Quantcast

«

»

Jun 15 2013

Some lovely quotes from the late Iain Banks

The final interview with Iain Banks is online. It’s sad and appealing at the same time, because he was such an intelligent and passionate man but now he’s gone. He had a few words to say about mortality that I rather liked.

I can understand that people want to feel special and important and so on, but that self-obsession seems a bit pathetic somehow. Not being able to accept that you’re just this collection of cells, intelligent to whatever degree, capable of feeling emotion to whatever degree, for a limited amount of time and so on, on this tiny little rock orbiting this not particularly important sun in one of just 400m galaxies, and whatever other levels of reality there might be via something like brane-theory [of multiple dimensions] … really, it’s not about you. It’s what religion does with this drive for acknowledgement of self-importance that really gets up my nose. ‘Yeah, yeah, your individual consciousness is so important to the universe that it must be preserved at all costs’ – oh, please. Do try to get a grip of something other than your self-obsession. How Californian. The idea that at all costs, no matter what, it always has to be all about you. Well, I think not.

It’s not just appallingly arrogant to think the universe is contriving to allow you to live forever, but it’s so pathetic and thoughtless to want to live forever. It’s like being a city dweller who has never seen a horse in the flesh, let alone ridden one, wanting to have a pony.

For those of you who’ve been asking for book recommendations, Banks was asked which of his books didn’t get the public and critical reception he thought it deserved — so here he makes some for you.

I suppose I thought that about The Bridge itself at the time! At that point I hadn’t even committed the cardinal sin of writing science fiction, so my nose was still relatively clean. But I suppose … A Song of Stone. I think it’s up there with The Bridge and Use of Weapons. As always when I mention Use of Weapons I have to mention Mr MacLeod here: Ken saved that novel and came up with the absolutely brilliant idea of the two time streams going in opposite directions. With A Song of Stone, there’s an elegance to it, I’d claim. I think it’s my most poetic use of language. I come back to Mr MacLeod; I can’t remember where the hell it was, but there was him, me and someone else in a pub in London. We were talking about A Song of Stone and this other person said he hadn’t read it. He asked Ken, ‘What do you think of it?’ and Ken sat and thought – you know the way he does; disconcertingly, he’s almost the only person I know who sits and thinks before he says anything – well, he said ‘you know that bit you get at the end of one of Banks’s novels where the relatively clear prose falls away and you get a really intense part where he brings out all his adjectives and big guns? With A Song of Stone the whole novel’s like that.’

Ah, Iain Banks agrees with me on something. Or I agree with him. Whatever. I remember when A Song of Stone came out, and everyone’s opinion seemed to be a universal “meh”, but I loved that book — and it had an ending that was simultaneously grisly grim and optimistic. It was another of his anti-fascist authoritarian books, which was a theme running throughout them all.

Now if you want to write stories like Banks, first of all, forget it: you probably aren’t that good. But if you want to emulate some of the principles in his stories, here’s one guide to Banks’ general ideas. Ignore the last one, though, that gets everything so wrong. If anything, Banks was acutely aware of the contradiction inherent in using force to stop authoritarians.

54 comments

Skip to comment form

  1. 1
    Zeno

    How Californian?! I am cut to the quick, Iain!

  2. 2
    Inaji

    Zeno:

    How Californian?!

    It is particularly Californian, though. (I’m a native Californian.) Although I’d probably say it’s simply human, but there is an intense focus on livingforeverwhileyouneverlookolderthan30 in California, well, at least SoCal.

  3. 3
    oolon

    I hope someone makes a good sci-fi film based on his Culture novels, it would be so unlike nearly all the other sci-fi out there. Something like Surface Detail would lend itself to a relatively linear screenplay. Not that great a book, for him, but could be a great film…

  4. 4
    ButchKitties

    Eternal life sounds like fucking torture. I wish the human life span was longer. But even if I wanted I wanted to live for a million years, if my options are 80 years or eternity, 80 years is a shit ton closer to what I want than living forever.

    I just wonder how many Christians have really thought through what eternal life would mean, beyond alleviating the fear of death.

  5. 5
    Lithified Detritus

    Douglas Adams pretty much nailed this with Wowbagger, The Infinitely Prolonged.

  6. 6
    Daniel Eliot Boese

    One of your friendly neighbourhood cryonicists here, planning to live forever or die trying.

    I’ve got enough stuff lined up just to read to keep me entertained for the next hundred years or more; by which time I expect to have discovered even more interesting things to do (assuming I survive that long).

    To quote TVTropes: Living Forever Is Awesome. I am sad everytime I hear of someone dying, who I won’t be able to spend the future centuries with.

  7. 7
    Inaji

    Lithified Detritus:

    Douglas Adams pretty much nailed this with Wowbagger, The Infinitely Prolonged.

    Oh yes. I would love to be able to live a much longer life, but the notion of immortality leaves me cold. Humans are terribly unsuited for such a situation; most of them get bored in 0.5 seconds.

  8. 8
    Inaji

    I’ve got enough stuff lined up just to read to keep me entertained for the next hundred years or more;

    That’s a far cry from eternity.

  9. 9
    Shplane, Spess Alium

    Meh. If I were offered the chance to live forever, of fucking course I’d take it. It’s unlikely that the brain is actually capable of becoming infinitely bored and never enjoying something ever again, especially on those time scales, and with the unimaginably huge number of activities one could indulge in, it couldn’t be that goddamn hard to just cycle things around and do them again after you hadn’t for a few millienia. If we’re positing an afterlife with no physical body involved, there’s no reason not to posit any other number of mystical bullshit things that would extend our range of possible experiences to infinity as well. If shit’s magic, it might as well be a little more magic. Things might get a little banal, and maybe I’m just a fuckin’ weirdo, but I can’t possibly imagine being so bored as to not want to exist, unless whatever’s making me immortal is also removing my ability to enjoy things. Pain or sadness might do it, but boredom? Nah. I’ll write an infinite number of novels or calculate Pi forever or build an infinitely large fractal sculpture out of toothpicks or something. Or all three, as well as a trillion other things, in alternating shifts when I get bored of them for a while.

    To be completely and utterly honest, the argument has always struck me as a gigantic fucking case of sour grapes. “Fuck that immortality, it would suck anyway.” There are a billion entirely rational reasons not to believe in any sort of eternal life, because, you know, it’s almost certainly impossible, but to claim that you wouldn’t want it if it was seems, to me, to be a pretty disingenuous position. The problem with heaven is that it isn’t fucking real, not that never dying would suck.

    Iain Banks was a cool guy, though.

  10. 10
    Daniel Eliot Boese

    Caine wrote:

    That’s a far cry from eternity.

    I don’t even know that eternity is /possible/, what with the known universe having a finite amount of negentropy, and Tipler’s Omega Point being rather questionable. But I cheerfully look forward to physics being developed over time. Ask me after no new fundamental laws have been discovered in the previous, oh, millennium or so, and /then/ I’ll consider any /really/ long-term plans.

  11. 11
    Ariaflame, BSc, BF, PhD

    People say they want immortality but what they really want is eternal youth.

  12. 12
    darwinharmless

    Living forever would be fanfuckingtastic as long as suicide is still an option. :-)

  13. 13
    Alethea Kuiper-Belt

    Thanks for the recommendation. I’m currently reading The Steep Approach to Garbadale, and The Algebraist (Yes, both at once, I usually have 2 or 3 books on the go.)

  14. 14
    Owen

    It’s been a long time since I read A Song Of Stone but I don’t recall a shred of optimism anywhere in that book. What did I miss?

  15. 15
    Inaji

    Ariaflame:

    People say they want immortality but what they really want is eternal youth.

    It’s only natural. If I could, say, live for a thousand years (which I’d jump at), I’d much rather stay young much longer. My body is already doing a slow crumble at 55, it wouldn’t be much fun to spend all that time in a very aged bod. Rejuvenation is an idea I could get behind.

  16. 16
    John Morales

    darwinharmless,

    Living forever would be fanfuckingtastic as long as suicide is still an option. :-)

    In the Culture, that’s sort of the case.

    I here reproduce a comment over at Charlie Stross’ blog: nick.barnes | June 10, 2013 14:06.

    GCU Read ‘Em and Weep to GSV Does My Mind Look Big in This?: A
    mutual friend says it’s time to go. Do you have any associates near
    [system ID], some time in the next dozen megaseconds?
    GSV Does My Mind… to ROU Not Just a Pretty Face: Fancy a detour
    to [system ID], since you’re passing? There’s some baggage to
    collect: [target designator]
    ROU Not Just… to GSV Does My Mind…: It would stretch my
    schedule. What makes you think I’ve got the legs for that?
    GSV Does My Mind… to ROU Not Just…: A little bird told me
    about your refit. Go on, you’re just itching to try it out.
    ROU Not Just… to GSV Does My Mind…: “Bird”? “Itching”? Have
    you gone native? Oh, all right then, since you’re twisting my arm.
    GSV Does My Mind… to ROU Not Just…: Look who’s talking: you’re
    the one with “arms” and “legs”. Bet you can’t do it in five megaseconds.
    ROU Not Just… to GSV Does My Mind…: Aren’t I’m supposed to say
    something like “Let’s see the colour of your money”? Anyway, watch
    this.
    GSV Does My Mind… to ROU Not Just…: I’m waiting. … OK, that
    really is rather nice. Next time you’re nearby I’ll send you an avatar
    to perform an appropriate low whistle.
    GSV Does My Mind… to GCU Read ‘Em and Weep: Our
    friend should make his farewells, and be ready for displacement by
    ROU Not Just a Pretty Face at time [timestamp]. Are
    there any countermeasures in place?
    GCU Read ‘Em and Weep to GSV Does My Mind… and ROU Not
    Just…
    : Much obliged. No countermeasures, I’m afraid: it’s all a
    bit stone axes. They still think digital watches are a pretty neat
    idea. No displacement, either: the Arbitrary doesn’t want us
    frightening the horses. Scan-and-forward, if you please. The usual
    cover story is in place.
    ROU Not Just… to GCU Read ‘Em and Weep and
    GSV Does My Mind…: Sigh. I’ll put my toys away then.
    A pity: it’s an attractive system, but I always think those little
    blue planets look better with a ring. Or a really big crater.
    Who is this guy anyway? I’m dying to meet him. Or maybe I’ve got that
    backwards. … Scan complete. Oh, it’s him. Let me know when
    you decant him and I’ll drop by to pay my respects. Here you
    are: [entanglement scan stream]

  17. 17
    ekwhite

    I would guess that most of the people who say “hell yes, I want to live forever” are young and have never experienced real suffering. There comes a time in you life when death starts looking more and more like a good thing. I have come within a hair’s breadth of dying in the past few months, and it has given me a different perspective on the whole affair.

    There was a Greek myth about a woman who was granted eternal life but not eternal youth. She ended up nothing but a bag of skin hanging on a wall, if I recall correctly. I’ll take death to that fate any day.

  18. 18
    Eristae

    Ah, frack. I’m going to cry. I hate cancer.

    That being said, I’m never sure why people think that we’d get bored of life if we lived forever. I mean, sure, it’s an interesting hypothesis, but what’s it based on? The only elderly people whom I’ve ever known who wanted to die wanted to die because they were in horrible pain or some such thing. The rest of them took great joy in things that were hardly going to pop out of existence as a concept (hobbies, family, friends, etc). It just doesn’t match my experience that healthy 90 year olds are somehow much unhappier than healthy 20 year olds. Maybe I’m not talking to the right people? I don’t know.

  19. 19
    Robert B.

    By the time we live to be two hundred, we’ll have come up with enough things to do that we’ll jump at the chance to live to a thousand. By that time, we’ll have such big plans and projects and art works that we’ll put off the suicide thing until ten thousand or so. And by then, I do not pretend I can imagine what we will want, but whatever it is, I bet it will be worth staying alive to see. And so on ad infinitum.

    I am not resigned to the shutting away of loving hearts in the hard ground. Not now, not after a hundred years or a thousand, not after a million or a billion.

  20. 20
    Zeno

    ekwhite, you’re thinking of Tithonus, the lover of Eos. Eos asked Zeus to grant Tithonus eternal life but neglected to include eternal youth in the package, thus condemning her lover to unending increasing decrepitude.

  21. 21
    PZ Myers

    The “you” who will find new things to be excited about 200 years from now will not be the “you” you are now. And also, even with a willingness to adapt, the “you” 200 years from now will be a retro, tired old crank to all the other newer people around. Why do you insist on being so selfish and forcing your antiquated carcass on the future? Give new minds a chance too, and let the culture change and grow.

    Change, change, change. It’s what biology is all about, the eternal change.

  22. 22
    Chris Clarke

    The last goddamn thing the vast majority of species on this planet need is for humans to decide to live forever.

    And personally speaking, the amount of damage I’ve seen my fellow humans do to the other species on this planet in just the last 50 years is enough to make me grateful as fuck that I won’t be around forever. I don’t know what kind of person would gladly sign up for an endless future without black rhinos and pangolins and mako sharks and Joshua trees, but I’m reasonably certain I wouldn’t want to spend any time with that person — let alone an eternity with a planet full of them.

  23. 23
    Chris Clarke

    There was a Greek myth about a woman who was granted eternal life but not eternal youth.

    Moisturize me!

  24. 24
    PZ Myers

    Eristae: speaking as one of those old people getting older day by day, I intend to enjoy every minute of life I get, and I will only regretfully die. New technologies that keep me youthful and happy as long as possible will be welcome! But I have no illusions that my particular life is of greater importance than anyone else’s, and I see a world being shaped by new ideas and new people, and I also welcome that. I look at my own kids and I see a great good and new opportunities, and death is a way that the older generations step aside to give the newer a chance to do great things.

    While I live, I have my shot, and I don’t begrudge the fact that someday I’ll be giving others their chance. But then I’m not at all religious about my individual experience — I’m one little strand in my species, I do my bit, and then my contributions flow into the stream of humanity. That’s good enough.

  25. 25
    The Mellow Monkey: Non-Hypothetical

    It just doesn’t match my experience that healthy 90 year olds are somehow much unhappier than healthy 20 year olds.

    Wanting to die rather than live forever doesn’t mean someone is unhappy. It’s just a recognition that things must come to an end, and that it’s better if they do. I’ve seen death and horror and suffering far too intimately in my life. They aren’t abstract concepts to me, but as real and mundane as spaghetti and meatballs. The other day, I watched a truck plow through my neighbor’s house during a rainstorm and drag their grandchild through the yard. These things can’t be stopped. It’s not so much about wanting death as just accepting it.

    I’m young and healthy now, but healthy at my age is a very different thing from healthy at 90. My mother has said that as she creeps through her fifties, she isn’t incapable of doing the things she used to do. She can still do it all. It’s just that it hurts, and then hurts worse the next day, to the point of crippling at times. And that is only in her mid-fifties, as a physically fit and active woman. How will it be at 70? 80?

    And so as time goes on, I will hurt more and be limited by that. I will lose more and more people I love. Eventually, death just isn’t going to look quite so scary. A hundred years without pain and physical limits would be wonderful. A thousand years? Yes, I think I could manage that. Ten thousand years? Possibly. Forever? That’s absurd and nightmarish and the link in the OP makes that clear why:

    When you’ve done everything you ever wanted to do 79 million times, all of it, with perfect recall of each separate time doing it, eternity has just begun. When you’ve had sex with every woman you’d ever dreamed of having sex with 79 million times, eternity has just begun. When you’ve done everything anyone has ever imagined doing 79 million times, eternity has just begun.

    I will die without being able to do everything I’ve ever wanted to do. That’s one of the things that makes my life so valuable to me: it is so precious and brief.

  26. 26
    PZ Myers

    And what Chris Clarke said. I’m part of the planet as a whole. It’s not my right to demand it all for me, me, me.

  27. 27
    hillaryrettig

    The idea that we crave feeling important is probably true. Dale Carnegie – who really knew his stuff – said the primary human need is to feel important. (From How to Win Friends…) It’s also true of dogs! And probably many other species.

    I don’t see what’s so bad about wanting to live forever. Got lots left to do, but like someone else upthread mentioned, I’d want an exit button.

    Robert Silverberg did a good riff on what you would do over the centuries in Book of Skulls.

    And Joan Slonczewski does a very good imagining of it in Daughter of Elysium. Her Elysians are basically children until their 50s.

    And Heinlein, of course.

    In most of the vivid imaginings of longevity or immortality I’ve read, people have no trouble filling the time just by doing more and better of what we’re all doing anyway.

    The trick is not to grow stale. At 53 I have already for some years felt a “pull” towards what I consider elderly attitudes – notably, weariness and close-mindedness about the current culture. A lot that goes on seems to have happened before, even in my short lifetime. I really push against that tug of resignation and world-weariness and cynicism. Fortunately, there’s a lot about youth culture, which correlates to Internet culture, that I really admire, and that helps.

    PZ, I think you’re being ageist: despite the stereotype of the elderly grouch. there are scads of oldsters who are far more valuable in terms of their ideas, attitudes, and contributions than youngsters.

    @EKYoung, Most beings seem to cling desperately to life unless they’re in tough physical or mental pain. I don’t think anyone here is asking for infinite life in agony.

    In fact there have been studies showing that even in situations where outsiders think a person would probably want to die, for instance due to extreme disability or illness, people in that situation mainly still wants to live.

    Plus, we’re all going to have avatars, remote units, prostheses, etc.

    The future really will be glorious.

  28. 28
    Chris Clarke

    Every single day I see beings of ages we can only dream of consigned to death. For instance: individual Yucca schidigera in excess of 1,200 years old are not uncommon in the Mojave Desert.

    Here’s the end of one’s life, one that’s a good 500-700 years old:

    That one was killed for an industrial project with a maximum lifespan of 30 years.

    Our species might deserve to enjoy extended longevity someday. First we have to value it where we find it now. we don’t. We kill millennium-old living things for three months’ worth of derivatives trading.

  29. 29
    Inaji

    MM:

    My mother has said that as she creeps through her fifties, she isn’t incapable of doing the things she used to do. She can still do it all. It’s just that it hurts, and then hurts worse the next day, to the point of crippling at times. And that is only in her mid-fifties, as a physically fit and active woman.

    That’s a good description of me.

  30. 30
    John Morales

    [OT]

    Chris Clarke:

    Our species might deserve to enjoy extended longevity someday.

    Religious thinking.

  31. 31
    Daniel Eliot Boese

    Regarding the benefits of a lack of immortality, such as ‘making room for the younger’, I have an entry in my quotefile which seems relevant:

    “See, there’s this little thing called cognitive dissonance, or in plainer English, sour grapes. If people were hit on the heads with truncheons once a month, and no one could do anything about it, pretty soon there’d be all sorts of philosophers, pretending to be wise as you put it, who found all sorts of amazing benefits to being hit on the head with a truncheon once a month. Like, it makes you tougher, or it makes you happier on the days when you’re not getting hit with a truncheon. But if you went up to someone who wasn’t getting hit, and you asked them if they wanted to start, in exchange for those amazing benefits, they’d say no. And if you didn’t have to die, if you came from somewhere that no one had ever even heard of death, and I suggested to you that it would be an amazing wonderful great idea for people to get wrinkled and old and eventually cease to exist, why, you’d have me hauled right off to a lunatic asylum!” — HJPEV.

  32. 32
    NelC

    I must say I found A Song of Stone to be my least favourite of Banks’ books, which I put down to the narrator turning out to be such a prick near the end. Maybe it was telegraphed sufficiently that I shouldn’t have been surprised and I just missed it, but it left a bad taste in my mind. I might give it another go when I’ve caught up with the rest of his oeuvre (I’m a couple or three books behind).

  33. 33
    Ms. Daisy Cutter, General Manager for the Cleveland Steamers

    An issue with immortality I have not yet seen brought up, at least if you are not surrounded by fellow immortals: Loneliness, and the relative fleetingness of all your human relationships.

  34. 34
    Shplane, Spess Alium

    I’m… really not sure how to respond to “People cut down trees, and therefore deserve to die” besides slackjawed disbelief.

    I’m literally incapable of imagining thought processes wherein one determines that stopping some wood from continuing to grow morally justifies allowing a unique individual mind to cease existing against its will. It’s not exactly a good thing to do, but… not death-worthy. Killing something that thinks arguably doesn’t make someone deserve to die.

  35. 35
    Robert B.

    Our species might deserve to enjoy extended longevity someday.

    Thank you for the reminder. We’ll have to include an ethical revolution along with, or perhaps before, the technological and medical.

    Daisy: I, at least, was assuming immortality for everyone, not just me, though I now realize that wasn’t at all clear. I sometimes talk about this stuff selfishly, as though I want it just for me, but I’m just being facetious. Keeping immortality for myself in a world full of death would be monstrous, on top of the loneliness you mention.

  36. 36
    Akira MacKenzie

    It’s what religion does with this drive for acknowledgement of self-importance that really gets up my nose. ‘Yeah, yeah, your individual consciousness is so important to the universe that it must be preserved at all costs’ – oh, please. Do try to get a grip of something other than your self-obsession. How Californian.

    Not only that, add on the concepts of sin and damnation that most faiths in for and you go from garden-variety arrogance to bigoted sadism. Not only does the creator of the universe care about me specifically, but He’ll send everyone I dislike everyone who has disobeyed His holy commandments to suffer in torment for all eternity!

    As for living forever: Thanks to my emotional issues, I sometimes have trouble wanting to live until next day. Besides, I don’t think humanity is going to last past the end of this century. I really don’t want to be around to watch our species’ final downward spiral through barbarism to extinction. The sooner I’m dead, the better.

  37. 37
    Rob Grigjanis

    John Morales:

    Religious thinking.

    Facile reading.

  38. 38
    Chris Clarke

    Religious thinking.

    Your concern is noted.

  39. 39
    Ingdigo Jump

    If I had to choose I would prefer a form of Doctor Who Immortality where it’s a cycle of rebirths and derivations on the “same” person.

    @JM

    You missed Chris’s point that, if I am reading him correctly, in his opinion a species that cannot demonstrate forethought on the magnitude of decades has no business coveting eons. Other people on the site have raised the point that immortality and transhumanism would cause a potential sociological and ecological apocalypse

  40. 40
    Michelle Rogers

    I had never read him before, but I am now reading Walking on Glass and very much enjoying it in this 45 or so years that I have left.

  41. 41
    Snoof

    To me it seems that “You shouldn’t try to live longer” is often a disguised form of “You should die for my benefit”.

    But whatever.

  42. 42
    danielbjorkman

    I’d love some immortality. Eternity may seem daunting, but I don’t have to live through eternity, I just have to live through one day at the time, same as I do now. I forget things at the same pace as I learn them, it sometimes seems, so I’m unlikely to get bored. And if me in 200 years is not the same as me right now, well, what of it? I don’t want to preserve myself – in fact, I would love to become an entirely different person. I just want there to be a tomorrow to experience – for there to always be a tomorrow to experience.

    Though the problem isn’t just that my body isn’t suited to have it, but that the universe itself is not suited to contain it. True immortality would have to include an immortal universe, for starters, where things didn’t constantly break down – and it would have to be an ordered universe, where you could not, for instance, get trapped under a pile of rubble and be unable to free yourself.

    Having all that said, I think that the only thing that would make me want to die would be if life was hurting so much that oblivion felt better. That is not something I have trouble imagining – it has happened to me at several points in my life already. That is the only way I can see that “acceptance of mortality” in old people – as suicidal despair. I can’t say that I look forward to ending my life like that, though even that is better than having it ended for me while I am still enjoying it. I dunno. Things breaking down is never pretty, no matter how much poetry you try to slap onto it.

    As for anyone saying how wanting to go on living is “selfish”… uhm, no. I will never accept that wanting mere survival can be selfish. There are certain things we may never expect of others, and which we therefore never have a duty to do. Dropping dead would seem to me to be a major one.

  43. 43
    danielbjorkman

    As for point eleven… yeah, I can see what the OP was going for, but I think he overshot the mark a little. From what I’ve seen of Banks (mainly in the form of The Player of Games, he did reject moral relativism and said that some things were simply too evil to be allowed to go on. However, he then went on to say that having established that, the question became how to stop them without causing greater harm. He did not seem to think that napalm-bombing any place where Evil existed was a viable option.

  44. 44
    gillyc

    I wouldn’t mind having the option to live for ever, as long as I could change my mind at any point, and I lived in something like the Culture, so that there were the resources for everyone to be able to do it.

    A lot of people seem to be thinking that they would be able to do whatever they liked; no-one who is pro-living-for-ever is thinking that they might be immortal in a world where resources are getting used up, having to work harder and harder to maintain even a basic standard of living. Or even having a good standard of living – but at other people’s expense.

    So, seeing as we’re nowhere near having Culture-level technology, if I was offered immortality (and eternal youth) I’d have to say ‘no’. To do otherwise would feel incredibly selfish.

  45. 45
    John Morales

    gillyc:

    So, seeing as we’re nowhere near having Culture-level technology, if I was offered immortality (and eternal youth) I’d have to say ‘no’. To do otherwise would feel incredibly selfish.

    Good on you!

    (More room for the rest of us!)

  46. 46
    hillaryrettig

    Chris Clarke – that was so sad!

    Daniel Bjorkman
    >Eternity may seem daunting, but I don’t have to live through eternity, I just have to live through one day at the time, same as I do now.
    terrific point – ty.

    The people like Chris who are arguing against immortality on ethical/ecological grounds are exactly the kind of people I *would* like to see living/contributing forever. :-/

    Someone mentioned ethical advances to mirror the technological ones. I hope that by the time we develop eternal life we also develop ways of largely containing the damage. Even in this culture, and with current technology, there are ways to mitigate your eco impact – carfree, childfree, apartment (versus house), vegan.

  47. 47
    The Mellow Monkey: Non-Hypothetical

    “See, there’s this little thing called cognitive dissonance, or in plainer English, sour grapes. If people were hit on the heads with truncheons once a month, and no one could do anything about it, pretty soon there’d be all sorts of philosophers, pretending to be wise as you put it, who found all sorts of amazing benefits to being hit on the head with a truncheon once a month. Like, it makes you tougher, or it makes you happier on the days when you’re not getting hit with a truncheon. But if you went up to someone who wasn’t getting hit, and you asked them if they wanted to start, in exchange for those amazing benefits, they’d say no. And if you didn’t have to die, if you came from somewhere that no one had ever even heard of death, and I suggested to you that it would be an amazing wonderful great idea for people to get wrinkled and old and eventually cease to exist, why, you’d have me hauled right off to a lunatic asylum!” — HJPEV.

    This is just silly. Consider:

    Flying ponies do not exist. Because they don’t exist, it’s easy for me to say I do not want one. Because they don’t exist, it’s also easy for someone to say they do want one.

    But coming to grips with the fact that I will never, ever have a flying pony allows me to function and accept the reality I’m faced with. We can sit around and debate how awesome you think a flying pony would be and how you’d fly around over Europe and let it poop on the Pope, but that doesn’t change the fact that flying ponies don’t exist and I have to face a life that will end without one.

    You’re going to die. You are. Every single person you have ever met is going to die. You can fantasize about technological immortality or cloning with mind transference or what have you, but the buggy little meat robot bumbling around the world today that is you will not last forever. Not even the universe is going to last forever. Things end. Making peace with that and doing away with fantasies is one of the ways I personally deal with my very mundane, very real knowledge that we are all terminal.

    That doesn’t mean you have to stop fantasizing about your flying pony. Go on and picture it farting across the sky, all the way to the moon! You’re still going to die.

  48. 48
    playonwords

    Sadly missed

  49. 49
    Moggie

    The only way I can see indefinitely-extended life not being a disastrously bad idea, both personally and for the planet, is via uploading. If I could sign up for 10k years in a Greg Egan-style VR, sure, I might go for that after meat-life. Boredom would be a non-issue if you were software and had complete control over your mind-state. I have a hard time believing that uploading is feasible, though.

    If we ever do achieve something like this, though, chances are it’d be yet another privilege for a minority. You’d have some rich people living for 500 years in virtual or literal gated communities, while elsewhere on the planet others have a life expectancy one tenth of that. Ugly.

    BTW, to anyone planning to read those “11 rules of good writing”: beware, there are some minor Banks spoilers.

  50. 50
    Ariaflame, BSc, BF, PhD

    I really didn’t like A Song of Stone, perhaps because I find some of the world around me depressing enough. Note that I’m not saying it wasn’t well written, or even that it wasn’t a good story. Just that I didn’t like it. I did like The Business though. Rather a lot.

    I don’t think we’re set up for immortality. We might think we’d cope with having eternity, but I really don’t think we would. And there are many many SF stories on the possible outcomes of one, a select few, or possibly even everyone having immortality (though I can’t remember one of the later because it’s such a stupid damn idea at the rate we’re going through resources now).
    Now, don’t get me wrong, an extra 50 years or so with increased health and wellbeing, I wouldn’t say no to that. But thousands of years? Millions? Though I suppose I’d be happy enough if the condition for attaining it was to leave the Earth and never come back. That must have been done as a story somewhere, though a particular title doesn’t spring to mind.

  51. 51
    Eristae

    There are a couple of things that are getting shoved together that I’d like to poke at.

    1) I want to die eventually because I will eventually get sick based on age.

    This isn’t an expression of a desire to go out of being, it’s a desire to not live while being incredibly ill. I think this is a fair statement that applies to people of all ages.

    2) I don’t want to live forever because I don’t want to be around when the world is fucked over/I don’t want to fuck the world over by continuing to exist.

    This also isn’t a desire to go out of being; it’s a desire to either not cause harm or to not live in a situation where great harm has been done. And, once again, this is a fair statement regardless of age.

    As a final note, both of the above are not just arguments in favor of dying of natural age; they’re also arguments in favor of suicide. I’m not saying anyone here is advocating for suicide (I don’t think this is the case), but as someone who has struggled with suicidal urges brought on by depression, I’m familiar with these things running through my head even though I’m nowhere near dying of old age. “I’m suffering due to [mental] illness, so why should I stick around? I’m just a drain on other people and on the planet; my medications alone shove me down into the ‘taking more than she gives category,’ and that’s not even taking into account the drain I put on the planet by simply existing in a first world country regardless of anything I actually do. Someone else could be benefiting from the time, energy, and resources that I’m using to do little more than struggle with mental illness.” I’m actually suffering from a pretty intense bout of depression right now, and to be honest, I’m not sure why I don’t off myself. There’s no logic to it and the emotional reasons are severely undermined, and yet I’m still here.

    So maybe I’m just coming at this from a funny angle. I don’t know. Although I find it to be terribly ironic that an off-and-on suicidal person is wondering why people wouldn’t sign up for eternal life.

  52. 52
    Thumper: Who Presents Boxes Which Are Not Opened

    @Ariaflame

    People say they want immortality but what they really want is eternal youth.

    This. I’ve always said I’m not bothered how long I live, I’m bothered about how much i manage to do with my time. 80 years is plenty of time, providing I am healthy enough to visit places and do the things I want to do. But at some point I’m gonna run out of things I want to do, and then it’s time to fuck off and let someone else have all the oxygen I would have taken up.

    If, however, I live for 80 years and die not having done all the things I wanted… I would be very unhappy with myself.

  53. 53
    David Marjanović

    To quote TVTropes: Living Forever Is Awesome.

    Go there and just mouse over every word and the question mark of “Have you seen the last hundred years?“.

    what with the known universe having a finite amount of negentropy

    Negentropy is a very silly concept.

    The “you” who will find new things to be excited about 200 years from now will not be the “you” you are now.

    I’m more autistic than thou. I’m not that unstable.

    And also, even with a willingness to adapt, the “you” 200 years from now will be a retro, tired old crank to all the other newer people around.

    Oh, there have been some quite radical very old people.

    That’s one of the things that makes my life so valuable to me: it is so precious and brief.

    I don’t need such constraints. Quite the contrary: I don’t work well under stress. Deadlines (heh) are a distraction. I like life because it’s beautiful and interesting!

    Her Elysians are basically children until their 50s.

    :-) So? What do you think I am? :-) (Except I’m not in my 50s.)

    Besides, I don’t think humanity is going to last past the end of this century.

    Oh, humanity definitely is going to last that long. The question is how many people are going to suffer and die in the process, from flooding, thirst, hunger, heat, malnutrition, plain old war…

    I would love to become an entirely different person

    does not compute

  54. 54
    johnm55

    Back to Iain Banks rather than immortality. This wasn’t in the interview, but I rather like the quote.

    After many years of dedicated research, I have come to the conclusion that Single Malt Whiskies are very enjoyable to drink

Comments have been disabled.