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Gerald O'brian


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If the cure for mortality is found within your lifetime, would you go for it and become immortal?

On the one hand, we're not made for eternal youth. And one could argue that knowing life is short (or just limited) is what makes it worth living. And perhaps death is a major spiritual part of life, whether you believe in a soul or in a metaphorical one.
On the other hand, how is aging yet not another disease? Dying at age 80 is no more a "natural" death than being eaten alive by a bear or killed by malaria. In fact, "old age" is probably the most unnatural cause of death, statistically. So all that's probably just a cultural habit : diseases are evil but aging is good. Another point is that, well, things have changed. Perhaps our new environment makes it suitable for immortal youths.
And of course, becoming immortal only means that you die when YOU chose to die.

So would you go for the injection or not, and how do you rationalize your decision?



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    Nov 2 2013: I'd take immortality in a heart beat, but I have found the majority of people I ask about this would decline, much to my great surprise. So I posed a very similar question about a year ago here on TED: http://www.ted.com/conversations/14514/why_do_so_few_people_want_to_l.html. After asking literally hundreds of people this question, I've categorized the reasons why I think people would choose suicide (by so-called "natural death") over immortality, given a choice. If you read through the majority of "no" responses here, you should be able to put most of them in one or several of these buckets:

    1. Religion / god / afterlife - How will you get to your preferred afterlife (the one you believe in) if you are immortal? Aren't you messing with god's plan? Or a variation, "Don't mess with (mother) nature" or you'll pay the consequences.
    2. If you're unhappy (or bored) in this life, you would not want to extend it. Or a variation on this: The world is too awful a place (or life is too hard), so why would I want to stay longer? There is only so much I can or want to do or accomplish in this life, after which I would become unhappy if I lived longer.
    3. Many of us have made some sort of peace with or perhaps even drawn strength from the concept of our own mortality and our current expected life span, and it's too upsetting or too difficult to seriously consider an alternative. A variation of this is that we either plan for and expect a limited life, or accept on faith that whatever time we have is enough to get done whatever we need to get done.
    4. Death gives life meaning - or variations of this like "live for the moment" and "it's the quality not quantity" of life that matters.
    5. Must make room for the next generation
    6. Not enough resources / over population
    7. You'd miss your friends/family that chose suicide
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      Nov 2 2013: Wow thanks! Very interesting.
      I was also very surprised of the majority's decline. It's fascinating, isn't it?
      Your use of the term "suicide" for acceptance of natural death is clever ; brings light on some of the reasons that you've so well categorized.
      Most people are samurai, it turns out :
      Your life has a purpose, and dying is part of the mission.
      There is such a thing as a good death, an agreement about what's good timing to pass away.
      Death makes your life more valuable.
      Dying will make you part of the system

      The glory comes in a different form than that of feudal Japan, but the mindset is the same. And if this is the norm, you come to wonder why a few like you would renounce the modern samurai code. I suspect it has to do with optimism, or the general idea of progress.
      1 - In a universe that allows progress, there is no divine pre-established setting or supernatural control, so no need for REASON # 1
      2 - The present is exciting because the future is unknowable, so life cannot be boring.
      3 - Even though people say so, I don't think the conscience of mortality changes the first thing of human behaviour. If it did, we wouldn't find an equivalent for the things we do in other apes.
      4 - Immortality gives life even more meaning when the future is believed to be open.
      5 - True, must make room for next generation. But dying seems a little excessive.
      6 - Technical problems such as ressources and population have been solved in the past and there is no logical reason why they shouldn't be solved in the future.
      7 - In time you'd have more friends to help you get over it.
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        Nov 2 2013: Thanks Gerald, I (obviously) love the conversation you've started and agree with what you've said. I wanted to zero in on this part of what you wrote which I think is brilliant:

        "Most people are samurai, it turns out :
        Your life has a purpose, and dying is part of the mission."

        (p.s. Love the line break you put in.)

        I think that may be why so many people are threatened by immortality, as it threatens to rob their life of meaning and purpose.

        May you have a most excellent death, and may that be far from now.

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