Alle Beiträge von Höllge

Transhumanist author, musician and senior sysadmin. Trying to make it to age 1000 and beyond. Looking good so far.

We do what we’re told

Maybe the wide-spread police brutality seen in those protests can be better understood with the Milgram Experiment and the Stanford Prison Experiment. The cops are a group exercising power over another group, and they are following orders (not talking about Chauvin and his abetters here; they’re criminals). It’s an ugly part of human psychology I guess. Can this be curtailed, and if so, how?

The right to stay alive

I firmly believe that existing sentient beings have more rights than non-existing sentient beings. Or to be more precise: Existing sentient beings have all human rights, including the right of continued existence, whereas non-existing sentient beings are fictional and have no rights at all.

That being said, I cannot ignore the fact that there will be future generations of sentient beings. They may be fictional right now, but they are coming into existence every day, confronting us with fait accompli.

I am not implying that overpopulation is inevitable; rather I’m asking hypothetically, if it was inevitable, would this create an ethical obligation for pre-existing sentient beings to perish in order to make room for newly created sentient beings?

And do we pre-existing sentient beings have the right to act in self-defence?

So, if pre-existing sentient beings have the right of self-defence, which I personally strongly believe they do, wouldn’t that include preventing other sentient beings from creating more sentient beings? We’re getting into dark futurology territory pretty fast here.

I don’t think that bringing a sentient being into this world forfeits its creator’s right of existence. Or in laymen’s terms, I don’t agree that parents must die once their children are of legal age. Especially if that wasn’t specified in the generational contract agreed upon. Right now, there’s no such contract anway, except perhaps an unspoken one, because until now, it was never necessary. People aged and died anyway, one way or another.

We can certainly discuss whether this will change in the short term; it’s debatable right now. But as long as our technological civilzation continues on its path, it absolutely will change at some point. We’re going to have to answer those hard questions sooner or later.


Triggered? Maybe. Scared or misogynistic? Hardly.

I’m not stupid and I’m not a science denier. I agree that hundreds of millions of people will suffer negative consequences from climate change, and many things need to be done asap to reduce the damage. I doubt, however, that our civilization will end because of climate change, although I can’t be certain, obviously.

Personally, if you must know, my last international flight was in 1995, didn’t go on vacation since 2006, don’t own a car since 2011, and reduced my meat intake greatly starting two years ago. I am a proponent of reducing meat production as much as possible, because it makes no sense whatsoever and is also ethically questionable, to say the least. So whatever triggers me it’s not because I’m a SUV driving pork muncher with a private jet 😉

So what does trigger me?

Well, when I was a teen, we were as much scared of a nuclear war as the current generation is of climate change. I am not making this up — we were scared shitless! The cold war ended 30 years ago, because a Soviet politician by the name of Gorbachev had the will and power to make sweeping changes. Some of them backfired in a really bad way — could he have known this in advance? I think not. The world is far too complex for even the brightest among us to foresee all possible consequences.

Many of our dreams were destroyed, too, just as many of this generation’s dreams were destroyed. I’m still bummed beyond belief that there are no stations on moon and mars, that nuclear fusion remains energy negative to this day, and that cancer is still a thing. I was promised all that and more as a child, and all by the year 2000. WTF went wrong? I guess the destruction of dreams happens to almost everyone alive in some form or another.

Boomers and GenX’ers have had their own impending catastrophes and fought them as hard as they could, from Vietnam to CFC/FCKW to acid rain. Yes, many if not most, may have underestimated the rate of climate change; that’s because humans generally have difficulties properly judging rapid changes. I would be surprised if that wasn’t true for Millennials and GenY’ers as well. They’re still homo sapiens, are they not? 😉

I take offence when someone is finger pointing at previous generations blaming a situation on them that — all things considered — was not so easily avoidable. The world is awfully complex, and there’s societal momentum that is hard to escape, and there are common cognitive limitations and biases that are very hard to overcome.

I take offence when someone is implying — not saying, but implying — that previous generations caused all current problems out of greed and never did anything good. It’s simply not true; especially Boomers did a lot to further the human condition, and current generations are benefitting from it greatly (and yes, they f’ed up some stuff pretty bad, too, there’s no denying that).

However, I do NOT take offence when somebody is pointing out past omissions, and lines out our common responsibilities. We ARE in this together, after all. I for one have no intentions of going away anytime soon… or ever. Even if I will go on to live on mars at age 100, Earth is and will always remain MY planet just as much as yours! So if Millennials and GenY’ers would just stop insulting our intelligence and integrity, if they’d curb their perceived righteousness just a bit, we might be able to work as one and find solutions… instead of feeling compelled to write essay-sized blog posts like these.

And lastly, mentioned only in the preventative, I am not scared by young women; maybe a bit apprehensive, but certainly not scared mindless. Neither am I a misogynist 😉

Energieverlust. Macht Mars mobil?

Vor ziemlich genau 20 Jahren habe ich begonnen, FARNHAMS LEGENDE zu schreiben, meinen ersten veröffentlichten Roman. Damals hatte ich eine Menge Energie – ich bin von der Arbeit gekommen und habe geschrieben, habe am Wochenende geschrieben, tagsüber, nachts, immer. Während dieser Zeit bin ich sogar umgezogen und am Ende saß ich mit meinem Computer auf einer Matratze in einer leeren Wohnung und habe trotzdem weiter geschrieben.

Heutzutage fehlt mir die Energie. Zwar stehe ich morgens mit dem Wunsch auf, kreativ etwas zu erschaffen, und an freien Tagen und am Wochenende klappt das auch meistens. Aber unter der Woche abends habe ich die Energie nicht mehr. Meine Kreativität ist im Büro verflogen, ich will nichts mehr erschaffen. Ich will nur noch in Ruhe gelassen werden, passiv Medien konsumieren, und mit niemandem sprechen.

Ich wünschte, ich wüsste, wie ich meine Energie von damals wieder bekomme, wenigstens ein bisschen was davon.

Biologisches Altern ist ja ein Prozess, der struktuelle und molekulare Veränderungen des Körpers zur Folge hat. Dazu gehört auch ganz buchstäblich der Verlust von „Energie“ in Form verschiedener Arten des Moleküls NAD, das jede Zelle für ihren Stoffwechsel dringend benötigt. Ein Fünfzigjähriger hat davon nur noch ca. die Hälfte eines Zwanzigjährigen. Ich denke, dass das eine große Rolle spielt. Sicher nicht die einzige Ursache, aber eine der wichtigeren.

Ich baue darauf, dass dieses und andere Ungleichgewichte in den nächsten 5-15 Jahren pharmakologisch wieder ausgeglichen werden können, daher denke ich, dass meine momentane Energielosigkeit ein vorübergehender Zustand ist. Etwa wie eine Grippe oder so, nur über einen längeren Zeitraum hinweg.

Also, ihr Molekularbiologen da draußen, lasst die Petrischalen rotieren, eine Armee müder Krieger und Kriegerinnen zählt auf euch 😉

I am what I am, but what am I?

It’s weird, I’m 52 but I don’t feel like a real grown-up. I see folks from my cohort, or younger, with their houses and mortgages, children and multiple cars, they’re serious people, they mean business. And here am I with my dreams of a magnificent future, of spaceships, nanotech, agi, the end of aging, and humankind united at last. A future of which I’m strongly optimistic is possible in principle, but uncertain when it’ll arrive.

There’s a guitar and a bass on my wall, next to a stack of keyboards and an actual vocal booth in what used to be my bedroom. There are two handful of books with my name on it on my shelf. What am I? Who am I? Where do I belong? Where am I going, or am I in it just for the path, not for the destination? Is it right, is it wrong; should I be more like the other folks from my cohort? I’m asking myself that question often, but I have no answers. Maybe there are no easy answers.

It’s like it is. I can only do what I must to, cannot do anything else, cannot pretend to be somebody else. So I’ll continue walking along this path whether it’ll lead to my timely demise or to the red planet.

Watch me 👽

Neuauflage der fünf Romane aus dem X-Universum ab Ende März!

Good news, everyone!

Meine fünf Romane aus dem X-Universum erscheinen dieses Jahr wieder als Printausgabe beim Hybridverlag! Wer auf echtes Papier zwischen den Fingern steht, wird das zu schätzen wissen.

Der erste Roman der Serie, „Farnhams Legende“,  wird bereits Ende März als Taschenbuch verfügbar sein; die übrigen vier Romane („Nopileos“, „Yoshiko“, „Hüter der Tore“ und „Wächter der Erde“) werden im Laufe des Jahres folgen.

Hier der Link zur Pressemitteilung des Hybridverlags.

Begegnung bei KIC 8462852

Ich befinde mich in der Planungsphase für eine Trilogie im Genre Space Opera, die von einer mutigen Expedition zu KIC 8462852 handelt, einem ungewöhnlichen Stern, der umgangssprachlich „Tabby’s Star“ genannt wird.

Arbeitstitel des ersten Bands ist „Begegnung bei KIC 8462852“, der vorläufige Titel des zweiten Bands lautet „Schmelztiegel KIC 8462852“, und der abschließende Roman könnte etwa „Die Erbauer von KIC 8462852“ heißen.

Die Trilogie beschreibt eine lebenswerte, aufregende Zukunft, in der die Menschheit endlich erwachsen wird; in der machtvolle Künstliche Intelligenzen nicht vernichten, sondern unterstützen wollen; in der Technologie und Biologie zu einer Einheit verschmilzt, deren genaue Zusammensetzung jeder Mensch für sich alleine entscheiden kann. Angesiedelt in einer nicht all zu fernen Zukunft, unternehmen Menschen von der Erde mit Hilfe des Alcubierre-Antriebs ihre ersten Schritte zu den Sternen.

Die beiden Protagonisten heißen Fedor Gromow und Ada Bernauld. Später kommt noch ein weiterer Protagonist hinzu, über den ich an dieser Stelle aber noch nichts verraten möchte 😉

Der Schreibstil wird sich an den meiner Romane aus dem X-Universum anlehnen, mit liebenswerten Charakteren und einer Prise Humor, wird jedoch technisch und physikalisch näher an der Realität angesiedelt sein.

Die Planung ist bereits angelaufen, aber mit dem tatsächlichen Schreiben werde ich kaum vor Ende 2018 beginnen können, da ich derzeit noch an dem zweiten Album meiner Band voXager arbeite. Sobald die ersten Leseproben vorliegen (Januar 2019?), werde ich eine Patreon-Seite einrichten.

I would do anything for Mars (but I won’t do that)

Somebody on Reddit proposed to solve overpopulation by shipping people to Mars. He reasoned that the cost for space transportation is expected to go down by a lot, with SpaceX pioneering reusability and novel concepts. While this is certainly true, I’m afraid overpopulation cannot be solved this way. Here’s why:

Ok, let’s say it’s the year 2050. We have  more than 10bn people on Earth. Maybe population growth is slowing down, going into reverse around the year 2100, which the UN seems to think will happen.

Let’s further say, we’d like to ship 5bn people to Mars, so that both planets have a population of 5bn each, which seems pretty reasonable.

For the sake of simplicity, let’s just assume that half of humankind would actually chose to go to Mars.

Now, let’s do the math to figure how many BFR/BFS flights, each carrying a 100 people, would be required to ship 5bn people to Mars. It’s 50 million. Fifty million BFR/BFS launches. Let that number sink in. Then try it with different values — maybe future BFR/BFS versions can carry a 1000 instead of a hundred people; and maybe it’s enough to ship 2bn people off planet to make an ecological impact. Run the numbers again. Let them sink in again.

I estimate that the whole of Earth would have to be turned into an operation that does nothing else but BFR/BFS launches for hundreds, if not thousands of years. I would furthermore estimate that the population on Mars, while constantly growing, would still be hard pressed to construct infrastructure accomodating 5bn people in a sensible timeframe. On that scale, with that many people coming, terraforming of Mars is inevitable; but we don’t have a plan for that yet, just some wild ideas. We don’t have a testcase or proof of concept. We just don’t know what will work, and won’t know until we’ve done it. Which may take thousands or even tens of thousands of years. We don’t know.

And I’ve not even talked about the ecological damage millions upon millions of rocket launches/landings during hundreds of years will do to both planets.

To maybe get around all those problems and make your plan work, we’d have to build two thousand space elevators: a thousand here, on Earth, another thousand on Mars. We don’t have a single one yet, don’t have the technology yet, and will very likely not get there anytime soon. Additionally, we’d need a large fleet of interplanetary vessels that don’t land on planetary surfaces at all.

I am not saying your idea is impossible in principle. What I’m saying is that it’s prohibitively impractical. And I’m saying that as someone who would do just about anything to live on Mars (but I won’t do that).

No. The overpopulation problem, if it is a problem at all, must be addressed right here, on Earth.

Stephen, please! Herr Hawking malt den Weltuntergang.

Der Folgende Artikel kursiert derzeit in den sozialen Medien, ein englischsprachiges Gegenstück dazu gibt’s ebenfalls:

Der Artikel findet großen Zuspruch und verursacht kollektives Kopfnicken. Aber wieso? Ich glaube, dass die sozialen Medien uns mit viel zu vielen negativen Nachrichten überfluten, obwohl der globale Trend  gar nicht so negativ ist, wie er scheint. Deshalb hier eine kurze Gegendarstellung, die ich den Optimisten unter uns anbieten möchte.

Ich mag kein Genie sein, aber ich teile Hawkings Ansicht nicht. Ein paar Milliarden Menschen nach Alpha Centauri zu verschiffen, oder auch nur auf den Mars, erscheint mir logistisch und/oder technologisch nicht durchführbar. Stephen Hawking weiß das, daher nehme ich an, sofern er nicht doch langsam senil wird, dass seine Worte als Warnung verstanden werden wollen. Und damit hat er natürlich nicht ganz Unrecht: Es gibt eine Menge zu tun vor unserer Haustür, der Berg an Aufräumarbeit sieht überwältigend aus. Aber er ist nicht unüberwindbar.

Zwar kann ich nicht ausschließen, dass wir Menschen uns selbst absichtlich oder unabsichtlich ausrotten, aber die Prognose, dass die Überbevölkerung den Planeten Erde in einen „sizzling fireball“ verwandeln wird, finde ich überraschend. Dazu würde ich gerne die Zahlen nebst Hochrechnungen sehen, auf denen das fußt. Anscheinend teilen auch die Vereinten Nationen diese Auffassung nicht, denn dort sieht man im Gegenteil einen Trend, dass die Zunahme der Population sich verlangsamt, und in den nächsten 100 Jahren sogar wieder rückläufig werden wird. Das deckt sich hervorragend mit der Erkenntnis, dass wohlhabende Staaten generell weniger eigene Nachkommen produzieren. Mit anderen Worten: Mehr Wohlstand auf der ganzen Welt ergibt geringere Populationsdichte. Wir sollten also weiter an der Verbesserung des globalen Lebensstandards arbeiten.

Menschen haben sehr große Schwierigkeiten damit, exponentielle Vorgänge zu prognostizieren (siehe: Schachbrett-Metapher). Von Stephen Hawking würde ich erwarten, dass er mit diesem Bias vertraut ist, daher räume ich ein, dass ihm Daten vorliegen, die seine These untermauern, die mir nicht vorliegen. Worauf ich aber hinaus möchte ist, dass Technologie nicht nur Probleme verursacht, sondern potenziell Probleme auch lösen kann. Wir stehen derzeit am Beginn eines Trends, wo zunehmend Technologie für Problemlösungen eingesetzt wird (Beispiel: Solar). Technologie entwickelt sich aber nicht linear, sondern erfahrungsgemäß in Sprüngen mit regelmäßigen exponentiellen Sprints in bestimmten Domänen. Ich bin davon überzeugt, dass wir Menschen unsere Probleme im Prinzip lösen können. Und je mehr Menschen diesen vorsichtigen Optimismus teilen, desto wahrscheinlicher wird ein positives Auskommen!

Wenn wir Menschen in den nächsten 600 Jahren  dennoch verschwinden, dann möglicherweise nicht deshalb, weil wir einander gewaltsam ausrotten, sondern weil wir bis dahin unsere Evolution selbst in die Hand genommen haben, und nicht mehr wirklich Homo sapiens sind, sondern etwas anderes. Wir sind zunehmend in der Lage, das zu tun (siehe CRISPR/cas9). Auch eine zunehmende Verschmelzung mit Maschinen ist denkbar (Elon Musk’s Neural Lace sei genannt). Manche mögen das gruselig finden, aber niemand soll gedrängt werden, sich daran zu beteiligen.

Also, lieber Stephen Hawking. Die Warnung ist angekommen, und wurde verstanden. Die Apokalypse zu verkünden ist schön und gut, aber wenn Sie nicht wollen, dass wir Menschen die Hände in den Schoß und den Kopf in den Sand stecken, sollten Sie sich auch Gedanken über Lösungsansätze  machen, die nicht Nanoraumschiffe involvieren, sondern normalen Menschen auf der Straße einen Grund geben, morgens aufzustehen und nach dem Guten zu streben.


A refutation to „Future Medicine & The Curse of Immortality“ by Computing Forever

This is an open letter in response to Computing Forever’s YouTube Video „Future Medicine & The Curse of Immortality“


Here’s the video I am responding to — it’s sweet and short, and well worth your time, so please watch it before continuing to read:


Dear Computing Forever,

I enjoy many of your videos. I especially liked this particular one about longevity; although I respectfully have to disagree on almost all of your points. I currently have no equipment to record a video response, but I’m a writer, so here is my point-by-point refutation of the arguments you brought forth in your video.


1. Becoming elderly wihout dying

You suggest that cures for aging-related diseases will be developed first, resulting in people still aging, but not dying. This is certainly true to some extent; but the main focus of many anti-aging startups is the actual rejuvenation of the body. The SENS maintenance approach for instance proposes to periodically remove the damage that is being accumlated in the body as a byproduct of metabolism. You’d still age, but your body will be reset to a youthful stage before you become frail. The SENS approach is not just a castle in the sky; it is an actionable plan, a scientific roadmap that is actively being worked on. Respected scientists, like e.g.  Craig Venter, were asked to refute it on scientific grounds, but were unable to. Senescent cell clearance, for instance, is a first step down this road, and it’s a hot topic at the moment with good progress being made. The first therapies that will become available will in all probability rejuvenate people to some extent; and to a larger extent as more progress is being made.

CONCLUSION: Becoming elderly because of rejuvenation therapies is the exact opposite of that what will actually happen. It’s the stated goal of any and all longevity related projects to avoid becoming elderly for as long as scientifically possibly. But even if it were so, it would not be a reason to halt research, but rather to expedite it.


2. Overpopulation

Yes, this is a valid concern. While apparently, the population growth seems to be slowing and will reverse by the turn of the century, we may still need to address the problem globally. We will need to take countermeasures regadless of longevity treatments; and it’s worthwile doing so, regardless of whether those treatments exist or not. Furthermore, we need to decide what’s more ethical: letting 100.000 people die every day from age-related diseaes when we could prevent their deaths, while not addressing overpopulation; or expand health- and lifespan as quickly as possible, and address the possible overpopulation issue at the same time.

CONCLUSION: Overpopulation needs to be addressed one way or the other; as well as the ethical dilemma of having the means to save millions of lives evey year, but deciding not to do so.


3. Stagnation of Evolution

It is questionable whether evolution has not already been disturbed by human civilisation in very large proportions. The environmental forces that selected the genes of our remote ancestors have changed completely. Natural selection is certainly still acting upon us, but it may select for traits that lead to the capability of becoming wealthy. Is this a good thing? Doubtful. Knowing this, it might be a good idea to take the doubt out of evolution and give it a direction that we see desirable. Engineered evolution can react much faster to new environmental challenges than evolution by natural selection can.

We cannot look to other species for advise either, since we’re the only species on Earth capable of taking genetic evolution in our own hands. In this sense, we’ve already reached the technological singularity; and not only in a purely metaphorical sense.

CONCLUSION: Your point may be correct, but it starts from the erroneous assumption that natural selection is the only way to adapt to environmental challenges. This is not necessarily the case for a highly technological civilisation.


4. How are we going to house and feed everyone?

The answer to this question is basically the same one as the anwer to question 2.

CONCLUSION: This problem needs to be addressed anyway, with or without longevity treatments, so let’s just talk about it and find a viable solution.


5. Only available for very wealthy people

Yes, it is very likely that those therapies will be available for the upper middleclass and beyond at first. This has been the case for every technology that required massive amounts of funding and research; automobile, TV, transatlantic flight, pacemaker, computer, internet, cellphone, you name it (also nuclear weapons with regard to wealthy or poor nations). Wealthy people will pay for the development with their money, and the price will go down. It will drop below a point where it’s more competitive for health insurance companies to sell longevity treatments to their customers, instead trying to cure their age-related diseases over a period of 10-30 years until death.

CONCLUSION: Correct, but only for a transitional peroid, until patents run out and generics can be mass produced, and procedures copied. That means, 20 years after Ray Kurzweil et al, everybody else can (just about) afford the treatments.


6. Does the human brain have the capacity to store several lifetimes worth of memories?

Very unklikely. You will forget most of your distant past, and will continuously live in a „fog of war“ that lets you see maybe 50 years back, and no further, maybe save for certain pivotal moments in your life. Technology already assists in remembering events; I have 8mm footage of myself at age 4, and of my first day at school. I have no conscious recollection of these days whatsoever, but here they are on ancient 8mm film. In a few years, I will not remember having written this very essay, but I may still be able to read it, and marvel at the person that was me who wrote it a long time ago.

CONCLUSION: Correct, if we disregard the probability of memory-enhancing technologies. But with or without such technologies, the argument is irrelevant, since we can hardly remember our own past already now, and what we do seem to remember is largely confabulated anyway.


7. Boredom after having seen and done everything.

There’s more to see and do than a single person can do in a hundred or a thousand lifetimes. Let me quote Douglas Adams for reference: „Space is big. Really big. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it’s a long way down the road to the chemist, but that’s just peanuts to space.“ — The same is true for the space of possibilities.

CONCLUSION: Unlikely, and irrelevant. The possiblities are endless and only limited by your imagination. They will expand even further, since technological and logistical limitations will retreat over time. However, if you’re still bored, you can always chose to not take your next treatment and live out the rest of your life normally and die of old age.


8. The notion to outlive everyone you care about has got to be the worst part of all of this.

Why would this be the case? If you can take the treatments, it is very likely that most of those you care for, your peers, can, too. Those who chose not to take the treatments have excercised their free will, and there’s no reason for you to mourn them.
I personally mourn the deaths of my mother, my father, all but one aunt and uncle, all of my grandparents, and even already a few friends. I’m only 50, but death has been a part of my life for a long time. I mourn the deceased who suffered for years before their final demise, and who had not the slightest chance to avoid suffering and their final gruesome deaths.

CONCLUSION: Mourn those who have no say in their demise; pity those who chose to die; cherish those who chose life over death.


9. Nature didn’t just envision us receiving a lifespan boost in this way.
Nature does not envision anything at all; it is not an entity with any kind of forsesight, plan or vision. Nature is a process that reacts in hindsight only.

CONCLUSION: This statement is nonsensical.


10. Quality rather than quanitity

I agree, an indefinite, but forever empty and meaningless lifespan would be much worse than 80 years full of meaning and quality time. However, the problem with that statement is that an indefinite lifespan has the potential to increase quality even further, while death doesn’t have that potential at all. I am very slow at the things I’m doing; but give me another hundred youthful years, and I still may become the next Einstein, Armstrong (Neil or Louis, take your pick) or just another ordinary father of two living in Elon City, Valles Marineris, on Mars.

CONCLUSION: Quality+Quantity > Quality > Quantity.



And finally, dear Computing Forever, I’d like to ask you this — As you recently learned, dying is an unpleasant and dirty business. Often times, people wither away over decades, their bodies and minds losing capabilties ever so slowly, until something like cancer or Alzheimer’s eats them alive from the inside. Today, this is still the fate of everyone of us. Of the 150.000 people that die every single day, around 100.000 die from age-related complications, and most of them do not simply fall asleep peacefully.

I personally think that is a humanitarian catastrophe of a magnitude comparable to WW1, the 1918 flu pandemic and WW2 all rolled into one. The amount of suffering and death is unimaginable and beyond human comprehension.

Can we ethically chose not to stop this catastrophe if we have the means to? Even if it meant we’d have to adjust our way of living globally? Are those arguments that you brought forward, even if they were absolutely valid (and I think I demonstrated they are not) — are those arguments strong enough to let the daily avalanche of suffering and death continue until the end of time? Would this be ethical?

I think not.



P.S.: To make my own position on death and dying clear — I’m not terribly afraid of dying, as long as it comes without lots of anguish and suffering. But I’m not terribly fond of it either. I’d rather see the future unfold for much longer because man, this universe we live in is too damn wondrous to be dead for the rest of eternity!