I have written extensively on why: 1) we should use technology to defeat death; 2) death is one of the greatest tragedies to befall us; and 3) death makes completely meaningful lives impossible. In my recent post I summarized Nick Bostrom’s story that makes similar points. In response I received this perceptive comment:
Love that story. Given that we now see death as a result of genetic programming. Literally, programmed cell death. You could tell a similar story but have everyone born with a ticking time bomb strapped to them. same point but more accurate. People of the religious or “death gives life meaning” crowd would be arguing against disarming this bomb.
The “ticking time bomb” conveys the sense in which death is always with us, not merely at the end of the road like the dragon-tyrant. In Bostrom’s image you stand in line awaiting your fate—which is bad enough—but strapped to a ticking time bomb you can blow up anytime, which is a more accurate description of our situation. Death is always near.
The deathists—the lovers of death—don’t disarm the bomb because its detonation transports you to a better address—from a slum to a mansion. Even better, in the mansion your mind and body are eternally bathed in a salve of peace, love, and joy. That is the justification for opposing the bomb’s removal.
The problem is this story is fictional. And we know that most people agree because, as I’ve said many times in my blog and books, when humans conquer death, slay the dragon-tyrant, and learn to remove the bomb—they will. And those who have the option to live forever will be eternally grateful that they have the real thing, instead of the empty promises they now pay for each Sunday in church.
Consciousness has come a long way from its beginnings in a primordial soup … but there is so much farther to go. Let’s put our childhood behind us, and make something of ourselves.
I say no man has ever yet been half devout enough;
None has ever yet adored or worship’d half enough;
None has begun to think how divine he himself is,
And how certain the future is.
O strain, musical, flowing through the ages—now reaching hither!
I take to your reckless and composite chords—I add to them,
And cheerfully pass them forward.
~ Walt Whitman
John G. Messerly, Ph.D taught for many years in both the philosophy and computer science departments at the University of Texas at Austin. His most recent book is The Meaning of Life: Religious, Philosophical, Scientific, and Transhumanist Perspectives. He blogs daily on issues of futurism and the meaning of life at reasonandmeaning.com