Why Living Forever Might Be the Most Awful Idea in Human Existence

It is not death that a man should fear, but he should fear never beginning to live- Marcus Aurelius.

Living forever is an awful idea

Photo by Sabina Music Rich on Unsplash

“This technology will change everything,” Enos, the CEO of MayFli Inc., the leading life extension company of the 22nd century, announced while streaming live to an audience of hundreds of millions of people across the solar system.

“The days will no longer be filled with the weight of their finitude. And man will no longer be filled with the angst of his attachment to his days,” Enos continued, “Life will finally touch true boundlessness, unrestrained and untethered to the forces of entropy and decay, disease and injury, death and finitude. We have accepted for far too long that the ultimate imperative of life is that it must end. There is no reason to accept this any longer. 

In the words spoken over 200 years ago by the 20th-century poet, Dylan Thomas, ‘We will not go gentle into that good night. We will rage, rage against the dying of the light.’ “We are mortal now, but tomorrow, you can, if you so choose, upload your consciousness into our revolutionary, decentralized cloud technology and defeat your mortality before it defeats you. 

And so, I ask you, what do you choose?” Several years following this public release of MayFli’s immortality technology, Enos sat with his father, Roy, on the porch of the long-term care facility his father lived at. At this time, Roy was 208 years old. 

He was now reaching an age of severe physical decline, becoming increasingly frail and frequently sick. He had not yet opted into the MayFli immortality technology and, at the moment, did not plan to. Enos, having initially and primarily been motivated to pursue and build his immortality technology with his family and friends, especially his mother and father, in mind, he was, of course, devastated and dead set on convincing his father otherwise. 

“Dad, I’m begging you,” Enos said to his father. “Why would you if you don’t have to? Why succumb to the nothingness of non-existence? Why leave me, this life, everything else you know and love, if you don’t have to?” Roy, looking out at the lining of trees facing the porch, replied, “Son, I don’t want to die. But I’ve found in life that it’s the things that you don’t want that allow you to realize what you do. 

Everything I’ve done, my whole life, it was all fueled in some major part by this approaching end—an awareness that there would be an end, one last day among days, perhaps at any moment, certainly at some. It allowed me to realize that I wanted to live.” 

“Yeah, but Dad, what does it mean to live if you lose everything?” Enos interrupted. “I think it means everything. In fact, everything only means anything at all because of that. At least for me. The scarcity of days, of life, that is where the value is derived. 

It stirs you into making something of it—it gives you the urgency to pursue the things you want to do with haste and passion, to feel the angst that you need to justify by creating things, by living deeply and powerfully, by eternalizing yourself through some other means beyond yourself. 

And it makes you appreciate, on those occasional moments when you remember that you won’t have any of this forever and that someday, it will all be gone, that right now, you still have it.” Roy answered. “Yeah, but don’t you see? Life creates meaning in life, not death. 

You can appreciate life, and all of that, without having to lose it. It doesn’t need to end to feel real or valuable. What does it mean to live on beyond yourself, create beyond yourself, and everything else, if you’re not even there to experience it?” 

Roy sat silently. “Dad, please. For me,” Enos replied. Four years later, Roy passed away of old age. Over the following decade or so, an increasing portion of humanity at large adopted the MayFli immortality technology, and life entered into a new stage of time where time itself bent to its whim; a new, immortal, digital, conscious species emerged. 4,254 years later, an embodied AI named Olam sat in his chamber in the offices of the AfterLife company shuttle, working. 

At this time, Olam was 1,364 years old. He was part of the species known as Naos, which was now the latest of three evolutionary descendants detached from biological life. 

After the first real generation of immortal human beings began to find themselves in new, non-biological bodies, in order to reproduce, a new process of reproduction began where individuals rendered new conscious beings through partly selective, partly random digital offspring generator programs ran on large supercomputers. 

Eventually, these AI progenies continued and developed this process, producing what became a third, new species: the Naos, the first conscious descendants of originally AI beings. 

However, as part of this process, the Nao’s AI predecessors programed the Naos inside a digital infrastructure that was designed for continuous, unbroken self-sustainment, without the ability to be disrupted or reconfigured from either the outside or the inside—the intent being to prevent any possibility of destroying life and the progression of intelligence. 

As a result, Olam, along with the rest of the Naos, could not die, even if they wanted to. If their body was irreversibly damaged, the entire network of algorithmic information that built into the Naos’ consciousness remained undamaged and sustained in a decentralized, peer-to-peer cloud computing infrastructure, where it was then automatically placed within a new conduit device inside a new body, without ever ceasing the sequence of the Nao’s existence. 

Olam’s life’s work, however, and the reason he started a major tech company known as AfterLife, was to create a technology that ended this cycle and allowed the Naos to achieve mortality. After nearly a thousand years of pursuing this endgame, Olam and AfterLife technologies finally hit a breakthrough, and his life’s work was suddenly realized. 

In the year 6490, streaming his announcement out across the entire shared access cloud to billions of Naos, Olam announced, “It is with great pride, excitement, and honor that I am able to announce an AfterLife technology today that will change everything about tomorrow. 

The minutes, the hours, the days, the weeks, the months, the years; will no longer merely be numbers on a clock or a calendar; they will no longer just be reference points for scheduling and coordination of space. 

They will become measures of passing time that you cannot have back—intimations of how much time you have left. Time will fill with a vital significance out from its core. And we will no longer be filled with the banality and dispiritedness of eternity. 

“Until now, the day has been unending, without a night insight. Without this night, without darkness, without an end, we have not really seen a day at all. 

“You are immortal now, but with this technology, you will be able to choose to impose the constraints and scarcity of mortality on your life, and finally, you will see it. We will all see it. 

In the words of the ancient philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer, ‘Mostly it is a loss that teaches us the worth of things.’ The day must come to an end to call it one. The light must see its shadow in order to be perceptible. And life must end to teach us the worth of it. And so, I ask you, what do you choose?” 

Over the following couple of decades, an increasing portion of the Naos adopted the technology and entered into a new stage of their existence where existence itself bent to their whim; an existence that resynchronized with the natural forces of time and decay, life and death. 

A new, mortal, digital, conscious species emerged. Eighteen years following the AfterLife mortality technology’s release, Olam and his son, Samesh, sat, facing a large glass window aboard one of their family’s residential cruiser ships, talking about various father and son topics. 

Samesh, now 154 years old, had not yet opted into the mortality technology and, at the moment, did not plan to. Olam, not wanting his son to remain trapped in the curse of an immortally unfeeling existence, was, by this point, becoming increasingly concerned. 

“Son, please,” Olam said, “You don’t have to continue on living forever. Why let yourself fall into the nothingness of everlasting existence? 

You can live a real life now.” Samesh, looking out at the passing space of the cosmos, replied, “Dad, I appreciate what you are doing. For a lot of Naos, it may be the right choice. But for me, I’m just not sure.” “But don’t you see?” 

Olam interrupted. “Death is what gives life meaning. You will never feel the value of this existence if you have it all, forever.” “Yeah,” Samesh interrupted back, “but it seems to me like perhaps neither mortality nor immortality ultimately resolves the problems of existence. Sure, to live forever is to feel life without urgency, without concentrated depth. 

But to die is to lose everything and for it to all go to waste. How could you or I or anyone say either is good? Or that one is better? At least in any universal sense? 

“Is it not possible that neither life nor death fundamentally gives life meaning? Perhaps it is just the nature of sentient beings to want to escape or rationalize the conditions of themselves, mortal or immortal? 

And some sort synthetic meaning is bound to be contrived either way.” “So, you aren’t going to do it?” Olam asked with a tempered frustration. “I don’t know,” Samesh answered, “I still have some thinking I need to do. I have all the time in the world to decide.”

Read next: 7 Theories About Potential Aliens

Author: Robert Pantano, owner- Pursuit of Wonder.

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