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CMaz's avatar

What if we could live for ever?

Asked by CMaz (26238points) June 14th, 2009

If we could live for ever and we did not “need” to rest?
Examples: sleep, vacations, retirement, sabbaticals
And, for the most part there were not many health issues to be concerned with.
Would we still need the same references to time as we currently do? 24 hours in a day. 7 days in a week.

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29 Answers

SirBailey's avatar

Time references have nothing to do with how long we live. Time was “invented” based upon the earth’s rotation and calendars were based on MANY things ( depending on the culture).

How would you arrange to meet someone for dinner in the future without time and dates?

So you replace sleeping with something else. Why would that change time?

DarkScribe's avatar

There would be a lot of life insurance salespeople looking for new careers.

DarkScribe's avatar

@SirBailey Time was “invented” based upon the earth’s rotation and calendars were based on MANY things ( depending on the culture).

But that is not time, that is just a way of measuring time.

MsProtoge's avatar

I think if you lived forever, what would be the point in time? It’s kinda like in Twilight. (I cannot believe I am making a reference to this.) Everything would become redundant, the same.

whatthefluther's avatar

Time would become irrelevant very quickly, as we would deplete all the natural resources of earth much sooner then our current path. We would self-destruct from malnutrition, disease and battling for the dwindling resources. It would be ugly.

evelyns_pet_zebra's avatar

Evelyn says that immortality isn’t all that its cracked up to be, and that humans are lucky to be mortal. In her words: “Immortality gives you all the time in the world to do everything you can possibly think of, and even then, you still have too much time on your hands. Having your image appear in a tortilla before a race that hasn’t even invented Mexican food yet, well even that gets old after doing it a million times.”

ABoyNamedBoobs03's avatar

what a disaster this planet would be.

Jayne's avatar

Just for the sake of random philosophizing, eternity wouldn’t have to be that boring, because you always have a finite amount of memory, so you would always have more to learn, even if you have already learned it an infinite number of times before.

pope52's avatar

Eventually you’d fall into a hole, get locked in a closet, or the sun would explode and you’d be stuck drifting in space. The problem with living forever is that it only takes one accident to mess up your life for eternity.

CMaz's avatar

Lets put philosophy aside. Would time evolve into another concept. You could still plan a meeting but it might not be as important as tomorrow. Could be, “I will get back to you in 100 years.”

Jayne's avatar

“Let’s put philosophy aside. Would time evolve into another concept.”
Seems a bit contradictory in terms there, mate ;)

Anyways, I suppose people would have to slow down the pace of their lives, or they would run out of resources awfully quickly. Not, of course, that this would do much good in the long run. If people had no need to sleep, I do expect that the day would cease to be a common measurement of time, because there really is no reason to expect that it is the most efficient regulator of human activities; it’s just the one we got stuck with by dint of astronomical shenanigans. Doing away with the limitation of sleep would free humanity to engage in trial and error by which, through a process analogous to evolution by natural selection among species, the most efficient scheduling mechanism would be chosen. I have no idea what it would be; I very much doubt it would involve divisions 24 hours in duration.

whatthefluther's avatar

I suspect we might not, as often, utilize the same amount of detail we use today, but still use astronomy as it provides easy reference (I’ll get back to you within three sunsets or seven moons or 100 earth orbits). Scheduling appointments would still require minutiae. I can be certain of one thing, however: under any and all circumstances, @sccrowell will be late!

CMaz's avatar

Will use this as analogy only.
God said he created the heavens and the earth in 6 days.
Since he lives eternally. 6 days is only relevant to people living within a cretin confinement of time. 6 days for God could have meant 6 trillion years.

DarkScribe's avatar

@ChazMaz 6 days for God could have meant 6 trillion years.

You are saying that God isn’t very smart? Some sort of all powerful idiot savant? He had a message for us, but was incapable of couching it in terms of reference that we could understand?

It explains a lot. Thank you.

CMaz's avatar

“was incapable of couching it in terms of reference that we could understand?”

In a way yes, I see it as for the time. They could not comprehend 6 trillion. 6 days was easier and more practical to explain.

Being people having to be restrained within another concept of time.

DarkScribe's avatar

@ChazMaz They could not comprehend 6 trillion. 6 days was easier and more practical to explain.

They could comprehend six thousand, or the concept of a very long time. Why lie to them and say it was days?

Supacase's avatar

Would suicide still be possible? Because I think I would hate living forever.

Supacase's avatar

@DarkScribe My thinking on why they used 6 days was because they knew there were 7 days in a week and some regular time should be used for rest, reflection and religion. They couldn’t say, “God created the world in 6 thousand years and then he rested for 1000 years.” That would be a completely inaffective way to deliver the intended message to people who live in terms of days and weeks and whose lives didn’t last beyond a few decades.

DarkScribe's avatar

@Supacase God created the world in 6 thousand years and then he rested for 1000 years.

He doesn’t even have to mention the time it took to make the planet, all he has to do is say “if you don’t stop everything on the Sabbath, I’ll get very pissed off and hurt you. He does something similar in other areas.

juwhite1's avatar

I’m not so sure we need those time references now, as mere mortals. Plenty of cultures don’t focus nearly as much as European and Amarican cultures do. Many people from African and Latin cultures actually make fun of Americans for their completely obsessive relationship with time. It is very apparent in our language, with expressions such as killing time, wasting time, time to go, time for a change, it’s that time again, and on and on. Our insistence on punctuality is extreme, and our culture is built around what time things open, close, when you go to work and get off, etc. None of that is really needed to be a productive society, but that’s an awfully foreign concept to most of us.
On a side note, if we could live forever, we’d need to quit reproducing, which would eliminate the need for sex, which is a favorite pass time for many of us, making the use of our time less enjoyable, so I’m really glad we have to die eventually!

boffin's avatar

What if we could live for ever?

Brad and Angelina too?

Take me know…

evelyns_pet_zebra's avatar

@juwhite1 a fictional character in one of my short novels says this about time: “Mankind invented time to set himself free, and in the process became enslaved by little plastic clocks made in China.”

justus2's avatar

As long as I am with mylove I would like to live forever.

wundayatta's avatar

We’d have the same relationship to time as we do now, except for one thing: our time horizon would be much farther. We’d be able to plan for 100, 200, 1000 years ahead, and know we’ll be there to see the results of the plan.

Time wouldn’t pass any faster or slower, in terms of our perception. We’d still have the same interest in time, as we did before. Cultural differences in relationships to time would remain the same. Costa Ricans would still have tiko time, and the Japanese would still be running the Shinkansen exactly on schedule.

Our relationship to time, as a culture, is based on what we want to do. Westerners of European extraction, as well as many East Asian cultures want to be rich, and achieve status via wealth. So they spend as much of their time creating wealth as they can stand. Other cultures value other things, and so can spend much more time meeting and visiting and traveling and so on.

None of this would change as a result of living forever. If we are a workaholic, wealth-obsessed culture, we’ll continue in that vein, only even more so, because we’ll know the power of compound interest will be in our favor.

Culture will change, of course, the further along we get. The oldest will be the wealthiest, and since they don’t die, they won’t leave room for younger people to take over. There may be some sort of mandatory retirement, so older people have to start over again with a new career. Even so, they will always have an advantage over others.

As wealth grows, perhaps the oldest would turn to more artistic or philosophical pursuits, since they no longer need to worry about money. Or, perhaps people would stop having children, or they would have children at a much slower rate. Maybe there would be a permitting system, and someone could only have a child when a person had died as a result of an accident or something.

It’s also interesting to think about class issues. Would poor people finally be able to dig themselves out of poverty, or would they remain poor forever? People who don’t know how to manage money might never build wealth, or would everyone eventually learn how to take advantage of the long time horizon?

How about relationships? How long would they last? Most science fiction writers suggest that they might last sixty—maybe ninety years, but after that, most people would change partners. Or would relationships, since they were no longer about families and children, change? Perhaps marriage would no longer be important? Perhaps building a network of friends would become more important. Who knows?

Thanks for inspiring the speculation @ChazMaz!

Bluefreedom's avatar

If we could live forever, the world population would skyrocket and there would be no way to sustain the massive amount of humans that would inhabit the planet. Wait, aren’t we facing this crisis already?

Sorry to be such a downer. I was compelled to offer a serious answer to this question and it turned out to be depressing. =(

CMaz's avatar

This is true, but…
WIth people not needing to sleep and living for ever. New technology development would skyrocket exponentially. Before you know we would be living on every planet in our solar system. I would say other solar systems also, but I just don’t believe traveling past the speed of light would eve be attained.
Which brings us back to the eventually of over population. Then we would have to decide how long a person should live, and then execute them. Like in Logans Run.

evelyns_pet_zebra's avatar

@ChazMaz, Logan’s Run is just one option. There are several sci-fi writers that have covered this problem in other ways. It isn’t all suicide chambers and Soylent Green you know.

CMaz's avatar

Well, we might not end up with such a romantic ending as being made into a cracker. But, in the real world nature tends to eventually take control.
Survival of the fittest. Disease and starvation is always an option. Has worked that way for centuries. Or, there is always sterilization. Or a lottery deciding who can and can not have children.
So you do have a point.. :-)

mattbrowne's avatar

Space colonization would become inevitable.

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