The Preternatural Mind
Back in high school I found myself delving into Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles. I would finish one book and do all I could to get my hands on the next. Something about them managed to suck me in and wouldn’t let go. I was delving into the minds of immortals, one in particular.
Anne Rice had a knack for making you really believe these characters had been alive for centuries; believe that they were people, human beings, thrown into a life of immortality. Some embraced it, others were tortured, some a little of both. There was no black and white with these characters, no good or evil. Everything became gray. These books gave me an early, and unique perspective on immortality and the human mind. It has become a subject I’ve spent over half of my life pondering.
Immortality is a New Horizon
Most events in our lifetime can be at the very least loosely compared to previous events in history. The war in Iraq brought back memories of Vietnam. Marijuana prohibition is on the same path alcohol took. We study history in order to better understand current problems, and hopefully avoid new ones.
Nobody taught us anything about eternal life.
We are approaching the unknown. The human mind is amazing, terribly fragile, and eternally changing. Decades of happiness, torment, joy and suffering all make their marks, which never fade away. I’ve spent countless hours bending my mind on these very subjects. Rather than let these ideas go to waste, I think it appropriate to try bending the mind of others as well.
Living in Fear
When we talk about life extension and the potential for eliminating the aging process, many people immediately start thinking of immortality. In the true sense of the word, physical immortality is not possible. Nothing saves us from a gunshot to the head. Attainable immortality only has the potential to save us from dying of disease and old age. (It should stop us from aging past our prime entirely)
Human beings have an innate fear of death. The daredevils and bravest of soldiers will tell you “We gotta die someday!” But what if we don’t? If you knew you had the potential to live thousands more years, would you still bungee jump off that bridge? Would you drive at excessive speeds or refrain from wearing your seatbelt? I believe things will change when we begin to think about how our risks may end our lives hundreds of years early, or more.
Time Governs Our Lives
Time has always been a central aspect of civilized life. Humankind first started to perceive time far before written history. Every civilized nation has had some sort of time recording device. (And apparently, some are supposed to predict the end of the world!) We get paid by the hour. We are schedule to arrive at a certain time. We can calculate the time it will take to fly from Seattle to New York. We retire at 65 years. Average life expectancy in the United States is 78.1 years. Time is everything to us. But, what if we remove that element?
These days everybody is in a rush. Get as much done as you can, as soon as you can. We want to hurry up, make money, then go enjoy life. However if we are expecting to live another 5 lifespans, why hurry? Working in retail I one day realized I could easily pick out a lot of the retired folk, not by their age, but their behavior. I saw an old man pick up a can of soup, examine the entire package, reading everything about this can of soup. After about 3 minutes, this old man was an expert on that particular can of soup. Most of us will just pick one up, maybe check a whatever nutritional facts are important to us, and throw it in our cart. I knew this guy had to be retired, because that’s the only way he had so much time to stare at a can of soup.
When we have time, we slow down.
This is something that I think will have to affect us in some way if we are living extended life spans. Now, we will still have to get things done. We will still have to work. People will still need many of the things they need today, as well as many new things. Stuff has to be made. But will we be in as much of a hurry to get this stuff? In Queen of the Damned, we learn that the “king and queen” of the vampires have essentially become statues. Not because they can not move, but because they have lived so long that time has become almost meaningless. Of course humankind will not become like this; we still have to eat, sleep, etc. But eventually, if we’ve lived long enough, maybe our idle time will become meaningless to us, and we will become as robots. On the other hand, maybe we will finally be able to slow down and notice all of the beauty in the world around us.
One can only begin to imagine the change in world military. Today we have people who give their lives for their countries, or their cause. Who would still be willing to do this? Not many, I imagine. The new technologies being brought to life in the American military may help ease some of these problems. I’d have no problem defending my country by flying a drone around. But drones can not and will not ever be our front line of defense. Some day we’ll probably have robots as our front line, but at some point – front lines fall.
It’s also not unreasonable to believe that terrorists will have more sway than they do now. A suicide bomber taking out hundreds of lives will have a much more drastic effect. However, we will also be even less tolerant than we are now. With suicide tactics threatening our extended lives, I can only think that the general population will not only be okay with far more…dubious tactics for taking down the terrorist networks, but they will encourage them. Take no prisoners will be a widely used phrase. The controversies at Guantanamo Bay will be quickly forgotten.
It is not far fetched to believe that extending our lives long enough will end our humanity as we see it today. The real question is, when this humanity ends; what new humanity might we find?