Chapter 1 — Part III: The Bug Man In Blue Jeans
Catch up from Part I here.
If you can not find eternal rest,
Then your greatest curse is to live forever.
Ever wonder what it would be like to be immortal? I asked the Bug this question and this was his answer.
Immortality is actually not possible given what we understand of the universe. When the universe ends… well… so does everything else, although many believe there exists a spiritual life beyond this realm where this is different. However, if we are considering merely living a long time, that is another matter.
Whatever age you live in, take this advice: make friends, avoid making enemies, and moderate your foolishness. Avoid careers with words like “mercenary” or “martyr” in the job description. Practice the Golden Rule: Unless you can eliminate all relations, by birth or by attachment, to a person you treat with injustice, then be prepared for an act of vengeance to be perpetrated on you in the future.
Nearly every advanced civilization will have a window of opportunity when it is possible for ordinary individuals to latch on to an extreme lifespan. If you are too early, you may die in a late stage war. If you are too late, you may die in “The Fall.” The length of the window will depend on many factors and can last from a few years to a few centuries or more; but regardless, like everything else, a biosphere has a finite lifespan, so there will eventually be a sustainability end stage.
Wealth and privilege can greatly increase your odds of being a candidate, but one must never rule out blind stupid luck. It works just as well. Being healthy and having a good genetic code generally can give you a little better odds of catching the window.
Whether an individual can make use of this window will be determined by the level of technology that is available. Medical research and technology are paramount. If common diseases like cancer are not curable, you risk doing everything right and still dying young. Many may think that suspended animation will carry them into a time when they can begin the process with more certainty, but you really can not manage your life if you are asleep, so you risk sleeping past your opportunity or never waking at all. Precision manufacturing technology is equally necessary, because you will need vehicles, shelters, and tools to escape the perils of the end stage of the planet. Take a serious interest in digital technology and nanotechnology.
The first great leap in increasing lifespan is a relatively simple technology. Prosthetics and lab grown organs can give you quite a few more years. When tissue printing devices are developed, the ability for large numbers of individuals to get assistance will increase. The critical technology that gives you real hope; however, is neurological regeneration. The ultimate technology in tissue replication will of course be nerve and brain tissue. Two hundred years of organ transplants and a worn out brain is worse than if you just sleep through it all. Never mind the multitude of information systems that you have plugged in your head. If you can not process the information, it is worthless. (The legalists have a simple test. Unplug all the hardware and have the subject answer some simple questions. Fail and you are classified as legally dead.)
This time period is not a good time to be selfish. In all cases you must support broad expansion of the technologies to as many individuals as possible. This will allow a decrease in the complexity and an increase the mobility of the technology. Both will be important to you.
At this point you have real odds of surviving a few centuries, but you have a dilemma. The clock is still ticking down and you are completely dependent on the technology providers. Any planetary instability can curtail your efforts. You need to get off world and you need to take the technology with you. There are several good options available. If you are very wealthy, you can buy what you need and leave, or if you become an expert with the technology, you can sell your services and leave along with the wealthy. Perhaps the best option is to be a well paid expert and become wealthy yourself.
Once you are in space, you are most likely still limited to the local solar system, but you have more time and room to maneuver. You must now concentrate on technology research that gives greater innovation and compactness. You manufacture using advanced material printing for all the composites you need and you must constantly improve the process. You will need faster and smarter computers and automatons. The age of true AI is dawning. The creation of nanites will be of great value to you. At this point suspended animation becomes a practical reality, distances are immense out here and you will find yourself moving further into the outer system looking for raw resources and adding more space between yourself and your home planet.
In the worst case, the home planet will go through violent cycles of decline before the final end. In the best case, millennia may pass as the planet slowly poisons itself. This time period requires all the space colonies to become completely self-sufficient or everything is over. Depending on the desperation of the final regimes, you may find yourself guiding asteroids into your former home. Regardless, you will most likely eventually see your world die.
At some point, space faring ships will begin the exploration of the galaxy. Your new dilemma is mass. In order to travel faster, you must be lighter. Carrying your biomass, your bio-lab, your food production, and your manufacturing capacity gets harder and harder. So you simplify. You reduce your biomass to just a brain. Food production is eliminated. You use electricity to recharge your chemical bio-energy cycle and synthesize key nutrients. Nanites will replace your laboratory and your manufacturing functions. If you are successful, you will travel faster and carry a fraction of your original mass.
If aliens decide to reveal themselves, this contact is most likely going to happen at this time. Only good fortune will save you at this point. Any alien culture will likely have superior technology and your chances of survival depend completely on whether they are hostile, friendly, or uninterested.
The speed limit of space is the speed of light. If you can achieve ten percent of that, you can travel one light year in ten standard years. Advanced lasers allow communications at the speed of light. With suspended animation the galaxy is in reach, but you become a transient. You are dealing with news that is several years old and any communications from you will take twice that time for a two way response. It is time to make yourself even smaller with true multitasking. Although you have been replacing you own neurons with advanced circuitry for eons, you are reluctant to swap out certain areas of consciousness. Your only option is to build an AI replica of yourself. The replica is much lighter and you can now be effectively in two places at once. You can not release rogue AI, so you must perform extensive testing to make sure that the new version of you is safe. From then on, you create replicas as needed and you populate the galaxy with replicas of yourself. All data that the replicas obtain will go into data bases individually maintained by you and each member of your AI team. The effort to erase your presence will be significant at this point.
The final version of your AI team is created from masses of nanites that can pose as any solid entity or as a near transparent entity. They are extremely light and can travel at near the speed of light. You now have the capacity to fully explore the entire galaxy.
The first million years or so you worry about dying. After that, you worry about living too long.