The Reality of Radical Life Extension

In case this blog is seeming a bit too frivolous lately, here's a short quote from Simon Critchley's brilliant Book of Dead Philosophers, from his entry on Lucretius. (Something for Aubrey de Grey, Ray Kurzweil and other modern techno-immortalists to think about.)

To run away from death is to run away from oneself, to succumb to the desire for immortality, against which Lucretius offers a mathematical argument: the amount of time one is alive is not going to reduce the eternity of one's death:

So an unquenchable thirst for life keeps us always on the gasp. By prolonging life, we cannot subtract or whittle away one jot from the duration of our death. However many generations you may add to your store by living, there waits for you nonetheless the same eternal death.
What is a year or a decade more or less in comparison to the length of time spent dead? Viewed from the standpoint of eternity, what Spinoza calls sub specie aeternitatis, life's brevity or longevity is nothing in comparison to the eternity of our death. Moreover, this eternity is nothing to fear, but is the basis for contentment and calm.

Critchley takes as his starting point in this book the saying from Cicero, echoed by others through the ages, that "to philosophize is to learn how to die."

Wired for War

Everything I've read or heard about Wired for War by P.W. Singer has been excellent. Here's a blurb about it from Singer's website for the book:

An amazing revolution is taking place on the battlefield, starting
to change not just how wars are fought, but also the politics,
economics, laws, and ethics that surround war itself. This upheaval is
already afoot — remote-controlled drones take out terrorists in
Afghanistan, while the number of unmanned systems on the ground in Iraq
has gone from zero to 12,000 over the last five years.  But it is only
the start. Military officers quietly acknowledge that new prototypes
will soon make human fighter pilots obsolete, while the Pentagon
researches tiny robots the size of flies to carry out reconnaissance
work now handled by elite Special Forces troops.

Wired for War
takes the reader on a journey to meet all the various players in this
strange new world of war: odd-ball roboticists working in latter-day
“skunk works” in the midst of suburbia; military pilots flying combat
mission from their office cubicles outside Las Vegas; the Iraqi
insurgents who are their targets; journalists trying to figure out just
how to cover robots at war; and human rights activists wrestling with
what is right and wrong in a world where our wars are increasingly
being handed over to machines. 

Links to some good interviews with Singer last week about the book: Fresh Air, The Daily Show.

Update: Singer has an article in The New Atlantis, adapted from his book: Military Robots and the Laws of War.