What, in your opinion, are the downsides to living forever?
I’m not sure we know the answers yet — I know I don’t — because we have always assumed that millions will die every week as we age, essentially purging the planet. And the truth is, brutal as it sounds, that is the way evolution works. Life has evolved to allow most living creatures to wear out and be replaced with newer versions, rather than allowing each living thing to live forever without the need of replacements. We are the first species to change that equation, and if we cure aging, we will change everything at the most profound level, and in ways we simply can’t foresee. It will upend economics, personal relationships, jobs and education, social mores, religion, entertainment. As with all technological advancement, sometimes good things will happen and sometimes bad things will. The creation of the car has given billions of people mobility at the same time those cars are choking the planet and the human race. With unlimited amounts of time, it’s difficult to say how we’ll deal with those issues. The possibilities are both daunting and exhilarating. One way or another, though, we had better begin thinking about it now rather than waiting to be overrun. Because this is going to be a lot bigger than the founding of, say, the Internet, and that’s been pretty profound.
Do you think this idea will be as divisive as assisted suicide? Will people who choose immortality be able to “opt out” at a certain point?
Again, I’m not sure we know because it’s never been done. Right now, because we are living longer, but not necessarily better, people may wish they could commit suicide (and when in hospice to some degree they do). But the idea here is not to only live longer, but to live youthfully, and that changes everything. So, if you feel and look 35 rather than 85 or 95, I suspect you might like to go on for quite some time. On the other hand, I could see a time when people might say, at last, for one reason or another, “OK. That was good. I’m done.” But it will be their choice.
What about boredom and valuing life’s moments. If they’re infinite, how do you appreciate them?
Sometimes, when my children were young, they would say they were bored, and I’d tell them (half kidding) that only boring people are bored. To some degree that’s my answer. I hope that all of us can appreciate each moment as it comes for the moment that it is: painful, exhilarating, enlightening, depressing. And then move on, a little wiser. Hopefully we don’t look at these moments in comparison with one another, or because we will soon run out of them. Every experience should stand on its own. And we should see it as a gift. Is there really a limit to the wonder we can experience? So whether we have 10 years, or a hundred or a thousand, I hope we’ll enjoy each experience, learn from it and grow upon the experience. Already people in this generation are living longer than the previous one. I hope they are enjoying those extra years rather than being bored by them.
What would you do with eternity?
Keep writing, learning and loving. Hopefully, I might even absorb a bit of wisdom here and there.