Confounded by people’s strong attachment to Deathism, I posited that they’re probably just automatically reciting back the answers they’ve heard. I thought better results would be achieved by asking “If you could live young and healthy for as long as you wanted, how many centuries would you want to live?” Get people to stop and think, ya know?
So recently when I was the TopicsMaster at a ToastMasters meeting I tossed out that topic, and then picked a random person from the audience. Turns out I had been naively optimistic (again!). The reply was “Just one”, with a standard Deathist elaboration about not wanting to live on without their friends/family.
This was partly my fault for not making it clear that this ability would be society-wide, and not unique magic.
But, with yesterday’s post about emotions being the biological tools of alliance-building still in my mind, I came to another realization. People are being alliance-smart when answering like this.
Right now, biological immortality is impossible. Saying “I’d like to live for hundreds of years” gets you nothing, any more than saying “I’d like to fly and be invisible!” does. When making such fanciful proclamations, the only thing to be gained or lost is the respect of your allies (or potential allies). For someone to say “I am so dedicated and committed to my allies that I would not want to live without them! I would rather die first!” sends a signal that one is a good alliance-partner to have. Loyalty unto death is a highly prized trait in allies. And while sometimes making this claim can be costly (maybe if someone needs an organ donated, or is in trouble with the mafia), it literally costs absolutely nothing to make such a claim in the face of eventual-death-from-old-age, since that’s currently unavoidable anyway!
All this time I think I’ve only been making the Deathist position stronger, by making supporting it have a social payoff. Dammit!
New strategy then – try to flip the tables, and make it look like supporting Deathism is a strike against your allies instead. Because, honestly, it is. You’re taking the position that you’re cool with all your allies dying due to inaction. New phrasing:
“If science cured aging, and your children & loved ones could live young and healthy as long as they wanted, how many centuries do you think we should limit them to?”
That’s probably too crass. But it’s a starting point. And supposedly this difference in thinking can help. When finding that women who ask for raises are much less assertive than their male counterparts, they were advised to stop thinking that they were asking for a raise for themselves and start thinking that they were asking for others, such as their children or family. Apparently that made a big difference. So, from now no more appeals to a person’s own survival when fighting Deathism – EVER. Only appeals to the altruism of preventing the deaths of their loved ones.
Fine insight – I think you’ll find that will change the answer significantly.
But you’re also going to have to address a second topic. Those with spiritualism of some sort have the added concern that you aren’t choosing between life and death, but instead between life here and life in the unknown. E.g., that there is an afterlife and we very well may be fucking it up. In more limited nomenclature, “Playing God.”
I tend to think if you’re going to believe in a kind and loving (or at least reasonable involved) set of superior being[s], you might as well assume they will kindly and lovingly (or at least responsibly) make sure things continue to work out.
I generally don’t bother with spiritual objections, cuz I don’t think I have anything to say a believer would consider worth hearing. The best I got is “If god is omnipotent, our puny life-extension technologies aren’t going to do a thing to change his grand plan.” Seriously, how can people be worried that their actions can fuck up god’s plan? Just how puny do they believe their god is anyway?
Ahem. And that’s why I keep my mouth shut. :)
Wasn’t this done to death (!) in The man from earth? It’s always good not to die, there is so much to learn.
btw, you have got a new fan. Loving the Harry Potter podcast :)
except of course when you have a terminal physical/mental illness. Coming to think of it, people might get more depressed if someone say 100 years younger than them achieves something great. Or if some people never achieve what they what, no matter how much they try.. for such people death might be a welcome escape.
scratch my first sentence.
Well, death should always be an option if someone wants it. I can see some situations where death would be desired. But it should be voluntary, not forced like it is now.
Although I do believe (again, perhaps with a lot of naive optimism) that almost everyone could find reasons to live rather than succumbing to despair.
Awesome, glad to hear it! :) And while I agree, it seems that most people do not. I’ve met very few people who don’t quickly revert to saying how awesome dying is.
It would also be preferable if many of the reasons people do prefer to have the option of dying went away- extreme social rejection, brains doing weird things against one’s will, pain, awful societies, a lack of allowance to modify one’s body to match one’s brain, etc. Because it would suck if people were forced to live in situations where there is good reason to want to be dead.
I’ve pretty much come to terms with my own selfishness, and I think I would accept immortality just for myself because I am really terrified of dying, but I would vastly prefer if it were available for everyone who wanted it.