Category Archives: Meaning of Life – Personal

A Philosopher’s Lifelong Search for Meaning – Part 8 – Hope and Meaning

continued from a previous entry

  1. What I Hope For

What then should we hope for? The objects of my hopes are vague and indeterminate. I hope that something better will emerge in the course of cosmic evolution, that things will work out for the best, that truth, goodness, beauty, justice, and love are real, that my life and universal life are meaningful, that somehow it all makes sense, that life is not in vain, and that things ultimately matter. These are my most fervent hopes and having them gives me a reason to live.

Stating these hopes also sheds light on how they differ from what most people mean by faith. Faith typically has religious connotations and involves believing certain propositions—God made the world, Jesus died for our sins, the Koran is the word of Allah, etc. So, with the exception of fideism, religious faith has cognitive content whereas the objects of my hopes are amorphous or nonspecific. (However, my conception of hope has some things in common with more sophisticated religious ideas about faith—such as the idea of faith as ultimate concern.)

  1. The Source of Hope

I don’t know the exact source of my hopes, but I feel them with an ineffable passion. My attitudinal hope probably emanates from biology and culture. Our biological drives to survive and reproduce, combined with the emergence of consciousness and culture, prompt the acting and hoping that aided our ancestor’s survival—we descended from those who had hope.

As for wishful hoping, its source may be some cosmic longing within me or perhaps it’s the expression of the wish that, at the heart of reality, there is some good principle to which I’m ultimately connected and with which I can commune. Note again that this is a wish, and I won’t disguise my ignorance by calling what I wish for Apollo, Zeus, Vishnu, Jehovah, Allah, or God. Thus we return to our previous themes—connection with something more than ourselves and to the desire for a fully meaningful reality.

      27. Ignorance and of Hope

Our ignorance provides another justification for our hope. As we have seen, we don’t know if there is one or an infinite number of universes, if we live in a simulation, if we will become as gods or if they already exist among the stars. We don’t know the nature of ultimate reality or if it is or will ever become meaningful. What this implies, at the very least, is that we not be arrogantly dogmatic about the nature of reality.

Now if we knew that life was absurd and meaningless, intellectual honesty would demand that we accept that truth. But we don’t know this, anymore than we know that life is meaningful. So our ignorance provides a space for the possibility that ultimate reality may be intelligible and meaningful in ways we simply cannot now even imagine. Thus we can hope while maintaining our intellectual integrity. If you despair, remember that you don’t know life is meaningless anymore than you know the opposite.

    28. Hope and Meaning

No, I don’t know if life is or will become fully meaningful; if truth, beauty, goodness, and justice matter; if there is any recompense for our efforts to bring about justice; if suffering can be ameliorated; if cosmic evolution leads to higher levels of being and consciousness; or if anything matters at all. I don’t know if my wishes will be fulfilled or my hopeful attitude can be sustained. But I see no value in giving into despair, at least not yet. If the time comes when I judge my life no longer valuable, then I hope to have the option to end it. For now, though, I still have attitudinal hope and still engage in wishful hoping. And when I can no longer hope, I hope that others will carry on.

    29. Losing Hope

Still, any of us can lose our hope and give in to despair because hope and despair exist in a dialectical relationship. We can respond to despair with hope, and within hope, there is always the possibility of despair. To despair is to say that nothing is worthwhile; to hope is to affirm that your concern, your action, your love, and your life, all matter.

Yet, it is easy from the safety of my study, and with an adequate supply of life’s necessities, to opine about the value of hope. No doubt some people are in hopeless situations—starving, fleeing violence, in unremitting pain, serving life in prison, being tortured by solitary confinement, etc. For them hope is no salve and their lives perhaps no longer worth living. These hopeless situations should make us all weep as they make a mockery of what human life should be.

      30. What Hope Recommends

But, for those of us lucky enough not to be in hopeless situations, hope demands that we forgo acceptance and resignation and to try to improve the world. Be sympathetic, but act! We may not succeed, but we can try. And, even if the abyss awaits, its best to live honestly and courageously. As James Fitzjames Stephens taught me long ago:

We stand on a mountain pass in the midst of whirling snow and blinding mist, through which we get glimpses now and then of paths which may be deceptive. If we stand still we shall be frozen to death. If we take the wrong road we shall be dashed to pieces. We do not certainly know whether there is any right one. What must we do? ‘Be strong and of a good courage.’ Act for the best, hope for the best, and take what comes. … If death ends all, we cannot meet death better.

    31. Is Hope Enough?

We have discovered that people find meaning in life, and that meaning can be plausibly connected to a meaning of life. We could play a significant and valuable part in a grand cosmic narrative. But we have also found that humility and honesty demand skepticism about the reality of our dreams. In response, we can buttress our resolve with attitudinal and wishful hope. Still, of any proposed solutions about life and meaning, we can always ask whether it’s enough.

But then, what would count as enough? The problem is that nothing would be enough if we expect definitive answers to our questions about life and meaning. If our expectations are too high they will be dashed. Our questions simply don’t allow for the precision of mathematics or physics—the best we can do is to adumbrate. But if there is a voluntary component here, if we have a modicum of free will, then we can be optimistic, we can hope. And while this isn’t an answer, being optimistic and having hope helps us live well.

Of course, some will still not be satisfied. They imagine that Apollo lives on Mt. Olympus and gives life meaning or they accept some other childish nonsense. Many prefer having the void as purpose rather than being devoid of purpose. They are so forlorn that the bromides of popular religion, philosophy, and politics appeal to them.

But if we accept our ignorance in this infinite and to us mostly unknown universe and if we reject illusory nonsense, then we can begin to better understand how we might play a meaningful part in a cosmic drama that leads, hopefully, onward and upward to higher levels of being and consciousness. We may really be as links in that golden chain.

So let us reject pain, death, and destruction and try to create a better and more meaningful reality. We must grow up and take our destiny into our own hands. For we are responsible for the truth and lies, the beauty and the ugliness, the love and the hate. And we can find meaning in life by playing our small role in making life increasing meaningful. Surveying our long past and indefinite future I’ll end by echoing the poetry of the great biologist Julian Huxley:

I turn the handle and the story starts:
Reel after reel is all astronomy,
Till life, enkindled in a niche of sky,
Leaps on the stage to play a million parts.

Life leaves the slime and through the oceans darts;
She conquers earth, and raises wings to fly;
Then spirit blooms, and learns how not to die,
Nesting beyond the grave in others’ hearts.

I turn the handle; other men like me
Have made the film; and now I sit and look
In quiet, privileged like Divinity
To read the roaring world as in a book.

If this thy past, where shall thy future climb,
O Spirit, built of Elements and Time!

A Philosopher’s Lifelong Search for Meaning – Part 7 – Optimism and Hope

continued from a previous entry

    22. Attitudinal Optimism

One response to the failure of our intellectual analysis to demonstrate that life is or is becoming fully meaningful is to adopt, to the extent it’s possible, certain attitudes to help us live in the face of the unknown. Let’s consider two potentially helpful attitudes—optimism and hope.  

Optimism is a tendency to expect the best possible outcome. Optimists believe that things will improve, while pessimists believe that things will worsen. I wholeheartedly reject such optimism because I don’t expect good outcomes or have faith that the future will be better.

Optimism also refers, not to expectations about the future, but to an attitude that we have in the present. This kind of optimism sees the glass as half-full rather than half-empty or looks on the bright side of life. Such optimism is generally beneficial—you tend to be happier seeing the glass half full. Thus I recommend this attitudinal optimism if it excludes expectations about the future which can easily lead to disappointment.

    23. Attitudinal Hope

Hope also need not refer to an expectation but to an attitude we have in the present; a kind of hope illuminated by contrasting it with its opposite—despair. When we despair, we no longer care; we give up because our actions don’t seem to matter. After all, why play a game we can’t win or fight for a better world if it’s impossible to bring one about?

So attitudinal hope entails caring, acting, and striving. To hope is to reject despair—to care although it might not matter; to act in the face of the unknown; and to not give up. I don’t know if my actions will improve my life or help bring about a meaningful cosmos, but I can choose to hope, care, act, and strive toward those goals nonetheless. Again, this hope isn’t about future expectations; it’s an attitude which informs my present while rejecting despair or resignation. Such hope is the wellspring for the cares and concerns which manifest themselves in action.

Moreover, if I despair I won’t enjoy my life as if I adopt a hopeful attitude. Thus there is also a pragmatic reason for adopting a hopeful attitude—it makes my life go better. The only caveat is that the objects of our hopes must be realistic—having false hopes usually makes our lives go worse. In sum, attitudinal hopefulness rejects despair, leads to caring and acting and makes my life better.

A key difference between optimism and hope is that optimists usually believe that a desirable outcome is probable or likely whereas hope is independent of probability assessments. I may hope for unlikely outcomes but it’s hard to be optimistic about them. Another difference is that despair is more debilitating than pessimism. So while recommending both attitudinal optimism and attitudinal hope, I regard hope as somewhat more fundamental.

      24. Wishful Hope

Yet hope is more than simply an attitude we adopt in the present; it also entails having certain desires, dreams, wants or wishes for the future. Again I reject such hopes if they include the idea of expectations, but I can have desires, dreams, wishes, or wants without expecting that they will be fulfilled. (I can wish or want to win the lottery without expecting to win.) Note this hopeful wishing is not faith since I don’t believe or have faith that my wishes will come true.

Like attitudinal hope, wishful hope rejects despair and spurs action. Hopes provide the impetus for acting, which in turn makes the fulfillment of what I hope for more likely. This connection between wishful hoping and action is straightforward. If I hope to become a physician and nothing prevents me from becoming one, then that desire may motivate me to act. In this sense, there is nothing intellectually objectionable or detrimental about wishful hoping—as long as there is a realistic possibility that such hopes can be fulfilled.

However, if the objects of our hopes are unachievable then hoping for them is futile—we set ourselves up for disappointment if we hope for the unattainable. Conversely, realistic hopes generally make our lives go better because they give us reason to live and to find meaning in the projects motivated by our hopes. I wholeheartedly recommend wishful hope.

to be continued next week …

A Philosopher’s Lifelong Search for Meaning – Part 6 – Skepticism and Meaning

continued from a previous entry

  1. Skepticism

Yet, as we ascend these mountains of thought, we are brought back to earth. Looking to the past we see that truth, beauty, goodness, love, and meaning have emerged from cosmic evolution but so too have ignorance, loneliness, war, cruelty, despair, poverty, and pain. Surely serious reflection on this misery is sobering and we must temper our optimism accordingly.

We should also remember that if we find patterns of progress in evolution, we might be victims of confirmation bias. After all, progress isn’t the whole story of evolution—most species and cultures have gone extinct, a fate that may soon befall us. Furthermore, this immense universe (or multiverse) is largely incomprehensible to our three and a half pound brains, so we should hesitate to substitute an evolutionary view for our frustrated metaphysical longings. If reflection reveals that our deepest wishes may come true, our skeptical alarm bell should go off. For we want to know, not just to believe.

Yes, cosmic and biological evolution—and later the emergence of intelligence, science, and technology—leave us awestruck. But this doesn’t imply that we are meant to be here or that human consciousness was inevitable. It is only because we value our life and intelligence that we succumb to anthropocentrism. The trillions and trillions of evolutionary machinations that led to us might easily have led to different results—ones that didn’t include us. We want to believe evolution had us as its goal—but it did not.  We are radically contingent, our existence serendipitous. Like the dinosaurs, we too could be felled by an asteroid.

So while we can say that meaning has emerged in the evolutionary process, we cannot say these trends will continue as evolution proceeds. We are moving, but we might be moving toward our own extinction, toward universal death, or toward eternal hell. We long to dream of better worlds but our skepticism awakens us from our Pollyannish imaginings. The evolution of the cosmos, our species, and our intelligence give us some grounds for believing that life might become more meaningful, but they offer no guarantees.  

Here then is the essence of the problem. Despite our best efforts we may collectively fail to bring about this meaningful reality we imagine. In other words, while we know how life could be fully meaningful, we don’t know if it is or will become fully meaningful. We could only know that sub specie aeternitatis. So it seems that we can’t erase all our doubts or allay all our fears. As long as we are committed to intellectual integrity we must admit that life may be utterly absurd, futile, and meaningless. All of reality may be heading … nowhere. Our lives, our cares, our dreams … all for naught.

to be continued next week

A Philosopher’s Lifelong Search for Meaning – Part 5 – Transhumanism and Meaning

continued from a previous entry

  1. A Fully Meaningful Cosmos

Thus there are plausible reasons to believe that individual and cosmic death might be avoided. Yet immorality doesn’t guarantee a meaning of life, as the idea of hell so graphically illustrates. Immortality is a necessary but not a sufficient condition for a fully meaningful reality. But what do we mean by fully meaningful?

Meaningful things matter and they are good. But to be fully meaningful they must matter completely, be perfectly good and last indefinitely. The more we and the cosmos matter, the better we and the cosmos are, and the longer we and cosmos last, the more meaningful they are. In other words, a fully meaningful life and a fully meaningful cosmos are as significant, good, and long-lasting as they can possibly be. An individual life and the cosmos can be partly meaningful without meeting all of these conditions but they cannot be fully meaningful.

Can we then create a fully meaningful cosmos? I think this is plausible. To bring about such a glorious future we must enlarge our consciousness, perfect our moral natures, and overcome all human limitations. The philosophy which underlies these ideas is called transhumanism.

  1. Transhumanism and Fully Meaningful Cosmos

Transhumanism is an intellectual movement that aims to transform and improve the human condition by developing and making available sophisticated technologies to greatly enhance human intellectual, physiological, and moral functioning. Transhumanism is based on the idea that humanity in its current form represents an early phase of its evolutionary development. A common transhumanist thesis is that human beings may eventually transform themselves into beings with such greatly expanded abilities that they will have become godlike or posthuman. Notably, this includes defeating the limitation imposed by death.

Now we may fail in these efforts, succumbing to asteroids, pandemics, nuclear annihilation, malevolent artificial intelligence, climate change, vacuum decay, a new Dark Ages, or scenarios we can’t now fathom. But if we do nothing, we will certainly perish. Without sci-tech we are helpless in the face of asteroids, pandemics, and all the rest. On the other hand, if sci-tech conquers individual and universal death and enhances our intellectual and moral faculties, then it will create the conditions that may eventually bring about a fully meaningful reality.

  1. Transhumanism and Religion

What will be the effect of transhumanism on religion? If sci-tech defeats suffering and death religion will have lost its raison d’être—to soften the blow of suffering and death and to give life meaning. For who will pray for heavenly cures, when the cures already exist on earth? Who will die hoping for a reprieve from the gods, when science offers immortality? Who will look elsewhere for meaning when the world boasts a plenitude of it.

So, as our descendants continue to distance themselves from their past, they will lose interest in the gods. In a thousand or a million years our descendants, traveling through an infinite cosmos or virtual realities with augmented minds, won’t find their answers in ancient scriptures. Robust superintelligence won’t cling to the primitive mythologies that once satisfied ape-like brains.

Now some say that transhumanism is just a high-tech substitute for old-time religion and, yes, transhumanism has religious components. Transhumanists want infinite being, consciousness, and bliss as do those who imagine a beatific vision or other heavenly rewards. But there is a vast difference between having faith in the existence of a heaven and gods and actively trying to create them. Posthumans won’t die and go to heaven, they’ll (hopefully) create a heaven. In the future, the gods will exist … only if we become them.

The implication of all this is that we must take control of our destiny; we must become the protagonists of the evolutionary epic. If we don’t play God, no one will. There are risks, but with no risk-free way to proceed, we either evolve or we will die. That is the transhumanist message. But does the past offer any indication that the future really will be unimaginably better and more meaningful?

  1. Cosmic Evolution and the Meaning of Life

Fortunately, a study of cosmic evolution supports the idea that life has become increasingly meaningful, a claim buttressed primarily by the emergence of beings with conscious purposes and meanings. Where there once was no meaning or purpose—in a universe without mind— there now are meanings and purposes. These meanings and purposes have their origin in the matter which coalesced into stars and planets, which in turn supported organisms that evolved complex brains. (I am also sympathetic with panpsychism which posits that mind was present from the beginning. Either panpsychism or emergentism explains mind.) And, since the minds from which meaning and purpose emerge are a part of the universe, part of the universe has meaning too.

This has a further profound implication—the universe is partly conscious. The story of cosmic evolution is of a universe becoming self-conscious through the conscious minds that emerge from it. Nature creates consciousness which in turn contemplates nature. Reality has grown the eyes so to speak with which it sees itself. We are as windows, vortexes, apertures or nodes through which the universe has become and continues to become ever more self-conscious. In short, when we contemplate the universe, it is partly conscious; and when we have purposes and meanings, parts of the universe do too.

But will the cosmos become increasingly conscious and meaningful? Will it progress toward complete meaning, or approach meaning as a limit? We can’t say for sure but there is a trajectory to past evolution: molecular processes were organized into cells; cells into organisms, and human organisms into families, tribes, cities, and nations. Uninterrupted, this could lead to global and interstellar cooperatives, with a concomitant increase in intelligence that may eventually lead to an omnipotent command of matter and energy—even to omniscience itself.  

Think of it this way. If the big bang could expand into a universe almost a hundred billion light-years across, if some of the atoms in stars could become us, and if unconscious random genetic evolution and environmental selection could give rise to conscious beings, then surely we can direct cosmic evolution toward more perfect forms of being and consciousness. Or perhaps the universe is consciously doing this itself, as some panpsychists suggest. So there are good reasons to believe that reality may become increasingly meaningful.

  1. The Meaning of Life

If we try to improve reality we may actualize its potential for full meaning. If we are successful in this project we will have been a part of something larger than ourselves. The part will have been meaningful in bringing about a fully meaningful whole. The meaning we found in our lives would then have been connected to  … the meaning of life. In other words, the best ways to find meaning in life contribute to creating a meaning of life.  

In practice, this implies that we find the deepest meaning in life by playing our small role in this upward progression of cosmic evolution. Individually our efforts are minuscule but collectively they transform reality. We do this in relatively mundane ways—nurturing our children, helping others, increasing our knowledge, caring for the planet, loving as best we can. These are simple things yet, simultaneously, they are the most important and meaningful ones.

Here then is our cosmic vision. In our imagination, we exist as links in a golden chain leading onward and upward toward higher levels of being, consciousness, truth, beauty, goodness, justice, joy, love and meaning—perhaps even to their apex. We dream that our descendants will gradually transform and perfect their moral and intellectual natures, make themselves immortal, and bring about a fully meaningful reality. And if all this comes true then there is a meaning of life.

to be continued next week

A Philosopher’s Lifelong Search for Meaning – Part 4 – Death and Meaning

continued from a previous entry

  1. Is There A Heaven?

Belief in personal immortality is widespread, yet there is little if any evidence for it. We don’t personally know of anyone coming back from the dead to tell us about an afterlife, and after people die they appear, well, dead. Yet people cling to any indirect evidence they can—near-death experiences, reincarnation and ghost stories, communication with the dead, etc. However, none of this so-called evidence withstands critical scrutiny.

Modern science generally ignores this supposed evidence for an afterlife for multiple reasons. First, the idea of an immortal soul plays no explanatory or predictive role in the scientific study of human beings. Second, overwhelming evidence supports the view that consciousness ceases when brain functioning does. If ghosts, souls, or disembodied spirits exist, then some of the most basic ideas of modern science are mistaken—which is very unlikely.

Now this cursory treatment of the issue doesn’t show that an afterlife is impossible. For that, we would need to answer complicated philosophical questions about personal identity and the mind-body problem. Suffice it to say that explaining either the dualistic theory of life after death—where a soul separates from the body at death and lives forever—or the monist theory—where a new body related to the earthly body lives on forever—is extraordinarily difficult. In the first case substance dualism must be defended and in the second case, the miraculous idea of the new body must be explained. Either way, the philosophical task is daunting. Clearly, the scientific winds are blowing against these ancient beliefs.

So while personal immortality based on supernatural considerations is logically possible, it’s easy to see that it isn’t very plausible. In the end, wishful thinking best explains belief in immortality, not reason and evidence. Therefore, I live under the assumption that my consciousness depends on a functioning brain and when my brain ceases to functions so will I. When I die, I doubt that I’ll move to a better neighborhood.

  1.  Death Is Bad For Us

But maybe death isn’t so bad. After all, there are undoubtedly fates worse than death. An indefinite hell is much worse and more meaningless than oblivion, and I prefer death to relatively short intervals of incarceration, dementia, or pain.

Nonetheless, death is bad because being dead deprives us of the good things of life. If life is on balance a good thing, then we are harmed by being dead even if death is devoid of experience. Note too that our aversion to death isn’t motivated exclusively by selfish concerns. We also don’t want others to die because we don’t want their value to be lost. In other words, our protestation against death reveals our fidelity to the intrinsic value of those we love.

Some people gainsay our worries about death, arguing that we should care no more about not existing after death than we now do about not having existed before death. But those situations aren’t symmetrical. While most of us want to live indefinitely into the future, almost no one wants their lives extended indefinitely into the past. We just care more about the future. We prefer a day’s suffering in the past to an hour’s suffering in the future; we prefer an hour’s pleasure in the future to a day’s pleasure in the past. Death doesn’t mirror prenatal nonexistence.

Others, including many intellectuals, claim that death is really good for us because immortality would be boring, hopeless, or meaningless. But people who say such things either really want to die or they deceive themselves. I think it’s generally the latter—they adapt their preferences to what seems inescapable. Happy, healthy people almost never want to die and are despondent upon receiving a death sentence. People cry at the funerals of their loved ones, accepting death only because they think it’s inevitable. I doubt they would be so accepting if they thought death avoidable.

So here’s our situation. After all the books and knowledge, memories and dreams, cares and concerns, effort and struggle, voices and places and faces, then suddenly … nothing. Is that really desirable? No, it isn’t. Death is bad. Death should be optional.

  1. Individual Death and Meaning

What makes death especially bad is that being dead deprives us of the possibility of any future meaning. While death may not completely extinguish the meaning we find and create in life, it detracts significantly from that meaning by limiting the duration of our lives. This is easy to see. A life of a thousand years provides the possibility for more meaning than a life of fifty years, and the latter provides the possibility for more meaning than a life of five years. All other things being equal, a longer life holds the possibility for more meaning than a shorter one. And, needless to say, our deaths limit the amount of meaning we can contribute to other’s lives.

Nonetheless, many people claim that the prospect of our deaths actually makes life more meaningful by creating in us an urgency to live meaningfully now. But this isn’t true for everyone. Some people know their lives will be short and still live meaningless lives while others have good reasons to believe they will live long lives and still live meaningfully. Moreover, even if our imminent deaths focused us in this way that doesn’t justify all the meaning lost by our being dead.

However, while our individual deaths limit the meaning we can find and create in our lives, it’s still possible for there to be a meaning of life even if we die. If what ultimately matters isn’t our little egos but some larger purpose, and if our deaths somehow serve that purpose, then death may be acceptable. If this is true, then we could take comfort knowing that, after we’ve gone, others will pick up where we left off. By contrast, note how we recoil at the thought that shortly after we die all life will end or get worse. It seems then that some things do matter to us besides ourselves. Thus our deaths—while bad for us and others—don’t necessarily undermine the possibility of there being a meaning of life.

  1. Cosmic Death and Meaning

However, cosmic death seemingly eliminates both meaning in and of life. The meaning we find in life might have had some small significance while we were living but cosmic death largely if not completely undermines that meaning. As for the meaning of life, it’s impossible to see how there can be one if everything fades into nothingness.

Now we might avoid our cosmic descent into nothingness and its implications if one of these conjectures is true: the death of our universe brings about the birth of another one; the many worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics is true; other universes exist in a multiverse; or, if all descends into nothingness, a quantum fluctuation brings about something from this nothing. Or maybe nothingness is impossible as Parmenides argued long ago.

Such speculative scenarios lead us back to the idea that something must be eternal for there to be a meaning of life. For if nothingness—no space, no time, nothing for all eternity—is our fate then all seems futile. We may have experienced meaning while we lived, and the cosmos may have been slightly meaningful while it existed, but if everything vanishes for eternity isn’t it all pointless? And, unfortunately, death appears inevitable for both ourselves and the cosmos. How then do we avoid feeling forlorn?

  1. Scientific Immortality: Individual and Cosmic

Science is the most powerful method of gaining knowledge that humans have ever discovered; it is the only cognitive authority in the world today. Science is provisional, always open to new evidence, but therein lies its power. Like an asymptote where a line continually approaches a curve, scientific ideas slowly get closer to the truth as they advance. The practice of science winnows out bad ideas, leaving behind ever more robust ideas and the technologies they spawn. The entire technological world surrounding us attests to the truth of science. Put simply, if you want to fly, use an airplane; if you want to compute, use a computer; if you want to kill your infection, take an antibiotic; and if you want to protect your children, get them vaccinated.

One implication of all this is that, while a supernatural afterlife is highly unlikely, science and technology (sci-tech) may eventually conquer death. It’s possible that future generations will possess the computing power to run ancestor simulations; that my cryogenically preserved brain can be reanimated; that my consciousness can be uploaded into a robotic body or computer-driven virtual reality; or that some combination of nanotechnology, genetic engineering, artificial intelligence, and robotics will defeat death. Individual immortality is plausible, maybe even inevitable, if sci-tech continues to progress. Perhaps our deaths aren’t inevitable after all.

As for the cosmos, our posthuman descendants may be able to use their superintelligence to avoid cosmic death by altering the laws of physics or escaping to other universes. And even if we fail other intelligent creatures in the universe or multiverse might be able to perpetuate life indefinitely. If superintelligence pervades the universe, it may become so powerful as to ultimately decide the fate of the cosmos. Perhaps then cosmic death isn’t foreordained either.

to be continued next week …