Thursday, April 10, 2014

I is for Immortality

Humans spend a lot of time contemplating death.  In general, though we know we’ll die eventually, we do what we can to prevent it.  Medical advances have been increasing life expectancy, and there is good reason to believe that scientists will continue to research cures for the ailments that afflict us.  Will those efforts one day lead us to virtual immortality?  Would that even be a desirable outcome?

One way we could potentially extend life is through replacing body parts as they wear out.  This could either be through building mechanical replacements, turning one into a cyborg.  It could also entail cloning human organs and transplanting them.  (The film The Island shows entire cloned people being kept in reserve for the instance when the original might need a transplant from them.)  Or perhaps the entire body could be cloned, and the memories of the person transferred from the old, worn-out body into the new one.  Could such a transfer be possible?  If you attempt to transfer a person’s memories and personality, could something be lost in that transfer?  Do you think he/she would count as being the same person after undergoing such a procedure?

Image courtesy of emtotskee/
Science fiction has also played with the idea of downloading a person’s consciousness into a computer.  In the Doctor Who episodes “Silence in the Library” and “Forest of the Dead” we see people kept as digital information inside the planet’s data core.  The upcoming film Transcendence also deals with downloading someone to cheat death.  The question is, is this really cheating death?  How do you know that the downloaded consciousness is the same person?  What if something is lost in the transfer?  Could a human consciousness cope with being taken away from a physical body, or would the shift be so dramatic that it could drive them to madness?  Or would they be liberated to become something superior to humans?  Would they even count as human beings anymore?

There are so many unknowns that it’s impossible to answer these questions with absolute certainty.  I’d like to leave you with one final question though.  If you could become immortal, would you want to?  Would living forever be a gift, or a burden?  (I’m thinking of the Star Trek Voyager episode “Death Wish” as I write this.)


  1. I think I'd like to try immortality because living without fear of death sounds like it could be fun, but I would want a way out when I'd had enough. I also wouldn't want to have to prey on others for it. The idea of never being able to die ever is horrific - what happens when all life in this universe ceases. And how could you keep all that information from living in one human brain?
    Tasha's Thinkings - AtoZ (Vampires)
    FB3X - AtoZ (Erotic Drabbles)

  2. I am thinking about adding an immortal creature or two in my next story. That would be cool.

  3. I think I'd rather grow old and die gracefully, although I admit it would be kind of fun to be immortal - you'd live through so many time periods; think of all the things you'd see! But I think it would get really boring after a while.

  4. I honestly don't know. If I had someone to share it with...maybe.

  5. Being immortal sounds good, but there should be a peaceful exit in case it's not an easy path. This is such an interesting topic.

  6. The question of whether or not one would choose to be immortal makes me think about when people say they'd choose differently if they had it all to do over. I'm suspicious of this because human nature shows we tend to repeat our mistakes. BTW, this is timely in that I'm currently teaching "Frankenstein." #AtoZChallenge

  7. I don't know if I could refuse the temptation of immortality. I know right away it would be a curse. I read a novelization of Death Wish, which expanded what things were like in the Q Continunum when they visited. I think it spoke volumes about the curse and burden of immortality. What do you do when you have done everything. (I loved the explanation of the scarecrow).

    I guess it would also depend on what you look like as well. Life is most enjoyable when you look young. If you were old and live forever, you would get bored quickly in my opinion.

  8. I'm glad Ato Z led me here. I'll visit a lot. You mentioned two of my favorite things Star Trek (ok not Voyager, I'm a TOS,NextGen,DS9 person) and Doctor Who. And Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead are two of the most amazing episodes ever.

  9. There is no way I'd want immortality. Maybe it's because I believe in Heaven? I don't know Life is hard. Seems like Heaven will be easier to deal with (one day...God willing).
    Visual Proof