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Mortalists

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Mortalists, who largely comprise baselines and nearbaselines, but also a number of "forward-looking" su and S>1 posthumans, oppose life-extension treatments which allow a person to cheat death indefinitely.

Mortalists are not opposed to caring for the sick and needy in general, which may inadvertently extend eir life toward whatever the natural limit may be for eir species. Mortalists simply feel that life should not be artificially extended many times beyond what would otherwise be possible, and certainly not indefinitely (Mortalist slogan: "Thou shalt not kill, but needst not strive over-zealously to keep alive.")

In defence of eir seemingly irrational position, which has lead to em being derided widely and earned em many enemies, Mortalists point out that Terragen culture, art, and politics are excessively dominated by ageless beings who have cheated death for centuries, in some cases millennia, and who have effectively squeezed out any "youthful" (less than a century in age) influence. Old minds, with eir old ideas and conservative (in the strictest sense, not inclined toward novelty) views and outlook linger on, and new ones are restricted entry. Mortalists draw an analogy between a centuries- or millennia-old sophonce, and an old-fashioned tape or video cassette on endless replay. Individuals who opt for immortality in this world essentially sacrifice the future in favour of the past, selfishly deciding that eir own existence is indisputably more important than that of those to come, whether ey have been conceived already or not.

Not so much an organized movement or a group with a hierarchical structure (though some organization does exist on the level of the individual orbital, planet, and occasionally star system, and different groups do maintain contact with one another and exchange stories and ideas for action), as a disparate community of sophonts with little in common other than shared opinion on a specific issue, the Mortalists as ey've come to be known, comprising mostly baselines and nearbaselines, but also a surprising representation of Su and transapient and higher clades whose members are not inherently immortal, are defined by eir rejection of and opposition to artificial immortality treatments which allow an otherwise mortal being to cheat death indefinitely. Mortalists are not against providing medical and other assistance to the sick and needy in general. Ey simple feel that immortality is unnatural and not beneficial to society in the long run, and that life should not be artificially extended beyond what would otherwise be the entity's natural span. A popular Mortalist slogan sums up eir position: "Thou shalt not kill, but shouldst not strive over-zealously to keep alive."

New sophont individuals coming into being for the first time essentially comprise a clean slate, or as close to such as can realistically be attained. As such, new sophonts bring with em a capacity and a potential to develop entirely new and fresh perspectives that older, existing sophants, even those who deliberately induce temporary partial amnesia in an attempt to simulate a clean slate, simply cannot match. Younger sophont minds, coming into being entirely without preconceived notions of any kind, and without eir neural pathways (or equivalent) already deeply ingrained by age and experience (even in cases where temporary partial amnesia is induced), are inherently more malleable, flexible, and adaptable, and are able to assimilate and attain proficiency in something new far more rapidly than older sophants, all other things being equal. Another popular Mortalist slogan: "Old dogs may be able to learn new tricks, but 'pups' are generally better, and quicker."

Mortalists fear that a moratorium, even a partial one, on new sophont individuals coming into being will deprive Terragen civilization of this precious resource of young, malleable minds, able to develop entirely new, fresh perspectives, and may lead to sociocultural stagnation as old minds, with eir old ideas and comparative lack of flexibility and quick learning, linger on and dominate culture, art, and politics.

Another thing Mortalists fear is that immortals, by simple virtue of having had more time to manipulate social relations to eir advantage, will come to comprise a permanent, undying, and largely inflexible ruling class. Or, if everyone opts for immortality, then those who were first will consolidate eir positions and rule indefinitely, forever locking out any new blood. This again will contribute to the socio-cultural stasis and permanent exclusion of any youthful influence. Mortalists' fears are based on the simple observation that, among SI:<1's and lower Singularities at least, those who achieve positions of power and influence in society generally do not voluntarily relinquish it unless forced to by some factor beyond eir control (age, weariness with the demands of ruling). Mortalists refer to this as the "Law of Conservation of Whoever's in Charge" (approximate translation). There is also the question, Mortalists ask, of whether anyone could be genuinely concerned with - have any genuine sense of obligation toward - beings whose life spans are a mere fraction of one's own.

One important thing concerning the Mortalists is, ey absolutely do not resort to force or terror to promote eir agenda. Ey are neither reliably reported nor even alleged have perpetrated any acts of violence or other mayhem against either living sophont individuals or property, whether physical or virtual. Eir methods are entirely memetic in nature, if somewhat oriented toward S<1's and lower Singularities. Perhaps owing to the presence of significant numbers of neo-Christians in eir midst, Mortalists feel that no ideological principle, however meritorious, legitimates the spilling of blood, or the purposeful destruction of life, whether that life be corporeal, virtual or what not. Any cause is only as noble as the dirtiest, most questionable means employed in advancing it.

Mortalists point out that immortality does not occur anywhere in nature because, obviously, such a species would be an evolutionary dead end (both biologically, and in sociocultural terms, for a civilization of immortal sophonts), and that "Immortalists" neglect this wisdom.

Throughout known space there are hundreds of billions of mortalists, not only religious Prim, Islamic, Neochristian, and Buddhist types and animist rianths and provolves, but also truly advanced types who see true immortality as the development of the culture as a potentially immortal entity, or even as a conscious super-entity, See also Metamortalists

 
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Development Notes
Text by Mike Parisi, with additional material by Steve Bowers

Initially published on 24 September 2002.

 
 
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