Who wants to live forever?

That’s not just a song by Queen; it’s a question I find myself asking increasingly often.

Earlier this week, I took a three-day road trip, mainly because I will be leaving California soon and wanted to see a few more California things. I don’t really want to leave, but the cost of living is unmanageable. Anyway, I went up as far as Lake Sonoma, the furthest-out point, with the idea of working my way back on the last day. It was a hot afternoon, and a lake seemed like a good choice.

The parking lot at the visitor center was deserted because the visitor center was closed; but I saw the notice saying that no day-use fees were being collected until further notice, and picked up the map to find out where to find the swimming beach. After a long, winding drive up a hill and then down, I came to the swimming beach parking lot. It seemed rather odd that there was only one other car there. I passed through the playground area and came to the sign saying “No lifegurd on duty. Swim at your own risk.” I walked down the sandy slope, found a few bleached-out shells of freshwater clams, and came to the bottom, where the ground flattened out again and was covered with weeds. Looking to one side, I saw a concrete ramp that sloped down and ended at the weedy flat. It occurred to me, “That looks like a boat ramp.”

I saw the beach, the “no lifeguard” sign, the shells, the boat ramp. What did I not see?

The water.

There was no water visible from the swimming beach.

The realization hit me so hard. California’s drought has gotten so bad, you can’t see any water from a designated swimming beach. When will California’s cities have their Day Zero, like Cape Town has had? When will these green athletic fields turn straw-colored as the city decides that it can’t water them anymore? When will we go from restrictions on watering lawns to actual water rationing? And at that very moment, Hurricane Ian was rip-roaring through Florida.

Well, I’m less upset about leaving California now.

Some time ago, I saw an ad on YouTube for a book purportedly about how to live to be 120. After briefly considering whether I was interested, I was overwhelmed by several realizations. First: my 120th birthday will take place in the year 2093. What will the world be like by then? By 2030, hurricanes and other rain-related disasters will already have noticeably increased. By 2040, 1 in 4 children are predicted to live in places with severe water shortages. By 2050, sea levels are expected to be 10-12 inches higher. Sometime between 2040 and 2060, Phoenix, Arizona could be above 95 Fahrenheit for more than 6 months of the year, and by 2070, much of the United States could be unsuitable for growing crops. If I lived to be 120, I would experience all this.

Realistically, not many of us get to live to 120. But if you figure full retirement age is considered to be 67 (just over halfway to 120), well, I turn 67 in 2040, which is a year mentioned in several predictions; including one prediction that pollution and overpopulation could cause society to collapse around that time. That’s really going to put a crimp in my plans to enjoy my retirement.

Yeah… I had been planning a very different post, about the huge increase in our carbon and resource footprint late in life due to lifesaving medical interventions (electricity to run MRI machines, dialysis machines, artificial circulation; single-use plastics in the form of syringes, catheters, and what not; the resources used in manufacturing medications). I was going to ask, at what point do you decide to refuse further intervention for the sake of the environment? But this experience at Lake Sonoma prompts me to think a different thought: at some point, one might refuse further intervention because the planet no longer feels livable.

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I want to know what happens next! And next after that, and next after that. This would take living forever, or at least a very, very long time. (And none of this fake living, the upload-my-brain-to-a-computer fantasy that cannot happen in the next few decades, if ever, and would still leave me dead.) Of course, as long as I’m wanting what I can’t have, I want my body always to work better than it has for a couple decades at least.

Is the world going to be worse for a while? Probably a lot worse for a long while? Yes. But I will want to know how things turn out.

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The way you wrote first half of Your post sounds like the beginning of a good, but scary(in the sense of drama) book ;) I want to know how future will look like, but live forever? Hope not, I have suspicions that I would become an upiór (living dead) :upside_down_face: :grin:

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I hope you keep iNatting wherever you move to next!

I’m not sure if this is at all reassuring, but some of your concerns have been popular since at least 1798 and there have been terrible things historically like a year without a summer leading to famine, from which humanity emerged.

Individually, all of the calamaties coming from climate change are felt, cause harm, and kill, but I don’t think it’ll lead to human extinction. Maybe this is a silver lining?

To answer your question of how much life support would I take, knowing that the more that’s needed leads to more environmental harm? I think this is a very situational question that I would answer one way now, but could easily answer differently if I was in the moment. Right now, I’d say I’d be happy if I live an “average” lifespan and that requires “average” care. What if this “average” jumps to 120 years in my lifetime? What if it’s quantity over quality due to some chronic health condition?

Despite the prognosis for climate stability and population resources, I try to stay optimistic. Yes, it’s changing and not for the better. Maybe we can science our way out of this, or maybe this is just self-soothing thinking to relieve individual culpability, I don’t know.

What I do know is that seeing little weeds sprouting from cracks in the asphalt/tarmac parking lots at Walmart makes me happy and optimistic about the idea that Nature will continue, despite our efforts to stop it. There’s even the Life After People television series which explores this idea.

Edit: Average in quotes because of unequal access to resources. My average might be higher or lower than where reader is living, for example.

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Just want to point that as a Cape Town resident, we never had Day Zero although we came close, and it was only because of united cooperation across diverse sectors and walks of life that we averted the disaster.

To the overall question posed: does anyone want to live forever?

I certainly do not want to live forever in the sense of seeing the demise of earth and its ecosystems as the sun’s luminosity increases and disrupts the carbon cycle in 500-900 million years’ time, and when it expands into a red giant five billion years hence. Nor do I want to live forever until I witness the heat death of the universe.

It would be cool though for me personally, I think, to live long enough to see changes such as full space exploration and travel akin to what we see in science fiction, the changes in human culture and thought in a thousand years’ time (if we are still around by then), the rejoining and break-up of continents, the periodic changes in ecosystems as the faunal and floral assemblage shuffles itself, the full evolution of new species that reproduce relatively slowly such as Felidae or Bovidae (and from there the derivation of new phyla).

I don’t know the impact living for such a long time would have on my human psychology though, since as a species we have never evolved for such long lives. If I was the only one unaging as everyone else ages normally, how would this affect me? Would I mourn for the loss of my original identity and culture as human society evolves through the generations? Would I miss my original group of friends and family? After a long enough period of time, would I even remember them at all? Would I be foolish enough to advertise my enduring agelessness, and become imprisoned as a living scientific guinea pig as other people try to figure out my secret? Or would I make peace with pretending to be my own son, generation after generation, through the eons?

If I were to be able to exercise the choice of passing on when I decided at some point that I’ve seen and experienced all there is to be seen and done, then I think it wouldn’t be so bad. It’s really all about the mindset you have. If you are comfortable with the idea that the only unchanging constant in life is change, then it would not be a leap to also accept that people come and go in life (as I’ve already experienced in my short three decades), that cultures and societies change, and extrapolate that to a thousand years.

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Many decades ago, I made a decision to not have any children for this very reason. The buck stops here. I also cannot fathom what sort of psychology would lie behind wanting to live forever. I try to not judge, but I also don’t think I could ever understand it. Do your best with the time you have, and then bow out, hopefully with a little grace and dignity.

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That reminds me of two of my favourite “science-fiction” books. Kurt Vonnegut’s Galapagos, where a spirit or ghost watches the rest of mankind for a million years and sees them evolve into seal-like creatures.
And Life, the Universe and Everything by Douglas Adams, an alien is accidentally immortal and decides to insult the whole universe, one by one and in alphabetical order.
On a more realistic note: no. Oh, and then there is the song by John Mellencamp: Jack and Diane with the sentence that always puzzles me: “Life goes on, long after the thrill of living is gone.” Well, my thrill of living is not gone and I am starting to feel time running out. Maybe not running out, not even running, but passing, and I still want to do and see and experience so much more. But I think the thrill of living comes from the fact that it is not endless.

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I’m still a teenager. I can only hope we keep at least some biodiversity alive throughout my life.

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I’m 69 years old. I will probably live another 15 or 20 years, realistically. While I won’t want to die, I don’t want to see what will happen in 50 or 100 years. It’s already bad enough and will definitely get worse in my lifetime.

Maybe in a thousand or 10,000 years, the human population will have been reduced to something less overwhelming (maybe a tenth or a hundredth of what it is now?) and then I’d like to come back. I live in Massachusetts in the northeastern US. Around 150 years or so, Massachusetts was 80% deforested, mostly because of farming. Then, Ohio and the rest of the flat, rich, unrocky soils of the American Midwest opened up for economically worthwhile farming (because of newly built railroads and canals), and many farmers moved to the Midwest and deserted their rocky farms here. Now, I walk through those deserted farms and they are often relatively mature second-growth woods, complete with Pileated Woodpeckers, Black Bears, and Wild Turkeys (OK, those latter two actually prefer suburban sprawl in many cases). The only signs of those earlier farms are stone walls and foundations, with maybe a Common Lilac hanging on where it was planted. Massachusetts is currently about 80% forested, but usually with houses scattered throughout the woods. So, biodiversity recovers fairly quickly here - but that’s not true everywhere. And the second-growth woods here now are much different from the woods at the time of European colonization - more exotic invasives, fewer fire events, and more even-aged stands.

Yeah, I don’t want to live forever, but I’m going to hate dying.

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I’m certain I’ll live forever, but mostly after moving on from THIS strange, beautiful, painful “school” or whatever the hell it is.

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It is very thought-provoking. I can honestly say I don’t want to live forever. I have a strong history of Alzheimer’s in my family, and witnessed enough long lives without good quality to know that I’d like to bow out before I hit that stage. I am more in favor of assisted suicide than ever, although it’s of dubious help in the case of Alzheimer’s, since you are required to be able to make a conscientious choice yourself at the time in states where is is allowed. I did find an organization called “Compassion and Choices” that is working towards making this available for more Americans. I strongly support them.

I too lived in CA for a couple of short years. Even then (2005) I always felt a certain amount of “shower guilt,” and I have to say it was part of the reason that I moved back to the east coast. Even in PA, which is considerably richer in water, I have worries about the water supplies. I was told that there is a recently approved housing development that has permission to draw 50,000 gallons of water a day from the Susquehanna. I found this hard to fact-check, and I’m woefully ignorant of how much this would impact the river, but still - looking at all the homes going up and the people going into them - the amount of water usage must be significant. I still shower minimally… and then I worry that with all my minimalism I will just be the weirdo that no one will take seriously.

For those that celebrate that even humans cannot wipe out life entirely, well, I would agree. I think life will prevail, and maybe eventually, after many millions of years, we will be back to having as diverse a world as it was before we started all these mass extinctions. But I still think its a terrible shame.

For those that celebrate that humans will not go extinct, I would agree with that too. Some of us will probably survive. Hopefully it will be the ones who can be smartest and not just the ones that can kill the best. But I find “survival” to be a pretty low bar. Why create a world where we have to cut each other’s throats for the most basic resources, build walls to keep out the suffering, and then congratulate ourselves on survival?

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Cape Town approaching Day Zero changed the way we use water. In this house - normal is collecting shower water to flush - reducing the volume we send to sewage works is a bonus. We use rainwater in the house when our tanks can supply us. I am a GINK green no kids - but just as an earlier generation made way for me, so too must I one day. That is part of the tread lightly way.

About water
in Utah I look at squidgy lawn and an almost bare slope behind the houses
and desalinating seawater it is both cheaper and more effective to learn to use less
PS thanks to winter rain our municipal water use was 33 litres a day in September - and yours. Horrified that many places don’t even bother to meter household water use. No motivation not to ‘waste free’ water.

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I’d live as along as possible whatever the cost is, unless it becomes a very painful experience that can’t be changed, then yes, it’s time to die.

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In these cases, I usually mention a 2000 years old saying: carpe diem - live by the day. Nobody knows the future.

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Uncharismatic Microfauna/Microflora specialists are rare and difficult to become; furthermore, due to their rarity they often function as the researcher equivalent of keystone species.

The death of even one Uncharismatic Taxon expert can cause the loss of vast amounts of unpublished scientific data; not to brag, but I consider myself such an expert and, to protect against data loss, would willingly live to 2093 even if hurricanes, heat waves, and drought made me miserable. I’ve been miserable my whole life anyways; I’m used to pain.

If humanity somehow figures out a way to prevent the sun from exploding, the universe from heat-deathing, and solves other similar non-inherent dilemmas associated with immortality, I’d more than glaaaaaaaadly live forever. I do not believe that there are any inherent problems with immortality even though the non-inherent ones are thorny (and should be thought out carefully to avoid causing more problems than they solve). I do try to be a realist; exploding suns aside, one of deathlessness’s shorter-term non-inherent issues would be its tendencies to worsen some forms of class inequality, and, well, that wouldn’t be good either, would it?

Anyways, people say that life gets inherently boring/worthless when one lives forever but it sounds to me like Aesop’s fox calling the grapes sour.

But to be honest I’d choose a perpetually comfortable-but-boring life (with all the non-inherent dilemmas solved) over my current one, which is boring and uncomfortable. I just really hate the idea of finitude, okay?

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Forgot to add: if I had the choice between a guaranteed eighty years of interesting comfortable life followed by death or a guaranteed eighty years of interesting comfortable life followed by a guaranteed eternity of equally comfortable but boring life, I’d choose the latter without much hesitation.

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I feel both options are eaqually scary actually.

As a biologist I find it super interesting how my perception of death has changed dramatically over the years. As a kid and young adult I was not at all afraid of being dead some day (the process of dying is a bit different, but hopefully might be not too long). I loved risky things like jumping from roofs into hills of leafs, rolercoasters, sky diving and such. I know what my 20-year-old me would have answered here: I for sure don´t want to live forever and see the world go to waste ( I always was and still am very pessimistic about that unfortunately).

In my mid-20s it all changed quite suddently. I started developing some fear of heights out of the blue. I remember how awkward the transition time was with me standing on a latter because I had to clean some bird houses and suddenly was not able to climb down (my skydiving younger self would have laughed hard at me). Probably my body telling me I should avoid risks to be able to care for my imaginary kids.

At the latest since my mid-30s I developed a slight discomfort by the idea of not being there anymore at some time. That is also the time when I started to realize that by now I will not be able anymore to do whatever I can dream of. I will probably not learn anymore how to do a backflip, haha. At some time the natural fear of missing out creeps up I guess.

I wonder, how this process will develop onwards.

By now I still have this pessimistic view that everything will only go downhill from here on. I think I am a member of a super lucky generation (in my country and economic status so far) that never had to really worry deeply… who thinks traveling, holidays and a lot of other luxuries are part of normal life… well, they have not been for most of mens history and I am sure within my lifetime it will change again. We are still working on overpopulating the planet, deminishing it´s ressources which will cause more conflict between countries and destroying the basis of our lifes as we know it. It´s sad sad sad and I don´t want to see it… It´s already sad enough now.

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I will admit that being a ghost as in Kurt Vonnegut’s book Galapagos would let me watch what goes on without all the practical problems of getting food and shelter, dealing with increasing heat, etc. I’d be OK with that option! If it were an option.

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If grief could be avoided I might want to live forever. But I don’t think it can (given current technology), so no, I don’t want to live forever because despite how wonderful this world is I don’t want to live forever missing those that I love and are no longer with me

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Living forever might be an intriguing adventure for individuals, but poses real challenges for society. If individuals were to live forever, and we live on a finite planet, then we’d need to basically stop having children, or only replace people who died in accidents. We already take up most of the space on this planet. If we became immortal we’d take up even more. What would happen to relationships like parents and children in a world where everyone is incredibly old?

We would need to rethink criminal justice (we do anyway, but). If we all live forever and you are convicted of a terrible crime while young, what happens to you? Unless we made a major shift towards restorative rather than retributive justice, the impact of a mistake early in life would have an even starker impact. Maybe rather than life imprisonment for 1000 years, we’d bring back the death penalty for a wider range of crimes instead. Or remove the medical crutches we’d all depend on after the first 80 years, so others would watch in pity as convicts’ bodies rapidly fail.

Immortality would exacerbate social inequality. Only the wealthy would have the money to pay for the endless medical maintenance required to live forever, and society would divide into a wealthy class of bionic ancients, and an underclass of short-lived serfs. While the sci-fi possibilities are interesting, in the real world it would be disastrous.

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