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He sighs, then shows me an ordinary handsaw in blue surgical paper marked "amputation saw"
August 17, 2012 5:59 AM   Subscribe


 
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posted by gwint at 6:01 AM on August 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Wasn't this a Fringe episode?
posted by Fizz at 6:06 AM on August 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


It's a prequel to Futurama, too.
posted by gerryblog at 6:07 AM on August 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


The ultimate finality of life is exactly the thing that makes life precious and special. I find this desire to extend life infinitely highly egotistical and selfish.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:19 AM on August 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


The ultimate finality of life is exactly the thing that makes life precious and special. I find this desire to extend life infinitely highly egotistical and selfish

Just something to think about: Do you take medication when you find yourself feeling ill? Do you believe in organ donation?
posted by Fizz at 6:24 AM on August 17, 2012 [10 favorites]


Oh, come on, Fizz. Few people would argue against medical intervention that gives them a chance to achieve a life as long and healthy as, say, your typical Swede. (Participaction: it has scarred a generation of Canadians for life.)

But it's the incredible lengths people go to to achieve a lifespan few or no people have achieved that's the question here.
posted by maudlin at 6:37 AM on August 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


Even the frozen heads would die eventually. But I'd take every second of conscious, pain-free existence I could get.
posted by gerryblog at 6:39 AM on August 17, 2012


I've lived too long already.
posted by tommasz at 6:40 AM on August 17, 2012 [3 favorites]


I want more life, fucker.
posted by gerryblog at 6:41 AM on August 17, 2012 [9 favorites]


The ultimate finality of life is exactly the thing that makes life precious and special.

No, it isn't. Death is horrible.

I find this desire to extend life infinitely highly egotistical and selfish.

Selfish to whom? The people who I owe my death to? What a non-sensical philosophy.
posted by spaltavian at 6:41 AM on August 17, 2012 [14 favorites]


> But Lemler is only talking about events he believes will happen a few decades hence. There are some fairly vast regions of the world where, even now, technology barely extends as far as potable water. What about the majority of adults in the undeveloped world for whom life remains nasty, brutish and short? How is all this supposed to reach them? It's not. By design. At the conference, the Singularity was also referred to as a "technorapture." A rapture, by definition, involves a division of souls in which some are called and some are left behind to perish in the Lake of Fire. Lemler understands what I'm getting at. "We're going to have that whether Alcor is here or not, whether cryonics is here or not. A good portion of the population is going to die off—there's no question about that, much as mankind has done for however many millions of years," he says with a genuine and regretful-sounding kindness in his voice.

Fuck this guy and fuck these people.
posted by "But who are the Chefs?" at 6:43 AM on August 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


At some point in history the taking of medicine was considered "witchcraft". I'm just saying that we are always changing our definitions of what is medical science and what is considered magic or voodoo or whatever the fuck you want to call it.

Most people may view the idea of freezing a body after death as crazy, but who knows what the future will hold. I for one look forward to our benevolent cat over-lords and await their new break-through medical technology.
posted by Fizz at 6:43 AM on August 17, 2012


Aight, I'll ask the question in a more straightforward form.

Why is it that a trillion-dollar industry devoted to fighting e.g. cancer (a leading cause of death today and thru history) a reasonable length to go for extended life, but research into anti-aging technology is not?
posted by LogicalDash at 6:43 AM on August 17, 2012 [4 favorites]


I assume you make no use whatsoever of modern technology, "But who are the Chefs?", since not everyone else in the world has access to them. Including the internet, of course.
posted by spaltavian at 6:46 AM on August 17, 2012


My dad who was a surgeon thinks that if disease and organ failure can be sorted, there's no reason most people couldn't live to 200. Once cancer can be cured with a cheap pill and new organs printed on demand at low cost, I imagine few will be arguing that it is exorbitant or even selfish to live well past retirement age.

Though it is probably true that it is someone's selfish greed and egotistical desire for immortality that will have to lead the way.
posted by three blind mice at 6:50 AM on August 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Once cancer can be cured with a cheap pill and new organs printed on demand at low cost, I imagine few will be arguing that it is exorbitant or even selfish to live well past retirement age.

Friend, I have some terrible news...
posted by gerryblog at 6:53 AM on August 17, 2012 [5 favorites]


If man wasn't supposed to live forever God wouldn't have created vampires.
posted by digsrus at 7:00 AM on August 17, 2012 [4 favorites]


So much of human progress happens when the older generation that believes in a disproven scientific theory or an outdated social abuse finally dies out. The advent of massive life extension or near-immortality would be a recipe for stagnation. If it were only available to a wealthy and powerful elite, then it would surely be not just stagnation but stagnation ruthlessly enforced through the barrel of a gun. Within a generation or two, the gerontocracy would live in constant terror of the existential threat of a mass uprising by the teeming masses of the young and poor, whose values would have diverged almost totally from theirs, and they would take any possible measure, no matter how cruel, to prevent it.
posted by strangely stunted trees at 7:06 AM on August 17, 2012 [9 favorites]


So much of human progress happens when the older generation that believes in a disproven scientific theory or an outdated social abuse finally dies out. The advent of massive life extension or near-immortality would be a recipe for stagnation. If it were only available to a wealthy and powerful elite, then it would surely be not just stagnation but stagnation ruthlessly enforced through the barrel of a gun. Within a generation or two, the gerontocracy would live in constant terror of the existential threat of a mass uprising by the teeming masses of the young and poor, whose values would have diverged almost totally from theirs, and they would take any possible measure, no matter how cruel, to prevent it.
posted by strangely stunted trees at 10:06 AM on August 17 [+] [!]


You need to read Richard Morgan's Altered Carbon.
posted by Fizz at 7:08 AM on August 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


The ultimate finality of life is exactly the thing that makes life precious and special. I find this desire to extend life infinitely highly egotistical and selfish.
I used to feel this way, too. The idea still appeals to me: the finitude of life is what allows us to make meaningful choices, instead of putting off our lives indefinitely. I don't really agree anymore, though. In some ways, I don't think the modern human lifespan/style is long or simple enough for us to make meaningful choices within anymore. In other ways, I've just been exposed to death more and realized what a loss it is. Death creates nothing: absence, emptiness, void, space; room for the next generation. If extreme life extension becomes a thing and that thing becomes accessible to more than just the Future 1%, how to manage our space and resources are going to be things we'll have to figure out quickly.

But if we're a truly intelligent bunch, I think we can. And I think that much, much longer lifespans would be good for us--we would have to begin thinking on bigger scales, planning over greater timespans and we'd have access to so much living history in the experiences of others. Rather than stagnate, I think creativity and inventiveness would flourish without death being so immediate.

Of course, I believe that life and existence are transient, and the only constant is impermanence. If we're a truly intelligent bunch, we're going to have to make our peace with that, too. It may be that the world I just described is physically impossible for one reason or another. But I think it would be a better world to live in.
posted by byanyothername at 7:08 AM on August 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


I've lived too long already.

I'll save this message and present it as my defense.

You need to read Richard Morgan's Altered Carbon.

I liked the first one, and it had some interesting ideas about the intersection of the body's pheromone response vs the brain. Were the subsequent books as good?
posted by phearlez at 7:11 AM on August 17, 2012


The ultimate finality of life is exactly the thing that makes life precious and special.

No, what makes life precious and special is that the alternative is nonexistence. Besides, even indefinitely extended lives will eventually meet their end through accident, violence, or the incapacity of the universe to sustain life.

To paraphrase Woody Allen, I don't want to achieve immortality through my works or deeds, and I don't want to live on in the memory of others. I want to achieve immortality by not dying, and to live on in my house.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:19 AM on August 17, 2012 [11 favorites]


The ultimate finality of life is exactly the thing that makes life precious and special.

Only because we have no basis for comparison, nor do we have the option to test that theory.

Frankly, every time I hear "oh, eternal life would be horrible" I just wish we had the technology for me to at least try and prove them wrong.

Death is fine when you run out of shit to do; I need a couple of lifetimes to accomplish all the things I want.

So, in a way I guess I should be glad some people don't want to live forever; makes more room for my selfish ass.
posted by Dark Messiah at 7:32 AM on August 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


who think life is a pretty good thing

Eh. It's preferable to the alternative.
posted by Egg Shen at 7:39 AM on August 17, 2012


The ultimate finality of life is exactly the thing that makes life precious and special. I find this desire to extend life infinitely highly egotistical and selfish.

Eh, if I could live well and full and pain free for as long as I chose I couldn't see shutting down willingly anytime soon. Not sure why this makes me egotistical or selfish.

This said, there are a lot of insufferable assholes in this world. Let not go getting crazy and give immortality to just anyone!
posted by cjorgensen at 7:39 AM on August 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Odd synchronicity: PREHISTORIC HUMAN BRAIN FOUND PICKLED IN BOG
posted by achrise at 7:43 AM on August 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


.

(for David Rakoff)
posted by beandip at 7:47 AM on August 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


[disappointment] I thought they said the Elcor Life Extension Foundation. [cautious optimism] Perhaps they will develop techniques that work across species.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 7:49 AM on August 17, 2012 [5 favorites]


Odd synchronicity: PREHISTORIC HUMAN BRAIN FOUND PICKLED IN BOG

Eh, I'll have one of those. And a pint.
posted by trunk muffins at 7:52 AM on August 17, 2012


The ultimate finality of life is exactly the thing that makes life precious and special.

That must be why life in heaven is always described as worthless and trite! But it still raises the question: Are we, by an amazing coincidence, at the optimal lifespan right now to balance the preciousness of life with whatever other concerns we may have, or should we try to actively shorten our lives to make them more precious?
posted by martinrebas at 7:53 AM on August 17, 2012 [7 favorites]


All else aside, I far prefer it when an author reports the things he sees and experiences and allows me to draw my own conclusions about how sensible or foolish it might be. After the 45th or so winking aside from the author that basically says hey, folks, I'm not buying this either! I stopped reading.

Sometimes less clever writing and more just writing is the cleverest way to write.
posted by Shepherd at 8:09 AM on August 17, 2012


The ultimate finality of life is exactly the thing that makes life precious and special.

Or maybe what makes life precious and special are those precious and special things one encounters and appreciates while one is alive.

I find this desire to extend life infinitely highly egotistical and selfish.

In that case, you should forego breathing, eating, drinking, medicine, shelter, and procreation. Wouldn't want you to feel like you were being selfish (or egotistical).
posted by tempestuoso at 8:24 AM on August 17, 2012


People are saying they don't understand the selfish side of this issue. The selfishness comes into play when one person is using 200 years of resources. Resources are limited.
There are also ethical problems when the only people who can live that long are rich people. By living that long they will influence their societies for far longer -- and the influence will most likely *not* be for the benefit of the many. The society will be adapted to the wants of the few rich. We can see that happening now and it's bad enough. Can you imagine the Koch's of the world having 100 + years to fuck up democracy?

No thanks.
posted by Librarygeek at 8:24 AM on August 17, 2012 [4 favorites]


People are saying they don't understand the selfish side of this issue. The selfishness comes into play when one person is using 200 years of resources. Resources are limited.

Yeah, becuase if we conquer death, surely there will be no further advances in science.

There are also ethical problems when the only people who can live that long are rich people.

The rich got pottery, horses, leisure time, indoor plumbing, spices, international travel and cars before everyone else too. I, for one, think it's time for them to share!

This is a part of some liberals' thinking that really horrifies me: We shouldn't create [good thing] becuase rich people will get it first!
posted by spaltavian at 8:34 AM on August 17, 2012 [3 favorites]


"...Alcor, the Arizona cryonics company that has put the body of Boston Red Sox Hall of Famer Ted Williams in cryogenic suspension..."

Involuntary cryonics seems like such a weird thing. How pissed off would you be if you were Ted Williams and woke up in 2150? "Whaddya mean by 'everyone you know is dead?' And why don't I have a head?" It's a slightly-less cruel version of reanimating a Neanderthal.

I guess I don't understand the desire for partial immortality. Your friends and family all fade away, weird parts of your body would fail (how does one regenerate cartilage? And what about telomerase!?), and nothing would seem new after awhile. I'm sure my answer would change in the midst of a death rattle or traffic accident, but it seems wise to bow out in a timely fashion.
posted by Turkey Glue at 8:36 AM on August 17, 2012


The selfishness comes into play when one person is using 200 years of resources. Resources are limited.

If a given person does not add to the population but instead maintains one's own existence, is that person more or less selfish than the person who spawns two people who spawns two people who spawns two people who spawns two people in the span of 200 years? Which case uses more resources?

You cannot make a universal claim that anyone who wants to extend their life indefinitely is being selfish. It depends on the individual. A responsible person would not procreate if immortality were otherwise assumed.

There are also ethical problems when the only people who can live that long are rich people.

Agreed, but the solution to that disparity is not that everyone must die.
posted by tempestuoso at 8:38 AM on August 17, 2012 [3 favorites]


The ultimate finality of life is exactly the thing that makes life precious and special.

Death at 80 makes life precious and special. Would life be even more precious and special if we all died at 30? If so, why not do it? If not, why would life be any less special if we added an additional 50 years to life?

True immortality isn't possible given what we know about physics. Eventually, the sun will burn out. And even if you escape that, the Universe will eventually arrive at heat death, when all atoms stop moving. The question is never about living 70 year vs living forever. An extra few hundred years might be nice though.
posted by the jam at 8:48 AM on August 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


If it were only available to a wealthy and powerful elite, then it would surely be not just stagnation but stagnation ruthlessly enforced through the barrel of a gun. Within a generation or two, the gerontocracy would live in constant terror of the existential threat of a mass uprising by the teeming masses of the young and poor, whose values would have diverged almost totally from theirs, and they would take any possible measure, no matter how cruel, to prevent it.

So it'll be like In Time except for real? And not as terrible as watching that movie was?
posted by asnider at 8:50 AM on August 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


I guess I don't understand the desire for partial immortality. Your friends and family all fade away, weird parts of your body would fail (how does one regenerate cartilage? And what about telomerase!?), and nothing would seem new after awhile. I'm sure my answer would change in the midst of a death rattle or traffic accident, but it seems wise to bow out in a timely fashion.
This seems like the pretty typical experience of growing old, indefinitely extended. There's absolutely a push in that direction in US culture, but it doesn't appeal to me at all. The question of (quasi)immortality is: what if aging could be reduced or stopped? If I (and anyone else) could be healthy and "young" for an indefinite period of time, choosing when to die (or just going out quickly in a random accident) without slow deterioration and accumulated heartache, that seems like an infinitely richer, fuller life with vastly reduced overall suffering.

It's sort of the end state of medicine; I seriously doubt it's something anyone will ever achieve, but that doesn't mean it's not worthwhile to work toward.
posted by byanyothername at 8:52 AM on August 17, 2012


Can you imagine the Koch's of the world having 100 + years to fuck up democracy?

Can you imagine the good and intelligent people of the world having 100+ years to improve things? Or are you saying that given enough time, bad always triumphs over good? In that case, we should figure out how to get everyone in the world to die ASAP. Today, if possible.
posted by the jam at 8:53 AM on August 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


If I could be healthy and "young" for an indefinite period of time, choosing when to die without slow deterioration and accumulated heartache, that seems like an infinitely richer, fuller life with vastly reduced overall suffering.

Sounds great, but do you think anyone would choose to die while their bodies are still in relatively good working order? Given that in the US the largest slice of medical expenditure goes to add a few extra months to the lives of the very elderly, I can't see it happening here.
posted by Kitty Stardust at 8:57 AM on August 17, 2012


I don't know about how much more precious life is if you die at 80 vs. 50 vs. 30. I do know that it's harder to forget the lessons of history when you've personally lived through them. Expanding humanity's notoriously short-term perspective might not be a bad thing.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 9:44 AM on August 17, 2012 [5 favorites]


I am saying that I don't trust the rich and powerful. You and I would never be able to afford this treatment.
posted by Librarygeek at 9:50 AM on August 17, 2012


David Rakoff goes inside the Alcor Life Extension Foundation.

In 2003.
posted by Wordwoman at 10:46 AM on August 17, 2012


But I'd take every second of conscious, pain-free existence I could get.

I've thought about immortality. But then that just leaves me floating alone in space after the earth is gone, forever. Doesn't it?

should we try to actively shorten our lives to make them more precious?

"The light that burns twice as bright burns half as long."
posted by ODiV at 10:57 AM on August 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


I am saying that I don't trust the rich and powerful. You and I would never be able to afford this treatment.

Never? That's absurd. As I pointed out above, almost any good or service you can think of was once the exclusive domain of the rich and powerful. The lives most people in the West live today are filled with luxuries that only the nobility would have had a few centuries ago. Plentiful food, personal transport, imported wares, access to medical care; all of this has filtered to mere "commoners" in the developed world.

The rich and powerful will often protect their privileges, but the idea that a cabal could hold onto a major technological advancement in a semi-permanent way is ahistorical. Especially when there's money to be made; eventually when the technology would get cheaper and it will be profitiable to start selling life extension to people of more moderate means. It happened with cars, home electronics and air travel.

Also, I know the rich don't need protection but the concept that they have to die for "society" is a far worse mindset than any perceived "greed" by not wanting to die.
posted by spaltavian at 11:17 AM on August 17, 2012


In 2003.

You think they've gotten a better amputation saw since then?
posted by gerryblog at 11:17 AM on August 17, 2012


I want more David Rackoff, fucker.
posted by lumpenprole at 11:29 AM on August 17, 2012 [3 favorites]


Every time I read stuff like this, I think "Good luck with that." Then presume that it's never, ever going to work because we're not that good at science yet.
posted by jenfullmoon at 11:29 AM on August 17, 2012


Technology-wise, I don't think the head freezers have a plausible case for how resurrection's supposed to work. Nonetheless, I think the "well I don't want to live forever" arguments miss the point altogether.

I'm pretty sure everyone (or at least everyone without a theological terror management story they believe in), ahem, I'm pretty sure everyone understands that death isn't just the cessation of new experiences, but instead the retrospective obliteration of all the experiences of one's entire life. It's not just that when we die we cease to be here; it's that if it's all lost eventually it's not even here now.

So, yeah, screw that. Freeze me, scan me, wire me, rip me, copy me. I really don't care that I come off like Trevor Goodchild from Aeon Flux when I say that (or, well, like an old-fashioned existentialist). If we had the technology, I'd take it in a heartbeat, and I think most other people would, too.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 12:11 PM on August 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think quality of life is a much, much more important question than quantity of life.

Given our society and its willingness to waste untold fortunes in money and suffering in order to extend life so much as a single gasping, bedridden month, I also wonder whether addressing the latter might be the only thing that will ever lead us to address the former.
posted by vorfeed at 12:22 PM on August 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


But it's the incredible lengths people go to to achieve a lifespan few or no people have achieved that's the question here.

What a perfect way to betray a total ignorance of history.
posted by adamdschneider at 12:41 PM on August 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm pretty sure everyone understands that death isn't just the cessation of new experiences, but instead the retrospective obliteration of all the experiences of one's entire life. It's not just that when we die we cease to be here; it's that if it's all lost eventually it's not even here now.

I've been working on a theory for years that this is actually evidence that some sort of afterlife must exist. After all, we *are* here now, experiencing each moment in its turn and then remembering that experience in the next. Moments of amnesia and unconsciousness are "skipped over," and we awake at the next moment that is remembered.

So there must be something like eternal persistence of the mind, in some fashion, to maintain the chain of memory on which our conscious experience of time depends. Otherwise, as you say, our conscious moment by moment experience of life would be retrospectively obliterated as if it had never happened at all.

I don't really believe it, I don't think, but any port in a storm.
posted by gerryblog at 12:42 PM on August 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm as much of a knees-up atheist as they come, but I've also seen people shambling along, willing to do everything possible to squeeze out one more day, and with a horrible quality of life thanks to that desire to keep living. That doesn't appeal to me. I guess I agree with Penn Gillette on this one at least--the fact that there is something when it's so much more likely there could be nothing, well, that's pretty frakking amazing and not something I want to take for granted for fear of some imaginary future party I won't get invited to.

Death is inevitable. It happens to everyone. And if erasure worries you, I have some bad news about this rock we live on. The only thing in your control about death is how you approach it. You can do so with dignity or like a toddler screaming that they're not tired at bedtime.
posted by Kitty Stardust at 12:54 PM on August 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


Typical selfish and arrogant first-world attitude. It's not enough to live a lifestyle that's unsustainable to the point of causing environmental collapse, they have to extend it forever. This is Western culture in a nutshell-exploit and consume on the backs of the developing world until the entire world is a desert.
posted by happyroach at 1:05 PM on August 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


I think one of the best treatments of this concept was done in Transmetropolitan #8. It's a shame I can't find a linkable version of it, because it's a gorgeous self-contained story about a woman (Mary) who did this and was later revived into a future that doesn't want her, and how she reacts to a world that has no reference points for her to attach to.

For a while I wanted to cut it into a 10 minute monologue, and every time I tried, it came out beautifully except for one page, where Mary steps out into the world and is transfixed by the sheer details of it. I never could figure out a way to capture that.
posted by CrystalDave at 1:15 PM on August 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


There are infinitely many potential people, each with permutations of genetics and environment that make them altogether unique. To prefer your own persistence over others' existence is inexcusably self centered. Only so many people can be on this ride at a time. Wanting your turn to last forever means no one else gets theirs.
posted by Ictus at 1:22 PM on August 17, 2012


Yes, everyone: you have to die, otherwise you're violating the rights of people who do not exist.
posted by spaltavian at 1:40 PM on August 17, 2012 [4 favorites]


There are infinitely many potential people, each with permutations of genetics and environment that make them altogether unique. To prefer your own persistence over others' existence is inexcusably self centered. Only so many people can be on this ride at a time. Wanting your turn to last forever means no one else gets theirs.

This is not how infinity works, much less how "forever" works. No realistic form of life extension could have anything more than a vanishingly tiny effect on the "infinitely many potential people" which could exist on Earth, much less in the wider universe.

Even if every person on Earth were to live 5,000 years starting tomorrow, that's no more than a blink of an eye in terms of geologic time. And the infinite people are infinite, so I'm sure they can afford to wait for the rest of us to finish blinking...
posted by vorfeed at 1:57 PM on August 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


To prefer your own persistence over others' existence is inexcusably self centered. Only so many people can be on this ride at a time.

Well, we've probably all had enough now, so we may as well kill ourselves to make room, make tommy, right? It's seriously depressing how this discussion always brings out the dumbest arguments.
posted by adamdschneider at 2:06 PM on August 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


If a given person does not add to the population but instead maintains one's own existence

I gua-ran-fucking-tee that if people could live to 200 as 30-year-olds, the average number of children they have would be something like 10 apiece. They'd raise a family from 30-50, take 20 years off, raise another from 70-90, etc., etc. Hell, some people would simply have 40 kids.
posted by maxwelton at 2:09 PM on August 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


I gua-ran-fucking-tee that if people could live to 200 as 30-year-olds, the average number of children they have would be something like 10 apiece.

Hahaha! Do you perchance have children? (I am guessing no.)
posted by Wordwoman at 2:49 PM on August 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


/ida hmanəm aɪ kja namṛtuh zdɛ:taha/…/ghʷɪvah-pjorn-ɪttham sas da:tṛ kredah/
posted by homunculus at 3:04 PM on August 17, 2012


If I (and anyone else) could be healthy and "young" for an indefinite period of time, choosing when to die (or just going out quickly in a random accident) without slow deterioration and accumulated heartache, that seems like an infinitely richer, fuller life with vastly reduced overall suffering.

The slow deterioration and accumulated heartache are the point. A world without suffering is a world without pleasure; a world without sacrifice is a world without meaning. If nothing costs you anything nothing means anything. The choice itself is what imparts meaning: two roads diverged in a wood and I. To this I give my life because this is what I cared about. Would the tenth love of your life mean any more than the eleventh? Or would they all mean the same, zero? We prize firsts because the will never come again; if we truly had all time would we even remember the middles, the endless same days, would they even register as things we had experienced except in their being drained of novelty the next time we encounter them? If we do end up as brains in jars I shouldn't wonder if we don't spend our time still lusting after what we can never have, the past --- locked in little VR games where our avatars pretend to be Lincoln or Lee Harvey Oswald; after all, those days will never come again whereas the present will be out there for as long as you like a hot summer day in a dry backyard when you're nine years old and even the frisbee is stuck on the roof.
posted by Diablevert at 3:34 PM on August 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


That article was not too bad but the information on Mike Darwin's Chronosphere blog is killer. Darwin is an Alcor customer, former employee, and scathing critic of the management.
posted by bukvich at 7:10 PM on August 17, 2012


The ultimate finality of life is exactly the thing that makes life precious and special. I find this desire to extend life infinitely highly egotistical and selfish.

Hey, it's not like they'd be shoving the life extension tech down your throat. You'd be free to die naturally, probably in a scary and painful fashion! Hooray?

Dying sucks. Anyone who says otherwise is either lying to you or deluded. Sometimes dying sucks a bit less than the alternative, but that doesn't mean it doesn't suck. The idea that dying is what makes life precious strikes me as deluded.
posted by Justinian at 8:31 PM on August 17, 2012 [4 favorites]


It seems pretty obvious that the vast majority of people throughout history have been in favor of eternal life, at least for themselves. Eternal life is the key selling point in the two major monotheistic religions that dominate a lot of the world. And a lot of people who aren't hard-core Christians still believe and talk about a "heaven" where they get to see all their dead relatives (at least in US culture)

Don't many eastern religions also view people's minds as being eternal? You have reincarnation, and in Chinese foulk tradition, their parents do go into heaven and require gifts, etc in the afterlife.

So yeah... you might be cool with your own imminent demise, but it's obviously not the default desire for most people. And in fact, the desire not to die is so strong that people are willing to believe all kinds of irrational, implausible things.

Obviously if you're an atheist, you're not going be able to believe you get to go to heaven or whatever, but that doesn't mean you have to be happy about it. Why would the innate desire to stay alive dissipate just because someone doesn't believe in god?

Now, it would be really interesting to see what would happen to religion if practical earthly immortality were possible. After all, one of the main reasons people stay religious is that they want to get into heaven and live forever, and aren't willing to give that up.

But, if science offered them a way to stay alive indefinitely without becoming religious, why would they stay religious?

As far as overpopulation is concerned, perhaps we could come up with a program whereby anyone who becomes 'practically' immortal is banished to Mars or something.
People are saying they don't understand the selfish side of this issue. The selfishness comes into play when one person is using 200 years of resources. Resources are limited.
Not really. For one thing, it's entirely possible to live on renewable resources alone, and for most of history that's what people did. One person living on a farm growing their own food wouldn't take up any more resources then one family living on that same farm generation after generation. It doesn't really make any difference.

Now obviously no one is going to live forever, as the universe as we know it will eventually end up nothing more than cold, dark gas clouds and black holes where galaxies used to be. But that will take trillions of years.
The slow deterioration and accumulated heartache are the point. A world without suffering is a world without pleasure; a world without sacrifice is a world without meaning. If nothing costs you anything nothing means anything.
That, is completely ridiculous. Obviously you can seek out as much misery and torment and suffering as you want, but criticizing other people for wanting to avoid it is ridiculous, if not disturbing if you're actually demanding or arguing that people have amoral imperative to suffer and die. That kind of thinking is at the root of a lot of reprehensible ideologies throughout history.

Also, who says life has to have meaning anyway? Maybe life is meaningless. Meaningless sex is still fun. It's entirely possible for a 'meaningless' life to be enjoyable.
posted by delmoi at 12:03 AM on August 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


I find this desire to extend life infinitely highly egotistical and selfish.

Fair enough. You can go take the long but noble dirt nap, and I can dance in a self-centred way on your grave with a bottle and a grin. Not a hard choice between the two options, for me, at least.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 12:38 AM on August 18, 2012 [5 favorites]


Once cancer can be cured with a cheap pill and new organs printed on demand at low cost, I imagine few will be arguing that it is exorbitant or even selfish to live well past retirement age.

That's a whole lotta optimism you got there.

The thing that cheers me up immensely is the knowledge that singularitarians will be proved wrong and in short order. This is all merely fantasy, no matter how florid the imaginations involved. Cryonics is a best mere quackery, at worst a massive scam. Let me know when they figure out how to revive a corpse full of antifreeze.
posted by Existential Dread at 1:28 PM on August 18, 2012


Benefitting the self, sure. Selfish? I don't know. Loving forever does seem like a better way to optimize one's path through the world and therefore make it a better place. Imagine the art and science and freedom from pain that might come from the conquering of aging - 100 years of painting experience, 200 of composition. No more Alzheimer's or arthritis. Nearby stars reachable within a lifetime.

Imagine the kind of longterm thinking we might more broadly engage in.

It could be, instead of a selifish burden on society, the thing that propels us forward.
posted by zippy at 5:58 PM on August 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Also, living isn't selfish if other people actually like being around and care about you. After all, if suicide is selfish, because it hurts people who care about you then living forever would be the opposite of that.

By avoiding death, you are avoiding that death would cause to others.
posted by delmoi at 6:27 PM on August 18, 2012


I think one of the best treatments of this concept was done in Transmetropolitan #8. It's a shame I can't find a linkable version of it, because it's a gorgeous self-contained story about a woman (Mary) who did this and was later revived into a future that doesn't want her, and how she reacts to a world that has no reference points for her to attach to.

Another Cold Morning

(h/t homunculus)
posted by Rhaomi at 10:14 PM on August 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


That's a whole lotta optimism you got there.

Not anymore than the idea of creating a vaccine for polio or a cure for TB would have seemed in 1850. It's not "optimistic" to acknowledge that science will probably continue to advance; I'm sure we'll still be doing horrible things long after we have cured cancer.
posted by spaltavian at 5:58 AM on August 20, 2012


I have rarely felt terribly confident that my lived experience is continuous from moment to moment or day to day. Perhaps it's because I happen to be forgetful, but I don't feel that, just because an entity with my history and possibly some of my biological material might continue to exist forever, that implies that the things I actually care about in my life are going to last forever. I'm not all that confident that the memories and skills and relationships I value at the moment are even going to last until I'm thirty.
posted by LogicalDash at 7:22 AM on August 20, 2012


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