Some futurists predict that we'll be able to halt the aging process by the end of this century — if not sooner. The prospect of creating an ageless society is certainly not without its critics, with concerns ranging from the environmental right through to the spiritual. One of the most common objections to radical life extension, however, is the idea that it would be profoundly boring to live forever, and that by consequence, we should not even attempt it.Although Dvorsky's article is about prolonging physical existence indefinitely the same objection is sometimes raised to the Christian concept of eternal life. The argument is that in an infinite time people would eventually experience everything there is to experience and learn everything there is to know. At that point existence would no longer hold any fascination. It would cease to be interesting and become crushingly boring.
The discussion that ensues in Dvorsky's post is fascinating, and I commend it to you, but I'd like to share a couple of thoughts on the Christian notion of eternal life.
First, we need to keep in mind that boredom is a mental phenomenon. There's no reason to think that in an eternal existence boredom would be any more a part of life than would pain. Our mental structure in the eternal realm may be quite different than what it is in this physical life. In other words, although now each subsequent experience of, say, a beautiful piece of music may be less thrilling than the first experience, it could well be that in eternity every experience of some phenomena is equally as exciting as the first.
Second, boredom is a consequence of existing in time. We get bored because time drags by without offering anything to pique our interest, but eternity is not necessarily temporal. If eternal life is not a temporal experience, if those who experience eternal existence are outside of time (as we conceive God to be), then boredom may simply be irrelevant or non-existent.
Third, even if eternity is in some sort of time, it could be that there's an infinity of possible experience such that even in an infinity of time we would never exhaust it all. Like a man counting for an infinite time could never exhaust all possible integers, a man existing for an infinite time might never exhaust all possible experience.
At any rate, Dvorsky's column is interesting largely for some of the quotes he cites. For example, Chris Hackler, head of the Division of Medical Humanities at the University of Arkansas, states that:
Let's face it, most peoples' jobs aren't all that fascinating. They put in a 9-to-5 and they're glad to have the weekend. So you wonder if having twice as much of this is a good thing, or if you'd get totally burned out.In other words, life's a drag as it is and most people aren't going to want to make it any longer than it needs to be. I have no doubt that this is true, at least if this life is all there is. If there's no transcendent realm in which infinite joy and richness reside and of which we can catch a glimpse now and then, then it's surely true that life is a meaningless, painful interlude of suffering between two states of nothingness.
If, on the other hand, there is such a realm then there's hope that life can be rich, fascinating, and pleasurable forever.
Anyway, check out Dvorsky's essay. It's thought-provoking.