August 12 2008 / by John Heylin
Category: Other Year: General Rating: 5
An editorial on the human condition.
“I’m a dog chasing cars. I wouldn’t know what to do if I caught one.” -The Joker, The Dark Knight
Imagine a world where you are free from death, danger, and poverty. You are able to download your entire mind into any computerized device on the planet (or planets) and live forever. You can talk with the greatest minds of the last million years about everything from baseball to lunar cycles. An android body allows you to visit Yosemite where it’s been painstakingly put back into near-perfect shape with the help of nano-bots and archived photos. You cannot die and the universe is your oyster. Wouldn’t you get bored after a few million years?
One day I was imagining what Heaven, if it existed, would really be like (in the view that Heaven is a place where people hang out, surrounded by Greek and Roman architecture). You could do anything you choose, even explore the ocean depths or visit other planets. But how many times could you talk with Einstein before even he got boring? The same can be said for Utopia. Without fear of death, things like skydiving, river rafting or sailing the open ocean don’t hold the same fear. You could skydive without a parachute and it wouldn’t matter, you’ll still be fine.
Now imagine living forever. You’ve seen millions of solar eclipses. Heck, you’ve even seen eclipses in other galaxies with binary suns. You’ve visited so many different worlds that they all start to look the same. In fact, the only interesting thing to do is to meet lifeforms that have a short life-span. There are constantly new creatures, they feel the thrill of jumping off a high dive, and for some reason find their existence just fine and want nothing to do with immortality.
There’s a reason books, TV shows and movies depict immortal beings as uninterested, bored and frequently suicidal. Living forever would be Hell. The great thing about being human is the fear of dying and of course actually dying. We live every day like it’s our last whether we know it or not. What would happen to us if you took away the very thing that makes us human?
The lesson here is this: We keep clamoring for a better life for ourselves and those around us. We want to live longer and have the ability to experience things that we haven’t yet been able. We want to walk on the moon, we want to see active volcanoes, and we want to visit other worlds. But I don’t think anyone has really thought about living forever seriously. We might clamor for immortality, but I don’t think we can imagine what that means. It means in order to die you’d have to have someone erase you, wipe your memory banks and remove you from existence.
Granted, you could willingly go through a brain-washing every thousand years or so thereby making everything new to you, but what kind of Utopia is that?
Image: mollyali (Flickr,CC-Attribution)