What I’ve been reading

Benford and Niven: Bowl of Heaven and Shipstar

It’s always good to see Niven back in the Big Dumb Object game, and a team-up with Benford is a welcome surprise.

This one’s about another Ringworld-like object, only this one goes tooling around the galaxy on a slow cruise. I can’t say a whole lot more without giving away several of the many big reveals in the story, but suffice the say the back-story here is quite different from that of the other BDO books I’ve read.

I found this pair “just one more chapter” engrossing, and I couldn’t wait to find the second after reading the first. There are plot hooks in place for a possible third installment, and I hope it occurs.

Alastair Reynolds: On the Steel Breeze

Rollicking good adventure. The setting is a good example of an updated plausible future taking into account recent advancements in science. The plot centers around the tension many seem to believe is inevitable between the emergent machine sentients and the meatbags that spawned them.

This book has an uncommonly strong heroic-lineage trope, in that the already accomplished protagonists come from a family full of accomplishments that affected the course of human civilization. But I can accept that now and then in the service of good, comfy escapism.

Alastair Reynolds: House of Suns

This is one of those stories where you’re late for a family reunion and then arrive to discover that someone has assassinated nearly everyone there. The rest is about figuring out who, why, who gave them inside help, and what to do about it. In a science fiction setting six million years hence, with some interesting set dressings.

I didn’t enjoy this one as much as the other Reynolds books I’ve read, but it did feature a great example, in the historical character of Ludmilla Marcellin, of what I would like to do: She created thousands of identical clones of herself and sent them in all directions to explore the galaxy, re-convening on rare occasions to share memories.

Charles Sheffield: Dark as Day

I didn’t realize when I started this that it was the third book in a series. Thankfully that didn’t matter much; from what I can tell a couple of characters were carried over, but this installment mentioned as much of their history as was needed.

The story was interesting enough to keep me involved, but I didn’t find it remarkable. For most of the latter half I was wondering where it was going; there were multiple threads going on that didn’t look to be related in any way, and I was wondering if there was going to be any connection at all. In the end he did tie almost all of them together, but not in the usual big reveal way that shows why things turned out this way. Instead it was, here’s a massive coincidence that all of these people ended up in the right place at the right time to avert a huge disaster. A bit less satisfying, though it could be seen as refreshing in its unconventionality.

There is a slight chance I might read the other books in this series if I stumble over them, but I’m not likely to hunt them down.

Alan Cooper: The Inmates are Running the Asylum

Nonfiction about software user experience design – read as part of a UX reading group at work.

At first this book infuriated me; it read like a foaming-at-the-mouth rant about how programmers are evil bastards who delight in tormenting nontechnical users (true, but it’s supposed to be a secret) that had been forcibly toned down by editors. By the end of the book though, I found myself violently agreeing with him about almost everything.

The central messages are:

  1. User-friendly software should not be designed by the programmers implementing it. They are too close to the problems to see them, and they will inevitably and unconsciously use themselves (or “The User”, who is as flexible as Reed Richards) as the person they design for.
  2. Software should not only be designed by UX specialists, but the designers should be the ones accountable for the quality of the software, not programmers. Designers should make the decisions that affect users and mandate changes in the best interest of the users.
  3. Long-term planning is a must. Even the common annual release development cycle is too short to properly do the concept-design-code-debug-market cycle, and trying to overlap design with coding doesn’t work. Focusing on short-term gain results in crufty software. Long-term planning, even at short-term expense, is vital to produce a lasting quality product.

There’s lots more. I highly recommend reading this book if you develop software for which usability is important. Just try not to hulk out and rip it in half during the first few sections. :)

Alastair Reynolds: Terminal World

The cover art and blurb of this one reminded me of Inverted World, a novel I disliked because it (probably intentionally) conveyed a fuzzy and confusing image of the world. Thankfully there wasn’t much more resemblance than that; this one had enough exposition for my taste. It left a lot unrevealed even at the end, but I understood the setting well enough to be able to fill in the blanks.

I didn’t like this as much as Reynolds’ other works, but I think there is room for another novel or two set in this universe – one in in the distant past and one in the near future.

Charles Sheffield: Aftermath

I didn’t like this one very much. Heroic ordinary people struggling for survival after a major natural disaster has been done, as has throwing in a secret cult as the foil. Also I tend to dislike stories featuring cults – I read science fiction to escape, dammit!

There was one tantalizing hint about the cause of the disaster that might convince me to read the sequel, if its cover copy is further encouraging, but I’m not in a hurry to seek it out.

Alastair Reynolds: Chasm City, Redemption Ark and Absolution Gap

Finishing off the Revelation Space series to date. I really, really liked this series and I’ve decided that Reynolds has become one of my favorite authors. Could not put down any of these books, and I’ve taken to reading everything else of his I can find to try to capture more of the flavor – which led me to:

Alastair Reynolds: Blue Remembered Earth and Poseidon’s Wake

Precursor and sequel, respectively, to On the Steel Breeze, mentioned above. I didn’t know these existed when I read the middle book, and I was afraid reading them out of order would spoil the first one, but not at all; it stands independently because there is a large time separation between the first book and the other two, and few characters in common.

Blue Remembered Earth was not as strong as the other two, but still worth the read. I preferred the latter two though, because they’re set further from home in both time and space, and are largely post-Mechanism. The Mechanism is a super-invasive surveillance state described in the first book and part of the second, where crime and violence have been almost totally eliminated but at the cost of privacy. Not worth it in my opinion.


Convergent thoughts about mortality at different scales

A thing I ponder frequently is the ultimate fate of the universe and the life within it. The universe is full of beauty and elegance, but those things are useless without minds to appreciate them. Therefore sentience should be maximized in duration and variety.

But we are unsure whether it’s possible for sentience to exist forever. We still don’t know for sure how the universe will develop over long time scales. Most of the current theories imply that the universe has a finite useful lifetime after which sentience is no longer possible; for example, even if the universe itself continues forever, it is likely the case that protons decay and that no new matter is created, and therefore the matter inside the universe will not exist forever. No matter, no minds.

Therefore it behooves all sentience to study this problem and try to find some means of indefinite survival.

A new thought occurred to me today: Suppose it were eventually proven that sentience cannot exist forever? Suppose this universe will eventually reach zero utility, suppose it’s impossible to move to another universe, and even suppose we can’t even leave a permanent record behind.

Well, then sentience itself would collectively face the same decision that young individuals have (mostly unconsciously) faced until recent generations: Live with this depressing and uncomfortable truth, or develop some sort of systematic insanity to make it more palatable?

When I was young, I learned that death exists and that despite best attempts, nobody has yet managed to avoid it. Thus far, living has been 100% fatal – what a rip-off! Perhaps this problem might be solved in the future, but at the time that was a far-out science fiction idea and there was no hope of it happening in my expected lifetime.

Many people of my generation and previous generations found this a pretty bitter pill. Some dealt with it via various forms of insanity: Denial by ignoring the problem entirely; the softly suicidal acceptance of death’s inevitability; the misanthropic (or even murderous if it inspires activism) belief that death is a good thing and should be preserved as is, or the baseless assumption of various kinds of immortality that don’t require bodies.

After ignoring it for a while, I chose to throw in with the group that faces the existence of death without accepting it. The Something Must Be Done crowd.

Fortunately, younger generations are less bound to make this choice. We have now realized that “death by old age” is not actually a thing; it’s just a term of convenience that means someone was killed by some combination of diseases that were incurable at the time and often too complex to bother sorting out precisely after the fact.

We’ve also realized that we are made of software-controlled microscopic protein factories, that these cells and their DNA programs are bloated and inefficient due to their evolutionary origin, and that we should therefore be able to both improve them and improve their aggregate products (us). We’re currently reverse-engineering the software that makes us and learning to improve it and write our own new versions. I am certain that, barring interference, this will lead to radical life extension and eventually a solution to the problem of finite expected lifespans (in the absence of accident, murder or suicide, of course). I have no idea when though; some generations, including mine, may be disappointed.


So here’s where the interesting parallel exists: At the individual level we’ve had to wrestle with the difficult problem of mortality in the face of the certainty of its existence so far, but now science is starting to give us some hope of a reprieve.  At the level of sentience itself we, as the only example thereof we’re currently aware of, don’t know if mortality is certain and will have to do the science to find out. It’s not a perfect dovetail since at the small scale we’re moving from an assumed certainty to uncertainty and possibly to the opposite certainty, whereas at the large scale we know we’re uncertain and are trying to establish either certainty.

But if it does turn out to that finiteness of mind is certain then we’ll have to make that same choice between insanities collectively. I wonder what that will look like; I suspect it will result in large sections of the civilized universe living wastefully and dangerously.

Some time has passed

I turned 42 today.  Believe it or not, I’ve never been this old before. It’s a new personal best!

Being 42, you would naturally expect that I have become privy to the meaning of life, the universe, and everything.  And in fact, I have:

Life, the universe and everything have no inherent meaning, because meaning can only exist in the mind of an observer and is therefore completely subjective.  The meanings that we tend to think are objective are just large-scale subjective; they’re impressed upon us as we grow by our peer groups but can vary between societies and species.

Therefore, your life means what you make it mean to you, and if you care, also what you make it mean to others.  The ancients were on the right track when they said “Life is what you make of it.”

So what does my life mean to me?  I’m not sure.  I’m probably still far too young to figure that out.  But I value enjoying it and I feel like it gains meaning when I observe the natural world, which brings me to:

What does the universe mean to me?  It’s a playground filled with beauty and wonder that needs more minds and longer-lived minds to appreciate it.  The universe is tragically finite in time, so it behooves us and any other sentient species that might exist to fill it with minds as quickly as possible, to maximize enjoyment and appreciation of its beauty, and just maybe to find a way to make it last even longer.

(The “and everything” part is pretty much covered by “universe”, by definition.)


On the need for colonization

There’s a post I’ve been meaning to write for a couple of years, about how the usefulness of the universe to our kind of life peaked before we were even on the scene and is now in rapid decline.  About how Earth probably only has about a billion years of useful life left in it, and how stars don’t last forever either, nor will they continue to be born forever, and how the galaxies are gradually escaping our reach. And about how even matter itself will eventually disappear, and we had better saturate the universe with smart people long before that, both to solve that problem and to maximize enjoyment of life and appreciation of the universe.

But fortunately someone else saved me the trouble.

All the Flavors of Immortality

(This was originally written in 2002. I’m reposting it here as part of decommissioning my old website, and because I might want to refer to it later.)

Written March 14, 2002.
Major revisions October 10, 2002 suggested by Frink.

As an exercise, I thought I would try to enumerate all the different classes of immortality I have heard or read about, and give some discussion about the tradeoffs inherent in each and in the idea of immortality itself.

Some of these are real, some are fictional, and some are on the move from fiction to reality thanks to medical advances. I hope I don’t need to point out which are which.

Everyday Immortality

Immortality through Genetics

If your branch of your family tree doesn’t dead-end, you have this kind of immortality. Your genetic code, which defines characteristics of your body and health, will live on in your progeny, albeit in slightly altered forms. Unfortunately, your DNA doesn’t define your persona and after a few generations the part of it that is you will be severely diluted.

Another kind of genetic immortality would be having a sample of your DNA permanently recorded so that you could be cloned in the future. Sadly, as with your offspring, your clone is not you.

Immortality through Deeds

This is the romantic kind of immortality where you live on in the minds of others. Adults often try to sell this kind to kids when awkward questions about death come up. It can be as simple as being remembered fondly by family members or hallucinated by crazies. It can be as grand as being named a world hero for having accomplished some great work, and having numerous books and films made about you. The problem is that, as with DNA, memories get diluted over time. Even if your name is well-known enough to survive as part of world history, people will care less as time moves on, and you’re still vulnerable to being erased by some sort of global cataclysm. We remember the Caesars, but we’ve forgotten who invented fire and the wheel since they lived in a time when the worldwide disaster of not-having-a-coherent-written-history was going on.


Sometimes when people die, they come back to life a short time later as zombies. Possible causes of this are many and varied – it can be the result of radiation from space, the summons of a wizard or deity, general cursedness etc.

There are a lot of drawbacks to being a zombie. Zombies stink, have horrible skin conditions, shamble everywhere, moan a lot, and feed upon the brains of the living. That really cuts down on your enjoyment of immortality. Your social life will be restricted to other zombies, your hopes of an athletic career will be dashed, and some people simply don’t enjoy cracking skulls open to feast upon the goo inside.

Furthermore, not all zombies have the ability to pull their bodies back together when smashed by zombie-haters (zombies are subject to much hatred from jealous non-zombies), which means that once your skeleton is broken into little bitty pieces, you have to spend eternity in one place. Very boring, and probably painful too.

This is Your Brain on Ice

There has been a lot of interest in cryonic preservation lately. It was in the news a fair bit in 2002 because of some baseball player who got frozen. Surprisingly, there are many people who object to allowing others to have themselves frozen. When examined, most of their arguments turn out to be hollow. The best debates arise out of the legal and ethical issues surrounding your existence after being frozen – what are your rights on ice, and what does the future owe you?

Cryo is currently the best chance we have of becoming immortal. There are lots of risks; it relies on keeping you frozen solid long enough for medical science to advance sufficiently to not only reverse the freezing damage but also fix whatever killed you and, if you only had your head frozen, grow you a new body. It’s impossible to estimate the probability that you’ll be awakened after having died and been frozen, but no matter how small it is, it’s still bigger than the chance of being revived after being buried or cremated. And even if being frozen turns out to be completely hopeless, you’re no worse off than you would be if you weren’t frozen.

Spiritual Immortality

There are many and varied cults in the world whose doctrines insist that death is merely a transition, and that afterwards our minds are freed from our bodies and either go on to another world, or are reincarnated into new bodies. Some believe that the other world involves some sort of eternal punishment or reward for deeds done while living, which sounds extremely boring.

Of course, nobody has found a single shred of evidence that these beliefs may be true, and some of them sound downright scary; for instance belief in reincarnation implies that the reincarnated person loses their memory and identity when reborn (since nobody can reliably recall a past life), and that sounds more like permanent death of the individual than immortality.

Immortality through Not Dying

A major shortcoming of the above listed forms of immortality is that they all involve dying. Besides seemingly violating the very definition of the word immortality, this is a big problem because if you want to be immortal, you probably don’t want to have to die to accomplish it. Too risky.

Tour the Fourth Dimension via Stasis

If you’re worried about dying, you can always stick yourself in some sort of time-stopping machine. You could do this in the hope that the future will have a cure for death ready for you when you step out, or you could just use it to spread your lifetime out over a longer range of real time in order to see what the future has in store.

The biggest problem with this plan is the risk that someone will mess with your preservation apparatus and kill you in your sleep. A certain amount of hedging can be done to prevent that, but you will still be at the mercy of environmental disasters.

Slow Aging with Relativity

That funny-looking man with the frizzy hair told us that as you move faster and faster, time slows down for you relative to the rest of the universe. The effect becomes most pronounced when you approach the speed of light.

This is better than the stasis idea because you can remain conscious and somewhat in touch with what’s going on in the universe. At a minimum, you can watch the stars move and get a time-lapse view of any nearby macro-engineering projects.

There are slight technical difficulties here; to avoid hitting something, you pretty much need to do this in space, which means you need a spacecraft capable of sustaining you for however long you intend to employ relativistic time dilation. Furthermore, it takes a hell of a lot of energy to get up near light speed, especially if you want to do so within your mortal lifetime. Life extension via relativistic effects is therefore outside most peoples’ budget – at least for the time being.

Medical Immortality

Body Swapping

Medical science has already made great strides in using organ transplants and other treatments to extend life. Cloning technology is being born right now. It is not hard to imagine having a fresh copy of your body cloned every few decades, and having your brain transplanted into it.

Brain deterioration would still be a problem, but progress is being made in treating that too. The major risk here is that your surrounding society may collapse and lose the ability to clone bodies for you. It’s safer for an immortal to be self-sufficient.

Instead of having the same old brain transplanted into a cloned body, sufficiently advanced technology could copy your neural wiring into a cloned brain. This raises the same identity questions as uploading and matter transporters.


Another route to medical immortality lies in finding out why aging happens, and finding a cure for it and for the various types of deterioration that afflict the elderly. In the literature this is often posited to take the final form of a drug, treatment or dietary supplement that prevents one from dying of natural causes. It does not necessarily prevent virulent disease or death from preventable poor health (like extreme obesity or malnutrition). Again, there may be a self-sufficiency problem here.

A related idea is that of curing the disease called old age. We’re giant machines for helping genes make more genes, and our bodies are designed to have a reproductive peak. Once we’re no longer fit for reproduction, our genes could care less about us and everything starts falling apart. With a sufficient understanding of how genetic molecules work, we could reprogram them to make the priority keeping the organism alive and healthy instead of simply reproducible.


Some people find the ideas of organ transplantation and cloning disturbing. Fortunately for them there are a wide range of mechanical body part replacements available. When something wears out, replace it with a machine. The logical end result is a machine with a human brain controlling it directly.

The problems of brain deterioration must still be faced, of course, unless you also replace it with a better thinking device. Furthermore, some current mechanical organ replacements are quite crude and cumbersome. You have to ensure your machine parts are well-maintained and receive enough power, or else you run the risk of becoming a statue.

There are a lot of potential advantages too, including the ability to interface digitally with computers, enhanced strength and speed, and resistance to hostile environments.

Immortality through Transformation

If humans can’t be immortal, maybe they can be changed into something that can.


For those of you born in the last five seconds, vampires are people who drink the blood of others in order to stay alive and young. Various additional powers are often attributed to vampires, along with some curious weaknesses.

The origin of vampirism is unknown, but the condition is believed to be a disease transmitted by bodily fluids. Vampires can transform humans into vampires by administering a non-fatal bite. This sometimes happens by accident when a vampire fails to drain enough blood to kill the victim.

The advantages and disadvantages of being a vampire are open to debate. There is a huge amount of variation in the powers and weaknesses ascribed to vampires.

Example powers include flight, limited invulnerability, superhuman strength and speed, limited shape-changing ability, uncommon attractiveness, ability to teleport via shadows or doorways, ability to mentally control animals or demons, and automatic ownership of outrageous castles in European mountain ranges.

Example weaknesses include weakness in the presence of garlic or religious symbols, death upon exposure to sunlight, ability to enter homes only when invited, extreme vulnerability to slivers, a requirement to sleep in a coffin, and a propensity for being followed around by angry mobs of peasants carrying torches and pitchforks.


Some people believe that humanity is just the larval stage of some kind of non-corporeal being. Others believe that when we die, our minds are freed to roam the universe. There are lots of variations on these themes, most of which end up with the mortal subject being transformed into some sort of pretty energy creature able to go where it wills.

Unfortunately there is no supporting evidence for such claims, and indeed we have plenty of reason to believe that a pure-energy life-form is physically impossible.

Another kind of transcendence involves becoming something godlike yet still rooted in matter. This can range all the way from unlocking the hidden secrets of the human brain and making full use of it, to being artificially “evolved” into a more advanced kind of life form, to uploading (see below) and expanding your consciousness to fill all available computing resources. Of course if you’re still matter you can still be destroyed, but presumably if you’re something much better than human you’ll also be better at avoiding danger.


With computing power growing at a fantastic rate, it is becoming practical to digitally simulate the behavior of the neurons that make us think. We’re still a long, long way from being able to simulate a human brain in any practical way, but it could happen. Combine that with advances in medical scanning technology, and hopefully a breakthrough in understanding how neurons work together to produce thought and memory and consciousness, and you have an obvious conclusion: Why not transcribe our brains into computers?

The potential advantages are mind-boggling. Immortality. Making extra backups of your mind just in case. Cheap space travel and exploration. Cheap travel anywhere there’s a network. Ability to multi-process; create a second copy of yourself to handle annoying people or tackle dangerous jobs. High-speed thought. Ability to slow thought to wait out boring events. Increased memory capacity and accuracy. Seamless interaction with computers. Enhanced communication abilities.

Along with this come heavy philosophical questions. If you upload yourself into a computer, is it still you, or have you died? Is the you in the computer really conscious and sentient, or is it just a flawless simulation? Does it even matter? Do you have continuity of consciousness? If the meat version of you remains alive, which one is legally a person or are both? Does this count as reproduction? Similar questions also apply to brain modifications.

Magical Means

Assuming the existence of magic, there are many and varied means to use it to keep oneself alive. Magic is often portrayed as having a Do-What-I-Mean interface, which is a big plus because it reduces the likelihood that you will accidentally curse yourself.

The wise magic-user will be cautious and flexible. Start with the basics, like protection from all sorts of harm (violence, poison, disease), then add self-regenerating health and vigor, create a set of quick-escapes from especially dangerous scenarios, and take steps to ensure that you will always be able to revise, strengthen or add to these spells in the future. Also, avoid placing trust in others to procure your survival supplies, because forever is plenty of opportunity for your side-kicks to change their minds and betray you.

For non-spellcasters, wish-granting genies and deals with demons are popular ways to gain magical immortality. Such entities tend to be capricious and overly literal in their interpretation of wishes, and they have good lawyers. If one is not exceedingly precise in the wording of a wish, it can become a curse. For example, wishing simply for eternal life might not save you from the ravages of disease and decay. You could end up an immortal mind trapped forever in a useless, rotten body. Not fun.

Of course, one can also become immortal as the result of a curse placed upon oneself by an enemy. This is often done to earthy characters who value their friends and family, because it subjects them to the torture of watching all their loved ones grow old and die, and deprives them of the chance of reaching whatever afterlife they might believe in. In this case, all you can do is make the most of it. No sense being depressed for all eternity.

Immortal Plus

Most of the previously mentioned forms of undying immortality only offer safety from common forms of death like old age and disease, but there are many ways to die. Here are some additional factors you might want to consider.

Permanence. Do you want to be absolutely immortal, or do you want the option of ending your own life if you get bored? Can you trust yourself to make a sound judgement of when to end it? A thousand years of depression might make it tempting, but a million years of bliss could be right around the corner.

Food. Do you want to have to continue eating? Consider how much food you’ll need to eat over the next 15 billion years. Granted it doesn’t take much more than a large, well-maintained garden to feed one person, and a garden is a renewable food source. Well, renewable barring extinction of the light source or mutation of the plants into something inedible and no doubt intent on the extermination of all animals. An immortal may no longer be subject to the forces of evolution, but his food supply still is.

However, if you want to take long trips you have to ensure food will be available, or lug some with you. And what about bad food? If you’re the adventurous type, you’ll probably want to sample the local delicacies wherever you go, but that almost guarantees you’ll be poisoned at some point. It would be really embarrassing to keel over at the local fast food joint while sharing your accumulated wisdom with the natives.

Invulnerability. No matter how much of a hermit you are, if you live forever you’re bound to get into altercations ranging from fisticuffs to interstellar wars. Do you want protection from physical harm? Probably, but what kind? Being completely impervious to harm will make you cocky and more likely to endanger those around you, while at the same time boring you in the long run. Suffering an injury can be a positive personal growth experience, so maybe what you want is something along the lines of protection from death combined with total body regeneration ability.

Of course, even the ability to completely regenerate your body can cause problems. What if someone tosses you into a star? You’ll be floating there constantly growing new flesh only to have it instantly burned to a crisp. Mmmm… bacon… where was I? Oh yes, this little scenario leads to:

Protection from traps. Some people resent immortals and will set nasty traps for them. There is also always the risk of doing something stupid and trapping yourself. This could be really bad, because if you’re immortal and fall into an inescapable trap, you’re going to be really bored for a really long time. Probably the most practical way to avoid this problem is to also have the ability to teleport yourself arbitrarily.

Even so, escaping traps is a major problem for invulnerable types. As Frink pointed out to me after reading the first version of this article, what if someone tosses you into a singularity? It would really suck to be able to survive that because it’s pretty far-fetched to imagine a way of getting out again. You’d pretty much have to hope that Hawking was right and wait for the thing to evaporate.

Travel ability. Not a major problem really, but worth thinking about. You will eventually get bored of whatever planet you start on, and will want to explore other worlds. How will you get there?

Common Misconceptions about Immortality

It’s Boring.

Could very well be, if mishandled. Fortunately humans are amazingly good at finding ways to rationalize remaining alive in bad situations. If it gets too boring, you can make it more interesting by playing games with yourself, like deliberately forgetting things, or becoming an investigator or a collector of the rarest of the rare. If you’re bored forever, you’re doing something wrong.

Nobody Wants to Live Forever!

Wrong. I do. I want to see what happens next. Then what happens after that, and so on. I want to be able to travel the universe and see the sights. I want to see how the universe ends. As I said to Frink once, I’d like to be able to point at a distant galaxy and say, “I think I’ll go see who lives there, but I’ll take my time and see all the sights along the way,” and be able to actually do it.

It’s Selfish.

Damn right it is; nothing wrong with that. However, an immortal can also be of enormous benefit as a carrier of knowledge. Having a friendly immortal on your planet is a great safeguard against long-term dark ages; that person can help civilization rebuild quickly after large-scale disasters.

Why Deny Yourself Your Eternal Reward?

There is no evidence to support the belief in an afterlife, therefore it is logical to put off death as long as possible to maximize enjoyment of life. If there is an afterlife, it will still be there for you when you get tired of immortality.

It can also be argued that dying is irresponsible because it denies the benefit of your future works to your society. You might think to counter-argue that a given immortal might be more of a burden than a benefit to society, but that argument breaks down when you talk about immortality because immortality practically guarantees that the person will change many times over, and at some point will be greatly productive.

I would go so far as to suggest that even believing in an afterlife is socially irresponsible, because it cheapens the lives of others. Life becomes more precious if you believe that death is The End.

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