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Jim B.
user 4260314
Arlington, TX
Post #: 383
We touched on this topic at the last meetup. Maybe we could do this as a topic some time.

What are the implications of humans being able to live forever? And by "live forever," I don't necessarily mean endless biological life or endless existence in one's present body. Whether immortality takes the form of medically enhanced or technologically enhanced hominids, uploaded minds, etc., if one day individual human consciousnesses/minds are able to persist forever, what would be the philosophical considerations of such a possibility? Would individual existence be "better" simply by going on forever, or would it possibly lose value in important ways? Would we still be ourselves in such a state, or would immortality so fundamentally change us that we would no longer be who we were as mortal beings? There is the argument that death gives form to human lives and that without the prospect of death, lives would be formless and lose most if not all of their meaning. There would be much less urgency to do anything in particular; one could always say "I'll get to that next decade" or "next century" or "next millennium." If death, to some extent, defines human lives, then removing that defining factor may change the meaning of lives. There is also the question of whether something is better just because it goes on forever. Temporal finiteness can give things greater value. Think of an endless symphony or sunset or conversation or hot bath. Is there anything that is good that would become that much better simply by going on forever?

On the other hand, if life is a good thing, isn't it better for that good thing to continue rather than for it to end? In response to this question, some who argue that immortality is not necessarily a good thing raise the analogy of eating ice cream. If eating ice cream is good, does that mean that an eternal ice cream binge is also a good thing, or even a better thing than ice cream binges that come to an end? But life is not analogous to eating ice cream. You don't get satiated with life like you do with ice cream, where if you eat too much, you get physically sick from it as well as psychologically sick of it. And isn't extending people's lives a good thing? Who wouldn't opt for another year or two or ten of life (assuming that those extra years did not involve inordinate suffering)? Wouldn't being able to live to 200 be better than living to no more than 35 or 75? So that no matter how much the human lifespan could be extended, the greater the lifespan, the better. By that logic, infinitely extending it would be better than having it reach its end, no matter at how advanced the age. Or would it? And even if humans can become immortal, that does not mean that death could not always be an option. If one gets so tired of being alive, after having lived for 10,000 years or so, one can always opt out of the deal, or maybe go into suspended animation for a millennium or two! And it seems that most of the reasons why people would not want to live forever have to do with the physical and mental decline associated with getting older and not with living per se.
Cynthia
user 13884882
Dallas, TX
Post #: 1
This reminds me of the movie staring Robin Williams called Bicentennial Man. He was a robot designed to last for an infinite amount of time but after many generations of people he knew passed away he decides that he wants to become mortal and pass away as others do.
Rinda G.
user 7444310
Dallas, TX
Post #: 139
I, agree, Jim ... this is a great topic and I've got it on our calendar for the May 25 Saturday MeetUp.

There are many ways to look at this. As you know I believe we ARE immortal but I'm not attached to this body. I see myself as an individual consciousness within an ocean of consciousnesses. I love what I've learned in this lifetime, but I've worn out this body and am more than ready to trade it in for a new one. Immortality in a single body doesn't sound too great to me for many reasons. Remember that intriguing movie, The Man From Earth?

One thing I'm fairly certain of is I'm not sure its possible to adequately address the issue of immortality without considering the idea of heaven. Why would anyone want to be immortal unless they believed "immortality" would be a pleasant experience? Given the ups and downs of life wouldn't one have to be willing to go through the "downs"? In fact, the problem I had with the Christian view of heaven was that it was a gigantically BORING place run by a supreme EGOTIST who couldn't be happy unless all residents were flitting around singing it's praises. While flying might be fun for a while, I'd probably enjoy occasionally walking, swimming or some other form of diversion. And sometimes I like just to talk and, even more, to talk about different things.

For me, the most exciting aspect of life is LEARNING but to learn more I have to rely on things I learned in my past. And, some things are more fun to learn when you're young and others impossible to learn until you're old. Eighty to ninety years is more than enough for one lifetime in the same body.
And, what about people who're born deformed or contract a debilitating disease? Would Stephen Hawking want to be immortal in the same body? Or Helen Keller?

Other questions that come to my mind is, "Would you want to keep aging?" Or, "What age would you choose to be stuck at for the next thousand + years?" I'd sure like to get rid of pooping in my pants! biggrin
Jim B.
user 4260314
Arlington, TX
Post #: 384
Cynthia and Rinda,

Thank you for your responses. You raise good points. Just to play devil's advocate for a minute (a role that comes a little too easily to me?devilish), assuming that medical science has progressed to the point of making immortality possible, it seems likely that it could also prevent all of the problems that both of you have pointed out. If everyone can be immortal, then most of your friends and loved ones would remain alive and well along with you. And the problems of aging and disease (and, we hope, pants pooping, unless it's intentional:) will also be averted through spare parts/bodies,synthetic or simulated bodies, uploaded minds, etc.,. Let's just assume, for the sake of argument, that we can have a relatively happy immortality unplagued by aging, disease, loneliness, and so on. Would immortality still have downsides or would it all be good?
Keith K.
user 12906323
Dallas, TX
Post #: 15
Hi all,
The problem with The Man From Earth was that he was the only one who did not age so he had to "move on" every 30 years or so. If everybody didn't age or aged at a slower rate he would not have had to do that. Ray Kurzweil's The Singularity is Near addresses some of these problems. Personally i think we might get bored after 500 years or so, particularly if strong AI was here and much of what was possible was already in place.
Jim B.
user 4260314
Arlington, TX
Post #: 385
Personally i think we might get bored after 500 years or so, particularly if strong AI was here and much of what was possible was already in place.

Hi Keith, I'm not sure I follow the last part of that sentence. Are you saying that once machines can do everything we can do, but better, that we will become redundant or superfluous and that life would become boring with nothing left for us to do?
Keith K.
user 12906323
Dallas, TX
Post #: 17
Hi Jim,
If strong AI precedes any major increase in life span, which seems the most likely as the methodology of the increase would probably come from strong AI humans would have a lot of catching up to maintain intelligence.
Granted the increase in brain capability caused by not being restricted to skull size and being organic will help but the likely second class citizen role might not set well. Five hundred years might be enough!
Sally R.
user 17645371
Dallas, TX
Post #: 1
I’m not sure that human beings would even have the same capacity to learn if they didn’t age. Learning seems to be a property of a changing brain and neurosystem. Without aging, we don’t really know if our brains would change, but I imagine they would not; or they would change so slowly that we wouldn’t notice. Then what would life be like, without the ability to learn or change or maybe even remember? Would we become like Redwood trees? Anyway, even if our brains were able to change, how many eons would it take before all the neurons and synapses in there were saturated and we were no longer able to form new memories or learn new things? The brain has a huge capacity, but a lot of it is devoted to motor skills, perceptual processing and just plain old emotional and endocrine-associated responses, not to mention the coordination of all of the above, so the capacity for learning and memory may not be as infinite as we think, even if all our cells stayed healthy. Would there still be sickness? Would there be mental illness? I think people get tired of life and I’m not sure it’s always due to decline. Sometimes, life just gets to be a bore after you’ve done everything 50m times…
Rinda G.
user 7444310
Dallas, TX
Post #: 140
I’m not sure that human beings would even have the same capacity to learn if they didn’t age.

Interesting, Sally, I'm fairly certain I agree with you.
Even if science could prolong our lives indefinitely with high energy & good health, I still can't think of any reason I'd opt for more than 200 years in the same body. If I were in better health and not in constant pain, there are a ton of things I can still think of to do.
Maybe we could simply choose how long to live, rid ourselves of antiquated ideas about euthanasia and simply opt out eventually. Even as I say that I can't imagining my doing it unless I maintained my belief about our immortality that I currently have. And, if I keep my current belief then the "immortaility in the same body holds considerably less appeal.
Sally R.
user 17645371
Dallas, TX
Post #: 2
I agree with you, Rinda...and living as some other entity, e.g., a memory chip or a robot or a brain in a vat doesn't really appeal to me either...
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