Category Archives: luddites

deathist movie

In Renaissance (2006) there’s a Big Sinister Corporation whose advertising tagline is “Health, Beauty, Longevity.” Oo, scary! I don’t think we’re ever told what Avalon sells (vitamins? cosmetics? medical treatment?) but it doesn’t matter. The noirish visual style suffices to notify us that there are no white hats.

Some years back Avalon’s top scientist Jonas Muller, who had been studying progeria, dropped out to run a charity clinic. Now another promising scientist, Ilona Tasuiev, has vanished.

Eventually we learn that Muller dropped out because he found the secret of immortality; to let Avalon bring it to market would be a Really Bad Thing. Muller has kidnapped Tasuiev because she found the same secret and does not share his fear of it.

I kept expecting someone to reveal that the Muller Protocol involves sacrificing children, but no: immortality is bad because “without death, life has no meaning,” a truth which the writers hold to be self-evident. So in the end Karas, the detective assigned to find Tasuiev, shoots her in the back to save humanity’s soul; and tells her sister that she needed to disappear for her own safety, but don’t worry, she’ll be fine.

Oddly enough the movie does suggest a better reason to think immortality isn’t all good. Muller’s progeria subjects included his own brother, who apparently is now immortal but mentally damaged – though he doesn’t get enough attention to make this clear.

The movie is animated in (mostly) one-bit monochrome. This gimmick is occasionally used very well, as when Tasuiev finds herself in a surreal arboretum; but the show is long enough to use up its novelty. I found myself wondering whether the characters see their world as we do.

. . . In recent years I’ve read a fair amount of fiction (e.g. by Greg Egan) in which the abolition of senescence is treated as an unremarkable feature of the background. Is there anything like that in visual media?

Fukuyama III

I’ve been looking through my blog archives for major items to add to the “past rants” list on my front page [since removed, Dec’04], as well as for broken links. That activity led me again to Francis Fukuyama’s goofy screed of 2002 May 2, and I finally got around to following links to a whole mess of replies: John Tabin; Brink Lindsey [gone]; Glenn Reynolds; Dan Hanson; Stephen Green; Virginia Postrel; Perry de Havilland; David Dieteman; Christopher Pellerito; Eugene Volokh; Anand Giridharadas.

I am disappointed to find practically all of them making the same point: “But Frank, lots of libertarians support US military interventions overseas.” If anyone anywhere joined me in observing that military force is not the only way to engage with the world, I missed it. If anyone pointed out a distinction between defense and intervention, I missed it.

Oh well. “It is not worth an intelligent man’s time to be in the majority. By definition, there are already enough people to do that.” (G H Hardy)

bioethics IV

Amy Greenwood takes on those pestilential ‘bioethicists’ whom I have heckled more than once.

Yes, if the world is different, we will think about it differently. So what? A worldview in flux is not an ethical problem, and why assume a new one will be inhuman or less profound? Besides, I don’t think I’m less committed to science now that I expect to live to 80 than if I expected to live to 40. In fact, if I had reason to believe I would die at 40, I might as well stop working on difficult problems because I probably wouldn’t have time to make much progress anyway. So in that way, I may be more committed to my work and to my personal engagements because I expect the long run to be, well, long.
. . . .
Anyway, the idea of living to 200 appeals to me enormously. Wouldn’t it be fun to have more time to get good, I mean really good, at what you are doing? There are so many languages to learn, books to read, people to talk to . . . in fact, I would distinctly relish a glut of the able. Maybe I’ll have my grandmother send some cookies over to the Council on Bioethics, because life is just really not that bad.

(Thanks to Charles Murtaugh for a link.)

a pox on bioethicists II

Apparently Mr Bush has created something called the President’s Council on Bioethics. Now, I’ve never heard that term except in connexion with some chin-puller’s opinion that it’s naughty to tamper with God’s Will Nature by curing infertility or whatnot; so it comes as no surprise to read that one Leon Kass, appointed to chair the Council, has written a book in praise of Death. Continue reading