Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Immortalist Jason Silva on the tyranny of aging and death:

I've been healthily preoccupied with the assumed inevitability of death for at least half my life. Elsewhere, I've summarized my own thoughts on the dilemma:

Any humans around a thousand years from now should have the ability to reinvent life itself on their own terms; we have no accurate way of foreseeing what form our species will take, if we remain a "species" at all. My best bet is that we'll become multiplex and effectively unrecognizable, in which case speaking in terms of hundred- or thousand-year lifespans becomes trite and anthropomorphic.

If we can make it to 1000, we will have achieved immortality. We won't have to worry about "illness"; we'll worry about altogether bigger threats such as the lifetimes of stars, the hard radiation of supernovae, the gnarled topology of spacetime, and, ultimately, the fate of the universe itself.

This could well be our final century. But I agree with Stephen Hawking: If we can begin to migrate into space -- and reap the rewards waiting for us there -- we will have ensured a certain immortality. And there's real reason to hope we can create a "back-up," whether on the strange gray shores of the Moon, the mysterious wastes of Mars, or both. Indeed, stark environmental realities, exacerbated by a surging population, have made space migration imperative for a long-term human future.

I've never seen the need to romanticize what amounts to a biological system failure, and I see no reason why we should accept less than immortality as long as there's a viable alternative. (Rucker writes somewhat disparagingly of cryonics, but I think of it as a sensible precaution. Advocating cryonics doesn't entail a soul-consuming fear of death any more than paying for medical insurance indicates a fatalistic personality.)

And yet I'm drawn to the idea that life is more than an endlessly prolonged system upgrade. Ultimately, all is one; we are the universe staring back at itself in wonder and fear. Provided we can preserve that sense of awe, why not live forever?

1 comment:

linus r. said...

this sounds rather simplistic.... life (including ageing and dying) really is not worth any consideration.... the solution to this problem of aging is "contempt for life"....