I have never read any philosophy so this is probably all old hat, sorry. Also, this could upset some of those of a religious persuasion, which is not my intention - don't read if you don't have an open mind.
Basically, this is my musings on the idea of immortality - living for ever. Something I am sure many have pondered. No, I am not dying (any more than anyone else), I am just getting older and philosophical.
There are, of course, some pretty half hearted concepts of immortality. Lets start with something simple.
The atoms in my body carry on after I die: They will end up in other things and people and live on forever in some way. I have to say that this is a pretty crap immortality, but it has the one redeeming feature that it is factual and true.
My DNA carries on in my children: I do have children, and this is slightly more appealing as a concept. It means something that was uniquely me carries on (so way cooler than just carbon atoms). Unfortunately each generation dilutes that by two, so very quickly you lose anything uniquely me. It is not a very long immortality really. However, again, factual and true, which is nice.
Deeds or monuments: This is interesting - the idea that some good deeds or some thing that I make could live on after I die. The Egyptian Pharaohs were good at this one. It is, of course, quite difficult and could range from just some family story, distorted from each generation to the next, right up to being Hitler. Yes, sadly, it is probably easier to be immortal by doing something very bad as something very good. It is a goal one could aim for (to do something memorable or long standing), which is nice, and it is factual, if a tad vague and unpredictable.
My words will carry on: This is an interesting idea - that we live in an information age. Before I was born information was very much attached to physical objects (books, etc). Now we live in the age of The Cloud and storage that grows faster than we can fill it. There is no reason this blog would be deleted after I die - not because it has anything profound, but because there is no reason to delete it. It will take an increasingly small amount of available storage to stay on line and searchable. Old blogs will become history projects. It is conceivable that in a thousand years someone could search for these words and find this very blog post. This is quite nice, and very plausible.
But enough of fact, lets consider fiction... and fantasy...
Reincarnation: The idea that you have a soul that somehow continues after death and goes in to a new person. This is all well and good, but the catch is that you do not recall you last life or even benefit from previous experience, even subconsciously. For all practical purposes this is as naff as the carbon atoms being re-used. It's really more of a story of future damnation - where "doing bad" now means a worst body for the next life, but "doing good" means a better one. It is totally crap as an idea of immortality. Of course, it falls over on the factual basis too.
Heaven: Heaven (or hell) or some eternal celestial plane when you die, and living on forever. An interesting, and even appealing, idea (with some caveats). You can see why it is popular. One big appeal is the continuity of consciousness that comes with this. A soul that re-incarnates with no memory is not "me". But moving on seems nice and fits with things that happen in life - one often moves on from one environment to another (job, home, etc). But I have to wonder, and always ask anyone that believes this, "what then?". You really start to run in to problems with the idea of living for ever. After all, even if there is every entertainment possible, even if you had the chance to live out anyone's life in history just for fun, even if you could play any game, when you have done all of those things a billion times, what then? Ultimately you have to consider enough is enough. You have to consider an end to your being. And if you accept there can be an end, then why do you not accept that it happens when you die rather than some arbitrary time later? Not really a workable immortality, and lacks any fact or plausibility, obviously. Shame.
Not dying: This is slightly more plausible - the idea that basically your body does not age and fall apart. But essentially you are still mortal - can be hit by a bus. Living sensibly you have no real prospect of dying and can really plan for the future. The reason it is plausible is that medical science is getting close to curing aging in various ways, or at least understanding it. You can be pretty sure it will not happen in my lifetime - bugger. There are some issues though: One being that you can still die, but another is that this does not work if everyone has it. You think the world is over populated now - wait till nobody dies any more - it won't work and will be horrid. You'll want to die soon enough.
Can't die: The basis of many a sci-fi, the idea that you cannot die (even hit by a bus). This is where your body survives or regenerates magically no matter what. This only works if you are one of a few people with this super power as otherwise we have the overcrowding issue. It also suffers the bored with living forever problem, but more so, as you would eventually be living in the heart of a dying sun, and expanding cooling universe - so getting bored - only with none of the entertainment of heaven. Crap idea, sorry.
Mind backup: Another fun idea, and a tad less plausible but not quite beyond all possibility is the idea that somehow your mind could be copied. This could be down to micro cellular scans of your dead frozen brain to create a connectivity map. It could be that all that is you can be extracted by observation of you over your life by clever software. More fanciful is some star trek style scanner or transporter. All sorts of concepts of a way to copy your mind, and ultimately run you in a computer. This does solve some aspects of the over population as we could all live in Azeroth and take no space and eat no food. It is just about workable, but suffers the getting bored with living forever problems as above. One big advantage with being run in a computer is that you could sleep - suspend consciousness until something interesting happens. Ultimately all the players are permanently asleep - but technically immortal still. With that extra caveat of sleeping indefinitely, it could work as a concept.
Circular life: This is really one I dreamt up myself, trying to address the problems of the above. It involves a can't die scenario, and a time machine. You live on until life on Earth gets boring (due to a suitable meteor or some such), and then go back in time - say a few thousand years. You live all of that time again, remembering some things from the first time, and so having fun predicting the future. Then you do it again, and again, but your memory is not perfect, as memory is not, and so eventually the time loop is completely repeating with no changes. You live a life of someone that never dies and always vaguely remembers the future, concealing your longevity and blending in and having fun. You really do live forever with none of the problems. It does rely on a fading memory, but you are happy non the less. Bingo - the perfect answer. Oh! Crap! This is even more fantasy than the rest, maybe I have to stick to one of the concepts that is factual or at least plausible.
Please archive my blog after I die. In the words of today's DIlbert: "It's better if the dying and the ash scattering are separate events".