Immortality in a conworld

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Immortality in a conworld

Post by greatbuddha » 18 Feb 2013 04:20

I've made nearly all of the humans in my conworld genetically immortal (at some long forgotten point in the past their genome was altered to prevent senescence as make cancer less likely). The majority of the concultures have a culture encouraging life and devotion to a study, to prevent suicide or mental disorders that might come of people who have lived to long and given up, as opposed to widespread suicide at old age like in the culture. The consocieties are also thriving, and have children, rather than being stable and stagnant like some interpretations of elves. Do any conworlders think this is a good idea? I almost never see conworlds that portray immortality as a normal and widespread thing and when there is immortality it usually comes with some price, like a difficult to perpetuate procedure or sacrificing your soul or something like that. Is there a reason, or is it just tradition?
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Re: Immortality in a conworld

Post by Ànradh » 18 Feb 2013 05:03

I have a sci-fi world where technology driven near-immortality is widespread amongst humans. The immortality is actually less of a plot point that one might think, and isn't focussed on too much.

In the Takeshi Kovacs books, it seems that immense old age has differing effects on different people. The attitude of the general populace to it is usually negative, but that said, most immortals are power-hungry hyper-rich types, and would probably garner this reaction even if limited to a single lifespan.

I think that immortality is normally looked at as being unnatural and therefor seems 'wrong' by many readers.
From author standpoints, it may be that immortality requires much explanation for things like population growth and resource management. Depending on 'how' immortal the character is, it may simply remove a lot of empathy for him/her due to having such an alien life.
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Re: Immortality in a conworld

Post by greatbuddha » 18 Feb 2013 05:42

Your world's approach to immortality is similar to mine, I suppose a short way to sum it up is "the immortality isn't a plot point but simply a fact". Allthough In my world immortality is no longer technology driven, even fallen, primitive societies still inherit immortality from their parents (that adds such a weird vibe, imagining a developing country where a member the poor underclass can live indefinitely as long as they eke out an living.) The humans in my conworld, even the advanced one, have a very pervasive religion stating that humans were put in the universe to order it and please their creator, so population growth is encouraged as it provides more "instruments of order."
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Re: Immortality in a conworld

Post by Micamo » 18 Feb 2013 07:12

The real reason for the "tradition" is because immortality is perhaps one of humanity's strongest desires, and the theme of hubris and punishment for eating the forbidden fruit is all the rage these days. "If you want Wonderful Thing X, you're a horrible person because X somehow leads to horrible consequences. Learn your place, puny human."
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Re: Immortality in a conworld

Post by Chagen » 19 Feb 2013 03:35

There's also that immortality dampens any drive to better oneself or the species. If you live forever, there's no need to improve the species, so people won't be striving as often to discover things scientifically. It'll definitely happen (there will always be smart people who want to learn more about the world) but not as much.
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Re: Immortality in a conworld

Post by Lambuzhao » 19 Feb 2013 03:40

Micamo wrote:The real reason for the "tradition" is because immortality is perhaps one of humanity's strongest desires, and the theme of hubris and punishment for eating the forbidden fruit is all the rage these days. "If you want Wonderful Thing X, you're a horrible person because X somehow leads to horrible consequences. Learn your place, puny human."
Exactly, and as a :con: Creator, I take every opportunity to quash the feeble attempts at immortality among my :con: races.
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Re: Immortality in a conworld

Post by Micamo » 19 Feb 2013 04:30

Chagen wrote:There's also that immortality dampens any drive to better oneself or the species. If you live forever, there's no need to improve the species, so people won't be striving as often to discover things scientifically. It'll definitely happen (there will always be smart people who want to learn more about the world) but not as much.
Absolute nonsense.

1. "Bettering human society" is the kind of thing you say to pitch your research topic to sponsors who don't share your passion for the subject when there's no obvious way to monetize it: It's not something that anyone actually believes. Real scholars research either to make a profit off of what they can make with their findings, or because they legitimately care about the subject for its own sake.

2. How in the *fuck* will immortality dampen any of these sorts of motives? Depending on the exact implementation and its effects on the brain, if anything it'd make it vastly more effective. You'd have people running around who literally have thousands of years of experience in their field who are still in their prime: In today's world most in the hard sciences do all of their best work before they leave their 20's (in the soft sciences and the humanities they have a bit longer, mostly because those fields require different skillsets that don't degrade so rapidly).
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Re: Immortality in a conworld

Post by Chagen » 19 Feb 2013 06:01

2. How in the *fuck* will immortality dampen any of these sorts of motives?
If humans live forever, what's the point of trying to increase lifespan through such things as better nutrition, more effective medicine, and the like? I'm assuming that the immortality described here is the "cannot die no matter what" kind--if it's merely "cannot die through old age but can die through hunger/injury/disease/etc." kind then I retract my statements.
1. "Bettering human society" is the kind of thing you say to pitch your research topic to sponsors who don't share your passion for the subject when there's no obvious way to monetize it: It's not something that anyone actually believes. Real scholars research either to make a profit off of what they can make with their findings, or because they legitimately care about the subject for its own sake.
Are you telling me that, say, those who research medicine truly do not care about bettering society through increasing it's ability to combat disease and the like? That's quite a pessimistic outlook to take.
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Re: Immortality in a conworld

Post by Ànradh » 19 Feb 2013 06:24

Chagen wrote:Are you telling me that, say, those who research medicine truly do not care about bettering society through increasing it's ability to combat disease and the like?
Generally, yes. Money seems to be the main motivation behind becoming a practicing doctor, while interest in the field seems to be the main motivation behind becoming a researcher.
Either that or I, and those I know, have been extremely unlucky in that they only meet those doctors who couldn’t care less.
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Re: Immortality in a conworld

Post by Micamo » 19 Feb 2013 06:32

Chagen wrote:
2. How in the *fuck* will immortality dampen any of these sorts of motives?
If humans live forever, what's the point of trying to increase lifespan through such things as better nutrition, more effective medicine, and the like? I'm assuming that the immortality described here is the "cannot die no matter what" kind--if it's merely "cannot die through old age but can die through hunger/injury/disease/etc." kind then I retract my statements.
Yes, Chagen, because every last technological development ever made was done in the interests of increasing lifespan. People definitely don't care about comfort, efficiency, or just pure entertainment.
Are you telling me that, say, those who research medicine truly do not care about bettering society through increasing it's ability to combat disease and the like? That's quite a pessimistic outlook to take.
I'm sure it gives them warm and fuzzy feelings when they think about it but only in fiction do you find ones who have that as their primary motivation.
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Re: Immortality in a conworld

Post by Chagen » 19 Feb 2013 06:34

Lodhas: Doctors != those who reseach and create medicine. Doctors just give it out to the populace and do other things such as diagnose/administer it/etc depending on their specific field.

But even then, a lot of doctors who I've heard talk about WHY they became doctors state that they took on the job because they like to help people. I cannot really believe that researchers and their kin don't enjoy benefitting others with their inventions/research.
Yes, Chagen, because every last technological development ever made was done in the interests of increasing lifespan. People definitely don't care about comfort, efficiency, or just pure entertainment.
I was just saying one hypothetical out of many.

Abotu efficiency: there's no need to be more efficient when you have unlimited time to do work. Efficiency matters when there's limited time and you have to do as much as work possible withing those limits.
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Re: Immortality in a conworld

Post by Ànradh » 19 Feb 2013 06:43

Chagen wrote:But even then, a lot of doctors who I've heard talk about WHY they became doctors state that they took on the job because they like to help people. I cannot really believe that researchers and their kin don't enjoy benefitting others with their inventions/research.
Sure, but try and get an emergency appointment after the doctor's gone home...
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Re: Immortality in a conworld

Post by Micamo » 19 Feb 2013 07:08

Chagen wrote:Abotu efficiency: there's no need to be more efficient when you have unlimited time to do work. Efficiency matters when there's limited time and you have to do as much as work possible withing those limits.
Yeah, because people have unlimited patience, no desire for leisure time, and unlimited resources to work with.
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Re: Immortality in a conworld

Post by Thrice Xandvii » 19 Feb 2013 10:25

I think this conversation is actually, in a way, a very good point about immortality.

I think it is avoided because people can't possibly concieve of how things would be different if everyone were immortal. (Hence this philosophical discussion.) I believe, we as humans, are bound by our experience and by our imagination (which is bound in the same way). We cannot possibly understand the myriad differences that would crop up in life were we never to die. Can we imagine some of them? Yes, but I don't think we can actually empathize with the hypothetical people. As such, we simply can't come up with the "logic" of how things would work and instead get caught up on this tangental discussion of the true goals of "progress."

Also, it is clear that the two of you will never agree on this stuff... too much of a split between optimism and pessimism.
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Re: Immortality in a conworld

Post by Thrice Xandvii » 19 Feb 2013 10:56

Micamo wrote:Yeah, because people have unlimited patience, no desire for leisure time, and unlimited resources to work with.
In fact... resources would be a HUGE issue in a society with many immortals... unless of course the birthrate was at or near 0.
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Re: Immortality in a conworld

Post by vampireshark » 19 Feb 2013 19:29

Immortality doesn't really make things fun. I look to some literature/media where immortality and extreme longevity aren't always seen as a blessing, per se, but sometimes a curse: you're doomed to see the world around you decay while you remain. That said, though, conworlding with it might be tricky, especially if (with humans) you keep the same growth cycles and rates because of the resources issue.

That said, I don't have immortality in my conworld(s). Humans have about the same lifespans, 70-90 Earth years depending on region. Avetolians have somewhat shorter lifespans, about 60-75 years. There are a few other races I'm toying with here and there, but their lifetimes aren't particularly long.
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Re: Immortality in a conworld

Post by zelos » 19 Feb 2013 19:41

immortality would mean there is NOTHING That can kill you

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Re: Immortality in a conworld

Post by Neiman » 19 Feb 2013 21:45

This topic has been something of considerable concern for me, because one of the reasons I left my childhood church was an absolutely desperate fear of immortality - for me or anyone. Irrational, almost certainly, but the fact that I've spent even a single lazy Saturday alone and bored makes me skeptical that I could ever make use of all that time. If there's an afterlife, I hope it's eternal mundane damnation or spinning around singing songs to some divine autocrat because I don't at all want to have any more lost time or mistakes or choices.

In my conworld, there's a few roads to immortality.

One is a strictly metaphorical immortality - that of heroes and legends whose stories outlive their mortal scopes. There can be a certain dialogue with these characters that in-universe would seem to be very vivid hallucinations just on the border of reality. Essentially ghosts that linger. Out of universe it's a metaphor for the sustaining power of verse, and our ability to interact with myths and writing for the past.

Another is an actual immortality. Those people with enough desperation to give up their lives to forego death can live forever through sheer force of will (and a certain item that warps reality - but mostly will). It requires constant focus, and works best when large groups of people band together in common desire for life. It's specifically a desire that things not change which drives the process. Its strongest manifestations are cultish clans and tribes which settle somewhere and do everything in their power to maintain constant, unchanging lives. In one region, this force was so strong that the sun appeared to move slowly in the sky (out of sync with the actual light - so a sun could be in the sky against a starry night). Also, a nearby stream came over a cliff so slowly that it appeared to be falling like feathers. It's not widespread, it's not sustainable, but it does keep some people alive from as far back as the first agricultural settlements to practically the heat-death of the universe).

The third form of immortality is a hybrid of the two, based oddly enough on the American Constitution. Contracts of law can inspire similar eternal retelling like myths and legends. A political leader can draft a document outlining the importance of certain rights or privileges - racial or caste arrangements - or any of a variety of culturally important political decisions. The political leader can live as long as the ideas set forth in that document are upheld. This is something that no one really mentions or talks about, because it's been around forever. It's been theorized that at some point the original person dies and their body lingers only as a manifestation of national pride, but others say it is a strict immortality.
This has existed since time immemorial - the first tribes kept wisemen immortal by seeking their judgement, perceived wisdom preserves. Of course, these same men who gain immortality also tend to lord over their peoples indefinitely. I call it the tyranny of the long dead, when laws and ideas are considered so intrinsic to a culture, so infallible, that we're to treat them as something more than arbitrary definitions on paper.

There are at least two individuals who influence the world far beyond any sort of human lifespan and aren't actively preserved by the things they influence - but it's difficult to say whether they're creator deities, or simply utilizing one of the above forms of immortality.

It's a very political thing for me, immortality. Gods have immortality only as long as they are remembered. They can continue to influence the world so long as they have disciples (but of course, it's the disciples who do everything - so one's right to question the existence of a deity). It's typical postmodern drivel but I think the metaphor stands.

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Re: Immortality in a conworld

Post by Curlyjimsam » 19 Feb 2013 21:48

Population growth would be the main problem, I would think. This sort of thing would only be viable if either (nearly) everyone were sterile, or if space travel is sufficiently well developed that the race can simply go on colonising new worlds without limit.
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Re: Immortality in a conworld

Post by greatbuddha » 20 Feb 2013 00:38

As for stagnation, in my conworld there is one main stagnant and extremely xenophobic society(albeit with a high quality of life.) However, the genetic tradition that gave humans immortality persists in other societies. My concultures are above
cyborgs, they have altered the dna of slaves and the like to create connective tissue proteins that incorporate titanium for strength and altered neurons to propogate nerve signals fully electrically, so cyborgs can literally be grown with a proper metal containing diet and very closely resemble humans. However they are usually slaves and the ones that have altered neurons are nonsentient as their fast propogating nervous signals turn them into reflexive machines rather than slower thinking beings of true thought.
As for population and resources, the death rate is actually appreciable as suicide is commonplace and the more xenophobic societies often engage in extraordinairly destructive wars.
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