Contemplating immortality, contemplating death

Paul Raven @ 03-06-2008

ninjaThere’s a lengthy (but well worth the read) article at COSMOS Magazine about the prospect of functional human immortality, which – thanks to fairly recent scientific advances – now looks plausible as opposed to impossible. Unlike many articles of its kind, it looks at the psychosocial implications of such a change:

“Our relatively brief lives and our routine proximity to the deaths of ourselves and others are the foundations of everything we have ever thought or believed. Neither religion nor philosophy necessarily promises immortality, but each offers ways of coming to terms with or giving meaning to death and, therefore, life. If death is to be postponed indefinitely, then both religion and philosophy face fundamental crises.”

Well, at least we’ll have the leisure time to talk it all out! [image by brunkfordbraun]

On the flip-side, an article at Wired takes a look at a new computer game wherein the bodies of your slain opponents don’t disappear:

“Over the years, I’ve noticed that most of the seriously violent games I love deal with the corpses by simply whisking them away. […] After I’d killed my way through about seven battles, I experimentally backtracked all the way to the beginning, and sure enough – every body was still lying there, every blood fleck on the ceiling intact.

Now, did this change the emotional, or even moral, timbre of the game?

In some ways, yes. You really do get a better sense that you’re a sociopath when the evidence of your crimes is stacked around you.”

Perhaps, rather than being the training grounds for murderers that some might claim them as, violent games could actually encourage their players to think harder about the consequences of their actions in the real world? That could come in handy – especially if we ever find we can live forever.

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One Response to “Contemplating immortality, contemplating death”

  1. ShaunCG says:

    Interesting article, although it does rather miss the obvious technical point that objects tend to disappear in more technologically advanced games because it demands more memory and processor runtime to keep them there. The more you add, the more of a drain on system resources it is.

    I know it’s not the point of the article or this post, but it’s not a new thing either. I mean, you play a level of Doom and backtrack when you reach the end – the bits of enemies are still there. The same is probably true of Wolfenstein 3D… a large number of hack&slash dungeon runners leave corpses onscreen too, as a reminded of the carnage you’ve caused. My memory may be tricking me but I’m fairly sure the mid-90s juggernaut that was Diablo did this, and in that you could backtrack through earlier levels if you wanted to.

    Still, it’s evidently just an excuse to talk about ethics in videogames, and being confronted with the results of ones own actions, and in that it’s an interesting article, albeit one that says nothing new.