A Journal for Western Man

 

 

 

The Advantages of Immortality

G. Stolyarov II

Issue LX- May 28, 2006

 

 

George is a regular wage laborer, industrious, but somewhat frail and easy to tire. Thus George is unable to put in 18 hours every day for running a small business or generating a vast fortune quickly. Had he lived the average human lifespan, he would likely have died owning only a small home and having a fairly marginal discretionary income.

But George is fortunate, for he lives in an age where immortality has just been made a commercial product. The company that markets it has obtained a financially expedient way to maintain George's body against all damage and deterioration, and requires no payment from George; it receives its profits from the advertising companies that pay the immortality service to play its commercials for several hours a day in the minds of people like George (if immortality were possible, this would certainly be possible, too). George can go on working as he works, but indefinitely.

On his 200th birthday, George buys himself a lavish mansion with an adjunct park, where he can take walks, sporting his new tuxedo suit, top hat, and gilded cane, which he would not have been able to afford had he had the average human life span.

On his 500th birthday, George's prudent long-term investments have finally allowed him to start a business of his own. He can allow himself a leisurely work schedule in the meantime, since he has the means to hire a large staff.

On his 600th birthday, George decides to build the tallest skyscraper in the world in order to house his expanding business.

On his 800th birthday, George decides that his profits now enable him to purchase an entire planet and initiate massive resource extraction operations. He decides to spend some of the earnings creating the world's largest gallery of realist art, which he has always admired.

On his 900th birthday, George decides that it is no longer enough to sponsor the arts, and seeks to become an artist. He hires the best teachers available and begins producing paintings himself.

By his 1000th birthday, George has already mastered musical composition, professional writing, sculpture, and the piloting of just about every advanced vehicle imaginable. There are hundreds of new hobbies and specialties that he would like to master, while constantly magnifying his fortune. Because he is now fabulously wealthy, he risks practically nothing when he attempts anything. However, because he understands that he no longer faces the threat of loss or death, he can truly gain and live, venturing into territory that the mortal man, with his immense frailty and susceptibility to the myriad perils of the elements, cannot conceive of.

In the minds of those who think that immortality will only bring boredom, stagnation, and a lack of moral stimulus to succeed, the hypothetical case of George is inconceivable. But why? It has just been conceived of before the reader’s eyes; George begins as a “common man” with fairly common upward ambitions. What differentiates him from the “common man” today is time; George has time to work, save, and accumulate money and skills. Because he will live much longer than people today, he can afford to have longer time horizons; he can make investments that will mature in 200, 300, or 5000 years—knowing that he will be around to enjoy the rewards. If he wishes to succeed in business, he will also need to compete with other immortals who have similarly long-term time horizons and who have accumulated a similarly impressive array of skills. George cannot afford to stagnate; he must move ever upward in a world where technology, wealth, and human faculties grow exponentially.

Time is man's sole true limitation. Any other resource can be compensated for by an individual's effort. If one has been bankrupted or experiences political persecution, one always has the chance of regaining one's funds or assuring enforcement of one's rights over time, so long as one is alive. But, when time saps the very energy needed to live—the very vitality of youth—from a man’s organism, such pursuits become ever more inconceivable. Contrary to the mainstream culture, senescence is not "normal." It is a gradually increasing severance of one's intellectual and fysical capacities from the external reality. When this severance is complete, death results. And one cannot compensate for any lost resources when dead!

There is more to life than mere avoidance of death, just as there is more to pleasure than the avoidance of pain. To claim that one has no point in gaining without the threat of losing—no point in living without the threat of dying—is a quasi-Daoist "coexistence of opposites" mentality, which the upward-aspiring rational man strongly rejects. In my science fiction novel,
Eden against the Colossus, I explain why the rational man can never stop pursuing values, and why immortality will ensure the utter collapse of irrationality.

Religious opponents of immortality contend that immortality in this world would prevent one’s soul from achieving immortality in the next. As a man of reason, I respond that immortality in a world which we are certain exists is superior to the uncertain promise of immortality in another world of which we have no evidence. The primary ethical difference between a man of reason and a man of faith is that the man of reason seeks to eventually create a perfect life in this world, whereas the man of faith sees the perfect life as ultimately given "elsewhere" and thus sees this world doomed to inadequacy and imperfection. Certainly, the status quo is far from perfect, but this does not mean that it is not perfectible.
 
Another major difference between advocates of reason and faith is that the advocates of faith perceive perfection as a static condition, whereas the advocates of reason must in some manner recognize that perfection is inherently dynamic and open-ended. Perfection is a continuous process, not a stagnant plateau. Ayn Rand sought to characterize this in the persons of John Galt and Howard Roark, who—while endowed with firm, constant, and immutable moral principles that fully determine their character—continue to act for the pursuit of values in their buildings and inventions. Yet more is required for a state of this-worldly perfection: 1) perfect health, 2) unmitigated moral integrity, and 3) a ceaseless desire to create and expand. The second and third goals can be achieved in the status quo, but the first goal would require decades more of medical, scientific, and commercial progress.

Every man’s life is not doomed to an eventual ultimate failure; a solution is possible in this world. I contend that any peril can be technologically remedied eventually. This means that sometime in the future—given the requisite economic and political freedoms—man will develop solutions to every known problem plaguing our time. Every disease and potential cause of accident known to us today will someday be cured. If new diseases or causes of accident should arise, they will someday be cured as well.

One might ask: is there not an infinite possibility of diseases or causes of accident? Since the nature of existence does not permit simultaneous infinities, I do not see how this can be the case. If my premise—presented in “Mistakes Concerning Infinity”—is granted, there is only a finite amount of perils that can ever afflict man. Given that man’s conscious faculty is capable of perceiving and interacting with all of reality, there is no reason why it inherently cannot someday devise cures to the entirety of possible perils.

Thus, it is possible that man may someday be indestructible, literally, as a result of employing his own reason. The individuals that devise cures to these perils may make permanent contracts with customers like George, whose invincibility will thus be guaranteed him, without him having to do anything but allow advertisements to be played in his head for a few hours.

Some opponents of immortality might contend that this type of indestructibility is undesirable, for it would do away with the need to maintain a rational morality in order to survive. Yet this need would not be nullified by the advent of immortality.

How would immortality alter the nature of morality if reason was required to devise all these protections? It is impossible to consistently embrace a state of being while rejecting those attributes that brought it about. It is, for example, impossible to reject capitalism while embracing economic prosperity, or to reject individual liberty while embracing moral actions. Once one takes away the prerequisites, the consequences collapse like a skyscraper without a frame or foundation. This was the mistake made by the socialists—who sought to redistribute wealth that free commerce created—and by “progressive” moralists—who sought to impose certain moral actions on people while abolishing the chosen nature of such actions, which renders them moral. Both prosperity and morality collapsed once the socialists and “progressives” had their way.

Any indestructibility obtained through technological immortality would still be conditional upon individual reason—upon the reason of the individuals who invent, maintain, and distribute this life-perpetuating treatment, as well as upon the reason of the individuals who receive it. These individuals must still rationally recognize that life is a value and that they want to have it forever; they must then rationally decide to initiate or continue the life-perpetuating treatment. The moment they genuinely reject reason, they will reject the treatment and will again remain susceptible to the elements. Only a rational morality would make it possible for them to even agree to be immortal and to take the necessary steps to maintain their immortality.  

Immortality would by no means render morality or the pursuit of values meaningless; it would amplify the need for morality and the ambition with which men pursue their values—encouraging men to have longer time horizons and higher levels of productivity in a greater diversity of occupations. The advantages of immortality are as numerous as the time it will add to individuals’ lives.

G. Stolyarov II is a science fiction novelist, independent philosophical essayist, poet, amateur mathematician, composer, contributor to Enter Stage Right, Le Quebecois Libre, Rebirth of Reason, and the Ludwig von Mises Institute, Senior Writer for The Liberal Institute, and Editor-in-Chief of The Rational Argumentator, a magazine championing the principles of reason, rights, and progress. His newest science fiction novel is Eden against the Colossus. His latest non-fiction treatise is A Rational Cosmology. Mr. Stolyarov can be contacted at gennadystolyarovii@yahoo.com.

This TRA feature has been edited in accordance with TRA’s Statement of Policy.

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Learn about Mr. Stolyarov's novel, Eden against the Colossus, here.

Read Mr. Stolyarov's new comprehensive treatise, A Rational Cosmology, explicating such terms as the universe, matter, space, time, sound, light, life, consciousness, and volition, at http://www.geocities.com/rational_argumentator/rc.html.

 

 

 

 

 

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