Friday, August 20, 2010

More on Living Forever

About my last post, MC Etcher said:

"All that said, more life is always better than less life. I would accept immortality if I had the option. I would find solace in the people and things around me, while it lasted. If it became too unbearable, there's always a way to destroy the body utterly."

Well, the fact Etcher's left a 'loophole' where you could make yourself die, he's not really talking about immortality, but being extremely long-lived. For the purposes of this post, let me redefine immortality. Immortality is living forever, no ifs, ands or buts. Once you make your wish for immortality, it's irreversible. You could stand at ground zero of a nuclear blast and come away without a scratch.

This is why I think that 'More life is always better than less life' is arguable.

Without rehashing my last post on how I think it would become impossible to form relationships, it goes without saying that eternity is one hell of a long time. There are going to be a million other problems.

My last post was about how it would be difficult or impossible for you to form relationships with other people, but I only touched briefly on why it would become even harder to people to form relationships with you if you were an immortal being.

The biggie here is evolution. People would continue to evolve around you while you'd stay trapped in the same body forever. Neanderthal humans only finally died out about 50,000 years ago…which means as an immortal, in another 50,000 years, you'd be like a Neanderthal trying to live among, and relate to, people the way they are today. Even if we forget long term evolution, the human race has changed dramatically over even the part two or three hundred years.

I remember visiting a historic house in England that was built in the 1700's and I was surprised to see how low the ceilings and doors were. At 6"1 I was having to stoop slightly to get through them. I asked the tour guide why they built them so small and the answer was obvious. Put simply, people were a lot shorter in the 1700's, if you were 5"5, you were considered tall.

Also, considering the average lifespan was around 40-50 years, if someone from the 1700's was transplanted into 2010, it would be like us suddenly finding ourselves in a world populated by seven foot tall people who live for nearly 200 years.

So, for an immortal, 500 years would be enough for us to start looking noticeably different. In 2000 years, you'd be obviously freakish…in 50,000 or 100,000 years, you'd be barely recognizable as human.

Of course, the main argument against 'true' immortality is something I touched on in my last post. The world isn't going to last forever and long before the sun burns out, the planet is going to become uninhabitable. It's inevitable that you're going to find yourself as the last human being alive on a scorched (or frozen) barren planet. Even if you bank on us eventually perfecting interstellar travel, we're talking about immortality here, which means you're going to outlive the universe.

Whatever way you look at it, you're eventually going to find yourself floating in the darkness after every star burns out, the electrical bonds between atoms give way and there is literally nothing left. You'd be there forever, until eventually even the trillions of years you spent before the death of the Universe would be a tiny fraction of your lifespan and would be a dim and distant memory…if you could remember it at all, given that a few million years floating alone in total darkness would certainly drive you insane.

Basically, as relatively short-lived beings, we have a hard time grasping the concept of forever. To us, 'forever' means about seventy or eighty years. The nearest 'experiencable' example I can come up with for immortality is like us living normal lives for about a week, and then spending the rest of our lives totally numb in a lightless, soundless box.

Sure, more life is better than less life, but only up to a point. If I had three wishes, I might wish to live for a thousand years, with an option to 'renew', but living forever would eventually feel like living for a few minutes and then spending eternity in hell.

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