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Could death be solved?

What would it even mean to solve death? Would that mean that nobody else dies from here on out? Would that mean that anybody who did die could be brought back? Could it mean that everybody who has ever lived can be brought back?1

Some transhumanist thinkers, notably Frank Tipler, author of The Physics of Immortality, believe that the answer to all three of those questions is a resounding yes. This belief--that every person, no matter when they lived or where they lived, can be brought back to life--is called universal immortalism.

The argument underlying the notion is that our descendents will possess sufficient computational resources to be able to run high-resolution simulations of past conditions in our universe. In this case, high-resolution means simulating the entire system at the sub-atomic level, getting planets, stars, galaxies, and, eventually, humans to fall out of it. Tipler argues that if our descendents possess enough computational power to do this, then they will inevitably do so. Not only once, either, but a potentially infinite number of times. In the process, they will re-create every human being who has ever lived.

This strikes me as ludicrous on several levels, even after granting that persons instantiated in a sufficiently detailed simulation are actual persons. First, the idea of simulating the entire universe on a piece of hardware that exists within the universe has such major flaws that it barely qualifies as coherent. Doing so an infinite number of times only makes it worse.

But let's grant the technical points, and consider a hypothetical world where some descendent of humanity runs an infinite number of simulations of an infinite number of universes. Clearly, with this many simulations being run, every distinct human being that has ever existed would occur in at least one of those simulations.

But that's not all that would exist in those simulations. Every human who ever could have existed would be in there. Every human who differs from a real person only in what time they woke up on the morning of April 6, 1993. Every alternate history where the only substantial difference is whether you ate your salad before your roll or after at the restaurant last Tuesday. Even if we grant that this vast assemblage represents some sort of solution to the problem of death, it doesn't seem a very useful solution that leaves you with so many search results that you can never find your true love anyway.

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