What would you do if you could live forever? Would you take things a bit slower? Read more? Use your phone less? Would you live your life differently at all?
For me, this is a difficult concept to wrap my head around. On one hand, you’d have endless time to experience everything, and on another, you’d have endless time to experience nothing at all. Eternal life would either incite a procrastination epidemic that would put finals week at any university to shame, or we could become an inspired culture of people working to make the world a better place for ourselves, and for the future. Maybe it’s neither of these, but the argument is irrelevant, because it will never actually be possible, right?
We all have an expiration date; one last breath that marks the end of life in the physical world, the world of which we can be certain. At least this is the only way we’ve ever known it to be, for now. It’s a fact that every single human being that has ever been born up until today has died, and we are one of the few living species that lives each day aware of our own mortality. Over time, our thoughts and views about life, death, and afterlife have evolved and seem to follow the same cultural patterns that can be found at any point in time or space.
For transhumanists – the name given to followers of the transhumanism movement, which believes in the pursuit indefinite human longevity – the idea of death is just a mindset. Death is simply another obstacle of life that is possible to overcome with the right combination of lifestyle choices, scientific intervention, and of course, faith. Transhumanism got its start in the early 90s in Silicon Valley, which was home to many of the first transhumanists theorists and believers. Stemming from an influence of science fiction and rapid technological innovation, the quest for immortality feels more inevitable than impossible for the true transhumanists.
Each year, thousands of these eternal life seekers get together at RAADfest, which is the official Coalition for Radical Life Extension. Attendees pay a few hundred dollars to spend three days discussing topics like advancements in artificial intelligence, gene therapy and DNA-hacking, and a slew of other biotechnological themes that are slowly becoming part of our everyday lives.
Little time is spent thinking about the actual costs and consequences of their immortal endeavour; in fact, it’s an unimaginable concept for most transhumanists that there could be any negative outcomes from pursuing everlasting life. During the three-day conference, transhumanists get to live among those with shared ideas and perspectives on the world, which only inflates their own views and reaffirms their belief in the cause. It only takes about half a second to think about the chaos, collapse, and destruction that would likely result from an indestructible human race. Famine, extreme poverty, and a complete breakdown of established world orders would be a more realistic future for a death-resistant population.
This isn’t to say that there is no value in the ideas that propel transhumanism into a growing movement. Many of these thinkers have contributed to positive life-altering innovations in medicine, science, engineering, and more. It’s no question that as society progresses, the advancement of our technologies and our lives will progress as well. Is the first person to achieve eternal life living amongst us now? Could it be you, or me, or all of us? For 2018, the idea still remains part of science fiction, but for transhumanists, they will either achieve eternal life or die trying.