Posted: Sat, July 06, 2013 | By: Indefinite Life Extension
“Unable are the loved to die, for love is immortality” ~ Emily Dickenson
Once we are capable of living for hundreds of years, what will become of our interpersonal human relationships? Life extension, and then radical life extension are realities that are just around the corner. We haven’t caught up to this fact in redefining our relationships. Technology is advancing at a much quicker rate than are our social systems, our family structures, our comprehensive schema about each other and the roles we have in each other’s lives. A serious examination of the elements of interpersonal as well as intrapersonal interactions is needed as we grow toward integrating longevity, artificial intelligence and medical/psychological advances into our rapidly changing realities.
Let’s consider the most extreme relationship; romantic monogamy and it’s social institution of marriage. Although there are many forms; for the sake of brevity I will only discuss heterosexual partnering. Evolutionary psychology suggests that there is a reason the average length of time before a marriage encounters serious problems and many times divorce, is about 4 years. That’s roughly the time it takes to raise a human offspring to some degree of self-sufficiency; when it has enough teeth to stop breast feeding, it’s gross and fine motor skills have reached the point that it could keep up with adults and begin to contribute to group tasks, and it has mastered a significant amount of communication skills. However, before that age it is biologically wise to have two parents watching, protecting and feeding the child. After that time, a pair bond is less useful; at least as far as the child’s basic survival. Many social scientists believe that the institution of marriage as it exists today also had simply utilitarian or economic origins. The idea of mating for love didn’t arise until as recently as the Victorian era. Previously, most cultures recognized and encouraged arranged or politically strategic marriages of one degree or another. So what will become of this relationship when it no longer serves the purpose of passing genetic material safely on through the next generations, or securing political power through amassing land and wealth? What will happen to commitment when you face not 60 years, but 600 years with the same person? Will the addition of AI partners in the bedroom (or kitchen, or living room) enhance intimate pair bonding or degrade it?
We already know that loving relationships increase life span and quality of life. I believe that the first step in this new evolution toward becoming capable of sustaining mental health in longevity was the change from utilitarian couplings, to choosing a partner out of love. I think we are still novices at it. It is messy and frustrating and painful and joyful and ecstatic and passionate and paralyzing all at the same time. The deeper the love; the stronger we feel these things; the stronger our chemistry is responding, the more our brains are being shaped by the experience. We are learning to control this torrent of feeling and channel it into higher forms of being together. We have experienced it for millennia, no doubt, we have sublimated it into art, poetry, music as the force quite literally spills out of us. But now, as we study and understand more about what makes, maintains and is important in human relationships, we begin to see that the next step includes these creative processes, but now needs to be focused on specific issues. I suggest that as we eventually master the art of romantic love, pair bonds will become more intentional, more practical and therefore more meaningful. I see the higher aspects of the human psyche like honesty, empathy and altruism becoming more and more an outward expression. I see a time when something like the ancient European ritual of hand fasting returns. For example, marriage vows may become renewable in five years or fifty or 200 as that becomes the new measure of time. Of course some couples may still choose to bond for eternity. And now it will be more possible and we can also understand better what that entails; making deeper more sincere vows. As couples consciously choose to remain together, the elements of the relationship; trust, commitment, teamwork are enhanced and renewed. Instead of what happens too often today where couples stay together in fear of divorce but communication breaks down, resentments fester and infidelity is rampant. We are evolving toward a more compassionate way of being and relating. I see the introduction of AI into the household as a way to free up more mindful time spent together, as machines take over menial tasks. Perhaps over many generations this will allow for further cognitive evolution and further capacity for psychological bonding through exploration and contribution to the world and beyond. AI sexual partners could also provide new territory for a couple to explore together. Introducing something like that will require at the beginning a foundation of trust, open communication and each partner supporting the emotional and physical needs of the other in novel ways.
This positive direction will of course require courageous intra personal advancement. We will need to dedicate significant time on introspection and insight through meditation, psychotherapy, psychoeducation, creative growth and even embracing personal struggle and overcoming challenges. We will need to push the envelope of our comfort zones emotionally and intellectually; reaching for new landscapes to inhabit and find new identities within. We will need to become more balanced between logic and mystery, knowledge and intuition, practicality and spontaneity. Our tolerance for pain will need to increase as we grow more resilient and able to live in a new world in new ways. We must first examine and care for our internal existences before we then can seek to improve and redefine out external existence. Our intra personal reality must shift before we can navigate the interpersonal changes that are coming to our and the next generations. Before we can develop the compassion to care for a mate for 600 years, or the desire to grow in all directions at once with someone, to overcome the epidemic family breakdown and chaos most children grow up in, we must first look inside. Of course this kind of work will depend on attention to physical health, as mind and body are one. Commitment to keeping oneself healthy through exercise, supplements, nutrition, experiences in nature and avoiding stress will be a necessary part of having the endurance to grow alone and together.
The transhuman evolution that radical life extension will bring begins with each individual and then becomes a collective growth. Increased longevity will redefine our entire understanding of ourselves and each other and our interconnectivity. We have a commitment to seek out the knowledge, skills and resources that will make our transition into longevity productive and healthy; insuring we are taking steps in the right direction to continue to grow with and not away from loving relationships.
Linda Gamble, MA, LMHC is a psychotherapist in private practice in Florida and Georgia. Areas of interest include Depth Psychology, Experiential Therapy, Animal Communication, Clinical Hypnosis, Neuropsychology, Evolutionary Biology and Child Development. She joins Giovanni Santostasi as partner and Psychology Editor at Imortallife.info.