A puzzling question I sometimes hear is, “What would you do if you knew you were going to die in two months?”. A closely related admonition is, “Live each day as if it’s your last”. Presumably, these sorts of statements are an invitation to live life to the fullest, “Carpe Diem” or something like that.

But these statements don’t make any sense to me. Knowledge of our mortality is omnipresent, and we only seize the day by living in denial and pretending that our lives will endure or have any significance in the cosmic scheme of things. Everyone already lives their lives as dead men walking. That’s what it means to be mortal.

The far more revealing question is, “What would you do if you knew you were immortal?”. Imagine that some sort of “fountain of youth” were discovered, which was not too difficult to reach, and which would grant true immortality to the first 12,000 people to reach it.

What sort of people would compete most fiercely to reach that fountain, and what would their motivations be? Which motivations would you judge to be good versus bad, and what would the ratio be? Of the 12,000 people who made it to the fountain, how many would you be comfortable with having as immortal?

I have no idea what the answer is, but it’s a hell of a lot more interesting than wondering what people do when they know they are going to die. We already know that answer.

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