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Live forever or die trying
Billionaires are a rare breed and that is probably a good thing. There have always been little people dreaming up crazy schemes throughout human history, it’s true, but the very wealthy seem to preoccupy themselves with different things than regular folks. When basic survival – procuring food, shelter and clothing – is no longer top of mind, men can start contemplating loftier issues. In the case of billionaires, they often have the power and means to bring their imaginings to life, with mixed results.
A cursory glance over human history will reveal that rich and powerful rulers often preoccupied themselves with existence and legacy, youth and eternal life. Some men contented themselves with vanity projects, accumulation of empire or vast philanthropy, a way to live on somehow after death. But the obsession with finding a way to actually live forever is an old one. One writer sums it up well: “Man’s desire to defy nature has been endless, to put it mildly. Right from the Epic of Gilgamesh, said to be the oldest surviving work of literature, which talks about man’s search for immortality, through the Mahabharata and Chinese expeditions ordered by kings to find secrets to live forever, the need to achieve the impossible-so-far shows no signs of dissipation.”
Today, with molecular science, printed organs, genetic studies and medical technology, talk about living forever has gone mainstream. One scientist wrote, “Some people living today could be the first generation to live forever, or the last generation to die." But presumably, only if the price is right.
During the pandemic, the uber rich were busy contemplating where best to build their bunkers and what life might be like following a planet-changing event. What about the zombies? "How do I wrangle my security force and pay them when crypto is worthless?" Elon Musk is well-known for tinkering at the transhumanist boundary of mind and machine, hoping that people might one day upload their consciences into a computer. Jeff Bezos, Larry Page, Larry Ellison and Peter Thiel are just a few of the super-rich who have taken a "keen interest in the fast-emerging field of longevity," funding tech developed to eradicate human diseases.
One man who is really putting his body on the line in the quest for the "next evolution" of humanity is Bryan Johnson, a tech multimillionaire who wants to reverse the aging process and live forever. Or at least, for as long as he can. And he is pinning all his hope on artificial intelligence.
In an interview with Rolling Stone, Johnson said he has surrendered his eating, sleeping and exercise decisions to algorithms. "The human mind has been the most superior form of intelligence on this planet for quite some time; Computational Intelligence just exceeded our minds in many domains. I basically agreed to this algorithm that my body runs itself. My mind observes — my mind no longer decides." There are no "cheat days", he relies on the algorithm to do his thinking for him. "I still do not trust my mind in a pantry full of goodies."
Apart from his dedication to a daily truckload of supplements and weekly injections of various longevity-inducing substances, Johnson's strict lifestyle leaves no time for dating as he told Time magazine in a recent interview. He divorced from his wife a few years ago and now his routine involves "eating dinner at 11:30am, no sunny vacations, bed at 8:30pm, no small talk, always sleeping alone." You’ve got to admire his discipline, but is it all pie in the sky (then you die)? And without the pie..
Johnson’s worldview is strangely gnostic, the idea that secret knowledge generated by AI holds a key to eternal life, as well as his mind-body dualism harken back to that ancient heresy. “If everything from marketing to legal research to retail will soon be optimized by algorithms, why shouldn’t algorithms run our bodies as well?” Johnson asks. It is salvation by technique. Efficiency and effectiveness dictates everything – how he spends his time, what he eats, even how he drives (slowly and only after confessing the mantra: "Driving is the most dangerous thing we do.")
Why does he want to live forever? As with Elon Musk et al, there is a magnanimity to Johnson’s long life aspirations – publishing all his findings will help humankind follow in his wake to new levels of greatness, he says. Scientific endeavors have rendered great benefit to humanity, for sure. But the default progressive mindset among many elites today assumes humankind is on its way to perfection, forgetting that man was perfect and fell (to his death) from such a great height.
While it is a reflection of our good Creator that good men still seek to find ways to alleviate the affects of the Curse, scanning the headlines will confirm that evil is real. Whether man-made or wrought by nature, we are subject to the forces of sin of which death is the final and inevitable blow. King Solomon knew that immortality projects are vanity – all are forgotten eventually whether great, small, wise or foolish and everyone must face the abyss of death. More than that, it is Jesus Christ, who routed death that decides when we die. To ignore that is folly.
There is a better way to live than by the fearful effort to conquer death. By all means, we should live well and steward our bodies for the good of others, but as Dr. Koontz reminds us in his excellent lecture, life is not something that is earned, but a gift. If Mr Johnston grasped this, perhaps he would leave off his death-defying and embrace the time he has on earth in a different way. For the redeemed, death is not something to fear, freeing us to attend to the joys amongst the thorns in this life. Now that Jesus’ tomb is empty, the worst thing – dying – is merely the vehicle he uses to give us the best thing: a true home, a resurrected body and eternal hope realized for real.
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