“Daddy, when are you going to die?” asks my daughter Zenobia, age six.
“Yeah, how much longer do you really think you can live?” says big sister, Tallulah, age ten.
I’m only 57, and healthy, but my two larvae are obsessed with my expiration date because their maternal grandfather passed away last summer. I am twelve years older than their mother, so the kids know I’m scheduled as the next family member to croak — in the traditional societal view.
But I’m not ‘traditional’. I’m transhumanist.
“Hey, brats!” I retort, affectionately. “I’m not going to die. I’m going to boss you around forever.”
They look skeptical. Disappointed, perhaps. My absence might mean staying up past 9:30 PM with Mommy, and eating more ice cream sundaes for dessert.
“No, really, Daddy,” says worldly-wise Tallulah. “I can do math. Tell the truth. Grandpa died when he was 81, so does that mean you have just 24 more years?”
They both glare at me, expecting honesty.
“I will live to be at least 115,” I reply. “But I won’t put a limit on it. I’m very optimistic. I’m planning on living forever.” My pulse accelerates as I say this.
“Will you have to wear a diaper, like Grandpa?” asks Zenobia, referring to the lack of sphincter control in Parkinson’s victims.
“You can’t live forever,” scoffs Tallulah. “Every animal dies. Even blue whales and redwood trees.”
I contemplate emailing her teacher to suggest up-to-date science books by Aubrey de Grey and Eric Drexler.
“If my body dies,” I announce, “I’m going to have scientists freeze me immediately, because my brain will still be alive. I’ll stay frozen until future smart people wake me up in a world where everybody lives forever.”
Tallulah’s eyes brighten with curiosity; Zenobia’s dim with incomprehension.
I show my daughters the website of a cryonics organization in Silicon Valley.
“When I die,” I instruct them. “I’ll have a medal around my neck that says ‘Cool Me Off.’ On that medal there will a phone number. Call it and somebody will tell you what to do. Understand?”
“More, Daddy,” urges Tallulah.
“To freeze me correctly,” I continue, “they have to get my blood out real fast.”
“With a knife?” asks Zenobia.
“Yeah, and maybe a vacuum cleaner,” I guess. “Then they pack my body on ice, so I’m cold and fresh, like the fish at Farmer’s Market.”
“To eat you?” asks Zenobia.
“No, not one bite,” I assure her. “They’ll put my cold body on an airplane and fly me to Michigan and keep me there in suspended animation.”
“What’s that?” they ask.
“Hmm….” I pause, seeking childish metaphors. “I’ll be a zombie, like Snow White after she ate the poison apple. Except she was all dressed up, and I haven’t decided yet if I want my full body naked like a giant popsicle or if I just want my brain iced.”
“What do you think?” asks Tallulah.
“I only have enough money for the iced brain,” I admit, “unless I spend your college fund.”
“You said I could go to Isla Vista like you did!” she hisses. “Party at the beach. You promised!”
“Icky,” says Zenobia. Her father reduced to just a cold blob in a bowl — like tapioca — disturbs her.
“It won’t be for long,” I comfort her.
“Oh,” she puzzles, “like when you went to Belgium by yourself to eat chocolate and drink beer?’
“Yeah, right,” I huff. “Maybe longer than that. I have to stay frozen until they can either grow a new body around my brain…”
“Really?” They giggle. “Will the new grown body look just like this one?”
“Does it have to?” I fudge. I can’t tell them that I want my next physique to be a young gymnastic Icelandic woman who can have 15 orgasms per night.
“Grow the same Daddy-body again,” says Zenobia. “But not as strong. We want to beat you up in judo when you get back.”
“Okay,” I agree. “But, what if my brain just gets put in a robot? Is that all right? Can I be a robot?”
“Stop it!” shouts Zenobia. Robots, to her, are boring toys for mean boys.
“Yes, Daddy, be a robot!” smiles Tallulah. “That’d be cool!” She imagines a ‘bot Daddy as the most prestigious item in her girl-gang, more awesome than American Girl dolls.
Briefly, I describe two scenarios. My brain could be sliced very thinly, like turkey lunchmeat, with each section scanned for information of my memory and personality, then uploaded in metallic form into a ‘droid. Or I could keep the “old-fashioned” meat brain and have it safely encased in a robot’s skull container.
“If I was robotic,” I beg them, “I could live on any planet, because I won’t need to breathe. I could live on Jupiter; cheap real estate in 70 years.
“You come straight home,” orders Zenobia. “You have to make our school lunches.”
“Okay,” I sigh. “What about this plan? My brain is kept deep underground, but its connected to my body by an antennae, like a walkie-talkie. That way I can be more than one robot at a time. I can even be an animal or a bird. Get it? I can feel everything in all my bodies because my brain’s alive, but…”
“No!” They stamp. “Just a Daddy! Here.”
An eternity doing their laundry, I surmise. This is their ambition for me, plus shopping and chauffeuring them to play dates.
“Just don’t forget about me, okay?” I implore them. “Don’t forget to get my brain out of the freezer.”
They pinky-promise. Then Tallulah turns to a serious topic: herself.
“Daddy, will I die?” she asks.
“No,” I say. “Nobody your age will die. Science will solve all the problems like that. Disease, death, getting old. You and Zenobia will live forever.”
“Do I have to?” she asks, her voice weighed down by existence. Perhaps immortality sounds like infinite homework.
“No, you can go to sleep for ten years or more if you want to,” I assure her.
“I’d like that,” she yawns.
“Will Mommy die?” asks Zenobia.
“I don’t know,” I reply. “She’s twelve years younger. It depends on when the big super-smart computer gets here.” Loosely, I explain the Singularity and its debatable arrival time. “If Ray Kurzweil is right and its 2045, I’ll be 93 and Mommy will just be 81.”
“However, ” I continue, ignoring her rudeness, “if the Singularity doesn’t arrive until 2065, Mommy will be 102 and I’ll be 113.”
“Dead!” they chime in unison. “Dead! Dead! Dead!”
Singularity enchants tech-savvy Zenobia, who quickly grasped all the features of my iPhone that she swipes to surf around youtube. But Tallulah is a hostile Luddite, soulmate of the Unabomber.
“That’s stupid,” she scoffs. “People can’t make robots smarter than us. And if they did, the robots would kill us.”
Nanobots are easier; they remind her of fairy dust. I hint to the little sweeties that “invisible robots in our bodies” might enable us to eat whatever we want, without cavities or nutritional damage.
“Candy!” They shriek, bouncing chaotically around the room. “We’ll eat candy all the time!”
Impatiently, I watch the hyperactive apes disarray my abode.
“Reading time!” I demand. “Go to your books, or… whatever.”
Tallulah hunkers down with MUSE – a brilliant magazine for kids. Flipping to the science section, she chortles out the headlines: “Wooly Mammoth Clone Coming Soon”… “Borneo Bug-Eating Plant Switches Diet to Bat Poo.”
“Really?” I wonder.
“Nitrogen,” she explains. “It’s like meat.”
Zenobia prefers education online. She’s at coolmathgames.com, gobbling squares in space.
“I thought that was an arithmetic site,” I grumble.
“Not really,” she replies. “But it’s good for my brain because I have to think a lot. I’m at Level 22 and yesterday I was just at 8.”
My kids swallow extropian memes far faster than adults – why not? Every week they can do something they failed at the week before, so why can’t the world improve just as quickly? “Transcendence” is defined by my girls as just, “growing up.”
“Anything interesting happen at school today?” I ask, dutifully.
“Steven killed ants all during lunchtime,” reports Zenobia, the ethicist. “Then he said I was going to hell because I didn’t believe in God.”
Atheism is easy for my daughters, too. Tallulah’s dismissal is simply, “If God is good, why did he give Daddy a hernia?”
Zenobia navigates her laptop to check out some Lady Gaga photos with an artificial egg.
“Babies will hatch out of those in the future,” I predict pompously. “No more Mommies shrieking in the hospital.”
“Duh, Dad. We know that already.”
Eventually I tuck my daughters in bed and read them some feminist indoctrination: brief bios of Harriet Tubman and Helen Keller. They nod off slowly; little muscular spasms collapse them in slumber.
Will people still have children after eternal life is attained? I sowed my DNA because it lessened my anguish about potentially dying. What I harvested were adorable children that require massive patience, funding, and drudgery. The future solution is: Two Bodies. #1 Body is 100% Super Parent with all the kindness required, while #2 Body lives far, far away, unencumbered, self-absorbed, enjoying all the adult entertainment it craves.
That’s usually what I want. But tonight I’m synthesized, content. I love how they love me even when I’m an asshole. I love their spongy brains, hurricane emotions, and how totally I get to know them. I know I’m bio-manipulated, but right now, I want to be “Daddy” forever.
Hank Pellissier serves as IEET Interim Managing Director and Fundraiser. He was IEET’s Managing Director on January-October in 2012, and is an IEET Affiliate Scholar.
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