What would you do – with the infinite extra years – if you were immortal?

By Hank Pellissier | 10 May 2012
Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies

(Photo by Terrah Holly on Unsplash)

Do you want to live forever?  Many people – perhaps the majority – Do Not. People who want to die on the current schedule, like sheep led to slaughter at culling time, offer several reasons for their capitulation. One reason is their fear that Eternal Life Might Be Boring. These “Deathists” worry that existence without Abysmal Oblivion lurking ahead, terrifying us into alertness… would render us comatose with ennui.

Combating this “been here, done that, wanna leave” attitude are Immortalists, like myself. We believe if you richly enjoy your life, with curiosity and desire, you will want to continue Living, day-after-day, exploring, creating, learning, loving, forever and ever, especially if human capacities are enhanced.

The Deathist vs. Immortalist argument is Mathematical:

In an infinitely long number like 487523697487523697… is the value of each digit (i.e., day) diminished due to the quantity?

Or is every numeral (day) in the infinity chain precisely equal in quality to each of the 29,200 days in an 80-year lifespan?

Death-wish folk say they will feel like they’ve done-it-all at the end of 80-90 years. Of course, everybody knows they certainly haven’t done it all, but they do, in fact, feel like they’ve put in enough time sensing, thinking, emoting, etc. After a certain age the whole gamut of human experiences just seems redundant, exhausting, and unnecessary – to deathists. They rather die than go on and on…

My personal suspicion is that everyone who wants to die is just ensnared by one of the many Death Memes that have been culturally created to accept, accommodate, and glorify our physical termination. Here’s four death memes:

1. Death Is Sacrificial, creating space for the Young
2. Death Is Entry into Spiritual Paradise
3. Death Is a Final Step in Personal Maturation
4. Death Is Eco-Transformation of Energy

100% Total Hogwash.

Those who add Death-As-Escape-From-The-Boredom-of-Infinity to the list above are just passively collaborating with the other death-memes, rolling over in surrender to what they regard as inevitable, due to their mental limitations.

To assist “short-lifers” in mind expansion, I suggest that transhumanists help them envision the joys they’d experience if death was eliminated, by telling them what we’d do with our expanded time!

I’ll go first – Here’s My Answer Below! *

Warning! My eternal to-do list is shocking in it’s fuddy-duddy conservatism… after spending considerable introspection on the issue, I realized I’m not remotely the dynamic person I thought I might be… 

Much Much More of Exactly the Same. Apparently, I’m rigidly “set in my ways.” After sufficient contemplation, I discovered that I very much enjoy all the pastimes that I currently have, and I have absolutely no aching passion to learn subject topics that are entirely new. For example, I don’t speak French now, or Italian or Spanish, or any tongue other than English. It’s embarrassing, but… despite this shame, I don’t want to devote any hours in my future to conjugating foreign verbs – it just isn’t fun for me. (well… if I could have Russian uploaded in my memory bank, to read Fedorov in the original, that would be swell.)

Similarly, I don’t want to learn how to be a gourmet chef, or play chess like a Spassky, or watercolor, or snowboard, or surf, or skydive. I don’t even want to write a novel or a screenplay. Additionally, I don’t want a new or second wife, or more children, or a plethora of exciting new friends, what I have is sufficient enough. I just want to keep on doing exactly what I’m doing with the same people, but I’d like to get significantly better at everything and closer to the people I’m close to. Even though I will have unlimited time, I suspect that I’ll remain stingy with my finite emotions.

Traveling Scholar. The only big change in my lifestyle I’d make is — I want to travel more, to visit every intriguing locale on this planet and other inhabitable spheres. I’d like to see all the artificial and natural wonders; I’d travel with friends and relatives, but happily meet hundreds of new people. I’d stay in comfortable hotels, I’d eat new substances, see new sights, hear new sounds, smell new odors. I definitely want to re-explore tropical rainforests, like I did recently for a year in Costa Rica.

I want to absorb rich new data and process it, staying close to fast wifi, writing 2-4 hours per day, arriving at conclusions and posting my opinions. This seems like it would make me content for eternity. One tiny difference I’d make is… I’m weary of being a vague “knowledge generalist” – I’d be happier, finally, focusing on 2-3 topics to specialize in.

Redeeming My Past. I would also, simultaneously, like to devote at least an hour per day to repairing my past mistakes, cruelties, bad choices, and bypassed opportunities. When there is a way – and there will be – to wind the clock back and do-it-over, to erase my poorest behavior, words, and decisions, to re-write my personal impact – I’ll do it.

I’ve made rash, impulsive statements – like a Tourette’s victim – that caused people to suffer. I’ve also passed up fantastic chances to get close to lovely people who had affection for me, because I was too shy, awkward, cold, dense, and lazy, to embrace these wonderful opportunities. And finally, I often held my tongue fearfully when I witnessed malignant behavior; it would be wonderfully cathartic to re-enact those incidents and explode in anger instead, ripping up the beastly folks who deserved dire consequences.

I don’t regard going back to the past, for “repair work”, as a nostalgic waste of time, because we’re all carrying memories that weigh us down with regret. Looping back to myriad “Groundhog Day” scenarios can satisfy old desires, proffer apologies, expend pent-up rage, and heal us via satiation and atonement.

That’s my Eternal Life List.

Is it weird how boring and “traditional” my desires are, for a self-described “radical democratic transhumanist”? My focus seems to be on ancient values like Continuity, Community, Commitment…

If that surprises you, let me say this:

The greatest destroyer of Traditional Values is… Death.

Death wrecks marriages, Death shatters careers, Death tears up families and friendships, Death obliterates ambitions, diversions, scientific inquiries, intellectual pursuits.

“Deathists” say Death is integral to the “Natural Order.” I say Death is Sabotage and Chaos, the malicious annihilator of Plans and Intentions.

You want “order” in life? Easier to attain if we remove the dice-roll of Death.


Now, readers, tell me… what will you do, when you are Immortal?

Display your own cravings and confessions in the comment section below:

* I limited my answer of “what I’d like to do with my immortality” to only options that are available today. Obviously, in 100+ years, when there are exciting new choices, I’d like to fly with my new wings to Jupiter’s moons, like everyone else.

Reprinted with permission by the author.

Hank Pellissier formally served as the Managing Director of the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies and is an IEET Affiliate Scholar. He’s the author of several books including Invent Utopia Now, former editor at Transhumanity.net, and founder of BrighterBrains.org. Pellissier has raised charity funds via GoFundMe.com and Indiegogo for “TransHumanitarian” projects in The Philippines and Africa that have dewormed 1,100 children and provided food, clothing, shoes, socks, tools, and educational supplies. In western Uganda he’s launched eight health clinics (one is “H+ Clinic”), one science centre, and he co-founded BiZoHa – the world’s first atheist orphanage.

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