Back to: 2512 | Forward to: Sitrep

The ticking clock

Many of us have probably daydreamed at some point in our lives about what we'd do if we had a lottery win land on our head — the sort of eight-digit win that truly is a life-changing event.

But the other day, something prompted me to ask the opposite question: what would I do if, for the sake of argument, I contracted a medical condition that gave me roughly five years to live? (3-4 years in good health, then a 12-18 month decline followed by death.) Think in terms of Steve Jobs, if you like; it's not as rare as you might think — a friend of mine was given a terminal cancer prognosis of three years to live six years ago, and is still coping.

It's fairly obvious what you do if you have a minor lottery win, or (conversely) are given a month to live. You focus on it: blow the money on a vacation (or paying off debts), or make a will, quit work, spend your remaining days with family and people who are important to you.

But what about the big picture?

Five years is too far in advance to do the saying-goodbye thing. There's still time to accomplish a lot. But by the same token, it puts a hard limit on things. If you're stuck in a boring job, do you keep doing it right up to the bitter end just to make ends meet? Or do you try and use the time you've got left to change the world, and if so how?

(Disclaimer: I have not been given five years to live! This is just a thought experiment, folks. Nothing to get worried about.)

127 Comments

1:

Sell the house and rent, or take out a reverse-morgage. If I opted for selling (or more likely when I decided to sell) I'd move closer to family.

That will give me enough of a savings bank to quit my job and spend time doing the things I work to be able to do. Which would be travel, photography, and learning stuff.

Change the world? Nothing so grandiose — but I'd keep on trying to leave a small patch in better condition than when I arrived in it.

2:

5 years is enough time to find a way not do die, perhaps enrolling in a very experimental clinical trial in some offshore place (dangerous but better than dying). Or at least long enough to _hope_ to escape death, which is the most important thing. I think I would hope to survive, look for a way to survive, and try not to worry too much, I can die tomorrow in a car crash after all.

You don't get to change the world without a lot of money, which is not my case. What would be more interesting is a combination of the 2 scenarios: a medical condition that gave me roughly five years to live AND a big lottery win.

3:

FYI: "Kevin Kelly was in Jerusalem. For reasons too complicated to go into here, he ended up sleeping on the spot where Jesus was supposedly crucified. After Kevin awoke, the thought came into his head: Live as if you'll die in six months. So he did. He got rid of all his possessions. He visited his parents and brothers and sisters for the last time." http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/50/shoulda-been-dead?act=1

For some reason when I heard that story, it burned into my brain and really affected the way I lived. Everything was immediate, desperate and extreme.

It was an awful thing. But I got better.

(Although I've been lurking on Mr. Stross's board for years, this was my first post here. I hope I added some value.)

-- MrJM

4:

I think I'd spend the first 4ish years desperately trying anything to save/prolong my life. But if I hit the 1 year to go mark, with no significant improvement in my life expectancy I think I'd just try to enjoy life. And in my last few months I'd try any drastic surgery/medication that will probably kill me but offers a chance at extending my life.

One thing that would be a slight comfort though is that (if I understand it right) information is never lost in physics, so my being still technically exists in the universe, and I could conceivably be brought back to life; which if the universe is infinite makes it a certainty. Obviously it's all speculation, but it's a least a little comforting.

KronicSonic

5:

>>>For reasons too complicated to go into here, he ended up sleeping on the spot where Jesus was supposedly crucified.

I'm pretty sure this is impossible.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Jerusalem_Holy_Sepulchre_BW_4.JPG

6:

I'd have to stick with the job so my family would benefit from my life insurance, but I might be able to take off at the end using long term disability. If it happened, I would definitely see my relationships and my work in a different light and make some changes. Why don't I do that now, right?

7:

Would I play more or less Call of Duty multiplayer, that is the question.

8:

I suppose you might consider shooting everyone who has ever pissed you off on the grounds that a life sentence is not very long.

9:

More seriously, I would prepare a DIY suicide kit because one thing I am certain of is that I will never die of a lingering disease like cancer.

10:

That's a tough one. I know someone who is trying to write as much as he can, inbetween the surgeries and the chemo sessions. He takes joy in his writing and has many friendships because of it. He is doing the best he can for himself and those around him. I hope he pulls through.

I think it is more typical of cancer patients that if you have five years to live, you don't get four years of good health and then a decline. You get a couple months of being absolutely hammered by medical treatments, then a couple months where you're recovering from the treatment, and maybe eight months of normality before the cancer grows back enough to show up on tests. Wash, rinse, repeat. Eventually either the cancer kills you, or if you're lucky it takes so long to come back that something else kills you first.

11:

It's both sad and silly to start trying to change the world only in response to the news you're leaving it. If you want to change it, surely you want it even more if you're going to live in it?

12:

Ask PTerry?

Spread laughter around the planet?

13:

I think one thing that we are overlooking here is that 5 years is based on the fact you keep taking treatments. You can travel of course and check off your bucket list because maybe your disease doesn't require debilitating medicine like chemo, but chances are that it does.

What this thought exercise does is point out that we are all potentially 5 years from death. Do you think that provoking people to think about their own death can make them change the way they live? Obviously it's been tried by most religions for thousands of years. Would you be happier knowing you no longer have put up with the struggle of life? I.e. would you finally find happiness/contentment now that you are no longer looking for it?

14:

What a nasty little thought experiment :-)

Having seen a bunch of friends and family die over the last few years (eight years of averaging a funeral every 5 months - no underlying reason just fate playing silly buggers) I hope I'd manage to avoid the desperately-chasing-cure option. I've seen enough folk go that way and live a very unhappy last few years.

I'd also be exceptionally annoyed since my current plans are actually going quite nicely for a bloody change - but will need more than five years to play out productively. So I'll be torn between trying to finish up what I'm doing - which will involve finding somebody to pass it on to - or chucking it in and trying something new.

At least I have no dependants that can't cope without me financially.

If I chucked it in I might just go the hedonistic route and try and figure out a way to have fun for as long as I was physically able. I had a really smashing time in my 20s burning through my savings with six months of hiking round the US and reading, but have basically worked my arse off since. I could imagine myself just dropping out and hiking around mainland Europe - where I've never spent much time.

I've never had the guts or the fortitude to burn through my million lines of writing rubbish when it comes to fiction (I have some nice rejection letters though ;-). I can imagine wanting to give that a try - for my own entertainment if nobody else's. Although I suspect that since it's been more than ten years since a story annoyed me so much that I had to write it down I still won't actually do it ;-)

One writing project that would fit into a five year timeline would be a biography of my partner's dad. Something I'd love to do but don't have the time for now. He's not famous but, to my geekish eyes, has had a fascinating life. Started out painting ships in Chatham shipyard, was involved with designing parts of early British nuclear reactors (including some of the subs), ended up in nuclear medicine. All without ever going to university. Top bloke.

Oh. And I'd figure out an effective way to top myself when the time came. Seen too much of end-of-life care over the last few years. Don't want to go that way myself. Don't want to put my partner or my family through it.

15:

I lived through the 80s with many friends dealing with this. Only the diagnosis for HIV back then was "we don't know how long you'll live". Those that were planners did just that, creating a decision tree based on quality of life and what they'd do to adapt to changes. Another chose rational suicide when he reached a certain point.

Being a caregiver for someone coping with HIV back then taught me how to support someone in life. And in death. Now I'm watching a family member "age in place" and it's the same journey towards the end. She's already dealt with "I have years left."

Then the antiretroviral HIV drugs happened in the 90s. People who were living as if they were going to die in a year suddenly were given maybe another 10+ years. That changed a lot of things. "Why by life insurance? A 2yr CD. Plan for retirement. I have HIV."

That's another interesting possibility. The Universe usually doesn't care. But sometimes it just feels like it's fucking with you.

16:

This is a highly situational experiment, is it not? I've got an 18-year-old daughter and my first obligation is to her. Ergo, I keep working until I can't any more. This would hold doubly so if she were only ten, and hardly at all if she were twenty-nine.


Um . . . what if a lot of people were suddenly in the same boat? Doesn't have to be death by Bellus.

17:

I'd consider giving up on atheism. Who was that writer who was punished by God for casting doubt on the saintliness of Mother Teresa? God did him in. Just shows you.

18:

I think that politics by assassination is so terribly destructive to any tolerable political regime that I would NOT use my "get out of jail dead" card for that. Tempting as it has been, occasionally. (Nobody else so far seems to have picked this as a good use of the time either, which is nice.)

I'd probably then spend a lot of time organizing my photo collection, and spreading it out to the right places (some historical societies, institutions, etc.).

And try to have some fun.

19:

"Or do you try and use the time you've got left to change the world, and if so how?"

We all have a certain amount of time left. What are we doing?

20:

I would write one or more books containing all my best ideas, visions and advice for future generations of humanity, build monuments to myself, start a cult, have children, and anything else I can think of to immortalize myself and defeat death.

OK, I probably wouldn't do any of this, but it's a nice fantasy...

21:

Me? As part of Zero State we have just launched an investment fund (as of about 2 hours ago):
http://zerostate.net/ZSF.html

22:

This is your yellow card. Reason: trolling.

Do it again and you're banned. Clear?

23:

It depends on a few things for me, not least what my predicted quality of life will be like over the following few months at each point.

At the point it's likely to be really unpleasant and there's no realistic chance of a cure appearing in the remaining time, suicide is my chosen way out. I think I'm fortunate in not having dependents so I don't have to worry about the insurance not paying out for a suicide.

Prior to that, because I don't have dependents, I'd like to do my bucket list in effect. I want to go back to New Zealand, visit Japan and China. Yes there are issues about receiving medical care/paying for it while doing that, and also getting the money to do the traveling, but that's what I'd like to do. I'd probably add some more places to the list and I'd arrange it so China's not in the next two years so I can see what it's like after the recent changes.

And if it's something that's going to hammer me fast then leave me in a lousy state for the next five years... I can live, or more accurately, suicide, without real regret. I'd like to go to those places, take my time exploring them but it's not essential to me.

24:

Two years ago I was diagnosed with cancer. After an operation and two sessions of 4 x 3 weeks of chemo the doctor told me last year I had a 70% chance of making the next three years. In terms of cancer a fairly high probability. I started of with some very grant ideas of what I would do differently. Now, a year later, and still in remission, I've settled for much more mundane goals. I haven't changed much in my way of living. I just value the things that I do, and had been doing for many, many years, just a lot more. I take pleasure in doing simple things like doing the groceries or even mundane tasks like doing my taxes. I tend to set them off against lying in the hospital with chemo running through my veins. Pretty much everything is a lot better than that!

A serious medical condition doesn't make you do great things overnight. It makes you appreciate the mundane things of everyday day a lot more!

25:

Not my intention. My apologies.

26:

I imagine there'll be a big divide in replies depending (ha!) on whether the person replying has dependents or not. One of mine's already out of my hands, but the other would still be a legal minor when I died.

I think that given a hard limit like that, I'd go back to work in the City for a year, on a ridiculous-pay contract (the pimps keep calling, so I reckon the odds of getting one of those contracts is decent), to build a buffer. I could waste a year on that.

Another year or so in a more normal contract, while I fix up the house here in England properly and sell it, then move back to Sweden, to the mountains and forests and rivers and lakes. As luck has it, there'll soon be a spare house on my old family farm, so we'd have somewhere to live cheaply (no heating or water costs worth mentioning, cheap 100Mb fiber installed).

I'd try to teach my son the forest and mountain crafts and skills I haven't been able to teach my kids before, living in the most boring area of England.

I'd make an effort to finish some of the long-running projects I'm working on far too slowly at the moment, both software and literary. If they become successful, that be nice, but the important thing would be to finish them, to put them (well, some of them - there are always more ideas and interesting projects than there is time and energy to work on them) to rest.

I'd have 12-18 months of decent health in Sweden, which I'd be happy with. All the seasons, you know? That should be enough time enough to finish a couple of projects, too.

Oh, and I'd collect all poems and short stories and songs and things I've written of the years, and collect the ones I thought were decent. Then I'd ask that after I'm dead, recycled (if the illness left any usable parts) and cremated, my friends and family pick a few that they like into a best-of, and give them to people at the wake/funeral party, to remember me by.

27:

Five years? That's a bit long. It's possible you get three years, or maybe only two. What do you do? You try your damnedest to get better. And you don't, you die.
Which sucks for your loved ones, but they can't do anything more than you (curse the medical establishment for not telling you that you should report your symptoms earlier -- like some years earlier).

And life for the ones you left behind continues, and they survive and cope (or not). But there isn't anything you can do, except hope that the memories you gave them are good (but if you gave them bad memories, at least they won't miss you).
------

If I win a million dollars, I will invest it @ five or ten percent interest and live off the interest for the rest of my life. But if I only have five years to live? I don't know.

------
Sorry, a bit drunk at the moment. And sad. I think I should go to bed.

28:

FWIW I read it as sarcasm. Maybe in poor taste, dunno. The arbiter has spoken :)

This is something of a puzzler, because of course it's highly probable that many of us in this thread are in fact counting down time and we don't even know it. A doctor could give me 5 years to live tomorrow and I could be dead the next by a close encounter with a bus.

The intellectual awareness that this is so doesn't really help me change my goals much. Anything I consider worth doing is already an uphill struggle

...Including posting this message, I guess. :)

29:

A friend of mine is going through exactly this; complete with experimental therapies and a spot in a medical research paper. The unfortunate thing is, with the way his immune system has become, there's no way for him to make any medium-term plans. Any random bug he might catch has him layed out in bed for a month before he recovers.

30:

Old jokes:
What do you do if your doctor gives you 2 months to live? Get a second opinion. Go and live in Birmingham.

31:

Old joke of questionable taste. If easily offended, please skip.

In 2005 an Iraqi parliamentarian was informed by his doctor that he had six months to live. He was greatly cheered, as that was easily three times the ordinary projected lifespan of an Iraqi parliamentarian in 2005.

32:

I think Walter White had the right idea. /notreally

33:

I'd figure out what I most wanted to get done in three years, and go for that.

Following the general rule that things take twice as long as your worst possible estimate, I'd get it done in about five.

34:

dirk.bruere nearly gets the right answer with:

"I suppose you might consider shooting everyone who has ever pissed you off on the grounds that a life sentence is not very long."

So may I make a modest proposal. As I live in the UK access to firearms is limited so I'd have to spend a fair amount of the time left working out how to take as many other buggers with me as possible. I work with several people who will only ever make a useful contribution as ballast or compost. They'd be on the list. Then there's those youths who think stumbling round town wearing grey track suit bottoms with their hands stuffed in their crotch is a good idea. Add them to the list.

But why think small and only deal with petty annoyances? There are Politicians out there fucking up my country and the planet. Suicide bombing Parliament would be a positive contribution to society. As long as I made it clear. Perhaps Via YouTube rants, that I was doing it for the sake of the country and wasn't a terrorist. Just a concerned citizen culling parasites and making the world a little bit better before my time was up. Ideally I'd get a meme going that would be taken up by other people with a terminal illness. Encouraging them to perform similar good works. Hey it could become a movement.

But this is just a thought experiment. Like my multiple roll over Euro-millions lottery win idea: A Zeppelin with a glass bottomed swimming pool and hiring models to bounce around naked on a trampoline whilst I watch and drink cocktails.

:-)

35:

I would think the two big break points would be financial ability and dependents.

A lot of people - maybe most people - live paycheck to paycheck. Their ability modify their lifestyle in response to this scenario is limited. I count myself fortunate that I have enough resources to quit now and spend the next five years in an abbreviated early retirement.

On the other hand, I have small kids. The money I would blow on an early retirement would also be the money that would support them when I am gone. I would need to balance my desire to do what I want with the time I have left against their future material needs.

I would probably lean towards taking certain higher paying / higher risk consulting opportunities in the short run, interspersing them with extended vacations spent with my kids. I would try to work out at least a full year off before I went into decline. This would allow me to build up a buffer for the kids but still work off quite a bit of my bucket list.

36:

One more thought for US residents: Dying is expensive here. I think a lot of US residents would be forced to keep working in order to retain insurance coverage for the end game. Without it, medical care for a terminal patient would risk wiping out their dependents.

37:

I already see life as too short to have enough point in itself. Would a 5-year ticket make a difference? I'd probably streamline my priority list and get the most worthwhile things done, and try not to get too fazed by daily irritants. You know, keeping the big picture in mind. But that's already a tall order.

38:

This is where being a biologists really helps.

1. Find the best lab that research your diseases.
2. Explain to the PI how you will have extra motivation to get good results, one that few people have.
3. Get a job there.
4. Live or die, you are having fun either way.

39:

In the 32 days we have left, we all need to get on the good side of Kinich Ahau.

40:

With the premise of "5 years to go, 4 of them 'reasonably capable'" actually working, I'd probably work another year doing a slow handover, then go into retired-mode regarding paid work, and spend on the Useful Work I do, two years full time, then hand-over to those with a better life expectancy, again.
In the last year I'd stay at home as long as I was able to take care of myself, and would hope to get a place in a hospice when that no longer was the case. Preferrably one with good Internet connectivity, since the last year the plan would be to take it easy, play games and surf the net (given that I probably wouldn't be up to doing anything useful any more).

An ex-colleague of mine died of cancer of the liver. He was about 30, and had a young child. He spent the time between chemos working up to practically the end, hoping that he would be one of the few survivors.

41:

FWIW I read it as sarcasm. Maybe in poor taste, dunno. The arbiter has spoken :)

Sarcasm is often hard to identify on the internet: there are too many cultural variables and not enough out-of-band cues to flag it reliably.

Face to face, you can almost always spot sarcasm as long as both you and the sarcast-ee are native speakers of the same language: intonation and body language gives it away. On the internet, however, nobody knows you're not deadly serious.

42:

Yep, it was a joke and in poor taste. Also, I had two or more thoughts in my head and they sort of crossed over each other and I short-circuited myself.

One was, well, I consider myself a robust but non-militant atheist. I really do wonder if faced with the circumstances described I would buckle. I know that with the deaths of persons close to me I have succumbed to irrational thinking.

Another thought was of Christopher Hitchens' last book, really worth reading. He, of course, remained admirably staunch. If I remember correctly he did receive emails from christians overjoyed to hear of his cancer diagnosis.

43:

I really ought to know this since I am, to be honest, pretty hopeless face to face. I'll try to be more careful in future. At the time, I was a bit more worried about being off topic/derailing.

On topic, I think, I really do recommend "Mortality" by Christopher Hichens, given that the topic is, so to say, how to die.

My apologies again.

44:

I'm in my mid-twenties, so I don't have appreciable savings that I could retire. But I think I could quit working full-time, take up a part-time job enough to cover expenses and afford me some mild savings, and spend the time better acquainting myself with friends, do a little shoe-string budget travel, and try and make a modest intellectual contribution before I pass on.

Fortunately I work in pathology, so I already have a bunch of people in the cancer-fighting industry who are interested in my survival. I could ask them to keep an eye on emerging treatments, and not have to worry about the problem too much myself.

45:

FWIW Charlie is a benevolent dictator. Apologizing once and not repeating the transgression is generally enough to appease his wrath.

46:

I've thought about this a couple of times recently, and I can see two main possibilities:

1) Do absolutely nothing different. I already do basically what I think is the optimum thing I could be doing with my time for most of my time: I work at a job I get paid quite a bit for and am good at and often enjoy, and use the money to support charitable causes. I write. I get into arguments on the internet (I mean, use my knowledge and understanding to explain things and change minds for the better). I don't think I could really do any more of these things without burning out, and there's nothing that I have a particular burning desire to do instead. There are things I'd like to _achieve_ that I'm not currently achieving, but I have no good plans as to how to better work towards them than what I'm doing now.

2) Trade in my job for one of the higher-pay, higher-stress alternatives that I keep getting recruiters hassling me about. That way I could maximise my lifetime earnings (and hence the lifetime quantity of money I can give to Good Causes), because currently the reason I don't do this is because I expect I would burn out and then my lifetime earnings would drop substantially, averaged out - but if I only have an abbreviated lifetime to consider, it might be worth doing this. The reason I might not do this is that my capacity for dealing with this might be even more constrained with an additional health problem, and I might burn out way too early; also, they might be less interested in someone who has a terminal medical condition, although given the churn rates for that kind of thing it seems that a 5-year horizon wouldn't be that limiting.

I'm not really interested in any of the 'self-indulgence' options like travelling or other semi-retirement, because in my experience my threshold for 'doing whatever I want' is about two weeks before it makes me incredibly depressed at the pointlessness of my existence...

47:

Something to bear in mind is that one might well end up up doing what one thinks one might do.

Flawed example (non-lottery, non-death, shorter timescale): When I decided to quit my job in London and move to the USA I assumed that I'd take a couple of months off before the move (the date of which was set, some six months in the future). I even gave my employer a heads up that I'd be handing in my notice in a month or two.

As it turned out, the main project that I was working on (a very interesting and rather important one) dragged on longer than expected, as such things are wont to do and I ended up working right up to the wire, leaving in just enough time to pack a few suitcases and have the movers come round for the rest. There was no contractual compulsion - I wanted to finish the project.

My point is that, once actually in the circumstances that I had speculated about it turned out that what I wanted to do was not what I had thought that I would want to do.

48:

Doh!

My first sentence should, of course, have read "Something to bear in mind is that one might well NOT end up up doing what one thinks one might do."

I blame insufficient caffeine - it's early here.

49:

I was hoping to see in the comments someone proposing that, at the limit of their lifespan, they would start a project that would actually change the world for the better in some way, but mostly you just see career changes and a few people talking about murder sprees.

I've heard it is easier to imagine the end of the world than it is to imagine the end of capitalism, so I guess it makes sense. The problem is, there's no one behind the curtain. They blew up the world trade center ten years ago, and all you saw afterwards was a boom in speculative investors stepping off the ivy league track and into Lehman Bros et al.

It is hard to see any real project that a non-expert (average person) could spend that five years working towards.

I predict five years of bummers.

50:

You obviously missed my comment about ZS - something happening now, and without even needing a death sentence to drive people forward.

51:

@18: Nobody else so far seems to have picked this as a good use of the time either, which is nice.

The Internet Never Forgets. I'm sure there are folks here who have their own little Naughty list, but are smart enough not to discuss it in public.

52:

Charlie - your scenario is one that people my age are very familiar with. My decision - keep going as long as possible and try to make arrangements for the last 18 months, knowing that it won't be easy. ("Mom? Live with us? We don't have any room!" "Well, we don't either! Maybe a nice nursing home?")

53:

Apropros length of life, it was Heinlein who pointed out (and I'm paraphrasing) that we really all live the same amount of time. We can only live in the now due to the nature of our time perception (and the Second Law of Thermodynamics). And he implies that it's impossible to compare the relative accumulation of memories between two individuals as a measure of lifespan.

Certainly, as I've gotten older, I realized that memories from 20 or 30 years back have been retranscribed by my consciousness so much that I'm not sure if they're accurate any more, and I'm certain that I've lost a huge amount of detail.

Anyway, back to the question. I wasn't expecting to live much past 40 due to a chronic condition. My doctors were properly reticent to give me any expiration date. But an actuarial friend of my showed me the tables, and it was rather grim. I was 25 at the time, and I had a low probability living another 15 years. Not quite the 5 years that Charlie has posed in his question, but it was a wakeup call. I compiled a "bucket list" of the things I wanted to see and do (but I didn't call it a bucket list, because that was before the term was coined). I got through a lot of them, and more. Now I'm 53, and I guess I've beaten the odds (with some help from improvements in medical therapies for my condition).

I've since rewritten my definition of a bucket list, because I've come to realized that a bucket list of things to experience is rather selfish way to map out one's life. A bucket list of things to create and improve seems so much more meaningful. So, like robertprior back at comment #1, I'm trying to leave a small patch of my world in better condition than when I arrived in it.

54:

"I was hoping to see in the comments someone proposing that, at the limit of their lifespan, they would start a project that would actually change the world for the better in some way, but mostly you just see career changes and a few people talking about murder sprees."

Some of us are on that track already. My paycheck is two-thirds, possibly less, of what it could be were I to take a high pressure gig in Silicon Valley. Instead I make enough to live comfortably, and spend the rest of my time working on Interesting Things. Traveling more would be nice but my partner and elderly cat would both miss me, so staying here is a choice freely made.

55:

Oddly enough, a good friend of mine was in that situation. He was just about dead when they found a match for a long transplant. He made it almost seven years on a 3-to-5 year average. Quality of life sucked; anti-rejection drugs just delay the inevitable with lung tissue.

Bruce decided he didn't have time to suffer fools at all, much less gladly. He spent most of the rest of his life learning thermodynamics and Motorola assembly language on his own, applying what he'd learned to his absurdly fast turbocharged Buick.

He'd figured he'd go downhill until he couldn't care for himself, be admitted to a nursing home, and die slowly. Instead, one morning he laid down on his couch for a nap and didn't wake up. There are worse ways to shuffle off this mortal coil.

56:

Maybe it really wouldn't make that much of a difference a couple of months after you got the news? Since you pitted winning the lottery against getting some really bad news health-wise, this is what popped into my head:

http://www.ted.com/talks/dan_gilbert_asks_why_are_we_happy.html

Remarkable revelation about two minutes in.

57:

"Spread laughter around the planet?"

Yes, that seems like a good idea. Can't think of a better one.

And if the planet is too big, well then you work at it in your town, and if your town is too big then you go at it in your neighbourhood.

58:

I don't know about you, but like many Americans I don't know my neighbors.

59:

I'd start a kickstarter campaign for publicly documenting every aspect of my affliction in the hopes that the data would help alieviate future suffering.

Map my genome. Metricize my enviromental variables. All the good bioinfomatic vectors. Start a lifelog. Patent and trademark that info and will those deeds to a creative commons foundation in a style along the lines of a certain Manfred Macx.

Big donors get a pint of my blood. Smaller sums get their picture associated with my codons on my DNA Tumblr.

60:

Everything is finite in time, and we are not infinite either. We are terminal. It is not if we die, it is when. But we tend to be delusional about reality, unless it intrudes. Western culture has a psychotic behavior about death, suppressing it from culture and removing the opportunity for spiritual growth.

I am mixed about my mortality. On the one hand, I would like to live forever. On the other, mortality makes life and its experiences precious. This is not just theoretical for me, I have had one bout with cancer (so far, one always has to say.)

In the end, we should always live as if we were dying tomorrow, and even embrace the experience of death as part of the experience of a life lived. As an atheist, I have to admit that the core of Buddhism has the only philosophy worth considering beyond bare materialism, which is a bit uninteresting in this regard...

-- Harald

ps so my main point seems to be: 5 years, so what?

61:

I'd like to be selfish. Find someone(s) willing to have a child with me, given the circumstances, and raise it after I'm gone.

A year or so to write down everything I have to say to said child. Actually better make it a month. Don't have enough good stories for a year.

Then I'd book a space in a cryo pod, and start working down the list of insanely dangerous things I've always been too much of a coward to try. If I make it to suspension with my brain intact, all well and good. If not...

I can live with that.

62:

I agree Harald. In principle, what's the difference between five years and the rest of your life? I think people who try too hard to "change the world" in their final years out of desperation or egotism will probably just make things worse. The best thing about knowing how long you have is that you'd probably waste less time and focus on things that are important to you. But you should probably be doing that anyway...

63:

Western culture has a psychotic behavior about death

That's not just us; every non-Western culture that I'm familiar with has it too. It seems to be a universal human trait.

I've found some elements of Buddhist practice useful, but the Buddhist idea of enlightenment is just woo, and the doctrine of karma had been used to justify a lot of real oppression.

64:

Laugh wildly at the sheer bloody irony of this happening just as I finally start seeing a therapist to try and deal with the suicidal thoughts I've been experiencing more or less constantly since I was about twelve, for a start.

Then, quietly and without any fuss, I'd start emotionally distancing myself from everyone around me to ensure that as few people as possible were affected when I finally did check out. I don't like the thought of people crying over me.

Towards the end, I'd probably buy myself a tent and a few supplies and head off into the highlands of Scotland or somewhere, and just disappear.

65:

What is there beyond pure materialism?

You mention Buddha, but isn't the point of Nirvana being relieved of any considerations, not just material ones?

What if you had a thousand lives to live, where you use the first couple of hundred to do the selfish stuff, and then you have several hundred more to make up for it? Luckily, life as an ant is short, and nobody can blame you for doing selfish ant stuff while you're an ant. Maybe you've even done the altruistic thing and sacrificed your life for the colony biting a mighty aggressor in the leg. (Ouch, did I really just step into that?)

What if you could get there without being reborn ad nauseam?

What if you could do your best or your worst in this one life, and it really didn't make a difference for your soul, because you have none?

Would it then make a difference if you had five lives or five years to live or a thousand?

66:

"I don't know about you, but like many Americans I don't know my neighbors."

So you think five years is not enough time to get to know them?

67:

First thing I'd do:-

Living Will, combined with Do Not Resuscitate and No Herioc Measures directives.

Next, - are there any trials for new therapies for $condition?

68:

@58:
I don't know about you, but like many Americans I don't know my neighbors.
--
And why should I care who my neighbors are, when personal mobility and high speed communications mean I'm not limited to a set of people defined by close physical proximity?

Not to mention, most of them seem to be transient anyway.

69:

My neighbors don't particularly want to know me any more than I want to know them.

70:

What Buddha taught, and what many Buddhists and NewAgers believe, are often two different things. Nobody is reborn. There is no soul to be reborn.
IMHO this is a very good guide to the true teachings:
http://www.friesian.com/buddhism.htm#basic

71:

Unfortunately, true. I intend to request a military burial at sea (for which I qualify), just to save my family money.

Everyone who knows me will assume it is because of my love of the ocean, but in reality I do not care about that once I am dead.

72:

Deliberately leaving a child with one parent is not merely selfish. It is cruel.

I would spend my five years looking for a cure to sociopathy. 4% of the population lives on the sociopathy spectrum. Helping them helps everyone they come in contact with.

73:

The Dalai Lama would probably disagree.

Any time religion is involved, there will be different sects that see things different ways. Comedian Emo Phillips got it about right:

Once I saw this guy on a bridge about to jump. I said, "Don't do it!"

He said, "Nobody loves me."
I said, "God loves you. Do you believe in God?"
He said, "Yes."
I said, "Are you a Christian or a Jew?"
He said, "A Christian."
I said, "Me, too! Protestant or Catholic?"
He said, "Protestant."
I said, "Me, too! What franchise?"
He said, "Baptist."
I said, "Me, too! Northern Baptist or Southern Baptist?"
He said, "Northern Baptist."
I said, "Me, too! Northern Conservative Baptist or Northern Liberal Baptist?"
He said, "Northern Conservative Baptist."
I said, "Me, too! Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region, or Northern Conservative Baptist Eastern Region?" He said, "Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region."
I said, "Me, too! Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1879, or Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1912?"
He said, "Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1912."
I said, "Die, heretic!" And I pushed him over.

74:

The Dalai Lama would probably not disagree. It's a matter of interpretation.

75:

If nobody is reborn, then what the hell is a Dalai Lama?

76:

The incarnation of past actions by other people and forces. The very fact that the religion sends out people to look for the new Dalai Lama reincarnates an aspect of that former person.

77:

@75 : If nobody is reborn, then what the hell is a Dalai Lama?

Onto a good thing?

78:

Dirk bruere @70 said: "Nobody is reborn. There is no soul to be reborn."

Dirk, if you're a Buddhist, you're falling into the mistake of nihilism. The doctrine of anatman means "no self" (not "no soul" as it's often been translated) -- this means when one examines the phenomena of one's mind, one cannot pinpoint anything within it that is unchanging and that will uniquely identify oneself over time. Although most contemporary Buddhist sects don't believe in a Western concept of a soul, some of the earlier schools, such as the Chittamatran school posited a continuity of existence from life to life that closely resembled the Western idea of reincarnation.

I can't really comment on the Theravada schools of contemporary Buddhism, but the Mahayana and Vajaryana schools of Buddhism consider the Chittamatran arguments to smack of "spiritual materialism". They argued that the Chittamatrans were positing an eternal self. So the Mahayana and Vajrayana schools prefer to take the middle course between the extremes of nihilism (which could be best represented by contemporary atheism, which would posit that nothing of your selfhood exists after your death) and spiritual materialism (which could be represented by religions that believe in an immortal soul that is unchanging and can exist without the physical body).

Wikipedia has a rather good article on the concept of anatman -- and it goes into the relationship between anatman (Pali: anatta) and its implications on rebirth. From which I quote...

"Buddhism does not necessarily deny the existence of mental phenomena (such as feelings, thoughts, and sensations) that are distinct from material phenomena.[2] Thus, the conventional translation of anattā as "no-soul"[3] can be misleading. If the word "soul" refers to a non-bodily component in a person that can continue in some way after death, then Buddhism does not deny the existence of a soul.[4] In fact, persons (Pāli: puggala; Sanskrit, pudgala) are said to be characterized by an ever-evolving consciousness (Pali: samvattanika viññana),[5][6] stream of consciousness (Pali: viññana sotam;[7] Sanskrit: vijñana srotām), or mind-continuity (Sanskrit: citta-saṃtāna) which, upon the death or dissolution of the aggregates (skandhas), becomes one of the contributing causes for the arising of a new group of skandhas. However, Buddhism denies the existence of a permanent or static entity that remains constant behind the changing bodily and non-bodily components of a living being."

So Buddhism posits that the evolving stream on consciousness in your current life will transform itself into another evolving stream of consciousness in your next life. And the karma and merit that you earn in this life will shape the direction that your next life takes.

from -- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anatman

Cheers!
--Wulf

79:

It's not *just* a thought experiment. Terry Pratchett was given a somewhat similar sentence. He seems to be continuing to write books, though I think he now has more co-authors. But his sense of humor seems to be slipping. (I haven't yet read his last three books, but I've bought two of them. The third isn't yet on sale from a US publisher.)

FWIW, humor is one of the things that Altzheimer's normally strikes first...usually even before you are know anything's wrong. (I don't know specifically about "sudden onset Altzheimers".)

So my presumption is that he's doing what he does as best he can, and "raising the next generation" (though he has previously done works with co-authors, so that's less certain).

OTOH, I doubt that it's a job that he hates.

80:

"So Buddhism posits that the evolving stream on consciousness in your current life will transform itself into another evolving stream of consciousness in your next life"

Except there is no "you" to be reincarnated.

81:

Just to play Devil's Advocate, have you considered the possibility that sociopathy is necessary for the efficient functioning of modern, mass civilization? Aren't sociopaths better adapted to running large organizations than more sentimental neurotypicals?

82:

Like Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot etc?

83:

Well, there are quite a few people in China and Russia that will defend Mao and Stalin for modernizing their countries. But you've chosen the most extreme examples, which I suppose you could do to discredit almost anything you don't like, Godwin's lawyer-style.

84:

For that matter, Hitler and Mussolini were once widely admired for revitalizing their nation's economies. My point is, sociopathy can be productive or destructive depending how it is used; it isn't all bad (assuming you don't define bad as "anything opposed to the values of ancestral hunter-gather tribes").

85:

I don't have it to hand but there is a recent study suggesting that having a sociopath running your business is counterproductive. Largely on the grounds that they seek short term reward and take unnecessary risks.

86:

I not sure where we're up to now with Terry Pratchett. The last I read - well, read and reread -were 'Snuff' and 'I shall wear Midnight'. The former I liked and the latter really liked, So I've been pretty amazed so far.

There was a book he did with Stephen Baxter? I haven't looked out for it because I find Stephen Baxter pretty onerous a read.

87:

Except there is no "you" to be reincarnated.

If you're discussing Buddhist belief, then the answer is that Buddhist beliefs vary.

If you're discussing how the world actually works, then mu. (If you don't get Zen jokes, don't worry. Zen jokes get you).

88:

The collab with Baxter is the long earth. I'd say it's a fairly good read, managing to take the strengths of both authors, mostly characterization on Pterry's part as Baxter is one of those hard sci fi types who writes character arcs assuming spherical humans of homogenous density moving through an emotional vacuum.

There definitely weren't many laughs to be found in the latest discworld book, Snuff. But the series has been shifting gradually away from mere comedy for a long time now so it doesn't feel abrupt.

89:

I bought _The Long Earth_, and read the first quarter of it. I figure that says it all.

90:

First, I would congratulate myself for signing up for long term disability at work. Then, depending on the condition, investigate the medical marijuana option in my state. I would write and post "Widow's Walk", a very long-promised work to fanfiction.net. I also have several other books I would finish and release into the wild, given time and condition. I would go on a cruise with my husband, and have as much time with the (grownup) kids as circumstances and finances allow. I would probably have to work till considered disabled to keep the insurance up, mind you. If things were headed in the agonizing direction, would volunteer to be a guinea pig. If that didn't work out, would remember that Oregon has a Death with Dignity Act. Or I might have saved back enough extra meds to quietly discorporate on my own.

91:

Dirk bruere @70 said: "Except there is no 'you' to be reincarnated."

Yup. You got it. Instead, it's your non-you that gets reincarnated as another non-you.

But remember that the mind in Buddhism is considered to be an aggregation of a bunch of processes (skandhas) working together (with environmental stimuli) to give you the illusion of self-hood. This all very similar to how Marvin Minsky, the founder of MIT's AI laboratory, hypothesized the mind works in his book "The Society of Mind". I find it amusing that Buddhist philosophers were drawing the same conclusions about the mind 2000 years before Minsky thought of the idea.

Where the Buddhists would probably differ with Minsky, is that they believe those aggregates get "reincarnated". They may not have exactly the same configuration that you left off with in the next life (because they can get all disoriented and jumbled up during the transition between death and rebirth), but (according to Mahayana doctrine, at least) there will be a thread of continuity between your old bundle of aggregates and the new bundle of aggregates squalling and newly born in your future mother's arms ;-). Worse yet for Westerners who want there to be a soul that will be reborn (i.e. a continuity of self over multiple lives), the memories from your previous life aren't supposed follow your skandhas into the next life. So you're not supposed to have memories of previous lives, a la Shirley MacLaine.

As Jay @87 said, not all Buddhists schools subscribe to the above world view. Ch'an schools such as Zen, tend not worry about all this epistemological and metaphysical stuff...

92:

ObSf: Egan's "The Walk" from his collection "Axiomatic".

93:

If I remember correctly he did receive emails from christians overjoyed to hear of his cancer diagnosis.

It wasn't a universal sentiment.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/guest-voices/post/in-remembrance-of-my-friend-hitch/2011/12/18/gIQAHxMx2O_blog.html

94:

Back around 90 I had a friend who was 2 years into non Hodgkins lymphoma. (I think. Or similar.) He was in his mid 40s, no dependents.

For the first two years he had what was considered "the standard" chemo treatment. Made him feel much better than before he knew he had the disease but didn't wipe it out. At that point he was told the next step was a 3 to 5 year course of chemo but that only 30% of the people in his situation made it 5 years. So he started looking around. Found a bone marrow transplant experimental program that had a 30% 5 year survival rate. But most of the deaths occurred during the first month after the transplant. (Bone marrow transplants basically take you to the edge then try and bring you back.)

He opted for the bone marrow transplant. He figured he'd rather get it over with given the similar survival rates. He didn't survive the treatment.

95:

Note that when I said I would want to try to make my neighbourhood laugh if it turned out that the town was too big I didn't necessarily mean my immediate neighbours next to my property line.

It might be others further down the street. I'm not picky.

And I don't think I would need to know them perfectly. After all, how much do you need to know about people just to make them smile?

96:

ben.g.hunt @49: I was hoping to see in the comments someone proposing that, at the limit of their lifespan, they would start a project that would actually change the world for the better in some way,[...]

But some people already are working on projects to change the world for better. It's just that firecracker solutions aren't actually working all that often. The ant method (change the world one grain of sand at a time) is tedious and doesn't make you a shining hero, but it actually works.

97:

This has actually happened to me twice (is it my fault the doctors were wrong both times?). Honestly, I grew to value the simplicity and normality of day-to-day living above all else. No big splashes, just doing the best you can on the day and always being present in your own life.

98:

"...there will be a thread of continuity between your old bundle of aggregates and the new bundle of aggregates squalling and newly born in your future mother's arms"

Not quite. If a transient self is defined by the skandas those skandas are by no means reincarnated in the same entity. They are dispersed. Or do you think DNA plays no part?

99:

@91:

But remember that the mind in Buddhism is considered to be an aggregation of a bunch of processes (skandhas) working together (with environmental stimuli) to give you the illusion of self-hood.

AS a matter of interest, what's the difference between "the illusion of self-hood" and actual self-hood?

100:

have you considered the possibility that sociopathy is necessary for the efficient functioning of modern, mass civilization?

Your question is very interesting, but relies on a questionable axiomatic assumption -- that efficient functioning is desirable in the context of mass civilization.

There are some areas within modern civilization where efficiency is clearly desirable -- emergency services, disaster recovery, and so on. But the sociopath isn't concerned with efficiency at a societal level; they're concerned with efficiency at a personal level, for example in extracting wealth from within whatever organization they've joined.

More to the point, efficiency is an ideological rallying-cry for sociopathic abuse of the commonweal; it's the first argument advanced for cuts in social services, or for enforcing harsh working conditions, or for adopting draconian measures in time of war. Efficiency is why your jobs got exported to sweat-shop factories in developing countries. Efficiency is why large agrobusinesses pivot to produce tax-subsidised biofuels and abandon crops that feed human beings. Efficiency is why pharmaceutical corporations stop producing vital but old and out-of-patent chemotherapy drugs and focus R&D effort on anti-depressants instead of antibiotics.

Efficiency is vastly over-rated as a priority ...

101:

There are various flavors of efficiency. One might be that fewer people get killed or there are fewer arguments between people or groups. I'm not arguing this specifically but having a few sociopaths may be like leven in bread. They make other things work out better.

102:

Thank you for saying this. I disagree about the agro- bushiness. They started producing bio-fuels because the governments forced them to in the name of the environment. If the ethanol subsidies were ended tomorrow most agro-businessmen would be back to planting food crops next season. Effectiveness is more important than Efficiency in the long run but does show up always on the short term bottom line . This is taught in business school but Efficiency is pushed as well and is easier to understand and it does tend to show up on the short term bottom line. So when you replace four people with one in short term it adds to the bottom line. When that person goes insane, drops dead from and heart attack, or just quits. The business then has to replace and retrain several people to fill his job. Costing a huge hitting the bottom line harder than if it had left the four original people in place. This cycle plays out time and time again and the lesson is never learned.

103:

Timothy F @102 said: "They started producing bio-fuels because the governments forced them to in the name of the environment..."

I remember it slightly differently. In 2005 the US Government passed legislation that a certain percentage of gasoline (petrol, for you Europeans) had to include biofuels in the mix (in this case ethanol). This was heavily supported by legislators from the corn-belt in the US, because corn prices were at an all-time low at this time, and Big Ag saw a business opportunity in bio-fuels. Then oil prices dropped and corn prices rose, and Big Ag lobbied the US Government for subsidies. Now they're hooked on the subsidies.

Remember -- cui bono.

104:

David L @99 asks: "AS a matter of interest, what's the difference between 'the illusion of self-hood' and actual self-hood?"

I guess I'll pose you a couple of thought experiment as my answer...

1. If you were suddenly to suffer a traumatic brain injury that induced both anterograde and retrograde amnesia, such as what Clive Waring suffers from (see his entry in Wikipedia), would you have any consistent identity of self -- without any memories and without inability to form any new memories? You're still conscious. You can still interact with your world. Your language functions are not impaired. But you have no way to retain anything of your day-to-day existence.

Are you really you without any memories?

2. Now step back from this situation. Say you have a time machine. Take the three versions of you out of time -- you at 5 years of age, you at 25 years of age, and you at 80 years of age -- and place them side-by-side. The 80-year old would share some of the memories with the 25-year-old and a few of the memories of the 5-year-old (because we forget a lot of stuff over the course of our life). All the versions of you answer to the same name. But each of you have a different set of experiences and are in a different stage of your development.

And to make things even more tricky. What if you let the 5-year old and 25-year old to run free to develop alongside the 80-year old you on the same time line? Are you all you? Or are you all different yous? ;-)

I guess that's what Buddhists mean by the illusion of self-hood.

It all comes back the old koan: What was your face like before your parents were born?

105:

The critical notion is continuity of consciousness. "Self" becomes more apparent as a worldline.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_line

106:

Charlie: I'd question whether any the corporate examples you posed are truly efficient. Or perhaps your point was they're only efficient in their ability to divert wealth to the sociopaths running the organization?

Perhaps I'm stating the obvious, but big corporations are notoriously inefficient, because they divert resources from their core objectives to support the parasitic requirements of groups within the organization (empire-building), and they divert profits, that could be reinvested to improve the performance of the organization, into the pockets of the manager/owners.

But I'm not convinced that the methods that sociopathic investors use to harvest profits can be considered to be efficient. If the investor accepts a 10 percent rate returnindefinitely -- versus taking 30 percent off the top by dissolving the company and selling off the assets -- which is the most efficient way of harvesting profits? I'm not an economist -- or a sociopath -- so the 10 percent per year seems optimal to me. You're milage may vary if you're a sociopath. So I wonder if sociopathic investors, such as those who run Bain Capital or Ripplewood Holdings, are actually acting rationally.

107:

David L @99 asks: "AS a matter of interest, what's the difference between 'the illusion of self-hood' and actual self-hood?"

Ah, no I didn't.

108:

So I wonder if sociopathic investors, such as those who run Bain Capital or Ripplewood Holdings, are actually acting rationally.

Rational has the same issues with definition as efficient. Or maybe a better term is "from what point of view"?

The person(s) in charge? The company? The shareholders. The market(s) they are in. The economy (local, national, global?) they are in? The society (again local, national, global?) they are in?

109:

Rationality is a tool that can be applied to evil axioms

110:

My bad. My vision isn't as good as it used to be. But it was good question that you didn't ask!

111:

The biofuels industry seems to have found a niche as a control on raw food prices.

If the price of feed increases the biofuel plants (there are only a handfull of them) are switched off. If the feed price drops the plants go back online. (They were offline at least 3 months back when I was still working in the agri sector).

Biofuels are a very handy mechanism for countering huge price swings in a strategic industry with otherwise insanely long lead times (2 years minimum).

Of course it's a horrible cludge to try and make capitalism work in farming, which would otherwse see half the producers going out of business every other business cycle (hence the CAP, EU subsidys, etc, etc).

And governments like it when their population can eat........

The biofuel industry sucks - but it only exists to bouy up a market that in a sane world wouldn't exist.

112:

And that last comment was totally off-topic! (I'm easily distracted).

From my personal observations, the few people I've known with "deadlines" spent their time arranging as best they could their affairs for their surviving family.

As someone mentioned earlier, that's going to be entirely personal and down to circumstances. But for most people family and friends (rather than "god") come first by a long way.

113:

I rather enjoyed The Long Earth...Baxter's previous
collaborations with Arthur C Clarke were truly dire.

Interesting characters in a different world with
a story told - whats not to like?

-- Andrew

114:

Various, on the rationality of sociopathy in business leadership.

Ignoring the issues with treating a corporation as "a person in law", but still treating a corporation as an entity, its first goal (according to my business studies classes anyway) is survival.

Now, it seems to me that the optimal survival strategy for the corporate entity is to keep all the stakeholders (main groups being investors, customers, suppliers and staff) happy. It also seems to me that the sociopathic management stretgy will be to maximise their pay and profits, even at the expense of customers, suppliers and other staff. I would suggest therefore, that sociopathic management may be a short-term (say 1 to 3 years) benefit in "turning around" a "failing business", but they are not conducive to long-term survival as disaffected staff resign, dissatisfied customers take their business elsewhere, and dissatisfied suppliers start refusing new orders.

115:

By which time, the sociopathic management have exited (with a golden handshake for their success) and have moved on to bigger and better things.
The classic problem with sociopathic management is that their goals are not aligned with the company's.

116:

I think we're in agreement, since my point is that in the longer term, sociopathic management is a Bad Thing. (Britons may understand the capitalisation; others, including Britons who don't, should see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1066_and_All_That )

117:

> efficiency

Jorj X. McKie and the Bureau of Sabotage have a fix for that...

118:

BTW, a precursor short story to The Long Earth is published in Pratchetts new collection "A blink of the screen".

119:

Going back to the original topic of the thread, as I understand it, the main problem with the "what would you do with your five years" is that that fact in itself doesn't change anything. One still has to eat, sleep, provide oneself with shelter and do the things that are required to survive from day-to-day. As far as I am aware there isn't some fairy-godmother organisation that pops up and provides one with the means to drop everything and fulfil a bucket list as you wait to die. If you own a house then yes, you could sell it and use the proceeds to do wonderful and crazy things with your final years but, for most of us, the ongoing process of living requires a continuing source of income and the retention of certain social norms. Also I am more than slightly cynical about the idea that knowing the (approximate) date of one's death will somehow make one a better person. Still an very interesting discussion though...

120:

This seems to be very much along the lines of a recent
SofterWorld comic.

4/5 active years is long enough to think about what you want to do with your life, but still leaves a sense of urgency, whereas the "rest of your life" means the majority of people meander along comfortably.

Personally, I'm in the undecided meandering category, and have no idea what I'd do...
Possibly along the lines of sell the house, go live on a beach somewhere cheap and tropical, and spend my time teaching scuba diving, learning to surf, and other such sea-side related activities. I guess the question I really need to answer is why don't I do that now...

Nick

121:

>>>I guess the question I really need to answer is why don't I do that now...

I'll answer that. Your house worth won't support you for the rest of your life. You can't keep on doing all the sea-related fun stuff when you grow old. And you might need quality healthcare, which is something cheap tropical paradises lack.

But hey, you can do it 'till you run out of money and then kill yourself. Who needs deadly diseases when you have a gun? 8-)

122:

We're all dying, so most of us sooner or later go through the thought processes of deciding what to do
with our remaining time, as soon as we get the freedom
to make our own decisions rather than just reacting to
necessity.

For me it comes down to this. Either I matter or I don't. If I don't matter (like if there is no meaning to life or if I am insignicant) then I might as well just follow instinct and be selfish. In which I would do what Alex said, write down all I have to share with the next generation (maybe it will get to other people's children). Then, having done all I can do, I would take care of myself, get cryo
set up (vinegar embalming and permafrost if you can find any) and do things to make my life complete,
some risky some not.

Of course, if I had longer than 5 years I would spend the extra time generating more wisdom so I'd have more
to share. And doing things to make my life complete, some risky and some not, which would help me generate wisdom to share.

Whereas if I matter, it is because of my wisdom, which I would share and then do things I want. So no matter what, life should be based on the same underpinnings. So I guess it has a meaning. Follow your heart to things that make you wise, as best you can, and share what you learn, as best you can.

123:

Interestingly, this scenario doesn't affect me at all. I happily welcome the day I die - not for lack of quality in my life mind you. I lead a pretty content life in which I already have everything I want short of being a millionaire (working on that!).

The way I see it, one of two things happens when you die - you go to heaven and live happily ever after, or, worst case scenario, there is no God and you simply cease to exist as a living thing. Scenario A is pretty good. Scenario B, well, if you don't exist you aren't even aware of the fact that you don't exist.

So dying ain't all that bad in my eyes, with the one exception that it makes your family and friends sad. As such, my life is already planned for the short term and I actively hope I die young.

Bring on the 5-year prognosis!

124:

Worst case scenario is that you are brought back from the dead by a hostile and sadistic AGI and tortured for a few billion years.

125:

Hm. Need to invent these hypothetical situations faster Mr.Stross! :D

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120514204050.htm

127:

Having some free time, I spent the weekend building a target range (sawed up a tree with my Woodmizer sawmill, made some 2x4's and viola!)
Turns out with a proper scope, I can hit a golf ball at 100 feet with a .22 caliber bullet, repeatedly.
So, I possess the skills, but going after someone with the intention of ending their life doesn't really ever enter into my world view. I'd sell my possessions and travel, probably by renting a room on a cargo container ship.

Specials

Merchandise

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Charlie Stross published on November 17, 2012 3:34 PM.

2512 was the previous entry in this blog.

Sitrep is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

Search this blog

Propaganda