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Author Topic: The striving for eternal life and its terrifying downside  (Read 2048 times)
Joe Carillo
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« on: June 09, 2012, 10:52:52 AM »

What would happen if it became possible for people to live forever?

British philosophy and science writer Stephen Cave closely examines some of the familiar disquieting answers to this monumental question in his book Immortality: The Quest to Live Forever and How It Drives Civilization (Crown, 336 pages). As we ourselves must have already realized, Cave says that if we become immortal, our life would lose its purpose and time would lose its value—suddenly we’d have nothing to do but have endless eons in which to do it. In pondering this unnerving prospect, however, Cave comes up with this powerful argument: that it is humanity’s very preoccupation with trying to defy mortality that actually drives civilization.

Cave observes that although we might be able to cope materially with immortality, it would psychologically be the end of us: “The problem is that our culture is based on our striving for immortality. It shapes what we do and what we believe; it has inspired us to found religions, write poems and build cities. If we were all immortal, the motor of civilization would sputter and stop.”

He then challenges us to ponder these mind-bending implications of immortality: How long would people live if they did manage to acquire a perfectly disease-free body? What would happen if a super-being tried to round up the atomic constituents of all who’ve died in order to resurrect them?  Or what would our loved ones really be doing in heaven if it does exist?

Says David Boyd Haycock, author of Mortal Coil and A Crisis of Brilliance, in a review of Cave’s book: “Immortality plumbs the depths of the human mind and ties the quest for the infinite prolongation of life into the very nature of civilization itself. Cave reveals remarkable depth and breadth of learning, yet is always a breeze to read.”

Read Stephen Cave’s “Imagining the Downside of Immortality” in The New York Times now!

Read Sophie Roell’s “Immortality junkies,” an interview of Stephen Cave, in now!

Stephen Cave holds a PhD in philosophy from Cambridge University and, before turning to full-time writing, worked as a diplomat for the British Foreign Office. He writes regularly on philosophical, ethical and scientific subjects for the Financial Times and also contributes to The New York Times, the Guardian of UK, and Wired.


On breasts. In “Your Breasts Are Trying To Kill You,” an essay and review of Florence William’s Breasts: A Natural and Unnatural History in the May 4, 2012 issue of, Linda West discusses the five surprising things she learned about breasts from the book. “I worried a bit going into Breasts that all this feminist advocacy for women’s health might make breasts less sexy… But thanks to Williams’ indefatigable good humor and conversational candor, I’m inspired to believe that maybe sexy, sexy breasts can help make feminism more sexy!”

Read Linda West’s “Your Breasts Are Trying To Kill You” in now!

On memorization. In Part I of “If we remember more, can we read deeper–and create better?”, her blog in the June 1, 2012 issue of Scientific American, New York City-based writer Maria Konnikova describes her experience as a participant in the Rubin’s Brainwave series of immersive memory workshop conducted by memory grandmaster Ed Cooke. She says:  “We were putting into effect the most extreme method for storing memories: not just a memory palace…but an actual physical embodiment of each idea we were to memorize. And at the moment, we were committing to memory the six realms of existence, according to Buddhism.”

Read Maria Konnikova’s “If we remember more…” in now!
« Last Edit: March 10, 2013, 10:20:52 AM by Joe Carillo » Logged

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