This past weekend a friend and I had a brief discussion about the pursuit of immortality down through the ages (Fountain of Youth, Holy Grail, alchemy, etc.) at the conclusion of which we both exclaimed that, even if living forever someday became possible, we wouldn’t want it. Passionately. In fact, the idea of living forever (or even a lot, LOT longer) was kind of repulsive.
My personal aversion stems from two separate issues. The first is the fact that life is riddled with tough spots, occasionally becoming harsh to the point of undesirability. The cumulative injury of those traumas over not just an average lifespan, but an eternity, would have to become unendurable at some point.
Pooh on that.
My second objection is that seizing that much life for myself feels unethical. We live in a finite universe full of limited resources that can only support so many biologically functioning human beings. So if I don’t die, then a fair number of future children won’t be born. I would, for all intents and purposes, be stealing their lives in order to lengthen my own and…well…isn’t that a vampire thing?
Although…the question of ethics and immortality gives rise to all kinds of possible plot scenarios for a novel or sic-fi movie. Which is pretty fun. Here’s one:
Opening scene: New York City, 150 years in the future. A mysterious wave of miscarriages has been sweeping across the world for fifteen years and the pace is increasing geometrically, potentially threatening the future of the human race. A concerned official from the World Health Organization comes knocking at the door of two, world-reknowned, research scientists who specialize in fertility studies. They’re married and (surprise, surprise) she’s nine weeks pregnant. The WHO official finds that enrolling them to look for a solution is pretty easy.
Break to next scene: New York City, present day. A small group of Swedish scientists reveal a startling anti-aging discovery to a secret committee of the World Economic Forum. They propose The Methuselah Project, a campaign to lengthen the human life-span by a couple thousand years, and the proposal is instantly and enthusiastically adopted. (It begins, of course, with the inoculation of power brokers, mega-wealthy, and top government officials.) Over the next hundred years, trials are run and all of the now-virtually-immortal insiders on the project consolidate their power over just about everything. Things are finally ready for the second stage where inoculation will be offered to pre-selected people at a hefty price.
Back to the future: As the two research scientists probe deeper into the growing problem, they uncover a secret network of wealthy, powerful, reclusive people who all seem to be unusually old, although their pasts are cloaked in mystery. As they start to question individual members of the network, all the usual, life-threatening car, plane, and other accidents quickly begin to happen to them. The couple survive everything thrown at them and eventually track down one of the original Swedish scientists who now works among the Inuit people in a remote region of the Canadian Northwest Territories. He reveals that he’s actually 193 years old, and then explains how the original vision of The Methuselah Project was corrupted for the purpose of establishing a two-tier world order; those who live for thousands of years served by those who die by their sixties. Part of the project involves drastically reducing the world population to a number more easily controlled, and the tool employed is a simple pennyroyal compound leaked into the water supplies of the world (all owned and controlled by Immortals BTW) to induce widespread miscarriages.
Conclusion: This will depend on whether the movie is a feel-gooder or a horror film.
Feel-gooder conclusion: the scientist couple manage to get the word out to the media and expose the scheme to the world, after which all the people rise en-masse to destroy the Immortals and return the world to it’s natural order.
The scientist couple re-engineer the anti-aging serum to bestow not only longevity but wisdom. The evil Immortals are transformed into kind, benevolent, enlightened teachers who then work to change the world into a better place for everyone. All are eventually inoculated with the new serum and the scientist couple’s baby grows up to be President of the New World Utopia. (This ending could be a tough sell.)
The horror film: the scientist-pair are killed before they can expose the plot, but not before their own baby is born and taken away to be raised by an Immortal couple who can’t have children of their own.
The bad Immortals are killed after which the original Methuselah Project is reinstated and everyone in the world is inoculated with the anti-aging serum. The widespread miscarriages are then replaced by a new set of sterilization, abortion, and lottery-pregnancy laws. (This movie obviously gives rise to the sequel where desperate women start becoming pregnant illegally only to be hunted down and treated badly when they’re caught. Or has that movie already been made? It sounds familiar.)
ANYWAY!!! This was fun but I really have to get on with my day now. I’m curious though. How many of you are intrigued by the idea of immortality (as versus just-not-dying, which is a completely different issue.) Here’s a quick poll to get an idea of where people stand on the subject and, if you need more room for nuance, by all means feel free to use the comment section.