# How Long Would You Live if You Could Choose ANY Number of Years?

Here’s how it works. You wake up and find yourself alone in a room. The only things in the room are a table, a chair, a calculator, and a note. The note says:

You have exactly 10 minutes to choose how many years you want to live and type the number into the calculator. At the end of the 10 minutes, you’ll be escorted out of the room, and your decision is permanent and unable to ever be changed. You’ll live for exactly that many years and then you’ll die. Oh also…every other human on Earth is currently in a room just like this making the same exact decision and you won’t know what they chose until you leave the room. If you enter no number into the calculator, your life will go on exactly as it had before, unaffected—you’ll die a natural death whenever you would have if this had never happened.

Other information in the note’s fine print:

• There’s an infinity button on the calculator, and there are endless digit spots.
• If you enter a number younger than your current age, the calculator rejects it and it stays blank.
• If you enter your current age, you’ll die the moment the 10 minutes is up.
• You can choose the age of your body and change it at any time—that means if you’re 40 right now you can choose to go back to 25 and live out a bunch of years in your 25-year-old body, then let yourself age up to 70 over the next 45 years, do that for a while, then bring yourself back down to 35 for a while, etc. (The point here is to take body age out of the question.)
• In the case of children under the age of 12, one of the parents (which one is chosen at random) will make the decision for them, on an additional calculator that’ll be on that parent’s table with the child’s name on it. Children 12 and over will wake up in their own room with their own decision to make.
• Sickness and ailments don’t happen anymore for anyone who enters a number into the calculator. People who leave it blank will get sick as they would have in their normal life.
• People who enter a number in the calculator will no longer be able to reproduce—any children they already have (including existing pregnancies) can live on, but they can’t conceive any more children. People who leave the calculator blank can continue to have children, but those children won’t ever be given a chance to choose an age—they will be normal mortal people who will live and die naturally, as will their children, and so on.
• This opportunity will never come along again—it’s a one and only one time thing.
• No other guarantees about anything—if you enter a number into the calculator, you will continue to live a conscious existence until your birthday that year, and then you’ll peacefully die that day. Sickness and ailments won’t occur, but discomfort, pain, and suffering still can—i.e. if you’re living a comfortable life on Earth, you’ll have general good health at all times and any ailments or injuries will be healed immediately, but if you tried to free dive to the bottom of the ocean, while you won’t die, you’d experience horrible pain and suffering as if you were drowning. If you don’t eat or drink, you won’t die, but you’ll feel completely desperate for food and water like a normal person would.
• You’re told on the note that death is final and eternal, whether you enter something into the calculator or not.

That’s all that’s on the note. If there are any other confusion or questions, you’d have to make the decision with certain things not clarified.

Note: Try answering the question yourself before you read my or other readers’ answers. The true challenge is to figure out what you’d do without knowing anything about anyone else’s thinking.

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Tim’s Answer: I came up with this thought experiment during my genie question interviews when trying to figure out if I’d use one of my wishes on eternal life or some kind of extended life. To me, this is an incredibly hard question.

On one hand, I don’t want to put in too few years, which could lead to serious regrets—what if I put in like 150 years, and then I come out and most of my friends and family have put in thousands? Then one day, I’m 148 years old, everyone I know is living and thriving and everyone’s acting weird around me because of the sad fact that I’m disappearing in two years. Would that prevent them from wanting to invest in their relationship with me and get closer when they know it’s going to end in pain, while their other relationships have no end in sight? This could happen on a larger scale too—what if I put in 50,000 years and most people I know put in many millions? The heartbreak we feel about death after only a few decades must be magnified to a huge extreme after getting used to living for so many years—and we have no idea what a 50,000 year relationship or friendship would even be like and how heartbreaking losing someone would be after knowing them for so long. (People would probably end up becoming close only with other people who had chosen similar lifespans, for that reason.)

On the other hand, putting in too many years could be very upsetting. What if I put in 10 million years, and everyone I know put in 1,000 or less? 10 million years is ten thousand millennia. What would I do if I realize after 300 years that I don’t want to live anymore and I can’t even imagine getting through one millennium, and I have to get through 10,000 of them? But we’re so scared of death—wouldn’t I want to live a long, long time if I could? 10 million years still means I’ll be dead for most of eternity—it’s just extending my moment of life to be far more substantial.

What would happen if life on Earth became unsustainable and there were no Chris Nolan to put other potential livable worlds nicely within our reach? If you can’t die, you might end up living millions of years of horrible suffering, waiting for that moment of death to finally come. Or worse, what if at some point, on some space expedition, something goes wrong and your body gets flung out into space, and without being able to die, you float alone into nothingness for millions of years (or billions, or trillions, depending on the number you chose), with only your consciousness to keep you company? Death is scary, but there’s a ceiling on how scary things can get because of death. The kind of fear an immortal person would experience dwarfs any fear a mortal human could ever know.

But the kind of hope, purpose, and happiness an immortal person could feel might dwarf that of a normal human by just as much. What if, with enough time, humans were able to create a safe and blissful utopia to live in, with everyone monitored so nothing really bad can happen, and you were surrounded by people you love? With all that time, maybe instead of having a handful of close friends, maybe you have thousands? Humans might be able to create an actual heaven to live in. Then, wouldn’t you be so happy you chose a really big number?

And if you decided to go the long life route, and you type in 1-0-0-0…-0……-0 and so on, where do you stop? Each zero changes things dramatically. Is there a chance you’d just freak out and start typing zeros really quickly and type a ton of them? What if you come out of the room and you’re now gonna live for a trillion times a trillion times a trillion years? If you did that, you’d have to cope with the question mark of what the universe actually is and what its fate is—that would suddenly be highly relevant to you.

Lot to think about in only ten precious minutes.

So what would I do? Well I wouldn’t have the guts to put in a really big number. Just too scary. But I would most certainly extend my current life by quite a bit. I’d put in at least 1,000 years—this one century we all get to live goes by pretty quickly, and knocking out nine more would be really fun. But how about 1,000 vs. 5,000, vs. 10,000 vs. 20,000 vs. 50,000? Ugh.

I’d probably type in 50,000 and then in the last few seconds delete a zero to make it 5,000 and then have my finger quivering on the zero button as the final seconds ticked down and end up not hitting it and leave the room with 5,000 years on my hands. So 5,000. Then I’d get my phone out and text everyone immediately to see what they did, and really really hope people chose something similar to me.

Okay, now you’re up. You have 10 minutes and the clock’s ticking…

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[Two reminders before you make the biggest decision of your life: You can sign up for the Dinner Table email list here to be notified about the new topic each week, and remember to submit future topics to [email protected]]

• Jove

If you say 5,000 I say 5,000. Once there is a reference point from somebody else, it becomes infinitely easier. (Also, waitbutwhy posts for 5,000 years…. juicy stuff)

• Catjellycat

I was going to go for 150 until I saw the illness-free part. I think I’d got for 2000 on the basis that we’ve done pretty cool shit over the last 2000.

• Aisha

Oh gosh. This is a really interesting question – when I first read it I thought I’d say something around 500. But reading Tim’s answer made me aware of different situations that could potentially happen in the future. I definitely wouldn’t go below 300 or above 10,000.
(I’m really indecisive).
In the last few minutes, I think I’d type in an even 1,000 and hope for the best!

• Rita M

I’d leave out a number and let my life continue as it would have. I’m 37 now, and I lost the love of my life 2 years ago. Before I read the rules, I briefly considered saying that I’d go back to 35 so I wouldn’t have to live long (or at all) without him. However, I’ve started to move forward with my life (as impossible as that seemed to me 2 years ago). I am hesitant to live a lot longer than anybody else, and while I’m not itching to die and see my fiance again, I don’t want to put it off any longer than my natural life would be. While life as it is doesn’t always seem fair (people dying too young, people outliving quality of life, etc.), it’s rich as is and I personally wouldn’t change it, even with the early and unnatural loss I’ve had.

• TODD da GODD

Good choice, you’ll be fine!

• Mitchell

Same answer here 😛 Although, now that I think about it, I’m not sure whether I was confident in my decision or I did it because I was scared to choose a number haha

• guest

hmmm… i’m going to go with 3,000. there’s really no reason as to why it’s that number specifically, but it seems right – not too long, not too short. the coolest thing would be all the technological advancements made in that time, and just how the world and universe develops over time. i’d type 3,000 into the calculator just for that.

• Krishna

1000 seems about right..actually 500 sounds better.. I’d have been there done that wrt pretty much everything by then and anything else to look forward to would be an upgrade of existing technology which in all probability wouldn’t be such a terribly exciting proposition

• Sukriti

I think Id put in 1000 too. Thatll be long enough to see dome real cool progress in science, technology and hopefully space travel. Plus i could possibly study and be proficient in every career I find interesting by the end of that ( and new ones which come with time) and learn every language on this planet. So exciting!

I dont wanna have kids anyway so that doesn’t bother me. Theres enough to adopt if one really feels the need. Everything else sounds like it’ll make the 1000 years better not worse!

• guest

i’m with you on that!

• Yuri47

Its pretty hard for me, because when i imagine, that i would die many years before my brothers or after them, sickens me, and not having children is a pretty serious point. But i guess, that if i had this chance, i would have picked something between 10,000 and 20,000.

• Aina

“without being able to die, you float alone into nothingness for millions of years (or billions, or trillions, depending on the number you chose), with only your consciousness to keep you company?” that’s what I imagined when I was little and i first heard about this thing that your soul stays alive for eternity when your body dies… it freaked the shit out of me, that might be the reason i’m an atheist now.

Anyway, what I wouldn’t like about typing the number is the fact that I’d know when i would die. I don’t think i’d like that. How would the last years be? Would you start projects? I just kind of like life how it is… I think I wouldn’t type anything, and continue to have kids and illnesses and stuff Maybe if I thought about it for longer i’d change my mind, but I only had 10 minutes, so this is my no-time-to-think conclusion 🙂

• Patrick

I want to say 500. Since I still will be able to feel pain, there’s still a possibility of the world being taken over by some crazy regime, or maybe I’ll just get captured and get tortured for siding with certain people on certain issues at the wrong time. I know it sounds like paranoia, but 500 years is a long time and a lot can happen. Think of the power-seeking people! There’s a lot of them, and surely they would live for the longest times just so they could create their evil kingdom effectively, and they wouldn’t have the danger of dying when pursuing it! Besides, it’s a lot more than what most people have to live (in the current age we live in now). And I think if I lived for TOO long, like thousands of years or something, I might just get bored. I mean really, that’s 5 times more than what most people hope for. 500 years is a good amount of time to see technology rise and civilization develop. And it gives me some time to get out of here if things go haywire.

• yeyeye

Remembers me of this: http://www.multivax.com/last_question.html

Nice little story

I would leave it to be. Your idea of utopia reminds me of Brave New World and of that little poem that Ivan does on Brothers Karamazov, both show deep thoughts about “our little heaven desire” here Earth.

• Helene

Am I still allowed to commit suicide in this scenario?

• Seems like you would be able to commit the act, but without the payoff of death. You would simply experience all the pain associated with the act.

• Tim Urban

No. You can’t die. Trying to commit suicide would just really hurt (like Jed said). Whatever you pick is final, meaning you WILL live that long, period.

• Helene

Ugh. This is an impossible decision for anyone who dislikes mortality. I can’t answer it until I’ve found the loophole, because there is no answer.

• Helene

Because it’s true, you have to know what numbers other people are choosing. The actual number of years is more or less meaningless unless you have some kind of baseline. Any number could be too long or too short, simply based on what others have chosen, what civilisation is doing at any point, whether the earth is even still around …

The only length that would have meaning is eternity, but much as I would like to be all elven and live for eternity, that would arguably be a trap as bad as mortality. There is no way to narrow down a decision here. NONE! And I’m unhappy about it, and yet oddly comforted that for once my indecisiveness isn’t my fault.

• Kate

I think I’d go back to 15 and live to about 120.
I have kids, so I’d be fine with not being able to have any more.
I’d be taking back with me the knowledge that I have as an adult, have the body of a teenager and all the energy that comes with it. We may not have ailments or sickness, but we will still age. A 120 year old is pretty frail and I don’t think I’d want to spend too much time as an Ancient One.
I’d still be able to see some advances that we make as humans and see a couple of generations beneath me.

• Anne Korsgaard

I would leave it blank and exit the room – keep living as usual. I’m 32 (at least for a while) and I want to have kids at some point. Would I give that up for the chance of living 5000 years? Nope. And I don’t think humans would be more or less likely to live happily ever after because they have more time on earth and a certain timeframe. I think we would act the same because adding years doesn’t change the mind frame, evolution is the only way to do just that – so let the people die, so new ones can come along, hoping they would succeed in changing the world one year and one human at a time. Instead of having me run around the earth for a million years I would rather have my kids, grandkids and so on give it a crack based on their experience. Maybe, just maybe, some day down the road the mind frame is changed and utopia happens, but thinking it through: People who lived in 1495 or 1875 – would they help change the world or keep it as they know and feel comforted by…?

• I think 5,000 is a good number or maybe 10,000. I feel like scary things may be in store after that… Maybe I’m just not brave enough… Though I would be debating the entire 10 minutes over whether I wanted to test that luck…

• Greeny

I think I’ll just leave the calculator blank, so I don’t have to worry about what would happen if I lived longer than I should be.

• Sarah P.

I would throw the calculator away. Not knowing when you’re going to die is a rather terrifying thing for most people, but like Tim said, if I knew when I was going to die I would give up on everything a year or two beforehand. I never want to give up on anything, especially life. Plus, since I’m only 19 I would like to have kids in the future, so the calculator would not be for me. My favorite thing about life is how dynamic it is. Forever swirling around and changing at every moment. I wouldn’t want to be a certain age for more than a year. Without the calculator, if I had to pick an age where it would be, in my mind, ok to die it would have to be 75. It’s at that age where I probably wouldn’t be at diapers yet, and I will have gotten to enjoy a few years of retirement hopefully.

• Em

I’d leave well alone. I’m only 21 and I want to have kids one day. I also hate the idea of knowing exactly when I’m going to die. I mean, how depressing would that be, counting down the days, knowing EXACTLY when it was going to happen.

Besides, I don’t think humans are built to live a life with too much change. I think we would struggle to cope with the vast lifestyle changes that might occur in the next 500 years, let alone 5000.

• Hillblah

So I started out thinking pretty small. Obviously I want more time, but how much more. I really don’t fancy living on a world that’s inhabitable, in constant pain but unable to die. My first thought was 2000 years, and even that is enough to be incredibly unpredictable. I mean 2000 years ago advanced mathematics was a fairly new concept. But then I started thinking that 2000 might not be enough. What if everyone else I know picked 10 or 20 thousand. The world’s still likely to be safe after that long right? People are likely to aim high? I don’t think I could do 100,000, I’ve watched enough sci-fi shows to know that living for ages has it’s downside. I mean that’s 1000 times as long as a normal life, think of all the memories crammed into your head (or do you just start forgetting things as you run out of space). 50,000 is a nice round number, maybe 49,997 just to be different. I imagine it would be incredibly odd having people everywhere die in waves as the round numbers of years came up. In 50,000 years I could see a lot of change in the world, an unimaginable amount. And I think by then I’d be old enough to accept death. And I don’t think the world would be too bad, I think people might care more about making it liveable if they knew they had to live in it. I guess what it boils down to is playing chicken against how long I think it’d take me to want to be dead… Time’s up. 49,997 it is.

• Surya

I wouldn’t like to live a life where I know exactly when I die. Also, immortality would suck. I’d simply choose a lower limit, I’d have to say around 5000, and then use the random number generator on the calculator (assuming it has one) to add a random value in the range(1000,10000) to my original 5000. Then I’d only have a broad idea of my expected lifetime. I’m not sure I’d be overtly bothered with the choices of others.

I do believe that 5000 years is plenty of time to nurture relationships, ponder about our existence and reflect on our self. And in this universe where I’ve proof of a supernatural phenomenon, I’d love to know just what the afterlife is.

• Andi Shen Liu

4 billion – I’m not scared of floating around for a bit after the earth vanishes, and feeling rather cold in space, or burning or drowning for a couple hundreds of thousand years. It might get rather boring near the end. It’ll be a normal lifetime up to 110, ageing normally, then for the next 4 billion minus 110 years, physical age 40 would be about right. I’d just consider the years after 110 a special bonus undead life.

• chaly

I’d type between 6 and 9 random numbers, i’m very often scared by deathand it affect deeply m’y life. Living around a billion years will makes me really more confortable about it. And of course, m’y last years before my death would have been really awfull if i lived that much years, that’s why i types random number, in that xay i’ll not know when i die.

And i hope these long years will help me to improve m’y broken english, m’y apologizes if my comment may be really imprecise

• Rod Rodi

This post made my head hurt.

• Marco

That’s a tricky question! I don’t have kids and thinking about wanting to have kids at some point (not now) but not being able to doesn’t sound very pleasant to me. On the other hand, it is tempting to have the chance to see the advances of the humans the next few hundred years (imagine the last 200 years to now!).

But then, you write down a number. You know exactly, when you will die. Why being nervous about something in your daily life? Why having fear at all? And why should you be motivated to do something with your life or startnew projects when you know exactly, when it will be all over (considering that the option “infinite” really is a stupid one because nobody in his right mind wants to float around until the end of everything..)?

Thank you calculator, I prefer my (short) life. There’s no need for more years, I’d rather make the most of the few years I have (as cheesy this may sound 🙂 ).

• JacksonKG

Infinite, and stop aging around 21 or 25

• Jill Hoffmann

I’d pick 90. Why be greedy? Also, I really don’t want to live long enough to see how badly humans will f*** up the planet.

• Jules

I never really understood why most people wanted to live longer, or even forever. I had a discussion with friends recently and they told me how unlucky they were to live now, so close to the time we’ll be able to upload ourselves in a computer and live forever (in a couple of hundreds of year apparently). I actually feel very lucky to be able to die one day. As you say, I’d be afraid to float forever alone in space or with billions of other people also stuck in that infinite reality.

I think that the human species, after only a (relatively) few years of evolution wouldn’t be prepared for such a sudden change. After all your posts about us being almost nothing else than animals, I’m really surprised of your answer Tim (no criticism at all, just surprised). Allowing us to make this choice would put us in a situation where we could basically say: “Do we want to become Gods or not?”. And if we all typed different and huge numbers, I’m sure our planet wouldn’t make it due to the wars this whole choice would create (the one who typed the highest number would probably want to be the king…).

For all of these reasons, I’d just leave the calculator with no number.

• WW

I don’t think living forever makes people Gods. I think the choice is how much pain and uncertainty you’re willing to endure (and sacrifice, for those who do not have kids) for your own curiosity.

• Jo

I’d choose to live as long as possible.. like.. I’d type as many times 9 as possible in 10 minutes. One cool guy once said that eventually mankind will overcome capitalism and establish communism. I really want to see if he was right, but it seems to be so very far away from now.
The idea of having so much time to make mistakes and make them right is quite appealing to me as well. Think of how often you could fail during the process of “finding your way” if you had so much time available..
And I totally can’t stand children anyway..

• Yesdahling

I want this calculator! I chose 75. That gives me a decent amount of time to enjoy retirement in my present state of health, and I can plan my spending to die broke.

• Tara Southwell

I would want to live to 115 years old, simply because that’s how old I would be at the end of year 2100, to witness whether or not humanity gets its sh*t together with climate change, population growth and inequality. I’m curious to see how world leaders are going to respond and, more importantly, how cultures will change and respond to a changing world. If humanity fails to get it together, I don’t want to live in that world any longer than I have to, and if we manage to come together by then I’ll consider it a good day to die.

• Chris

What if you had entered a number 2000 years ago, and you are still alive today. Would you be proud of humanity ?

• Tara Southwell

I think I would be frustrated as hell. There are so many ways we’ve advanced, and then so many ways we’ve managed to use those advancements in destructive ways. If we’re starting 2,000 years ago that’s a lot of one-step-forward-two-steps-back to cover. I think the invention of the printing press is a good example. When Gutenberg came out with movable type it seriously threatened the authority of the Church (capitalization period-oriented lol) that pretty much anyone could proliferate whatever written information they pleased on a mass scale without seeking the Church’s approval. Eventually the printing press became a tool for the Church’s spread of Christianity.

We see the same pattern with pretty much every invention that’s been adopted into mainstream life, so that what was once an engine for change becomes an engine for strengthening the status quo and manipulating or oppressing people. The automobile was seen as a way for people to freely travel. Now, unless you live in a major city with a layout that provides for walking to get the things you need or good public transit, you pretty much have to own a car whether you want to or not. There are still many places in the world where teenage girls get married under duress from their own families because of extreme poverty. The first solar-powered machine (a freezer) was invented before the steam engine, and we’ve had windmills even longer, yet we managed to pick the most environmentally destructive means of generating energy. And don’t get me started on climate deniers.

So frustrated would about cover it lol.

• Chris

Hehe my thoughts exactly. Although as a scientist (and truthist), I would propose you to read a bit more deeply about climatology. When the media says something, please have a look at the data and make your own conclusions instead.

• Tara Southwell

As I’m sure your comment wasn’t meant in a demeaning or patronizing way I’ll take it as gently as possible, since the written word doesn’t always convey a person’s intent, but I consider myself an open-minded person, willing to click through as many links as it takes to get to source material (if it actually exists, which we all know isn’t always the case on the internet) and take recommended reading seriously. If you have any links or books you’d recommend on the topic please share 🙂

• Hillblah

I answered already below (49,997), and then I started reading others comments, and already felt like I was judging people based on their answers. I think it’d have a pretty major effect on social interactions. I mean who would want to make friends, or get involved with someone who was going to die thousands, or millions of years before them, who had chosen to die so “young”? Who would want to be friends with someone arrogant enough to think they could live forever, or close to? I think in this world people would start forming groups, with others who chose a similar time, the process might take a few years, but I think most people would end up only associating with those of a similar lifespan each group thinking their choice was superior to the others.

• Margarita

How would you know who and how much they have chosen to live? I might as well lie to you.
Or just keep it a secret.

And anyway, would you dump your family now, just because they chose a different number than you?

• Hillblah

Good point. Maybe people would lie, but how would you know what lie to say? Would people lie to their partners and spend the next 1000 years agonizing over it before coming clean a couple days before dying and leaving them alone? Isn’t that worse than just telling the truth?

I’m not saying you’d ditch everyone immediately, or consciously. But surely you agree it would be hard to keep a bond with someone you knew was either going to die first, or outlive you by an order of magnitude…

• Jeff Hughes

Just imagine the factions! Interest groups would form based on how long people would live with the short-termists not worried about messing up the planet, but the millioners trying to perfect space-travel and find inhabitable moons or planets. On top of this, since no-one would fear premature death, there would be even more horrible systems of control such as rendering someone’s life unbearably agonizing by, for example, removing their lungs thus leaving them permanently breathless but still alive.

• Great Pierre

But then you could get lung replacements easily in the future

• Jeff Hughes

By farming the descendants of the people who didn’t put a number into the calculator? My point still stands that there would be many ways to make life horrific.

• DeeDee Massey

Wouldn’t the lung removal count as an injury that would be healed immediately, as in your body regenerating its missing or damaged cells?

• Jeff Hughes

Fair enough – though it would not be nice. The alternative punishment might be the permanent drowning mentioned in the description.

• DeeDee Massey

Yep, there are so many gruesome possibilities, but we’d have to figure out some way to motivate the Deathless to pay their parking tickets.

• Misteja

I know I’ve chosen many times to have a relationship with things I assume would die “young” compared to me – my dogs – and I’ve never had a single regret.

• Margarita

I think I’d go with 300. I’m only 17 now, and already at this point it seems to me like I’ve lived A LOT, so I’m comparing those years to what I have until now. There’s gonna be an University soon, “The Perfect Job” somewhere in the future (in about 40 years I’ll be exactly where I’ve planned.. or actually, in about 10 years, but just in case I mess up, let’s multiply that by four) and then hundreds of relationships and fun experiences that I will forget one by one. I will have tried by then all the drugs and other stupid things that can never a bad effect on my health, of course, and I will have traveled the whole world by like 100. What then?
Also, I really hate the idea that I wouldn’t be able to reproduce, but I think I would adopt 2-3 kids and raise them like my own (or I would just find and pay some people that didn’t use that calculator, to reproduce for me, and I’ll raise those children). After all, having a family is something I will definitely need in my life, and it would not be hard for me to ignore the fact that they don’t have my DNA, with the help of love.
My body age would always be about 18, and I would use the whole time in the world to raise those children, to travel and to learn as many languages as possible, and then to offer love to a single person. So 250 years of doing the same thing all over again would be pretty enough for me, because every single exciting thing in the world becomes boring after some time, and I’m not greedy about some number. Multiplying my life-span by 3 is a HUGE deal already. I would be MORE than okay with that.
And I’ve never done drugs (and don’t plan to), but have I mentioned already how amazing it would be to use all the drugs you can and never have anything bad happen to your health? WOOOOOOOOOOHOOOOOOO

• blueberries

I would definitely hit the infinity button. Why? To do whatever I wanted with no fear. If I know I’ll live forever, nothing would scare me.

• JacksonKG

Dog you’re like the only other person I’ve seen say that

Plus soon we’re gonna reach a point where we can explore the universe, and probably create realistic virtual reality, so you hopefully wouldn’t run out of things to do

• Jeff Hughes

I decided on 1000 (going back to my 21-year old body; why wouldn’t you?) for pretty much the reasons that Tim gives in his answer (but more concerned about the potential horror of existing in agony or isolation). I’d be sad to give up the chance to have kids, but the excitement of such a long future would be too much to turn down. The only other concern I would have is the enormous amount of existential angst that would kick in as the final years approach and I think that it is pretty certain that we’d still reach the end of our long lives and have lots of wise advice to others about how we wish we’d done something differently.

• Jack

10.000 years max. I’d love to see where technology goes and how the earth politically changes. But I don’t like cold so I want to be gone Before the next ice age.

• Random Acts

Sorry Tim but death is not final regardless of the number entered on the calculator.
Loss of our human free-will would be a mortal death no matter if breath continued to flow in and out. Using your last free-will “coupon” in advance would be a living death.

• I’m not sure I understand this. :O

• mmKALLL

Perhaps around 150 years for me. There are a lot of factors in this question, and having everyone else do it too doesn’t really make it easier. Perhaps I’d put in something larger if I had internalized that every person would have the same choice and opportunity. The idea of an ageless body definitely has its attractiveness.

The question of ending your life right there also gets a different light when presented like this – I feel like there’d be more reason than ever to do that if most humans suddenly were expected to get 200-50000 more years of time to live. Personally I find the idea of living far more enjoyable, though.

I’m especially interested in the kinds of changes this would bring into society. Would this affect the way people interact with each other? Instead of judging people by how old or young they look, would the new way to approach someone be by asking how long they’ll live? Probably, population growth and the things associated with it in particular would become an intense problem.

I also can’t help but notice how I failed to read the fine print. Probably should be more careful from now on if there are drastic life-changing decisions to make.

• Erik

This is a fascinating and difficult question! After a few minutes, I decided on 300. It seems long enough to experience an incredibly full life, see and contribute to some human progress, but not too long to see a potential catastrophe and/or uninhabitable world. I’m a bit pessimistic about the future though. After reading some of the comments though, I’d probably regret not choosing something closer to 1000 as that seems to be an average sweet spot for many people.

• Amelia

I would leave the calculator blank. And I asked my SO and he would too.
And all this reminds me of Lord of the Rings when Elrond and Elros had to choose mortal/immortal life.

• Vinicius

Come to think about it, my only problem with this would be to end up alone. I mean, if after a thousand years or 10 thousand or a million years, if the earth vanishes, then what? Would I end up floating into space alone? Would I have to go through my final years just getting crazier and crazier? And suffering a lot of pain? BUT… I’m damn sure that a lot of people would chose millions of years to live, as a lot of people wouldn’t chose nothing at all, and a lot of people would chose a couple thousand, a couple hundred, so maybe it doesn’t matter. Maybe, whatever you choose, you’ll end up being fine with it.

Particularly, I think that something is better than nothing. So even if I end up bored out of my mind or in a infested world and whatever, I think that pain is better than nothing at all. I think a dollar is better than no money at all. So, I’d be scared shitless to choose any number, but I think I’d go high. 100.000, 500.000, 1 million? I don’t know. It’s pretty damn scary to make a choice like this. But in the end I’d probably go high, I mean I wouldn’t be alone, out of 7 billion people, I’m pretty sure a good part of them would make similar choices to mine.

It’s a really good question, really good topic, could go around all night thinking about this.

• Agis Petikidis

208. I thought about it really hard for 10 minutes and I am more afraid of being stuck in a life I don’t want than dying. Also a brain can take so much information.. I think 200 years would be enough for me, add another 8 so I’d get to see 2200’s.

• Aina

“every other human on Earth is currently in a room just like this
making the same exact decision”. That would definitely change the world radically, one would have to consider that bebore taking the decision of how long they wanna be in that world!
With that in mind I would stick to my initial choice of not writing anything, and if shit hits the fan and the world turns into a crazy place I always have a way out

• sabs546

Hmm… This is a big one
Breaking it down I’m 16
If I died at 100 thinking how fast life goes by it wouldn’t be long enough
Though natural life seems good and kids sounds good I don’t wanna pass up an opportunity like this
1000 sounds perfect but I also wanna see cool astronomical events
So 10000 that’s awesome and well see some amazing technological advances
100000 seems ridiculous but holy crap imagine that the human race could go far into space and I may have half of my friends which really sucks
By 1000000 I might see some human evolution (is that possible)
10000000 is a little insane
It would take too long to die by then I may wanna

1000, or 10,000 would seem perfect
1000 seems a bit short considering how fast time goes by but still satisfyingly long but what if I can’t be bothered by 2565 and realise I got lots of lifetimes left but by then it would look like time is flying and a week may feel like a day
I cant decide so I’m gonna say 2500
Sounds perfect

2500

• Djyo

I’d chose not to put anything. I believe that if we’d be living 500 years we would not be living them as intensely as those 80ish we are living now.
Every day would seem like 1/5. We would live lazy lives, spending our days doing nothing, procrastinating even more, finishing college age 100. Our memory would fade away and every moment, every joy, sadness would be suddenly 1/5 significant.
And at the end we would not feel any more acomplished. We would just have lived 1 life 5 time longer. Same apply to any other lentgh, an infinite life would feel completely useless.

– And for the difference between me and the others i guess that i can’t control it. I’d just choose to live with people with a life as short as me.
PS: By the was there was a very interesting ficition about a man who would have been living since cro-magnon, while every other human lived normal live: “the man from earth”.
I highly recommend since it connect to today’s dinner table.

• Michael

No number in the calculator. Here’s why:
I want at least the possibility of having kids
I want to reserve the right to kill myself if life becomes unbearable, and rather than a utopia, I suspect that a world full of immortals will become highly corrupt.
Unpredictable mortality is beautiful, in a way. It informs the art we make and our moral choices. In this new world, I’m sure we “regular mortals” will form our own community, raise our kids, and live the kind of life one lives when time on this earth is scarce and all of our decisions matter.

• Michael

On a related note, I would love to read a dystopian sci-fi novel with this premise.

• geolocke

“Time Enough for Love” by Robert A. Heinlein comes close.

• texas33

Last and First Men: A Story of the Near and Far Future, by Olaf Stapledon, written in 1930.

• Jean-Michel

Nathan Brazil (Well World) series by Jack Chalker is a classic with a variation on that theme.

• Michael

You guys are awesome, thanks for giving me stuff to add to my reading list!

• Leonardo Carneiro

It’s not exactly sci-fi, but i’ll recommend to you All Men Are Mortal, from Simone de Beauvoir. Sinks deep on the immortality subject.

• fehr

I have a feeling that with the rules you set up any kind of social and economic rules from before this big change would crumble really fast, leading to chaos, which greatly improves the chances of a long life of suffering due to losing limbs (i believe humans would find lots of way to innovate in ways of “killing” someone in a war) or something like that.
As much as i would love to live a far longer life than mere 100 years i guess i would not input anything on the calculator. The chances of having to live an almost eternal life of suffering seem just too high for me to want to pick a really big number.
But maybe i would get greedy and pick something like 2000, not sure about that, if i were the only one going to live forever and it were a secret i think i would definitely pick more than that.

Im not always THAT pessimistic, but the odds of something bad happening in that scenario seem really high

• SiliconScribe

I hate this question. Frankly, I’m 46 and I think I have another 40 or so years to go and in some cases that freaks me out because my life, so far, has been filled with so many mistakes and heart breaks that I don’t think I would want to extend that beyond the years I currently have left for more of it. It’s true that I’ve been the conductor of my own pain in most cases but I’m still left with the consequences of my past. My life is not totally devoid of joy in my past and I admit I’m at a low point but life is often about the seasons of life (I know WBW has a post on this too? anyone know it? I’ll edit and post it here)

This question actually haunts me in another form. As a Christian I’ve been taught I’ll have an infinite afterlife and nothing can bring on a panic attack more than thinking about the implications of that. The life I have is the only life I’ve known and I fear an eternity of that. So while I can image a better life I have no reason to believe it would be possible given what I’ve currently lived through.

I would leave it alone and if I was the random pick for my son or daughter, I would leave it alone for them too. That might seem cruel but frankly, I think, we’ve been given just the right amount of time.

• God

Cheer up, there is no god.

• SiliconScribe

Remember the posting rules. No trolling.

• God

Apologies, my religion forbids me from accepting bullshit. Please be tolerant of my beliefs.

• punction

I’d set a limit of 116 years – I believe that I’ll have done everything I will want to have done by then, I really don’t want to outlive other people, and I kind of like the number 16. I’m not afraid of death, but rather an untimely end that happens before I figure out the direction I want my consciousness to take. There’s so much to be gained from loss.

I’m also in the middle of reading Chuang Tzu right now, which probably has something to do with it.

• Guest

> I believe that I’ll have done everything I will want to have done by then

Won’t you find new things that you will want to get done? What if some new technology is invented, or new discoveries are made 5 years before your clock runs out, and it turns out to be the best thing ever? What if it gives your life a new meaning, a new reason to live. But you’ll be kicking yourself because that idiot you used to be 111 years ago put a timer on how long you can stay and enjoy existence, before you spend infinity years being dead?

• punction

I realized how sad it sounded while I was thinking about it, but I’m not ever going to feel that way. Acceptance and contentedness come so easily to me I think I might take life too lightly.

• helios13

Life should be large in terms of experiences and not in terms of numbers.

a) I believe, the main purpose of living is to have consistent self-growth (having fun along the way) which can be attained by subjecting oneself to different experiences and one’s reactions to those. Having some sort of constraint is really helpful to achieve this goal. So eternity is out.

b) Deriving meaning and fun out of every event decreases substantially as we age and there are only finite categories of events. Example – a 2 year old kid can stare at ants walking in a straight line for a whole day. When did 20 year olds last observe an ant?

c) 5000 is so big a number that it is hard to grasp it in its entirety. I guess if you live till 5000 or so, you may experience new technological marvels which may seem like magic (time travel ?). But the fact that 1) everything happens so incrementally and 2) you would already have lived for 5000 years that the fun would be short lived.

d) If you pick a smallish number say 81, you can cover pretty much anything and everything in your bucket list. (even 81 is still big enough to not freak you out and make you want to get out of chair and start working on something, especially for a 25 year old)

So as not to die out of some freak accident or illness, I would put in 81 in the calculator.
Time to write an unrealistic bucket list and live the hell out of life.

• instantq

oh my gosh I said 81 too! out of all the numbers….

• John Krajewski

Infinity, very easy question and no second thoughts for me.

People who choose something different are imagining their life continuing more or less as it is for eternity, but to really answer this question you have to consider that an immortal person would witness the very extents of technology and the universe, new ways of existence and consciousness that are entirely unimaginable now. Things are changing faster then they ever have now, and that will only continue accelerating (even if you think science can be ‘solved’ – which I disagree with – there’s still no way to solve art or culture or relationships or conciousness, it proceeds to infinitum). Imagining this is hard, which is why I suppose people would put a cap on their life.

The argument about current friends and family seems a bit shortsighted too; sure that’s the most important thing in your life now, but what about that immortal friend/partner you’ll spend the next billion years with? You’re willing to sacrifice that potential?

And besides, though suicide may be impossible, eternal sleep is not forbidden, and technology can pretty much already do that. Sleep for a billion years, come back and try something else.

I bet all you short-termers will be kicking yourself when 4999 years rolls around and things are really getting interesting: humanity has built its first sub-universe to explore, you’re merged with 50 million other beings who are all super creative and pro virtual parkour masters, and the next season of Game of Thrones is about to come out, and oops, times up. See you at infinity suckers!

• Tim Urban

Shit I just got kind of jealous of you and the other people who said that.

• Tim Urban

-But what if there were some cruel dictator, who in our world can only torture or kill, but in that world could do things like put you in a coffin for 10,000 years as a punishment? So many scary possibilities. But I guess there would probably be a lot of safeguards against that like GPS type monitoring devices implanted in every human, because people would realize how horrifying the possibilities were and they’d build systems to keep each other safe.

• John Krajewski

Indeed, or scary things like this: http://www.slate.com/articles/technology/bitwise/2014/07/roko_s_basilisk_the_most_terrifying_thought_experiment_of_all_time.html

The idea of an infinity of suffering is an interesting one, can you really continue suffering that long? Suffering is kind of a delta measurement I feel like, and after awhile (say, 5 years) when it becomes the norm, you start to enjoy the subtle nuanced changes, like maybe slightly less suffering on Tuesdays!

Anyway, I would still choose an eternity of suffering over death, because the mind is infinite, and even in suffering/isolation/torture there is immense meaning and discovery.

• I think the suffering/isolation/torture/general shittyness that could be endured over the infinite number of years has to be approached with a different thinking, which — much like relationships or scientific achievements — is unimaginable now. They would be on an entirely different scale.
When you’re put in an isolation chamber or tortured you may be able to adapt and find meaning and discovery; but what about the eternal crushing of a black hole or the skin melting heat of an exploding star. It may be difficult to adapt and find the meaning and discovery in that sort of situation.
I love the idea of infinity, and hope that humanity would find ways of making infinity a less scary thing. I just think that there is a lot lurking behind the veil of eternity.

• Shantanu Diwakar

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Silverstein
This guy kinda lives the life you mentioned everyday. Just imagine if the things go south for eternity.
Filling something on the calculator is giving up your control to end things if it goes bad.
I would trade that for anything

• Gokhan Arslan

I guess 10,000 years of incarceration is meant to be a metaphor for hell, and the cruel dictator is for god. To be honest I don’t believe in afterlife and living too long can drive a person insane, regardless of what you do in that timeframe. “Too long” is vague, so I am gonna go with 113 years. After I see 22nd century and my great grandchildren, I can die.

• Tim Urban

But what if there were some cruel dictator, who in our world can only torture or kill, but in that world could do things like put you in a coffin for 10,000 years as a punishment? So many scary possibilities. But I guess there would probably be a lot of safeguards against that like GPS type monitoring devices implanted in every human, because people would realize how horrifying the possibilities were and they’d build systems to keep each other safe.

• Hillblah

What about the end of the universe? When everything collapses back in on itself and all the matter in the universe is compressed beyond human comprehension, and in the middle of that you, what’s left of you, constantly trying to heal but getting crushed over and over again, burning and suffocating and wishing you were dead, for infinity? No thanks.

• Tim Urban

Okay wait actually yeah no. No infinity.

• JacksonKG

Wouldn’t that happen to anyone regardless if they chose a number exceeding the end of the universe? And there’s now way of knowing that number, so it can’t be off limits right?

And at the end of the universe, even if it took trillions of years, there would probably be another big bang at some point, if that is how the universe initially came to be

• Hillblah

I think there’s a big difference between even trillions of years of suffering and infinite suffering. I would much rather overshoot the end of the universe by a trillion years than infinite (though I made my choice to hopefully avoid that all together and went for 50k which I think is fairly safe). Infinity is big. Like really really big. Like unimaginably, unexplainably big. I cannot possibly imagine anyway living for infinity and not regretting it for infinity at some point..

Maybe after the end of this universe another one starts, that’s a pretty big maybe. What’s more certain is that that universe will also end, as will any that come after it. And if you live for infinity you will be there for all that. All the endless pain and loss.

• JacksonKG

Stephen Hawking has said time travel is plausible, so it might be possible to skip the empty periods considering what can be achieved in such time

And if not, pain would eventually become a norm anyway, and you could build a tolerance. Then you could either live in emptiness forever, or if the universe re-cycled you would essentially feel like you were in heaven.

The amount of time you would have for new discovery would be essentially limitless though, and you could probably avoid the end

• Jonathan Wells

You talk of pain and loss and suffering and regret, but all these are bound to our mortality. Our conception of suffering is rooted in the mortality of our bodies. Does the universe regret itself? Does a single moment in time regret that it is happening? Given infinite time, the human mind would adapt to understand the conditions it found itself in. So you’re a brain floating in space for eternity. Big deal. You already are that, you just don’t realize it yet.

• Yelena Keyzman

Look at what you started! Now I’m just reading all the comments and wanting to yell at everyone who chose infinity! Of course the kinds of readers that gather here, we are all curious and our current lifespans don’t allow for nearly enough time to soak up all the knowledge and experience that we can. But I honestly think anyone that said “infinity” has no understanding of that number! The universe hasn’t even figured out how to expand towards infinity, it might have to implode infinite times and grow again just the same! WHO KNOWS! Our tiny species is not meant to! So for all those eager to press the maximum button like myself… just choose the maximum that nature generally allows for our type of species people! It should suffice in soaking up all that we can process and appreciate anyways!

• DeeDee Massey

Perhaps the calculator could have a button for “Until The End of Time,” which some scientists speculate could be in 5 billion years or so when the Universe Ends. But what if they’re wrong and you avoid infinity by putting in 5 billion and it ends in 3 and you suffer for 2 billion years or 7 and you completely miss experiencing it? Stephen Hawking suggests that the universe/time had a specific beginning and both will have finite ends. But he even still sounds uncertain about the topic. Anyway, you’ll have to specify time in THIS universe, because what if you could be there to watch it end as you slip into another universe (just in the nick of time, huh-huh), which has its own time dimension? And hopefully you’d have a way to synchronize between time dilations, because if you’re hurtling through space faster than you did while attached to Earth, time will go by slower, and vice versa.

• Ben Lee

that’s almost like saying: “i shouldn’t eat this sandwich because cleaning my butthole when i poop it out is gross, but since i chose to eat the sandwich, i will be forced to accept the butthole cleaning consequences of eating the sandwich”..

*gasps

time to go back to decaf..

• John Krajewski

You could have a nice chat with all the other immortals hanging out in the void?

But really, I think a trillion years would be enough time to stop the end of the universe, or create a new universe, or leave our universe.

• At this point, doesn’t the collapse of the universe also mean the end of time? And if so, doesn’t that mean that infinity is up?

• I mean, just because we can continue to exist does not mean we’re outside
the laws of physics — if “time” stops, than won’t the human brain also
“stop” because it exists within the framework of time? (As opposed to continuing to feel pain and think and such.) Say we end up
falling into a black hole — we’d end up trapped in a single “final”
moment forever, but that doesn’t mean that we’d perceive it as lasting any more than a moment.

• Hillblah

Well we’ve already said we can’t die so we’re suspending some of the laws of physics. When you’re talking about unkillable people being around at the end of the universe logic kinda flies out the window. On the information given to make the choice I just wouldn’t be comfortable assuming I would eventually die. Infinity is infinity, no loopholes just ’cause the universe ends =P.

• John Krajewski

Exactly, infinite time is a concept that breaks down a bit at universe-end, I think.

• Yelena Keyzman

I just read this after I’ve put in my response. And my original thought was similar to yours but then I needed to put a cap on it because of evolution. (you’d need to scroll for a while to find it at this point.) No doubt technology is exponentially moving forward enough to give human lives a whole new meaning, but there’s still something to be said at the “natural” way life is evolving without the aid of man-made technology. So I had to put a cap on what I believe is a legitimate lifespan for the current human species as a whole. Something else needs to come after us and I don’t want to be around when everything else evolves but me. Even if technology allows for me to upload my consciousness outside of my body and live on forever as something totally different. If no one else from my naturally born species still exists… you’re stuck living out eternity as an observer because the human instincts you’re born with are likely to be engraved in you forever. So imagine if a trillion years go by and humans no longer exist, but you do in whatever form you’re in… do you think you’d form meaningful love and connection with a cockroach or similar species? It’s really mostly that thought that kept me from going with the whole “infinity” button.

• Jonathan Wells

I am so with you on this. Basically, we just have no clue what’s going to happen at all. Which is amazing. Life as it is seems pretty boring compared to limitless possibility. Take a few hundred years to perfect oil painting, then move on to the harpsichord. In a sense, I would say that spiritually, we already do live forever, are a part of the infinity of the universe in a very real way. Only our bodies are mortal. Our souls are immortal. So to be able to join our souls, to truly understand the implications of immortality is such a gift, one that I would think every seeker of wisdom would jump at. Surely we would, given time, transcend all the overwhelming fears that mostly stem from our fragile mortality anyway. People have mentioned somehow being jettisoned into space and floating off into the void for eternity, but think: you’re not going to die. Eventually you will bump into something. Use the time to work on your meditation. Imagine spending ten million years meditating. What would a human mind become after such a journey into reality? The potential of a soul unbounded by the flesh is unimaginable.

• Aina

It’s definitely possible that the future is as bright as you imagine it, but one must also consider the possibility of the world going to a much darker place… think about climate change,
pollution, humanitarian crises, wars (potentially nuclear), extinctions of species,
deforestation, limitations on drinkabe water, no space for garbage, loss of biodiversity, famine, thirst, authoritarian regimes, torture etc… If the world becomes a hostile place to live in, which is likely to happen sooner or later, maybe you won’t be so happy you chose infinity…

• WW

What if the world blew up and all the infinity’ers got spread throughout space, and you would have to wander alone not knowing when the next time will be that you get to see a visible life form? And your only hope is math… but you must realize that the probability of finding another life form while wandering on foot.. in space.. is remote.

• Broaden The Broadway

I’m with you on this one. First my thought was: “infiity? nah.. alone in the universe… bla bla bla”, but then I realized that I will be not the only one who have chose this one, so I will have buddies to hang out with and secondly, and most importantly, I’ll get the chance to see it all: technology advances, new galaxies, stars, other intergalactic species and so on, so on.. So yes, infinity.

• Liam Dennis

500 million years. In that time you’d have a good go at travelling around the universe. Most of this time would have to be in an induced coma, in fact that would be the first thing I seeked on getting out the room. 5000 years asleep should hopefully give man kind the time to build the space ships needed. I would travel between stars, asleep until we arrived at new world’s.

• Jason

Why would you possibly ask for an extra 500 m years just to go and fast forward through them with sleeping? What a complete waste. And why should ‘man kind’ do all of this work inventing space ships for you while you spend all day sleeping? You realize that you ARE man kind, right? Spend that first 5000 years learning everything that you can, helping to develop those space ships on your own, or at least learning about other topics so that you can remain useful to the rest of the human race once you depart from earth.

• Unqlefungus

My first thought was “Think of all the good you could do for others!” Go help ebola victims without fear of disease. Run into a burning house to save someone, knowing any burns you suffer will be instantly healed when you get out. Think of all the kidneys you could donate! The choose-your-body-age option is pretty attractive, especially with no illness.

I started reading Tim’s comment, but realized that defeats the uncertainty involved, so I quit.

My ten minutes is running out now , so I type in ten thousand. It’d be a bitch if I was burried alive next year, but at least it would eventually end.

Anything over a billion or so is stupid because the sun will eventually swallow the earth.

• suzanne

if you know exactly the day/year you are going to die, all your life is going to be afected (mostly in a negative way), this is the kind of information I don’t want to know. Human brain is not able to deal with this information and get the happiness and well-balance everyone is trying to get. Personally, no one who ever feel real pain (carcinogenesis, heart attack, some broken bones…) would be as unconscious to choose a number fixed of years can not be able to avoid them.
So I’ll leave the calculator away.

• Unqlefungus

I can tell you that compound interest would become a good friend of mine. And think of the sex! The body and energy of a sixteen year old, no fear of disease, and no need for birth control.

• Rob

Absolutely brilliant answer Tim. The question does raise so many questions! In ten mins is hard I think I have 3 mins to go. Arrgh I need more time! 50000,years? Here is my thought under pressure. We are reincarnated many times until the sum of all our lives gives our soul completion. So with this in mind. I get numerous bodies. Numerous life beginnings. Numerous problems repeated until I succeed in completing them. Numerous different cultures. So seconds left. I shall not press the button.

• geolocke

My choice would be not to choose. I’d hate knowing when it was going to end and besides, I’ve already lived a good number of years after I could died, so why mess with a good thing?

• Veronica

I’m 21, but I think I might rather have a kid than live forever. I assume the rule is to prevent overpopulation, but even if I decided I was ok with never having any kids, I probably wouldn’t pick anything over 100.

• Miss_Sunshine

Definitely BLANK! I want an unpredictable life.. and kids, too!

• Great Pierre

I would live 10,000,00 years maybe because by then humans will have probably evolved into something else and then I’d get to see the beginning of the new humans. And I want to see how technology improves, and go help Ebola victims because I’m invincible, but I can’t count 10 million years so eventually I would stop worrying about when I would die because it would be a surprise. And imagine how much money i could make in compound interest though!

• Beebles

I would put in one thousand years. I feel like that’s plenty of time to watch the world evolve and help make it a better place, but not so much as to go insane. I think I could handle one thousand years pretty well.

• Zach

I am under 12, so I would hope my parents would either not give me a number (for a ‘natural’ life) or a number 10% greater then theirs (because children are ‘supposed’ to outlive their parents), with some randomness so that I would avoid large groups of people dying all at once. Knowing my parents, I think they would both choose no number, because they want grandchildren. I have 3 siblings all younger than me, and I think that my parents would make the same choice for all of them.

• Eloise

Infinity. I figure no matter what kind of suffering or pain lies ahead, I don’t want to miss a single second. And number of years I pick might be just one day too short. In real life, I figure that God knows what he’s doing so I don’t worry about this. But if I have to choose…I can’t resist living forever.

• Eloise

Aaaand infinity isn’t really a number so I still get to have children))
But, really, this will be a good opportunity to adopt hordes of children.

• Angie

I don’t think there would be children to adopt with so many people choosing a number

• I read the note. I pick up the calculator. I take a deep breath, press a
single button, and then wait. I stare for ten minutes — is this what I
want? Yes. I’m afraid, but absolutely certain.

When the ten
minutes are up, and the awful burden of my choice is gone, I can breathe
again. I am free. Free of the unbearable weight of my own mortality.
The constant fear that I will never have enough time is gone. I can take
my time, now. I can sleep, I can write, I can draw. I can do everything
at my own pace.

I can love everyone and everything forever.
There will be loss, certainly — but that only makes the moments we have
together more precious. I am not afraid of loss. Where there is life,
there is always more. And nobody else ever has to lose me.

I will never tell anyone I pressed infinity. When they ask, I’ll just smile and say, “Guess.”

Someday,
a long time from now, maybe the Earth will be uninhabitable or there
will be an accident and I’ll end up in a terrible position — floating
endlessly through space, unable to do anything, unable to die? If that
happens… then what? Left alone with my pain and my thoughts for the
rest of eternity? Well… maybe. But maybe not. Maybe the future will be
better. Maybe we’ll find a future where we don’t mess up everything. A
future where we can mend our broken Earth and continue on into the
stars.

• annon

Sometimes i wish forever until i get bored. Most times i wish to stop living now.

• Jake

If I had been alone in the room, I would’ve said 7,000. My initial thought process didn’t even involve really the rest of the people currently in my life, which I think is different than most of the people who have posted thus far. I wanted to live life 100 times, starting at 10 and “ending” at 80. My “lives” would be filled with new friendships and new loved ones and those relationships would be the highlights of each of those lives. Even at age 21, I know that I’ll always look back and wonder what I would’ve done differently in my life, and living 100 different lives would give me the ability to try again and again.

I’m excited to see where humanity will go, what breakthroughs will be made and how each of those things will affect all humans and myself. I’m disappointed that I won’t be around to see a lot of it. But thinking about living 7,000 years introduces the same problems. When I’m getting close to my expiration date, human curiosity won’t be dead which means we’ll still be making technological improvements and I’ll always want to know what’s next for humans.

I mentioned above that I’m 21 and being that young means I don’t have kids. I would spend a lot of my 10 allotted minutes vacillating over whether it would be worth it to live an offspring-free life. In this hypothetical example, I decided that it is, but this is only hypothetical. I imagine that many of my years would be spent wondering about my kids: what they would be like, what they would look like, what genes I would pass down, how I would be as a parent, etc. Furthermore, parenting is one of the things in life that I would want to try multiple times. Watching how different my kids are from iteration to iteration and seeing how my parenting changed based on past parenting experience as well as the technology and culture of the time period.

I thought my 7,000 years worth of experiences would end up making a great book, going through each year of age and discussing different events and experiences from a particular year of life. But I imagine that after a few iterations, I would get bored and would choose to be 21 for the rest of the years I have left. That’d probably also make a good book, but for different reasons.

• house

Wow, just wow. Best thought experiment ever. I am thorn between leaving the calculator empty or putting infinity. Empty because living might get boring, like many pointed out I may live in infinity of nothing (end of the universe). I would not put a finite number, I can`t imaging the feeling of knowing you will die tomorrow, what if humans discovered FTL travel and I am going to die before that, or the season finally of my favorite show is tomorrow and I just can`t see it because I am dead.

Finally answer is infinity.

• Alex

I think a better question is “For how long do you want to be dead?”
A friend of mine was asked this question during counseling after a failed suicide attempt. Said it was the single sentence that really made sense, really made it click that death is permanent.

For me, that made this is an easy question. I hit the infinity button, because in the end, every other option is the same. You miss out on an infinite number of years of existence no matter how high of a number you choose.

• Lil Ticq

No, I don’t even need ten minutes to decide. I would leave it there just like it is – BLANK and live my life unpredictably, curious what can I do with my time, living my time with friends and people I like, having my own children. It may seem to be great to live for thousands of years or even millions. But seriously, I imagine the perfect world and it seems horrifying to me. You wouldn’t be afraid, you wouldn’t have to fight for success or fame, you would exactly know how much time you’ve got. Life would lose the joy. We are not gods to be immortal. I’ll rather work on my own short life than imagining the possibilities of a long long future. So my answer is let it flow. . . 🙂

• Jacob Nestle

Let’s go with 3000. That gives me room to live through several eras of time. And I’m not a recluse; if I could do so, I’d just keep adjusting my physical age down to around 20 and live a “normal” life before faking my death around 60. I care about other people, but can you imagine how much I could write in that amount of time? I could ensure that a disaster doesn’t just kill off all of our history, et cetera. It would be fun

• milkncookiez

I am an IT guy, so, you figure, I love technology. Therefore I would really love to see what the future will bring, in the aspect of technologies, in the next 2-3-5-7 centuries. But, on the other hand, I also want to have children, and experience the different ages, as they are different parts of life, and I really like good changes, to have something different, therefore I would like to live through all these parts, with my wife and so on. So what will happen with me in the room will be the following:
Hesitate for 10 seconds about wanting to see “far-future technology” and so on, and then just firmly decide to leave the calculator blank. 🙂

• Oguz

I’m not so sure of it but I believe I think I’d leave it blank. I’ve thought about putting on infinity but I don’t think I’d want to see what the human kind will do to our earth eventually, even though I’d love to move to another planet I’m quite sure I don’t want to be another person who killed a living planet… And also I don’t know what did other people I know write in that calculators what if they all write a number and I write infinity? I don’t want to see them die and pushed to think that I was really really selfish to choose infinity… But I couldn’t also write a number because it’d take all the purpose of my life away… There would be no place for simultaneous acts and knowing that nothing could kill me would make me careless and in the end I’m sure it’d bore me.more than living infinity alone. And also I don’t think I could let my life go at some point I choose because I’ve been thinking on a number since I began to write this but I couldn’t find the perfect number. Because any end no matter how far or close it is would mean I’ll miss something and I can’t take the blame for it I don’t want that kind of responsibility.
So here I am writing nothing and living a surprising death that nobody knows when.

• Stacy

After plugging in the age 25 and touch memorizing where the enter button is, I would cover my eyes really tight and just punch at random numbers and hit enter.

• Shantanu Diwakar

The option and the control of finishing things off for yourself is a very powerful one. The calculator makes you sacrifice the option of giving up. Giving up is not deemed positively in most cultures, but the self-destruct choice in case everything goes wrong is really useful. Black calculator it is!!!
Unless I am already dying… 😛
Then I would like to live until the end of Ice and Fire saga

• texas33

Infinity. Try the book Last and First Men: A Story of the Near and Far Future, by Olaf Stapledon, written in 1930. Amazing things could happen in 5 million, 5 billion, 5 trillion years. Have faith and hope in humanity.

• Tom

I think it would have really weird effects on the human mind if you chose 100,000 years for instance. The mind isn’t that good at holding memories from 20 years ago, magine accumulating 100k years worth of memories. I don’t think the mind would cope well. Also it would be terribly sad to forget your friends and parents when you think about how they died 20k years ago. Also you wouldn’t give a crap about politics, as they’ll all be dead in the click of a finger. Also bad situations or events wouldn’t really matter as you’d have so long to recover.

• James Pressler

I think that part of the value of life is not knowing when it will end. So, that being said, I would blindly punch in five figures and let that be my time. I would know I would have almost 100,000 years maximum, but it could be just over one millennium if my first number was a zero. This would give me plenty of life but nothing would be guaranteed after the first thousand years so life would still carry meaning.

• Haren Shetty

Hmmm….let’s see, I’ll be very tempted to leave the calculator as is, but then just to be certain that I live a good long life I’ll put in 108 just so that I can see the year 2100. That’s it.
A 100 years I feel is a good duration to experience life. It will be intense.(anything above the 1000s just seems too long for me). I know many people will be eager to see the technological advancements and other interesting stuff but you shouldn’t challenge nature to that extent. I mean, what if you get bored at 200 or 500 years, what would you do then? And you can’t say you won’t get bored (at around say 500) cause nobody’s ever lived that long, so you won’t know. Nothing in nature is perfect, life shouldn’t be either. There should always be something you wish to do even in your death bed. If you run out of things to do before you die then what’s the point?

• Tom

I would choose my age. I would not want to live in a society with hoards of people that knew they couldn’t die. The “Infinities” most likely are driven by self interest rather than anything altruistic and would most likely develop narcissistic tendencies that would drive them into doing and supporting socially reprehensible behaviors. They may even create their own social order separate from the rest of the humans and, using their unlimited resource of time, nefariously commandeer global positions of power. Perhaps this experiment is already taken place and the “infinities” are already among us…

• I’d live this life to 100, then go back to 12 and live until 32 which would be my “rock star” life, then go back to 12 years old and live that life until 115 and then die.

• KristyMae802

I would chose with a maximum of 2000 years. Minimum of 1,000 years.This would make an AMAZING tv show!! So many things could be done with this story line!

• Stefan

My initial gut reaction was to go with infinity. Numbers like 1,000 or 50,000 years seem long enough that we think to ourselves “Surely that’s enough time!”, but I think that neglects our strong desire to live (or perhaps more accurately our desire to not die). Phrased another way, if every day you were to ask me “Do you want to live tomorrow?”, the answer would be yes. Even were I in pain or suffering, I think I would tend to say yes. So, extrapolating out, I’d want to choose infinity.

The difficulty with that though is that once you start thinking about choosing infinity, or even just long lengths of time (in the trillions of years or above), you need to start thinking about the fate of the universe. And when you start thinking about that timeline, it’s just one bummer after another.

In about a billion years (10^9), the earth will get burnt to shriveled husk by our sun. I wouldn’t be too worried about that, as a billion years should be plenty of time to become a spacefaring race and relocate.

This sounds like it could be an interesting time: humanity forced from its ancestral home, to find a place among the stars (and so on and so forth). Unfortunately any possibility of spending eternity boldy going where no-one has gone before is made impossible by the expanding universe (whose expansion is constantly accelerating). In about 150 billion years, all the galaxies outside our local group (that is, the galaxies making up the Milky Way and the Andromeda Galaxy, which are gravitationaly bound and will eventually merge together) will cross behind a cosmological horizon. They’ll be so far away, and receding further and further away faster than the speed of light, that we’ll never be able to cross the distance to them. Eventually, even the light coming from them will disappear, leaving us totally isolated from the rest of the universe.

In about 100 trillion years (10^14 years), star formation ceases. With no new sources of heat, and the continuing expansion of the universe, it will get extremely cold and dark. By 10^20 years, everything will either be a black hole of have gotten sucked into one. By 10^100 years, even all the black holes will have evaporated, eventually leaving just a uniform sea of low-energy photons.

This wouldn’t be a very fun place to spend eternity in.

(And this is ignoring other possibilities which might spring up earlier. For example, protons may be unstable and eventually decay. Current estimates have a lower bound of proton half life of about 10^34 years. This may not happen, but the possibility of living through having all the familiar objects around you decay isn’t a pleasant one).

This is based on our current understanding of our universe, which could turn out to be wrong. But it’d be taking a pretty large gamble that we’re very wrong about a whole bunch of things to choose infinity. So I think I’d end up going for a quadrillion years (10^15), still leaving a bit of time since star formation finishes.

(Of course, if the premise of the question were actually true – i.e., if we could actually live without any food or water or other energy source, then physics as we know it is out the window anyway. If our bodies can violate conservation of energy and the laws of thermodynamics, then we could do so for the universe too. So in that case I’d definitely choose infinity. But I think reasoning in this way breaks the spirit of the question!)

• Half a Score and Done

10 years. With my 25 year old body. No need to retool for a new decades-spanning career, a decent chunk of time to travel and read…and then a quick and peaceful demise. A very alluring prospect! Spending eons discovering all the planet/galaxy has to offer is not appealing at all, especially as it would also likely entail long stretches of loneliness/boredom – have enough of that in my current life. The only problem with my decision would be my parents, one of whom would surely end up picking a much higher number, and thus would run the risk of living for a VERY long time without their only child, which I know would kinda suck (much more than being without their spouse, methinks 😉 .

• Yelena Keyzman

Not going to lie my first reaction to the question was… there’s an “INFITITY”
option!?! Holy shit, that’s like taking the concept of time out of the equation!
I wonder what that would feel like since humans only feel and recognize the
concept of time because of how short lived our own is. But of course choosing
infinity is crazy because our minds can’t even wrap around what that notion
even means much less be forced to experience it! So I’d feel bad for the power-and-immortality-hungry-sucker that chooses it. However, I do NEED some ceiling from which to base my response in order to avoid feeling that I picked a lifespan that feels too short. Because we only claim someone died young when compared to what’s considered old. And I’m a glass-half-full kind of person so I want the maximum option.

So I came to the only logical conclusion I could, given the point in the
timeline of our human existence and whatever collective knowledge we have
gathered up to today and this magical calculator question! I should mention I am not religious, (but possibly spiritual/truthist?) so my response is heavily influenced by the
theory of Evolution and my own “truths.” I believe life and all of the universe
are one in the same, growing towards infinity and we as human individuals are
just teeny tiny dots of one type of living thing vs. another in a much bigger picture. And as much as I enjoy the current human body I get to experience life in, these particles are clearly meant to break down and turn into something else down the line. So I’d like to soak up all that I can as a human (the love, the loss, the beautiful, and the mundane and the wealth of knowledge I can fit into my curious mind), and I think a safe answer would be 100,000 years but no more. Because if I go any higher than that, I worry that evolution would not apply to me freezing my current 28-yearold body for 100,000 years, and I’d just be an equivalent of the world’s oldest and smartest monkey in a world full of evolved homo sapiens. At that point, I just don’t think it would be all that fun anymore and I’d just be a contributing asshole to holding back our necessary extinction.

• WW

I completely agree. I don’t want to float endlessly in space, and I don’t want to be a monkey (or worse!) in a world of new humans.

• Jochen Kirn

My wife and I discussed and had a hard time agreeing on anything beyond 100 or 150. The one tough part would be to second-guess what the partner would choose. Then about the kids: our oldest son would choose for himself, but one of us had to pick for our younger children. No reproduction for any of them or an uncertain usual lifespan in this once-in-eternity opportunity. We finally agreed that having a healthy and mostly natural lifespan (something below 200 years), along with the human cycle of life would make the most sense. In the end, we would stick to the cycle of life.

• yeyeye

I can’t believe people putting so long numbers. Maybe I’m too stupid to comprehend. Though jealousy of those that can die could be a thing.

• Sid

My first reaction was to leave the calculator empty. The uncertainty of death is an overhanging feature that convinces me to do things. If I knew exactly how much time I had, I would procrastinate life. I would wait till the “night before” (so like a few years before) to get all my life “done.”

But, then I figured it might be better to live a reasonably long amount of time, if nothing, to say that I lived in multiple centuries, and I lived well in to the 22nd Century. That’s why I would choose something like 121 or 144 (plus, perfect squares!). That would have me dying in either 2116 or 2139. Not too shabby.

• Ryan

I have given this a solid 10 minutes worth of thought. My verdict is that there are only two rational, dare I even say reasonable, answers: leave it blank or infinity. Which of those you choose is a complex issue based on a wide number of factors ranging from the religious, to the philosophical, to the scientific. There are a whole set of factors that might legitimately lead one to deciding to leave it blank. But if you decide not to leave it blank, then if you extend whatever logic out that caused you to take that leap (namely that you believe there will be some benefit to living longer than you naturally would, all the new-found constraints not withstanding) you should press the infinity button. If the choices ranged from “blank” to say “up to one million” that is an entirely different question. There are countless scenarios, some of which are explored above and in the comments below, which could make that million years hellish agony. But those aren’t the choices. You can chose infinity. Tough as it is for us to wrap our very human minds around that concept, that means that even if things go horribly wrong (e.g. you are stuck on earth, or at least earth’s former orbit, as the sun expands and wind up for 100s of millions or billions of years INSIDE the sun before it shrinks back down again) those horrors will be finite. You, however, will be infinite. Thus even a horrific experience that lasts for billions of years will, in fact, wind up being no more than a blink in your mind’s eye. It is no different than if you had burnt your hand on a stove once when you were a child. For those seconds when you were in pain, it was undoubtedly unbearable. But would you give up all the wonders and joys of life because of momentary pain and suffering? Of course not.

Get rid of the infinity button and we’ve got ourselves a whole different ball game…

• Anthony Churko

Will the horrors actually be finite, though? The horrific experience lasts for billions of years, but will it ever stop? It’s a statistical impossibility that once the Earth is gone, you’ll never experience a comfortable room-like temperature ever again. You’ll be burning hot for a few billion years, then freezing cold once the sun burns out.

By choosing a finite number, you’re guaranteeing that there will eventually be an end to your suffering.

• Ryan

At the risk of getting pedantic, I would think that by definition in an infinite existence an infinite number of things would happen to you – both good and bad. I think the whole exercise is a bit of a Rorschach test as to your optimism about life, the universe, etc. Presumably anyone who chooses a number greater than their natural life span is predisposed to believe that more good things than bad things will happen to them over that extra period of time (or at least that the sum of those experiences will work out to be on the positive side of the ledger). My argument is simply that if you already believe that, then you might as well take the risk away and press the “infinity button” and guarantee it.

• Anthony Churko

I would disagree that an infinite existence implies that an infinite number of things would happen, because an unlimited life doesn’t mean unlimited EVERYTHING. Even if I’m not bound by my mortality, I’m still bound by my physiology. No matter how long I live, I’ll never grow to be 100 feet tall, or give birth, or swallow the moon, or any other physiologically impossible thing. Therefore, because we physiologically can’t experience EVERYTHING, our life experiences must necessarily remain finite.

You’re right in that a longer life implies that both good and bad things will happen in that extra time span. But you don’t have to be a pessimist to believe that the good things will probably end after the Earth is destroyed. Therefore, it’s more rational to estimate how long the Earth will support life, and set the calculator to that.

• Ryan

You know you are in the midst of a good philosophical discussion when one of the participants feels the need to clarify that “you don’t have to be a pessimist to believe that good things will probably end after the Earth is destroyed” 😉

You raise a good point Anthony that I am likely in part basing my argument on the notion that if you were to have an infinite life you wouldn’t be bound by physiology in any meaningful sense. You would have infinite time to figure out ways to transcend your current physiological and physiological capacities, either through adopting technologies that civilization develops or, even if civilization collapses, re-inventing (single-handedly if needed) entire new civilizations and technologies on your own. A crazy notion, but not when you consider that – to extend our big example – before the red giant Sun engulfs the Earth you will have lived likely 100,000s times longer than the entire duration of human civilization to date (and Tim’s post from last week reminds us exactly just how big those kind of numbers are).

But let’s imagine you are the universe’s ultimate slacker and procrastinator. You kick around for a billion years enjoying the fresh air, abundant H2O, and various flora and fauna. All is good. You hang out for another few billion, enjoying the company of everyone who leaned on the “0” button for awhile during their 10min in the room. A few more billion years pass. Andromeda is starting to draw near. The Sun is getting hotter. Things are starting to go downhill fast, particularly since you have essentially done nothing to better yourself for billions of years. You are a 2014 human in a 4,000,002,014 world. More time passes. Earth is gone. You are now hanging out inside the swollen Sun. It is pretty awful. Obviously you would have had to have screwed up in truly epic fashion to allow this to happen (really in 4 billion years all you have to do is get to Mars somehow and you’d be, relatively speaking, significantly better off).

But even if this all came to pass, there are no doubt countless things that could happen in an infinite lifespan to transition you from this hellish existence to something significantly better. A few random examples: A passing alien spaceship comes on by and beams you up. A rouge planet comes rolling on by at the right distance for its gravitational pull to bring you to its surface. A black hole collides with our solar system and sucks you in, and – turns out – black holes happen to be gateways to inter-dimensional wormholes and it spits you out in a pretty cool dimension you get to hang out in for a few trillion years. The universe contracts, a new big bang happens, and the new universe it is replaced with has different laws of physics that significantly advantage you.

Any of these possibilities are absurdly unlikely even given a lifespan of trillions of years. But that is the beauty of infinity – throw a sideways “8” into the equation and all possibilities start approaching 1.

• TomBombadil

My answer is infinity!… Lot of interesting discussion here regarding possibilities of wittnessing technological changes or end of universe or living beyond family and friends etc, but what first stuck me was what would having an infinite time on my hands would do to me. The procastinator in me would go crazy!! Imagine having no “deadlines” ever…. But then it would also set me completely free! No social pressures anymore, as I would outlive all of them anyway! The fear of eternal pain was mentioned but isn’t the pain we feel mainly because of the fear of what it leads to aka death… Maybe knowing that you will not die will make you not feel pain anymore! :-D… Anyway the allure to find answers to these questions is too much to resist and hence I choose infinity!…

• No deadlines ever would mean no progress. If everyone gave up, society would collapse and you’d have a miserable eternity. No food, no modern conveniences. Just living forever in constant starvation and deprivation. Sounds like a great choice.

• Michael

My instant choice was 16,777,215, but I changed my pick once I noticed the infinity button. Thriving is optional, but surviving is compulsory.

The biggest question is what to do about the fact that I would live longer than the sun. Getting off this rock to another rock somewhere else is a gigantic challenge.

The one thing about this hypothetical future that doesn’t seem depressing is winding up alone due to outliving everyone I’ve ever known. When I think about it, I realize that I’m always alone, and I’ve always been alone, and I wouldn’t expect that to change much.

I’ve always been trapped inside my own mind. On the bright side, there’s always music in here.

• TC Carter

I chose 50,000 years. I think earth will still be a liveable place by then and its enough time to master and enjoy most of humans favourite activities.
(Posting as a 23 year old male)

• EZnded

I won’t use the calculator. Although the option of having a longer lifespan might seem like a good deal, I think the option of being able to reproduce easily outweighs it. Billions of people might choose to live a longer life, but that option is not sustainable. I’d like to be one of those people that would prefer to create life, rather than prolong it.

I’m still in my early 20s, and I don’t have a family of my own just yet. But even if I have one, I won’t use the calculator. I have specific dreams and goals in life that I want to achieve. And I plan on achieving them in the next 50 years. I’m already contented in fulfilling those goals, wishing for anything more seems too greedy for me. The value of life, for me, is not the length of time you’ve lived in it, but the quality of how you’ve lived it.

• Ryan Foley

I agree. At first I wasn’t sure whether I would put in a number, but when I read the part about not being able to reproduce, I knew I would definitely not do it. I think our life experience is just as must about our own as it is about sharing and propelling others. To me, there’s no greater satisfaction in the later objective than with my future children.

It’s interesting to think how much that one point affects my answer. I wonder what I would say to this question in 20 or 30 years, when I’ve had a lot of time fly by. I’d be interested to see a comparison between everyone’s age and their answer.

• Anders Krosshavn Vik

First off, I wanna recommend the movie “The Man from Earth” from 2007 which sort of deals
with this question: At one point in history, a man is suddenly born who doesn’t
age and lives for millennia, experiencing and learning until the present day.
He was born a fairly average guy but has had the time to think and to read libraries worth of
literature and has gotten tens of doctorates and professorships, and escapes
lynching and discovery by disappearing every 10 years into a new life and a new
name.

My spontaneous answer to the question before reading was “about 10000 years”, and
then I modified to “maybe a little less, depending”. The more I
thought about it, the more this “depending” became a bigger and
bigger unknown for me. Like, what are your prospects for living in a peaceful
world, or the utopia Tim describes? What are the world consequences of everyone having this option? Could we count on the world staying as it is? How would you even psychologically handle
the age, is there a chance your mind would just burst or go insane after only
like 150 years? You’d never know, and being insane for an eternity sounds pretty bad. Tim wrights a lot of conditions, but for me I’d need even more postulates for a lot of things before I could give a meaningful answer, things like “the world will go on in its regular relatively peaceful state with no
apocalyptic event destroying all prospects for happiness” and “I wouldn’t go
insane” and stuff like that. Then the question gets closer to what’s probably
intended, like “If you could live a good quality life like you do now for as
long as you wanted, how long would that be?” in the “if you could live forever,
would you do it” kind of sense. And what really drives this question, which
makes it a non-trivial one is the counterpoint to the dream of eternal
existence, which is that too much of a good thing might be a horrible thing too. At what point does a life stop being worth living, even if surrounding conditions are good?
Being eternally trapped in a life you no longer want – out of boredom, out of
some other reason (there is really no limit to what they might be at this scale)
– is really as close to the notion of hell you could think of. It is eternal
misery. And in the perspective of eternity, basically every slightest discomfort
is hell. Just contemplating going through 500 000 years and then at the
end of that know you are just facing another 500 000, and so on, would
be an unspeakable destiny. This is one of the reasons I think the notion of “heaven”
is really quite stupid unless you postulate that “you will never get bored or
have any other negative features to your existence giving you reason to end it”,
a state which in itself sounds kind of boring and shallow and lifeless,
if you ask me. Almost as in a perpetual senseless narcosis. On a cloud with
God. Yey.

So anyway any good answer to the question should require some principles. Firstly I would
say that if it at all makes sense to you to pick a really large number, it
should make even more sense to just pick infinity, because you have already basically
denied that you will ever not want to live anymore. So for the heaveny kind
of people, who think it’s gonna be an above neutral value of existence for as long a duration that they
write on the paper, eternity should always sound better than some finite period however big.
If more is always better it makes no sense to ever end it. But then I think we already
established that that’s a stupid idea, and that eternity is a reeeally long time to have to exist no mater what state you are in. The slightest hint of pain added together over time becomes intolerable, and a painless eternal bliss becomes empty. So screw that.

Secondly, I think that if there is uncertainty about whether life arbitrarily far in the
future will be good or bad, the bad version should count more heavily. If I can
toss a coin and either win eternity in unimaginable bliss or eternity in unimaginable
suffering, my choice is to refrain from tossing. The absence of inescapable
torture is worth more to me that the presence of an “equally large” blissful
state. Many could disagree, especially utilitarian hedonists, who might claim
that pains are as disvaluable as equally strong pleasures are valuable. Especially
towards the extremes, I have a sense this is not true and that the pain wins out. So as long as the
question is framed like it is here, I would definitely choose safe, again, which is
death over eternity.

If on the other hand you postulate that you will never be able to experience any negative
emotion or pain-like states, the question becomes more difficult. I say
difficult, because it still isn’t entirely GO for me on eternal life here
either. Your worst possible state is neutral, and a mere absence of positive
feelings. The scenario depicted by Tim of floating around endlessly in space, becomes
tolerable by definition because you no longer have the ability to be bored, which is a
negative emotion. You don’t go cold or insane or anything else. You cannot be
harmed by anything, even by time. Still my intuitions tell me that this state
of being trapped inside your consciousness for eternity necessarily contains an
element of endurance and pain in some sense. You will think every thought possible for your mind to think, you will see every possible combination of constellations from the stars floating around you, staring at them endlessly all alone in the dark. And given that you know what happiness is, as a faint enduring memory, you can do nothing but hope for it to return some time again. If there is consciousness, it might seem impossible to picture it completely without the capacity to be harmed. But should we be willing to risk such a “small” harm given that we could gain a gigantic benefit? How much larger must the potential benefit be to be worth the risk of eternal imprisonment in life? I don’t know.

To return to the original question: I think Tim’s reasoning, as my own, is based on an
estimate of what counts as “foreseeable future”. Most people can probably deal
with 5000 years, and maybe even 10000 or somewhere in between. We can wrap our
heads around something like that. It’s not cosmic. And as far as we can tell, a
lot of awesome things are going to happen in that time. Just writing this makes
me really sad I won’t get to see what the next coupe hundreds of years holds
for humanity. Think of the discoveries and things we’ll have figured out. We
are basically standing in the middle of human history, and having access to only
_half_ of it; the one behind us. We’ll know _nothing_ of all those things that
even toddlers will take for granted some 1000 years from now. It’s like
watching the first two seasons of Breaking Bad, and then getting cut off
forever. Only this is the friggin’ story of _everything_. So yeah. I want to
know the rest, it’s a tragedy that none of us will, and that we’ll die, but I
for one won’t sign up for some absurdly, mind-bogglingly long time of potential
imprisonment in suffering just in case something good might be lurking
somewhere out of sight.

10 minutes. Oh, crap.

• Wiremu Hohepa

I’m pretty sure that at any time, you could change your body’s age to 1000 and let your idea of self die as you escape to be sentient space dust (who might just happen to be stuck in a cave but doesn’t care.)

• Connelly R.

This blows my mind! As a 57-year-old new Christian, I’ve read and discussed parts of this question and several of the scenarios offered dozens of times in the last few years, but using eternal life with and without Jesus as the defining stipulation. It makes for awesome dinner conversation, just like what I’m reading here. An eternity of comfort, diversity, and our own bliss versus one of personal horror, pain, deprivation… One or the other WILL happen, but you might have longer than 10 minutes to decide. Now that I have made my decision, the comfort is already here.

• MikeG

Any choice that isn’t ‘blank’ puts you in a different flavor of ‘life’. Living a life where there’s no fear of death or sickness would surely sap us of some motivation. I think choosing infinity is making a pretty big bet on your appetite for curiosity. What if you start waking up in the morning and don’t feel like learning the latest new thing the world has discovered, or even getting up and going to work? My career is 24 years old and I’m already fantasizing about retirement. What if your 401K tanks or you parachute pants never come back in style. I don’t want to be broke for infinity. I leave it blank

• Anthony Churko

Interesting. I’d be curious to see how people of different ages answer this question. Maybe our appetite for curiosity is just another one of those things that young people have and think that they’ll never lose. Do people just get tired of learning new things after a while? Do old people get bored of life once they hit 70 or 80? If that’s the case, then spending centuries here would be torture.

• HockeyMom47

I’d go back to the body I had when I was 25, then ask to live until 150. I’d see my children to adulthood and my grandchildren, but then, I think I’ll have had enough.

• DS

500,000 years.

• Maybe I’m just a simpleton.

I’d choose ‘infinity’… Simply because I want to witness how the universe changes. I’m currently reading Bill Bryson’s ‘A short history of nearly everything’ and it got me thinking about how much I will miss out on once I die. Even through agonising suffering I think it will all be worth it.

After 10 minutes is up, the world will probably become chaotic as a lot of people will have no fear of death… but if the person I love has also chosen to live forever, I think I will be OK.

• Stanford

Here’s an interesting thought: Many smaller beings have very short lifespans. Flys, for example, can expect to live 15-30 days. What if humans originally had the lifespan of a fly, and were asked the same question? The prospect of living 80 years would mortify us — It would seem like eternity compared to a measly 15 days. If we lived for 15 days, we would never conceive of creating sports teams or universities or movies, because they would be impractical. If we chose to live of millions of years, our lifestyles would simply adapt to fit out new lifespan. We would create and achieve things that we never would have conceived of while living for only 80 or so years.

• Hillblah

But you’re not making the same choice as everyone else. You choose for yourself not all of humanity. So you can’t be sure that society will change with you, maybe society will reject you if you choose too differently.

• My instinct is 500 years anymore and you’d be so out of touch.

• Tom Miller

Infinity is a strange beast. I’d be interested to see the results of the Infinite monkey theorem, but really a Googolplex or a Graham Number (or some other such theoretical number) might be a preferable choice for this thought experiment. Infinity lends itself to the idea that infinite number of things can happen, such as me growing 10,000 heads, or discovering the infinite improbability drive.

But I’d actually leave it blank. I find no reason to be particularly scared of death, any more than I should be scared of the 4.7 billion years I was “dead” before I was born. Of course, I’d like to enjoy my life, and see the world, and not die too young, but it shouldn’t take much more than 100 years to do all the things you want. If you haven’t got round to them by then, they probably weren’t that important to you anyway. Add to that the thought of not having any children and therefore not “giving someone else a turn”, is enough to put me off entering any sort of number.

• Michael Allan Johnpoll

It is an odd question with a lot of variables. What it comes to, given the choice: I am as afraid to die as I am to live. Because both are unknowns. It’s not knowing, day after day, eon after eon, that gets to me. But the chance to see the whole of creation, and possible the start of the next (assuming this immortality lasts the end of this universe) interests me.

• Foomah

This idea would make for an awesome dystopian novel! I would choose to live for 500 years, just to see how it all turns out.

• Jay

infinity. No thought about it. I’m living forever!

• Liam

I immediately shied away from pressing the ‘infinity’ button, for the obvious reasons.

But what if I entered a large number, and then after a few joyous centuries living off my compound interest, I carelessly got myself trapped somewhere unpleasant? (or put there by a malevolent third party (I’d have plenty of time in which to make enemies, and quite possibly have to live under future oppressive regimes))

What would happen to someone permanently submerged in a vat of boiling acid? The note suggests that they would conciously survive it. Can anyone really even imagine the pain? Imagine suffering that for countless millenia…

This caused me to reduce my lifespan significantly so at least there would be an eventual end to the pain and suffering should something go wrong, and also reduced time/opportunities to get myself into such inextricable torment in the first place.

Too many unanswered questions, with possible answers too horrendous to bear, so I left the calculator blank.

My ten minutes have long passed, and I’m now wondering if I should have ‘risked’ just a few centuries. Now I’ll have to spend the rest of my natural life racked with regret…

• Lilith

I would have to push the infinity button as well. I would scarcely be the only one to do so and I rather like the thought that I would live to see Humanity continue forward through time and the universe and, eventually, get to see (and likely escape) the end of the universe itself.

It’s so amazingly tantalising and, regardless of whatever else happens, I would know that there’s always hope for the future. I could completely eschew food, for instance, if it were necessary (since I’m immortal) and there are plenty of options out there would make hunger obsolete if it came to that.

The only downside I could possibly see would be becoming trapped somewhere, but even that would be temporary by way of comparison.

To infinity and beyond!

• Caroline

Oh man I’ve been a little bit obsessed with when am I going to die ever since my dad died 5 years ago. I’m 40 now, nearly 41, I think aging is fine. Although if I make it to 80 and I’m in pain trying to do normal every day stuff that will suck.

I wouldn’t put a number in.

Can you do a question about what we’d like an afterlife to be like, because rather than be alive for infinity / longer than however long I have, I would like see how everything goes from my comfy afterlife, where incidentally I’d also like to meet my ancestors right back to granny ameoba, and I’d also like to fly around the galaxies. Yay! So yeah, that’s what I’m planning on doing with the undending nothingness that is death ;D And no part of my plan includes living for longer than whatever many minutes/hours/weeks/months/years I have ahead. Although whatever Alive Time I have ahead I’d like it to be as good as this year, which has been freaking great 😀

• Anthony Churko

It’s really tempting, but I’d have to walk away from the calculator. Mostly because I want kids, but also because I’m not afraid of death and am curious to see what comes next.

Thinking about it in terms of risk vs. reward, the risk is high for reasons listed above (what if the world blows up in five years, and you have to spend almost your whole life just floating through space)? If the Earth dies in my lifetime, I don’t want to be around for a day afterwards.

The reward is just a delay of the inevitable. Factoring all that in, it just wouldn’t be worth it. Pass.

• matt

i would pass on the calculator. having a family outweighs the ability to pick how long i live.

• Anthony Churko

It’d be interesting to see how humanity develops. I’d guess that it would split into two camps – the people who live forever and don’t reproduce (the Immortals), and the people who live temporarily and reproduce (the Temporals). They’d probably hate each other, because the Immortals would have the economic advantage in hoarding money over the years, and would have power over the Temporals. But then the Temporals would have more energy for an economic revolution, especially after a few centuries. But then the Immortals could kill the Temporals, and not the other way around.

I think everyone who punches a number into the calculator would only live long enough to see themselves become a villian.

• Very much my thoughts!

• Spider

I would leave the calculator blank. I lost my beloved husband two years ago. I don’t want to live forever without him. My kids are now old enough to choose their own calculator age. Not knowing their choices makes living very long without them unbearable. The same with family and friends. I like to think that with a finite amount of time, we cherish the moments more as they go along. With a measure in our hands, we apportion priorities and spend our time wisely when we know the clock is ticking away. Youthfulness becomes treasured; love is cultivated and treasured because of finite time. We absorb as much as we can and pack as much joy into relationships and hobbies as we know that our time is precious.

This question has in fact given me a glimpse into the utter orderliness or life as it is, and the efficiency with which evolution moves forward. I believe we are already infinite conscious beings, a spark of life and individuality already ignited when the Creator gave us birth. We live eternity in segments, in new forms and through reincarnation. We are deprived of memory of our longevity to enhance our enjoyment, for in fact, the Creator has created us out of Himself. Creating us our of Himself, He had to differentiate us from Him. How could that happen? By shrouding that individuality in forgetfulness of our state of unity with Him. This is the concept of Maya. This forgetfulness or ignorance is absolutely essential for individuality to exist. As the individual spark of the Creator goes through different forms, it is rewarded with increasing memory or consciousness of the Father Creator. Finally, one day, after the spark has been everything possible that it desired, attained all virtues, accomplished all that it wanted, it fully remembers! And that is moksha, enlightenment, self-realization. Then you realize you always were and always will be. For you are the Father, as well as the Son! You always were.

All of this came to mind as I pondered the question this week and how nature actually answered it already. This is the Vedic perception of life. I hope it is not too tangential in addressing the subject. I have learned a lot from everyone’s answers. Thank you for a thoughtful and intellectual platform.

Spider

• Morgan

I think I wouldn’t go too high, while I love life and the joys, I think I would prefer to cap myself at 111. Living to one hundred sounds cool, but the extra years and ending on an odd number satisfies some part of me while keeping the scarey huge numbers at bay. Living to any age beyond 100 feels like a big deal, anything beyond that mental cap in my head seems frightening and just too large to wrap my mental fingers around. So my choice is to have a another couple of decades in which I can fill to the brim with experiences and wonder and leave before I become tired of wondering how to fill more time.

• Caroline

I’d like to come to your eleventy first birthday 🙂

• Morgan

Caroline, does this mean you want the come to my death day?

• Guest

Everyone else is in their own room and 100 is immediately not impressive to anyone who isn’t having kids. I’ll be playing dress-up-as-127 with the other kids.

• Morgan

So I figured I would explain why 100 feels like a big deal. Most people pass away before they reach this age. Both my great grandmothers passed in their mid to late 80s, and a few of their friends passed in their 90s. All are considered to have had long and wonderful lives, yet a friend of mine had a great grandmother that turned 100 and it was a huge deal. This little frail woman lived a century! I am still in awe of this fact. She lived through so much change and wonder in that time frame, the depression, some wars, technological breakthroughs that made it seem magic was real and not real. A century is a long time, but it is one that mentally I can grasp.
In 1000 years if we keep up with the rate of change our species has found, our world now will seem as forgein as the thought of being a hunter gatherer seems to anyone in this time. The wonders would astound! (Part of me is convinced we will end up on hover chairs like in Wall-e). But in a 1000 years I would still be that person from the tech age. The generation x girl. I fear I wouldn’t be able to keep up or that those people that didn’t choose a button so they could reproduce, their offspring would out evolve me. (That would be cruel, to end up the lonely homo sapien in a world filled with the next steppers who all have super powers and I have none).
I understand the urge to hit a huge number into this magic calculator, but living just far enough beyond 100 to a number that doesn’t feel too extreme is my ticket.

• Caroline

This reminds me of Logan’s Run http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Logan's_Run, with the thing on your hand… your time is up. Time to go off and pop your clogs.

• Artyom

My emotional self tells me to pick 1,000,000. After all, I want to observe the evolution of the human species; explore space, other planets… Fly over to Alpha Centauri to meet other civilizations, establish colonies, enjoy my time with others, understand and learn things which modern day scientist don’t imagine exist. And… Time travel? Yes, heck yes. I lean over to type it in, but logic overpowers me. Wait but why? 🙂

Logic announces that my choice is wrong because:

1. In 1,000,000 years human civilization will experience a drastic biological evolution. Logic makes me think about how I will look to people who are 100-1000 times more intelligent than me, will be born with natural capabilities for interpreting the world is a totally foreign way, will have different values in life, will be physically different, will have “super powers” (telekinesis, telepathy, etc.) etc. etc. etc. Moreover, they will have a different spiritual outlook on life. They would never kill/hurt anyone in any way, probably have less or no emotions, and would worship the “universal truth” (Trutheism, perhaps? But on a 1000th step)… Conclusion: I would be something between a loser and a weirdo for thousands and thousands of years.

2. I can’t imagine anyone I know would choose to live a million years, because people I talk to are smart and smart people would always consider #1. So I would get lonely, especially due to #1 (everyone would think I’m an ape after a couple of centuries.) Just remind yourself of how you think of people from medieval times (those primitive rascals!) and times that by 1000, and here we are at the end of my millionth birthday. Yes, I would look pretty dumb to these… whatever they would call themselves.

3. I would get bored with living for so long. There is a limit to everything, even life. Though this is doubtful. And what if the Earth explodes, or there would be a deadly virus, or something else which will make me float in space for– No, this is too scary to even consider. Let’s move on…

4. No children? Well that just makes things a so much more difficult. I want children, and think it is right to progress human civilization not only though science, tech, art, etc. but by simply having children and educating them to the best of your ability. Every generation is new step in natural evolution, and no technology/knowledge/etc. would beat nature’s power of making people increasingly awesome using the power of reproduction. Nature created the whole universe. Everything you see everywhere was created by something beyond our understanding. How can I let myself miss out on this epic journey, instead focusing on myself and preventing thousands of my descendants from being born into this world??? It is an abortion on an unlimited scale. A genocide of my own future family… This is the most frighting thought I have, and only 30 seconds remain…

I want to choose 2,000 years. It seems reasonable. But #4 conflicts with all my thoughts, drowns in a sea of guilt… So many people unborn, so many people wouldn’t exist because of me. It will all be my fault.

I shove my hands deep in my pockets and struggle to keep my selfish desire at bay.

5, 4, 3, 2, 1…

0.

I just saved millions without finding a cure for cancer. At the same time I feel terrified at what I just did. Did I just made a biggest mistake of my life, or just became the world’s renowned hero? I really need to grab some coffee.

• Yelena Keyzman

Oh good! Someone finally posted a response with similar points to mine but you did a much better job elaborating on them! Of course after spending the night still thinking over this question, maybe I was a little trigger happy choosing to stay alive for the entire run of the human species.

Also, I just realized your name sounds Russian, so now I’m stuck wondering if sharing a Soviet upbringing results in similar logic…

• Artyom

Greetings Yelena! I’ve read your response, you made some interesting points about withholding the evolution. I agree with what you said; and speaking of “Soviet upbringing”, yes, I’m a Russian Armenian raised in Canada from an early age (though influenced by my parents and relatives). Definitely people whose parents were raised in the former USSR have similar mentality, especially when it comes to philosophical topics. In short, I would say it results in us thinking rationally and selflessly 🙂

• Yelena Key

Hah similar indeed. Except I’m Russian/Ukrainian living in America since an early age. And I don’t know your age but I’m willing to bet you came to Canada in the early-mid 90s, because of that giant window of opportunity to leave after the fall of the USSR, that everyone I know took!

I keep mentioning topics from this website as a form of conversation with my family so now I can’t wait to drop this question/thought experiment on my father at the next gathering and see what response he comes up with in 10 minutes. You should do the same and report back!

• Artyom

Good idea! I will definitely report back with the results. Oh, and I’m not as old as you suppose 😉

• Bugs Malloy

With the strain humanity puts on the earth’s resources, maybe the selfless thing to do would be to enter a number and keep all those millions of people from being born? I guess it depends on how Malthusian a view of overpopulation you have.

• Artyom Karapetov

Your approach is interesting, though we should not forget that in millions of years humanity will definitely find more efficient ways for gathering resources (and these resources would be artificially produced and/or reusable). And/or humans will colonize planets for harvesting resources; and/or leave Earth and move to other planet(s).

By “selflessly” restricting humanity from evolution, (which will result in thousands of unborn scientists who would otherwise discover and implement more efficient technologies) you will keep humanity in stagnation until eventually you will die and there would be no one left. It will be a slow, deliberate suicide of the human race – for what purpose? Keep in mind that in so many years Earth could be destroyed in countless different ways, naturally.

And what will be the point of Earth without its inhabitants? Earth is home to humans and animals. Without humans, Earth would turn into a half abandoned house. Won’t you feel guilty that you sacrificed millions of thinking, conscious human beings – more civilized and intellectually advanced than anyone who ever walked the Earth, with personalities, thoughts, ideas, morals, values – to save instinct-driven animals and the ground they inhabit?

The current stage of human civilization is that of a 6 years old child. It wasn’t always like that and it won’t be the same in the future. We will eventually mature into a preteen who wouldn’t destroy Earth for precious oil dollars. And, then, adult.

• Bugs Malloy

I don’t think we’ll really know whether the correct analogy for our place in human evolution is that we’re a 6 year old, a preteen who wouldn’t destroy the earth (without getting too far off topic, have you met preteens? I wouldn’t trust one to watch my cat for a few hours, let alone with my planet), or an elderly gentleman looking back on his life’s accomplishments. We won’t know until it’s over how far along in the game we are.

You take an optimistic approach to humanity and one that I don’t necessarily disagree with. You’re assuming that the good your descendants will bring to the human race and earth outweighs the bad. While I believe most people are generally good, I think the vast majority have neither the will nor the agency to improve much outside of their circumstances and those of a limited number of other people. Let’s say that percentage is about 90% of humanity. Good people, but lazy and/or ill equipped. (I count myself in this group, fwiw.)

The remaining 10% – those who can and want to impact the lives of many other people – are the wild card. As much as I want to believe otherwise, I think more than half are not going to be altruistic society helping scientists. Some of the most highly motivated people history has seen have been some of their worst.

So we have the 90% who are alright but pretty much just taking up space (remember: I’m totally one of those 90%, as are most of the people I care about). If you think the good that can be created by the 10% who can make a difference is enough to outweigh the drag of the 90% (and the shenanigans of the bad actors in that group), then your reasoning is correct. I want to believe this but my faith in humanity may just not be as strong as yours.

• Artyom Karapetov

#1. If humanity survives through its current stage of evolution, humans will have completely new morals (compare mentality of people from 1AD to the present; 2000 years difference. Now imagine what humanity will look like in a million years.)

#2. Even if the 90% of the population will remain to be useless to the advancement of the society, they would still reproduce (which will generate more advanced humans) so they are not completely “useless”.

#3. I agree that most would probably not be scientists and wouldn’t have grand or even positive intentions (though this is most likely incorrect, refer to #1). Though it was always the small 1% of human population who dragged humanity forward, while everyone else thought they’re plain mad and deserve to die. Look at what that 1% of people have created; your car, airplanes, spaceships, schools, books, and practically everything else around us, including spirituality and morals. What makes you think that this trend wont go on (though #1 tells me it wont, which is even better)? The main point is that it would be incredibly stupid and selfish to kill off that 1%, along with the rest of the 99% (they’re still humans) even if the current trend of mob vs. “advanced humans” continues forever.

• Cael

What I don’t understand is, in your number 1. approach, you completely ignore the idea of yourself evolving into something greater.

Let’s think about how humanity would ever evolve.

1. Biologically. I just don’t see this happening. The “survival of the fittest” mentality died right around the time humans started controlling and manipulating nature. Diseases, malformations, genetic deficiencies, we ignore those completely now. So there would be no reason for humans to evolve past that. Biologically, and naturally, I just don’t see us changing.

2. Technologically. Now this seems like the most obvious way of evolution for humanity. Genetic manipulation, cybernetics, etc etc. This seems the most likely path considering where we are now, and where we are expected to go.

So, if humanity does evolve to become more “godlike” creatures through technology, what exactly keeps you from that group? Not only have you had millions of years to hone your own intelligence, wealth, and power, you are still technically a modifiable human. So when the other humans start implanting nano-bots, and genetic modifications, you will have the resources and intelligence to either be a part of that, or even be the creator of this magnificent technology.

So I guess to answer the main question of this article… I would pick infinite. We have no clue what could happen in a trillion years, or where humanity could be. We don’t know the ultimate fate of the universe, or our existence.

But i can damn well promise you I want to be there to usher humanity through that fate.

• Artyom Karapetov

I understand your point of view, but there’s some things you’ve missed out. We will still evolve biologically, and in a million years after we no longer use our muscles as much, humans become increasingly spiritual/intelligent, etc. human bodies and mentality will evolve – it’s like saying an educated million years old Neanderthal will be a match for a modern human. Sure, he’ll have a ton of time to learn and tremendous amounts of experience, but his mental capacity and mentality would never evolve past the natural limits that were imposed on his stage of human evolution. You may train a monkey, but it will always be a monkey even if it learns to read a book. Technology can help, but this means genetically modifying yourself and altering your brain in a way that would no longer make yourself you, as it would involve also changing your mentality and transforming you as a person into a different creature.

If I would remain equal with the humans as you suggest (which I don’t foresee happening) I would still choose to live one life, just to have children. If the children restriction wasn’t there, and you were right, and I would have a chance to suicide in case something goes wildly wrong, I would agree and also choose infinity.

• Harsh Bansal

I will put my current age. Since we know so little about universe, putting infinity is a horrible idea though i can put some large number but it really doesn’t matter if i am going to die anyway. So why waste time?

• Harsh Bansal

And off course it will be fun to experience the afterlife.

• Wiremu Hohepa

The note says death is final and eternal but it doesn’t actually say there’s no afterlife X)

• Sam

The first decision that should be made is: Either touch the calculator or not.
Well I always try to treat these situations with as much empathy as I could (regarding humanity), and even if it’s the most personal question that could be asked, my answer will be affected by what will happen if everyone adopted my decision, so:
1/ Touching the calculator means no more children which immediately means no more evolution for humanity which is OUT OF THE QUESTION, since I consider the purpose of my life is to contribute in the development/evolution of humanity, and based only on this fact I could never touch the calculator!
2/ I don’t think there’s a point (if you decided to touch the calculator) to put a relatively small number (100-10000), either chose millions or infinity (since we can all agree that death will be eternal)
3/ In my opinion, what drives us mostly in our lives is exactly not knowing for how much we’ll live, when is our last day, and how will it end, knowing it will just let you procrastinate happiness/achievements or just become desperate if you don’t have much longer to live.

So my decision is: I would leave it blank, continue what I am already doing and make each action contribute in making humanity better, have children and raise them properly so they continue my mission 🙂

• Andi Shen Liu

I was thinking along the same lines, but I figured that there would be some perfectly-respectable distant relatives of mine who would choose to continue to reproduce and I would watch over them as best I could.

• I was all over the infinity button until I read the part about not being able to have kids… That threw me for a loop for a bit. I really want kids, but I’ve also had a desire to live forever and see where humans go. So in the end I justified adoption as a viable option for me, and pressed the infinity button. BRING IT ON!

• cher

There are many factors to consider. Will all of my family and friends choose to increase their age? Will the world be a comfortable place to live in if I decide to live for a very long time?(remember global warming !), is there a guarantee that there will be awesome new technology or will man no longer be the top dog in the world( you know all those movies where technology takes over the world or some animal due to some experiment gone wrong suddenly becomes intelligent and has it in for man), what if I decide to go spelunking or something like that and I end up getting stuck in a cave for the rest of my life seeing as I can’t die before my time is up. The whole you can’t have kids thing also sucks, seeing as only your biology has been changed to make you live longer and not your emotions and desires. Humans when aware of their mortality live intensely and try to do as much as they can in the little time given to them on this earth. If you have lets say 500 years to live you would probably end up procrastinating because of the fact that you have so much time on your hands.

If I decide to live for 500 years will I evolve or will I stay the same? If I don’t evolve wouldn’t that mean that I will become the lesser form of life and end up the slave class or catering to the other forms of life that have evolved? There are to many things that could go wrong!!!

However I would choose a nice safe number like 200 years because I want to do a lot of things and I don’t think one lifetime would be enough.

• Wiremu Hohepa

Going infinity might make you the undying test subject as countless generations of short-lives keep you imprisoned in hope of understanding the powers that caused this. If you’re lucky, someone else could break you out.
That, I think is a hard one to escape when the chance of becoming trapped for eternity also jumps to one. I think it would be cool to do everything (of course.) I’m probably the one who changed his age to 0^(-)42 and created the universe.

I do wonder if your brain-chemistry changes with your body age and if you probably eventually lose the ability to remember how to change your age in order to remember anything (or if you just turn into sentient space-dust at the whim for age:55000.)

I came up with my answer before I read anything else because I’m totally fine with life as I know it going as long as it will (no matter how long my future will supposedly be afterwards.) You won’t blame yourself if you don’t blame yourself.

• airtrafficamanda

I wouldn’t touch the calculator and I would walk away. Living longer than intended terrifies me – sure, it’d be great to see how society and science advance over the next several centuries, but as Tim mentioned, what if my friends and family put in significantly lower numbers than my own? I would rather live out my life in an unpredetermined manner.

Plus, I need a family, personally. What if everyone punched in a number? Then we would have the same set of people on earth for the entirety of humanity! There needs to be some of us who take one for the team and support procreation for the sake of growing new people and minds!

• Yesaro

I will enter no number. I will be a mortal human.

I can enjoy my life just as it is. I will be sick and then died.

• Martsa

I haven’t got children, so I’ll opt for this possibility. I’ ll leave my death to luck.

• (I didn’t look at any other answers at this point, and below are some wild theories of mine, so I believe I will be very much surprised after that, but still.)

I think that the note about reproduction determines it all. We have two groups of people – ones that have children and the others that don’t. It’seems a little bit irrational for the second group to enter any number since they would never even have a chance. A certain amount of people from that group will definitely leave the calculator untouched.

On the other hand, some people from the first group (that are not elders) will also have a good reason to ignore the choice or to enter a regular number (to avoid sickness), as their grownup children will more likely to not have children and choose to live as before, so to enter a substantially greater number will lead to quite a sad life.

However, young children will probably make their lifespan huge, and since the body age is out of the question, I think that old people will likely do the same to feel themselves young, though maybe their lifespan will be way less. And also we have very sick people that are given a real chance to continue to live, so they will probably enter something.

So in the end we have two communities (and I believe they will separate from each other) – the normal humanity with somehow less population and maybe more attention towards kids and the ‘upper caste’ mostly consisting of the children of the previous world, and of some greedy people, with some fraction of those who can really continuously do good fire this world. Well, this is not thought out very well, but hey, that’s only 10 minutes to think! The question is: what group would I like to be in?

I think I would like to be in ‘normal’ group. Firstly, I don’t have children yet, and I feel that at some point of my life I would like to. Secondly, I feel that the ‘no-reproduction’ group could treat their co-groupers like shit, as long as the day of their victim’s death does not depend on them. Moreover, some hateful people from the ‘normal’ group could do the same. Not a very pleasant life.

Wow, that’s too much text, but I think that fits in ten-minute train of thought. So, my choice is: leave the calculator untouched.

• Shareiro

One interesting thing I noted about myself (and I guess I am not the only one): the younger I was the less I cared how long I will live. When I was 16 it seemed if I die at age of 30 that would be perfectly fine for me. Now when I am above 30 it doesn’t seem so. And the older I get the more I value life and how much of it is left for me. So I would not be so sure that young kids would chose long lifespan.

• Yes, that makes sense. I just thought that living infinite amount of time is a thrilling concept, and tempting, and you tend to ignore possible drawbacks when you’re too young. On the other hand, I forgot about children saying they will be really old when they’re 30 and their carelessness you mentioned above.

If most kids chose dying middle-aged because that seemed like a reasonable age, that would make the situation much more sad.

• Shareiro

And imagine update to this situation: you have kids, say 13 and 16, you decide to leave it blank and live natural life. After 10 minutes you find out your children chose to die at 35 and 40. And here you are, you know when they will die and probably even see them dying.

• Jonathan Wells

Infinity for sure. Go big or go home. Just the part about getting to go back to being 25 plus having ailments healed is worth it. As for knowing when I’m going to die, if I can choose infinity then I can avoid having to make that choice. I’m looking forward to the thirty-first century already!

• “Kids can’t reproduce” was a party killer for me, to go with the immortal option.
I wouldn’t be willing to sacrifice my kids ability to get their own kids. Not even for my own and their chance for being immortal.

Loved the dillema twist that everyone had to make the decision at the same time. Image your spouse decided to become immortal and you decided to go with staying mortal. Almost like a Vampire movie 🙂

• I would choose 70. Im 22 now. In this case I would know it for sure – I don’t have too much, but still enough. This would make me appreciate my life, do not waste my time and just enjoy the unbearable lightness of being. Life is not precious if you are sure that there is an afterlife waiting for you, or that you have 1000 years more to live. I would like to die a normal death, not too old, not too sick, just as a regular old peaceful guy.

• Wiremu Hohepa

I think it would suck just for everyone on earth to be told there’s no afterlife. It would be pretty good for uniting everyone (including the race of immortals) against this unknown force ((but possibly time travel if it takes living into eternity)) taking everyone into rooms and escorting them out again.

• The thing about after life. It’s an interesting question for me. How can i.e. christians say these two things at once: 1) it’s a beautiful day, don’t let it get away, I am thankful for this opportunity to be alive today as I was yesterday
AND
2) there’s and afterlife waiting for me, if I do good.
How can you value your life if you will have plenty of it afterwards? If I have a car, let’s say a Ferrari, I would react really atomically everytime I’d scratch it. BUT if I had 5000 000 Ferraris, why would I even care to show some affection because of a meaningless scratch on one of my cars, that I have sufficient. I hope you understand my idea. It’s an interesting thing for me.
p.s. I didn’t really get your point about the relation between gathering everyone into a room and denying the existence of an afterlife.

• Rick

Firstly point 2) isn’t a particularly accurate representation of what Christians believe, though a common enough misconception that it’s an understandable mistake.

That aside, we can value this life despite belief in an afterlife for a large number of reasons including:

– the afterlife is supposed to be very different to this life
– we are called to appreciate/live this life in a certain way.
– we are taught that this life is a gift, and important
– for the same reasons as everyone else (i.e., we experience life, and appreciate the experiences from our own perspective)

More generally, you would not cease to appreciate an incredible and unique experience, simply because you thought you were going to have another one at some point.

• Anthony Churko

Christians can’t value life if they believe in an after-life? That’s like saying that you can’t enjoy dinner if you’re anticipating dessert afterwards. Or that you can’t enjoy weddings if you like wedding receptions.

Valuation is not a zero-sum game.

• This conclusion was reached from my point of view: I am happy to die one day, this is why I like the fact of waking up each morning. Really, I appreciate life and death. And I hope that there is no afterlife because it would suck big time. I would get bored. Well, you know, I’m just saying.

• Giovanna

I would choose 300 years in my 24 years body 😀 and not being able to reproduce would be a blessing!

• Chris

Are you me !? Welcome to the club !

• Annie Rousso

Infinity or bust (my normal life). Either it is not going to end or it doesnt matter. To pick a number, say 1.000 years, 1.000.000 years or 10.000.000.000 years doesnt make much of a difference to me since it will end at some point.
To infinity and beyond.

• Ella

I’ve always wanted to live to 102. Then I can say I have lived in three centuries. (I’m 16.)

In saying that though, I’d also like to have kids. Maybe I’ll just stick to the healthy lifestyle equals longevity thing and leave the calculator blank. I reckon by the time I reach that age, living past 100 won’t be that uncommon.

While I would like to die with my friends and family around me and still alive, I feel selfish. I would not have to go through the grief of losing them, but they would have to go through the grief of losing me (okay, that makes me sound like an ass but you get what I mean). What I mean is, the later you die likely the more grief you will have felt, the less loved ones you will be surrounded by. I don’t want my loved ones to go through that.

Growing up on a farm, I learnt from a very young age that death is just a part of life. I am not afraid of it (I don’t think). But even still, I don’t think I like the idea of knowing the date of your death.

Or maybe I do. It would give you- well, a timeframe. Maybe it would create less deathbed regrets- instead of “I wish I’d jumped out of a plane when I could” (first thing in my head) the panic monster would kick in “ohmygosh I have two days to jump out of that plane. Ah I have no regrets now because I jumped from that plane and completed my life’s goals.” As I said , first thing in my head.

Oh, I just remembered I have a maths exam tomorrow so I will be sitting in a silent room with some writing and a calculator.

• John Krajewski

An interesting thought on this: why is most of the world fine with an afterlife (or beyond that, unable to consider any other livable possibility), but opposed to an infinite life?

I suppose it’s because the promise of a life without suffering is the appeal. The way I see it though, technology will eventually be capable of building heaven in whatever form you want here in reality. Perhaps an afterlife and an infinite life are in fact one and the same option.

• Shareiro

I’d leave it blank. This is the joy of live, the unknown of the future and what it brings you and how much is left for you.

• wobster109

How is that a joy? If you could be guaranteed to never get cancer, would you take that? It would take away some of the unknown, but wouldn’t that be for the better?

• Shareiro

Well I might get or not a cancer and that is part of life. Someone with Infinity on display might get his spine broken after 20 years and spend the infinity in a wheel chair. Yes we can speculate that in 500 years that would be easy to fix. But it might not as well as I might get or not a cancer.
This is exactly my point, for me (just my personal opinion) the unknown is what makes me feel alive. And if I would live forever very soon (in comparison with infinity and what is left for me) there would be absolutely nothing new to see, learn and experience. Life would become boring.

• wobster109

I’m counting on Tim’s reassurance: “any ailments or injuries will be healed immediately”. It’s about halfway down the bullet point list. 🙂

• Shareiro

Right, did not seem so important, not a game changer for me. Still chose to leave it blank 😉

• Wiremu Hohepa

Either you die when you would have if YOU weren’t given the choice or everyone who doesn’t write a number is escorted into their own dimension (?)

• Heinz Steinhoff

I thought in trillions of possibilities, but when I thought “omg, imagine if you gets quadriplegic and you did put something like a million years”. That`s as terrifying as drifting in space, but instead of getting mad because you eventually would end up stuck in some star “surface” (and would hurt as hell), you would get mad because you can only watch eternity and mankind passing away without doing and feeling anything. (at least not until they find a way to cure you, or put you on some neat exoskeleton)

I would end up choosing 100,000. In the end, I have a lot of faith that humanity will accomplish a lot of nice things in the future. Interplanetary travels, colonies through the near stars (or at least the solar system), awesome medicine. All those things will make living safer and even more comfortable.

But until they found out how to cure quadriplegic people, I would keep fucking far away from radical sports as I could.

• Pascalle van Straten

10 minutes…Tic Toc….relax, plenty of time to think and ponder about your fate……

Ok, when I put in a figure, I cannot die before that time….

So, I already have a kid, and that’s plenty for me, so putting in a number is ok.

(entering a number for my kid however, is a very cruel trick, as I find every being should
be able to decide its own faith, and I really do not want to be the one to decide whether she can have kids or not. I think the rule makers made a mistake here and the actual thing is: all adults (over 21) MUST decide within 10 minutes, all others will face the same issuewhen they turn 21.)
– So that’s what I’m going with.

So, my faith.

On the one hand I’m thinking I don’t want too much time. As in a world where everyone just lives on for a pretty long time, and the ones that have kids just die normally, than I think it’s only a matter of time before everyone chooses to live forever and no kids are born again.
Ever.

Now the ‘a world without the joy of kids’ isn’t the thing that scares me most, but the fact that at some point you know every single person and you’ve had every possible conversation and adventure, what’s left? I think a lot of violence and nastyness….

And I think that waaaay before that the world got pretty ugly already as the last children are born and people will be fighting for them as the mammoth-like urge to reproduce and ‘own’ a baby will overpower common sense.
I’d really like to not be there for that. So, that will lead to entering about 250 years

I guess…

Tic Toc, 5 minutes and counting..

Wait! But why…
….can I not assume that I can just walk into space, and don’t need food?
I can’t die before my number is up!

That makes the time issue a really different one,
Screw earth!
Screw other humans!

I am going for a very long lifespan then, because you know, you need sufficient time to truly
explore the cosmos.

I’d just float around in it and see where gravity pulls me.

So I’ll put in a quadrillion ( shit, how many zeros was that again, crap! why are they asking me this now, Tim didn’t even explain a quadrillion yet!, I guess it’s 15, well, just put 16, one for luck)

My fingers moves towards the calculator..

However, knowing me, I would get bored at some point, and you do sort of need
companionship. Ah, no, I’m pretty certain there will be other nuttballs out there that have the same idea, and I’ll meet up with them in space. So that’s sorted.

Or..shall I just hit infinity?…. noooo, I am certain I would want to die at some point. Because if you don’t
there isn’t really a ‘ deadline to work towards, no pressure to make something of it, then I’ll just spend infinite time procrastinating, because you know, exploration can also start next century, or whatever, you know.

But!, what IS a year? If I put in a quadrillion or two.. and I spent most of it out in space, where other gravitational forces apply , how will time be measured? When will my ‘time’ be up?

If I find a way to go faster than light in my space travels, how will that affect my lifespan?

Plus, If I chop myself up in little pieces, or fly directly into the sun, will I live?

Tic toc, 10
seconds left,

Crap! oh no!
* Panick!*

what to do?

My finger
quivers over the calculator

Tic toc…. 3
seconds left…

2…

aaargh! Nooo!

My hand reaches
out,

1….
And I
press the quickest option possible..

Infinity

I am so screwed…

• Just warning you, as you’ve already decided: despite the fact that you won’t need food and air for not dying, you will still starvate and suffocate, and if you leave the Earth for space, you’ll feel like that eternally. So floating in space is a very, very bad idea.

• Pascalle van Straten

Yeah, i see that now, i sort of forgot about tim’s last bit ( i was procrastinating at work when i read it), but i was also conveying how my reasoning usually starts pretty sensible, but add a clock and my thinking abilities dissappear with every fleeti g second, leading me to make the stupiddest desicion ever. Litterally ever.

• Miraz

I want to live 2 minutes after my birth..

• ScaryBandMonster

I thought about how time changes. How peoples change over time. In a million years people might not resemble what we resemble now. Earth might be gone. So I came down to two options: be normal or 1000 years. Normal came up mainly cause I haven’t had kids yet. I might like to do that before I go. 1000 came up because time changes quite a bit in 1000 years. I mean just think if someone from 1000 years ago tryin to live in today’s world. In 1000 years empires rise and fall. Everything that you know would turn to dust in just 1000 years. To live anything more like 1,000,000 just seems frightening. The world would be completely foreign.

• Simes

I’d leave it blank. Not through any “our time on earth must be three score years and ten” type of reason but mainly through my fear of humanity and my fears for humanity.
Who wants to live for a trillion years? What sort of ego do they have that they think the universe will benefit from their presence for this length of time? Are these the sort of people I would like to be around for an evening, let alone a trillion years?
If a majority of people select a very large lifespan, what would that do to mankind’s progress, both technical and moral? Don’t we need new ideas and new thoughts to produce change and, therefore, progress? Most people (including myself) are notoriously reticent to change our ideas or beliefs, regardless of the motivation for change. Imagine that inertia for the next trillion years?
If a tiny minority slect a very large lifespan, how would they be treated? As gods? As pariahs and outcasts? Difficult to say, but as a race, humans have been instinctively wary / fearful of those who are different. They are often simmultaneously the enemy, the scapegoat and the target. How do you deal with an ‘enemy’ who can’t be killed but can feel pain and suffering? Based on our previous history, probably very badly I suspect.
Much as the chance to see a trillion years into the future is tempting, I think the trillion years it would take to get there would not be worth the price. I’ll stick to my natural life thanks. It might be short but I’ll do everything in my power to make it sweet.

• antsandbeans

Why not just go with a century or maybe two? Nobody said you had to go with a trillion. Enough to guarantee yourself a long healthy life.

• Simes

The trillion years was just a really big number plucked from my head. A billion seemed too small (in relation to the age of the universe) and I’m struggling with the concept of living for an infinite amount of years.
If you pick a number, you have, in essence signed your own execution warrant. I don’t think that I’d like a known deathday, even if it was a couple of hundred years away. There is a lot to be said for living every day to the full because it might be your last. (Admittedly, sitting here in my office after a full day, I’m struggling to view this as living life to the full, but you know what I mean!) How do you live your life for a couple of hundred years? You’d probably still panic as you approched the last decade – “Oh no! I never managed to master every orchestral instrument, only the woodwind, strings and brass! Please! I need more time!”
As another thought, what would the thought of “no risk of injury” do to my enjoyment of my favorite activity – mountain biking? All injuries healed immediately? That means I can go down any run at any speed with no concerns on the outcome. No much of an adrenaline sport anymore, if there’s no associated danger. Then again, would there be a spate of base jumpers with no parachutes? Look at me, Ma!
One question for you antsandbeans, if life now ranges from 1 day to an infinite number of years, why do you think a century or two would be considered a LONG healthy life?
Thanks though – this is certainly making me think!

• It’s not going to be a pleasant place to live, given human nature. Consideration for others will drop to zero because there are no real negative consequences to acting with complete disregard to others. Oops! Ran over you while drunk driving! No worries, you’ll grow a new spine. Really hate your neighbor? Wall them up in your basement for a few decades. While it is tempting to enter a really big number, I can think of only one thing worse than a life that is “ugly, brutish, and short.” One that is ugly, brutish, and long.

• d

I don;t think it makes any difference how long the life is – as you pointed out, it’s all a matter of scale. The more important question imho is HOW we live whatever present moment we have before us. What I found fascinating is how much stock you Tim put in relationships. Like, all your fears are tied up with how much other people will be available to you and you to them. In my life so far, there has been so many changes, so many friendships and relationships made and lost that it no longer matters to me who is around. Currently, there is nobody and that’s really comfortable (ok, so I may be a touch autistic), but I know there will be others, in the future. There always are.
But I would hate to live in a hellish and unpleasant world where I have to fear for my safety and comfort all the time and there is nothing pleasant and beatiful to look at or experience. Of course, if one gives oneself enough years, it could be argued that this, too, shall be overcome, but, quite frankly, why bother. I’d much rather not suffer for 10 years and die, then spend thousands of years in intermittent suffering.

• Mihu

My biggest worry would be that I get trapped somewhere, which would be a certainty given long enough time. With no mechanism to annihilate self-awareness at some point (by setting up an absurdly young or old age for my brain/body), anything more than 1000 generations looks like a total gamble to me! After 10 minutes of thought, a “selfish” decision of about 50,000 years would be the most appealing! What others can choose will have less of an impact in my decision (but I’d make a mental note that all relevant options will be chosen by enough people and life will be altered even for those who don’t pick a number!). It would suck though to find out that once the time has expired, not even a random convergence could ignite the cycle of life again.

• DeeDee Massey

I don’t quite understand how the part about experiencing pain and suffering without actually dying works. What if you fall into a wood chipper and you splatter into thousands of pieces?
or
What if you’re eaten by a pack of wolves? Would they be able to digest you and convert you into energy that they could absorb? Would they poop you out for miles and miles all over their territory?

so…

How would you regenerate then? Would the chunks all somehow regroup, or would each chunk grow the rest of the body, thereby creating multiple Yous (might in an odd way solve the reproduction concern for some people).

For the people who choose to stay “normal” because they want to retain the ability to reproduce or continue to reproduce more offspring:
What if you make the choice, leave the room and and then…..

…1 minute later – or some time before you procreate – you die? or
…you find out that you cannot have kids for some incurable medical reason? or
…you wait too long to beget anyone and naturally age out of childbearing years?

Another 20-year old commenter, EZnded, wisely said, “The value of life, for me, is not the length of
time you’ve lived in it, but the quality of how you’ve lived it.” I have to ask myself how well-spent was the time I pondered and answered this question? It’s an entertaining thought exercise, but it doesn’t really gain me anything other than intellectual amusement. It’s (currently) an impossible hypothetical situation. I won’t be given that choice, so why concern myself with it? Why not apply those wise words and get back to living to the absolute fullest the uncertain lifespan I have now?

With that said, if I HAD to answer, here it is. Certainly, being able to live a full life without dying prematurely and without any illness would be an improvement over the alternative – especially if the ability to reproduce was not an issue. To me, the best answer is within the current maximum human lifespan. So far, the oldest person authenticated per Guinness World Records is 122 years 164 days. So, I’d probably pick 150, just to surpass that a little and have a buffer to account for lengthening of the average human life expectancy that is likely to occur between now and then.

And among other things, I would continue to avoid wood-chippers and wolves.

• DeeDee Massey

But wait, there’s more! Apologies if I repeat some things others have already posted.

QUESTIONS

Would “not be able to reproduce” also relate to “not be able to have sex” – or can they have sex but fail to conceive or impregnate? This makes a huge difference for some people. Infinity is a long time to go without sex at all. If the immortals could still have sex, they would probably go crazy for a while and at some point even sex would get boring. I read a statistic the other day that said the average married person has sex only once a week.

Although unable to conceive, would women who choose a number and a young body age continue to menstruate? 40 to 60 years worth of menstruating is enough for most women. Imagine living for infinity with periods, unless you change your body age to an old enough one. If you haven’t gone through menopause, you don’t know what that age is, so you have to keep adjusting it until you find out. Then you’d probably have to accept the aches and pains of the older body age, like arthritis, as the trade-off.

ASSUMPTIONS

The length of days and years stays in sync with current Earth-time. The rules don’t address this, so it could really suck if time was measured differently at some point.

You are free to do as you please after being escorted out of the room. In other words, you don’t pick a number only to be led straight into some type of hell. You are at least given a fair chance to avoid getting locked into some type of prolonged suffering, which eventually may very well happen anyway if you are unlucky or not careful.

Our solar system, for one, is changing. Earth will likely not exist some millions of years from now, as Sol expands and Luna drifts away. We can only hope that by then mankind masters space travel and either finds a bug-out location with a suitable habitat or terra-form. And we can only hope that this new home isn’t a more miserable place than Earth, and is found before some other catastrophic event happens, like an enormous asteroid slams into the Earth, or our moon or sun for that matter.

OBSERVATIONS

As people live longer, pain management therapies would be a premium demand. The Infinites would definitely pour lots of effort into their development, especially seeking to completely eradicate pain altogether, like with genetic alterations or nerve-blocking permanent implants. Withholding pain management could become a weapon of mass control. Wars might be fought over it.

Birthdays for the >Hundreds would become “meh,” reserved for milestones, but deathdays would become huge, fabulous affairs, like Mardi Gras, that could be celebrated with daily festivities, starting years leading up to the final date.

Some people would want to keep their age choice a secret so that it couldn’t be used against them. Of course, anyone who subsequently witnessed them coming out of a death grip would know they had picked a number. They just don’t have to tell them what it is. People would try to devise all sorts of “tests” to trip them up into revealing their immortality and their lifespans.

Several people have mentioned that they expect to observe the evolution of humankind. What if it doesn’t evolve, and is as some scientists believe, because humans have stopped evolving through natural selection?

What if all the “normals” die off in a global, incurable pandemic plague?

• DeeDee Massey

Oh, as always, I’m looking forward to pie chart for dessert.

• DLX

100 billion years.
I didn’t read any answers yet.
But if i can live almost for ever, so be it. In the inmensity of opportunities the future can bring, it’s obvious that some kind of suspended animation will be developed. If i get bored, i will just enter in that mode and time will not be an issue.
I am very curious about the future of humanity or whatever descendant species will develop, organic or not.
I know it’s very risky, a lot can happen in 100 years, let alone 100 billion… The species could end, the planet could (will) be destroyed.
But i prefer the possible agony of having too many time, than the regret of having my time run out when i could have asked for more.
Just my thoughts, less than 10 minutes. This is a strange question.

• Rick

I picked around 300 years initially, knowing that I wouldn’t have time to overthink things too much in 10 minutes (and being the sort of person that overthinks things, I wouldn’t put a number in at all if I let myself worry about it too much).

300 is enough to fit more into life, to make the most of the skills and knowledge a person can develop, but not so long that I would need to rewire my psyche in order to adapt. I’m sure if I had longer to think about it I’d find a more appropriate number, but like I say, 10 minutes isn’t long.

But actually I wouldn’t enter a number, because it would prevent me having children. Also the idea of being suspended in an event or condition that would normally result in death but being unable to die (a’la Prometheus) sounds horrific. There’s also the ‘Highlander’ problem, i.e. leaving your loved ones to die (if they didn’t choose a number, or chose a low one).

• Faith

At first I was sure I would put 100 until I realized there’s no way I could put only 100 for my little daughter. I would want to give her a million. So now I’m stuck thinking about why.

• antsandbeans

I think I would go with 160 years. It’s longer than I could have expected before. And not so long that I can’t get out if I start regretting it.

• Matt

I enter no number and enter no number for my children if I get their calculators (I really hope my spouse gets their calculators instead though so that I don’t have to make the decision). I choose this because it allows to me be content with, and value, whatever time I have been given. I also encourage my children not to reproduce because it seems too likely that the immortals will eventually subjugate those with basic human lifespans. I don’t want to stick around long enough to see the folks who chose immortality turn into raging assholes.

• François_24

Anything bigger than 5 billions years is a huge bet: the Sun will turn into a giant red and engulf the Earth. If you have not escaped Earth, you will go burning in the center of the Sun for the rest of your long life. Choosing a longer duration requires a lot of faith in humanity.
On the other side, a lot of people will probably choose a very long duration, and together we will likely find a way to escape. I will take the risk and pick 20 billions years (I know I am going to regret this decision one way or the other.)

• Djyo

Damn, thanks to you I procrastinated again and saw “The man from earth” for the second time.
Well, definitely i’ll choose not to choose. Life is good because it is short and unpredictable, increasing length is just a scale change and I don’t think I’m worth living so long.

• Orkhan Jafarov

Infinity. I’d rather take this risk than miss out on the big revelations about the meaning of life and the extents of the human progress. Come on, in 100000 years I’ll probably be capable of perfectly playing some Bach while masterfully floating in air under the skies filled with glowing auroras of pre-selected colors.

And what risks are we talking about? What can possibly go wrong? 🙂
1. End of the world? This also means end of infinity for me.
2. Stuck in the open space or in another unpleasant situation? I’ll just think for a couple of millennia. I cannot get crazy because that would be a mental sickness. By the time someone invents a program called “Scan the World and Find Subjects in Distress” I can create a new field in science (e.g. psychology of floating in the space) and become a guru in that field.
3. The Earth becomes unsustainable and there is no way out? In this case I (and everyone else who are still alive) deserve and accept whatever is coming.

The only problem: How to survive for infinity-5000 years without WBW?

• Carlota Bolado

I was hesitating between the infinite choice or just a very big number, when I got to the no reproducing rule. I would leave my calculator blank.

It would be great to have a % of people who chose not to enter a number, since only this group of people would be able to procreate. I think children are amazing beings and I would not like to live long in a world of only adults, we may lose perspective.

Besides this, I’m not sure I want to know when my final date is coming.

• hem sagar

I’m going to walk out of that place in 10 minutes having not entered anything. Not being able to have children was the deal breaker for me. Having long accepted the fact that the only purpose of my life is to one day die, and leave behind a couple of kids, who will live on and so on, making my species better suited for this earth. This somehow made me happy that even after I passed away, there would be an imprint of me in the universe.

• Pam Collins

500. I want to live a few centuries to enjoy all the things I love about life here on earth. The downside to picking too large a number would be to get caught in an ice age or super heated planet consumed by drought. 500 is a good number because the end is not too too far in the future, but its still many many years to do good works, improve myself, and catch up on all the good books out there I keep meaning to read.

• leongaban

I choose not to put in any number, thought that before starting the clock, though ever minute that ticked by, I had to re-entertain the thought of living a few thousand years. That was a fast 10 minutes lol… I agree that infinity has scary implications… eternal suffering then becomes an exponentially likely scenario. Also there is no awareness of death, only awareness of consciousness, and I see life as a constant cycle, so I’d rather life as good a life as I can, then roll the dice again

• Truliner

I’m a dick and I’m not going to think about that question for now. Instead reading Tim’s answer I started to think about suicide (not mine, in general).

The scenario where you would have to live millions or even billions of years floating in space wit nothing else but your consciousness, is really horrifying. The chances of someone or something finding you and bringing some new excitement to your life are literally astronomical. Maybe after 10 million years of this state you would hope that the universe will cease to exist with a Big Crunch rather than eternity of heat expansion.

Both cases would be really interesting in regards to the rules of this thought experiment. If the whole universe collapses into itself, do you then cease to exist? Are all the parts that make you you (the part and/or combination of parts that remembers how that dog bit you when you were a child) going to follow you whatever happens next in the Big Crunch? If a new Big Bang is triggered by this Big Crunch, is it your eternally depressed and apathetic sigh, devoid of no hope?

Same goes with the heat expansion scenario. If everything will eventually detach from everything else due to there being not enough energy to keep the interaction forces working, will the parts of you still remember who they’re supposed to be with and who they are supposed to remind of the dog that bit you when you were a child?

I don’t know…

But… back to the original topic of suicide.

You know, there are right now probably millions of people for whom existence is like floating alone in space. The consciousness, that’s keeping them company, is practically always a dick too. It reminds them of how worthless, stupid and unlovable they are and that they should be ashamed of themselves for hanging out with a consciousness like that.

I think that we all agree that the immortal person floating alone in space for billions of years, would be in terrible agony (unless in that time he or she has become enlightened through the practice of meditation and dissolved any illusion that there is a boundary between ‘I’, that is suffering, and the outside world… could happen). We would all probably also agree that the person would welcome death as a relief and we would not make judgement on him or her for committing a suicide. In the majority of cases we don’t give this pass to people who have committed suicide in real life. Of course the immortal being floating alone in space is not perfectly analogous to the psyche of a depressed and suicidal person, but it’s not far from it either.

I was going to write more but then the ferris wheel in my head started to throw people out and I knew I can’t finish this with flying colors. But this is a dinner table, so I’m just leaving this thought hanging here.

• Simes

If the infinite button is truly infinite, would a big crunch or heat expansion have any meaning. In theory, you would continue to exist even if the universe didn’t, irrespective of how illogical that is.
Not sure if that’s what Tim intended but it’s how I read it.

• InjunPotato

I’d probably fairly quickly just put the infinity symbol into the calculator. I am always surprised by the amount of people who would pass up immortality if it was offered. Most often this is because they don’t want to watch all their loved ones die. Well guess what: that happens anyway! Anyway, in this scenario, so far as I know, everyone could now be immortal. I guess that would suck – no more children, no new generations… but, knowing what I know about humanity, I’m willing to bet there’ll be enough suckers that’ll pass up the opportunity completely so not every human will be sterile. Maybe others feel like they don’t want to live that long because their life will just be suffering if they live too long? I feel sad that people have that mindset. I want to know what happens next. I want to live through more suffering and more joy over more years. I want to have the chance to be a part of this crazy existence for as long as possible. If that means that I end up floating through the void of space until the universe ends, fine. I will have witnessed stars dying. As for what Age I’d like to be… if I could program it like this then I’d like to age up to about fifty then go back to being twelve and age up to fifty again, repeatedly.

• Joshua Warhurst

To call people who didn’t choose infinity “suckers”, is a little ignorant. There are a lot of ways to think about this. Maybe for you, infinity is best. But that doesn’t mean it’s so for everyone.

But can you even imagine what it’s like to float through the void for thousands of years, let alone eternity? Have you sat in a pitch-black room for a day?

Five days?

Imagine a year, because that’s possible. Try to. From November 2013 until now, without any person, object, or anything near you. Just darkness.

Imagine your whole life until this point (which I’m presuming is less than a hundred years) in darkness with nothing new around. None of us can even comprehend tens of thousands of years floating, to say nothing of eternity.

In any case, good luck with infinity. Enjoy stars dying. Hope you’re good at coping with boredom. :p

P.S. Sorry, rereading this, it comes across a little as an attack. Didn’t mean it. (>_<;) Just trying to defend the other side of this.

• InjunPotato

You’re right, and I was aware when I was writing my answer that I was being callous. In fact I sat for a few seconds deciding whether or not to say “suckers” or just “people”. I decided that I didn’t think people making that choice were suckers but that using that word would stir up more controversy. And it ended up sparking a really interesting comment 😀

Yeah. Floating in the void of space. ultimate boredom. Or worse – if we interpret the rules as meaning that your body can be in pain but you can’t die, then the void of space means infinite pain. Infinite suffering. Well, until the universe ends or something statistically impossible happens like ending up on a habitable planet.

I hadn’t really thought about it much. But I had another reason for choosing this that I didn’t talk about, which is that I don’t believe that there is anything after death. And I don’t want to have to find out. If I’m right, then I technically *won’t* find out, but… many people treat death as the end of suffering. In that case, I totally understand them choosing death. But in my case, death isn’t just the end of suffering, it’s THE END. Full Stop. There is no peace in that. I will always choose something over nothing. Or at least, I try to. I don’t want this to end, no matter the cost. I want to keep going.

• Joshua Warhurst

Isn’t there peace in sleep? Yeah, maybe death is the end. There’s a pretty good chance it is. But what’s so bad about that? Aren’t you the least bit curious to find out what happens when all the things that make you up cease to exist?

There’s that bunk about cells being replaced throughout your lifetime. Most cells do. But, notably, brain cells never go through the death-and-replacement that other cells do. Imagine what happens when the brain dies. That could be all we are. Just a bunch of cells that have a bunch of reactions to our environment before they fizzle and die. But what’s so bad about THE END? Yes, maybe we just become dirt or ash. Maybe we become nothing.

I want to live as long as I can, but to lose the ability to end my life is not worth the risk. The option to become nothing. It sounds morbid, but I think there’s a point when it makes sense.

In any case, about space, I bet there’s a decent chance that people would eventually make super-safe spacecrafts and try to locate people falling around the void of space. You can only go so far if they know where the spaceship met its fate. Hopefully.

Also, what if there’s some other situation? Like, what if this is some kind of weird MMO. And dying is the only way to get back?

Anywho, food for thought.

Thanks for your comment, by the way. 🙂 I’ve just been thinking about this a lot recently. I used to be very worried about my death, like what if I can’t do everything I want to do? What if nobody remembers me? But then, who cares? After it’s all over, whatever. This is what everyone has done. Einstein did it. Newton did it. Pete did it. It’s all about what you do beforehand to make things easier or better for those who come next. And who knows? Maybe we’re lucky and there is something after. Yeah, little chance, but what if?

• InjunPotato

Talking to you, I think I might change my answer.

I’m still young (18) and death is the most terrifying concept that I can imagine. And I am so curious about the world. I want time to see as much of it as possible. But death… is important. I knew that even if I picked infinity I would still have an end when the universe ended. But I have yet to have a child and that is something that I’d like to do.

I actually don’t think I want to have to answer this question any more. It’s not as straight forward as I thought. And the more I think about it the more unnatural it seems. But it is still a really useful question – it makes you confront your mortality, I think, in an interesting way. It has made me think about what the world will be like after I die. I think I can accept more now that my place is as a 21st century human, not a 20th century human, not a 22nd century human. I think it’s easy to get too intellectual and forget that you are an organic being, just like the trees and flowers, you will run out. And the fact that I can’t imagine what I was like ten years ago or what I’ll be like in ten years, sort of makes life infinite already. Until it’s not.

• Anneka Pearton

First minute:

At my first look around the room I would be incredulous at how my nice room and comfy bed have vaporised and I have obviously been kidnapped. Things like that never happen to me; I only see them in movies. If I was in a movie I should show some reaction like movie stars always do. They would probably be pretty pissed off about this. I imagine I would have this sense that my reaction was being watched, and therefore I would feel obliged to appear angry, throw my hands in the air and yell something sharp and funny, but I would probably only come up with an indignant “what the hell is this?”. I’m not really an angry person, and I would be self conscious about this, wondering whether it was some sort of candid camera moment that I was looking like a bit of a loser in. And if indeed some super advanced extra terrestrials had created this little ordeal my little protestations would undoubtedly look pathetic.

Second minute:
Within the minute I would have seen and scanned the note as well as the fine print. This would have me questioning the intelligence of these aliens in cooking up such a mind spin experiment. Surely if beings were smart enough to come up with the ability to enable variable lifespans ranging from tomorrow to infinity, their instructions would show a bit more ingenuity, for instance allowing people to calibrate their decisions with their loved ones. And for heavens sake, surely they would have invented some gadget more impressive than a calculator, let alone the table and chair. Let alone 7 billion tables, chairs and calculators.

My initial reaction would probably be to try and sabotage something, and I would be walking around this room holding the chair like a weapon and jumping on top of the table to seem more imposing. You would probably see me try and talk in to the calculator, thinking that there might be a microphone in there and I would say things like “I’m not getting the joke” and “hello, is there anyone there?”.

Third – sixth minute:
By then I would be feeling like a real dufus and so may be between the third and fourth minute I would start suspecting that this might have something to do with WaitButWhy dinner conversation. I would reassess my initial response as fairly embarrassing, and I would start contemplating the opportunity to decide my lifespan. I would want to come up with something real clever answer, that would impress Tim, and that would be really funny too. Sadly, I’m not naturally funny. I married a funny husband, and one of my daughters and some of my friends are funny, and I have been known to use their lines. As a matter of fact, after reading the WaitButWhy dinner table conversation topic I asked my husband, so I could use his humour in my response, but he just said “is that some of your WaitButWhy stuff”? I also asked most of my offspring, and weirdly they all want to just die natural deaths and not want to know. And I didn’t even tell them that they would of course be sterile…

Seventh and eighth minute:
So that has ruined the excitement a little for me. Otherwise I would have probably thought about 500 years. That’s about 10x what I’ve lived so far. I am secretly optimistic about where we’re heading with better health solutions, the elimination of poverty and more and more conscious and shared global goal setting to make the world a better place. I am keen to see where further advances in technology will lead to this century, when I have already so enjoyed the internet while it’s only in its infancy. I am curious about space travel and interested to see how we’re going to deal with resource depletion and climate change. And then to think how much better a piano player I could become – and whatever other music instrument I take to. I could take personal development to the nth degree. And if there was a tragic religious war and someone nuked the whole place at least 500 years wasn’t an eternity. Oh yeah, and throw in my age pre reading glasses – YES.

Ninth minute:
I better make a decision, but I’m feeling paralysed by the magnitude of options. Doubts are taking over: 430 years without my husband and kids? No, I don’t know. May be I could hang out with my children’s children’s x 20, but they might find me a bit of a weirdo; I don’t know what to do. What a fail. I haven’t come up with anything.

Tenth minute:
Oh no, the pressure, I can’t think of anything. 150? 5000 like Tim? I’m scared. I don’t know. ten seconds to go. just press anything. no time for capitals, oh no, I have accidentally pressed the decimal point. It’s too la

• Hex-Hit

8 888 years to do all I can, then throw a nice party with close friends, go to sleep and enjoy an eternity of nothingness.

• Eli Peter

I think I would leave the room, or maybe enter ~100.
Granted, I’m 27 years old, and maybe 47-year-old or 67-year-old me might be facepalming right now.

To me, it just seems like every generation kind of has their place and time. To live past that would be to live in an increasingly alien and lonely world. For people who put in very large numbers: think about the stereotypical caveman, and then realize that person lived 50k-100k years ago. Then think of yourself as *being* that caveman to future generations.
Or check out Otzi the Iceman, a miraculously preserved body from 5,300 years ago. HIS nomadic and brutal life feels completely alien to me.

Even a life from 150 years ago feels drastically different. Imagine grabbing a slave owner from the 1830’s and bringing him to the present. Some people speculate that the Civil Rights movement didn’t really get legs until the 1950’s because we had to wait for the old world to completely die off.
So I guess my answer is twofold: short to live in the world I recognize, and to make room for future generations to thrive.

• OlderThanTheInternet

I WANT TO BE AN ANCIENT RELIC SO BAD. “Yeah, these 5-D transporters are pretty awesome, but have I ever told you about dial-up?”

• OlderThanTheInternet

PS: The analogies about bring the cavemen or plantation owners into the present is flawed because you’re not talking about travelling to the future, you’d live it out. You’d see the cultural values shift around you. You wouldn’t be as out of place as you think.

• Jess

I wouldn’t enter in any number. In a way it would be a sigh of relief. While the minds of those who picked a number will be having thoughts we can’t even fathom, I’d be at ease going on the way I’m going now. I’ve already had the chance to think about the fears and mysteries of death, so adding even more mysteries and fears to think about with picking a number seems like a terrible idea. It’s ironic because instead of living fearless, I would be even more cautious so I don’t have to endure pain and suffering with no end in sight if some terrible accident were to occur. I don’t want to have any children, so that’s the only appealing aspect of entering a number. Certain sterilization. Other than that, I’m steering clear of the calculator.

• WW

If I had kids older than 12: I would pick 500 years to live at the age of 30. Why?

Because if I pick infinity, I could potentially live for an infinity years of regret if I’m floating around in space. I cannot regret if I am dead, and I plan on living life with 0 regrets. If I live for an infinite number of years, 1. I will miss out on participating in evolution; the mortals will just evolve around me and that would be sad and not very fun or productive. This only makes sense if I plan on serving humanity with my vast knowledge for an infinite number of years, but who is to say machines won’t do a better job? 2. The newly evolved species, if they expand through the universe, will eventually greatly outnumber the people who picked infinity, and the infinity-ers will be in a weird lost community on their own and will not be able to experience and sense in new ways. To the new people, we might be like wooly mammoths. Eventually evolution might outstrip our ability to understand what’s happening, and the people who choose infinity will be downgraded to a lower life form. I’d rather have my progeny be able to experience everything to the fullest than experience things partially myself. Who cares about an immortal cockroach?

I would be done reproducing so there’s no point in leaving it blank. I think 500 is a reasonable number of years to live, and I’m 29 so I think 30 is a comfortable place to be. I want to see cool new developments, but I really don’t want to see everything forever. I’m a believer in science, but what if… there is something afterwards? That we’re not just all molecules broken down into nothing? Are you willing to give that up for an infinity years of being a pariah?

I don’t have kids, so I’d leave it blank. I want to reproduce and help the population evolve.

If I had kids under the age of 12, I honestly don’t know what I would do. I don’t think 10 minutes would be enough to deliberate such a big question not just for my own life, but the life of others. I think I would give myself 500 and give them 1000. If they complain then well… life is unfair that way.

• Yelena Keyzman

I think it’s kinda cool we thought the exact same thing in the ten minutes when posed with this question! You even thought specifically of cockroaches, I mentioned them too in a reply to someone else’s comment! Also, that last sentence for the kids…top notch!

• LColleen

I think I would go on living as is. I think the idea of a family is a worthwhile experience and not one I’ve had as of yet–and although I am type A and it makes sense I would like to know exactly when I’m going to go out–in reality, I’d rather not know. If I don’t know, then every day retains chance, mystery, joy and finality. A “congrats you woke up breathing today!” That’s amazing. I like it. I would like to keep doing that.

• I’m surprised at how many people are choosing infinity, since that sounds like the actual definition of hell to me. How I am thinking about it is: The universe will end at some point, and all the infinity folks would just keep on going in what is likely to be a great deal of pain and loneliness. And this will continue for, literally, ever and ever and ever and ever.

I’m briefly tempted to not put anything, but given how many people will put relatively large numbers, I’m worried that not putting anything would make my lifespan so insignificant compared with their’s that I will immediately cease to matter at all.

So, having ruled out infinity and nothing, the only option remaining is to put something in between. At first I thought 300 years, but after a conversation with my partner, we decided we could up that a little bit. Fifteen hundred years feels like an amount of time in which I could master many awesome skills, but still isn’t total torture if I’m just really not feeling it.

My only regret is that this won’t be enough time to witness major changes in human evolution, which would be super cool, but to me the risk of large quantities of extreme discomfort (like if the earth becomes uninhabitable and there is no where else to go) is just too great.

• CGwood

I had the same worries about the Earth becoming uninhabitable, but some quick googling tells me that won’t happen for 1.75 billion years, though it will definitely get real uncomfortable long before that. Apparently plants will stop being able to photosynthesize in about 600 million years. That doesn’t sound like a fun time either. Using that as a guide, I say 100 million. Practically infinity by our current standards, but expires well before the Earth gets ugly.

• marisheba

First of all, why the fertility aspect? This really changes the question for people of reproductive age without kids in a way that seems arbitrary (I could see limiting it to 2 for population purposes, but zero?). Also, as a dude Tim, I think you’re maybe not able to recognize the way that this could feel like self-mutilation to a woman–cutting out a seriously remarkable biological system we ladies have going on. Even if we never put it to the use it was meant for, it’s a really intrinsic part of us. This complicates the question too much for me, so I’m just going to ignore that aspect.

Second, someone below said, “I’m surprised at the number of people that would pass up immortality when given the chance.” There’s no question in my mind that I don’t want to be immortal, which actually makes questions like this oddly comforting. It’s good to know that even if death is coming quicker than I’d like, I still want it eventually. Reasons: all the zany stuff Tim talks about. Also, just plain curiosity. I don’t care what the note says about no afterlife. I want to KNOW. My get tells me we die and its lights out. But truly we have NO idea, and not ever knowing would gnaw at me!

Can we also talk about how scary the prospect of not being ABLE to die would be? You could end up being in agonizing, torturing pain, or in a terrifying, claustrophobic situation for literally centuries!! I’m truly not sure if that risk would be worth it to me.

So I’m not sure. I’d either leave the room, or type in something modest like 200 or 250 years. I truly don’t want to outlive my own time much more than that, though I’m curious enough to try to go for 2 – 3 times my lifespan.

• marisheba

Also: Everyone who finds this question super interesting should read The First 15 Lives of Harry August. Really wonderful crossover sci-fi book, though you need to squint your eyes at the science parts.

• WW

I think you would need the fertility aspect because of population control. It does definitely change the question a lot.

• Heidrun Searles

I would not touch the calculator and choose to live my life as it is. I firmly believe in The Infinite and I know that reincarnation is a fact. I have no doubts. I will pass over when it is my time, choosing otherwise would have virtually no effect on my soul. Better to choose my next life than to continue with this one even unto infinity. I want to come back as a tree anyway. A tree that is filled with the life forces of the earth

• wobster109

That’s the answer to a different question. One of the conditions in the topic’s post was “death is eternal and final”. If there is no reincarnation, would your answer be different?

• Heidrun Searles

In that case I would set the calculator to infinity and deal with the consequences of cirmstsnces that induce pain. I am in enough pain right now that I have learned many enlightening things about myself because if it, I am beyond childbearing years, but I will have 2nd, 3rd, 4th…etc, childhoods by helping my grandbabbies grow up. The only rational choice for me us infinity if death is eternal and final.

• Shareiro

Well you might not have grand babies if your children chose to enter any number in the dial pad 😉

• Toni Lawrence

I would put in 100, with a body and energy I had at 28. I am currently 62, and
am always thinking that if I knew then what I know now how much I could accomplish. I figure I need a good 30-40 years to do what I want to do, and then I am ready to go. I don’t want to live centuries, or to be immortal, I just want to pass on a legacy to my family that will help them to move on gracefully. Life is too scary to want to put oneself through it for eternity – too many unknown variables.

• Karen Edgerton

100 more year so I would die at 157. It has been a tough 57 years with a very bad childhood and a lot of time spent achieving peace and wisdom. Would like the extra time to enjoy life and share what I have learned. And see my grands and grets etc. change the world however they will.

• Jamie

Way to move forward, Karen. Maybe you should buy yourself 200 more years — it sounds like you’ve earned it.

• Karen Edgerton

What a kind and generous person you are! I hope you know how important you are to others and how many people and circumstances you have affected for the better.

• Jamie

Would it surprise you to learn that I’m Tim’s father? Not using my real name here.

• Karen Edgerton

Would not surprise me at all. Given both the courage and introspection Tim shows, I believe his father is dignified, supportive and has always encouraged people to do what they love and give life their best.

• 11 years. I’m 49. The capricious, sadistic, hateful nature of mankind is making me sick. I cannot bear to witness and be part of the suffering that is to come. I worry for my nieces and nephews, I fear they will have no future, especially as Americans. As I watch our nation and culture decline, all I see is chaos ahead. I would spare them the pain.

• Karen Edgerton

Patty, I am saddened that you have not found the meaningfulness and purpose in your own life to love yourself and others enough to want to continue past 60. What it is we do as individuals matters just as much as society and the world as a whole.

• Erik

I would enter 100 and give my 1 year old son 149. If it weren’t for my son I’d probably leave it blank, but since he’s already here, let’s do it.

Since I’d like to live to a ripe old age and in a healthy manner, I’d just guarantee that. My son would have some time to outlive me, as all children deserve, although I would have to hide the whole thing from him until he’s an adult. If that’s not possible, I’d just leave his blank since I’d be more concerned with how knowledge of a guaranteed lifespan would mess with him developmentally than with the worry that he’d hate me for taking a century for myself and leaving him at the mercy of chance.

I wouldn’t go any further than 100 because this is an exercise in self-selection. All the non-introspective people that lack any amount of meta-cognition will choose infinity or an insanely high number and then have 9 minutes and 55 seconds to wait around. Meanwhile, us mindful nerds will think and think and think and choose to leave it blank or take 100, 150 years. I don’t want to live in the world that comes after we’re all gone!

The real question is, can people fundamentally change and grow? Can those who lack meta-cognition develop it if given the gift of immortality? Will they be forced to? Now we get to the really interesting part: since nothing was mentioned of societal realignment, how would society realign itself after the transition? Here’s my best guess:

Nothing would change at first. Everyone would be mentally adjusting to the new reality but it wouldn’t really sink in until the first reports of immortality “kicking in” and people being healed (potentially in a torturous manner). The first few will probably be hailed as the miracles that they are. Some poor bastard is going to fall into a blast furnace and be continuously incinerated for 1,000 years. Once those stories start to come in people will have multiple existential crises about a decision that they are stuck with. Ouch.

But how will society react? I’m no longer a utopian. I’m too old now to think that society can ever create an order that puts to rest the worst of human nature. And if you discount utopia, under any massive change things usually take a turn for the worse.

The global elite, largely being composed of sociopaths (I’m talking “the .01%”) will continue to have all the money and power. And a situation where the masses don’t have to eat to live but have to eat to avoid misery is kind of the perfect scenario for any empathy-less CEO. You can push wages WAY down. No health benefits needed anymore. Use your imagination. But because being a possession-less, fasting monk would be painful, most people would continue to go to work at their jobs and the “specialness” of the transformation will be lost rather quickly and the shift to poorer and poorer work conditions would probably be so slow and gradual that no one would notice it any more than people noticed the employment losses since the 1970s.

Under such working conditions, where people will need to work 4 jobs to but a loaf of bread on the table, no one will develop meta-cognition, even if they live to 10,000. The daily work grind would get worse than it is even today, and today most people don’t have the mental energy required. So this would be a world where the worst elements (sociopath elites and people lacking meta-cognition) are pretty much all that we have left in 200 years.

There’s always the possibility of revolution, but when has that ever worked out? Oh sure, the US, but that’s abouti it because there was no real “there” there yet to have a conservative counter-reaction/ Counter-revolutions always take hold that make the revolutionaries more rigid and aggressive and by the end you wind up with Robespierre, Stalin, etc. In fact, chances are there eventually WOULD be a revolution, and it wouldn’t end well. If people (or their consciousness, at least) can survive anything, someone would see fit to just start throwing nuclear warheads around. Immortality and guaranteed longevity would minimize the “value” of a human life in both working conditions and warfare. Plus, the leaders of the revolution are usually intellectuals, and Jefferson, Adams, Franklin, Lenin, Marx… they’d all cash out at 100 years (or leave it blank). So I’m not even certain it would ever happen.

That’s why I’d be pessimistic. And looking now at the WBW commenters below, I think I totally nailed it. We’re all gone by the year 2300.

If “the question” had only been available to WBW readers, it’s a whole different story!!

• wobster109

I take issue with your assumption that everyone who came to a different conclusion is a “non-introspective person who lacks meta-cognition”. At least show your fellow readers some respect. They’ve thought as hard as you have. Often for many years.

• Erik

I didn’t mean to imply that at all. Let me clarify:

I’m not saying that ALL people who would choose infinity or a high number are of that type. I was saying that all people of that type would choose infinity / a high number and most would not consider leaving it blank or entering a low number.

That’s an important distinction. So yes, there would be WBW readers left around. But relatively speaking, to me, it’s a bleaker world.

• wobster109

Ah ok. The weird thing is, I doubt non-introspective people would put a large number. At least in the US, we have this narrative that is everywhere, it’s that death is “natural” and trying to escape death is “cowardly”. People who are afraid of death are told to get therapy to “overcome their fears”. I actually believe most people would readily agree to the statement “death is a good thing”. If you add to that the belief in a heaven, it feels like leaving the calculator blank would be a common first impulse.

• Arturo Narro

I would type the number 9 for the duration of 9 minutes. 999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999…

I would live longer than the universe and become eternal.

• wobster109

I press the infinity button immediately.

Short answer: sometime in the years 3000 to 3100, someone will write the best great American novel of the 31st century, and I want to read it.

Long answer: I love life, forever and always. People keep saying “death gives life meaning,” but that’s all backwards, tremendously and horribly backwards. This is so obvious if you ask the question in reverse: “What is the meaning of life?” And there are many different people who will give many different answers: the meaning of life is happiness, love, fulfillment, art. It’s to help others. It’s to make a lasting impact on humanity. It’s to have amazing experiences. No one would ever say it’s to die. Imagine you asked your friend: “What’s the meaning of life?” “To die.” You’d worry that your friend was suicidal, wouldn’t you?

Happiness gives life meaning. Love gives life meaning. The pursuit of a better tomorrow gives life meaning. Helping others gives life meaning. All wonderful, meaningful, amazing answers. And every one of them best done alive.

• wobster109

Tim, here’s a less scary option for you. Everyone is immortal. The air is full of nanobots that prevent any lasting harm from befalling anyone. People who wish to die must verify their wish every calendar day for a year. If you’ve verified that you wish to die 365 days in a row, you will be prompted to set a date. Until that date comes, you can change your mind at any time (but if you then still want to die, you will have to verify for another year). You can get your affairs in order, say bye to all your friends and family, etc. On your set date, you go to sleep peacefully surrounded by loved ones, and then you die painlessly. How’s that for a best-case world?

• Cara

In my meager abilities to envision such a prospect, my simple conclusion is that nothing that *really matters* will be very different in XXXX years. If we are perpetually disappointed with ourselves, more time will only increase our original expectations. If we are lonely, we only have more time to feel left out. If we wake with joy each day, we only have more days.

My desire to achieve will likely be squashed by the sea of time in which to procrastinate, my joy in hedonistic pleasures is shallow, and any deep joy (in love or great achievements) cannot be controlled – you cannot bottle it up and drink it for all eternity.

Will cooler technology really change your internal experience of life and the world? Will it make you happy for more than 5 minutes, never mind 5 trillion? Maybe, but, for me, all things, good and bad, are fleeting. If I become a fixed structure in time, all things good and bad flow past me like a river. That sounds sad. I want to ride the river.

I don’t think that living longer would make me happier – so much joy/excitement in life comes from the moving-forward-ness of it. So, while I don’t want to live forever, more time is just too hard to pass up (even though I don’t think it would make me happier). My answer: 1200 years, for no very good reason. It seems long enough that I will get to see substantially more than I would otherwise, not so long that I am fundamentally changing what (in my opinion) it means to be human. Time passes, I grow, I change, and someday I die.

• Peter

I would leave it blank. To me, it’s similar to the question of whether or not you would want to know when you will die. My answer to that, as well, would be that I wouldn’t want to know. For me, I feel like knowing when my life will end would be very depressing. More importantly, for me, would be the need for the unknown. Oddly, I’ve always embraced the unknown. It drives me. When I have deadlines in life, I typically put things off until the last minute, knowing that I can get it done. When I don’t have deadlines, I typically get things done quicker. I wonder, if I knew I was going to die in 100 years, would I put things off until nearer the end? I don’t think I would get too wrapped up in what I would miss out on, either. I would rather cherish what I did get to experience in my life. I think that would also be more difficult having chosen when I would die. No matter how much time I pick, I would probably always want either more or less. Sorry that this got rambly, I was trying to get a bunch of thoughts out while shoveling food down my gullet.

• Vikram Kalra

I’d choose 1000 more years, and with my last breathe, I would curse Zoidberg.

• Louise A Wisinski

I would type in 100. Then I could see all my grand and great grandchildren get married. I’d also want to see another turn of the century. I don’t want to live forever.

• Andy6666

Well, this isn’t so easy, is it? First, if presented with this scenario, I would pretty
quickly realize that everything I have believed about the universe, existence, mortality et al is utterly and fundamentally wrong. If, after all, there is someone or something that has the ability to create this scenario, to permit me to make this decision and to carry out my choice, then everything about everything is turned on its head. I mean, who exactly wrote the note I’m reading, and when was the last time you saw an infinity button, or at least one in working order?

Since I have only 10 minutes (8½ now), I can’t spend too much time thinking about this and trying to unboggle my mind, but I do have to acknowledge it and to recognize that trying to make this decision in the context of the world as I have known it is really pointless. That world is so over. And even if that world were not over, it would
simply not be possible to imagine what life, relationships, work, entertainment, anything will be like in the go-forward world once we all emerge from our rooms. Actually, I think this insight would be liberating – since everything is profoundly changed, the world is completely new and it’s impossible to foresee what existence will mean in the future, any decision probably makes as much sense as any other decision.

Given the foregoing epiphany, I think I would now be wondering how I’m going to use up the full 7 1/2 minutes I have left. I’m pretty sure I would want more time alive than I currently have coming to me. Infinity would be an interesting choice. After all, if I’m going to choose a billion or a trillion or a quadrillion years, I might as well roll the dice on infinity. What are the chances that after a trillion years I’m going to be relieved that I don’t have to go on any further? And I’m guessing that the human desire for closure is probably going to be an outmoded notion in the new world.

On the other hand, infinity does seem like an awfully long time. At the same time, I would be wary of choosing only a couple hundred more years, since I figure there’s going to be a lot of chaos in the coming decades or even centuries as things get sorted out. I’m pretty sure I would want live for a good long while once things were normalized in the new world. So I would be thinking in terms of millennia now. And here it becomes pretty arbitrary. My lucky number is 6, so I guess I would go with that, say 6,666 years.

But now I’m looking around the room and I still have 3 minutes to go. How to kill
that time? I guess I’ll check my email and have the Kit Kat in my pocket.

• Christian Brix

“On the other hand, infinity does seem like an awfully long time.”

Tru dat.

• Joshua Warhurst

Whoa. Yeah. The fact that this thing even exists might suggest the existence of something greater. Certainly makes death look a little different, in any case.

• Kim

No Number. I’m 29, I’m okay with maybe having a couple of kids and expiring around 80-85ish. I’ve worked with the elderly, there are only so many BLT’s and fish sandwiches a person can eat in life and still find them enjoyable. Most of the elderly I’ve been around are ready to call it a day..not in a negative way…just ready.

• Karl Petter

I would choose 1000 years, about the time I’ll think I need to try everything I ever wanted, to choose for my daughter is way more difficult. The interesting part to me is how the human mind will work under the a so long lifespan. I’m 29 and a total different person than when I was 19, and we know how age slows down most people’s eager and curiosity. But I chose to belive that I will continuing being a open-minded and curious person. But still I bearly remember myself 10 years ago, when I’m 600 changed carrier and “life partner”, so many times I really can remember,will there be a single bit left of the person who entered the room 600 years earlier.. how will the human mind react, Wil people still develop or just will my brain be in painful emptiness or total peace. The experiment scares me in many ways, but I would never leave it blank when I’m already realize how many things I won’t have the time to experience (in the mortal reality)

• Anders Krosshavn Vik

Also, I’m surprised to find almost nobody mentions vampires. They are basically also faced with this question. Godric in True Blood decided 2100 years would be enough.

• James Noyes

I hate to say this, but I don’t like the thought experiment as it’s set up.

If everyone’s allowed to choose their lifespan, and no one’s allowed to reproduce, then you are essentially freezing time. Also, by taking illness and accidental death out of the equation, life becomes much more boring. I think I’d choose about 500 years, and prepare for them to be very boring years since I don’t anticipate my life changing meaningfully during that time, but I also don’t want to sell myself short on the time I get to spend with loved ones.

My answer would be very different if the situation were either:
A) Accidental death, illness, and reproduction are allowed, but suicide is not.

B) I’m the only (or one of few people) with this opportunity. My loved ones are not.

In either case, LIFE becomes much more interesting because the people in your life will change as die and new ones are born. You will get to see your descendants, and see how you influence the course of history. Plus, the risk of death to your loved ones (and to yourself in scenario A) is present, giving an extra urgency and excitement to your existence.

In either of these scenarios, I would take a risk and choose 1 million years. This is 20x the length of human history so far, so it would enough to see pretty much every conceivable development and evolution that will occur to your descendants. This is something I would be really interested in seeing and I don’t think I’d get bored in the process. But I wouldn’t choose anything longer because I don’t have faith that we will conquer space travel or even the ability to avert utter calamity on Earth, and I’d rather not live for an inconceivably long time on my own. If we DID overcome space travel and calamity, then I would probably choose 1 billion years, but that’s a risk I’m not willing to take.

• Belle11

This would be a very hard decision to make in ten minutes. I’m at the stage in my life where I really, really want to have a child. It would be extremely hard to sacrifice that dream. However, if I got to have many more years with my wonderful husband and family, I could probably do it. But, again, you don’t know what they chose. What if my husband, who also wants a child, chooses not to enter a number. Then we meet again afterwards and I’ve entered some number and become infertile while he’s still mortal and wants children. Agonizing!

Also, many people have mentioned life without fear, but I think the fear of death would be replaced with the fear of life spent in a void. Like Tim’s example, where your body is flung out into space – to spend the rest of your life drifting and alone. I wouldn’t want to place myself in any sort of situation where that might happen.

This would definitely come down to a last second decision. I suppose, if I were to enter a number, it would be 1,000. A nice, round number, easy to enter (in the last second rush). Long enough to enjoy my current life, but (hopefully) not long enough to start worrying about the end of the world. Definitely not long enough to worry about the end of the universe. Then I would cross my fingers and hope that my loved ones had chosen similarly.

• Mike The CommentMan

Well I’ll go with 1000 years.
Why?
Well simple:I always thought we should be living 1000 thousands years because is about right.I have probably less than 70 years left and I already get bored.What about 1 billion?Or Infinity.
Also being blocked in a single place 10 minutes seems like Hell.What about a few thounds,millions,billions years?And I don’t care about the others.I’d be a silent observer for 1000 years then die peacefully.
The fact that i can still feel pain made me rethink even those 1000,ut in 10 minutes I decided this is just about right.

• Chris

85 years. Nice, normal lifespan. I couldn’t imagine the burden of having to constantly worry about how I’m going to pay for my living expenses, or how I’ll find meaning in my day-to-day life. We don’t just wear out physically. We tire of this life, and I don’t want to tack on an extra 900 years of watching the clock.

• Lucas

I have to admit that I read a few comments before I wrote this.
Nonetheless these comments couldn’t change my mind about immortality. I still think I would choose ∞.

There were a couple of arguments people mentioned:

1. Life might get boring.
Tim already wrote in one of his posts that life is a picture, but you live in a pixel. So no matter how long you live, your average day will be a pixel. The only thing changing is the picture, which would be a bigger picture.

2. You would lose all of your loved ones.
This is true. While you would have more time with your friends, you still would outlive all of them. Or atleast everyone that chose a finite life. Given the fact that you have unlimited time however, you probably will find new friends every once in a while and there will be a few more who chose an infinte life.

3. You would experience insufferable pain.
Once again you live in a pixel. You would feel horrible pain for a few years but that’s nothing compared to an infinte life span. That’s just something you can not comprehend but you would get used to the pain and eventually forget it. (However it is not clarified in the rules how you would be immortal since in a way you are already immortal because you are made up of atoms who get recycled by the earth’s enviroment.
→ corpses getting eaten by worms, worms getting eaten by fish
→ dissolving into the atmosphere
→ and so on

4. I want children.
This argument sounds like a Mammoth ignoring its authetic voice.
Although it sounds reasonable, I would argue that there is no need for reproduction in a world without mortality. I do believe that it must be incredible to witness someone growing up, giving that person all advice you have and to know that 50% of that person is you. It is still an old-fashioned way of thinking about life once you have immortality.

5. I don’t want to be alone in the universe for eternity.
Well as Tim once again summarized in The Fermi paradox you might not be alone. Or maybe the great filter is immortality and you should colonize the universe with self-fertilizing fetuses (like in the recent movie Interstellar). Yet there are probably a few others who chose immortality so although the earth will be demolished in a couple million years, I am sure that there will be a solution like a spaceship and hence the immortals will travel through space together.

In the end life is over when you die.
So I can’t choose a number when to die because I want to live as long as I can. So far no one could choose to live forever so I might regret that extra time on my hands but I can’t even imagine all the knowledge I could acquire. However nothing is stoping me now to explore all the books, movies, tv shows, websites, scientific publications, songs, pieces of art, languages, basicly every kind of knowledge and places inside and outside of our solar system. I still rather write a way too long comment to a ‘website with content’ than picking up a book. So if you have a fulfilling 80 years with all your children and grandchildren around you, never feeling bored or alone and then happily pass away than that’s good for you. However immortal people also can have a fulfulling 80 or 500 or 5000 or in fact unlimited years of a fulfilling live, the only thing they can’t do is dissolving into atoms and as a consequenc lose their consciousness (whatever that is).

This is just my opinion on this topic and maybe because I’m a teenager and therefore young, naive, ignorant,… I can’t really evaluate this topic but I can’t see a negative aspect on immortality yet.

• ScHmo

without reading any comments (cross my heart and hope not to die for….), i would push that 0 button until my finger fell off. think about. an eternity. the birth of a new universe, or several new universes? witness to time eternal? to see the leafs win the stanley cup? and i truly believe there are others out there that are far beyond anything we can comprehend. an existence, state of mind or being we can’t even imagine. and perhaps being around for eternity, you attain that state. let the body go. free the mind and exist. and if i can’t attain that state, perhaps during all that time i meet those that can. what friends those would turn out to be! i just cannot turn down an opportunity at eternity. bodily pain and suffering seems like a minor price to pay.

• AWD

WBW – Life and Death

Infinity.

Relationships:
I know the people around me well enough to know that at least one (though I’m pretty sure more than one) would put the same, so no worries on that front. On the other hand, relationships can change in a matter of months or years, so in 10s, hundreds, thousands etc of years who’s to say we would still like each other?

But, if that doesn’t work out, I can be a hermit for a number of years, we can try again, or there will be others who chose infinity as well.

Immortals aside, getting to know someone for 10s, hundreds, or even thousands of years is still worth it. Can’t say how I’ll feel thousands of years from now (the me just 5 years ago is different than the me today), but I think every relationship gives us something, regardless of how long or short.

In novels, hundreds of years breeds apathy, as they watch loved ones die. I can see that happening, as even with our short lifespans, being presented with too much death breeds apathy, but I hope to be able to accept that over time…I have an infinite amount of time to work on it, after all. One constant stories, though, is that it’s the companions that make the immortal. Just look at The Doctor (who?): he uses his companions to keep him grounded, though the birth of different personalities and preferences makes that a bit different.

Children:
Biologically, I’m being prodded on this front, but mentally, I don’t have any inclination, so it doesn’t affect my decision. Besides, having children is to continue a legacy, but with an infinite lifespan, I can continue it myself.

Youth:
Yay! Youth is included, and in fact a choice of age is allowed for variety. That makes infinity easier too. I wonder if my thought processes would change when I put my body at different ages?

Pain and suffering:
I really hope it’s not going to be like the movie “Death Becomes Her” (where you can’t heal from accidents, but don’t die either. For example, a pipe goes through your leg. Now you will live on with that hole). That seems like an annoying way to live forever.

Otherwise, accidents would happen, but chances are most things would be tested on non immortals first…
While that sounds bad, the reward for the risk would be worth their time and there would be volunteers. After all, I think living forever will bring out hoarding tendencies so most immortals would have something of worth to offer.

The scariest part is the mind. What happens to the mind? Is it covered under “general health” or is it part of “suffering”? After being jettisoned into space, floating there without air and having the various terrible thing that happens to a body in a vacuum (exploding oxygenated veins, anyone?), and living through pain and loneliness for years and years before being picked up, will the mind heal? Will the body heal? Being bedridden or mental for an infinite amount of time doesn’t sound fun.

Also, storage. I doubt our brains, connected to our limited time using them, are hardwired to handle hundreds, if not thousands+ years of memories and thought processes. Would we just forget the old stuff? As with age, do we forget memories? Do we forget the things we learned? Spending infinitely constantly relearning things doesn’t seem like the most productive use of time….

Or would there be other detrimental effects that show up over time? For humans, where even large numbers are difficult to fully grasp, we can’t possibly understand the implications of living an infinite lifespan. Any questions or concerns we have relate to the short run, probably the next few hundred years. Beyond that, we are pretty much at a loss. I wonder if in the end(not there is one,choosing infinity), I’d still want to learn and grow, or I’d just sit around waiting for a death that never comes?

No life after death:
Well, how much you want to believe a little piece of paper in front of you is up you. I wonder if a lot of people’s faith wouldn’t trump that statement. After all, despite offering potentially eternal life and good health, it could be lying to you about death being final to get you to make a decision (it all sounds a bit like a trap–too good to be true). Never doubt a human’s ability to doubt.

The draw:
+Going where no man has gone before – at my current rate, I’m not going to be able to explore space, but it’s certainly a possibility in some future. If nothing else, those with long lifespans are going to make it happen (we certainly need a backup in case we fuck up Earth too much)
+This has all happened before, and it will happen again – Let’s watch history happen, watch it repeat, watch the rise and the fall of empires, kings, and ideas. At some point, I’m probably going to throw my hand in and swirl the tides, just to see what happens.
+Curiosity killed the cat, satisfaction brought it back – I can learn anything I ever wanted, taking as long as I want. I can read all the books, watch all the shows, experience all the things I’ve ever wanted. Time is finally on my side.
Even if future children are born with greater abilities, I have time (and with it wisdom) and an infinite lifespan. I bet I could come up with some tricks to compensate.

Conclusions:
For all that, infinity seems like a HUGE risk. But I’m going to make the leap anyways. After all, I’ll have an infinite amount of time to accept my fate. Haha.

• Marie

I’d leave it blank because I haven’t decided whether I want to have kids. But it makes me wonder – if fewer people were reproducing, would that make the infertile people obsessed with the fewer and fewer kids around? Already people fuss so much over babies, if there were only say 2% of people in the world having them would we have trouble with kidnapping or stalking? Apart from that, if I already had one kid I would probably choose 250 – as a procrastinator, if I had more time I would probably end up doing nothing for a few hundred years!

• Carlota Bolado

I had the same thought about the fewer kids

• Joshua Warhurst

Originally: 150 years. 200 years. Something reasonable.
After 10 minutes of thinking: Wouldn’t use it.

A couple of factors:

I remember a quote once that said the only reason we really create is because our time is limited. That we have a pressing need to put something down before the time is up. Maybe that’s true. I wonder though about the future. How many people would continue to better and improve this world if they had as long as they want. And then, yeah, the sun ending. Imagine the potential fear everyone still alive would have if they realized they have no resources left to build a ship or something to survive.

I have a weird phobia of falling into endless space. One thing goes wrong on your spaceship charted for distant worlds and everyone is left in space for, essentially, forever. Damn. I wouldn’t take that risk.

Imagine all the other people in the world choosing as well. The racists. The bigots. The ones who want to cause trouble. I’m not saying these people are common, but they would probably choose to live on beside you. Maybe centuries would change them. Hopefully.

Of course, reproducing would be nice. It would be interesting as you’d have to search out people who didn’t use the calculator if you wanted to reproduce. Some weird dating website for non-calculator users.

Finally, the novelist in me wonders what kind of world this would make. What would the hierarchy be? Would it be people with longer lives over shorter lives? If I didn’t use the calculator and then my kids have mortal lives along with their kids, would they be a subjugated class or would they sit on the top? I’d like to think these things will fade out with time, but at least initially, this would be a legitimate concern.

In any case, I’m not using it. I just hope medical science keeps pushing the boundaries. I’d like to live as long as I’d want, but being able to choose to die at any moment is an important choice.

• Krattz

my survival instinct tells me to put infinity, but i feel thats a bad idea because theres a chance that when the sun blows in 5 billion years time (i think) ill be stuck in the solar system unable to breath or eat (if we hadnt worked out how to leave this system and colonize other ones by then, which is a possibility) and even then theres a good chance (depending on whether the theory is accurate or not) i would end up being stuck in the same situation after the heat death of the universe but this time not even having cool scenery. i also have this horrible feeling id somehow manage to waste the time i could live on the planet (not doing cool stuff because “cmon i got thousands of years to do that stuff!”). i think i would end up putting some very large number but not infinity like i dont know maybe a million?

• Skee

Made my decision, read Tim’s answer, moved on to write my comment. Dying to read the others.

If I had stuck with my original thought, my answer would have been 200. Out of sheer panic. It’s gentle and round. Much more than double what I expect to live, but not so long that I can’t ‘see the light’ at the end of the tunnel. And then I realized I glazed over the part about having to choose for the kids too. So after agonizing for a smidge over my ten mins (that is a lot of info to take in in ten mins, all while leaving room for panic-thinking), this is what would happen:

I stand up, walk away from the table and my calculator is blank. So are those of my children (if I happened to be the parent with the calculators, gosh I hope so). I can’t choose their wee fate – length of life, babies or no. Pretty dang certain they are going to hate me for it at some point. And I can’t go ahead and choose something else for myself. That feels just a tad wrong. Maybe if I was in the mood for extra hatey feelings.

Now that everyone has made their decisions I’m fairly worried about a number of different situations. The strain between those with kids and those without. New landscape of political garbage. Assuming a substantial percentage chose a number…. Countries with a tonne of immortal soldiers. Prisoners of war/abductors/their minds in extreme situations for a potentially REALLY long time with no hope of reprieve. And, like, what are the serial killers going to do when they can’t kill anyone? Time for a new hobby I suppose. And they probably have an eternity to figure that conundrum out. Twelve year olds making weighty life decisions when their lives are wrapped up in superheroes and video games and a host of other fantasy worlds including the dreaded boy-band. Ok, ok, I know, all negative. I’m just jealous of all you Lazarus Longs.

I’m certain there are a host of other issues to explore in the comments below. Bring it. (I’m vaguely concerned for my productivity levels this week…)

• Lila

For me I’d put in 198 years.

I want to live a bit longer (i.e. twice my expected lifespan) to see how the world and stuff evolves over the next two centuries, how technology becomes more advanced, how civilisation changes, etc. i think that would be interesting to witness. I would also want to have more time having more life experiences, learning more new things, learning about other places in the world, getting to do more things within the lifetime.

but on the other hand, i dont have much confidence in the future of our planet, what with global warming and all that. so… i dont want to stick around too long and suffer. also, if something really unimaginably awful does happen to us and make us suffer a lot of pain very badly, i dont want to spend a lot of years suffering pain and yet not being able to die. also, if i have too many years, i fear i may end up getting bored and hungrily await death.

I guess it would be nice if the human race does end up living in a utopia, or moves to another nice fancy planet to live in, and just become very successful and happy… but there’s also the huge risk of all those awful stuff (overpopulation, severe climate crisis, biological warfare, and goodness know what else may happen). i would rather not take the “bet” on whether everything will become better or worse, and would rather live for a shorter time.

If let’s say, in the last few years of my life, humanity has some breakthrough and we’re all going to live in some great utopia, I wouldn’t be able to live in it for long, but I wouldn’t regret my choice all those years back then, because i know that i made the decision with a very unknown future. I guess I would just be grateful that I got to live for twice my original expected lifespan and got to experience more things in my lifetime.

• Kristin Eberhard

1,000. Enough time to hopefully see some really cool stuff: intergalactic travel? Self-guided evolution? The Singularity? Global peace? Hopefully at least a functioning, fair, sustainable socio-economic system. With all the people who likely just extended their lives by centuries or Millenia or more, we should get a serious spate of long-term thinking, and that I want to see! But not so much time that I could be left floating in space alone while earth burns in apocalyptic flames.

Harder for me to decide what number to enter for my 3 year old son. Do I make the decision for him that he will never have kids? Um, Ok, yes i guess i do, rather than outlive him by 900 years. Do I put 1,000 for him too so he will outlive me by a few decades? Or 1,200 so he gets closer to a couple centuries on his own? Probably just 1,000 and call it a day.

• Raisa

I am 28 right now and I think I would prefer to live 65 years and then die in my sleep or normal heart attack.

Reasons:
1. Both grandmother died of Alzheimer’s both of whom lived with my family and it was horrifying to see the decay in their abilities. I saw it does have some genetic components and I most probably will get it.
2. Heart disease also runs in family and my love of beef, prawn and cheese will make sure I have high cholesterol. Rather than living a long life as a vegetarian or pescetarian, I would live eating to my heart’s content till I die.

• john

The rules state you would not have have sickness. So neither reason would happen…

• Elizabeth J.

I don’t believe in an afterlife by way of religion and that can feel scary. Is it possible to maintain a sense of self through the undiscovered laws of space-time? We’ll see. But I like being self-aware so I would choose to be aware/alive forever. I haven’t read any other entries. Why would anyone choose for it to be over?

• CMB

My decision is a thousand years. If there were an afterlife it would be five hundred. I want to know how technology and equal rights evolve from here. I assume since many would choose the longer lifespan, some infinity, that space exploration would be fast tracked considering the certainty of earth’s demise at some point. It would no longer be the future generation’s problem. I would like to live long enough to explore the universe and its many wonders, but not live forever. From a gambler’s perspective the house always wins and I’d rather cash out on top.
From the perspective and of a wannabe writer I can’t help but imagine this scenario: you are a baby. Your parents aren’t together, worse your father doesn’t know about you, and he’s the one randomly picked to decide your fate. If that wasn’t bad enough, he’s majorly depressed. He chooses to end his last life the easy way right now. You grow up and discover that you’ve never been ill or had an injury last so you know a time was chosen, but you have to live life not knowing how long among a population of people with certainty of their number of years. There are so many ways to write this into a book, if not series. Tim, if I dedicate the book to you can I use your idea?

• Bogdan Voicu

I’d press the infinity button. It is not that death scares me, but life brings too much fun to miss any of it.

• Andrew

I’d leave it blank and walk away. I love the fact that I don’t know what is going to happen to me in my life. I love the joy that good times bring and the clarity and warmth from friends and family that bad times bring. I want to have children and experience my life with them and see the smile on their faces as they lose their first tooth and get money from the tooth fairy; hug them when they have their first break-up; and cry when they move out to make it on their own in the world. All the while experiencing the love I get everyday from my girlfriend Katherine who will one day soon be my wife. I want us to grow old together and know what that’s like. It’s a part of human life. It does mean that I will experience loss, pain and suffering in my life, but it also means I will experience happiness and love. Ultimately I will die and not even know that I have died. I will return to the nothingness from whence I came. And I look forward to experiencing everything I can along the way, humbled in the knowledge that I cannot experience everything, and joyous in having experienced everything that I did…

• Marc

I chose 5000 years initially, but I regretted it later.
This event of choosing when to die and being immortal until that age would probably trigger some kind of world war or revolution. The world would be divided in those that can die and reproduce and those that cannot die.
Those that cannot die would probably enslave or dominate those that can die in this war, as the immortals would not be afraid to fight harder and take more risks.
I think the world would be a very miserable place with people fighting for more power. I do not want to live in this world or feel pain for 5000 years or be in prison for 5000 years.
Maybe the best decision is to choose blank and dying when it is your time.

• d

ah! now you see how all those greek myths came about 😉

• john

I think it would be the other way- if you were immortal, but lived with the same pain as a mortal, you may be very careful what you do. It would be very easy to torture someone that feels all of the pain but does not die. Sometimes death is the preferred option.

• Giorgio

very nice dilemma.
I was going for infinity with almost no doubt but then I read Tim’s answer and other comments.
Maybe I would put something around 1,000,000, just enough time to see a lot of things but not that much to see the Sun eating the solar system, an asteroid destroying the Earth, the end of oxygen or water on Earth, the Milky Way / Andromeda collision, some random black hole eating up everything… I think a million year is awesome. In order to avoid the super pain of being close to death, I would mock ageing in the last millennia, living the last 100 years as an old man (but obviously the final year as a crazy 20yo).

• Giorgio

No one mentioned randomness.
In my previous answer I said I would put 1 million, but actually knowing that that birthday I’m going to die is creepy. I would instead type a 1 and then 6 random numbers, closing my eyes and typing 6 random digits and then press Enter. I would know I’m going to live for 1000000-1999999 years, but actually don’t know in which year I’ll disappear. Awesome!

Btw, there are other subtle relativistic questions here: you can choose how many years, but respect what? what if I say “a google year” (10^100), what is a year when the Earth and the Sun (Earth? Sun? Man, it’s been passed 100 billion time since big bang, 80 since Andromeda-MilkyWay fusion, 70 since your “sun” explosion…) are no more a thing? What if accidentally I happen to go to close to light speed? Would I die instantly because “years” passed on Earth?

• Kate

80 years was my first thought. I feel by then I will have done my part in this world. But in the 10 minutes I’m sure I’d eventually leave it blank. There’s a certain beauty to not knowing when you’ll die and thereby living life fully. Also, I want kids… lots of them and i don’t have any right now. Then I’d have to ask every guy I date whether they left it blank otherwise I’d have no chance of having kids! Yeah, blank.

• Jake

I’m a college student currently in a screenwriting class and this prompt has inspired me to write my final project on a world where this prompt actually comes true. I’ve taken a lot of inspiration from everyone who has responded already. I was hoping you guys could help me even more: What do you think the world would be like after an event like this? What new sects will be formed and how will interactions between people with different lifespans change? Can love transcend time infinitely? I’m looking forward to reading your responses!

• Vikram Kalra

Without the fear of death, extreme behaviors will likely increase. We’d need new prisons for sure, and war would change from “kill” to “torture”. I think the country of ‘Infinityville’ will develop and it would be just awful in so many ways, and then the rest of us “dyers” would cluster organically. “Dyers” would look down on “Infinites”. “Dyers” would be happier since they know their clock and make the most of life.

Or maybe the collective consciousness of all humans will finally be realized and we could all join together to evolve as a species (in the form of ideas, not biologically).

I highly recommend reading “Einstein’s Dreams” by Alan Lightman (referenced by Tim somewhere in WBW). You’ll find inspiration for your project. Great to read just before bed or on the toilet.

• Jake

I agree that there will be geographic divisions because people will want to live with people with similar life expectancies to minimize loss.

I wonder if the “Infinites” will become more extreme because there is no fear of death or if they will become extremely cautious to avoid infinite pain.

I could see the people who are living for thousands or millions of years (or infinitely) turning on the “Dyers” because it would seem inefficient to use resources on people who would contribute so little, in the grand scheme of time.

I could definitely see how your proposal of a collective consciousness could be achieved but it would take hundreds or thousands of years. At first, there would be confusion and anger and violence, but after a time, scientific progress could be achieved so much faster because people that live for thousands of years can become experts in so many different fields, or super-experts in a select field.

• David

I would imagine there would be a propensity to hide your number from strangers for the most part. Information is power after all. The ones that leave the calculator blank would be the easiest to spot as they’d be the ones getting pregnant and having kids.
I also wonder if some of the “Infinites” or at least those with long life spans would choose to revert to infancy and allow other infinites to “raise” them just to give them the experience. Of course there’d have to be some sort of “memory block” tech that you could use so that things didn’t get weird/awkward. Maybe a memory block that could be removed at any time, or set to expire after X years.
Enough people are choosing “infinity” in this sample to say that there would be quite a lot of them that would certainly be interested in building a space ship to explore the universe. As long as there are enough “naturals” to perpetuate the species, the “others” would get to observe evolution and that would certainly be interesting. I think there would be loosely formed groups of similarly time constrained people (all the people that are going to live <1000 years, all the 1000-5000 years people, etc) and I would imagine the infinites would really prefer to form lasting relationships with other infinites. However, given that people form relationships with dogs knowing a dog will live only 1/10th as long as they might doesn't stop us so what do I know?

• Sooty Mangabey

I don’t think I can really put a number on this. It used to be a case of live fast die young but I think that has changed. I suppose for as long as my quality of life doesn’t go to the crapper indefinitely.

• GemmyB

If I’d otherwise have good health until the age I choose, I’d want to live long enough to take care of my parents and nieces and nephews (since I’d be able to find some kind of work), but not so long that I just hang around getting bored. Maybe 300 years or so. The real issue for me would be what do I do for money, so I’d want enough time to test drive all the careers I want and volunteer all over the world, but not so much that I just get sick of life altogether.

• Kristiyan Ivanov

Hi, everyone! Tim, do you have children and I wonder if they’re under 12, what will be your answer for them?
I’m 23 and now it’s pretty easy for me to just leave it blank. However, if I had children, it would be a whole new question. It should be enough to not miss interesting things, but also not something huge, since I don’t want to feel like ‘homo erectus’ at some point of the time.
At first I was thinking about 3000 years. Taking a look back in the past this takes us to a whole different age – before Middle Ages, the Roman Empire and somewhere around the grandfathers of Ancient Greece. But there are a lot more interesting stuff which had happened before that… Babylon and Sumerians were around 5000 years ago. So that’s my second thought. At this point I probably have 3-4 minutes to double check, so after a minute I finally realize that this ‘going-through-the-past’ method may be not very accurate. Our life is much easier now and everything changes so fast. In the past humanity had a lot of problems slowing their progress (having to discover writing, people fighting lions and bears to save their lives, almost no medicine and finally religion to keep their minds closed). So it turns out 5000 years in the future are more than 5000 years in the past, so I randomly type 3600 years in my last seconds left.

• mik

Oh so easy. I am 28. So. 28.
Man, the feeling of relief, being offered an easy way out. It’d be great.

• middleclassgenx

I responded to “ram” the same way:
I hope you feel better soon.
I found sometimes life is surprising and something good happens out of the blue–something I didn’t even necessarily ‘earn’. Maybe something like that will happen to you. Good luck

• Snof

I think it’s interesting how many of us live our lives assuming that we’ll live until we’re 80 odd. We tell ourselves we could die at any moment, but we don’t really internalise it. On the one hand, I understand how the new life conditions that apply when you enter a number could be seen as a welcome improvement. They surely offer more control and certainty than we have right now.

But I’d opt to resist this game changer. I’m 23 and so far every choice I’ve made, and every choice ever made on my behalf, was made in the context of the world we live in now. To suddenly change all that would require some serious readjustment – my choices and goals would change dramatically. I’d rather continue to battle present and future challenges and see how it all unfolds.

I also think if we were to live under these new conditions (no sickness etc.) we’d all just adjust and wouldn’t feel any happier since everything is relative. These new conditions would become nothing more than the new “normal”. We’d forget that sickness was a thing that could happen to us and we’d find other stuff to be bothered by. We always want more!

• Matt

I’m surprised so many choosed infinite. For me is pure madness. Infinite? You ll end floating in a crunching or expanding cold universe or sand in void space with feeling of lungs coming out from tour throat for ethernity! And with all this time you probably get mad long before the end of the universe, all boring and suffering. For the same reason an arbitrary long numbers are to exclude too. So we ave to decide in a range from nothing to about 9 zeroes numbers. In this case we should consider the social implication of this fenomen. In my opinioni economy would crash, it always do on impossible situations. Almost infinite pensione, useless insurances, obsolete health system… Some countries with socio/religious reason to let the calculator blank (perhaps asian religions? I don’t know) would have an higt number of normal people so they could close borders to every “calculated” to avoid the crash of their economy. The country of the first world with an higt number of calculated would suffer a nigerian style coups fragmenting and falling in to anarchy and the some sorta of “carnages” would constantly happend for years (centuries?), wars Would chance, no more killing weapons but suffering ones (Spiked bullets? Acid bombing?) and perhaps walls. In this chaos only a limitate number of super rch can exist and who is could remain ad such for millennias, eventually they could try to eliminate each other (cutting in a dozen pieces and buring, throwing on the sun (wich now would resemble hell, you know, flames and ethetnal damnation)) to obtain monopole on resources. So in this scenario and had a glance of what a million is thanks to WBW i would choose 5 millions, perhaps more than i could sustain but i like difficult tasks and i like life more than average persone too. Just out to the chambers i ll try to reclute some volunteers and scientist and occupy the slopes of mont blanc (I’m italian). Why? Because when Earth will came out from ice age (or co2 would be to warming) the top of it is one of the best place i van think ice would remain ad hightest mountain in Europe and natural ice is the best choice for cheap cryogenia, have you digited a number to big or you don’t want to whait the future? give me somethink really valuable or work for me a century and I could put you in ice for 10.000 years or more (less pain at start but after is just a loong sleep). In second place with my new power i would push on virtual reality research, the only way to live a too long boring life, and this with a price too; the ultimate VR would be creating a virtual/chemical state of mind where no boredom or suffering exist, only happines, plus users, much money, not like matrix. Finally in my new million years free time i’ll start to hunt other rich before they can eliminate me and hopefully have enough time to live my life at hunt finished and do so much things i would do: explore and study space, travel the world, create a space colony, raise a upper level of conciousness thanks to the wiseness of age and so on. But getting back to the room about not having childrend, in remaining 9 minutes I think there is time for a quik work hoping the paper they wrote instruction is steryl and a sperm bank is close to save some genetic material to assure me an offspring. sorry for the bad english anyway.

• 136. I was born in 1965 so this would take me to 2101. I get to witness the entire 21st century and run a small victory lap into the 22nd. I don’t want to go longer as I fear that the people that choose immortality or much higher numbers would be the same people that have a tendency toward greed and I would not want to live in a world full of really old, greedy people. Yes, there’d be others with better motives as well but the greedy would all tend toward a very high number while the curious would sprinkle death beds at various points in time. I have a wife and 3 kids and I would be worried about their choices as I’d love to have them by my side until my end. I don’t think there was a rule about keeping my choice to myself so we’d certainly talk about it though we’d all ultimately make our own choices, with the benefit of knowing what the others are planning. My youngest is 11 so I’d be sure she is along for my ride and more. Having made this choice, my wife and I would keep it interesting by living in different parts of the world for 5-10 years at a time. I would hope to see the Mets win at least one more World Series before all is said and done and not depend on 250 year old players who come cheap.

• Maria Luisa Medina

As interesting as it would be to live many many many hundreds of years to see what would become of life, and earth and humans, I would just leave it blank. No just because the instructions and restrictions of this decision were a little confusing and tired to read (or maybe I’m just tired right now), but mainly because I prefer not to know when it’s going to end. I has been a question for me when someone close dies of a long long painful disease or you hear about someone dying out of the blue, what is better: to know and prepare for it or not to know and have it happen unexpectedly? Both ways have pros and cons (preparing vs not doing so, saying goodbyes vs maybe not seeing the person alive again, have things in order vs leaving a huge mess, suffering vs just dying, etc) and I can’t ever have a clear answer. So might as well just go as scripted…

• jaime_arg

Brittany Maynard thought otherwise. I guess it’s a matter of personal taste.

• Conor

Infinite. Maybe. Yeah, infinite. I’ll just have to be very careful not to get paralyzed or decapitated along the way. Can you imagine not being able to move for an eternity….

• mallo

I wanted to choose 101 because I just wanna get that “I won” feeling but it’s pretty pointless to live past that age (who wants to live forever?) – you’d just see most people and things you love and care about die. But then I’ve read the children rule and, while I might be the only case in this thread (didn’t read it yet) I wouldn’t want to live if I were to not have children. So I wouldn’t input anything.

• Elena

I feel like its a choice between infinity or leaving the page blank. Choosing a number or age at which to die feels rather difficult, picking a number arbitrarily seems a rather finite decision to make in ten minutes. The point of life (among other things) for me is in the not knowing. And as I often struggle to comprehend what infinity actually entails, and I doubt I would be able to do so in ten minutes, I guess I’d just choose to live a regular life. As boring as that is, I wouldn’t be able to pick an age at which to die.

• Elle G

I’d pick 1 million. (The hardest part about this is that I do not have chlidren yet, as I am 22, but I could adopt or something I guess…). I’d assume at least one family member or friend would pick infinity, so I’d have someone to hang out with. The only reason I wouldn’t choose infinity is because I believe in Heaven, and I’d like to get there to see the people who have already passed on and also to see the people who are going to eventually die….

• TODD da GODD

But the note stated, when you die thats it, it’s the end… What do you think about that? Would you change your answer knowing there is nothing more?

• Yesaro

Agree to TODD da GODD…

Personally, I do too believe in heaven, and some day I will go to there. But, because this is a “What if” games.. I take that aside and play using the official rule. :D… If there’s no heaven, will you changed your answer?

Note: My answer is 0. I want to live normally because, I’m scared the uncertainty of future

• middleclassgenx

Short answer: to age 80. The perk of choosing your body age and not having health issues was too good to pass up.

But I want a normal length life for two main reasons:

1. Humans are on a fast-track to extinction, or at a minimum some kind of unpleasant apocalypse. We are a young, “experimental” species and things aren’t looking too good for us. It’s not like we are Trilobites or something, people. In a very short time we’ve already jacked up our beautiful planet. Unlike George Carlin (RIP), I can’t find any glee in watching this process.

2. Boredom. The people who have been choosing infinity and other big numbers may not appreciate how boredom and other potential emotions like loneliness could make their life hell. Like someone else here said, our brains have not evolved to handle long lifetimes.

Those of you who were willing to give up reproducing (yet still want to be parents) might give adoption/fostering in the real world some thought. I saw a stat that in 2006 there were over 500,000 (!?) in foster care.

• jaime_arg

If that’s your short answer, I don’t even want to know what the long answer is like.

• Yelena Key

They say “the work you do while you procrastinate is probably the work you should be doing for the rest of your life…”

So Tim Urban, please consider this my informal application, in case you’re ever hiring.

For the rest of the dinner guests, please enjoy a visual representation of the comments below to help you navigate what category you fall in to!

• DeeDee Massey

If anyone needs a professional sock drawer organizer, I’m available.

• Yelena Key

No doubt someone is rolling in money for inventing the sock drawer organizer! So sure, why not!

• DeeDee Massey

I’m selling myself short. I can organize anything – glove compartments, refrigerators, data sets, crayons, organizers…..

If I were to live to my hypothetical prescribed age of ~150 (the actual number would be a secret), I hope by then to have all my thoughts and memories organized.

• DeeDee Massey

I just made myself think of how those with extended lives could be useful, as in a profession. They would be our greatest eyewitness journalists, historians, and librarians. They’d call bs whenever someone wanted to name a holiday, school, or a street after an a-hole from generations ago. They could remind us that “No, Creptis Snardblock was a kitten hater and used his deathlessness to get away with parking in handicapped spots. See, I was there. it’s all right here in my diary.”

• DeeDee Massey

The bar graph is awesome. But at the Dinner Table, after we finish our dinner, we’re supposed to get a pie chart for dessert. 🙂

• Artyom

This is brilliant!

• Yelena Key

Thanks Artyom!

• Tim Urban

Oh this is DELIGHTFUL. Well done Yelena Key.

• Yelena Key

Well I find all your posts DELIGHTFUL! So I knew there was a level of standard to shoot for! Plus, I am terrible with words, and now thanks to your praise I might just consider making all my future comment contributions graphic ones instead.

• Tim Urban
• Yelena Key

Email sent!

• jaime_arg

ROYGBIV FTW

• Yelena Key

I’m just glad somebody noticed! 🙂

• sarpus

Very nice wrap-up Yelena Key! Love it.

• Matt

“Before shit gets scary” is now my new motto

• I love this bar graph, for me infinity is the only option. All options well put in perspective. May I have your permission to share this on fb and g+? I’d be happy to include your social name.

• Alex J M

There are so many problems with this – the terrifying thought of living in a world full of people who know they cannot die – being just one.
Another comes in a likely scenario. Perhaps you’re a teenager in a difficult state of mind and want to end the game there and then – well that’s easy – done. Now imagine you’re the parent one who just chose to live for six millennia and are now in complete emotional distress at never having to say good bye to the former. Nice thing to live with.

The calculator must be left blank. Life should remain unpredictable and a gamble, that’s what makes it so interesting and exciting. It can also be said the choice made in that 10 minutes, may not be the same one we’d make tomorrow.

• Emily Perry

I wouldn’t hit the button. I like having something unexpected, like death, just waiting to strike me when my time comes. I’m young and don’t have any kids, but I definitely do want to have some of my own in the near future.

• Lindsay Brownell

I think I’d want to live as long as possible while human life is still possible and relatively comfortable on Earth. I certainly don’t want to be around when the sun blows up in about 5 billion years, but there’s so much of the world I still want to experience that I’ll take as many years as I can reasonably get. With climate change looming and an uncertain amount of natural resources left, I’m not sure the human race would even make it to the end of the Earth.

True, some of my loved ones would die before me, but in my experience, the world is large enough that you can always find other people to love. I don’t have children yet, so this arrangement is kind of a downer, but I think I’d be okay with adopting kids. After all, there are plenty of children already in the world who are in need of good homes and families to look after them. The idea of not knowing what comes after death terrifies me, so I’d like to put it off as long as possible, but again, not subject myself to floating through space, feeling the agony of suffocating, burning and freezing at the same time, but not being able to escape it though death.

So, final number = 10,000.

• Mitchell

I don’t think that I would want to live any more years than I’m already going to naturally live out. It’s a bit of a lame answer, but however many years I choose, it’ll probably always feel like it isn’t enough. It’s the messages that media and we as a society convey, and the mantras we adopt and the beliefs we hold that create this idea that life is too short and that we should want to want more of it. I want to change that, the way that I think, I don’t want to want immortality, or at least qausi-immortality through living an unfathomably long life.

• Dainty

I may or may not be missing a key component of the question, but for me personally, I’d leave the calculator blank and continue to live on with my life. Knowing when you’ll die is a whole hell of a lot scarier than not knowing because your mind will always be preoccupied with the notion that this particular birthday is the day of your death, regardless of how painless it is. I understand that people would want to stay alive for a certain amount of time to see, say, technological advancements in space travel, but having that constantly lingering thought that I know when I’ll die somehow negates the personal significance of seeing those (hopefully) historical landmarks in our human history. The same can be said for familial milestones that they wish to see (great-great-great-great grandchildren maybe?). So yeah, I’d just want to continue living my life out normally.

• Brad

There is no way I’d enter a number in the calculator. The premise is reductionist, implying that life is about living, and only living and there isn’t any value in death. Our mortality gives life its flavor, adds the mystery and intrigue, and though we don’t often consider it (because the fear of death is so real), actually inspires our zest for life itself. Touching mortality is where extreme sports enthusiasts get their kicks. It’s also why you get out of bed in the morning. Who knows what kind of psychological or spiritual repercussions would result from choosing your lifespan. Also, what happens if you leave the room and get smoked by a car? So now you’ve got to live 100,000 years as a paraplegic! I know it’s just a fun philosophical exercise, but it says a lot about us– what we believe life is, and so on…I love it– but sorry, I choose the mystery.

• Brad

“any ailments or injuries will be healed immediately”

If this was not in the rules, I think I would agree with you.

…also, I’m a different Brad 🙂

• Pete Murray

Tempting as it is on numerous different levels I’d walk out of the room after a couple of seconds. I don’t have kids and at 40 it is becoming less likely (but as a male still completely achievable) but is still a possibility I wouldn’t want to trade in. And the uncertainty of life is a big part of what it’s all about. As someone has already pointed out – it’s a major reason for getting out of bed in the morning. A good reason for doing many things in life is ‘because I could get hit by a bus tomorrow!’

• Ben Black

Got totally confused and probably missed the window to make any kind of decision. How’s my body and my sex life when I’m 194? I’d love to relive my 20’s with my older experience and attitude but do I get to keep my kids and how would they feel about having a 20 year old dad? I read the rules 3 times; wasn’t clear on the answer and decided I’ll stick with what I’ve got and keep buying expensive moisturiser isntead

• Maria Luisa Medina

Good to know I wasn’t the only one confused by all the rules

• vitaminCMC

It’s funny that this is this week’s question. I was just talking about this with a friend, since we’d watched “Only Lovers Left Alive” (it’s a movie about vampires – well, not specifically about vampires, but the main characters are vampires); so the idea of “would you want to live forever?” came up pretty quickly. I said, yes. Because it’s true. And, if that is an option, here, in this situation (and I think it is, since there was mention of an infinity button), I would take it without any hesitation.
Forever is a scary thought, and that delights me to no end. I want to see everything and experience as much as I possibly can. I considered that, in the original question (with my friend), it would just be me. My family members would live out life as they normally would; and, while that makes me sad, I know I’ll make another family. Now, considering this question, I recognize the negative side to choosing forever: family and friends may not go full tilt, like me; any future life partners may not have chosen eternity; I wouldn’t be able to have children, which is something I’ve come to want in the last year, or so. It reminds me of another “vampire movie”, “The Hunger”; the main character was a vampire who tried to turn her lovers into vampires, but it never worked – so they all, eventually, grew old and she had to dispose of them. I could see that happening (you know, without all the vampire stuff). But I could move on. I could make new families. I could adopt children. I think.
I’d rather go for it, and pick “forever”, than regret having chosen a smaller number.

• Yesaro

Hi there, you have a nice answer… But, do you know that live eternity has another consequences? If you read the Term and Condition, It states that you will still feel suffering and pain.

How if the Tim’s scenario of unsustainable planet earth become true? How you will handle it? You will suffering for eternity without any hope of relieve. It is so scary. What do you think? 🙂

• Yesaro

This is my second Post. At my first Post, I said that I will live a normal aging life. The reason is, because I fear the uncertainty of the future. I will not change my answer here.

I just want to help the Eternity guys/gals out there. Here’s a to do list, if you choose to live for eternity :

1. Make the community of Eternity.
2. The priority agenda of this Community is Space Exploration. You, The Eternities, must help each other to advance in Space Exploration. Remember: You will live eternity and earth itself has a lifespan. So, you must find the other planets as a backup planet. You will have to master all of science and knowledge that needed to advance in this thing.
4. You must evolve your body. You must exercise your body slowly, day by day to adapt in several extreme condition. Just in case, you don’t find a backup planet Just In Time. You must be able to live without oxygen, gravitation, food, water, light. I believe you can achieve this, since you have millions year.
5. You must evolve your mind. You must train your mind to overcome your negative emotions. You must have a good character. This is important, because you need to collaborate with people from around the world to achieve Space Exploration. There’s no time for childish conflict.
6. You must learn to create a life being from your own DNA. Well, you will have no child. But if you can make some tools to create a life being from your own DNA, I think problem will be solved.

You have an eternity, but you will have a lot things to do, than just watching and waiting what universe will become, so have fun, Immortal.. Here, I will play with my children and watching you guys busy 🙂

NB: Sorry for my bad English. English is not my main language ^_^

• Gabriel Santos

That’s a good one, and thinking about it I was almost convinced that I’d choose 100 million years, so I would be able to see some crazy things like the continental drift and evolution of species, and them when I read the coments here I realized a interesting thing.

People saying billions or trillions of years!

In some billions of years the Earth will be no more! Probably swallowed by our own sun when it turns into a red star or smashed by a big asteroid or sucked by a black hole or simply thrown into the space. The fact is:

1- If the Earth is thrown into the space, how much time is going to be 1 year, since it is no more orbiting the sun.

2 – If it you are sucked by a black hole, or if the universe collapses, as relativity says, the stronger the gravity, the slower the time goes, so 1 second in a black hole or in the crushing point of the universe is going to be the same as some millions or billions of years on Earth (if it is still orbiting around our sun)

3 – We could measure time as pulses of an atom, like in the atomic clocks, but even in that case, time is relative, as the time in which those atoms goes depends on the speed and the gravity were it is.

4 – If you are wearing that referential clock, and choose 50000 years of living and then you go into a space trip close to the speed of light, when you come back, everybody that have choosen 50000 like you is going to be dead as you arrived, say, a million years after you left Earth.

Time is relative, we dont have crazy space ships yet, that travels close to the speed of light, neither a black hole close to us. In a human life time the relativity of time is not realized, but it is there.

P.S. Sorry for the bad english, and Tim, you should come to Brazil any day and make a topic of it! =D

• Chris M.

Ten minutes is not nearly enough time to put serious thought into that question… I’m bouncing around between a billion years (long enough to see some decent geological and astronomical changes) and my natural lifespan.

• Ekanshdeep Gupta

Well, I was genuinely surprised when Tim chose to enter something into the calculator, instead of leaving it blank to opt a normal, natural life… I, for one, believe that the beauty of life lies in its uncertainty, and that its fragility and delicacy add a unique flavor to it… It’s ony beacuse of our fear of death, that we can enjoy ife to the fullest… I’d like to let it continue as before, and experience it as it comes…

But, from the other perspective, a few years of prolonged, healthy living would be quite amazing, with everything within your reach; and a massive amount of time to explore the world could not be so bad…

But, I’m gonna stick my line of thought… Good things come in small packets… And while the extra years do sound tempting, I’m willing to face it as it comes, without my own terms and conditions…

And, something like 5,000, or even 50,000 years is still reasonable. To the people who choose millions/billions of years: as illustrated by Tim in a recent post, that is seriously a LOT of years… Boredom/lonliness is bound to get you in the end… And the prospect of a major geological change or something similiar, would lose meaning for you, after being tormented by major solitude for a millenia at an end…

Anyways, your decision is made… So… Happy living!

PS: I found the scientific takes on this topic really interesting, which included everything from Relativity, to end of the Earth, to evolving yourself to face an eternity (By ‘Gabriel Santos’, ‘Yesaro’ et al)… Amazing!

• Richard Bowen

I personally think we do live forever, at least our consciousness anyway. Granted there is no proof of this either way however, with new advancements in quantum understandings, as well as epi genetics we are discovering that we do in fact not understand much. We only see and hear 1% of both the electromagnetic spectrum and acoustic spectrum. This vessel that we are in is a limited one, and therefore in my mind would stunt true spiritual growth and understanding when it comes to the Universe. Living in fear of the inevitable is ultimately what causes the problems we have in the world today. Do your time, roll up and go home is what I would say. And the immortals would eventually become only of this world and try and control everyone because they thought they knew best. That would be an awful world with absolutely no freedom for a while I would imagine. Change is inevitable and if people had those choices eventually everyone would destroy themselves and this planet anyway. Good question I would say, you can tell a great deal about each individual who answered. But I’m happy with not knowing it all, and am excited for the adventure.

• You choose infinite because you’ll have an infinite amount of time in which to find a way to overcome the rules. Perhaps by stripping yourself apart an atom at a time, or something, if you so choose, or maybe the universe will collapse on itself and destroy you… etc…

• jaime_arg

I was going to say 100 until I saw that you can’t reproduce if you enter a number…

• Chris B.

Gotta be infinity, or maybe 10*10^120. Not scared of death, just too interested in the universe, if I could live to see everything, oh man, so cool. You’d likely not be alone, there are a lot of other Immortals out there. Plus you’d probably break the Universe, so could Heat Death actually occur (my hedge on 10*10^120)? We get used to pain. Eventually pain of losing people who hadn’t chosen Infinity would pass, you’ve got forever to get over it. Pain of space travel… also, you’d eventually get used to it. You’re not going to die, so grab a friend, and ride a rocket to the next place. I’m sure I’d eventually go crazy. Also, pretty sure that the Mortals would keep evolving, but evolution is so much slower than technology and social convention, so they’d eventually die off. But first when the food shortage comes, us Immortals would get the short end of the stick and have to go hungry until all the Mortals died or killed themselves off. I suspect Immortals would disperse into the universe over time as well. Meet back at the Milky Way in 10 million years! Cool thought experiment.

• Jewelberg McGill

I would leave it blank. Thinking of the repercussions of the inability to die is terrifying. Is death scary? Yes. Think about what would happen if a huge comet blitzed the Earth next year though. You could be floating in empty, cold, suffocating nothingness for 1,000, 10,000, or an infinity. I actually think that space exploration could decease. Think of the risks now versus after this deal. Now, you fly in space with the chance of gaining everlasting fame and possibly looking around some other cool planets, and if there’s an accident, you die. Post calculator, the risk of space flight is that if there is an accident, you spend the rest of your incredibly long existence in utter nothingness. I know lots of people who get hopelessly bored/insane if they are waiting in traffic for 10 minutes.

I imagine some serious “class conflict” type stuff going down too. The millennial would be too good to hang out with the centurions. The immortals would walk all over the mortals. If the mortals could threaten to blow up the Earth somehow though, think how badly that would scare them to the core…

All in all, no thank you. Great discussion questions though!

• Jin

Hmm, interesting question indeed. Lots of interesting answers too! I’m here mostly to observe. However if I must make a decision, it seems a straight-forward task to me: 10 billion years. I want to see how the universe evolves when there still could be interesting things happening. 10B seems to be a good number to see the end of the universe without being bored for too long.

• El hornet

It would have been very interesting to have had a survey option, where people entered age, gender, children (if any) and their response, and Tim comment on the data in a blog…

• Sriharsh Mallela

I am 31, and I will give myself 50 more years. If I give myself a crazy number like 5000 + I will be swamped with time and no motivation to do anything. Time slipping by is one of my greatest motivators in life to get off my ass and do something about it. If in the span of 31 years, I am filled with so much regret of not capitalizing on opportunities or missing out on so many things, I shudder to think how overcome with regret will I be if I have a longer lifespan. I believe in afterlife too, so i want to experience that too, sooner than later

• Jay

I had made my decision while reading the first paragraph, and it got confirmed with each rule I read 😀
I wouldn’t put any number, I would explore the room and disassemble the calculator to try to understand the technology involved. I would wonder who made those calculators, with what purpose, and what kind of technology would allow such a sophisticated reprogramming of the cells.

The implications of such event would affect life as we know it: the size of the population that can reproduce would reduce, which eventually turns out in smaller population, new religions would be born, social classes, economy, philosophy, science.

That to not take into account the psychological implications on those that introduced a number in the calculator. The uncertainty of how your body will age after the normal life-span, acceptance of no new offspring from your genetic material, without the fear of death many things in life would lose excitement, the value of life would reduce as well, social relationships would change radically if you know that someone expires or that he/she doesn’t.

Anyway, the idea of an eternal/long life is tempting to learn, discover and enjoy life for longer. However, death is as much a part of life as life itself, don’t forget it’s role on all the little things you enjoy today 😉

• john

I think I would enter 400 or so…The key is that I could go up or down in age- that’s nice. I have 2 kids. This would be a much different decision if I did not and could have kids. The hardest part, obviously, would be to see my kids age and die, but many parents see their kids die before them- which is tragic. If I get to see my kids live a full life, and I am alive to pass them on to their great-great grandchildren and beyond, I think that would be cool. I would assume my wife would choose to live longer as well.

400 years should be enough to see where things go in the world (not the universe though), and I think it would be mind-blowing to witness that kind of progress first hand (and be engaged) – think about what our grandparents and great grandparents saw in their lifetimes.

And, my 401K would explode!

I would want an expiration date, though. Infinite would mean living in some kind of nothingness with the pain of no food, social, etc. And even 10,000 or so would be too long in case something catastrophic happened and I wound up essentially roaming as a zombie, in pain.

• Dennis

Strangely I got to 5,000 as well, but I mostly just thought about what’s happened in the last 5,000 years. Like, I think I’d be happy if I lived through all of stuff since Abraham until now, and I think 5,000 years more of innovation and life would be just fine for me. But it’s pretty rudimentary thinking since it was hard for me to really get into the zone of freaking out about this decision. Seems like you were really agonizing about this.

I was mostly excited about choosing your own age, because I’d want to be 10 years old and dominate everyone in soccer and having perspective, but then I realize that if everyone’s in the same boat I wouldn’t necessarily have an advantage. Also maybe being the best 2,319 year old in something is more appealing.

• Chick cop

I think whatever time is in the cards for me is time enough. My biggest contention with entering a number is that I don’t have children yet, and I’d like to. Since you can’t reproduce once a number is entered, I’m quite happy not entering one! Besides, the adrenaline rushes that come with my job (and make it fun) probably wouldn’t happen if I wasn’t occasionally risking my life. I need those!

• Billy Davies

I’d go for the infinite button. The thought of being able to see our species grow over that time would be incredible. If anything really bad happened (End of the world by some means) and I had to float through space or live alone for eternity, I think I’d either go made (that could be fun!) or I’d gain some sort of enlightenment through being alone with my own conciousness… Very interesting thought experiment!

• Aline

I would probably leave it blank. For 2 main reasons:

a) I want to have kids. I think that would be an amazing experience;
b) I have no idea of what I would do/feel when I get close to my (ending) time. Could you imagine how would it be to know when you’re dying? Would I want it to come as fast as possible because I don’t wanna live anymore/I’m bored? Or would I be living happily and wishing I had typed a bigger number in the calculator?

Anyway, although it seems tempting to type a huge number and be able to see the new technologies, and new discoveries, I think I would stick to “not see it coming”. 🙂

• Bert Henning

I’ve often thought already that I was born at the perfect time for my location. Technology has changed the world enough that life is easier and jobs exist for a lot of people that don’t involve hard labour. Food is plentiful and there are definitely too many of us but not toooooooooooo many of us on the planet yet. I admire some things about the past but I also see that some injustice of the past is better now than it was then.

Also, when I look to the future I see a real possibility of mass unemployment as corporate greed drives us to a world owned by very few and computers and robots so powerful they can concentrate that control more than ever. I’m not sure I want to live through that and see ‘living too long’ as a good way to guarantee that so I might take a gamble that things don’t get too bad and pick something like 250 years.

• Bugs Malloy

I’d pick 750 years, though I did consider leaving it blank. Guess it turns out my fear of death is actually larger than my pretty strong desire to have kids one day. But given the choice, I think there’s so much meaning and experience to be had in multiple lifetimes that it outweighs what you give up.

Why 750? My first impulse was closer to Tim’s – somewhere in the 5,000-10,000 year range. The reason I eventually adjusted lower was I don’t know how pleasant life will be for human beings that far out. Even today, there are large swaths of humanity in the developing world (and even in the developed world) whose lives are generally pretty unpleasant with only limited hope for improvement. And only for the last couple of centuries or so have citizens in the wealthier economies had a decent shot at a life not ruined by violence, sickness, starvation, etc.

Looking back over the last 3 millennia, there have been pockets of time and place that wouldn’t have been too bad to live in – Europe during the Renaissance (ex-plague at least) and the height of the Greek and Roman empires as a few examples – but even those times were kind of hit or miss. Not to mention few and far between and bracketed by dark ages and misery galore.

Go back further than that, and we’re back in the food chain. No thank you.

I like to believe humanity advances and quality of life improves in a volatile but positive upward trend. But I have to allow for the likely possibility that conditions are actually mean reverting to miserable. We could be in a very unusual period where enough progress has occurred that things are pretty easy but the consequences of that progress have not yet come back to bite us in the ass.

I think we’ve got some time left before there’s a good chance things get truly awful again. I guess 750 was my quick mental calculation of how long it would take before the risk of shit hitting the fan and the risk of dying too early when things were still good and everyone I cared about was still alive roughly equaled each other.

• Vivante

You guys are obviously all young. Maybe when I was 20 I would have made a decision to live forever. Now I´m old and it´s been a wonderful life. I had lovers and husbands and kids and grandchildren and I loved most of them and wouldn´t want to have missed most of them. I grew up in the western world, was healthy, went to great schools and learned a lot, loved my work and had the chance to be 1) an existentialist and then 2)a beatnik and 3) a hippie—I was really born at the right time! Now I´d like to live until my grandson grows up–maybe another 7 or 8 years–and then enough is enough. I think maybe I´m getting out of here just in time, before the western world collapses!!

• The Squire

If I chose a number, which is the real question, I would turn away and type a random 3-digit number, that way, I get a nice sized life, without the knowledge of precisely when my impending doom will occur.

• Alex J M

Then spend the other 9 minutes torturing yourself into not looking 🙂

• Julian Sanchez Simon-Zurita

Cristal clear, I would leave it blank. Where is freedom if you know the end date? Life
is a gift and I would never be able to commit “future suicide”. I also don’t
want to live forever. My daughter past away four months ago and I would like to
be with her every day, but I still have to do something, don’t know what but I
may not have time if I decide the end date. O Captain! My Captain!

• Roxana

Roxana S.

• Roxana

Mistake , sorry ..
It was meant to write “my heartfelt condolences for the loss of your daughter”

• Yesaro

Deep condolences for your daughter…

Maybe, if there’s such a calculator like that, you can use it to meet your daughter soon. Maybe I would do that if I were you. You must be a strong mom, if you can prevent yourself to do it. I pray that God will heal your pain.

• DNoel

At first I considered not typing anything into my calculator, I think what makes life so worthwhile is knowing it is finite, it makes the highs so much sweeter. But then I thought about what the real gift this could be for me; not living forever or even for hundreds of years, but the promise of perfect health. And so I decided I would type 95 into that calculator. Having grand/great-grand parents who lived to be in their 80’s and 90’s, my choice of 95 wouldn’t really be to gain more time (maybe a little) but to gain perfect health. To not spend those final years ravaged by old age; no fear of cancer…Alzheimer’s…dementia. I am 34 and have a 4 year old son, so I could live with the idea of never having any more kids. If my son’s calculator ended up in my room, I would leave it blank. If it ended up in my husband’s room, I think (and hope) he would do the same. I wouldn’t want to rob my son of the ability to make the decision to have a family by typing a number in for him, no matter how much peace of mind it would bring to know he would never get sick or die prematurely. 95 would let me grow old and hopefully see my son grow into an old, but not too old man. I would be able to see his kids grow up and probably even spend some quality time with my own great grand kids. I would know when it was my time to go and could be prepared, and help my family be prepared. Life would still be precious, but the knowledge of what will happen on July 5, 2075 would help us more fully appreciate those very last moments we had with one another.

• David Olsen

My first thought was that Elrond was alive for about 6,000 years or so and he didn’t seem bored yet. I figured I’d round it up a little to an even 10K which is probably far more memories than my poor little brain can handle anyway.

• JacksonKG

I hate to be the one to tell you this but

Elrond doesn’t exist

• JacksonKG

I forbot to make my main point about immortality before (My letter after f and letter after u keys don’t work, so I’m replacinb them with b). At one point or another we’re boinb to habe two thinbs, human body improbements and limitless birtual reality. Since Time trabel is theoretically possible, I could likely skip any empty unibersal periods if they were to exist, and eben if I couldn’t I could probably find some way to turn off the pain receptors in my body seeinb that I’m immortal. And if birtual reality does reach a point where we lebitimately libe as a character, then that could neber brow old since, as the character, the experience would seem new each time. Thinbs like the 2045 initiatibe already show us that our bodies can be modified (And I plan on doinb a body from the 2045 initiatibe), and we could probably increase mental capacity. Plus I can still chill with other immortality people as lonb as they haben’t bone insane

• Amelia

This made me laugh so hard!
Not the answer but “g”:D

• JacksonKG

Letter after f*

• Vysakh S

I’m sure you didn’t intend it, but damn that was hilarious!

• Scott

It makes sense to end one’s life when the value of not existing is greater than the value of living (you would need to account for all future value of living as well). For me, the only conceivable way for my life’s value to drop below the existence line would be some form of pain (including depression). Maybe that could happen in 5 billion years when the sun engulfs the earth and I procrastinated that whole time on making a space ship to leave our solar system. Being glued by gravity to the sun in insane pain for the rest the universes existence would definitely suck.

I spend way too much time imagining what humanity will evolve into to pass on the opportunity to see it myself. I guess you could call it fomo, but the more I realize how we really are the start of humanity, and I see what amazing things discovered in the last 200 years, the more time I spend wondering on what our would will be like in 1 million years, 10 million, 100 million. What will the world be like when our time now is on the first page of the human history books?

I would pick 29 billion years and be very careful of black holes.

• Kimnd

I’d leave it blank. I had decided that before reading the other comments. After reading some other people’s thoughts, I did consider putting down a ‘reasonable old-age’ number to get the perfect health and young body pluses.
However, I also don’t think that there’s any way of predicting what kind of change such an event could have on society. It could end up being that the people who put “infinity” become some sort of elite, watching down from on-high. Or maybe those who can still continue the human race would rise against the now-immortal? I kinda doubt it. But in any case, I chose to leave it blank because the human brain isn’t built to withstand 1,000 years worth of information. Even if you did stay as healthy as you were in your physical peak, people who lived that long would eventually forget so many things. We just aren’t built to work that way.
Also, with stuff like food shortages, would people who did put down a number be obliged to not eat, despite them feeling uncomfortable? I would personally feel like I was supposed to get used to feeling starved constantly– presumably, I have the ability operate healthily even in brain function, even if my stomach feels weird. Could immortal people get surgery to have their digestive tract removed? Presumably if you’re like Wolverine, you’d get used to it. Maybe.
Personally, I don’t think I’m brave enough to step into the unknown like Tim. Five thousand years… goddamn, I’ve only been around for twenty and I can’t even remember the first three of those! Plus, I’m far more interested in leaving a legacy for others to build upon. And hell, when I’m dead it’s not like I’ll be complaining about not knowing what’s happening in the world– I’ll be dead. Maybe I’ll even get lucky and get my ideal afterlife– a world-wide history simulation!

• c1f3r

Eternal button. No question there.

• LC

I wouldn’t put in a number. Am big on the philosophy of living in the moment and can’t help but think that even if they number I picked were a fairly large number, it would always be in the back of my mind.

• Rohit

I would leave it blank and let life life take its normal course. I know it is a very big decision for me and everyone around me, but then in the larger scheme of things it would be best of all.

Also Tim one small question for you, with your 5000 years would you be ready for the negativity and all the animal emotions of other to deal with, wouldn’t that be a too much?

• Guest

That’s
an awesome thought, an awesome question. Honestly, I think I’d either go really big or not at all.
Either I’d live out my natural life, dying after 60-70-80-100 years, or I’d go with a Face of Boe
number. Maybe 10,000 millennia…

I think 10 million years would be plenty of
time to figure out interstellar travel and more.

The idea of having enough time to figure out just about anything while being free enough to live as independently as possible (without too many concerns about the long-term physical effects of one’s choices) is really intriguing and darn tempting.

Although, Tim, you make a great point about ridiculously long lives. Living longer than a few hundred years, much less a few thousand or a few million, would put a whole new spin on Ralph Waldo’s Self Reliance theory.

• I’d delete this poorly executed comment if’n I could 🙂

• That’s an awesome thought, an awesome question. Honestly, I think I’d either go really big or not at all. Either I’d live out my natural life, dying after 60-70-80-100 years, or I’d go with a Face of Boe number. Maybe 10,000 millennia…10 million years should be plenty of time to figure out interstellar travel and more.

The idea of having enough time to figure out just about anything while being free enough to live as independently as possible (without too many concerns about the long-term physical effects of one’s choices) is really intriguing and darn tempting.

Although, Tim, you make a great point about ridiculously long lives. Living longer than a few hundred years, much less a few thousand or a few million, would put a whole new spin on Ralph Waldo’s Self Reliance theory.

• Nimrod Nave

Upon pondering the infinity button I thought “nah, even the Face of Boe died at some point”

• LOL…we think alike, Nave.

• Yiorko Chaz

The big big numbers are out of the question. After a point the probability of getting youself in a pretty fucked up situation (like being lost in space or being buried under a mountain) becomes a certainty so you don’t want to live eternally suffering in that place. Also a number close to the human lifespan is more easy to manage and give you a sense of mortality necessary to cherish your life. So I would choose something between 700 and 1000. This is as much as I need to master all the things I would to a top expert level without worrying about the common life desicions that sets us back. I could hone to perfection all the things I love without worrying about getting to old for that. Can you imagine that?
On the other hand, 700 years of expertise would not mean much if people could practice their art for 100000000 years. Hmmmm…

• Luke Schwartz

I would put in as many years are left in my life until I turn 80. I feel like that’s a pretty normal time to die, and while I’d certainly enjoy the benefits of not getting sick I definitely don’t want to live too long. I’m already thinking that might be too much. That takes the choice out of your hands. I want to the option to be able to die if I feel like I’m really suffering, right? Maybe its because I’m still really young (20) but the idea of living for five times as long as I’ve already gone, or ten times, or a hundred times terrifies me so much. Life gets boring sometimes. You don’t always want to do it.

• Matt

Yes, 20 years could seem lot to go through 5 times or so especially for me and you (I’m 19) but I learned an interesting fact about memory: as you learn new things your brain store them with multiple copies, more copies there are, better vivid the memory is.

Now has been observed (or so was told to me) that new experiences are copied more than repeated ones (for example when you forget if you closed the car is because you so repeated it that your mind never even care about anymore), and if in your normal life don’t make an extreme drastic change every decade or so there will be always less and less new experiences to make and only routines in your little piece of world where you get used to live.

So the feeling of time passing is strictly bounded to memory and this could result (it actually do, i asked around) in a very slow and intense firsts 0-25 followed by quite normal 25-35 (hi, Tim), then speedy 35-50, you can’t even count your regrets and sneeze a couple of time and you can’t stand without a staff and some titanium bones, you just have the time to say “what did just happened?” and all the 70-100 are gone completly unnoticed leaving your body cold and a long list of “I have time to do that later”.

So i just keep my 5.000.000.000 hoping is not going to esponentially fast like:
“Ah, yes, like the last week i questioned about it with Jerry.. Wait. Or it was the last decad?”
“Dear, Jerry lived 12 millennia ago, his bloodline died long time ago…”
“Time is going really fast lately”

• Me

Note: the author states that in this thought experiment there is no after-life.

In light of being assured I have only one life to live, the only reasonable answer, from my perspective, is to choose an infinite period to bask in the futility of living (which has also been made most certain by this declaration of existence’s ambiguity). To me, it is merely a matter of potential, supported, perhaps, by a bit of optimism.

This life provides ample opportunity for joy and understanding as well as agony and confusion. It is my experience that the moments in my life which I have enjoyed are more than worth the many more moments that have troubled me. Pain is bad. Sickness is bad. I have desired death; yet, I have always considered myself foolish for such thinking the moment my ailments have begun to subside. It is because of those truths that I believe it is the only good reason to preserve your potential for finding joy amongst futility. Futile existence will bring nothing to the doorstep of eternity, so futile existence can only bear pseudo-purpose while my mind is there to experience it.

• Matt

I’m, after some long peregrinations, an agnostic, by my point of view there is no such thing as life so despite I’m not excluding it’s existance for me is very very unlikely the existence of life after death not existing life in first place, so this the statement of this experiment don’t influence my decision.

As I mentioned before, I think infinite would be a stupid choice, not to insult, just my opinion is that who choose infinite don’t realize how infinite is. Just becouse you don’t desire death when you aren’t suffering desn’t mean your desire was stupid and meaningless when you was in that situation, there are hormons the brain uses to clear the mind from intense sufferences, to forget them, childbirth is one example, for me is the same situation for procastination: just becouse now i think that don’t act was stupid, sensless, idiotic, doesn’t mean when i was there, unable to act I was really unable, not just blinded and for years I just keep saying myself “Now I understand not acting was stupid, the next time knowing this i will act for the better” and every time i was wrong, the me far from deadlines is not the me close to them so the decisions of the first don’t apply to the second in the same way a men who desired to die don’t have to think it was stupid when he forgotten the suffering.

Everything has an end, the Universe itself eventually would die out, protons would probably decade putting an end to the matter itself, THE PROTONS! And who decided to infinite when eventually the Universe will come to the famous thermal death what would do? No more energy enough to do enything, no more matter, just a bunch of humans floating in a void universe, i heard what body suffer in low pression, exploding eyes, jumping-out-lunghs-feeling, expanding chest, very bad things to suffer even for an hour but fo eterity? Really you understand what eternity means? A number inifinitley superior to g64^g64^g1000? Paradoxically in an experiment where hell doesn’t exist it would create one…

Death is a natural part of life. Rejoice for those around you who transform into the Force. Mourn them do not. Miss them do not. Attachment leads to jealously. The shadow of greed, that is.”

• Jamie

I chose a million even before I read Tim`s answer. Thought about the good scenario, how the more advanced people become the more peaceful civilization is and interstellar travel would be so much fun with people that are experienced and wise, but with 25-year old bodies. Besides, you only live once, so why not prolong your own expiration date?

• Gina

I chose to not chose. I’d like to keep the option of suicide open, as morbid as that sounds.

• Vivante

Tim, most of your readers are relatively young and aren´t worried much about what the future will bring. We have grown up in this small part of the world and this small window of time where most people can live pretty decent lives, with enough food, medicine, education and awesome luxuries like running water (even warm water!) and toilets in the house. We can all read and write, have access to as many books as we want and in relation to the rest of humanity in the present world and most of humanity in the past we are living in paradise.
I`m an old geezer and have led a great life, but I´m not so sure the good times are going to be rolling forever. I have seen a lot of the misery of a lot of the less lucky people on this earth now, and can only watch sadly the speed with which man, with all his positive abilities, is destroying his environment as fast as he can so that even more of us will have to live in misery in the future. That doesn´t make the prospect of living for even another 100 years very attractive.
Well, as I said, I´m an old geezer so–although I would definitely choose to live a certain amount of years, since the act of choosing would guarantee me good health–I would like to live another 7 years. Maybe 8. Until my grandson turns 21, than I´d like to leave. I had a near-death experience after an OP a few years back, and if that had anything to do with reality, death is absolutely nothing to be afraid of.

• Annie

I would leave it blank. Anyone ever read the book Tuck Everlasting?

• V

I’d type in as many 9’s as I could in 10 minutes. In the time that I get I’d definitely be able to find an independent way to reach some form of immortality (I’ll spend first few billion years on that) if I choose to and figure out a workaround for “no children” part. As for being bored, even buried under some mountain I can hope for random escape through quantum tunneling of my entire body out of the trap – yes the chances are low, but the years are many. Plus I am sure I’d be able to find something to think about, or you know, meditate, even if floating in space. Also, with this approach I am not robbing myself of a chance to cease to exist – again, my choice.

I know this is bending the rules, but whatever, I’d totally do that.

• Gaphrion

Infinity. I want to be immortal. While worrisome that you can’t commit suicide, I think madness/delusion is a perfectly legitimate escape from this world. Suffering can be overcome – people do incredible feats of endurance and mental fortitude all the time, and there is actually a limit to how much pain you can physically experience. I think if it’s possible to sleep and your body still endures trauma but heals it “quickly”, you would probably spend your time in space unconscious – if you are frozen through, you can’t be conscious, and I’m willing to take the gamble on that. Same thing if you end up in the sun – you won’t have any nerves to feel that pain with, or a brain to think with – even if your body would spontaneously reform from practically nothing once the sun died, then you’d be back to the freezing thing. Unfortunately under this model, at some point you will lose yourself and probably not wake back up in time for the end of the universe, rendering you effectively dead if not technically so. If you have to actually experience every moment going forward, well, I’m willing to guess that, even without leaving Earth, the experience would change “me” and my experience of the world so radically that I’m not actually qualified to speak on that person’s behalf, but I’m willing to take the gamble that they would rather exist than not, since that’s generally how I feel about it. In fact, probably there would be effectively several iterations of that “me” with their only commonality being their origin (me on Earth) and the body they are tied to. Anyway, it’s hard to conceptualize what would happen in either infinity because of the cognitive impossibility of processing that vastness and also the physical impossibility of matter and energy coming from nowhere and/or a continuous, seamless consciousness that exists independent of the brain it is housed in, but still physically tied to a body or a point in the universe where your body was when it disintigrated or to some sub-atomic particle of one atom of your being (which could travel all over at the speed of light and then regenerate where it landed – beam me up!). But really, I would still pick infinity if I could.

• Gaphrion

I also read something interesting about memory over at the Scientific American blog network. Apparently a healthy brain forgets things at a pretty constant rate over time, with the exception of a well-preserved nostalgia spike from your late teens and early twenties. (Those experiences end up bound with your identity, so they hardly degrade at all, though they would eventually.) So basically, you’d end up with a few vague memories about where you came from and a declining recollection about the previous few centuries, with only a few VERY notable events from before that which may have stuck with you. I find this encouraging because then you really wouldn’t have to worry so much about the tedium that everyone dreads so much – as long as you find things to do that you didn’t remember doing before, the supply is effectively endless, since you won’t remember it in a century or so. Unfortunately for those of us who would be immortal chroniclers: you are going to need a lot of physical storage space for whatever media you record in, an excellent catalog system, and an ongoing team of companions to summarize huge swaths of time and then summarize the summaries, just to remind you about everything you’ve seen and recorded already.

• Vivante

I´m having terrible problems posting–everything I write gets classified as “spam”and ends up sitting in a garbage heap at Disqus. Well, I´ll try again:
I´m an old lady and if I could make such a choice I´d like to live another 7 or 8 years. Then my grandson would be 21 and I could finally go off into somewhere and get a rest for another lifetime or so. I would definitely make a choice, since that would I´d mean be guaranteed health until then–that would be nice.
I think one would have to be young and extremely optimistic to want to live 700 years–at the moment most of the people at this table are probably living fairly comfortable lives, but in the entire history of mankind comfortable lives have really been the teeny-weeny exception . This small window of comfort we have now is restricted mostly to people in the western world who enjoy the luxuries of enough food, medical care, education, access to water (even running warm water and indoor toilets!!), relative peace, etc. Who can really be sure that these exceptional luxuries will be ours forever, or even for another 100 years? When you see how fast greed and stupidity are destroying our environment and how much violence is afoot, I think a lot more people will live in misery in the future.
I`d be more afraid of living for another generation than of dying after my long life of comfort, good dinners, love and Rock & roll!

• mikefarr

Tim: do we get to live with the optimism of youth?

• DoctorBell
• DeeDee Massey

I was netflickin’ the other night and found “Mr. Nobody.” It was a related topic and stars my bf Jared Leto, so of course I had to watch it. It’s kind of similar to the “Evolution will turn you into a freak” idea, except everybody else is immortal and has evolved WITH their immortality, while Mr. Nobody is the freak, the last living mortal whose final day is coming up soon.

By the way, I’d be hard-pressed to name a movie Jared Leto is in where he doesn’t get horrifically ickified somehow. I think it’s because he’s immortal and always comes back to life for the next role, and he saves film makers tons of money on stunts and makeup. 🙂

• Xyq

I would definitely leave it blank. If that option wouldn’t have existed, I would probably feel forced to enter my actual age, although maybe I would choose my normal lifespan + x, where x does not really change the dimension of it. Maybe 120 max. But very improbable.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my life and the fact that I have already spent half of it (give or take, it is uncertain) is not really endearing to me, I would like to think I would like more. And I would take out any value – positive or negative – for social repercussions – the idea is too far off to really know or even guesstimate what would happen to society as a whole. So I would guess “everything goes on as normal apart from this age thingy”. I would also not be afraid of others not wanting to relate to me because of differing lifespans. People do relate to each other because they like the other, not because of expected gain or length of friendship/whatever. And people are willing to accept the pain of knowing that they will (normally) live longer than the other part. Think about pet owners – for many of whom the dying of their companion is almost as serious as the dying of a close human, still they knowingly start the relationship.

If I were to choose a number, I certainly would not want to leave the dimension of civilization. There is no knowing whether it is sustainable, and living on a world devoid of anything useful (apart from the company of fellow high-number enterers) would be undoing all the fun I had before easily. And of course there is much fun to be had, music to be enjoyed, books to be read, movies to watch, places to be seen – also work to be done.

What would worry me most, though, is the fact that I would know. The rules say nothing about this, so I guess you will not be wiped of that information. And while the question “What would you do if you had only 10 minutes left to live” is difficult enough, it assumes that this situation comes suddenly and – well – I could find something. But if the 10 minutes change to one or maybe ten years, whatever seems like “close to the end” relatively, I am afraid it would already be agonizing. Considering how many people are already agonizing what to do with the rest of their life when it is not certain, I would not like that and think the gain by some years or decades (see above) would not outweigh that.

• J

1. Oh also…every other human on Earth is
currently in a room just like this making the same exact decision and
you won’t know what they chose until you leave the room.

The
first number that came to mind was, of course, infinity. The biggest
fear to immediately pressing this is the fact that I don’t know what
everyone else is doing. What if everyone else hit a number that was
wildly smaller or larger than my own? Even one zero makes a very real
difference (10,000 vs 100,000), it could mean a lot of regret or a lot
of loneliness. Still,
I think I can handle loneliness better than I could handle regret (I’m
not entirely certain), and it is very possible that I could conceivably
build Artificial Intelligence or meet other lifeforms with infinite
years on my clock, which would somewhat alleviate the loneliness (I
imagine). The only real minus is that I would be saying “goodbye” a lot,
which really hurts. At some point forming real relationships with
non-immortals might be terrifying.

2. You can choose the age of your body and change it at any time—that
means if you’re 40 right now you can choose to go back to 25 and live
out a bunch of years in your 25-year-old body, then let yourself age up
to 70 over the next 45 years, do that for a while, then bring yourself
back down to 35 for a while, etc. (The point here is to take body age
out of the question.)

Not
having to consider body age, again, makes me lean towards a larger
number rather than a smaller number, since it would let me experience
the whole range of age spectrum, and to let me fit into various
communities if necessary. It might also help with the “why haven’t you
aged in the last 50 years” question.

3. Sickness and ailments don’t happen anymore for anyone who enters a
number into the calculators.

That’s
great. Now not only do I not have to worry about myself, I could
actually do the riskier stuff like enter quarantined areas, help out
with stuff and whatever without actually worrying that I would get
infected. Seems decent. Again, leaning towards more instead of less.

4. People who enter a number in the calculator will no longer be able
to reproduce.

I
currently don’t have any notions of wanting children (and I am already
of the age where people consider it “proper” to have children) and I
don’t foresee myself wanting one for a long time. Still, the human
concept of future is limited, and even if I could see a hundred or so
years ahead (I can’t) I doubt I could make reliable judgment for a
thousand, let alone infinite. This is definitely a downer as it kills
off a branch of choice but I suppose it is a fair trade off.

5. No other guarantees about anything—if you enter a number into the calculator, you will continue
to live a conscious existence…

That’s kinda scary. The possibility that you end up in a death-trap scenario with no way
out and no way to end it is scary. However, having read Tim’s previous
post about “one in a million” chances makes me somewhat bolder in this
regard. Also,
with infinite resources (time as a pseudo-resource) I’m sure someone
could figure out something even if things went horribly wrong so I’m
definitely leaning towards more rather than less.

6. You’re told on the note that death is final and eternal, whether you enter something into the calculator or not.

I’m
quite afraid of death. At one point in my life I wasn’t, but now I am
again. Because the scenario is “now” I’d again lean with a larger
number, but this could have very well been different at different times
in my life. Hope is the greatest strength a person could have. As long
as we are alive, we have hope. Hence it somewhat follows in my mind that
infinite life equals infinite hope, which would be very strong indeed.
Stronger than all the possible demons or fears or what have you.

7. You have exactly 10 minutes to choose…

I’m
pretty sure I spent at least 10 minutes formulating and thinking about
all that I just wrote. So if this was indeed a real scenario, I’d
probably have put “infinity” there first, and started thinking about it
later. At no point do I feel like I really would like to have a smaller
number instead of a larger one, so I guess I would leave it at infinity.

• J

I apologize for the poor formatting, I wrote it in Wordpad and it seemed to paste just fine.

• Eric

I’ve started wondering the effect this thought experiment would have on professional sports. We’d very rarely see people retire (as they could stay in their athletic primes for many many years) and we’d likely see the leagues break off into different factions. I suppose this would lead to anyone but the very top superstars populating a league at a time, as there would be too many great players for the good ones to continue existing in the league. Does anyone else have any thoughts on some other ramifications (in sports or wherever) that this event may result in?

• DeeDee Massey

Perhaps the sports themselves would evolve to be more extreme, daring, and sensationally gruesome. Maybe they’d even be outrageous. Tornado Rodeo. Tsunami Surfing. Volcano Diving. Instead of steroids, scandalous doping would be about pain blockers. Boxing with no gloves. For-Real WWF! (I know, I know, wrestling is not fake! lol) Football with no pads. Fencing with no masks and puncture-resistant suits. American Gladiator events would more closely resemble the Roman times (e.g., man vs. lion, man vs. anaconda). “Celebrity Death Match” also comes to mind. “Let’s get it on!”

At any rate, there would still be a bias for genetic superiority, because we are still limited by our physiology. Some people find ways to overcome the disadvantages they were born with (like rugby’s Shane Williams), but for the most part, sports is about survival of the fittest, and those born with certain physical characteristics will remain the ones on top.

• Spencer

I chose 25 000 years.

Not having my biological children would suck but adopting a child would be great also. The wolverine like health regeneration opens up a lot of possibilities.

After choosing I realized some other concerns. Some people living that long or longer would become evil just out of boredom. Bored of experiencing happiness and love for thousands of years? Why not try the horrible guilt of baby canon? The remorse you feel from becoming a monster is pretty shitty but its the only time you can feel anything since you’ve already tried cocaine and heroin to death, except you can’t die.

Another issue is since EVERYBODY gets to choose their age, people will start doing far more fucked up shit than they’re doing now. Charles Manson for instance, that 200 + year sentence doesn’t seem so long any more, what will he do when he gets out? And what if one of these mad men were to capture you? “Great, a torture toy that I don’t have to be careful with since it can’t die” is what they’ll say. Those shiny new 300 years you just purchased will literally be a Dante’s Inferno like hell.

• Alicia Hurst

Maybe you could choose infinity and not have to actually live it, since the stated permanence of the decision, even if you have to wait some number of years, be it 100 or 1000, could maybe be reversed through more technology. There would be a percentage of the population that upon reading the note would be like, “Fuck this,” and become the anarchists bent on undoing it. There will always be anarchists.

• Ren

I’m sure because it claims that it’s permanent, it would absolutely have no way of changing it whatsoever. Which would suck to some degree if a few found out, and figured, if people can’t die anyway, why not have like…. paintball, but with real guns instead, it’ll hurt, but hey, why not.

Also… torture would be exceedingly worse.

Torture brings up another issue for me… What would happen if you were to be cut in half or something… that’d be terrible.

• Alicia Hurst

Why are you sure?

“We are probably nearing the limit of all we can know about astronomy.”
– Simon Newcomb, early American astronomer, in 1888

“There is nothing new to be discovered in physics now. All that remains is more and more precise measurement”
– Lord Kelvin in 1900

“We will never make a 32-bit operating system.”

– Bill Gates in 1989

• Ren

That seems to be taking advantage of the question, if it were more like “Could someone create a state that is virtually like death” Then I could see this working, but I don’t believe that technology would be able to find something infinite, and make it finite.

• Bombpop

one million

• Robert

I’d choose infinite and dedicate my time on earth to creating ways to be self sustainable. The technology that will happen over the next 2000 years will be unimaginable so I’m sure I could find a way to survive even if the world were to end

• Ram

Honestly? My current age.

• middleclassgenx

I hope you feel better soon.
I have found sometimes life is surprising and something really good happens out of the blue that I didn’t even earn. Something like that could happen to you. Good luck

• Vivante_36

A quote from Rumfoord, protagonist of Kurt Vonnegut´s glorious novel “The Sirens of Titan”:
“What an optimistic animal man is!…Imagine expecting the species to last for ten million years–as though people were as well-designed as turtles!…well, who knows–maybe human beings will last that long, just on the basis of pure cussedness.What´s your guess?”

• Ren

Ummm… I think I’d leave it blank, too many things I have to worry about already, why add my death date as one of them. I’d also not tell people what I did or didn’t press, and hope they also did the same, that way, even though it would be heartbreaking to lose someone, we wouldn’t segregate people for being alive longer or shorter than us.

• Cerxi

I know the question is supposed to be “idiot proof”, in that it’s “permanent”, but, firmly holding the fact that humans are nothing if not efficient at generating a better idiot, I slam the infinity button with zero hesitation. Best case, we crack it and can die when we want to after all. Worst case, I’m sure I’d rather float in space with a tattered, agonized body and watch the end of time approach, than experience nothing at all because I am dead. More importantly, I feel pretty secure in my guess that most of my loved ones would choose the same.

• Marie A

100 years- that gives me enough time to do all that I want to do without the threat of illness/injury. I wouldn’t want to live longer because we’re not meant to live forever – 5,000 years is too long for the average mind to comprehend, plus if you have thousands of years or more left, what is stopping you from wasting it away because you’ve got all the time in the world to do things ‘later.’ Isn’t that one of our problems now?

• JT

Well it seems that majority of the comments that I have seen is revolving around the higher numbers! My thought and number that I had decided would be 32, meaning the next 5 years. (Why 32? Just a random number, or in other thought was Jesus, who apparently started his preaching at 30, was killed at 32. I meaning look at how much accomplishment, how many people he was able to influence, I am taking this example not of religious sentiments, you don’t need to look at the example was Son of God, just look at it as an individual, a leader, a philosopher who was able to influence people. And who allegedly did some good,

I believe that we are taking each minute for granted, it the sense that there is so much once one do in hour. A lot that can be achieved in a day. A tons that can be moved in a month. Lives and thoughts that can be improved in year.

As far as I have looked at it, if you haven’t done anything much with the given time that we have, it’s because we have also thought that tomorrow is there, the always ever present tomorrow. But when you know that life is on a count down, you will attempt to do much more with the time that you have.

This is a very individualistic thought, (what I am trying to say here is that this thought is selfish I haven’t thought about anyone else why thinking this number,

• MRG

28 years, 5 years more than what i am already. I think i could sit down and probably structure a progress plan for 5 years and have assessments at a year each and change accordingly. This is just a split second thought really, no ten minutes put into it! But yeah, any defined time should be sufficient I suppose, makes it easier to plan things, probably I’m just a planner by nature!

• Why not leave it blank then? I’m sure you;re hoping to live longer than another 5 years…

• Ellyon

Blank! Part of the beauty of life is that it will end… Even though 500 years extra sounds nice, I know myself well enough to know that I’d be so bored. Besides, I’m a family person and want kids! Learning new things and travel the world is not something you need endless time to accomplish. Just good planing, prioritizing and courage. Lets say I add 500 years! I’d accomplish all my dreams within the first 100, then what? Just wander around the earth aimlessly? Nah, mortal life for me thank you very much 🙂

• mikefarr

The whole Graham’s number, post freaked me out. I had the same “I don’t want to live that long” notion that Tim did and although I thought that before I never FELT that before. But bottom up I can think of so many things I want to do but will never do because I am already too old. Going into space, being an explorer, building cool stuff as a civil engineer, being really good at writing, poetry, physics, I could spend several hundred years just learning. Ever wanted to be a lawyer? A military commander? President, a test pilot, a leader of a commune? Yep. A founder of a religion, someone who works a cause he believes in selflessly for a lifetime, a teacher, an athlete in a different sport or two or ten. A scientist or 10. I think I can get to thousands in just 10- minutes of thinking. How far could I get in thousands of years of thinking? ADHD conquers longevity.

How about if you got two choices, Tim? The first is when you have to make the second and final choice?

• Travis Uruh Spalding Braxton

i’ve played a similar game in my head but i always say 250. enough time to see truly significant changes in history but not get too bored about being alive.

• Anthony Edwards

Yeah I ran with 250 as well, though few people seemed to. I’m not a father yet, so that made me consider leaving it blank. But I also believe in the ability to foster relationships with others. 250 years isn’t greedy – enough time to see and experience everything I want, but the ability to bow out before humans totally screw the planet up…
I’m currently 31, and in the best shape I’ve ever been. That said, I’d prefer to start at 22 and not waste my 20’s again when I’m around my potential physical prime. I’m assuming I can still build muscle and such.

I just hope my wife chose the same as me.

• veggiedude

Death is the greatest invention of life – Steve Jobs

• Braulio Lopez

I would pick infinity, but it wouldn’t feel like infinity because as i got older each year would feel shorter and shorter.
Example: When you’re 5 years old, 1 year feels like the equivalent of 1/5th of your life, whereas when you’re 25 years old, 1 year is the equivalent of 1/25th of your life. If you do the math you’ll find that 1 year to someone who is 1000 years old feels roughly the same as what a week feels like to a 25 year old.
So if I was immortal, years would eventually feel like seconds and I would measure time by observing supernovas. After I had witness the universe end and restart countless times I would transcend reality and time would be meaningless. At that point I wouldn’t even have a physical body, I would just be an idea that permeates all matter.

So yeah. Infinity.

• You’d better hope that the big crunch theory is somewhere close to true and you don’t end up in an ever-expanding, cold, lifeless universe. It would be very boring for you. Then again, if there was a big crunch, I wouldn’t envy you experiencing that in the slightest either.

• Adam

I wouldn’t enter a number for a few reasons:
1) Can’t have kids if you enter a number and I eventually want kids.
2) You can still feel horrible pain but not die, and the longer you are around the better the chance of something absolutely horrible happening to you and you won’t be able to die (example: stranded out in the wilderness in the freezing cold with no food or water for weeks or worse…)
3) Eventually, you’ll want to die, and chances are it will probably be right around when you would naturally die anyway. The chance that I would regret entering in a number even as small as 200+ is too much, and then you have to go on living.
4) I don’t want to know when I’m going to die.

• Aryan Roy

G64.
Mostly, I’ll die alone. Frigid, desolate in an indifferent universe.
But then there’s the chance I might see our species transcendence. It’s very small, given the way humans are going, it’ll be a miracle if we survive 2050. But there is still that chance that I might also get to see greater wonders. Space travel, nanotechnology, things we can’t comprehend with our current intelligence, cosmic dimensions.
So while I might get seriously unlucky, I might also get to be really lucky.
Those are better odds than I’ll ever have.

• DenverChive

I’d leave it blank. I can go whenever. life is nice and all, but I’m just not interested enough to see what happens. Or I suppose I just don’t trust humanity enough to make it worth the time. Plus, the joy of not knowing when your time might come is that it means you don’t postpone things. You can’t leave a friend angry from your words, because you may not have a chance to repair that if you die now. You can’t say next year I’ll go to Thailand, because there may not be a next year. You have to go out and do things now, not spend all day on the internet.

It does interest me that people think about it in terms of what other might choose. If your friends and family pick a different year, does that really effect your decision? Do you expect to not make other friends during that time? Do you really base your decisions on what you think others would chose? Unfortunate.

• Sophie T

I wouldn’t input any number. I think the point is to make the best of what you got, not extend what you got in the vague hope that you would get to experience more good stuff weither alone or with people surrounding you. Plus I truly believe I have had many past lives, so technically we live on regardless.

• Kyle Rosen

Tim, why do you always have to disturb our sleep with such questions? You’ve blown my mind for at least the 8th time.

• triplestaff

an infinite amount of years, and i wouldn’t be able to die of natural causes, and if i get tired i’ll just kill myself. simple enough.

• Glork

You can’t die until your appointed date, for crying out loud. If you stabbed yourself in the brain, you’d stay conscious and you’d just have to deal with the painful fact that a knife is in your brain. There is no cheating the Great Calculator.

• Oliver_Jones

Either leave it blank or infinity. I have no idea which. Or perhaps I’d put in my current age, because I am a coward.

• Bartosz Banachewicz

100 million years.

I’d want to listen to all of the music, watch all of the movies, and read all of the books that I’d like to. This sounds about okay for that in my head.

I’d want to learn everything science has created so far; it’s pretty small amount compared to the time I’d live, so I’d have plenty of time do to so.

I’d also like to be creative and make things on my own during that time. Probably build the whole maths ground up, conduct physics experiments, and so on. Also learn to paint, write, play all of the musical instruments…

100 million years sounds like a time that would take me to condense everything there is in our humanity so far; as for what would happen next, I can’t say, but I certainly wouldn’t be bored.

• Numbers

4, then closing my eyes and randomly typing three numbers. Long life span and keeps death somewhat of an uncertainty.

• Jacob

I can think of many reasons why this isn’t a good idea, but I will go with millions of years. And then spend all that time working towards getting off the Planet Earth and exploring the Milky Way and the Universe.

And becoming the Dirtiest Old Man alive.

• Tim Hatton

AHHH, the anxiety! I would have to end it right then and there, in peace. What if you decided to live 100 years hence, and you walked out of that room and, to your horror and dismay, every other human decided to be jerks and ended it there, in that room? You would feel really stupid, and be incredibly lonely…definitely not worth the chance.

• Anon

What if you’re the only one who does it and turns out everyone else chose to live 100 years?

• Darkwulfz

Hah! Tim never lets you down when it comes to brainstorming! I’d go with a few hundred years enough to experience all the shit in the world and travel around. But then who’s to say that won’t be enough or too long?

• Leonardo Carneiro

I’ll wouldn’t type any number. My happiness is too dependent of the people around me, and I’m fine with the idea that we will live at least in the same order of magnitude. And I know that the people I care must will do the same choice as I’ll do.

• Leonardo Carneiro

My whole idea of immortality (mainly based on the happy elvish kind of immortality, from Tolkien’s work) was drastically changed after I read “All Men are Mortal”, from Simone de Beauvoir.

This book sinks in the immortality topic like none sank before, starting with “yeah, i’m fucking immortal, let me conquer everything”, passing by the classic “damm! everyone i love is dead… again!” and finally going to the “whatever, maybe i’ll do nothing for the next 300 years”.

Obviously, I’m not Simone de Beauvoir nor Tim Urban, so I’m not capable of translating in words how ridiculously deep AND clarifying this book is about this topic, but I urge you guys who want to get a new view on the subject =)

• Cyndi25

You just cost me a lot of money. I had to go and buy this book from Audible.com and several other of hers…
I’m old and living beyond your time is not advisable. You won’t understand that until you get to be my age.
Immortality is not all it’s cracked up to be. There are so many other factors.

It’s okay. I just read an article about old people today in The New York Times. One of the comments was so right on – young people don’t listen to old people and yet we have all the answers. It just that you younguns don’t want to hear them.
🙂

• Leonardo Carneiro

Hi Cyndi. I hope you like the book. It’s experience so enriching that I recomend everyone to read =)

• paradalis

I am curious to know how people’s answers vary based on their current age. Do older people typically choose a smaller number than younger ones?

I would go with 150 years (I am 34). I don’t think the human brain/spirit is intended to live super long, and I don’t have the confidence that our current era of relative prosperity will continue much longer due to the rate at which we are using up our resources. That said, I enjoy living, but I would not be terribly bothered if I died soon. I feel that I have lived a wonderful life and have experienced a lot of things.

I wonder if those who have put really high numbers are expressing disappointment in their life and the hope that things will be better in the future, rather than just trying to change things now and become the person they always wanted to be. My husband chose 20,000 (he’s 33) saying that he was curious about the future, but I suspect there is an element of dissatisfaction in the present as well.

• suzanna_dean

I said ‘no enter’ because of the clause of having to choose for my child, but if that were removed, I don’t believe I would choose more than 150 years. I am 45. The older you get, the more things you have done and seen. Even with new advances in technology (cel phones, PCs, DVDs didn’t exist when I was born) basic life experiences really don’t change.

If you are a thrill seeker – jumping from a building, or a plane, or a mountain all boil down to the same thing eventually. I personally am a movie buff, and since I have seen so many movies, I can usually figure out the end within the first 20 minutes.

The more experiences you accumulate, the less life surprises you. Just my 2 cents.

• Ruzicka

I would write 100. Not a year over that. Even if my body stays healthy, I don’t think I would be happy living for longer than that.
I could very well have just skipped writing a number, but the whole “no sickness”-part is really appealing to me, being chronically multisick already at 23 years of age. While I do want kids, I would actually rather be healthy. I guess I could get dogs as a substitute, and be a Crazy Dog Lady. I’m well on my way there already… XD

• negatic

I might take infinity (age 27).

The interesting part would be that something like that would even be possible.

It would defy a lot of things we believe to be true.

If the “injuries will be healed immediately” part accounts for limbs for example and you can still have the limbs you tear out without them rejoining your body you can fuel a fusion reactor with the hydrogen from the limb. (Or use fingernails or what ever that don’t hurt so much but still counts as injury)

And that way circumvent the heat death of the universe if you typed in infinity.

You could build a spacecraft fueled by the power of your regeneration.
Gaining food and oxygen is just a matter of energy then, which you have.
And you might even be able to go beyond light speed. (not sure)

No matter how fast you are you can always accelerate by shooting particles you gain from your regeneration power. (something like an Ion thruster)

And if your limbs just rejoin then there might be an other not as efficient way to abuse the regenerating power for gaining energy and maybe accelerate with a light beam.

But the fact that you could bypass some physical laws by this opens up new possibilities of gods or hyper intelligent beings who arnt bound to the Conservation of energy.

It would be interesting to just figure out how this whole life forever thing got started who it did or how its possible.

Overall you have great risks but they might be worth taking in an universe, where this would be possible.
Curiosity would be the thing that would keep me going.

• lldemats

Christ almighty, what if I’m in a bad mood when I start my 10 minutes? It could cut my time short, or make it interminably long, depending what mood I’m in. This little game reminds me of the computer in the movie “War Games” when it says (paraphrased): “strange game. the only way to win is not to play.”

• Anon

So true

• Anon

Leave blank, happy the way things are and I would much rather allow destiny to choose my fate

• Nick

I’d probably type in BOOBS and then get distracted so my answer is 80,085 years.

• The thing of thoughts

I would certainly not choose a number over 50 trillion. If you choose something like that or even infinity the infinity paradox begins. All your nightmares, horrors and deepest fears will happen; and not only that – they will happen infinity times… so, for me, I would be perfectly happy to die instantly. Death is kind. Life is overated. I am not a phsyco or a suicide – I’m just thinking. If someone offered me a quick, clean, painless death I would take it. Because the truth is whatever you do in life, no-matter how hard you try, you will always die. To me, that is a rather scary thought. Things that are certain are scary. Especially when you don’t know how you will die, how painful or gory. So, I would either set the thing to the time now (kill myself) or type nothing. The problem with this question is it would cause a serious break-down of the eco-logical system, so you wouldn’t want to be living on the Earth anyway. P.S I am only 12, everyone can think big.

• Mark MacKinnon

Deep insights for 12! Kudos. The ecological question you bring up was sort of addressed by the fact that one would not be allowed to produce any more children than already exist now. But can you really say you would not wish to live longer than your naturally allotted span of (on avg) less than 90 years?

I’d happily watch a few centuries pass, become wise, explore multiple possible life stories before becoming disillusioned or bored. And boredom can sometimes be boiled down to a lack of one’s own imagination and resourcefulness – something one could easily resolve to do something about, given enough time…!

• mysticmuffin

Nope. I would definitely NOT like to live for a large amount of time. Remember – your still human, that means these years of being in your own universe surrounded by blackness of space would mean a long-term exposure to a vacuum. No idea how you would stay alive, but say after 10mins all your blood-vessels on the top layer of your skin exploded, your eyes popped-out and your flesh became all inflamed. Still smiling then? 🙂 p.s I’m still 12…

• Mark MacKinnon

Um, Tim posited that “sickness and ailments don’t happen anymore” for people who enter a number on the calculator. I think the horror you’re describing would qualify as an ailment. I described future insanity – I certainly never said I’d be smiling, and I most definitely didn’t add 1 to your age after like a week, and don’t know why you’d imagine I would have.

• mysticmuffin

sicknesses and aliments are injuries. Plus, even if you didn’t gain the injuries, no pressure would still be ultimately disturbing.

• mysticmuffin

Sorry, I meant sickness and aliments are diseases and pathogenic agents, not diseases…

• mysticmuffin

Daaaaaar! Last word correct to injuries!!! Arrrrrr!!!

• Mark MacKinnon

Perhaps you missed the point of my post. I KNOW it would be disturbing… to say the least! I even described ultimately going insane because the human mind was not evolved to endure those lengths of time or physical stresses. The point of my post was that if you were to choose to exist ad infinitum, you could be guaranteed that something (you and perhaps a small universe to hold you) would always exist, and that that cause might be worth sacrificing the sanity of one individual, even your own. You would eventually go so crazy that you would not care anymore and it would not bother you, you would create and be your own internal world, and you would be eternal.

• mysticmuffin

The problem with the question is that it’s impossible in our universe. Our universe is designed so entropy can only increase, therefore everything must eventually erode. Plus, why would you sacrifice yourself to be immortal. You should want to die, eventually. I believe life is very cruel.

• Mark MacKinnon

This misses the point of the original question. The question writer assumes that you could magically exist for as long as you want. And what is magic? Magic Is the way we would wish the universe to obey our will. As long as we’re magically existing as long as we want, we can sneak in some other small victories, even if they come at great cost. And I’ve already explained why I might do this. Ultimately, this universe might cease to exist at all – – isn’t the continued existence of something fundamentally better?

• Mark MacKinnon

Here’s an angle that those of you posting “infinity” may want to ponder (and there’s a reason calculators currently don’t allow you to enter that concept as though it were a number).
As the years went on (remember that the stupefying Graham’s Number does not even approach infinity in any numerical sense) and your primitive primate brain that only relatively recently acquired consciousness and which evolved on a little world to serve living vehicles for a much shorter time than G.N. inevitably went insane, one would have to ask the question, is a universe required to sustain my existence? Can I continue to exist as the universe around me implodes or enters a subjectively timeless uniformity? What I mean is that if the universe gets to the point of either dying or destroying itself but somehow like the pink bunny you are magically still going, doesn’t that mean that as a being in the universe, you are and therefore your universe is still going to an extent?
Considering THAT, I’d choose infinity too! sacrificing my own sanity upon the altar of the infinite continued existence of SOMETHING rather than the uncertainty over whether the day may come that nothing exists at all anymore. I’d be like a powerless god, able to supernaturally survive and witness a lot but not change very much of what was going on around me.

• Stanniol

I would choose infinity and start writing a diary.

• Ixiel

Infinity button and 9m59s of giggling.

• mysticmuffin

guys, listen to the thing of thoughts – infinity means everything will happen to you, everything you are scared of ect. ect.

• mysticmuffin

by the way, I am the thing of thoughts, got a disqus account

• James Simth

I would choose to live another 13.8 Billion years. 5 Billion years under this dying Sun, and another 7.8 Billion years in some planetary system of another cooler Red Dwarf star. Then, I can become cosmic dust and say farewell to humanity

• James Simth

The writer in his graph, wrongly sterotyped that anyone wanting to live more than a few thousands of years is really ‘scared of death’. No, we are not. As Epicurus said : “Death does not concern us, because as long as we exist, death is not here. And when it does come, we no longer exist” Even IF personal death comes, we still should thankful for having the chance to be alive and been born, as Dawkins said. But as it happens in all animals, in my genes, there are two main hidden purposes 1.Survival 2. Reproduction. So, it’s normal for human animals like us, to try to extend our lives as much as possible, given that this survival extention will be in harmony with nature. But it’s not ‘fear’ at all, because we are in the top of the food chain.

• mysticmuffin

the selfish gene is awesome. The weirdest thing about it is it made us so we can combat it. Easy way to stop it’s power – don’t die. Therefore the human race can’t evolve.

• Julian

Gee, brilliant mind-experiment.
I’d probably pick something between 400 and 800 years (I’m 19). I’m curious to know where humanity goes in the next millenium, but after living out 20 – 40 different lives. (Based on the fact that it takes around 20 years of your life to really master something.) I’ve probably tried and mastered anything that really catches my attention. (altough in 300 years, there probably exists hobbie no-one would ever think of today)
Most importantly though, I would never tell anybody how much I typed. Simply to sidestep the social problems that might arise from too big a difference between me and my family and friends. If I had enough self control to suppress my curiousity, I’d probably also avoid learning the number from anybody else.
What is even more interesting to me though, is what would happen to society.
I mean, sure. The first 50 years nothing would really change. But in the long run, there would be serious cultural and social repercussions of such a scenario. I imagine it something like this:
2020: from the get go, not much will change. A few people get caught in what would normally be fatal circumstances and suffer endless pains, but that doesn’t really concern the average citizen.
2040: The second generation of people who didn’t choose a number (let’s call them naturals) has reached adolescence. needles to say, the number of children has dramatically decreased. Wealthy immortals (I’ll just call anybody who chose a number immortal, even if it was only a few hundred years) will start paying naturals to get surrogate children. Adoption is HUGE.
2100: Jobs are scarce for naturals. With their 25-year old bodies, century-long education and because they never get sick, immortals get all the jobs.
2200: The world is completely divided into immortals and naturals. the latter often being poor and social outcasts.
2500: Ideas of mortality, time and life have drastically changed. With most people in power being immortals, politics around the globe become extremely conservative.
3000: Population on different planets is a serious and normal thing.
100’000+: Immortals will slowly die out, while naturals reproduce naturally and the social gap between the two groups starts to close, simply cause naturals outnumber immortals largely. In the end we’ll end up with a society “normal” humans with few, godlike individuals here and there. As immortals become a small minority, they will be the outcasts.
Long post, but food for thought

• Daniel Carrier

That is a very risky game. Nobody has ever lived more than 123 years. We don’t know what would happen to your mind if you lived longer than that. I think I’ll be fine, but what if I’m wrong? There’s also the risk of accidents. Normally, if you’re buried alive, it sucks for ten minutes and then you’re dead. With this magic calculator, it’s much riskier.

• Well, thats wrong Chief.

• Daniel Carrier

How so?

• I suspect you know what I mean. There is no point going into it. This site has plenty of Bible bashing commenting threads already.

• Daniel Carrier

I do not know what you mean. Something about Bible bashing? Looking it up, it seems to mean something along the lines of trying to persuade people to believe in the bible. I’m certainly not. I’m an atheist.

Perhaps you thought the 123 years was a biblical reference? I was referring to Jeanne Calment, who lived from 1875 to 1997.

• And I am referring to ages expressed in Biblical accounts. Cool story–everyone can believe what they choose!

• Tim

And yet you tell him that he is wrong to believe that the longest lived human made it to 123 because in contradicts the ages cited in a story book. Cool story indeed.

• Good job, good effort Chief.

• Picklepops

Why are you being snarky

• Mr_FUCK_YOU_IN_THE_FACE

You’re being a giant douche.

You tell the guy he’s wrong, and then don’t even have a reasonable response to the replies.

I believe that you are wrong. Any attempt to argue is.. well, a cool story, but still wrong. How do you like that? 🙂

• You really told me, Champ.

• ABCDEFGHIJKLM

Just so you know, she actually lived for 122 years.

• Daniel Carrier

She lived for between 122 and 123 years. Technically, this means that she lived longer than 122 years, so I needed to say 123 in order for my sentence to be true.

• someone

well… this is a hard one because i’d like to reproduce. i guess i would sit there for 10 minutes then. I would enter something between 700 and 1000, otherwise. i would be like a warlock (tmi) – sterile and immortal.

• Mikeale

Until I no longer wanted to.

• lynnth

wouldn’t type any number
there’s no death

• suzanna_dean

My daughter is 10. I would not enter a number, because I would not want to enter a number for her & choose her outcome.

• Tim M

Infinity.

• Ezo

I would choose infinity. Sure, there are problems with entropy of universe, but this might be fixed. As of floating in space scenario, it still would be better than death: given eternity, you would figure out how to control your brain very well, and live in a dream instead.

• mysticmuffin

stop choosing infinity! It’s not even a number – it’s a variable, Mark has already stated that calculators couldn’t even have that as a number. I don’t know why Tim said we can choose infinity. It’s a concept that goes against the entirety of the universe. Nothing can be forever. Black holes will consume the universe and eventually end the dimension of time, therefore, infinity is simply the largest possible number that the laws of physics can sustain. Please stop, its getting on my nerves……… 😛

• Picklepops

He said that there IS an infinity button, and “infinity” is not a number at all. It’s (depending on the context) a point in the “extended real numbers” for which every other number is smaller.

Physics has nothing to do with it; infinity exists without the need to relate it to any physical existence.

• gatorallin

100 billion years for me… see you guys at the Great Attractor’s great attractor.

• Necro

Around 300-500 years. Im curious about space exploration, AI development and quantum computers. We’ll probably reach all those in the next few centuries.
I wonder whether the body stretches out its development/aging accorrding to the number you input, or you just age normally to 100 years then continue to live as a weak old man for the 400 remaining years.

• Well considering that the source of my panic attacks revolve around the concept of infinity, I think I would hover around the 3 digit mark… But then again the thousands don’t seem so scary when you consider using meditation as an insurance bet to hibernate yourself through time should it ever become your folly. And for all those who anwered infinity obviously haven’t put any thought into it for if they truely could they would experience a terror like nothing that can be put into words..

I would go with the Author and choose 5000. I believe we would become great friends 🙂

• Hankun Zhong

I’ve already been through a terror like nothing that can be put into words, it’s called knowing you’re going to die.

• I will not choose. Because I will start counting down from the moment I choose. Can’t surpass my human limitations.

• Kdanger

I think I would have the guts to push the infinity button. While the argument about living forever and floating through space for millions of years alone is scary I think that I would see some amazing things. My curiosity for things is too strong not to live forever.

• Anon

Perhaps if brain modification were on the table, so that you no longer suffer from boredom, cold and suffocation. Then it would be a free lunch.

• Natarats

I only thought about it for about 3 minutes before I decided on 130 years thinking that that was sufficient enough for me. The second I scrolled down though and saw that Tim had entered in 5,000 years I felt this pang of regret and would’ve yelled “nooOOOOOO” if not for the fact that this is all hypothetical. But still! What if my bestest friend in the whole wide world (my sister) choose 5,000 years to live? I can’t even imagine how sad that would make me, or her for that matter. I honestly think that’s the most stressful part about all of this. Not knowing what your friends and family have chosen until after.

So with that all in mind I upped it to 250 (yeah yeah, I know that’s cheating but my 10 mins weren’t up) but I have a really hard time imagining myself being happy past the 250 year mark. Perhaps this is a naive thought, but I feel like I would get bored with living. And yeah, I’m curious to know what happens in the future, but not enough that I would risk chances of prolonged excruciating pain and suffering. Death isn’t THAT scary.

And I’m so incredibly surprised with how many people on here have choosen infinity. Like, I can’t even fathom how scary and lonely that would be.

• Snake

I would choose infinity. I thought about it a lot, and I honestly think that cheating death would be worth an eternity of suffering.

• Festus

Easy for you to say when you aren’t suffering through an eternity of suffering.

• Hypothetical Fighter

The problem I am having with this hypothetical question is the bullet point about “discomfort, pain, and suffering”–if you don’t do anything outlandish like dive to the bottom of the ocean, but you outlive livable conditions on the earth, and you don’t have other life-sustaining arrangements available, are you condemned to an eternity of suffering until whatever time you chose? If so, this seemingly collapses into a bet about climatology, geophysics, and beyond that cosmology. I am much more willing to risk an eternity alone than an eternity of feeling like I am freezing or suffocating if I have guessed wrong about the future of humanity or our planet.

• David Mesrobian

I have thought about this for a while, and since I am a life extensionist, I believe medical technology will soon be able to remove the damage of aging, allowing people to have indefinite lifespans. If this succeeds, one could expect to live more than 100 centuries before an accident took their life, assuming they reduce their risks. My immediate first answer was “10,000 years”.
Then I realized what was really being asked and that I had ten full minutes to think about it, so I got a stopwatch, and started the timer. I am technically INVINCIBLE, i cannot die from being struck by lightning. I would also know the EXACT DAY of my death, not cool.
Today, 10,000 years seems awesome, I get to see the entire world as I have wanted to.
On my 9,900th birthday, I am fully aware of my impending death, and regret my original response. I have lived out 99 centuries, and have one more to go, 99 percent of my life is done. Even today, a hundred years does not really seem like a long time, I have already lived a fifth of a century.

Then my brain jumped into the billions, and realized there was an infinity button.
Since I was given a chance to live an unlimited amount of time, I thought about 1,210,000,000 years, since I have heard that the Earth will become too hot “after 1.2 billion years”, and I wanted another ten million in case the scientists were off.
I put a billion years in context by traveling one millimeter per year, at that rate it takes a billion years to go from Boston to Toronto. A million years would be a kilometer at 1 millimeter per year. No way I’m going to be scared of that!
Around the six minute mark, my mind was wandering back and forth between 1.21 billion and infinity. If I chose infinity, the Earth may become uninhabitable, but I am in no way worried about that since I have over one billion years to enjoy myself! I was worried that infinity may have me in the middle of the universe for eternity, but isn”t that what death is like?
At the 9 minute mark I panicked and hit the infinity button. The last minute passed, and infinity was my final answer. Looking back, I may have wanted to go with 1.21 billion (especially after reading about Graham’s number), but when I realized that nobody knows what death is like, I feel good about my choice of pressing infinity.
What if death is like floating through the middle of a dark, absolute zero place for eternity? I am at least thrilled that I would get an entire billion years to live on this planet, I will think about the rest of “infinity” later. Life happens one day at a time. Nobody knows what death is like, it really might be a “painful hell” for eternity, and I do not want to find out.

So, my final answer is infinity. I would choose to live forever, surely some day we will be able to find another inhabitable place, and we have over one billion years to figure it out.

• Navdeep

Awesome answer! I ll also go with infinity. Life changes constantly, so doesn’t matter to go on living. Anyways we are going to change every time.

• Victor Calamity

What an EXCELLENT question! I wouldn’t put in less than 1,000 years, or, like you, more than 5,000. Just thinking about all I can see and accomplish in that amount of time is mind-blowing.

• Xomyth

this is one of the hardest questions i have ever come across,
i would choose about 100,000+

• QuantifiableQuestion

10k yrs should be enough for one mind/brain/body to experience/learn/think everything before it gets unbearably boring, assuming the memory functions as well as in a normal healthy human being. The notion about friends and family is silly. People would move on. We have been moving on. The notion about suffering pain is even sillier. You’ll figure something out to deal with it.

Or the limit posed by boredom could be much lower, tho, like 1k yrs. The problem is without dying, the brain/body cannot improve much since there’s no evolutionary mechanism. Artificial enhancement/replenishment is inevitable in an immortal society. But we’re still bound by the finite space-time. There’s only so much shit out there.

For example, physics may be ending now. Yes, it may go through a breakthrough as around the turn of 19th-20th century. But the other possibility is just as likely as far as we know now. So far we’ve run into limits everywhere we look — temp, speed, space, time, resolution in everything (Uncertainty Principle). We have to accept the possibility that what’s knowable is finite.

It’s an extremely depressing thought.

• Einar

Any number of years over the maximum a human brain can remember is equivalent. If you live for a million years, then at any given point it will feel no different than living at this maximum, say maybe a couple of hundred years. Thinking of it like this it wouldn’t be one life at all, but a continuuous reincarnation, which of course is kind of the deal we’ve got now. Circle of life and all that.

Therefore you might as well choose infinity, all would be forgotten in good time.
Besides, no matter what enduring problem I encounter, I am confident that given a long enough time I will find a way to solve it, one way or another. This of course especially includes psychological problems, and the ability to cope with pain.

Infinity

• Elliot Seyh

You make the assumption that the perfectly healthy human brain is a-okay with remembering whatever maximum time that is. Let’s say it’s 500 years. Maybe living for 500 years is actually total torture, and you’d much rather live for 250.

Second thing you assume is that your memory “resets” after the maximum passes, when in fact it more likely just forgets as a queue. So you have a “sliding window” reincarnation which is actually pretty sucky because effectively it still feels like you’re living one life. Think about it this way. On the 499th year, you remember that you have lived for 499 years and feel that existential pain. On the 500th year, you forget everything about the first year but you remember that last year you lived for 499 years and thus this year you’ve lived for 500 and feel that existential pain. Plus, every time you remember something then the memory of that memory stays with you.

And finally, one can make the argument that at some point during your infinite life, you will be equivalent to being dead. Like say you’re out in the void of space with no real sense of time and barely any sense of perception since you’ve “dealt with” the pain. I can’t really imagine what that life would be like but I feel like it’d be pretty dead-equivalent, except that somewhere in the millions of years before the Earth blew up, you also felt a great deal of pain.

So I’d disagree with infinity. Mark me down for 10,000.

• jimfinity

If typing infinity would mean that I live until the demise of the universe, then yes I would choose infinity. After living many different lives in the world as we know it and inevitably outliving most other forms of life on the planet, I think one would come to the point where the only thing you have keeping you motivated would be the only thing which you are yet to experience, the end of the universe. As you age time seems to go by faster and faster with each year that passes, so I imagine that by this point it would not seem like a long time to wait until it happened. If somehow you manage to end up floating around in space, then you will have no reference as to how time is passing. I think at this stage it wouldn’t seem much worse than waiting half an hour for the bus does to us right now.

But perhaps your life continues after the end of the universe and you go on to witness the instantaneous birth of a new one. In that case, I’d still choose infinity.

To begin with you could still enjoy your relationships as you do now. After a while of witnessing so many friends die, you would no longer be affected by the emotions we would normally feel in such circumstances. You slowly become detached from humanity in this respect. Your curiosity now lies with the advancement and fate of mankind. Eventually life on earth comes to an end, besides all those who have chosen lengthy or infinite life spans. This doesn’t upset you as deem it a natural course of events for any planet which harbours life. Now you await the end of earth and our solar system. After this, I guess your sent hurtling through space and the only thing left to do is observe everything around you as you await the end of the universe.

That doesn’t sound so bad, right?

• chadoh

with everyone monitored so nothing really bad can happen

Is Wait But Why the NSA??

• Simon Bækkegaard

First of all, i really dont see why anyone would live long enough to experience when the sun dies. You should realise that the earth will become insanely hot, and every second of every day for thousands of years you would burn up, the earth only getting hotter and hotter and eventually melting itself…

After that, there would be nothing, and no matter what you would just wish you could die here, the lonelyness unbearable. Even though you would essentially be all-skilled and all-knowing at this point, you would have nothing to do, no items of any kind and no one to talk to, except maybe other naked people, who were blasted into space in the exact direction as you, by the final, obliterationg explosion of the sun.

I would live for 1000+ years, the last three digits being random, so i would NOT know exactly when i die. That way, if i dont want to die even after 1000 years, i will be grateful for every new day, and if i do want to die, i will always have the hope that it is over soon, instead of being miserable the last 500 years or so 🙂
Also, i would just love to become extremely skilled at everything

• Hmm

I find it more surprising that most people don’t choose infinity – and all make the assumption that ‘immortality’ equals ‘indestructibility’. This isn’t specifically stated. If the earth was reduced to fiery magma, surely this would be sufficient to melt/dissolve/disintegrate your body and with the absence of a body, surely you’d just be…energy? You wouldn’t have the capacity to feel pain etc. It seems everyone assumes that this means not only will you not die, but your body becomes impervious to all manner of harm. IThe examples given ie bottom of ocean, hunger = so you can’t starve or can’t drown, I understand this.

Even if you assume that there is an implied ‘indestructibility’ of your body at whatever age, you wouldn’t need food anymore, you wouldn’t need anything, and the potential of pain becomes meaningless (surely with infinity years, you’d come up with decent enough painkillers) …At our current technological advancement rate surely interstellar travel would be along shortly, in terms of your lifespan, so the chances of just ‘laying around inside the exploding sun’ or whatnot doesn’t seem likely.

• Mr_FUCK_YOU_IN_THE_FACE

“you will continue to live a conscious existence”

So, your body might have disintegrated, but you are still conscious. But as you say, since pain is a construct of a damaged body, you wouldn’t feel (physical, whether or not other kinds of pain exist without a body is a topic for another day) pain.

• gatorallin
• gatorallin
• Just a girl

i would probably just choose like a 100 years

• Sultan Andre

i don’t know… um… i like the idea of living,for a really long time… even thoe there is the predicament of not being able to opt out for x amount of time,i don’t know, lets see…
1 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000
sure,thats sounds fine,lets hope the universe doesn’t fuck up before i die…

• Dlach

Fascinating question and lots of interesting answers. I didn’t have to think about this long. I choose not to enter a number and to die my natural death. My reasons stem from certain facts most people probably aren’t privy to that I’d like to toss out:

1) Climate change will throw humanity into certain chaos and perhaps near extinction by the end of this century. Temperature rise between 2 degrees c and 15 degrees c above baseline (pre-industrial civilization) will force habitat destruction for human and most other species. Realistically, this isn’t a scenario I want to try to live through. We must remember that no humans have ever existed on planet earth with temperatures over 2 degrees c above baseline. It’s not about our bodies not tolerating temperature swings. Humans survived that during the ice ages. It’s all about habitat destruction and having an eco system capable of sustaining human (and other) life.

2) Even without considering climate change, at current rates, humanity will have burnt through remaining fossil fuels (and other key natural resources) by around 2050 or so. There are simply no known energy sources with the energy density and the net energy efficiency of fossil fuels. And remember – technology and energy are NOT interchangeable. Yes, we’ll develop alternatives, but we will be surprised and disappointed by our lower energy future. Lower energy inputs mean our current exponentially expanding money supply and industrial and financial capitalism will collapse. This means our current 24×7 Mardi Gras can’t possibly continue. We can only speculate what this means to every day life, food production, transportation, commerce, technology development, manufacturing, how we inhabit the planet, etc. If root canals, x-rays, antibiotics, micro-surgery and other goodies are no longer sustainable, I’m sure I will not want to live another 50,000 years.

I’ll stop here at 2…as this is obviously not a positive or optimistic expression of the future.

So, in answering this question for myself, I took myself out of the loop and instead pondered the realities that humanity will be facing over a rather short horizon. I then decided that my mortal life-span is/will be long enough to live a full and satisfying life vs. the certain instabilities that lie ahead.

• dabbler

I suspect your facts are not correct.

1) Even if the worst happens with Climate Change rises as you suggest, then motivation would exist to implement Climate Remediation protocols. See http://bipartisanpolicy.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/default/files/BPC%20Climate%20Remediation%20Final%20Report.pdf

2) Uranium has WAY higher energy efficiency. So again, public opinion and money will have to change directions, but a very viable alternative is already available given motivation produced by a dire situation.

I only wish you were aware of this before you were presented with the calculator! 🙂

• pavan reddy

75

• Dindu Nuffin

7edgy9me

• Vaca Tionj

Infinity button…

We have made so much progress in just the last few thousand years… It’s naive to think that we will be stuck here (on earth or in this solar system) when the Sun goes supernova. Living such long lives ensures this outcome (interplanetary travel). Advances in computers and AI will virtually ensure that such accidents that would leave you floating in space wont happen.. and someone would come get you eventually.. and during your wait all you have to do is sleep all the time and dream, heck by that time you probably will have brain implants with the capability of creating an emergency Virtual Reality world for you, those same implants would eliminate the “pain” issue with all arguments against an Infinity life.

• WorkingClassLoli

I choose the infinity button.

Even living a number of years that would equal Graham’s number, to the power of Graham’s number, to the power of Graham’s number yet again. It’s still finite, and still feels tragically shorts. Eventually, I would reach that finite number. And I would lament that my life is coming to an end.

And I would rather be floating alone in space for trillions of years, thinking and reflecting, than not being able to think at all. Someone could argue that immortality, without the technological singularity you’ve mentioned in another of your articles, could lead to such a lonely eventuality for someone who is immorality. That it would drive you crazy. But the world we already live in something that drives on crazy?

You can’t live on this earth and in this society, and not be driven crazy by it. Give me infinity, please.
Life is precious, and I want things to go on. To be lucky enough to last forever, would be a privilege.

• I choose 10 million because its long enough that i will probably have seen most of humanaities greatest feats but i wouldn’t have to live forever in the sense that i will never die it might seem like forever but it will eventually end thats why i pick 10 million

• kim

I would choose instant death, sounds like a mortal being trap to me. I know what I am.

• AmpereStudios

As an atheist (assuming God never existed and never will) infinity button. As a believer in God (i am one) I would choose 1250.

• Aximili

As an atheist, which I am, I would go nowhere near that damn button. I don’t believe in hell, but I imagine having to live forever would be it. There would also be a literal hell awaiting just a couple billion years from now when the Sun will swell up and completely engulf the Earth. You’d essentially be gambling billions of years of flaming torment on humanitys ability to develop interstellar travel before causing its own extinction, and I don’t like those odds.
Then just think of how bored you’ll be in a few trillion years when the universe reaches its eventual heat death and there will be nothing left but a bleak, empty void, and you in it, alone with your thoughts. For eternity.
Yeah, thanks but no thanks. I’d go for something sane, maybe a couple ten thousand years, that would be nice.

• anonymous user

I chose the infinity button. Being an atheist, I want my life for as long as possible. I would love to be with my loved ones forever. Also, I feel that just because some child is young, doesn’t mean they shouldn’t get to choose. If I was presented this 2 years ago, I would have stolen the calculator from my parents desk. If would then have pressed infinity. I think that worthiness of this choice should come from A. Mental age & B. Maturity. It should not be from chronological age.

• aaaa

infinite

• aaaa

infinite

• Max Kraft

Leaving it blank. Let me die the natural death 🙂

• Jedediah

I would have chosen infinity, except for the “no kids stipulation”. I cannot handle that.

So i guess it’s the normal life for me.

As a Christian, im still not worried about living for eternity. I expect to live for eternity anyway. As I see it, choosing to live forever doesn’t mean the eschaton cannot happen or that one couldn’t receive a glorified resurrection body. So, that’s why i would choose eternity. I don’t think death is natural, i dont think it is good. If i could avoid it, i would. Yet, as long as we are on this current earth, Christ commands us to “be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth”.

I don’t want to miss that.

• Joshua C

The only most detrimental problem with living for eternity on Earth is that, you witness the suffering and the pain of humanity over and over again. Humans are similar in the way they behave no matter what point of history they are placed in, you would be subjecting yourself to an eternity with the failure of humans.

Your fear of death is what made you choose eternity, to hide from death, but death is always near and lurking. Once you accept that death is awaiting your arrival, you begin to appreciate the things given to you in life. 🙂

But alas a very insightful response indeed.

• Nate Petersen

Except that death is most definitely a requirement for resurrection, so really it’d be everyone chilling in eternity and you’d be stuck on earth, for eternity. The world goes kaput, and you’re just floating there… Perhaps just go with 3↑↑↑↑4, because that’s not even 1/10000000000000000th of eternity.

• Anon

At first I thought just enter my current age. But it would be interesting to find out how humanity, the media, politics, and churches react to this unique occurence.

So I’d enter my current age +1 year.

• MiyuEinzbern

So if I did infinity and reached the heat death of the universe, I won’t die even then and will just suffer like superman over a painful bonfire?

I guess I’ll just adopt a kid and hope she gets a chance at calculator room too.
I’ll go with 50032 years I suppose. Guess I’m gonna be adopting kids for quite awhile. And body looks-manipulating.

• Qbox

Just to be picky (in the Internet, someone always has to be), heat death doesn’t mean sauna but rather the depletion of energy — and thus, heat — from the universe. So, to correct your metaphor, you’d suffer like superman in an excruciating Finnish winter.

• It surprises me that there are so many people wishing to live over 10k years, even infinity, with the reason to explore everything and gain as many skills as possible – what is stopping you now? Why aren’t you saving for an adventure, or practising your talents, instead of procrastinating on the internet? Forget the excuses of time and money, there is always a way. Also, those problems won’t magically disappear if you became immortal. A short lifespan encourages us to live to our potential and leave a legacy. Living for thousands of years would make us complacent and we would just put things off indefinitely. What is the point of advancing when there are no new generations? Imagine working for hundreds of years in your current job, would you be able to handle it or do you assume you would find something better?

• James Chance

It’s magic…not the game I mean time. Think of where we’re headed. Facebook and news archives everywhere on the internet. Cyber connections in the billions.

We’re plugging in to extend life’s mark. Consciousness passed to technology, your footprint a record for a man, entity a billion years from now to replay that story. We leave a mark in language and in events.
…we’re just crawling.

• James Chance

A fracture in society would come next in this role play idea. Not sure being a “Highlander” sounds fun..no head chopping?

• morphoj

easy. leave it blank. KNOWING when it would happen, it would be torture. I would like to live for 500 hundred years, but not know it…

• Redhawk

What if I entered tangent of a number? Would the infinite number of values allow me to go on forever and choose when I die?

• CT

leave it blank and enjoy the ride till it starts over elsewhere in another time, place, dimension, or nowhere. the world could end tomorrow, and if i put even 100 years, that could be 100 years floating around in space—suffocating and freezing without end. so i’ll let nature take its course, and hopefully i get a nice full life until the climax.

• CT

i am 22, by the way.

• Mark Monnin

Having read the Superintelligence article, and not being clear on what “you can’t die” means, I’d leave it blank. I’d be betting that Superintelligence happens within my lifetime and basically I live as long as possible, but become a machine or something (so I wouldn’t want my body anymore). I’d like to live in a virtual utopia rather than a physical word with needs. But I could be wrong.

• Et

I would unequivocally leave it blank.

• Some dude

Hmmmmm…. this is a good one…. I think 8,372 years old would be my choice. Just because.

• Maya Esther

I am eleven years old, but I will pretend I’m allowed to choose a death age anyway. Having said that, I would probably enter 10,000 years into the calculator.

I think that’s long enough to witness (and, with the wisdom gained from such a long life, possibly create) major advancements and feats in the human race that could get the most out of that life until I die – for instance, the “safe and blissful utopia” that Mr. Urban describes. Because of the Law of Accelerating Returns, the rate of change in these 10,000 years will be greater than ever before, leading to even more achievements and advancements in the human race – some of which you won’t be able to see in a normal human lifespan. (I believe in reincarnation, but since no one will be able to reproduce anymore, there will be no more new lives beginning when mine ends, so that would be pretty pointless.)

Also, the wisdom gained from a ten-thousand-year lifespan – exploring the world, learning and doing endless new things that a normal lifespan just doesn’t give us the time to do, gaining experience from so many years of living – would be priceless.

In addition, I don’t think ten thousand years is enough to eventually, as I near my death date, live in boredom and/or agony, wishing for that blissful day of death to finally come. I may be young and naive, and my way of thinking may be the very reason Mr. Urban’s scenario didn’t allow kids younger than 12 to enter a death age, but I feel that ten thousand years is a good middle ground: long enough to live a completely full and enlightened existence, but short enough to not experience the fears that “dwarf any fear a mortal human could ever know.” Also, 10,000 years is not nearly long enough to experience the sun swelling into a red giant or the Heat Death of the universe – those things happen on a much larger scale, and I won’t have to be around to experience them. For those reasons, I choose 10,000 years to live.

• Zack Reynolds

Well… I have two more question.Would your brain be able to keep 5000 years of memories organised? Because a lot of people talk about the wisdom they would have after 1000’s of years. But if you cant recall what you had for dinner last week. Trying to target one memory in 5000 years of memories would be like finding a single grain of sand on the beach. Second, would time feel faster because you have so much life to live? aroud 3000 years old would you be asking your self what have I done with my life where has it all gone. Like a midlife crises.

• Nate Petersen

Unless you win a trip to space on your 12th birthday and accidentally get jettisoned into space, set to drift at an stupidly slow rate for the rest of your existence.

• Jack Carroll

No children? How could anyone do that to themselves? I don’t know if I could bear to live in a world without children… Or hope of a new generation to continue experience. I would take it upon myself to experience the universe if I lived for a very long time, but what if I suffer endlessly in the vacuum of space? Or worse, what would I do if I got bored? Eventually, I would run out of work to do to improve the world, there would be no more problems to solve, no more games to play, no more theories to discover. And if I picked too large of a number, I can’t just die in peace; I’d have to wait for LIFETIMES to end it all! Go into cryosleep, maybe? And human evolution would come to a standstill! I don’t know… 5,000 seems like a good number. Maybe, at the end of my life, I would work on ways of creating new humans that lived normal lives to carry on after we all died out. Or how to reverse entropy in the universe. Hell, if I have that kind of time, I’ll do both, and see my ‘children’ grow up before I die.

I kind of wish this was an extension of my life expectancy, rather than absolute dates. As I thought about this more and more, I realised that I rather like not having an absolute deadline on my life. Either way, that was one hell of a way to get me to subscribe to your email list.

• Devil Nessh

30 years from the age of 0 will be enough for me. BTW I am now 24 y.o.

• Zack Reynolds

Well… I have two more question.Would your brain be able to keep 5000 years of memories organised? Because a lot of people talk about the wisdom they would have after 1000’s of years. But if you cant recall what you had for dinner last week. Trying to target one memory in 5000 years of memories would be like finding a grain of sand on the beach. Second, would time feel faster because you have so much life to live? aroud 3000 years old would you be asking your self what have I done with my life where has it all gone. Like a midlife crises.

• Nate Petersen

I’d probably go with 10,000. Nothing too crazy. At first I thought 1000, but then to know with certainty that there’s just nothing after you die… Maybe 10k is too short? But 100k seems way too long. Shit – probably 20,000? No, still too long. I’d likely end up finding a way to kill myself in the room and hope it was some sort of loophole where I get to carry my calculator around as long as I liked. Problem solved. Or – use the legs on the chair to beat a hole through the wall and find out what other people are doing. Possibly break down the calculator, shove it under the door. Or break the screen and ask for a new one, then attack whoever came to give it to me.

• Daniel Carr

Infinite, as long as the ‘goodness’ and happiness is infinite too! People choosing a large finite number are idiots. Any number other than infinity is finite, it makes no difference if you live 100 years, 100,000 years or 100,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 years it’s no different, you either want to die in that case any number is the same or you don’t want to die which in that case infinity!

• Gulshan

I’d rather live up to a hundred years, given our current situation where natural resources are decreasing and overpopulation is becoming a major concern in developed and underdeveloped countries.
Despite the fact that living longer would enable us to gain more experience, knowledge and wisdom, I don’t think that we are exactly capable of withstanding the everyday routine of going to work everyday,finding a new job or even just thinking of stuff to do after you retire. We would eventually get so bored that we would want our lives to just end.
Also I do not want to be part of the reason of overpopulation and the headache of governments/scientists? to solve the problem of giving out food resources to satisfy the population…Even if the problem were to be solved in 50 years more or less, we would still have to experience a lot of difficulties and ,maybe in unstable countries, chaos.
Eventually, the knowledge and wisdom gained after living so long would either end with you dead or the universe collapsing upon you.

• Radu

I think it’s a question of what is the potential happiness vs. the potential suffering of a longer life that can’t end. To me, the deciding factor is this “can’t end” bit. If I could choose to die at any moment (or even from some sort of accident) then I’d definitely choose a high number, or even infinity. But seeing as that’s not possible, the rational choice is to not fill in anything and continue to be a mortal. Think about it: even if humans create a utopia and you’re super happy, you can only be so happy. Plus, you get used to it. On the other hand, suffering can get really, really bad. The floating adrift in space example is literally HELL. Your blood boiling, while you suffocate and freeze, FOREVER. No thanks. Mortality is a blessing – you can only suffer so much before you die.

• Tim

I’d choose a trillion years, long enough for the universe to come close to dying of heat death, but not so long that you run out of viable power sources and have to sit in a dead void for eternity. If it gets too long you could just medically sedate yourself and wake up every billion years to see how the universe has evolved.

• Luca Bianchi

The infinity option seemed interesting but when I read about the possibility of suffering whitout being able to die I decided to leave it blank

• Florian

infinity definitely. I will just be optimistic about overcoming possible extremely painful scenario’s. I mean, ill escape to another one of the verses if i have too 🙂

• Eschelon

This could result in the fact that no children are born anymore, if anyone enters a number.
The worst case: humans go instinct
By the way i would enter 750 or nothing.

• Gregory Cooper

Hmm, this is a really interesting question. The idea of being able to choose the length of your life, at the expense of no longer being able to have children (thereby leaving no legacy after your death), and running the risk of excruciating but non-fatal agony (such as being blown out an airlock into space but not dying) poses a deep philosophical question to how much we really want to live.
I think there’d be a lot of people in the world who would simply elect to leave their calculators blank and live their lives as normal, and so therefore would continue to be able to have children. So I don’t think there’d be any need to worry about the human race dying out because of this little choice experiment. And yes, if I typed in a number (which I would), I wouldn’t be able to have children of my own (I don’t have any yet), but so what? Even now, there are so many children around the world without parents to look after them; I would adopt. And knowing how long I’d live (I’ll get to that in a moment), I’d certainly be able to take care of them.
So how long would I live?
I’d hit that Infinity button. Yes, really. (In case you’re wondering, I’m 33). Why?
Well for one thing I’m an Atheist, so not believing in any kind of god or afterlife, I wouldn’t expect there to be anything for me after death. Also afraid of death itself, but both of these are minor points.
I think humanity is capable of true greatness. Sure, we’re nowhere near our heyday yet, but give us time…and because I’d now be immortal (and from reading these comments, not the only one), I could be there, trying to do my little bit to keep the human race from killing itself or wiping out the planet or such. I could watch us go out, colonise other planets, star systems, galaxies, the entire universe…if our species could all work together (which I think, if we survive long enough, we may actually be able to manage) I don’t think there’s any limit to what we could achieve. So sure, in 5000 million years the sun collapses, in some millions^3 years the galaxies have withered away? So what? That’s more than enough time for us humans to find technological solutions that allow us (or our descendants – offshoot species even) to continue to leave peaceful and happy lives. We might even find some way to halt the decay of the universe, or else escape it entirely and find another universe that won’t break down, allowing humanity to live on forever. And as long as there’s life, there’ll always be new things to do and see and explore.
Ever since I was really young, I wished that I had been born in the future, centuries from now – at a time when we’re not all stuck on this one little rock running in tiny circles through space. There’s a whole universe out there to go and see. No matter how long it takes for us to get our stuff together and go out into space properly, I know I’d be there to take part in it. 🙂

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