Prepare yourselves, my temporally-challenged human friends. At some point in the nearish future, scientists will be able to stop humans from aging physically. They’ve already reversed the aging process in lab rats. I’m not kidding; read all about it.
The subject has lots of scary, civilization-disrupting implications we could discuss, but let’s set that aside for the moment. I’m more interested in the lived experience of the a immortal. Will they put their pants on one leg at a time just like the rest of us?
Immortality will banish a few common human concerns, but it will make some even worse. I’ve broken this into two lists below. It’s important to categorize this now because when the never-dies show up, I plan to get hired as a life consultant. Here we go.
THINGS THE IMMORTALS WON’T HAVE TO WORRY ABOUT
A Ticking Biological Clock
Babies? Meh. Maybe next century.
If you stop aging at twenty-five, the pressure is off. You can have kids whenever you want. But with no timeline to live by, do you put it off forever? I expect the birthrate among immortals to be a tiny fraction of that it is for us normals. And that’s before you even consider the overpopulation issue…
Aging Out of Physical Skills and Sports
I expect that a lot of immortals—if they so choose—will become world-class athletes in a host of different sports. Without a finite timeline, you can dedicate yourself to perfecting that badminton game for a hundred years straight, improving with every century.
We fear missing out on the life, especially with constant reminders that everyone we know is out doing so much more, so much more often. But once you get the forever treatment, you can look at others’ social media experience photos and laugh. You have all time to one-up them in the experience game.
Missing Out on Peak TV
Don’t stress. Ignore the world. Apply yourself steadily and methodically to consuming television content. You can go outside next century.
THINGS THE IMMORTALS WILL HAVE TO WORRY ABOUT
Seems counterintuitive, right? But stopping the aging process doesn’t mean you can’t die. A moving company can still drop a piano on your head. If someone is making immortal humans, then someone is probably making immortal rabid bats, too.
It begs the question: will a human value her own biological life more when she thinks it might never end, or when she thinks it is finite? I suspect an end to the fear of aging will inspire heightened fear of commonplace dangers. Immortals never going outside, never taking risks, never handling sharp objects…
Sterilized, pre-treated breathing air only, please.
(get back! scissors)
Just because you don’t age physically doesn’t mean you won’t get tired of your job. You will need to retire at some point, and the financial planning is gonna be a nightmare because, well, eternity. What about a compromise? Two hundred years working, two hundred years off…
We will need a special type of career counselor for immortal teens. If you live forever, you better LOVE what you do.
Prediction: every immortal will be either an artist or a food critic.
Most of us normals get to look back at our youthful photos and laugh at the styles we wore. It can be cringeworthy, but it’s an accepted rite of passage.
Immortals, however, will always look youthful. Those 2033 prom pics with the fake alligator-skin leggings that were briefly in fashion? They will haunt the immortals in a special way in 2053 because it might as well be yesterday.
Immortals will need to develop a specific “eternal” fashion that never changes. I’m guessing purple robes and leather gloves that reach to the elbow.
Long, Long, Long, Long-Term Political and Environmental Trends
There is an ever-present threat of a giant asteroid smashing into Earth and ending us all, but I don’t worry about it too much. We lack technology even remotely capable of combating such a threat, so it’s a waste of time think about it.
Not so for the immortals. Every distant, slow-moving threat becomes terribly real. I can already imagine them out protesting in front of whatever governmental body exists at the time, chanting “BUILD THE GIANT ASTEROID SPACE NET NOW!!!”
(I tried to come up with a catchy slogan that would rhyme. I failed.)
This is the flipside of the no “FOMO” issue. If there is no time pressure to get out there and live your life, do you ever take the initiative? It’s quite easy even NOW to spend an entire night on the couch with your television. What happens with those nights are infinite?
Development of immortality = radical improvements in couch technology.
Becoming Nightmarish, Hedonistic Villains
Seems kind of inevitable, right?
I like to think I’m a good person. I eat my vegetables, tip my hat to strangers, and stop to help turtles cross the road.
But even if you’re motivated and rich—enjoying lavish vacations and adventures on the regular—the conventional immortal life will eventually lose its luster. How many centuries pass before you start wanting your own personal cyborg army to guard a castle made of ice?
How long before you start playing chess on the lawn with human pieces?
Maybe it would be nice to stop aging. Maybe it would just be creepy. I don’t know.
Personally, I think that instead of freeing you, immortality would bring more problems and worries than ever. Regardless of your level of wealth or resources going into forever, you’d never have enough. Never rich enough, safe enough, strong enough, or secure enough. The potential trajectories of human civilization would crush you with fear.
Kind of like now, but a hundredfold.
I’m not saying there wouldn’t be positives. When I was twenty, I could eat fifty donuts a day and only feel seriously ill. Now a mere ten donuts gets me there. That’s nothing to sneeze at.
So what have I missed? Would you take the forever treatment and stop aging if it was offered to you free of charge, right on the spot? You’re only given one chance and have no time to think about it—yes or no.
Live with the consequences for all time, or don’t. Tell me what you think.
Enjoy watching The Last Jedi this weekend, everyone. If you’re reading this anytime after the weekend of December 15, 2017, I hope you enjoyed watching The Last Jedi.