FREEDOM AND SAFETY
Alright. So, some people object you don’t want a very long lifespan because it would end up being boring. Even if a currently normal lifespan wasn’t enough, they argue, something like two hundred years would be more than enough to do anything worth doing. I wouldn’t bet my last cent on it.
Meet John and Jack, both born in the year 1400. John says he regrets he will not live past
1500 1490 1470 (that’s more like it). There are so many things he’ll miss out on centuries from now, he says.
—’Nah,’ Jack objects. ‘Nonsense!’
—’Why?’ John asks.
—’What could there possibily be worth seeing or doing you haven’t seen and done in our time already? I concede you might be unable to do everything in a lifetime, but if you somehow could live—the very idea!—until 1600, it would be more than enough time to do and see anything worth doing and seeing.’
—’But… What about things invented, created, and discovered, say, in 1700? Or 1900?’
—’Why would there be any? Mark my word—you’ve read a tad too much science fiction.’
—’Nevermind. It’s just a thing from the 20th and 21st centuries.’
If you think I’m being sarcastic, you’re right. People who died in 1500 missed on all the music, art, literature, science, technology, entertainment, discoveries made in the subsequent centuries, and if anyone thinks there won’t be much else new to do, learn, and discover past, say, 2050, they’re exceedingly likely to be as wrong as one can possibly be. People write new books, make new movies, create new games, compose new music, discover new things, produce new art every single day. It’s a trend that’s been around for a long time, and it shows no sign of changing.
Sometimes, I happen to bump into the occasional article about how living forever would be bad, and I find it so cute. Authors of such articles always repeat the same, nonsensical crap that wouldn’t fool a five-year-old, and I guess they think they’re being ‘deep’. They say that, if you live forever, at some point you will have read, seen, and done all there is to read, see, and do. Hmm. I see. Clearly, these authors must be the kind of people who read the same book only once, see the same movie only once, and do anything only once. I mean, forget for a moment what I said above (i.e., there will likely always be new things to read, see, and do), and imagine at some point there will be no new books to read. According to Google, the number of books ever published was at least 130 million in 2010. Assuming you could read one a day everyday (and you can’t), it’d take you over 350 thousand years to read them all. I’m guessing that, by the time you’re done reading all of them, the first one your read 350 thousand years ago might have regained a bit of its novelty value, right?
You can do similar back-of-the-envelope maths and see for yourself that the odds you could ever manage to go through every single movie, music piece, game, sport, job, skill, hobby, or activity before we’ve come up with tons of new ones are hysterically small. Not to mention the fact that you can do only so many things in a certain timespan, and a lot of activities require time and dedication to be properly experienced—sports, for example, or mastering painting or playing an instrument. Even more trivially, there are quite simple things that never lose their appeal. Seriously, I can’t wrap my head around the fact there are people out there who think that, if they were alive 500 years from now, they may not want to go out for a walk in the park because they’ve already done it before. They must be pretty damn hard to entertain.
Apart from relatively banal matters like things to do to entertain yourself for a really long time, there’s a huge universe out there, and the prospect of being one day able to go and have a look at it from close up thrills me to the bone. Even if you didn’t care for space exploration (which would cause my relentless frowning upon you for centuries to come), the possibilities that would open up before us if we ever met an alien civilisation are endless, and would vastly expand what we can learn, do, and discover. If there were even a million-to-one chance of this happening, I’d gladly take it. It would definitely be worth living for however long it’d take.