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Does the Words “Immortality” & “Forever” Do More Harm Than Good for Our Cause?

Posted: Sat, August 03, 2013 | By: Indefinite Life Extension



By: John Leonard

Wikipedia states that Immortality is the ability to live forever, or eternal life. However most religions, including Hinduism, Christianity, Islam, Judaism and Buddhism links immortality with the belief of an afterlife. Such an ideology or concept is mainly referring to an immortal soul. However, certain radical life extension advocates, transhumanists, scientists, futurists and out-of-the-box thinking philosophers have adapted the word immortality under the belief that living humans can continue to live forever.

Are we talking about extending the lifespan of biological humans or merging humans to machines as a new type of techno-sapien species? I think it depends on if you are talking to the general public or some transhumanist group. The later idea is still a few decades away. I will instead argue that Aging fighters and PR advocates of radical life extensions should not be using the word immortality for biological humans and probably doing more harm than good

Many aging fighter sites seem eager to promote radical life extension with the word immortality for biological humans. It is easy to understand but the misinterpretation of the word immortality from the general public and especially religious people point of view is huge.

Most everyone in the last century have grown up thinking that immortality was obtain by dying first and then going to heaven. The first reaction of suddenly hearing that immortality could be obtain in living humans is crazy. You might as well tell them “Pink elephants are flying in the sky” from their point of mind. Even after one would think about such a notion, they may get scared and even angry at such a claim and take it as an attack to their personal beliefs and religion.

Another word that Aging fighters like to use is “Forever”. As with immortality, it is a nice buzz word and can promote longevity. But is it valid? Should we be using the word “forever” in order to advocate to governments into allocating funds toward biotechnology and longevity research?

In mathematics, the meaning forever denotes an infinite duration or everlasting. I will not go into all the different theories to the faith of our known universe regarding this. However theoretical physicists and cosmologists like Lawrence Krauss and Glenn Starkman have argued that a possible scenario of living forever ignores that quantum mechanics limits the number of states that a finite system can have. Furthermore, they stress eternity prohibits any civilization with access to only a finite amount of energy from having more that a finite number of thoughts. As I see it, all matter within our universe cannot stay static in any certain form and living forever is not possible for any biological or non-biological substance. Simply put, there is no such thing as living forever.

When someone mentions forever, what image plays out in your mind? Most humans think of it as a very long time and that is about it. The world models we create in our mind of reality is surprisingly simple. Our mind cannot even comprehend what it would be like to live for a thousand years - even if we like the idea of it. Forever is an abstract word that we seem to easily use without any real comprehension in what it really means. Interesting enough, forever relates to the word Eternity - endless time. Eternity is an important concept in many religions, where the immortality of God or the gods is said to endure eternally. The fact of the matter is, us mere humans do not have the mental capacity to understand the duration of any significant length of time.

If words such as immortality, forever, eternity, endless are not good, what vocabulary can we use? Actually, any word that does not indicate unlimited time duration. We can use phrases like “Extended Lifespans”, “Radical Life Extension”, “Healthy Longevity”, and “Advance Life Expectancy” just to name a few. As I am the lead for Japan Longevity Alliance (part of the ILA - International Longevity Alliance), we usually use “Healthy Longevity” as our buzzword. The ILA Manifesto carefully does not use forever nor immortality to promote longevity causes.

 



Comments:

Yes, these are scary, inexact, and religiously connoted terms.
Those you propose are better, but they remain obscure or scary. The one I used to use and prefer, indefinite lifespan, although correct is likewise obscure and scary.
I propose we switch to something lighter and more comprehensible, and more easily PR’d: continuous youth. I think it’s better to focus on youth than on life/lifespan/longevity, as they carry the notion of prolonged old age, which isn’t what life extension is about. To go with it, a term that is slightly less definitive and also sounds less like engineer-talk.

By Hervé Musseau on Aug 05, 2013 at 4:29am

Living forever without dying is “crazy”.

What a very strange and demented world we live in.

By Ïan on Aug 05, 2013 at 8:12pm


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