What if We Didn’t Have to Die?

"Transhumanists" see a very different future for us.

Posted Feb 23, 2017

David B. Seaburn/Mt. Hope Cemetery
Source: David B. Seaburn/Mt. Hope Cemetery

I recently read an article in the Atlantic by Olga Khazan entitled, “Should We Die?” in which she explores the “transhumanist movement.” This is an umbrella name for futurists who believe that it is possible to “cure death,” to push the life span far beyond 122 years, perhaps even to eternity. Cryogenic freezing, cleaning blood of age related proteins, bionic body parts are all in the mix of solutions that some feel could lead to a deathless life.

This notion of “radical longevity” raises some questions: What will we do about overpopulation? (settle on other planets, of course); What will we do about birth rates? (especially when a 90 year old could still be in his or her toddlerhood!); What about boredom? (hobbies, hobbies, hobbies; space travel; spending time with our great-great-great-great grandchildren). It also suggests some advantages: abundant possibilities across an ever widening life span; alternative careers; committing to projects that could take hundreds of years to complete (like programming you TV).

On the other hand, are endings important? The author cites the Epicureans who thought of life as a feast---you eat, you’re full and then you stop; if you eat and eat and eat, you could become repulsed. Furthermore, if each of us is like a story, what would become of our narrative arcs, which depends as much on having an ending as it does on having a beginning and middle? Is there something about aging and demise that contributes to a more complete understanding and appreciation for life?

Of course, like most new technologies, death defying resources would go first to those who could afford them. “Life-extenders” would have considerable power; the capacity (and unlimited time) to amass even greater wealth, while those without resources would become a permanent underclass, a class of The Short-lived. Wait a minute…that’s what we already have.

Who knows where these ideas will lead us. It’s good to shoot high (everlasting life) even though our achievements may be more modest in the end (a few extra healthy years). Remember, Ponce de Leon was looking for the Fountain of Youth, but had to settle for finding Florida.

When I put the article down, I realized that no matter how long we live, we are still left with the question of time and how to use it. Whether we have a thimble full of time, or a cup, or a bushel, or a silo, or an eternity, we are still left with the question of how to use what is given to us. There is no correlation between quantity and quality. We can find quality in a single moment, so, in a sense, eternity is always now.

David B. Seaburn is a novelist. He is also a retired marriage and family therapist, psychologist and minister. His most recent novel is More More Time. Look for it at http://www.amazon.com/More-Time-David-B-Seaburn/dp/0991562232