[LINK] Terry Pratchett is dead

post by Baughn · 2015-03-12T17:46:55.269Z · score: 14 (19 votes) · LW · GW · Legacy · 15 comments

BBC article

I'm sure I'm not the only one who greatly admired him. The theme of his stories was progress; they were set in a fantasy world, it's true, but one that was frequently a direct analogy to our own past, and where the golden age was always right now. The recent books made this ever more obvious.

We have lost a great man today, but it's the way he died that makes me uncomfortable. Terry Pratchett had early-onset Alzheimer's, and while I doubt it would have mattered, he couldn't have chosen cryonics even if he wanted to. He campaigned for voluntary euthanasia in cases like his. I will refrain from speculating on whether his unexpected death was wholly natural; whether it was or wasn't, I can't see this having a better outcome. In short...

There is, for each of us, a one-ninth chance of developing Alzheimer's if we live long enough. Many of us may have relatives that are already showing signs, and in the current regime these relatives cannot be cryonically stored even if they wish to try; by the time they die, there will be little purpose in doing so. For cryonics to help for neurodegenerative disorders, it needs to be applied before they become fatal.

Is there anything we can do to change that? Are there countries in which that generalisation is false?

15 comments

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comment by HungryHobo · 2015-03-12T20:13:02.046Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Sir Terry Pratchett Knight and Adjunct Professor of English at Trinity College Dublin

I've not cried when family members have died but... I learned to read from his books and he shaped my view of the world more than pretty much anyone except my parents.

He was a secular humanist and an incredible intellect.

Recommended:

Terry Pratchetts Richard Dimbleby lecture: Shaking Hands With Death

He was a campaigner for voluntary euthanasia, not because he was in favor of dying but because there are worse things in this universe than death.

His Inaugural Lecture at trinity: Terry Pratchett "The Importance of Being Amazed about Absolutely Everything"

For some reason one of the comments on the story about his death hit me hard:

Pratchett has received a number of letters from terminally ill fans in which they hope that Death will resemble the Discworld incarnation (he also says that those particular letters usually cause him to spend some time staring at the wall). ~ the art of Discworld.

And finally, the last post on his twitter account:

"AT LAST, SIR TERRY, WE MUST WALK TOGETHER."

"Terry took Death’s arm and followed him through the doors and on to the black desert under the endless night."

"The End."

comment by palladias · 2015-03-12T19:16:08.533Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm doing a hashtag/image on social media of #LittleAngelsReadUp (a reference to Night Watch). I'm using it to ask friends who haven't ever read Pratchett to tell me, and then I'll buy/loan them a book. I'm getting three people books now.

If you want to join up, I've got the image to share here

comment by tog · 2015-03-12T17:49:02.885Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Very sad. I enjoyed his books - I'd particularly recommend Small Gods for LessWrongers (it's also the one I enjoyed most in general).

Has anyone seen anything on how he died?

comment by Error · 2015-03-12T21:17:55.355Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Just ordered Small Gods on this recommendation. I feel bad for not having read more of Pratchett's books. Just Good Omens and one or two of the Discworld novels, I think.

comment by MathiasZaman · 2015-03-12T20:35:40.602Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

His publishers say he died of natural causes surrounded by his family with his cat on his lap.

comment by Baughn · 2015-03-13T00:35:30.226Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

It's a suspiciously pleasant way to go, but I see no reason to look more closely at this. Let's just be happy he got the end he wanted.

comment by Toggle · 2015-03-14T04:24:12.196Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Pratchett himself stated an intention to commit suicide before his disease progressed past a certain point. "To jump before I am pushed", I believe was the phrase he used at one point.

http://www.theguardian.com/society/2010/feb/02/terry-pratchett-assisted-suicide-tribunal

The BBC claims that he didn't take his own life, and given his advocacy I think that his family would have been honest about his suicide if it were one, but it's a reason to look more closely at least.

comment by Error · 2015-03-12T21:30:21.465Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I had no idea this was coming. That's one of the most terrifying ways to go out I can imagine. -_-

I'm not signed up for cryonics, but every time something like this happens the needle moves over in that direction a little bit, even though I know it shouldn't.

comment by IlyaShpitser · 2015-03-12T19:04:22.873Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

First Iain Banks and now this :(. RIP.

comment by pcm · 2015-03-12T19:43:05.741Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

What evidence do we have about whether cryonics will work for those who die of Alzheimer's?

comment by Baughn · 2015-03-13T01:23:08.967Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

If you have Alzheimer's, and you want to use cryonics, you should do your very best to get frozen well before you die of the disease.

This is problematic in all jurisdictions I can think of. Even where euthanasia is legal, I don't know of any cryonics organisations taking advantage, and there might be problems for them if they do. I'd very much like to be proven wrong in this.

comment by pcm · 2015-03-14T20:46:12.909Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

It is sometimes possible to die by refusing to eat/drink. Ben Best has some conflicting claims about how feasible that is with Alzhiemer's here and here.

comment by listic · 2015-03-22T13:42:29.845Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I believe it's probably only because of the woefully under-developed state of cryonics itself that the practice of voluntary death through cryopreservation (cryothanasia) haven't been seriously researched: rather counter-intuitively, cryonics companies are too few and mostly have enough trouble on their hands to bother disrupting the status quo.

Getting frozen before you die can well be problematic, but not necessarily impossible in all jurisdictions. I believe it's just not well researched. Cryonics has low demand as it is, and cryothanasia requires even greater mental effort to voluntarily choose death, before dying the 'natural' way, and make all the necessary research and preparations yourself, so I wouldn't be surprised to learn that noone bothered yet, or noone who made their efforts public, at the very least. Which doesn't mean that this is impossible. Suicide tourism is a thing, after all.

I would recommend directly contacting Danila Medvedev (medvedev@tranhuman.ru) from Russian company CryoRus, if you are really practically interested in the prospect of cryothanasia - it is likely that it is possible, but noone is going to offer it as a product, so far, you will have to research it for yourself; they are at least entertaining the idea.

comment by JoshuaZ · 2015-03-12T19:48:47.550Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Decidedly mixed. In the very late stages of Alzheimer's large sections of brain tissue are literally gone. See e.g. here. On the other hand, even with fairly late stage patients they do have better and worse days where they remember more or less, which suggests that some memories are still present. We also know that in some animal models treatment can apparently restore some amount of memory. See for example here (which may be behind a paywall). That last link is to some very new, very recent research suggesting a form of high powered ultrasound may actually help Alzheimer's in mouse models, and there's decent reason to believe that this will work in humans.

comment by TobyBartels · 2015-03-13T05:22:00.892Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I just got a Discworld book (not my first) as a gift. Given to me literally the day before he died. Now I feel bad (however irrationally) for starting my new Egan book first.