Are we especially unfortunate to die, if our near-descendants could be immortal?


EXCERPT: . . . These ever-growing lifespans are the result of regular advances in medical science. [...] Ageing, the ultimate chronic condition, involves degradation of the DNA that guides cell replacement. There seems to be no reason, in principle at least, that would prevent us from discovering a means of halting or reversing ageing itself...

What if that all happens sooner rather than later? But what if it’s not soon enough? Imagine that, after a few more breakthroughs, a scientific consensus emerges that we will have conquered illness and ageing by the year 2119; anyone alive in 2119 is likely to live for centuries, even millennia. You and I are very unlikely to make it to 2119. But we are likely to make it relatively close to that date – in fact, relative to the span of human history, we’ve already made it very close right now. Think that through, carefully. What would it mean to realize that you very nearly got to live forever, but didn’t? What would it mean if, in our looming senescence, we were increasingly forced to share social space with young people whose anticipated allotment of time massively dwarfs our own? We would then be the last mortals.

If this were so, we would be forced to confront an unprecedented shift in one of the oldest philosophical problems. When death ceases to be inevitable, can it still mean the same thing to lose your life?

[...] Our great-great-grandchildren will not be [immortal Middle-earth] elves, but they may also not be mortals like us. ... If humans acquired biological immortality, our expected lifespans would jump to enormous lengths. Almost everyone would still eventually die; statistics dictate that if you fly on planes every few weeks for eternity, eventually one will crash. If not that, there’s nuclear apocalypse or the heat death of the Sun. So the type of immortality I have in mind is not a magical one where death is strictly impossible. But it is the practical removal of death’s certainty. Biological immortals would no longer expect to die within any relevant time frame.

This point allows us to sidestep one of the perennial questions about immortality: is endless life something we’d really want? In fiction, immortality often emerges as a curse rather than a blessing. [...] These reflections may be right: perhaps a meaningless, inescapable immortality is a curse. But the sort of biological immortality our great-great-grandchildren might have needn’t be like this. ... What is distinctive for them is that death becomes only a possibility, an option, not an inevitability on a fixed timetable. This sort of immortality, I would think, is definitely not a curse.

[...] So I proceed now on the assumption that the first generation of immortals will possess something very much worth wanting. Now our question must be: what should we say about those left stranded on the dock as the ship to the Undying Lands fades in the distance? Philosophers have been talking about death for as long as philosophers have been around to die. ... the Greek philosopher Epicurus made a similar point, though less colourfully. ... The thought is this: death isn’t like any bad thing happening ... you no longer exist for it to happen to. You and death are never really in the same room at the same time, so to speak.

Modern philosophers tend to resist Epicurus’ conclusion that death is not bad for us. They point out that we can make sense of the comparative claim that it would have been good for Diogenes to have a few more happy years, so the deprivation of those years was a bad thing for him. [...] My aim is to show that dying is worse for the last mortals than for earlier generations. The advent of biological immortality actually worsens the lives of those who fall closest in never reaching it.

[...] Technological progress creates new vulnerabilities to go with its new possibilities. When technology makes something newly possible, it changes the status of our wishing for that thing. Once upon a time, wishing to see and speak to an old friend in another country instantly was mere fantasy, the sort of thing for fables of magic mirrors and crystal balls. But now we have portable video cameras and wireless networks. Now a wish to chat with distant loved ones has the status of a perfectly normal desire – one that is vulnerable to painful failure. Mobile phones provide many examples of this phenomenon.

[...] This is why the last mortals will have it particularly bad. Until now, the wish for immortality was mere fantasy. No one has ever lived beyond 122 years, and no one has reasonably expected to do so. But what happens once the scientists tell us that we’re drawing near, that biological immortality will be ready in a generation or two – then what? Suddenly we are Freud banging on his iPhone, missing out on FaceTime with his dear dying Lou. Suddenly we are on the dock watching the elven ships sail away.

Seneca told us to meet death cheerfully [...] Why suffer over the inability to attain a fantasy? Yet, as I’ve been arguing, soon death may cease to be inevitable. It may become an option rather than a giver of orders. And, as the fantasy of immortality becomes a reasonable desire, this will generate not only new sorts of failed desires, but also new ways to become profoundly envious.

The last mortals may be forced to share Earth with the first immortals. [...] In other words, anyone born before the technology emerges is condemned to die, but all those born later will gain hundreds or thousands of years. Imagine the envious glances from obstetrics nurses towards their charges in the months after that announcement. [...] From an objective perspective, the problem of the last mortals seems fleeting. After all, they will die off quickly, relatively speaking, and then everyone remaining will share equally in the new problems of extraordinary longevity. But we may not have the luxury of taking this objective perspective, because we may be those last mortals. We may be the ones turning towards our descendants with the most intense resentment and envy anyone has ever known. Is there anything we can do to prepare?

One promising thought comes from Simone de Beauvoir, whose novel All Men are Mortal (1946) is yet another in the curse-of-immortality genre. [...The character...] Regina ... sees a chance to transcend her mortal limitations by lodging herself in [immortal Raymond] Fosca’s endless memory. “One day I’ll be old, dead, forgotten”, she realizes. “And at this very moment, while I’m sitting here thinking these things, a man in a dingy hotel room is thinking, ‘I will always be here’.”

This may be our best hope for avoiding the conversion of immortal fantasy into cruelly stymied desire as well as a mountain of intergenerational envy. Perhaps the last mortals can find a way to tag along, in memory at least, with our undying descendants.... (MORE - details)
"Immortality or die trying" ~ the quest of all living things.... Smile
What was that Star Trek episode where a computer simulated a world war and if you were killed in that program then you went to some killing station to actually die?

Hmmmm.... OTOH, Don’t think we’ll put God out of business and maybe Hell is full.

Just saw this. A fish that can grow very old but we inhibit it. Is there anything another species could do that would affect our immortality?
(Aug 5, 2019 02:55 PM)Zinjanthropos Wrote: What was that Star Trek episode where a computer simulated a world war and if you were killed in that program then you went to some killing station to actually die?

A Taste of Armageddon? Maybe one of the earliest examples on television of a "game-world" computer simulation, if not the first. Too bad the novel Simulacron-3(1964) was never made into a movie back in the '60s. It would have hit the nail right on the head.

Quote:Just saw this. A fish that can grow very old but we inhibit it. Is there anything another species could do that would affect our immortality?

Drug resistant microorganisms or rapidly spreading new pandemics are about it, as far as any prospect of reducing our numbers or generating our extinction. Even insect numbers are claimed to be declining due to us, a taxonomical slot once considered to be invincible in popular references and fiction.

Of course, new categories in the future either directly yielded by our handiwork or via descent from the original engineering could certainly get the job done. Depending on how fully realized they become in comparison to mere speculations about their possibility and advent. Fredric Brown's 1954 short-story The Answer was arguably the first to offer this type of scenario:

Human: "Does God exist?"

Machine: "Yes, it does now."
I may have shared this with you before. I can’t remember. It’s an interesting article that I came across years ago. It’s a question that I would have never thought of.

How would our current laws adapt to immortality?

Quote:***The primary reason, therefore, that imprisonment is regarded as a harsh punishment is that it deprives offenders of a finite resource – namely time. When this resource is more abundant, it logically follows that for the same intensity of punishment to be inflicted a longer sentence must be imposed. A twenty year term of imprisonment is likely to cause a lot of hardship in the context of a 60 year life span, but is likely to be viewed as merely a hiccup in a life lasting 200 years.

***The proportionality thesis is also complicated by the fact that the severity of many crimes (in terms of their effect on the victim) may change as a result of increased human longevity. For example, an injury sustained as a result of an assault which takes a year to heal may be less significant in the context of a 200 year life than a 70 year life. On the other hand, a homicide offence may be far more serious when a life is cut short by 180 years as opposed to 50 years. It is obviously even far more serious when the life that is cut short would have been indefinite. On the other hand, property offences may be relatively less serious as the victim has more time to recover the loss. For example, a $1000 deprivation is likely to be less consequential in the context of a longer lifetime where a victim accumulates $5 million in resources than when, due to a shorter lifetime, a victim only accumulates $1 million.  

***Human longevity is increasing at a rapid rate. So much so that the prospect of immortality in the not too distant future is no longer merely science-fiction. There are tenable moral arguments that can be made against the pursuit of immortality or significantly increased human longevity. Regardless of the logical force of such arguments, they are unlikely to curtail the pursuit of increased longevity. Quite simply, the prize is too great to be frustrated by an appeal to a normative standard. History shows that in such circumstances self-interest is likely to prevail.

Hence, scientific advances in anti-ageing technology are likely to continue at a rapid rate. The purpose of this paper is to raise the awareness of lawyers and law makers of two important issues. First, that scientific advances in anti-ageing technology will not abate and secondly, that this fact underlies the need to develop and refine legal principle. Although focus was given to sentencing, it would not be difficult, however, to multiply such examples. It is hoped that in cases where time and human life spans are relevant, a central consideration in law reform proposals will be to assess how increasing human longevity affects legal doctrine.

Immortality and Sentencing Law
The closest the human body is going to get to immortality (Perimmortality?) is if genetic material is harvested from a person while they are young and either the samples are frozen to used to "print" clone tissue from base materials at a future point and re-injected into a person at points in time when ageing (damage) is apparent.  (The idea that the younger cells will attempt to replicate and replace the older dying cells, kind of like an artificially induced method akin to how The immortal Jellyfish ( can retrograde)

That should negate the problems associated with foreign replacement tissue as the hope is that the body will recognise the tissue as it's own.  There is a point though that the longer a person lives, the more pathogens they are subjected to which in turn changes their antibody make up means eventually even their own body won't recognised their stored tissue samples (Although I'm sure looking at HeLa ( samples could give way to understanding how to bridge the changes between the replacement and the bodies current state).

If you are willing to leave the body behind I wouldn't suggest that you could be uploaded to the cloud like some technologists dream of, for one the entire sum of your existence isn't just a bunch of stored data, it's actually the process in which you handle the data itself, without that then there is no you.

This would actually mean that the only real sure way to do it is "symbiosis" but this itself can cause concerns because it would require paralleling an artificial construct with your real world counterpart from as early as possible (preferably Birth). The symbiotic system however shouldn't be a mnemonic "app" that just access data that's stored or tries to force interaction to a singular "thread" (like an internal monologue system), it should be more a symbiotic EI (Enhancing Intelligence) that is bound to the person, so any decisions they make is both part within their biological system (their brain) and part in the machine system. The exact amount of load balancing between the two however I couldn't suggest, however when it comes to the point that the biological element can no longer sustain (death) it should be possible to move the majority of workload to the artificial counterpart, doing so should streamline an entity to maintain "ego" even though no longer identifying themselves as biological.

I consider this as a pretence for future technologies, although the transcendence of such systems is not necessarily bound by the constraints we currently impose on our understanding of time. (In other words people at this point in time could retroactively already be aparty to such system without their actual awareness knowing the full extents of how deep they are "down the rabbit hole". It would actually explain a mixture of enhanced individuals with apparent autism, along with a number of psychological conditions that would be completely misunderstood without understanding the true root of the problem being a future technology being used in there here and now)

Incidentally "retroactively" is a necessity as anyone embarking on creating such systems could spend their entire lives try to get somewhere on this and not achieving results, their sacrifice shouldn't be in vain or be immortalised as a shrine, it should in fact be that the burden of them becoming a part of this overall system is carried by those torch bears that pick it up and fulfil it as an obligation.

Possibly Related Threads…
Thread Author Replies Views Last Post
  Michael Shermer: The Unfortunate Fallout of Campus Postmodernism C C 2 449 Sep 6, 2017 10:42 PM
Last Post: Ostronomos

Users browsing this thread: 1 Guest(s)