Desirability of immortality (was: ABC TELEVISION)

Anders Sandberg (
17 Feb 1998 14:45:51 +0100

Henri Kluytmans <> writes:

> Regrettably the most common view, also depicted in many movies and
> television series (including for example in "Raiders of the lost Ark"
> and many Star Trek episodes :-< ), is that wishing to extend your
> life span is unethical and immoral.

But it should be noted that in the third Indiana Jones movie both
father and son drinks from the Grail, presumably becoming immortal
even if that wasn't their reason for drinking.

But overall, the "Tithonus syndrome" is rampant in literature,
including science fiction.

> I recently wrote to a Dutch newspaper where an article quoted a
> theology professor (member of an European ethical commission! :-< )
> claiming that a wish for immortality is not acceptable.
> I stated that it is wrong to decide what is ethically acceptable
> based on a belief. A belief is just a faith, it has not been proven
> and can therefore be wrong. Furthermore there are many different
> believes. "When the church is going to decide what is ethically
> acceptable, we will have returned to the middle ages."

Very true. The desirability of continued life is a question each
person must decide on, it can not and should not be decided by an
outside force.

> Another professor (in philosophy) suggested that immortality will
> result in eternal boredom. He supported this with examples
> from Greek gods, who according to stories did suffer from
> boredom and envied human mortality.

Hmm, the crackpot index by John Baez lists: "20 points for every use
of science fiction works or myths as if they were fact." OK, the index
was intended for "scientific" arguments, but in this case I think it

In discussions like this it is always fun to ask why people are
attracted to the western religions with their promises of eternal
life. If you buy that immortality produces eternal ennui, then heaven
must be worse than most conceptions of hell. Many christians would
probably respond with pointing out that existence heaven is totally
blessed and you cannot by definition become bored with it. But why
can't we modify ourselves so that we do not become bored?

A basic assumption many make is that immortality means it is
*impossible* to die, regardless of how much one wants to. To be
honest, the best we could ever achieve would be indefinite lifespans
(i.e. no aging or other process making death unavoidable) with a very
low (perhaps negligble) probability of dying in an unplanned way.

Anders Sandberg                                      Towards Ascension!                  
GCS/M/S/O d++ -p+ c++++ !l u+ e++ m++ s+/+ n--- h+/* f+ g+ w++ t+ r+ !y