The humble, or rather those not immediately pre-occupied with their end, imagine real immortality as the memory of oneself living on in others. It’s a kind of immortality, but one in which your self is ripped into pieces, and scattered across those still full with life. These pieces have no whole, no skeleton, and no self to maintain to persist any longer than as fleeting memories. It’s simple, and requires little effort other than to leave any kind of impression on others; but, it doesn’t feel like immortality.
The not so humble, or rather those indefinitely pre-occupied with the question of self, may leave notes, books, blogs, or videos. These snapshots though are but marginally better than memories. More stable, but they lack context. They don’t color the self as tangible, ever-changing, and whole. They are still pieces. And as those who once knew you pass, they too take with them crucial strands that tie the dis-jointed mediums together.
A grand legacy to leave behind in a history book, along street names, schools, buildings, or even whole swaths of land feels overly celebratory. People remember your actions and perhaps some of your thoughts as interpreted from historical pieces, but they aren’t really thinking of the “you”, just a slice of you for a particular historical purpose.
We could of course look towards supernatural methods, but if one wants to guarantee immortality, that is quite the risk to take. And besides, the goal is to persist my current self into forever, not a “reborn” or “re-animated” self. But me.
Virtual recreation? It’s a fun idea, but one which requires the entire industrial output of a future world to build, maintain, and persist for my virtual self. And is “me” just my mental image? What about all the physical aspects that also drive the self? Am I not the sum of hormones, physical needs, and physical boundaries? Am I still me without a heart that races with fear and excitement? Would a virtual one really accurately portray those parts?
I must persist the whole me, which means my physical self, beyond just a virtual copy.
But, what am I, alone, in a vat or empty universe whose sole purpose is to persist my physical and mental self? Am I, too, not the sum of my friends, family, strangers, co-workers, etc? I do not think “me” is much without “you”. Would a simulation of “you” suffice? Maybe, but that feels only incrementally better.
Besides, what am I without this physical world, and this universe? Am I really so detached from the universe as to somehow be without it? Assuming my entire self could be fully simulated or re-created, aren’t I still bound by the universe in which I currently inhabit? Aren’t I defined and articulated by it?
And now, the self has ballooned into the whole of everything. To suppose immortality, I must too include the persistence of the whole universe just to maintain me.
Perhaps I am the universe; you know the whole “demon controlling all your senses” thing, or “cogito ergo sum”.
Is that too selfish?
Perhaps immortality is too selfish an endeavor to entertain.