Why Do People Fear Immortality?

(This article was reprinted in Humanity+ Magazine, December 18, 2014.)

Anyone who reads this blog knows that I think death should be optional. Yet I always encounter resistance when introducing this idea to others. Why is that? There are many reasons. For some the idea that we should choose whether to live or die contradicts religious beliefs or seems impossible. For others death is thought to be natural or what gives life meaning. And fiction influences others by often portraying immortality as bad because:

1) You will be bored.
2) You will be unable to die.
3) You will hurt others to attain it.
4) You will lose your humanity.
5) You will turn into a monster
6) You will destroy the environment.

My guess is that negative views of the future are more exciting, selling more books and movie tickets than descriptions of utopias. But think of it this way. About ten generations ago the average life expectancy in most of the world was about thirty years. If someone told you then that they could triple that lifespan, would you voice the above concerns? I doubt it. Some people will be bad or bored or destructive because they live longer, Some are like that now. But for others with age comes more kindness and wisdom. Yes there are bored, horrific people in the world, but that is not connected with how long they live. Some people are just horrible.

Now suppose we tripled the lifespan again? Say an average healthy lifespan becomes 250 years. What would change? I can’t say for sure but I see no reason to think life would necessarily get worse. In fact knowing our lives would be longer might force us to better cooperate with others and preserve the environment. If we are going to be alive when the ecosystem is ruined, we might be more likely to care for it.

Of course if we had the option to live forever that would be different. That would create different problems some of which I’ve tried to answer previously. So let’s continue to increase our lifespans and see what happens.

2 thoughts on “Why Do People Fear Immortality?

  1. You missed the main one for me: while we lose great minds, I suspect death clears the plate of some horrendous minds also. I do not relish the thought that racists, bigots, and tyrants could get to live forever. We need new people to grow up to become a majority in the latest environments, not be tied to or weighed down by the past. Some old people bemoan how the youth don’t know anything of what was important to them. This is a powerful feature, not a bug.

  2. Your many words merely obfuscate the issues, based on your personally biased views, hiding behind professions of “science” (just as some hide behind mob dynamics to perform less noticeable personal crime) to make statements which are, in truth, mere lengthy opinionations, willfully ignorant of those things which exist outside of your limited realm of experience.

    Tell me, are you one of those who doesn’t like to try new things?

    Personally, I came to discover the realm of faith (it is real, whether you care to acknowledge it or not) AFTER having spent most of my childhood immersed in science and technical books. I was reading college level textbooks, pursuing my interests in science as a youth BEFORE ever having considered focusing on any “God”. I also dabbled in Yoga, Buddhism (zen, to be specific), and even considered adopting Islam at one point, if only to add a structure to my belief in an invisible, all-powerful Creator. I wanted to pursue knowledge, including the knowledge of God.

    My arrival at faith-based thinking NEVER took the form of “blind faith”, as my experience was quite substantial, though in a way that a skeptic would most probably find unsubstantial, since most skeptics are bound, in their thinking, to the limits of the “perceiveable” world, as far as the “five senses” are concerned. Of course, when one limits oneself to merely “empirical” data, and forbids the inclusion of spirituality in one’s investigative, perceptive odyssey, one must, of course, prohibit that which is, by definition, the only means of entering and experiencing that realm which is closed to the skeptic or the unbeliever. Pity.

    There was a time when mankind was unaware of the complexity of the substance which we daily breath (air). Being “invisible”, it wasn’t the major focus. Remember, “invisibility” does not equate with “non-existence”. It’s merely a choice, a preference, to choose not to believe, just as one might limit personal research into any subject to those areas in which one has ultimate trust.

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