Saturday, 30 July 2016

In the days that remain to each of us

Form is nothingness. Nothingness is form. All that has colour and shape will one day disappear.

Such is the inevitability of mortality and the progression of time, whether it concerns a flower, a human being or even a mountain. The celebration of life is simultaneously the acknowledgement of death. In this the only distinguishing thing is how each of us self-aware beings handle the briefness of our existence.

To simply ignore it; to submerge oneself into the shallowness of human societies, to perhaps accept that life cannot accept without death. This is one way. It is also a way which forbids the questioning of one's own mortality and along with it the very definition of one's self. What's mortal about us are our bodies. What will vanish one day is that which is material. All that which has colour and shape will one day return to nothingness.

The simple conclusion I drew as a child when I found myself struggling with the inevitability of my own death, was to realise this simple truth. While my body as it exists today will die - just as it is busy dying every single second - that part of me which is actually 'me', being my memories and the resulting personality, is not bound to this body or even this particular brain.

Essentially my conclusion back then was that immortality is merely a technological and scientific challenge. It was this realisation which drove me so strongly over the past decades to pursue software and hardware development, quantum physics, classical physics, biology, artificial intelligence and many more topics which would likely prove to be useful at some point during this project.

There is not, and cannot be, any forced decision in such a matter of whether one seeks to embrace mortality or to reject it. I know many people who are vehemently opposed against the idea of immortality, as it clashes with their perception of the world as they know it. Yet similarly, I know many others who share my view. People who can see beyond these mortal shells and perceive what truly makes us who we are.

In all of this there is an inherent tragedy: much as it has throughout human history, the concept of free choice has been mostly a bald-faced lie. To have free choice one needs to be simultaneously capable of reasoning, be in possession of the relevant facts and be free to act upon the conclusion one reaches. As far as I can perceive, the embracing of mortality is to give up on one's humanity, to allow oneself to be extinguished.

We only have the briefest of moments on this planet, in this universe. A moment during which we must either choose our destiny or to let others choose it for us either through us relinquishing the choice or by having it forcefully denied to us. Even if we had a full hundred years to dedicate ourselves to the question of whether we would embrace immortality, or accept nothingness, it is doubtful many of us could reach a conclusion during that time.

Is one truly happy living less than a decade, or is it just what we tell ourselves? Is to face the prospect of sudden death or a slow, painful death through disease or age something which truly makes us into who we are? Would we lose something important if we could live century after century, millennium after millennium with nary a care for such mortal matters?

My personal view on this is that such matters only concern a mortal body and by abandoning such worries the mind can be freed to pursue the exploration of the universe and all the knowledge it contains in earnest. I am firmly convinced that the only way to better, maybe even save humanity is through immortality.

Yet as stated earlier this is not a decision which can be forced upon anyone. Just as those who embrace mortality shall not judge those who embrace immortality, the same is true in reverse. It would hurt to see some lives be extinguished, but in the end a truly free choice has to be respected.

That is one of the things which makes us human, after all.



Inner Prop said...

Are you working on transhumanist efforts?

How do you feel about the idea of post-genderism?

I concur with what you have said in this post, but I'm not really sure where you were going with it. Are you advocating transcendence or other life extension efforts?

Maya Posch said...

@Inner Prop - I'm a big fan of transhumanist efforts, yes.

I feel that while initially humanity may focus more on life-extension efforts, eventually we'll transcend these biological bodies. Who needs gender when we're all just intelligences capable of inhabiting any body we'd like, immortal and capable of spawning a new intelligence without any need for anything as icky as (a)sexual reproduction? :)