A list of world problems: immortality

Sun 17 March 2013

In one of my crises of identity, I decided to define myself as someone who wants to solves world problems. This has many advantages. For one I don't have to identify with a particular region, race, religion, social class or any other group. Second, it answers the purpose-of-life question in a particularly nice way. My identity becomes my purpose and my purpose my identity.

Now to be able to solve any of these problems I need a list of them. Back then I tentatively decided on the UN Millennium development goals. These were all the obvious problems: poverty and hunger, education, women rights, health, environment.

These are important problems as well as exciting. But over time my perceptions of the world changed. I realized for instance that some of the above problems can be solved by solving other non-obvious problems. And perhaps in a better manner. For instance, the fact that hundreds of children under the age of 5 will have died from preventable causes while I write this post indicates an insensitivity to human life on part of the world at large. Let me stretch this example a bit. I postulate that the reason it is not very horrifying that so many humans die from preventable causes is because humans die all the time. Many more humans will have died than babies while I write this post. Today the default for all human life is that it will end sooner or later. Therefore, a few more or less dying doesn't seem such a great advance in the abstract.

Imagine for a moment we switch this default value. Imagine humans were immortal from diseases. How would our perceptions about death change? Would dying from having drunk dirty water be still acceptable? What about dying in a war as a soldier? As a civilian? Would we really let so many children die? I postulate that our humans would be highly intolerant of death if we switch this default value.

But is it really possible to switch this it? Apparently, all the science we as of today know does not say that humans have to necessarily die. Notice the double negative. We have no reason to believe that there is no way out. But we don't know any way yet either. Hence, goal number one: advance the science of human longevity and immortality.

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