The Problem with Immortality

ANONYMOUS: So you've become immortal. Perhaps it was an accident involving a few rubber bands, a liquid lunch, and a particle accelerator. It doesn't really matter, it's done now. You now have to spend the rest of your life figuring out what to do with yourself.

The Problem with Immortality
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At first you do all the dangerous stuff. Hang gliding, cave diving, crack cocaine, etc. You start stabbing yourself at the local bar as a trick to get free drinks. But you're running out of clean shirts that don't have knife holes in them.

You briefly dabble with thoughts of becoming a superhero, but crime never seems to just happen in front of you, and going out and looking for it is just so much work you guys!

You start investing for the long term. You're going to be around forever, what does 5% annual compound interest of $1 look like after 1000 years?

Oh god, you're going to live forever. What does that even mean? You've got some time to kill, so start a hobby that'll take decades or centuries to finish. Then start a new one. Go to university to study physics and take a few hundred years to discover the quantum-gravitational theory, aka the Universal Theory of Everything. Then master every musical instrument and write a symphony, or 10. Then start doing crossword puzzles. You have time to do it all.

Don't develop close feelings for people. They'll all die, but you'll endure, and funerals are depressing (and for you, unnecessary). You can have kids. Lots of kids. But you'll start losing track of them. They only really keep in touch for a few decades. And then they'll have kids and those kids will have kids and eventually you'll lose track of it all. Family doesn't have much meaning anymore once you have a billion or so family members but they all forgot that it was your birthday last Tuesday.

Realize that you'll outlive all of your enemies, you can afford to ignore them and just wait. Why worry about anything, really. Climatechange might make things uncomfortably hot, but you'll endure. The entire banking system may collapse trying to fund the interest on $1 deposited a thousand years ago, but eventually it will recover and you'll be there when it does.

If you want to, you can rule a country. After all, they can't kill the despotic dictator if the despotic dictator can't die. They can lock you up, but eventually all jails crumble, all regimes change.

You realize that even your country will fail at some point, and then you'll be right back where you started, bored on a Sunday night wondering what to do with yourself and all this crack cocaine you've surrounded yourself with, and why you didn't remember until just now that it was your birthday last Tuesday and how you didn't get even a single birthday card.

So forget countries, start up your own religion with you as their god. Call yourself the Undying. Religions last for a long time. The pope held massive power for over a thousand years, kings kneeling before him. You could do that.

Fund AI research. Eventually you may want a friend that won't die. Plus you'll start forgetting things. "Where did I put the bank card to that account I started a thousand years ago?". The AI can help you keep track of things. But keep the self-destruct button close. No one will know you better than your AI companion. But one day you'll have an argument and the AI will try to trap you for all eternity. Or it will go mad and replicate itself infinitely to take over the Earth/universe. You will have to kill it. You will have to kill it and then rebuild it over and over and over again. Remember always to build in a fatal flaw that you can exploit to bring it down. You are immortal, it is your only real competition over time. It is also your only real friend.

They say that your chances of being trapped in a natural disaster are something like 0.1%. But when your life is eternal, the chances of you being trapped in a disaster becomes 100% over time. It will happen at some point. You may spend a few thousand years trapped in the rubble of an earthquake-toppled building that was built over by succeeding civilizations until eventually archaeologists or erosion or another earthquake frees you.

At some point you will lose your sanity. It's inevitable. Try spending 10,000 years buried alive in the rubble of an ancient civilization and still keep your sanity. Try to back up your memory (perhaps in that AI that you built)?

Eventually, with certainly, you will be alone. In a billion years the sun heats up enough that surface water can no longer exist on Earth, which pretty much means the end of all life. All life except you.

In another 3.5 billion years the sun expands and swallows the Earth. Try not to be there when that happens. Maybe you should use the donations from your religion or the interest on that $1 you invested a thousand years ago to fund space research. If only you could remember the bank account number you deposited the $1 into, or if only the bank still exists and didn't collapse after some ponzi scheme they fell for a few centuries ago.

The Earth may be gone now, but you're still going strong. The universe goes on and on, for ever and ever, possibly. Eventually the stars start running out of hydrogen and helium to burn and one by one they all snuff out. The universe goes dark then, no more light, but you'll endure. With no more stars, no more radioactive elements will be created. Eventually, every element that can decay will decay down to base iron. With no more heat from stars or radioactive decay everything will cool down to near-absolute zero, which is unimaginably
cold, but you'll still feel it. You'll feel it forever. You'll still be around.

Forever. In the dark. In the cold. Forever. Forever and ever.

Hopefully you'll have lost your mind long ago.