Living forever

I attended a conference this past weekend, a gathering of scientists and spiritual leaders, all of whom are seriously addressing the question of “How can we live forever?” Whether through induced neural regeneration, or nanoscale tissue repair, or downloading of minds from a brain to a computer, or spiritual transcendence of the body, just about everyone seemed to be a True Believer.

I turned to a friend of mine, who seemed really into it, and I asked “But why is everyone so sure this is a good thing?” He seemed a bit taken aback by my doubt. “After all,” I continued, “you have a small child. I can imagine a future scenario where there wouldn’t be any more room — where your desire to live forever would clash with your ability to bring a new life into the world.”

If somebody said to me: “You have five seconds to decide, and only one chance — would you like to be immortal?” I suspect I would probably say yes. The instinct for survival is simply that strong. But that doesn’t mean I think this would be a good thing to unleash upon the world.

And then there are all sorts of weird ways in which the very idea of an individual could become eroded. What if my downloaded mind were then replicated multiple times? Which one would be me? Would the phrase “unique individual” even continue to make sense in such a world?

2 thoughts on “Living forever”

  1. I once had a random idea and wrote a plot of it.

    Now “the person’s right is important” is almost never challenged. and fascism is in default evil. Here I refer the word “fascism” as only think about one country or a limited area (since there are so many definition of it) and don’t care others.

    I agree such fascism is a narrow idea and not sustainable. But my random idea expanded if there is a fascism of human race including the future generations, even includes people from other planets. The instinct of one person’s immortal seems against to keep the whole human race or whole life form.

    In my story there are people who are called real-fascist, they care the human race and the future of the children. But the immortal people in the story try to eliminate them because their concern is only the own personal life, they don’t care the human race. A few immortals control the world in my story and the new born must pay breathing tax since the air is expensive limited resources. and someone can not pay the tax, they will be suspended in the cold sleeping state. and so on…

    Here I just had a thought-simulation about such world and cast a question. What is really important: a person’s life or human race (or all the life form?)

    I have one more story to post…


  2. In Japan, there is a famous cartoon called galaxy express 999. I like it when I was around 10 years old, so it is almost 30 years ago.

    The galaxy express is a train which can fly to the sky and go beyond to the galaxy. The original idea came from Kenji Miyazawa, he wrote the story around 1920 (I found the translation of the title in English is Night on the Galactic Railroad in Wikipedia.) The original story has a lot of influence to Japanese literature, including to cartoons. A boy ride the galaxy express and see life and death while they travelled through the galaxy. I like the story.

    But the cartoon version is a bit different. In the cartoon, there are two type of people in the world. One has a machine body and they are immortal, and the human body people. A boy lost his mother by murdered by an immortal and want to have a revenge. Somehow he got a ticket to the machine planet, that you can buy the machine body and can be an immortal, but it is very expensive. The boy and his mysterious companion visited many of different planets before arrived the destination. They saw many different politics and nature. It is a lot of adventure. He learn a lot of life and culture.

    Finally he reached to the machine planet. There are immortals. But everyone just sitting in the sun and drink or smoke. The boy asked, “what are you doing here? What is your dream?” Immortals answer, “yes, I have a dream, but I will do it one day. I have enough time. Today I just want to drink and smoke.” The boy asked, “How long have you been sitting here?”, the immortal answered, “I don’t know, maybe 2000 years? Haha.” The story continues further, but I still remember this scene on the TV. At that time, TV program was so interesting to me.

    So I have a question to the people who want to be immortal, what would you do if you are immortal?

    Oh there is one more famous story called firebird in Japan, but maybe it is too much for the comment. So I will stop here.


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