170,000 less, but still not bad. Now let’s assume you waited five years. Now you’re down to $1,065,821.01- almost $700,000 dollars short of what you could have had. Exponential growth in both finances and technology mean that those who get in early will reap the most rewards. Your financial security cannot wait.

Your life won’t protect itself. Death and entropy is the default state, and you will quickly return to it if you aren’t proactive about keeping yourself alive. Even the best of us have less than a century to do something about this condition so it’s never too early to start. The difference between a victim and a survivor is preparedness. Those who survive natural disasters see them coming and make sure they are physically able, mentally prepared, and have the resources they need to survive. Those who survive assault or rape are those who have the foresight to realize that there are sick people out there who prey on others for no rational reason, and decide not to be a victim. The ones who survive death will be the ones who saw it coming, and refused to be just another corpse on a world already filled with graveyards. This is your warning. Death is coming for you. You can’t dissuade it, you can’t rationalize with it; it doesn’t want your money, or your family… it wants your life. Can you defend yourself?

21 Comments

  1. Does anyone know how to survive the end of the universe?

  2. So, I am a conditional pacifist. I follow Isaac Asimov’s great quote: “Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent.”

    Seeking a violent solution to any problem is a tacit admission that one has failed utterly otherwise.

    That being said, when presented with immediate violence, only the evolutionarily unfit and soon to be oppressed or deceased are unprepared.

    Such was the case in Japan in 1588 when the Shogun Hideyoshi disarmed the populace during what came to be called the Great Sword Hunt. He decreed: “The possession of unnecessary implements [of war] makes difficult the collection of taxes and dues, and tends to foment uprisings.”

    Or, there is the fact that between 1768-1777, the British policy was to disarm the American colonists by whatever means possible, from entrapment, false promises of safekeeping, banning imports, seizure, and eventually shooting persons bearing arms.

    By 1774, the British had embargoed shipments of arms to America, and the Americans responded by arming themselves and forming independent militia companies.

    More recently, one has only to look at the actions of dictators such as Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, and Chairman Mao (all of whom implemented gun controls followed by confiscation).

    If more citizens carried guns, spree killings would decrease. Two separate school shootings have been stopped by citizens with guns, one an assistant principal and the other a passerby who had a gun in his car.

    I believe that the majority of people are fundamentally good and non-violent on principle. If you arm those basically decent citizens then they can defend themselves and others against the minority of unbalanced individuals who are violent by nature.

    If ordinary people are not armed, then they are easy prey for that small group of violent criminals and misfits that make the news so often.

    Finally, remembering that a legally armed populace is a free one, consider Machiavelli’s research on the issue. He wrote in the early 16th century that it is a “legally armed” citizenry which has kept governments “free and incorrupt. . . . Rome remained free for four hundred years and Sparta eight hundred although their citizens were well armed at the time; but many other states that have been disarmed have lost their liberties in less than forty years.”

    At various times in history, even the practice of unarmed combat arts has been forbidden by regimes fearful of their citizenry.

    So, there it is.

    I am against violence on principle. But, I oppose the fear and ignorance (of and about legal arms) which create an opportunity for oppression and violence, even more.

  3. You might want to follow the lead of the zombie apocalypses. Who tends to survive in those stories? Hillbillies, farmers, blue collar people. Why do they tend to survive instead of, say, tax accountants, psychotherapists and attorneys? Because they work with tangible production; they know how to operate and repair machines, or how to find and extract what they need from the resources of nature. If you plan to survive for a long, long time, assuming you have the biomedical means to do so, then you will have to acquire skills, skills and more skills to improve your odds.

    I suppose the famous Heinlein quote comes to mind, though I doubt that Heinlein did many of the things he attributes to Lazarus Long’s skill set, like conning a space ship, programming a computer, surviving a potentially deadly fight or taking care of a baby.

  4. >Cryonics trusts have already been covered by this magazine and constitute a small part of the knowledge necessary to defend oneself financially.

    I don’t understand the implied business model behind cryonics trusts. Some very wealthy cryonicists want to tie up hundreds of millions of dollars in these trusts, yet they depend on financially threadbare cryonics organizations to keep them in suspension for however long it takes to try to revive them. They don’t seem to have thought this out very well, unless some of them plan to use their money to make the finances of their storage organizations a LOT more secure in the next few years.

  5. I think all people on earth above age 10 or so should have a gun with them at all times.

    If you shoot people, you will get shot. That knowledge keeps peace most of the time, and the rest sorts itself out anyway.

    Yay for freedom. Boo for sitting ducks.

    • That is almost certainly the most ridiculous idea I have ever heard.

  6. “Regardless of your stance on gun control, you’ll probably want one if you end up in the wrong dark alley.”

    My inner redneck approves of this message.

  7. I think that perhaps there’s a subtext to this essay (whether intended or not) that is striking a nerve. Self-preservation is a bigger deal for us now, because the golden age of H+ is not here yet. Smartphones, sure, but things like life extension, mind uploading, and cyborg replacement are all 20-50 years away still (hopefully I’m wrong?) Those of us under the age of 40 have a small chance of catching that on the tail end of our lives, but it will take the sort of planning that is detailied in the essay. I don’t know if that was your point, Seth, but if it was it was well taken.
    Also: not attacking, just discussing.

  8. Seth should be able to discuss his views on self defense here without being attacked in the comments section. There was even a disclaimer that said his views did not reflect those of the magazine. Someone should be able to express pro-gun views here as long as they are not insane about it. He has not advocated killing anyone. Come on! H+ Magazine is a freethinking publication and we welcome all viewpoints and perspectives.

  9. Seth should be able to discuss his views on self defense here with being attacked in the comments section. There was even a disclaimer that said his views did not reflect those of the magazine. Someone should be able to express pro-gun views here as long as they are not insane about it. He has not advocated killing anyone. Come on! H+ Magazine is a freethinking publication and we welcome all viewpoints and perspectives.

  10. “Those who survive natural disasters see them coming and make sure they are physically able, mentally prepared, and have the resources they need to survive”

    Do you really think that this is true?

    This whole article smacks of a naive childlike gunghoism.

    Grow up

    • Dave,

      You bring up a good point that many others raise as well- bringing all of your resources to bear on merely surviving is no fun. What’s the purpose of surviving if you can’t enjoy your life? It is my hope that I encourage people to address their personal survival, not as an abstract concept, but as a concrete goal, and that they are able to enjoy life while managing the risks involved in living.

      Rich,

      Certainly there are lucky people who survive without preparing, but are you willing to stake your continued survival on luck? By definition, luck is a force beyond one’s control. I hope to encourage people to bring those forces effecting their survival under their control.

    • We saw plenty of people in New Orleans who didn’t have the resources to get out of harm’s way. The family which had a working car full of gasoline, a cooler or picnic basket full of ready to eat food, and a couple thousand dollars on hand, wouldn’t have had to wade through filthy water to the Super Bowl.

  11. I admire the attitude of the author, but I don’t share the survivalist mentality. Let’s not forget that, even if we do the best we can possibly do, the probability of individual survival beyond year 2150, say, is vanishingly small for all of us.

    There’s also the question whether it is really the most fun.

  12. Forgive me, it was not my intent to derail your essay with this particular controversy. Your points about self-defense are valid. If we are trying to prepare ourselves for immortality or something like it, it is our minds that we have to protect first and foremost, right? I’m not convinced that the stress and risks of gun ownership are outweighed by the benefits–i.e. the one in a million chance that you might face an active shooter AND be able to use a gun to save your life. Plus, wouldn’t immortality be less appealing if you had to live with the sort of guilt and PTSD associated with being involved in violence? Yes, if you’re dead there’s no chance for immortality, duh. But if one lives a life that can’t avoid (or worse–seeks out) that kind of trouble, maybe that person is not destined for H+ ?

  13. Criminals, by definition, have very few qualms about breaking the law. Therefore, outlawing or restricting gun ownership is likely to have little effect on criminals.

    Conversely, we want peaceful people to be properly armed because they are most likely to use their weapons only to maintain peace.

    According to an analysis of ninety-three shootings, the average number of people killed in mass shootings when stopped by police is 14.3. The average number of people killed in a mass shooting when stopped by a civilian is 2.3. Those numbers encourage me to be armed.

    • 2009 homicides due to firearms in USA 11,493. In England and Wales for the same year there have been 20 firearm related homicides. factor in for population so times by 5 it’ll be slightly over but the figure is 100 for comparable pop size. so you are 114.93 times more likely to be killed in a country where it is legal to own a firearm then you are in a country where you aren’t allowed.

  14. That was sort of my takeaway from this article as well. “If you don’t want to die from violence, get yourself a gun!” I disagree. The pro-gun people are fond of saying, “Guns don’t kill people!” but the inverse is also true–guns do not protect you from harm. I would be concerned that my gun would make me more reckless, setting up a Chekhov’s Gun scenario. Wouldn’t better advice for the Transhumanist be, “Live a life of serenity and avoid the dark alleys”?

    • Jackson,

      I knew the sentence about guns would be contentious but couldn’t bring myself to remove it from the article because it’s probable that someone who reads this article will find themselves in a situation in which being otherwise armed simply would not suffice.

      Your advice- to live in serenity and avoid dark alleys- is also appropriate. Moreover, it is an appropriate way to live because it fosters peace and stability, as opposed to reckless behavior. My advice on gun ownership is reserved for those situations in which it is impossible to withdraw from a confrontation.

      Guns are neutral; they can be used to protect or injure. The determining factor is the person who holds the gun, and better the gun be in my hand than in the hands of someone trying to kill me. It is my hope that those reading this article would have more interest in their immortality than to own a gun only to get out of trouble they put themselves in.

  15. I find the juxtaposition of an implicitly pro-gun stance with a meditation on the importance of cultivating positive memeplexes particularly perplexing.

  16. >Regardless of your stance on gun control, you’ll probably want one if you end up in the wrong dark alley. Consider this: is potentially being unable to properly defend yourself worth permanent, irreversible death?

    No. It is far easier to kill with a gun then with a knife.
    If you have a society with guns, in most cases it still will be the criminal who has the gun in that dark alley.

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