Many EAs believe there’s a nontrivial chance that, in the next 50-100 years, there will be an AI-driven productivity explosion that leads to humans achieving immortality (either through mind-uploading or through the invention of biological indefinite life-extension mechanisms). The focus of the community is understandably on the implications of this belief for what we ought to do to produce the most good.

I haven’t personally seen any discussion of the prudential implications of this belief, i.e., the implications for what individuals ought to do from a self-interested perspective. (As I’ll discuss below, I think the central prudential implication is that adding years to one’s life expectancy is immensely valuable because it increases the probability of being alive when immortality is achieved.)

One explanation for the absence of this discussion is that the community has judged that it’s dangerous to discuss this (because such a discussion distracts from the vastly more important moral implications of the Most Important Century hypothesis, or because such a discussion might backfire by [e.g.] encouraging an aging billionaire to put their foot on the pedal of AGI progress in an attempt to escape death). I’m not super plugged-in to the community, so would be interested to hear if this is the case (and will delete this post if so).

Another possibility is that the community doesn’t discuss this because, for impartial consequentialists, prudential considerations don’t matter. But given that the community often emphasizes that central EA conclusions are robust to a variety of normative frameworks, it seems valuable to consider implications of the Most Important Century hypothesis for people who do place nonzero excess weight on their own welfare.

Anyways, here’s what seem to me like the most important prudential implications of the Most Important Century for a young person:

  • The value of avoiding small probabilities of unexpected death (e.g., car crashes) is incredibly high, much much higher than if we placed no weight on the Most Important Century hypothesis.
  • The value of lifestyle changes that improve life expectancy (e.g., healthier eating) might be lower than the value of avoiding risks of unexpected death, since perhaps in 30 years cryo-preservation technologies will be accessible enough that any kind of “slow” death won’t prevent an MIC-hypothesis-conscious individual from sticking around until immortality is achieved.
    • But if healthier lifestyles increase life expectancy in part by reducing the probability of unexpected and sudden deaths (from heart attacks etc.), then the value of lifestyle changes might still be really high.

There are almost certainly other prudential implications I haven't thought of.

I’d be interested to hear people’s thoughts on this!




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Several years ago I took this type of argument very seriously. Specifically, I thought that our expected lifespan might be practically infinite (given a small chance of "immortality"). My conclusion was that I should keep more careful care of my brain's health, while caring somewhat less about other physical issues, because I expect medicine to more easily solve other problems and that if there would be cause for prioritization among sick people I'd probably expect there to be an advantage to people with good neurological health. That mostly changed my diet to avoid refined carbs and helped motivate me to do more exercise - I wasn't convinced about anything else. 

In recent years I noticed that my thinking about this changed. First, I care a lot less about my personal preservation as I've started feeling more compassion toward others in a similar amount to my future self, and have taken more seriously thought experiments and buddhist-like ideas around the self as an illusion. Secondly, my self-care priorities were about more immediate mental health issues.

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