IEET > Vision > Staff > HealthLongevity > Enablement > Hank Pellissier > Futurism
What Would You Do - with the infinite extra years - If You Were Immortal?
Hank Pellissier   May 10, 2012   Ethical Technology  

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:

Image "The Prince Who Would Seek Immortality." Color plate by H.J. Ford. The Crimson Fairy Book, edited by Andrew Lang. New York, London, Bombay: Longmans, Green, and Co., Inc., c1903, [p.190].

* 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.
Hank Pellissier serves as IEET Managing Director and is an IEET Affiliate Scholar.


If we “limit our answer of “what I’d like to do with my immortality” to only options that are available today,” then eternal life sounds boring indeed.

Or perhaps not. My answer, limited to the options that are available today, is that I want to spend time to create more and more new options. Then we will see, count me in for that trip to Jupiter’s moons with our new wings.

You are a real trans-guy, Giulio; and correct:
there is much to live for today and even more tomorrow—
more and new options. I just don’t like hype.. if hype is necessary for public consumption then let someone else be its recipient.. if this is selfish, so be it.

I want to live a very long time, but immortal is probably too much. The scale of time is just too vast.

I’m quite sure I could entertain myself for 1,000 years and do many of the things you talk about and be very happy.

I could probably entertain myself for 10,000 years, though I can’t even begin to imagine it. I could have seen the progress of the entire human race in that time; from the Stone Age until now.

Without FTL drives or other speedy space travel, if cryopreservation were possible and necessary, I could probably manage to go under for large chunks of time and still be interested for 100,000 years.

A million years? A billion? I just can’t see how to fill all that time. On that sort of scale, haven’t you really done everything? I think, eventually, it would be maddening.

What I really want from longevity (biological or computational) is the ability to live long enough that I’m satisfied with my existence. To explore all the things I’m curious about, and learn the answers to the things I have questions to. But it won’t take forever in the literal sense. Indeed, if it came right down to it, I’m probably more afraid of living forever than I am of dying.

But a very, very long time would be nice.

Death-ists are free to follow their desires to their heart’s content. Given the first opportunity I will take my freedom to disagree with their sentiments for an indefinite future which I shall not limit to mere centuries. I can not personally conceive their arguments and by doing that I have introduced a new form of natural selection.

Extermination by lack of imagination. As it stands I think I have sufficient imagination to be doing personally deeply compelling things for at least 500 years. I do things very slowly and need at least several additional centuries to attend to the current backlog of unfinished tasks behind me. I probably won’t be able to properly do everything that is on the *urgent* pile but I anticipate becoming smarter in the meantime so I will finish these matters in a more expedient timescale.

The downside (and a grave concern) is that in doing so my pile of urgent things to do will keep growing, thereby increasing my personal urgency to extend my existing time on this world, or off.

These are the burdens of a lively imagination and this is how my imagination positively compels me to want to live many many times a natural primate lifespan.

Those who do not have such imagination will die, because they desire to die. And that is perfectly fine to me; I prefer existing in a world with an increasing percentage and degree of the imaginative, resp. imagination. I will take great effort testing the imagination of people around me, and if found wanting I will invite the unimaginative to consider an exit strategy.

I most of all don’t want those many centuries ahead of me to be ruined by boring, unimaginative and passion-dead people. I mean - if they want imagination therapy I will certainly help, but otherwise from me a resounding..


Well said K!

The irony, of course, is that the people who insist on the desirability of “natural” death tend to be the same people who oppose the right to die voluntarily. The result being that we neurotically spend trillions miserably extending our lives when there is no hope for life with any real pleasure or dignity, while massively under-resourcing efforts to make effective immortality an option for those who want it.

The death memes are a smokescreen. What these people are really scared of is taking their destiny in their hands. They fear some untold disaster if they actually embrace the full potential of technology.

They are not entirely wrong, of course. Once it becomes increasingly clear to everyone that immortality is achievable, even the most unimaginative - perhaps especially the most imaginative - will be queuing up to partake, and if we haven’t managed to solve the problems that already make the planet seem overcrowded then it could destabilise our nascent global civilisation to an extent that poses an existential threat.

So if they are urging caution, that’s fine with me. If they are saying they actually like idea of dying, then they are probably just lying (possibly to themselves).

Chrono DJ, mixing tracks at the Planck scale


Peter - Don’t make them any wiser!!!

in the Midwest they are everywhere, as flies on roadkill.

What Pete writes on this is sobering,
“Once it becomes increasingly clear to everyone that immortality is achievable, even the most unimaginative - perhaps especially the most imaginative - will be queuing up to partake, and if we haven’t managed to solve the problems that already make the planet seem overcrowded then it could destabilise our nascent global civilisation to an extent that poses an existential threat.”


“...If they are saying they actually like idea of dying,
    then they are probably just lying…”

Wnged phrase, Pete.

I don’t think I’m a deathist as such. I have lots of things to keep me busy for the next century or so, and then we’ll see. I’m a little different than Hank in that I already like to try a lot of new things. More life would give me time to get good at them.

Since according to some theories time is entirely dependent on the nature of our consciousness, it would seem likely that an ever increasing length of life might very well shift the way we perceive it. The other possibility is that we will shift out of our three and a half dimension modality and experience time completely differently than we do now.

@ Pastor_Alex

Three and a half?

Pastor Alex is on to something.

The other possibility is that we will shift out of our three and a half dimension modality and experience time completely differently than we do now.

I don’t like spoiling the surprise at the end of the Omega tunnel, but time is a fractal process - it’s what a spatial dimension looks like when it is partially open and partially closed, but in the process of opening.

What I mean is, that all dimensions are in fact ‘spatial’, time is just a spatial dimension that is partially open - it’s “opening” is what we experience as the passage of time.

So, in some future point, the 4th dimension of space, what we currently experience as ‘time’ (since it’s not completely open from our POV) will be complete - that is, full open - and then we will live in a 4-space world. This is often referred to as ‘hyperspace’. At that point, ‘time’ will then proceed to begin working on unfolding the 5th dimension of space, so ‘time’ will not end per se, but rather move on from opening the 4D (which is what it’s doing now), to opening the 5D (after we hit our “singularity”).

I enjoy life, the relations and the work, loving and creating. Why should I not value perpetuating these things? That’s what I intend to do with what life I have, mortal or beyond present notions of death.

Some suggest death provokes awe, or profound meaning in life. To them, I say it is change, not death, that provokes awe. Some suggest we must die to gain eternal life. They are escapists and nihilists using “eternal life” as a euphemism for death.

Death as the false metaphor for the hyperpension.

I’m not sure about this fractal business. A surface of, say, 1.8 dimensions is basically a line that displays self-similarity such that its length is infinite, but finite when measured with limited resolution, and which increases with increasing resolution with an exponent of 1.8. So to say that we are currently experiencing “three and a half dimensional modality” should mean that we are in an essentially three-dimensional space whose measured volume increases with increasing resolution with an exponent of 3.5. I don’t really see how to interpret this in the sense of a fourth dimension “opening up”.


Still with the existential angst?

Geeeeez.. you Humans/Posthumans are never happy are you?

The Q Continuum have already faced this dilemma - and solved it, (Janeway had to help them out however.. tsk!)


Thanks for the advice. Fancy the human/transhumanist/posthuman community getting advice on the Singularity (and existential angst!) from a Black Hole Singularity smile


nothing “ever” changes here.. even thoughts are perpetually recursive .. yawns!

And regarding wot Peter said.. I concur! W…T… F !

I think that - the main reason why most people praise death is because it gives a direction to life, it completes it.  We have some kind of hard-wired tendency to search for meaning and sense in our experience.

Once, many years ago, I told my girlfriend about the idea of a limitless existence. She said that she would not like it, because - it would feel like an endless race without arrival. It bothered her the absence of teleology - the scariest of all ideas. This is the very same fear that makes Darwinism so hard to accept for most people (including scientists). There is no goal out there, no end. And our minds cannot accept that.

To answer Hank’s provocation - I can say that, we can simply decide to goals that cannot possibly be completed. So we will always have something to do. For example, after I finally convinced my wife to forgive me weaknesses (that would take a couple of centuries, at least), I could set an infinite goal for myself : seduce every female human organism. More and more women will appear with time, so I can keep myself busy for a whole eternity like that. And with something pleasant and fun too.

Death doesn’t complete life, it terminates it. It doesn’t give direction to life either: what gives direction to life is desire. I suppose it’s true that we all have a death-wish, to some extent, but only to provide a counterweight to what could otherwise be a paralysing urge to maintain homeostasis.

Regarding the “endless race without arrival”, I think the best answer to this is to stop seeing life as a race. Life isn’t something we have to “win”. Much better to see life as an exciting adventure. And who ever wants an adventure to end?

I’d love to Ph.D. in philosophy, do advanced studies in linguistics, see more of the world than I have (I lived in Bombay for a year, have visited London and the Scottish Highlands - not nearly enough). There’s so much literature to read and learn and love!
So much more to do!

I think that - the main reason why I so hate the very idea of death because it completely robs me of any sense in life. Death makes life ust a random arbitrary accidental blip in eternity and for me this destroys all sense of meaning. I have a hardwired sense of desiring meaning in a sense of hope, motion, direction.

Once, many years I realized the idea of limitless existence, and I was exhillerated. The idea feels like pure hope and promise. It would feel like an endless voyage without arrival. It delights me as it liberates me from the fetters of determinism, which has always fightened me. That’s why I also like Darwinian evolution - because it liberated humanity from “goals” imposed by autocratic tyrants. To have an dictatorial and telelogical would would be terrifying to me, and my mind instinctively repels it.

To answer Hank’s beautiful message, we may one day soon have true existential freedom in an indefinite lifespan. So we will always have something to do. For example, after I finally succeeded in explaining this to the really interesting people out there (that would take a couple of centuries, at least), I could set many endless goals for myself : make happy every sentient organism. More and more sentience
will appear with time, so I can keep myself busy for a whole eternity like that. And with something pleasant and fun too.

“For example, after I finally succeeded in explaining this to the really interesting people out there (that would take a couple of centuries, at least),..”

It may take more than a couple of centuries, some heads are like dense blocks?

Anyhow, Q does not get bored.. and Q stands for Curiosity, (eternal)?

Here’s the thing.. you will still never, ever, get close to the definitive definition of the eternal potential or whence from.. thus reside to express it merely as “that”, (neuter), which is beyond, and neither limited to any known attribute nor definition - yet you can always spend eternity still seeking the truth of “it”?

...Singularity out, (*snooze*)

to dream of dreamless eternal sleep….. pure bliss


One strange aeon we will return to the source.

But not yet…

I created an unofficial index of sorts that I call ‘existences big picture big 8 categories and standalone opportunities’ for this reason. It is designed to try to help people wrap their brains around everything that being alive gives them the opportunity to do.
They are to know:

- the nature of existence, ie infinity, consciousness, particle physics, are there other senses, etc
- if there is a god, gods, no god, or something else
- how we got here
- how the universe got here
- what all else is out there, ie hover ability, light speed, aliens, populated galaxies, dimensions etc
- all forms and extents of all pleasures current and undiscovered
- the fulfillment of all goals that time brings you to want, ie restaurant owner, pro football, climbing mountains etc
- universal elimination of fallacy

What a wonderful list! It reminds me of Hibert’s unaolved maths problems at the turn of the 20th Century. Erik I think you nailed it there.

Life is purposeful, DEATH IS OPTIONAL, God is Technological, Love is Essential. All the rest is commentary, come to Terasem.

It seems obvious that if there is enough to do, experience and learn to keep 7 billion people happy for roughly 75 years on average, surely there is enough to keep one person occupied for 7 billion lifetimes at minimum. Sure there is some overlap, but by the time you’ve done everything enough to get back to repeating things, you won’t remember the first time all that well…

Why the hell would the race have to end in order to be worthy of having run? It was never the goals that kept men going, but the process of striving for them. Reach a goal and what is the first thing you do? Look for another goal. They are only really there to provide a horizon to look toward.

Boredom? Certainly not. Not only are there already more things to do than I can fit in a day, there’re more things to do coming out all the time. I have tons of books yet to read, games yet to play, and films yet to see. I want to travel the world, earn multiple doctorates, teach others for theirs, learn languages, learn skills, and try things that we can’t even think of yet.

The problem that plagues us now is “not enough time!”, but if there’s no clock, you can spend your time savoring each new experience. With enough morphological freedom, new vistas open. Follow a dolphin pod on migration, take to the air, heck, switch gender for a while and see how the other half lives.

Plus, the opportunity for unlimited time means that friendships don’t have to wither with lack of contact. Just drop by for a chat every so often.

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