Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Immortality can solve that

I was thinking about a hypothetical alien civilization somewhere out there, one that had achieved immortality and somehow -- through augmentation or perhaps by altering their own genetic code -- had stepped up to the next level of existence, one far beyond our ability to understand. Specifically, I was wondering what dreams this race might have and what it still longed to accomplish . . . when suddenly it hit me.

If we were immortal it would eliminate one of the main obstacles in humanity's way -- our short memories.

For instance, in the 1980s we learned about the dangers of HIV and discovered how to stay safe. But then a new generation came along, knowing nothing of what we had learned, and the infection rates rose once again. Our information, our understanding of various matters, does not remain with us because, unlike genes, information cannot be physically transferred to the next generation. In life, any information can be lost if the next generation doesn't pick it up and carry it forward into the future.

(In fact, an entire culture can be lost in one generation if the new one doesn't cling to the language, customs, etc. of their forbears. Note that suddenly no one can read. One generation is all it takes to lose a skill.)

If we were immortal there would surely be new problems caused by immortality itself; it is not a panacea. But if we could live forever, what we learned would stay learned. Perhaps that is the key to our finally becoming an enlightened race. If we all, as a race, remembered the past and its lessons, perhaps we could finally build a positive future.

Or maybe not. But it's an interesting thought.

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