Immortality is a primary goal of many transhumanists, but not all. How many do or don’t want eternal life, and why? I recently conducted a survey - funded by Terasem Movement Inc., and fiscally sponsored by World Future Society - that queried hundreds of transhumanists on this question.
The Terasem Survey was conducted via a surveymonkey poll that was set up by my project collaborator, Teresa Dal Santo Ph.D., a Research Associate at University of California San Francisco, with expertise in conducting qualitative and quantitative studies, and specialties in research methods and statistical analysis.
Getting transhumanists to complete our poll was easy; we garnered a total of 818 respondents very quickly. My thanks to everyone who assisted us, especially:
David Orban, who notified his 2,798 Facebook friends, his 3,480 Twitter followers, and his 5,732 Google+ people-in-whose-circle-he-is Alex Lightman who notified his 5,000 Facebook friends and his 3,500 subscribers Rachel Haywire, editor of hplusmagazine.com, who made our survey thefeature article on July 12.
Amara Angelica declined to post a link to the survey at KurzweilAI.net, where she is Editor, due to various reasons, such as concern about privacy issues and the methodology of the survey.
The completed survey left me with about 500 pages of raw data. I will be delivering all of this info to the funder, Terasem Movement Inc., plus I’m preparing a summary for one of the Terasem Journals online. Additionally, I will be publishing statistics and comments from the survey in multiple short sections, at IEET and the World Future Society website.
The following statistics and comments are in response to my question:
“If you don’t want immortality, what is your primary reason?”
All of the respondents are self-defined as transhumanists.
76.2% replied that they “did want immortality.”
4.6% replied that they didn’t want immortality because “the earth would be overpopulated.”
8.1% said they didn’t want immortality because of the “boredom” they feel they’d endure as a consequence.
3.7% said they didn’t want immortality because they wanted “to go to an afterlife.”
Many of the respondents left comments that I found extremely valuable. In my own particular case, I checked “immortality” as my choice, but after reading through the comments I had to admit that I agree with those who say they are afraid of eternity if it means living in a “silenced” or “suffering” body.
A more correct answer for myself now would be the same as the first comment below.
I recommend reading all the comments; your opinion might similarly be influenced.
I would like the option to end my life, but to be able to live for as long as I desire.
Lack of renovation in human society
If there is afterlife, I do not want immortality. If there is no afterlife, I want immortality.
I do not want to be immortal, I want to stop aging.
Wanting doesn’t get these things done; I do not view my death as a tragedy but rather accept it as the way things happen in this world.
Both the concern that the earth would be overpopulated and the sense that there is an afterlife
I am already immortal.
I don’t want immortality, but the choice of when to cease existence. Existing for infinity would be madness
Technical concerns related to memory.
Other than over-population, a fear of not having the capacity for friends and family to have it, or having their choice to be mortality. That comes with it though, loss and all.
We must each be prepared to die at the age that will most benefit humanity, eg by maintaining an ideal population profile, which probably peaks early on and then has a very long tail.
I want to have the ability to live forever, but I also want to have the option to die whenever i want to.
human life would lose its sense
dont have any
Given the finite amount of resources at our disposal, humanity could not sustain infinite growth.
transmutation into a higher form of existence.
There is no logical reason to see death as something good.
An imminent shortage of strawberry icecream due to the drought in the midwestern United States
as long as i can die when I wish (seen it all after a few hundred/thousand years, crippling pain, or to avoid the heat death of the universe) why not be immortal?
I want immortality with the option to unplug myself or whatever you want to call it. Not because of any of the reasons listed above, but because I feel that all things must go at some point in time. I feel that I too will want to see what happens afterwards.
Fear of being trapped in a silenced body
boredom earth would be overpopulated and cash
To experience death. But for some, continuity and memory MUST be present.
Fear of a rising sense of uselessness, having lived so long, no longer finding new purpose. Not so much boredom as just a sense of being lost in the world.
You can get the best out of your life and love the people around you most, when you know that death will come some time. having immortality can make you careless, and appreciate things less
fear of bordom
Constent loss of friends and loved ones.
universe is finite
I have bipolar disorder and some related problems. I think there would be value in my pattern of cognition persisting over at least a few centuries, but the depressions that accompany my disorder make it challenging to imagine continuing for so long.
My interest in tranhumanism has more to do with bettering social and other conditions on this planet while lengthening the human lifespan across the board so that people can experience what is often referred to as a complete life. In my opinion at least 100 years is a good age, but living beyond this would be fine as well. I do believe in reincarnation, although this notion is a belief that I do not think about very much but have assimilated into my layers consciousness and take for granted at this point for some reason which has alot to with intuition I think, as well camparative religion and other studies. Immortality would be fine I suppose.
I want immortality. I also want to ability to end my life when i want.
I reserve the ability to divvy
I want infinite choice; a number of years between zero and infinity
Death has it’s place. If no-one died, why do we need life?
being a burden
The loss of loved ones
It’ intestino to knowledge what means immortality. If it means that I coud remain lived without my body for a lot people, I’d like to be immortal. I intend books, arts, human espressione and not something liike esotherism or memoriies in my dear
Not to mention the fact that you would lose all traces of humanity
Being immortal is none issue. I want to be physically 30 years old when I die as 65 or 95 years old. Thats not possible medically today.
complacency, societal inequality
But I don’t necessarily think I’ll survive in my current nature or the general nature of humanity. “Surviving” will be different.
It is impossible to achieve.
Dealing with a failed culture in decline for an interminable period.
I do not think that the future will be a nice place.
I’m not sure. At some point I will probably prefer to die. It’s way more than a biologic fact, it’s a philosophical and psycological question.
If I sharply lost mental capacity, and / or my ability to be physically mobile, even robust — I would not wish to continue on as an invalid or in a mental deficient state.
Technically every age is less then immortality. Also, in my opinion an unlimited lifespan while maintaining one’s identity is not possible. When the identity is lost, the entity holding it dies.
I’d only want to die if trapped in pain
If a medical process to change one’s species membership proves impossible, then I don’t want to extend my time living a in a human body.
Unforeseeable need to die
Unless my body can adapt with mankind’s evolution, I do not want immortality.
Life continues after death, after we leave these knowable 4 dimensions
wrong question if it is true that there is a multiverse (Stephen Hawking et al)
I would like to be immortal - that would be great!
I want an indefinitely long life but I don’t call that “immortality” which seems mystically absolute.
I prefer an abyss.
I dont think the universe is endless and I don’t want to outlive the universe / Lack of interest
I do want immortality but I want to be able to hibernate/shut down through bad/boring time periods.
Unless I can indefinitely do something that has never been done before
Whether I want to be immortal or not depends on the capabilities I still posess, when I grow old. I don’t want to be immortal, if that means, that I will be sitting around in a chair, doing nothing for the rest of my life (that is eternally, or until the sun explodes, or whatever). In that case it would just be boring.
Don’t know really. Depends on whether or not Death is reversible, and also on how I’d adapt psychologically yo a long lifespan.
I do not want to simply exist forever, of course. Suffering in a body as it falls apart, with no hope of ever being myself again, would certainly make me suicidal. But if we could prevent the aging problems, I’d love to continue indefinitely.
Why repeat it all over again?
I do want immortality, as I foresee the issues that will arise finding solutions. For example, I want immortality and do not want children.
I will be happy to die once I have accomplished my dreams.
Becoming trapped in a body that deteriorates. What if the brain, even after digitalisation, continues to degrade?
Can’t extrapolate whether my self-hood can continue that long.
I want to choose my time.
Every beginning must have an end
Low self-esteem/depression as is, I don’t want to make it go on any longer than necessary, but I think it’s great if other people want to extend their lives.
This is an irrelevant question to someone who already understands their immortality.
My biohost would not have much to do past 1000 years. Time to move on then or sooner.
I want to live indefinitely, not immortality.
where the term “painful” could also mean pointless.
Fundamentally it’s pretty selfish… vast use of resources and no thought of future generations.
Don’t like absolutes. Would prefer 300 years at a time
I think immortality is difficult to conceive abstractly, but for now i wish to keep living
I don’t care to watch everything I loved in the past decay and die.
Overpopulation aside, immortality could prove to be a deleterious technology unless the problem of cognitive changes in aging brains are dealt with. Society often makes great leaps forward simply because the older generation retires and gives way to a new generation that is more open to newer or more transgressive ideas.
but i feel being a space pirate i would meet my end sure enough
We have to maintain an evolutionary imperative.
To complete the cycle of my mortal existence.
It’s unlikely to leave me human
Our deepest wants are the product of our evolution; evolution mostly selects against immortals.
I’d rather live until I decide to die, not immortality
the concept of a continious isolated personality will have little meaning, outside of baseline human holdouts, in 200 years time
I want to my body/bodies to be immortal, however, I don’t intend on being aware forever.
It’s not a question of WANT; I’ll live until I can no longer do so.
my civilization would have changed too much, or died out
continue to next host body.
Depending on what technologies of life-extension exist, life may not be worth living forever.
Humanity is limitless, boredom would be irrelevant. If we have the tech to live forever, we should have the tech to cancel neural responses to pain. I could always find a way to destroy myself if I thought otherwise.
vernor vinge says you wouldnt be the same person after long enough if you continue to grow intellectually. and otherwise you would become an automata
Death gives life its value
I would like immortality, but not unconditionally - quality of life is more important than quantity
I don’t create wants where there is a zero probability of success. I reserve the right to want this LATER if and when someone else achieves it. But to want more than 150 when there’s no evidence of the ability for humans to do this is fantasy and wish upon a star stuff.
Final Note Please leave questions and comments below. I will be on vacation and offline from August 3-12 so my apologies if I don’t respond immediately.
Definitely FINAL NOTE: Thanks once again to Terasem Movement Inc. for their generous support of this project.
Hank Pellissier was IEET’s Managing Director on January-October in 2012, and an IEET Affiliate Scholar. He’s the author of two e-books, Invent Utopia Now and Why is the IQ of Ashkenazi Jews so High? He is currently at BrighterBrains.org
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