Would you prefer a universe with just one life and one death or an infinite (random) series of them?

This thread has nothing to do with any religion. It is about two real possibilities that are still open based on what is currently known about the physical universe and consciousness.

The first one is the standard (and rather unimaginative) atheist argument that the universe and consciousness play out in a rather straightforward way and there isn’t anything else to it. We somehow born into a physical world, we life our lives and then we die. The end.

However, there are other possibilities that are still consistent with known physics and don’t require any religion that also pose the possibility of everlasting consciousness. One example of that is the idea that the universe we know goes through an infinite set of Big Bang/Big Crunch cycles or that an infinite set of other universes are constantly being created and each of those has the chance of reproducing the conditions that gave you consciousness in this one.

The first option only gives you one life and one death before your consciousness gets extinguished forever. The second possibility gives you an infinite set of ‘lives’. Some will be great and some will be horrific and there is absolutely no way to stop the cycle. Whatever physical processes are creating your consciousness will do it in every possible way and there is nothing you can do about it - ever. Even committing suicide only gets you out of the current cycle and lets you roll the dice again before a new universe is born that can generate very similar conditions again.

Which one would you pick if you had to (not that there is any real choice)?

Do I get to retain memories from one lifetime to the next?

(If not, then in what sense is it still me?)

Almost certainly not. The second part of your question is just another way of asking what consciousness really is and nobody knows that.

Hey don’t steal my story idea!

But actually in my story there’s two types of people: those with one infinite life and those with many normal lives and they can remember past lives as well.

One of the central themes in my story is: what would you do today if whatever happens today is irrelevant if your life is eternal? (Either immortality or infinite lives.) The immortal people in my story have lived through multiple big bangs and destructions/rebirths of the universe. The people with normal lives are usually plucked out of major wars or other situations where their death is imminent. Some of the chosen spend lifetimes deciding what to do, hundreds or thousands of years. If they can psychologically handle immortality, they can be given a single eternal life.

Overall, those that choose immortality choose it because they realize that life is a matter of perspective. Is your perspective by day or eon is irrelevant, it’s just a different way to look at life, e.g. life in high school, college, or the real world.

I would choose immortality.

By every evidence we have, consciousness is an emergent property of the complex structure of your body, and specifically in the central nervous system, which is of course centered around the brain. Although there is an argument that we can share “consciousness” by association, e.g. sharing experiences intimately with another person to the extend that both people report almost identical perception of the same external event, the sentience that you experience as “me” will disappear with the discorporation of your neural system when catabolism permanently exceeds anabolism, i.e. when your metabolic processes cease to function and your body decays. It may come that we are able to replicate or transfer that sentience to a more enduring medium, but the technology to achieve that is not extant or even incipient given that we don’t even have a firm handle on what the processes which create sentience are. And even when we can transfer sentience to a more durable substrate, it still won’t survive the end of the universe (whether it is a “Big Crunch” or a “Big Woosh”) unless it is capable of extending itself beyond the boundaries of the universe (which we also cannot define in any rigorous or measurable way).

All that being said, if you could engineer your consciousness to endure cycles of creation and apocalypse, the result would likely drive you insane. Not just because of the boredom and repetitiveness of it all (although that would be tragic, too) but because the physical laws would probably reconstitute in different ways every time (we have no reason to believe that this is the only way the laws of physics could be aside from the specious and solipsistic argument that, “If it weren’t like this we wouldn’t be here,” claim) and the results would be confounding.

On the other hand, you’d have an infinite number of chances to get with that girl next door who never noticed you, provided you could track her down and she didn’t end up being some kind of bug-eyed slime monster or something.


I choose death, I hate cake.

There are far too many asshole psychopaths running the world to have to deal with it again. Once is too many.

Sorry - I don’t mean to ruin your thread, but it’s a meaningless choice then: Would I prefer to cease to exist, or alternatively, cease to exist?

My first answer was a joke (duh). :eek:

After rereading you OP, I have to agree with Mangetout. If there is no connection between me of this universe and me of the next universe, then it is always just one life and one death.

Also the next me in the next universe is what 50 to 100 billion years in the future?
Is the universe on auto replay? Sounds dreary.

One life has been one too many for me as it is and I still don’t like cake.:stuck_out_tongue:

Ditto. Though there may be a difference in theory, there’s none in practice.

I was an earthworm in my last life, and thankfully I am not one now.

I don’t want to turn this into a debate about what consciousness really is because no one truly understands it but we do know enough to know that it isn’t strictly dependent on memory like many people casually assume. There are people with various kinds of amnesia who still have the same ‘consciousness’ that they have always had. There are even people who are completely unable to form new memories at all and they still have a personality and distinct identity. They can read the same newspaper every day and still be just as surprised as they were the first time. The latter may be a good real-world analogy to the possibilities I am presenting. Consciousness and personal identity probably are emergent properties of some physical processes but it is amazingly difficult to tie it directly to any particular neurological function including memory.

How did you manage to get off the hook?

Gotta agree with you mere.

I have to agree with Mangetout on this one. If there’s no connection between the “me” of this lifetime and the next “me” in line I don’t see how you can say my existence is continuing.

Ask Nietzsche

It depends on what you think the “me” of any lifetime is.

I’m not really talking about consciousness, I’m talking about identity and memory - I guess I’m saying that one lifetime that ends is preferable to a series of them - but only because future lifetimes are of no use to me if my accumulated memories and experiences must be discarded - I don’t see any way to regard those future lifetimes as my own, if I can’t take ‘me’ with me.