The year is 2200. There is no longer death due to natural causes, including heart disease, infection, parasites, cancer, stroke, old age, etc. With the exception of death due to accidents, the death penalty, and malicious intent, we are effectively immortal. Nobody remembers anyone dying due to natural causes. Death is national news.
Our immortal status has made us much more cautious about the way we live life. The question is, how cautious? And is this presumed abundance of caution relevant to policy in the year 2012?
Some examples should help bring this issue to light.
[li] I hate waiting in lines at spaceports, but I’d hate it even more if a terrorist blew a hole in my spaceship on my way to my vacation in Mars, especially if I was otherwise immortal. [/li][li] I hate wearing an airtight suit and breathing all my air through a portable HEPA filter, but the risk of death due to unknown biological or other particulate matter is not really acceptable, given that it’s completely avoidable.[/li][li] This airtight suit is really inconvenient, but shedding my DNA all over the place is giving my potential enemies all the ammunition they need to create a me-specific death vector. [/li][/ul]
I have the distinct feeling that our great-* grandchildren will look back on us as fools that do not sufficiently value our lives, as indicated by our lackadaisical attitude towards mortality. In a world where nobody dies, dying is not normal, not accepted, and is avoided at all costs.
True, we aren’t immortal yet. For reasons we do not yet understand the lowest energy configuration of the overall template for human beings discovered by natural evolution resulted in a pretty pathetically short lifespan. And, as far as evolution is concerned, we only exist to ensure the propagation of our genes. But this does not have to be the end of the story. There is more to life than death, and there is more to life than 75 years of life. Our brains are impressive pieces of equipment that are, as far as we can tell, capable of real understanding of both meaning that we create, and meaning that is already embedded in the universe (i.e., how it works). Our mind is so sophisticated that we don’t even have a philosophical basis for understanding it, i.e., understanding the consciousness that makes up our everyday experience. But it’s pretty clear that this experience, when it’s good, is really awesome and worth putting some effort into sustaining.
And so, I have a hard time accepting the carefree attitude we take with regards to our own mortality. How does barreling down the highway mere feet from oncoming traffic with no barrier make sense? Obviously I know the answer to this: we are all struggling to accept the fact that we are probably going to die, and it sucks so much that we really don’t even want to think about it, let alone try to do anything about it. We showed up here accidentally and we have accepted leaving this place accidentally. Most of us have rationalized the whole experience by positing that it’s a simulation set into play by a mad scientist who wants to test us, and we just can’t wait to get back to him and give him a giant hug. This is such crap. If we focus our efforts we might be able to severely curb death in the near term and maybe even within our lifetimes increase our lifespan one year for every year that passes.
If you’re looking for something specific to latch onto you could consider the following questions: 1) what are the best policies for preventing death in the near term and 2) how do we get people interested in pushing humanity towards immortality? Do we seriously do nothing and just wait for it to happen? If that’s what we do, will it ever happen, or will religion continue as the dominant mode of eliminating cognitive dissonance due to knowledge of our own impending deaths?
The extent to which this is a debate is up in the air. I considered MPSIMS, however, I’m not a fan of that forum name due to the contradiction in the forum title and description: deep thoughts are neither mundane nor pointless, IMHO. I considered IMHO, but there is no reason that my humble opinion should be restricted to less than cosmic topics - this one is quite cosmic. So, GD it is:)