So lately I have been looking into how immortality is commonly pictured. The immortality of the kind "even if he's dead, he'll be back", when the "soul" (I personally prefer consciousness) of the person may inhabit a new vessel.

For example, Voldemort from Harry Potter stores his "soul" in horcruxes. His memory, his skills, everything seems to be untouched when he obtains a new body and comes back to life. This is immortality by "magic".

Another example I take from Pillars of Eternity. Every "soul" there is returned to the Wheel after death and is reborn (or not) later on in a new body. The souls retain their personalities and memories (although often misshapen) after they pass, but lose them once they're born again. This doesn't seem to apply to a specific few Awakened (souls of which randomly regain the memories of their past lives, often driving their bearers mad) and the main antagonist, whose soul is "immortal" (it retains memory, skills and personality no matter what). I'd call this immortality in "religion" and "mysticism".

Another one is from the latest Torment: Tides of Numenera. One of the main antagonists - the Changing God - has built a machine, which backs up his consciousness periodically and which he can use to transfer it into a different body (a machine to make bodies is also there). Although I personally think this is rather cloning, than true immortality. This is immortality via "technology".

What are other ways one can become "immortal", which are realistic & believable?


closed as too broad by sphennings, L.Dutch, Mołot, Separatrix, Frostfyre Jul 25 '17 at 12:06

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    $\begingroup$ It looks like you are trying to start a discussion. Worldbuilding is a question and answer site not a discussion forum. Please limit yourself to one question per post. $\endgroup$ – sphennings Jul 24 '17 at 20:59
  • $\begingroup$ I have narrowed the post down to one question, hopefully that will suffice. $\endgroup$ – altskop Jul 24 '17 at 21:03
  • $\begingroup$ There are a lot of fictions where there are just people who don't die naturally. $\endgroup$ – A. C. A. C. Jul 24 '17 at 21:10
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    $\begingroup$ Asking for a list of ways to become immortal is too broad a question for this site. $\endgroup$ – sphennings Jul 24 '17 at 21:12
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    $\begingroup$ This seems like a post to generate idea of "how one can become immortal, which are realistic and believable". You should define how this "immortality" work. I think this is better rephrased as "reincarnation", not immortality. $\endgroup$ – Vylix Jul 24 '17 at 21:14

In this field there's a holy war underway between "dualists", believing there's "something" (let us call it "soul" for the discussion) transcending the "simple" brain working and "materialists" who believe all manifestation of our spirit are a direct product of our nervous system.

If you (as it would seem from your question) belong to the first army then problem is how to re-attach the soul to another vessel once the first one is depleted. Problem is to find this "soul"; once that crucial step is done preparing a vessel for it should be almost trivial.

If you belong to the latter (as I do) then there's nothing to preserve, save the external manifestation; this means there's a "simple" way to achieve immortality and it is to replicate working of the brain, possibly in a emulated fashion (I won't hold my breath, but I'm reasonably sure we'll get there within next century... if we survive that long).

  • $\begingroup$ A holy war between dualists and materialist? No it's more like a grumpy exchange of overheated opinions. The one thing they share in common is a fear the materialists may be right. $\endgroup$ – a4android Jul 25 '17 at 4:44
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    $\begingroup$ @a4android I'm actually a bit amused at the idea of a materialist engaging in a holy war. The opportunities for amusing linguistic gymnastics abound! $\endgroup$ – Cort Ammon Jul 25 '17 at 6:04
  • $\begingroup$ @CortAmmon: I am following this debate quite closely and I have a definite opinion on it, but I have to admit tones and, sometimes, arguments on both sides go far beyond "scientific peer review". ;) There are notable exceptions, but personal beliefs often interfere heavily with reasoning (why I'm not surprised?) $\endgroup$ – ZioByte Jul 25 '17 at 7:19
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    $\begingroup$ @CortAmmon It is only rank discrimination keeping materialists from engaging in holy wars like everybody else. As for linguistic gymnastics, what you do with language in the privacy of your own home is your personal business. $\endgroup$ – a4android Jul 25 '17 at 8:55
  • $\begingroup$ Naturally personal beliefs interferes with reasoning, it's only human nature. Of all areas of human endeavour, at least, with science nature has a way of ignoring our personal beliefs and forcing reality down our collective throats. $\endgroup$ – a4android Jul 25 '17 at 8:59

From the realist POV the "person" is only the organization of neurons and their functions; none of the rest of the body really matters; and nearly every part have been severed by amputation or replaced by machinery or transplant without any alteration of "the person". (Other than normal personality changes due to persistently changed circumstances). Stephen Hawking has been a brain almost entirely disconnected from his body for most of his life; but is still a functioning human being. We transplant hearts, livers, kidneys, lungs, hands and more; even losing your heart doesn't change your memories, loves, politics or other inclinations.

We are just meat machines: Sometimes hateful, mean and cruel, but most of us are loving, caring, crying, romantic, joyful meat machines. This is excellent news for any meat machine that desires immortality.

Because our 100 billion neurons and their trillion connections are just biological entities rather like plants with intertwined roots. There is no magical component impossible to replicated.

Not only that, but the replication does not have to be perfect in order to preserve personality. Being of retirement age myself, I have seen Alzheimer's up close a few times among my parents and other older kin. Although it eventually does take the "person", a large amount of function can be lost while seemingly retaining the full "personality" characteristics of "who they are". My aunt had an unreasonably ridiculous love of dogs; and for years, even when she couldn't remember her own kids, they could get a reliably happy and joyful response from her simply by showing up to visit her with their combined pack of dogs.

Of course we do see radical personality changes when the brain is severely injured, by bullets or blunt trauma, cancer, other disease or surgery.

But the Alzheimer's patients are still good news for realists: It means the intertwining of neurons must have a very high redundancy, making the personality resilient to rather extensive damage. Of course we'd expect that to evolve; but in practical terms, it means replication can have a reasonable margin of error, in excess of 1%, and still reproduce the "person".

Presumably, some future technology (centuries away) really could freeze the brain, preserving the neurons and synapses. Then, in a destructive fashion, pick the brain apart and map every necessary component of it: Neurons, axons, synapses, glia, and anything else we have (by then) discovered is necessary.

The point is NOT to simulate this inside a computer, just to record the organization and network that is (in a realist POV) the personality, memories and emotions of Aunt Ariel at 50 years of age.

That information can be used grow a copy of her brain, minus any disease, with brand new "equipment". Something like with a 3-D printer, but over months, guiding the growth of the individual cells into the order specified by the "original" brain. Both recording and reproduction can have some small margin of error.

Also presumably in these centuries the biological control of cells needed to reconnect this brain to a new (brainless) body will all have been solved; and Aunt Ariel will awaken reborn.

From a realist POV that really will be Aunt Ariel; because all that counts and makes her, "HER", is that incredibly complex pattern of connections in her brain; which has plenty of redundancy and resilience to any damage caused by reproduction. So think of it as Aunt Ariel after being knocked unconscious in a minor car accident that caused no other injuries, and cured all her brain and body diseases in the bargain, and gave her a healthy 24 year old body.

Barring the collapse of civilization and technology; this could continue indefinitely, and would be effective immortality.

Perhaps with enough technology, the recording of every molecule and connection in the brain could be both non-invasive and diagnostic: so one could have an archive of themselves every day, like taking a shower, and computers could identify the presence of any disease or cancer the day it starts.

I would note we do not have to understand the brain in order to accurately reproduce it, just like a camera does not need to understand any meaning of the images it captures. Just like if I could replicate all the parts of a Swiss watch, in both material and form to the microscopic level, I could reassemble a copy of the watch that works like the original (otherwise I did not replicate all the parts correctly). There is no "soul" in the Swiss watch that makes it work; it does what it does as a consequence of mundane physics. The same holds for a computer. From the realist POV the same holds for animals and people; in principle they are a pattern of atoms and molecules that can be known and replicated.


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