Is It a Moral Obligation to (Eventually) Die?
The thought experiment came up on family vacation: if you had the choice between uploading your consciousness into a computer, with hopes of being put back into a body eventually and living forever — would you do it?
The standard answer: “of course! That would be SO COOL!!”
At least that was my off-the-cuff answer. I also thought if I found out my parents were secret agents like The Americans when I was 15 I’d be 100% on board, immediately asking to be taught how to pick locks and kick ass.
My family, however, was not a group of secret agents, and put in some real thought on this one.
Why Would You Want to Live Forever?
So…what would you do if you lived forever? Would it be only you, or would your friends and family live on too? What if something went wrong in the computer and you were stuck in and endless cyber-hell?
Good questions Mom and Dad. Let’s put some rules on this puppy.
- Your family and friends could choose to be uploaded as well.
- The worst case scenario is you’re simply interacting with the world through a computer.
- The consciousness and experience really is you, not some mirrored version you don’t know about.
That leaves us with what you would do. What is your purpose? If you can’t use any of your senses (“at least to start” I reminded them), aren’t you missing out on a large part of what life is? Further, what agency do you have to do anything if time is no longer a human constraint?
“If you’re just living for yourself, that’s kind of selfish”
That’s my Mom. Smart woman. More and more, the 5 other family members began opting towards not living forever — especially if their significant other didn’t opt in.
But I was unconvinced.
All the Possibilities
“But my god, think of the resumes people would accumulate!”
You could spend years becoming everything you wanted. A world-class physicist examining space and time (and black holes!). A doctor. You could literally read every book in the world.
All that knowledge stored in one place, or multiple places if stored consciousness became a thing — surely we could pull together to solve some of the world’s biggest problems!
But then again — procrastination would surely soar to new, amazing heights.
What Is It Good For?
Perhaps the deepest and most important considerations are what we believe life is meant to be.
Life, by definition, requires death. In a religious sense, it could be argued that God didn’t put us on earth to live forever (although I’d counter that in this thought experiment, God didn’t do a very good job of making that impossible).
So are we really living, if life is eternal? Even if we eventually were able to make new, 20-year-old bodies to live in, is that life? Or are we breaking some fundamental rule of existence. After all, even planets die.
This Could Be Real
For our entire existence, immortality has been the hallmark of godhood and man’s greatest dream. With advances in technology, I seriously think this may be a decision we could be making in the next 50–100 years.
What would you do?