A popular topic when one brings up things like life extension, biological immortality, or similar subjects is “who would want to live forever, and why?” Pop culture routinely portrays immortality as a bad thing, something you don’t really want. The most obvious way this is done is adding catches to the way immortality works – maybe you’re doomed to just keep decaying physically, or the immortality is just for you and you have to watch all your loved ones die. I’m not going to pretend that I’d want to live like that, either – and that kind of immortality doesn’t seem likely to come about.
But a subtler, more insidious kind of devaluing extended life exists, too. It’s a very simple trick that can be summed up as “wouldn’t life get boring?” This convinces a surprising number of people, and shows up all over in arts and culture.
I don’t know how you feel about life. Maybe you already think it’s a dull slog, and are looking forward to shuffling off this mortal coil, but I doubt it. If you are, you’re probably clinically depressed and should seek medical assistance. It’s weird how the basic assumption that life is good and humans want to continue living doesn’t seem to apply in most people’s minds once you get past a certain age.
Me, I plan on continuing to read good books, watch good shows, play fun games, make friends, make some art myself – in short, doing all the things I enjoy right now. By the time I’ve gotten around to reading every good book on Earth, there ought to be a whole new crop to start in on. It’ll give me the time to master an orchestra’s worth of instruments, improve my cooking skills, get caught up in watching a sport. I’m sure there are things you want to do but haven’t got around to, too.
2.5 million scientific papers are published each year. There are 2.2 million new books published each year, too. YouTube users upload around 400 hours of video footage every minute. Even if you only passively consume scientific papers, new books, and YouTube videos, you will never have nothing to do. And sure, a lot of the stuff folks churn out is probably uninteresting drivel, but if even 1% of this content is good and interesting, you’ll never lack for quality entertainment – not to mention things like movies, video games, blogs, serial fiction, short stories, poetry, exploring the world, having interesting conversations, meeting new people, learning new skills, or being creative and making stuff yourself.
But if even that sounds boring, I’ve got good news. No one is talking about taking away your right to die. Longevity doesn’t have to be all or nothing – you’re not locked in until the stars burn out. If by century 23 it’s starting to get old, you can opt out at any time. Living to be 500 does not mean you need to live to be 1000. What it does mean is that you got to enjoy life for longer than you would have otherwise. If you’re over thirty you’ve already passed a human’s natural lifespan in the wild, and it sure seems like you still enjoy living. Life extension is a serious and personal subject, and I won’t demand you live any longer than you want to – but don’t let the conversation stop when someone says “won’t it get boring?”