On Immortality

So, would you like to live forever? I’m sure some of you said yes and some of you said no. I’m also sure there is a large proportion of you who really have no idea. There will be those of you who would say yes if (insert desire here). Let us leave aside the question of actually being able to live forever and examine the possible implications of so doing.

Suppose you were immortal. This means you cannot die of old age and that you rarely, if ever, fall ill and that your immune system can cope with all illnesses regardless of severity. Suppose you were born some time in prehistory. You would have witnessed civilizations rise and fall and the waxing and waning of science and belief over the millennia. Sounds exciting, doesn’t it? You could have witnessed the Roman Empire at its peak or spoken to King Arthur or actually know for certain the date of Christ’s birth.

Now think about it. How many truly exciting events have happened close to each other. Not many, even if you did recognize the significance of them before they were part of history. You would have experienced numerous periods where you were just surviving with nothing particularly exciting to do. One could imagine the mindnumbing boredom that would be possible after the first century or two.

Boredom aside, what about the plagues? Wars? Famines? Not only would you have seen civilizations at their best, you would have seen them at their worst. You would have survived the Dark Ages and the Inquisition. You would have seen the depths of human depravity and the suffering it causes. You would have seen the height of human suffering from disease, pesitilence and famine. You would probably suffer the affects yourself with the certain knowledge that you would have to endure the suffering with no way out in death.

Would you still wish to live forever after considering the above? That would depend heavily on whether you believe the suffering is bearable if the end is valuable or exciting. Perhaps in your mind it is worth living through the bad to experience the good. You might think that is not enough good to be worth living through the bad. You might be ambivalent. You might even be curious enough about what might happen in the future to survive any obstacles put in front of you.

With that firmly installed in your thought processes, consider the current state of technology on the fronts of genetic engineering, medicine, and computers. Your hopes and/or fears might just come true.

William Astle
January 26, 2000 CE… UTC

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