26-27 Sep 2010
I woke up at 12:00 PM, after getting maybe four and a half hours of sleep. That's probably not enough sleep! For some time after I woke up, I think I had something like low blood sugar. You know that sensation where you feel really faint and lightheaded, and your vision starts to dissolve just a bit, and you have to sit down so you don't fall down? That's what it was like. I suspect it was from not eating enough. Anyway, it got better, and we all went out to dinner and had a party for my sister at some upscale restaurant. It was pretty fun. Later, I passed on Machete Season to another family member, so they can have their optimism about the world appropriately crushed. Seriously though, it's a great book.
A lot of my viewers might not know this, but I'm an opponent of death. That sounds like it would be pretty obvious - other people usually don't like dying, either - but it's a bit more complicated than that. I actually think that it's a worthwhile and important goal to develop the necessary technologies to stop death. People tend to say "so what?" to that too; keeping people from dying tends to be a high priority. The difference is that I'd rather stop it entirely: all of it, postponed for as long as possible, if not indefinitely. I support human immortality, achieved through fully naturalistic means. And I don't mean that in the sense of continuing to age and decline, without actually dying, but rather not aging.
Surprisingly, or maybe not so much, a lot of people really don't like this idea at all. Some people have become very attached to the idea of human death, to the point that they'll defend it as an actual necessity. I've heard plenty of reasons for why it's a good thing that we die, from people who essentially argue that we should be required to, and that even if natural immortality is possible, we should not be allowed to choose it. Some of them simply don't want to live forever. That's understandable - if someone wants to die, then barring any mental illness, they should be allowed to. It's their life. But conversely, our lives are not theirs; they can make that choice for themselves, but not the rest of us. Personally, I'd rather continue living until I no longer wish to, if I ever reach that point.
Others believe that the universality of human death "gives meaning to life". But it's really life itself that gives meaning to life. We're forced to do as much as we can and enjoy it as much as possible in the limited time that we have, but why should it have to be limited? Why rush things, and inevitably miss out on so many more wonderful experiences? The fulfilling pursuits in our lives are themselves enjoyable, and it's not the fact that they must end which makes them so. They wouldn't become any less enjoyable if they didn't necessarily have to end - if anything, we would have the opportunity to appreciate them to an even greater extent than our limited lifespans allow. And if some urgency really is necessary to make our lives worth living, does that mean increasing our average lifespan to 70-80 years has weakened our ability to enjoy life? Likewise, would once again reducing our lifespan to 30-40 years make our lives even better?
The concept of death as necessary, even good, is only the result of having to tolerate it. Of course we have to find ways to move past it or look for some silver lining, no matter how flimsy. We have to convince ourselves that it had to happen, or even that it was right to happen. We need to rationalize it - which is what we do when something isn't rational to begin with. If death simply never happened, it's unlikely that we would come up with any good, compelling reasons for why everyone should be subjected to it (often at random). We don't need to be punched in the face on a regular basis in order to appreciate not being punched in the face, and we almost certainly wouldn't come up with an idea like this and willingly subject ourselves to it in order to heighten our enjoyment of the times when nobody is punching us. Not being punched is already pretty nice on its own.
What it all comes down to is that life is good, and more of life is even better. People are extraordinarily valuable. Each human mind is inherently worthwhile, and worth preserving. Death is not just "a part of life", or the next phase of our existence, or any of the vaguely comforting platitudes we tell ourselves to help get through the grief. It is the absolute, final, complete destruction of a unique, intelligent human mind, one which will never exist again. It means a person was literally destroyed. I can't think of anyone who truly deserves that - let alone everyone, ever. It's difficult to fathom the mindset of someone who could think of Carl Sagan, Richard Feynman, Alan Turing, Albert Einstein, Norman Borlaug, Paul Dirac, Charles Darwin and all the rest, and how many more wonderful things they could have accomplished if they had all the time in the world... and say "hey, good thing they died!"
People should not have to die. Minds should not have to be obliterated, ground into dust, lost forever. Our lives should not have to end. Anyone who tells you that death is necessary, and we must not avoid it even if we can, is willing to condemn you, the people you love, the people who love you, everyone you know, to utter annihilation. Whether you like it or not.
I'm not okay with that. If you want to die, that's up to you. But please don't tell me I have to lose everyone, including myself, when there could be a better option.