I know if I had an expectation of immortality I wouldn't be busting my ass to get into a good school and maximize my lifetime earning potential. I'd go back to work, buy a house, have a ball turning it into a better house, and eventually sell it and repeat until I could afford to build myself a real nice house. Then I'd work on buying myself an awesome island or a small country or maybe a neat plateau or some shit, and invite all the cool people to come live in my sovereign nation. But maybe not year round; maybe it'd be a vacation nation. A vacation masturbation nation. But not limited to.
I think it would be quite the sensation.
Izawwlgood wrote:The word itself means 'not mortal'. The realm of what humanity gets itself up to is partially dependent upon shedding those who belonged to outdated modes of thinking, held ancient prejudices about what could and could not be done ("A negro learn math?! Preposterous!" or "Fly like a bird in a machine made of metal?! Preposterous!" or so on and on). I'm not saying a mind can't learn to adapt to the times, but I feel strongly that a species of intelligent organism that replaces it's entire population every second generation or so will fare better than a species that never replaces itself.
You grok it? The martians were stagnant. The Illidians were stagnant. The Night Elves were stagnant. The Vampires were bored, the MacLeod suffering from the Scottish equivalent of ennui. It has nothing to do with poor writing (although I can't rule it out, as Belial pointed out), it has everything to do with a lack of newness, something immortality practically forces.
Maybe it'd only work well in a Transmet or Futurama style zoo; the dead aren't really functionaries in society at large, but instead comic relief, advisers, and commentators.
What I hear you trying to say is, "Just look at the way things are." What you are actually saying is, "Just look at the way I perceive things to be." You have a belief system you're applying to this problem that, for the purposes of discussion, is functionally similar to any other dogmatic belief system. You're basing it on a literary and intellectual tradition rather than a religious one, and I understand why you might think that's a better
authority, but twice nothing is still nothing.
In addition, you're talking about humanity as a group (species, culture, whatever type of group) where I'm talking about myself as a human. I don't really care whether mortality is a defining characteristic of humanity as a whole; anyway, if we find a road to immortality through science (though everyone knows you must USE MAGIC TO KILL DEATH), then mortality will no longer be a defining characteristic of humanity. We don't need to stop calling ourselves the thing we call ourselves every time something changes; I don't see that this change would necessarily constitute a significant enough discontinuity in our collective identity to warrant calling ourselves something other than human. But maybe that's because I'm not writing a beautiful sweeping space romance and implying important implications.
Belial wrote:Either way, they don't prove a single thing beyond the fact that Ray Bradbury, Anne Rice, and whoever wrote The Highlander might think immortality would be boring.
Bradbury's short "The Blue Bottle" is an excellent example of his acknowledgment of the different relationships individuals might have with mortality, and though it wasn't included in the original Martian Chronicles collection, it's part of the general arc of Mars stories and was written around the same time. I think later editions may have added it and some other Mars stories.
Izawwlgood wrote:"I have often wondered if every night I fall asleep and don't dream, that I have died and my brain function has ceased, sparking anew in the morning, the complex organization of matter and energy pulling from the ether the seed crystal of infinity that blossoms into me as various functions are restored. Who I am continues and goes about as if nothing happened, but I ceased to be."
Sure, you can mess around with your definitions to come up with all sorts of situations. For instance, I'm fairly down with Socrates' reasoning in determining the existence of an immortal soul. For a certain definition of immortal soul, it's perfectly good reasoning. I can believe all I want that I am made up of the stuff of the universe which can never be destroyed, and will be reincarnated eternally in some form. The thing is, that doesn't provide what I'm looking for when I speak of immortality. What I want to preserve is my identity, my ego, the part of me that is aware of itself as a distinct and specific individual. When faced with thought experiments about discontinuity of self, replacing the self with an alternate-universe self or a clone, questions about who is truly living on, I have to fall back to subjective perception. If you simultaneously destroyed my body and created an exact replica of me standing on the other side of the room, what I'm concerned with is my perspective. Do all parties involved, so long as they exist, perceive a reasonably contiguous self? In that case, at the very least I am protected significantly against existential terror. So yeah, I'd settle for what SMBC might call an engineer's definition of immortality, and I don't expect I'd sabotage myself with questions about, "Yeah, but am I really a DIFFERENT PERSON from the guy that was disintegrated?" If I am, then fuck that guy, I don't care if he's immortal or not. Sucks to have been him, I guess.
Izawwlgood wrote:To be defined by mortality merely means you have to enjoy what you are doing and recognize the possibility that it won't last forever. I could go so far (although recognize it's an argumentative stretch) as to claim that the very fact you desire to live forever is due to your fear of death, your aversion to it. To use a really sappy and sophomoric line of reasoning and anecdote, it can't be summer all the time. Enough speculative fiction exists to demonstrate that the dream state of perfection, of Utopia is incomplete. Man rejected the Matrix that was sublime.
I think to be defined by mortality at the very least would require recognizing it not lasting forever as hard fact rather than mere possibility. And yeah, of course my desire to live forever is fueled at least partly by a fear of death. I find the idea that my existence is finite to be, quite frankly, terrifying. I do my best to avoid being defined by that fear, because if I have to have a finite existence, I'd prefer to waste as little of it as possible being terrified of the inevitable, but sometimes it can hit pretty strong. Is this because my father died when I was young? Hey, why not. Or maybe it's because my public education in grade school stroked my ego too much in the name of building self-confidence. Or maybe it's because I'm a conceited prick who thinks he's pretty much the best thing since sliced bread. Wait, now, it could be a genetic switch. Maybe it's a virus. Maybe I'm destined to be a planeswalker. Maybe the only thing elevating me above what I see as a purely mechanical pattern is a dash of meta to salt my existence. Maybe I am a strange loop. Maybe I am an odd duck. Maybe, to quote Jadzia Dax, I've run out of speculation.