Customer Reviews: A Beginner's Guide to Immortality: Extraordinary People, Alien Brains, and Quantum Resurrection
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon December 21, 2006
Live forever? Isn't that what immortality is all about? Well, yes and no. In this delightful new book by Clifford Pickover, the author explores many routes to immortality. This book continues the explorations that the author began in his previous "Sex, Drugs, Einstein & Elves." Throughout, he interweaves themes on the nature of reality, people of genius, and of course how to achieve immortality.

Early on, Pickover casts doubt on the thesis that you can achieve immortality by creating a work of literature. He lists a sampling of best-sellers from 1950. Most are not known today. Other more exotic routes to immortality may be through the quantum theory of many worlds. In one of these you may never die. Too bad it is not the one that you live in now. We may all have our thoughts replicated in the storage of a massive computer. Or better yet, there are enough stray electrical impulses in a cubic mile of lime Jell-O to mimic our thought processes so that we might find our eternity there. If this is too mechanistic for you, there remains the religious concept of an afterlife in heaven or perhaps in hell if you do not qualify for heaven.

On every page of this book, you can find a new idea explored. Are we at the beginning or the end of the human species? Can we actually be living in a simulation like that in the "Matrix" movie? Are people with additional fingers smarter? Where are the "missing links" in the record of evolution?

There is a mechanism that Pickover begins to explore at the end of the book. We are all linked to each other by the threads of our relationships. What is the Internet if not an instantiation of a giant network of relationships? I used to think that writing your name on a web page was like writing your name in sand at the beach. However, now I am not so sure. Nothing ever seems to go away on the web. Perhaps, we are now finding our way to immortality in the sum of our ever-increasing Google hits.
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VINE VOICEon January 23, 2007
I really loved *A Beginner's Guide to Immortality*! Clifford Pickover summarized so many thought-provoking and mind-expanding ideas in this book that I thought my head might explode. I simply couldn't put this book down. Every page is bursting with so many creative ideas that I actually had to close my eyes every few minutes just to think about the implications of what he was saying. This book really expanded my perception of reality. Very highly recommended reading!
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on January 28, 2007
In "Sex, Drugs, Einstein & Elves" Cliff Pickover revealed a side of his personality that was well-camouflaged in his first thirty some-odd books on mathematics, time travel, fractals, aliens, patterns, puzzles, God, etc. Indeed, writing so many books in such a short time may be the root cause of his now irrepressible eclecticism. This latest effort, "A Beginner's Guide to Immortality: Extraordinary People, Aliens Brains, and Quantum Resurrection," has many similarities to SDE&E. Not only is it written with an exuberance that complements the author's multi-dimensional perspective, the prose remains clear and accessible even as Pickover explores the complex reaches of transcendental reality.

One of the highlights of "A Beginner's Guide to Immortality" is Chapter 3, "Gilgamesh, God, and the Language of Angels." Pickover confesses that the "Epic of Gilgamesh" is one of his deepest obsessions. And we get a feel for his zeal as he recounts the ancient Mesopotamian king's search for immortality. But there is also a lot of extraneous material in this chapter. It's a virtual Mind Salad of eclecticism. Pickover's brain is fizzing with ideas and impressions, perhaps as a result of his relentless work ethic and voracious reading habits, and they seem to inundate his consciousness as he writes. I find this stimulating. Others may differ, wishing instead for a simpler, more direct narrative line.

At his best, Pickover's mind is encyclopedic -- correction: it's Wikipedic! It's Google-alien! Who else would focus on "The Brain from Planet Arous" in a chapter about Truman Capote? But Pickover does, and it can be fascinating because you get a completely different mental picture once you exit Truman Capote's peculiar oeuvre and enter the zany universe of Fifties science-fiction flicks, of which Pickover is a connoisseur. He loves the movies themselves, but also their filmmakers and the whole idea that some P.T. Barnum showman could make some outrageous, low-budget, horror-show hokum with B-list actors and still turn a tidy profit.

But Pickover can also be deadly serious, and I find this quote from "The Call of Cthulhu" by H.P. Lovecraft, (which also appears in Chapter 3) to be quite haunting:

"The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We lie on the placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far. The sciences, each straining in its own direction have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of disassociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the deadly light into the peace and safety of a new dark age."

After reading "A Beginner's Guide to Immortality" you may suspect that Cliff Pickover actually wants "the human mind to correlate all its contents." Which could be precisely what happens to the most intelligent human beings in the 21st Century anyway. If so, what he has to offer in this book should be of interest to the armchair existentialists. We all want to live forever. But then again, maybe not.
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on January 2, 2007
I just finished Pickover's book and like the way he bridges all sorts of different ideas, interspersed with great quotes form notables. For example, he weaves the lives of famous authors, Science Fiction Films, anthropologists, philosophers, scientists, mind altering drugs, mathematical equations into a fascinating and fun discovery of ideas and notions I never would have thought about. Particularly interesting are the strange, quirky and addictive habits and coincidences of highly creative people. As a non-academic, he made many topics easily accessible and a blast to read. I like the way he goes off on tangents, as they are always interesting. Any scientist who entertains notions of parallel universes, DMT ingestion, liver divination and intelligent design (to name a few) is OK in my book. Enjoy.
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on January 28, 2007
Pickover knows just what to say to kickstart the parts of your brain you haven't even used yet. Reading this book is like taking a walking tour through the magical zone where your life and reality and history and b-movies intersect. Educational, hilarious, mind-blowing, engaging and full of zest and zing, Pickover punctuates his prose with trenchant quotes aplenty. The thing you learn quick when traveling in the Pickover realm is that your brain is always growing and learning, and there is no limit to how far we can go. This guy's also got a generous heart and spirit, you can feel it in the words he writes, and that sort of hawk-eyed optimism for a transcendental, trans-dimensional future is damned contagious. I read this book and I feel like whatever happens, the collective mass of DNA we call the world/self is gonna be not only fine but blazin'! Plus it's light (nice soft pages) and has cool purple cover, with a skull!
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on August 19, 2015
Clifford Pickover starts from pure nihilism and works upwards, to electricity and the silicone chip.

The miracle of technology has convinced the monkey into thinking it's true being is a digital self. But we are still flesh and bones, a gasp of pain between birth and death. What was before birth and death? This is the big question.

Our techno-self feels cleaner and more real than birth and death, hence the movement to preserve this techno self. But I will like to say that the model of nihilism is only possible with the success of scientific materialism.

You see, online, we never get sick. In meat land, we eat burgers and excrete the waste, just like our ancestors did.

But when our ancestors took a s***, they were focused on their surroundings. We moderns take a sh't while talking to a friend in New Zealand. This dualism of sh'ting and surfing is a big source of suffering.

So writers like Clifford Pickover argue that the only remedy for this dualism is one side disappears. This means that, 1, we kill the body and get fully uploaded into a computer, to dance forever in the hallways of the astral imagination, or, 2, we switch off and become human again. But we only fear becoming human again because materialism has convinced us all that death is final. But there is no proof that it is final.

Terence McKenn says, "For approximately 500 years, science's argument for it's pre-eminence was that it could create beautiful toys: aircraft, railroad's, global economics, television, spacecraft. But that is a fool's argument for truth! I mean that's after all how a medicine show operates, you know: the juggler is so good, the medicine must be even better"!

This wisdom applies today with our rapid technological progress, and our conviction that because of our progress, what went before is null and void, including the inner world and our inner essence. After all, the medicine show is that good!

So we only think that our inner essence doesn't exist because of the distraction, like in the medicine show, of the rapid success of techno-scientific civilisation. The success we enjoy produces solidity and reality, but it is an illusion, like a spinning fire stick producing a circle. It is the circle that is the illusion. We think that the appearance of this world is a continuous flowing, like a river, but physicists tell us that the river of time isn't there. Instead of a river of time, physicist say that the world is a rapid succession of still frames giving the illusion of movement. There is no arrow of time or river of time in physics. Only frames.

But if this is true, then who is flipping the cards to create the illusion?

Gerald Heard spoke of a mysterious juggler doing the flipping and tricking civilisation into believe that material reality is a solid. The juggler has put most people in a trance state. Heard says, "The life force is like a juggler; it is always contriving that we shall watch the hand with which the trick is not being done. When we look back, we often discover that it was the symptom we were studying, not the cause". The symptom we are studying is the false solidity of progress. The cause is the illusive thing we can't see, the invisible thing we can't put into concepts or worlds, because the juggler is juggling faster and faster, so fast, that, it's making the blurred thing seem as if it was solid and real.

Science is the juggler, juggling so fast that the spinning sticks become blurry and look solid, when, in reality, the solidity is an illusion.

Within the illusion, all we do is chase appearances to infinity, moving without an end or a goal, like a squirrel on a wheel, until tired at last, whether on top or bottom, we stop at some random point and want people to respect us for it. We respect the scientist the most because they run the fastest until, tired at last, they win the Nobel prize.
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on January 19, 2008
Amazing books, mind bending Pickover does a great job of placing many interesting facts, and sciences in short easy to read pages of abosolute goodness. Matrix, fractal realities, virutal worlds and universes, Truman Copote, insanity vs Genius are just a few of the vast mind goodies that await the reader of A Begginers Guide to Immortality.
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on January 19, 2014
Of the 40,000 books in my private library, this one is in the top 5 of my favorites. I constantly re-read it and always find something new each time. It hasn't left my nightstand since the day I received it 7 or 8 years ago. This book is a lot like Pickover's other book, Sex, Drugs, Einstein & Elves, which I just wrote a review of. That one is also in my top 5 of favorites. I treasure the information in these two books, they have led me in new directions and explore arcane subjects and areas I may never have stumbled upon if I had not read them. Bravo Professor Pickover, PLEASE write more books like this.
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on March 11, 2015
Great read! I enjoy all of his books.
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on February 18, 2008
I am enjoying this book thus far. Obviously, it's not a book on how to become immortal in the supernatural sense. It's a book about people who have become immortal by doing things that they will be remembered for. At least, that's what I've gotten out of it so far, but I'm only a couple of chapters in.
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