What is happiness?

(I originally planned to make this a long and detailed article on a bunch of topics which are all related to “happiness”. Unfortunately I ran out of time, so this is not a complete article, but rather just a collection of links to other articles and the books that I found helpful. I might write a lot more here in the future. )

Basically, whenever you read words like happy, blissful (particularly in Eternal Blissful Life), content, high (mental) well-being, etc…, you should think of these words as a good combination of the explanations in the following Wikipedia articles:


I also thing this Wikipedia article on “Contributing Factors to Well-Being” is also well worth reading.

My view on happiness is mostly formed by this book Positive Psychology in a Nutshell – the science of happiness  by Ilona Boniwell, which I can highly recommend. The content of this book is basically the Wikipedia articles above, plus some practical hands-on advice on how to improve your well-being.


The definition of “happiness” is tricky and the links above only represent our current best guesses. I am pretty sure these definitions will change and improve in the future as we make progress in psychology and our understanding of different states of consciousness.
In his books, Sam Harris provides a nice analogy between the concept of “happiness” and the concept of “health”. It is really hard to define what it really means to be “healthy”. Is it merely the absence of diseases? What if you are completely “healthy” except minor inflammations in our body (which we all have constantly at every given moment)? Does being healthy also mean being fit, having lots of stamina? Right now, you would probably describe a 60-year old man who runs a marathon and does not have any illnesses as “healthy”. But in the future you might be considered not healthy because you can’t run a marathon at the age of 200!
However, just because the definition of “healthy” is fuzzy and will probably change over time and based on the context, that does not stop us from having a useful concept of health and an intuitive understanding of the word. And we can make true statements about what contributes to health and what does not.
Exactly the same kind of “fuzzy but still useful” applies to the word “happiness”.
Ultimately, my definition of happiness is “the best possible and most all-embracing definition of happiness that one can, all things considered, come up with.” Humanity is probably not yet able to articulate this “perfect” definition yet.



Why would you want to live forever?

(I didn’t have time to write on this topic the way I intended to. Rather than an article, this is basically just a list of links and notes. Will write more here in the future.)

If you are unsure whether you want to stop aging, you should watch these two videos:

Here is a list of good websites with more information on this topic:

The same fable of the Dragon-Tyrant is told in this youtube video:


There are two broad classes of arguments against rejuvenation biotechnology:

  1. People don’t want to live longer anyway.
  2. If people wouldn’t age anymore, there would be massive and unsolvable problems.

objection #1:  People don’t want to live longer anyway.


Will increased lifespans be boring?

Of all concerns about increasing healthy lifespans, this is the one that baffles me the most!

There will always be books to be written, art to be created, landscapes and stories to be discovered, knowledge to be acquired, skills to be mastered, games to be played, and friends or relatives in need of love and support. How could life ever get boring? Especially if we further assume that life in the future will also be “blissful”. And besides: Would you seriously rather be dead than bored??


Read more here and here.

Ending aging is unnatural?!

So what?

Life extension is really just another word for medicine: All that doctors are doing is trying to prolong life and minimize suffering. We are already prolonging our life beyond what is natural with our current medicine. We are just doing it very inefficiently. Trying to stop aging is not less natural than treating cancer with chemotherapy or using medicine and vaccines. Nothing humans do nowadays is purely natural anymore, and we enjoy the highest standard of living as a result of it.

Just because something is natural doesn’t mean it’s good or necessary! Moskitos with Malaria are natural. But we have decided that they are not good and there is research being done to genetically engineer them not to carry Malaria.
Yes, death is a part of life. But so was cholera, until we found ways to deal with it. Shortsightedness was a part of life, until we got glasses or contact lenses.  Would you want those back?
Read more here and here.
You actually want to die after a certain age?!
Most people assume they will want to die once they reach a certain age. And this might still be true even if there was a cure for aging. The end of biological aging would not mean the end of death in any way. It’s more like a summer evening when you were a kid on a playground and your mom called you inside. You just wanted to keep playing and have a little bit more fun before you went inside to sleep. It’s not about playing outside forever – just about playing as long as you want, until you feel tired.
Almost nobody wants to die right now. Most people only want to die in the future. They imagine once they are old and have a live fully lived, when they might even be slightly bored, then they will be ready to die.  Now you might think that, but when the appointment with the reaper comes, it will be right now! Not in the future anymore, because we don’t live in the future. Even old people who say they are not afraid of dying would appreciate if you didn’t kill them right at the moment they said that. And if someone really does want to die right in the current moment, it is usually because they are in miserable pain because of aging with no relief other then death in sight. It’s not because they feel like “they have lived long enough and are bored of it”. I have never heard of a healthy person to end his life because he “has already experienced enough and doesn’t know what to do anymore..”.
Romanticizing of getting old
We romanticize the idea of getting old – calling our last years “our golden years”. But really, everybody wants to become old, but nobody wants to be old.
Read here about the allegedly good sides of aging.
Read here about the role of coping mechanism in thinking about death.
Another good article on this topic.
Summary of key points:
  • It is sometimes argued that aging also has it’s upsides, e.g. wisdom and a long life experience. It is often subtly implied that you cannot have those upsides without the downsides (frailty, diseases, …) of aging.
  • However, this reasoning confuses biological aging with chronological aging. Chronological aging is simply the passing of time while biological aging is the process of damage accumulation of the body over time, which eventually leads to pathologies.
  • Biological Aging implies chronological aging, but chronological aging does not imply biological aging. There are, for example, some species who do not seem to biologically age at all. They chronologically age, but never “get older”.
  • All the upsides of aging (wisdom, long life experience..) are due to chronological aging. Biological aging, which is responsible for all the downsides of aging, is not necessary for the upsides. In fact, biological aging is detrimental to wisdom or a long life experience, since it usually entails damage to the brain.
  • In short: When aging is cured, one gets the advantages of chronological aging without the disadvantages of biological aging.
Since death is inevitable, we have come to have a weird relationship with it.
Like a hostage who grows to love its kidnapper, humans tell themselves the handful of decades they have to live is just about the right length. Since we cannot change it anyway, we like to tell us that a truly long life would get boring, that death is necessary to give life meaning.  We are quick to point out all the problems we had if we wouldn’t die anymore. And hence we conclude that death is necessary, that it is a good thing, that death is even our friend!
Death is not necessary to give live meaning. The Misery of death does not give happiness meaning. Happiness is meaning itself! There is the saying that “there cannot be light without shadows”, but I don’t think this saying applies here. If you tortured people to make them appreciate the pleasures of life more, you would be a monster! No parents would ever wish for their child to be affected by a disease that gradually wrinkles their skin, weakens their bones, dims their vision and their minds, cripples them in a thousand ways over the decades to ultimately kill them – just to give their live meaning!
Your brain believes the sweet lie that the horrors it can’t avoid are good for you! We need to clear our heads from the millennia of death acceptance. Death should not be the solution to future problems imagined, like overpopulation or not being able to have children (since that might cause overpopulation). We will not miss death, just like we don’t miss polio or famines. Humans need to discard the learned helplessness the Reaper and their own brains have imposed on them to see the rot and decay of aging not as natural and inevitable but as a degenerative disease to be attacked just like all others.
Why Rejuvenation Biotechnology Could Benefit You
Read here.
Key points:
  • Too often, discussions about rejuvenation biotechnology are dominated by possible problems and the possible benefits are coming to short. That’s why here are some obvious-tangible, immediate benefits for the people undergoing rejuvenation.
  • benefit #1: Health! You don’t get the ill health associated with aging anymore.
  • benefit #2:  Independence!  Frailty, failing senses, weakness, and diseases aren’t good friends of independence, but they are good friends of old age.
  • benefit #3: Longevity! More time and energy to devote to what you love. More time to learn and grow. No worry about the right time to marry, get a job, finish your education. Being able to see what the future has in store for humanity.
  • benefit #4: Choice! If there was a cure for aging, you can still choose to not take it. Even after taking it, you can always change your mind and still chose to die. But you will have the choice!
Why increased lifespan will probably not mean a loss of motivation
Read here.
key points from the link above:
  • Some argue that the perceived inevitability puts a certain pressure on you causing you do do things “today rather than tomorrow”. Without that pressure people would loose motivation. Similar arguments are along the lines of “Death gives life meaning! – No death, no reason to live” or “Without the biological clock ticking, people become lazy”.
  • But aren’t interest, passion, the will to help others, curiosity or the will to explore and learn ever new things enough reasons to get people out of bed?
  • The idea that you you need something bad to appreciate the good has some merits, but one needs to be careful not to overgeneralize or extend it too much without leading to nonsense. You don’t need death in order to appreciate to be alive!
  • Ask yourself: Do you appreciate your friends more because you know they won’t be around forever? Don’t you simply appreciate them because they are good people?
Why a Longer Life Does Not Mean Longer Decreptitude
Read here.
Key points from the link above:
  • There is an ancient Greek myth about Tithonus, a mortal who was in love with Eos, an immortal titan. In order to stay together with Eos forever, Tithonus asked for immortality and his wish was granted. However, he forgot to specifically ask for eternal youth and kept aging and aging without dying. Eventually he became so decrepit, disease-ridden and demented that his life became unbearable, but he still couldn’t die.
  • People fearing a similar fate like Tithonus completely misunderstand rejuvenation biotechnology. The goal is not immortality but eternal youth. In fact, immortality seems pretty much impossible, since everything in the universe is finite.
The death is inevitable, why bother with rejuvenation? argument
Why clean your house if it’s going to dust one day?
Read more here.

objection #2: If people wouldn’t age anymore, there would be massive and unsolvable problems.

Will increased lifespans cause overpopulation?
Not necessarily…
Read here and here.
Rejuvenation biotechnologies may bring challenges to society. But are they worse than age-related diseases?
Read here.
key points:
  • This article offers two more general answers to the general objection “Rejuvenation technologies would cause [insert problem X here], so it’s best not to go there”, where problem X is a specific objection allegedly caused by curing aging.
  • answer #1: It makes no sense to oppose a technology on the grounds that, in the far future, it might cause problems which we couldn’t solve today. Any problems caused by curing aging (e.g. overpopulation) will happen in the far future, when, thanks to ongoing technological and scientific progress, solutions to those problems might be available.
  • answer #2: The question is not: “Are the problems causes by curing aging bad”. The question is: “Are those problems so bad compared to aging?”. Aging kills ~100 000 people a day and is the sole cause for a tremendous amount of horrific suffering. Not to forget the tremendous amount of grief due to the death of loved ones. Any objection against rejuvenation technologies has to be weighted against this.
  • Conclusion: Let’s face it—suffering and death are hardly a solution to anything. Will the rise of rejuvenation biotechnology cause unexpected side effects and challenges? Quite possibly, because it is a disruptive technology, and as such, it has the power to revolutionize our lives. But just like other times before, we’ll figure things out as we go.



Cryonics, artificial intelligence & rejuvenation biotechnologies: Why you might live much longer than you think!

Look at the following two graphs:
a graph showing energy consumption
(source for both graphs)
How likely do you think the world will still be roughly the same in about 50 years? What about 100 years? Don’t you think it is at least possible that the world will undergo enormous changes within your life time – similar to the changes between now and 1800?

I see three paths that might lead to an “eternal” life (a life that is hundreds, thousands or even millions of years long):
  1. the “conventional way”: Science finds a way to cure aging and rejuvenate the body before you die.
  2. Human level artificial intelligence is invented and leads to a rapid technological process (sometimes called “the Singularity” or an “Intelligence Explosion”). Once we get there, finding a cure for aging will become trivial.
  3. You actually die, but thanks to cryonics you get revived some time in the future when (1) or (2) has already happened.
A lot has already been written on all of these three points, so rather than reinventing the wheel by writing my own article, I will mostly just provide links and comments to other useful resources on these topic.

#1 way to live forever: Science & rejuvenation biotechnology

“Just as a vintage car can be kept in good condition indefinitely with periodic preventative maintenance, there is no reason why, in principle, the same can’t be true of the human body. We are, after all, biological machines.” – Aubrey de Grey, a leading rejuvenation biotechnology researcher

The science of longevity is quickly gaining momentum and has recently made some exciting progresses. This video provides a brief overview:

Some more interesting links:
I also like to just read articles on scientificamerican.com. Just type “longevity” in the search bar on the website. I feel like Scientific American is less biased or sensational than the other websites above.

Here is Aubrey de Grey’s Ted Talk on the topic. The talk is already a view years old, but mostly still relevant. Aubrey de Grey is one ot the most popular figures in the “Fight Aging” movement. He is the founder of SENS:

This article https://www.leafscience.org/not-in-my-lifetime/ titled “The ‘Science Will Not Defeat Aging in my Lifetime so Why Bother?’ Argument, and Why We Should be More Optimistic” is also worth reading.

some more thoughts:
  1. Given the complexity of aging, many have questioned whether curing aging is even realistic (Warner et al., 2005Olshansky et al., 2006Holliday, 2009). There is no scientific reason, however, to think that aging cannot be cured (reviewed in de Magalhaes, 2014a). After all, curing aging does not violate any law of physics.
  2. At the moment, curing aging is still “pretty far off”.  But so was the claim that “everyone will have a supercomputer in their pockets”, when the first computer (which was very big) was build.  And nobody in 1920 would have even remotely imagined a heart transplantation. And yet it happened just 47 years later. There is also the “Law of Accelerating Returns” – the law that technology tends to grow exponentially. In the next 10 years we might make similar progress like we did in the past 20 years. In the next 50 years the world might change in similar ways like it did in the past 200 years! This concept of exponential growth is nicely explained here.
  3. The quest to find a cure for aging is only just starting to gain momentum. But once the “human colossus” starts to fully work on the problem, progress will occur much faster. In particular the fact that big figures like Craig Venter or Google (only fairly recently!) tapped into this area makes me hopeful that funding & interest in this field will rapidly increase in the future.
  4. Almost all current research (rightfully) goes into “increasing healthy lifespan”  (the time we spent active and not sick) rather than “increasing total lifespan”. But progress in one area often also benefits the other and I suspect that most scientists working on the first area secretly hope for progress on the latter. Note there is a strong economic incentive to increasing healthy lifespan (hence, Google & Co are on the field).
  5. Some living organism can already get fairly old: The Aldabra giant tortoise can live 200+ years, some lobsters 100+, Greenland sharks ~400 years, the clam arctica islandica 507 years (source). So there is at least a “proof of concept”.
  6. All this talk is really about “negligible senescence”, aka: “Reversing the effects of aging”. This has nothing to do with “immortality”. Being hit by an Asteroid will most likely kill you even in 5000 years (unless you have a copy of your brain & state of consciousness somewhere else).

#2 way to live forever: Intelligence Explosion (or Singularity)

 To inform yourself on this topic, it is probably best if you simply read the following article on waitbutwhy.com
Even if funding & research into the science of longevity completely ceases in the near future or turns out to be a fruitless endeavor, the “problem of death” might still be solved within your lifetime if the Singularity happens and a human-friendly artificial superintelligence  “arises” . This artificial superintelligence would be so smart that it can solve any problem, including the “death problem”. Conveniently, it could also solve all other “human problems”, e.g. the “happiness problem” (the problem that life usually isn’t at its best). Hence the “blissful” part in Eternal Blissful Life could be fullfilled this way, too.
The term superintelligence was first used by Nick Bostrom and describes “an hypothetical agent that is far smarter than the human brain in practically every field, including science, creativity, general wisdom and social skills.”
Ray Kurzweil, director of engineering at Google, termed the phrase (technological) “Singularity”.
Some key points:
  • It is unclear when & if AI will reach human-level intelligence”. But if it does so, it seems likely this will quickly also lead to “superintelligence”. See the explanation in the Wait But Why article above.
  • Once we have superintelligence, “we have everything”, including most likely a cure for aging.
  • According to many experts, artificial intelligence poses a serious (the most serious?!) existential risk. And no: “Just putting it in a box and unplugging it if it misbehaves” will not get you very far. At the same time, artificial human level intelligence could be “the best thing that ever happened to humanity.”
When will we have “general human-level intelligence” (with Superintelligence shortly thereafter)?

Here is a survey of the 100 most cited AI scientists asked when human-level-machine-intelligence will be invented:

  Median response Mean response Standart deviation
10% chance of human-level machine intelligence 2024 2034 33 years
50% chance of human-level machine intelligence 2050 2072 110 years
90% chance of human-level machine intelligence 2070 2168 342 years

(source for table)

You can see the experts give a 50% chance of human-level AI happening by 2050, just 32 years in the future. Admittedly, they are very uncertain, but high uncertainty also means it could arrive sooner rather than later.

Humans are generally really bad in predicting the future. Here is an in-depth article on the arrival of human-level artificial intelligence, that tries to go beyond the hype and also explores some reasons why the current predictions might be flawed.


some more links:
  • If you want to get excited about this topic, Ray Kurzweil is the man you have to follow! Here are his Ted talks and further links on him.
  • Nick Bostrom seems to me to be a little bit more “realistic”/less sensational on this topic. Watch his talks here and here.
  • google “singularity” – there are a ton of articles on this topic out there.

#3 way to live forever: Cryonics

Cryonics  is the low temperature preservation (usually at −196 °C) of people who cannot be sustained by contemporary medicine, with the hope that resuscitation and restoration to full health may be possible in the far future. Cryopreservation of humans is not reversible with present technology; The hope is that medical advances will someday allow cryopreserved people to be revived.
some links:

To me, the most important thing to know about cryonics is summarized in this graph taken from waitbutwhy.com:

No matter how likely it is that cryonics will lead to a new life, one thing is for sure: The likelihood is even lower (zero!) if you don’t sign up for cryonics.

Things are getting better – the world is already right on track towards an Eternal Blissful Life for everyone.

(Note: Unfortunately, I did not have enough time to write on this topic in the depth that I originally intended to. That’s why the following is mostly a collection of articles that support my claim that the world is improving and that there are good reasons to be optimistic about the future. I might write a lot more here in the future.)

In this article I try to convince you that the following quote from Barack Obama is very much true:


“If you had to choose a moment in history to be born, and you did not know ahead of time who you would be – you didn’t know whether you were going to be born into a wealthy family or a poor family, what country you’d be born in, whether you were going to be a man or a women – if you had to choose blindly what moment you’d want to be born, you’d choose now.” – Barack Obama, 2016


Just like the following dark world view of Donald Trump doesn’t resemble the facts very well:


“Mothers and children trapped in poverty… an education system which leaves our young and beautiful students deprived of all knowledge … and the crime, and the gangs, and the drugs that have stolen to many lives. … We are at outright war that is expanding and metastasizing. …. The blame for this nightmare may be placed on a global power structure, that has eroded the underlying spiritual and moral foundations of Christianity”  – Donald Trump


Many people have the impression that the world is getting worse over time. But, in the writing of Harvard Professor Steven Pinker, “this bleak assessment of the state of the world is wrong. And not just a little wrong – wrong wrong, flat-earth wrong, couldn’t be more wrong”.
Whether it’s life expectancy, crime rates, happiness levels, wealth or quality of life, just about every measurable indicator of “the good life” has been on the rise and shows no sign of stopping.


If you don’t belief it, I recommend you take this “Gapminder Test”, which measures how accurate your world view resembles the actual facts of the world: http://forms.gapminder.org/s3/test-2018


I also highly recommend this Ted Talk by Hans Rosling on “How not to be ignorant about the world”.


Here is a list of articles that summarize my point well:

I also highly recommend Stephen Pinkers book Enlightenment Now – The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress, which also makes a compelling case that the world is improving over time.  While the book seems to be widely agreed on (most prominently by Bill Gates, who calls it his “favorite book of all time”, some also express some critique. You can read more about this criticism in the Wikipedia Article on the book (particularly if you look into the sources).

If not stated otherwise, all facts that follow are taken from this book.

Another book that might also be worth reading (though I have not read it yet) is this one:

Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World – and Why Things Are Better Than You Think.

What now follows is a list of links looking at concrete indicators of human progress and how they developed over time.

Life expectancy, health, sustenance, wealth and poverty

From the poorest places on earth to the richest, on the scale of centuries to the scale of recent decades, people live longer, healthier, feed better, and get richer everywhere ever since the beginning of the enlightenment.
Here is an interactive graph that shows live expectancy (which is strongly correlated with sustenance, health, and quality of life in general) and income of all countries over time:

Interactive Graph 1

Here you see income distribution of all countries over time:


Here you see Child mortality and Malnutrition over time (I did not combine those two for any special reason).
You can go to www.gapminder.com and check out many more interactive graphs like this yourself. They all show the same picture: The world is improving over time and the trend implies that it will continue to do so!
Famines are almost a thing of the past (even in the developing countries), even though they used to be very common, even in the richest countries, until 200 years ago. More on this here: https://ourworldindata.org/famines
 A mere 45 years ago, 35% of the world were malnourished, in 2015 that number was 13%. At the same time the population increased by five billions!
Here is a graph that shows the fraction of people in the world (in percent) living in extreme poverty (defined by the World Bank as less then $1,90/day, adjusted for inflation taking 2011 as a reference point. (“Extreme poverty is defined as having less then the relative purchasing power parity of $1,90 in 2011”).   Sorry for the German- The y-axis says “percent” and the x-axis says “year”.
extreme poverty fractions
From 1993 to 2013 (in just 20 years!) extreme poverty went down from 33.3% of the world population (or 1.86 billion people) to “only” 10.7% (0.767 billion people). (Source: World Bank)
The World Bank plans to completely eradicate extreme poverty by 2030. Even if they are off by a view years – extreme poverty will probably be a thing of the past within my lifetime, allowing humanity to move on to higher-level problems!
However, not just poverty is declining. People who are merely “poor” (but not extremely poor) are also getting richer: https://ourworldindata.org/poverty-at-higher-poverty-lines
Also, check out this link on the eradication of multiply diseases, which is making great progress: https://ourworldindata.org/eradication-of-diseases
The plan is to eradicate Malaria by 2040. Malaria deaths have halved from roughly 800 000 to 400 000 people per year between 2000 and 2015 (the latest data point). https://ourworldindata.org/malaria
Governments all over the world are also spending an ever-increasing fraction of their expenditure on public health care and well-being of the poor: https://ourworldindata.org/financing-healthcare
The burden of diseases, measured in “Disability Adjusted Life Years” (or DALY’s) is at an all-time-low: https://ourworldindata.org/burden-of-disease


We are living in the most peaceful time ever! And the decline of war and war-related deaths has been steady over the past decades. If you don’t belief it, watch this talk: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o5X2-i_poNU#t=03m40s
Check here to see graphs of war-related deaths over time and similar stuff: https://ourworldindata.org/war-and-peace (particularly descriptive is the figure in 1.6)
And yes, this is all true despite the ongoing war in Syria, which killed at least 250 000 people in 2016 alone. Syria is a tragedy, but a kind of tragedy that is happening decreasingly and tends to become less severe.

Crime & Safety

Crime rates of the world as a whole are at an all-time low. Looking at individual countries, crime rates are going down in almost every country of the world, from rape to homicide, theft or child abuse.
Homicides over time in different parts of the world: https://ourworldindata.org/homicides
Child labor, corporal punishment to discipline children, Bullying and physical fighting at schools, sexual violence against children, and Child marriage and female genital mutilation: https://ourworldindata.org/violence-against-rights-for-children
Terrorism is getting worse: https://ourworldindata.org/terrorism However, since terrorism is responsible for such a small fraction of violent deaths, this does not distort the overall trend of a decline of violent deaths. (In 2015 in the USA, 44 people were killed in terrorism. At the same time 15 696 where killed in homicide, 35 398 died in motor vehicle accidents, and 136 053 died of all sorts of accidents.
The world is also getting much safer with viewer deaths from accidents or natural catastrophes. Check out the following:
There are also viewer people dying from flight accidents, road accidents, and all sorts of other accidents. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Motor_vehicle_fatality_rate_in_U.S._by_year  (link is for USA, but this is true for other countries as well). Read the book “Enlightenment Now”.

Democracy, Freedom and Equal Rights

The world is more democratic then ever, people on average all over the world enjoy more freedom and more equal rights.
The world has far viewer ethnic and racial discriminatory laws than it used to have. In 1950, half the world’s nations had these laws, but by 2003, that number was down to under one-fifth. And today women are allowed to vote everywhere except in Vatican Citty.
The conclusion: “Physical integrity practices have improved over time”, and the world enjoys more freedom of press (though this is still a big problem in many parts of the world), far less violence against minorities, and less racism.
Democracy is on the rise: https://ourworldindata.org/democracy


  • Environmental problems are grim, and climate change is very real, but these problems are solvable given the right knowledge.
  • This idea, that environmental protection is a problem to be solved, is commonly dismissed as the “faith that technology will save us.” In fact, it is a skepticism that the status quo will doom us — that knowledge and behavior will remain frozen in their current state for perpetuity.
  • A naive faith in stasis has repeatedly let to prophecies of environmental doomsdays that never happened. Overpopulation did not lead to mass famines, and resources refused to run out. None of the predictions in the 1972 bestseller the Limits of Growth did happen.
  • Again and again, environmental improvements once deemed impossible have taken place. Since 1970, when the Environmental Protection Agency was established, the United States has slashed its emissions of five air pollutants by almost two-thirds. Over the same period, the population grew by more than 40 percent, and those people drove twice as many miles and became two and a half times richer. Energy use has leveled off, and even carbon dioxide emissions have turned a corner. These diverging curves refute both the left-wing claim that only degrowth can curb pollution and the right-wing claim that environmental protection must sabotage economic growth and standard of living.
  • The world’s progress on environmental protection can be tracked in a report card called the Environmental Performance Index, a composite of indicators of the quality of air, water, forests, fisheries, farms, and natural habitats. Out of 180 countries that have been tracked for a decade or more, all but two show an improvement. Oil spills are going down, the number of protected areas is going up, the rate of extinction of species is going down, deforestation is declining, the ozone layer is expected to heal by the middle of the 21st century,
  • Like all demonstrations of progress, reports on the improving state of the environment are often met with a combination of anger and illogic. The fact that many measures of environmental quality are improving does not mean that everything is OK, that the environment got better by itself, or that we can just sit back and relax.
  • As countries get out of poverty, they start polluting more at first. But once they get rich enough, they start tackling environmental problems and things start improving again.
  • One key to accelerating conservation is to decouple productivity from resources: to get more human benefit from less matter and energy. This puts a premium on density. As crops are bred or engineered to produce more protein, calories, and fiber with less land, water, and fertilizer, farmland is spared, and it can morph back to natural habitats. As people move to cities, they not only free up land in the countryside but need fewer resources for commuting, building, and heating. As trees are harvested from dense plantations, which have five to ten times the yield of natural forests, forestland is spared, together with its feathered, furry, and scaly inhabitants.
  • Another friend of the earth is dematerialization. Progress in technology allows us to do more with less. Indeed, we may be reaching “Peak Stuff”: of a hundred commodities the environmental scientist Jesse Ausubel has plotted, 36 have peaked in absolute use in the United States, and another 53 may be poised to drop, including water, nitrogen, and electricity.
  • Climate change is a moral issue because it has the potential to harm billions, particularly the world’s poor. But morality is different from moralizing, and is often poorly served by it. It may be satisfying to demonize fossil fuel corporations, but that won’t prevent destructive climate change.
  • The enlightened response to climate change is to figure out how to get the most energy with the least emission of greenhouse gases. There is, to be sure, a tragic view of modernity in which this is impossible: industrial society, powered by flaming carbon, contains the fuel of its own destruction. But the tragic view is incorrect. The modern world has been progressively decarbonizing. When rich countries such as the United States and the United Kingdom first industrialized, they emitted more and more CO2 to produce a dollar of GDP, but they turned a corner in the 1950s and since then have been emitting less and less. China and India are following suit, cresting in the late 1970s and mid-1990s, respectively. Carbon intensity for the world as a whole has been declining for half a century.
  • The success of deep decarbonization will hinge on technological breakthroughs on many frontiers, including advanced nuclear technologies that are cheaper, safer, and more efficient than today’s light-water reactors; batteries to store intermittent energy from renewables; Internet-like smart grids that distribute electricity from scattered sources to scattered users at scattered times; technologies that electrify and decarbonize industrial processes such as the production of cement, fertilizer, and steel; liquid biofuels for heavy trucks and planes that need dense, portable energy; and methods of capturing and storing CO2.
  • Humanity is not on an irrevocable path to ecological suicide. As the world gets richer and more tech-savvy, it dematerializes, decarbonizes, and densifies, sparing land and species. As people get richer and better educated, they care more about the environment, figure out ways to protect it, and are better able to pay the costs. Many parts of the environment are rebounding, emboldening us to deal with the admittedly severe problems that remain.
  • We cannot be complacently optimistic about climate change, but we can be conditionally optimistic. We have some practicable ways to prevent the harms and we have the means to learn more. Problems are solvable. That does not mean that they will solve themselves, but it does mean that we can solve them if we sustain the benevolent forces of modernity that have allowed us to solve problems so far, including societal prosperity, wisely regulated markets, international governance, and investments in science and technology. Far from licensing complacency, our progress at solving environmental problems emboldens us to strive for more.
In my humble non-expert opinion, nuclear energy seems like a value friend that we should embrace in order to fight climate change and to ease environmental protection. This my view is based on articles like the following:

Happiness, Life-Satisfaction, Loneliness, Mental Illness

Indeed, the world is getting happier as well. I actually didn’t believe that myself before looking at the data. Check out the following articles:
Happiness and life satisfaction in different parts of the world over time: https://ourworldindata.org/happiness-and-life-satisfaction
Suicide rates remain constant or slightly declined: https://ourworldindata.org/suicide
Self reported happiness: http://humanprogress.org/story/2542

Technological Progress

From the number of digits in the largest known prime, to the number of people with access to all sorts of technologies like electricity, internet, smartphones, to Moores Law of exponential growth, technological progress pervades everything!


More people than ever enjoy longer education than ever:
educational mobility and inequality: https://ourworldindata.org/educational-mobility-inequality
People are literally getting smarter: https://ourworldindata.org/intelligence. This is called the “Flynn Effect”. For some reason, IQ is rising all over the world.

Work & Life

People have more leisure time than ever, spent less time working or doing annoying work (e.g. household work), and spent an ever smaller fraction of their income on necessaries.
The “Human Development Index” (HDI), a measure that combines indicators of a long and healthy life, being knowledgeable, and having a decent standard of living, is looking good: https://ourworldindata.org/human-development-index

Some concluding thoughts & FAQ

Part I was about the prospect of an Eternal Blissful Life, and what it means to “believe” in it. Part II elaborated on my philosophy of life – the three thoughts that can give your mind peace, and the three calls to action that can give your life meaning.

Here in Part III, I’ll clear up some potential sources of confusion or misunderstanding. I’ll also add some additional thoughts that didn’t fit elsewhere. The sections of this article are self-contained, so you can skip any that aren’t relevant to you.

Shouldn’t you live “here and now”, rather than wait for the future?

I get that question a lot. Variations of this question include:

“Aren’t you afraid of missing out on life by chasing something that’s impossible?”

“Shouldn’t you focus on enjoying your Current Life?”

My answer is emphatic. Yes, you should absolutely live in the present and enjoy your Current Life! But this doesn’t contradict my central thesis. In fact, the whole point of my philosophy is that believing in an Eternal Blissful Life makes your Current Life more beautiful and meaningful. Looking forward to the future and enjoying the present aren’t mutually exclusive. There’s a reason people say “anticipation is half the pleasure”. Do you enjoy your life any less when you have an amazing vacation to look forward? Of course not! If anything, the joy of anticipation adds flavor to your days. And looking forward to an Eternal Blissful Life has the same positive effects.

Nor am I afraid of missing out on life by “wasting” time being healthy, taking care of myself and the environment, and trying to be the best possible world citizen. I want my current existence to be fulfilling and happy; and practically everything I’m doing right now directly contributes to that. In my view, the path to a happy life and path to an Eternal Blissful Life are exactly the same.

Sure, I do miss out on a few things. Some believe that a lack of strictness can be beneficial; that allowing yourself to occasionally smoke a cigarette, eat an unhealthy meal, or spend all night drinking with friends is what makes life worth living. The truth is, I sometimes do indulge in these things. But ever since I drastically cut down on them and improved my self-discipline, my life has been much more enjoyable. If believing in an Eternal Blissful Life means “missing out” on tobacco, I think it’s worth it! I also think it’s worth it to forego heavily processed burgers and use the money on cryonics instead. It’s what I plan to do myself as soon as I finish my studies and begin work. It’s worth it because there’s so much to gain – centuries, or even millennia, of extended and blissful life.

Let’s say you choose to embrace a similar philosophy to mine, but for some reason end up on your deathbed with no looming promise of an Eternal Blissful Life. 1(click me) If in this position you find yourself thinking, “I wish I didn’t waste my days chasing the illusion of an Eternal Blissful Life”, then you haven’t properly understood my philosophy. If you still need to be disabused of this notion, try rereading Part II – especially call to action #3. I’ve spent a long time thinking about how I want to lead my life, and I’m convinced that I won’t regret living my life in this way – even if it turns out to be a false hope.

You say I’m inevitably headed for an amazing Eternal Blissful Life. Does that mean I can be lazy and irresponsible in my Current Life?

Absolutely not! Recall for a moment that 17th-century English peasant planning to emigrate to America. He can’t afford to be lazy. He needs to organize a million things in order for his trip to go ahead without a hitch. His emigration to the New World isn’t a guaranteed event that he can wait passively for; he needs to actively work towards it, otherwise it might not happen. It’s the same story with your Eternal Blissful Life.

If you think believing in an Eternal Blissful Life is an excuse to be lazy, I suggest rereading the calls to action in Part II. The key goal is to live a Current Life that’s healthy, fulfilled, and therefore as long as possible. You should develop the sense of moral responsibility necessary to improve the world and make life better for everyone around you. I, for one, interpret the prospect of an Eternal Blissful Life in such a way that it makes me want to “make my Future Self proud”.

Even though you’ll be able to write your novel or travel the world in your Eternal Blissful Life, you should absolutely focus on these things in your Current Life, too. Whatever makes your life more beautiful and interesting should remain at the core of your everyday existence.

Isn’t it stupid to base your whole raison d’être on something as implausible as an Eternal Blissful Life?

Let me ask you this: isn’t the English peasant equally foolish to believe he’ll end up with an amazing new life in America? Is a cancer patient foolish to believe her chemotherapy will be effective? Is hope irrational?

One thing I’d like to be clear about is that I’m not saying we’re all guaranteed an Eternal Blissful Life. My belief in an Eternal Blissful Life isn’t like my belief in gravity or in atomic structure. There’s a big difference between confidence in a scientific theory and confidence in a future possibility. Elon Musk, for example, is confident that we’ll start building a colony on Mars within the next 20 years. Although scientists can’t “prove” this in the same way they can prove the chemical composition of rocket fuel, that doesn’t make Musk’s belief any less worthy of serious consideration.

If I were forced to put a number on how likely it is that a healthy young person, living in a western country in 2018, will enjoy an Eternal Blissful Life – I’d say “probably somewhere between 5% and 95%”. And that answer is more than enough for me to be satisfied.

I simply think it’s reasonable to assume that many of us will be vastly better off in the future. Our lives will be much longer, and most of our problems will be solved. This plausible vision of the future is encapsulated in the term “Eternal Blissful Life”.

So is it foolish to believe in an Eternal Blissful Life and base my life philosophy on it? Perhaps. And while we’re at it – it was equally foolish of slaves to imagine a world free from slavery. Of medical researchers to think they could rid the world of polio. Of astronauts to think they could set foot on the moon. The world seems to be full of foolish people pursuing implausible aims. They should all just give up and be content with what they have!

But in all seriousness, these are my justifications for basing my life on an uncertain future:

  • It makes me happy
  • It motivates me to do all sorts of things that enrich my life – things I might not have done otherwise. (Becoming a vegetarian, for instance, and getting involved in Effective Altruism).
  • I’m not harming anyone (including myself) by holding this belief. Quite the contrary! 2
  • Practically every action that stems from my beliefs is an action I think we should all be taking regardless. The promise of an Eternal Blissful Life simply motivates me to take these actions. Any additional things I do (e.g. reading about trends in futuristic technologies) are pleasurable enough to count as a hobby. To the train enthusiast, model train sets are inherently worthwhile – and it’s the same for all my research and writing on this subject. I enjoy it!

Earlier I made the analogy between traditional religious faith, and my own faith in an Eternal Blissful Life. There’s one massive difference. I’m not burying my head under the sand in the way many religious people do. I don’t have to refute any scientific evidence, contradict our current understanding of astrophysics, or blindly believe that our “souls” can leave our bodies after death and then somehow coalesce again into a form that’s recognizably “us”. I’m not limiting my personal growth through fixation on dogma. And I don’t really mind if people disagree with me. It’s very important to me to have a realistic worldview – to believe things that are within the realm of scientific plausibility.

It’s perfectly conceivable that we’ll eventually experience an Eternal Blissful Life. And I’m by no means the only one who has such optimism. Humanity has been more or less continually advancing ever since it came into being – not only technologically but also socially and politically. The world we enjoy today would have been unimaginable to the brightest minds of two hundred years ago. And there’s no reason to think this trend won’t continue. Many experts believe, for example, that the Singularity will occur before the end of this century. To refresh yourself on all the reasons to be optimistic about the future, check out the appendix.

Even the healthiest existence will only prolong my life by ten or twenty years at best. And as a lone individual, there’s very little I can do to turn an Eternal Blissful Life into a reality. So why bother?

True – even if you try extremely hard, and do everything to increase your chances of having an Eternal Blissful Life, it will only get you so far. But to me, it’s also a matter of effort versus expected value. Let’s say you can increase your chances of an Eternal Blissful Life from 5% to 10% by contributing to society and living a healthy life. Let’s further assume that your Eternal Blissful Life would encompass 50,000 wonderful years. In this case, your 5% increase in probability translates to an enormous increase in the potential length and value of your life. Since the stakes are so high, increasing your chances even slightly is absolutely worth it.

Does believing in an Eternal Blissful Life require blind optimism?

No. Simply being optimistic won’t get you anywhere unless you do something about it. Doing nothing, and ignoring all the world’s problems, definitely isn’t the path to an Eternal Blissful Life. Don’t forget the three calls to action!

I do believe that “everything will be OK in the end” – but I’m keenly aware that many things are not OK in the world at the moment. For example:

    • There are still almost a billion people living in extreme poverty.
    • Even in a well-off country like the USA, 6.9% (16 million) of the adult population lives with major depression.
    • There are a bunch of existential risks that need to be taken very seriously. For example, Elon Musk, Stephen Hawking, and many others believe that advanced artificial intelligence, which might be developed this century, will lead either lead to “humanity solving all its problems”  or humanity going extinct. Nuclear war, extreme climate change, or advanced bio- and nanotechnology also have the potential to pose existential risks.

Here is an article by 80,000 Hours about the world’s most pressing problems – the ones where progress can be made relatively easily. These problems are the “low-hanging fruit” of global progress, and should be tackled first.

The bottom line is this: Let’s be optimistic, but retain our realism and acknowledge that there’s still a lot we need to do.

Believing in an Eternal Blissful Life means having faith in humanity.

People readily point out how selfish and evil humans, and how ruthlessly we destroy our planet. Pessimistic news headlines get clicks, because there’s plenty of appetite for negativity and cynicism. And although it’s certainly true that humans are flawed, I believe it’s time we balanced the bad news with a more positive appraisal.

Labeling humanity as “evil” ignores the extent to which our species has actually improved over time. Though we still suffer from regular and dramatic aberrations, the general trend for the past few thousand years has been an upward one. Any reading of history supports this view. Few are nostalgic for the good old days of slavery, plague, and lawlessness. Around 2,000 years ago the Carthaginians were sacrificing their own children to placate the gods. And until recently, it was widely considered pleasant to watch the execution of a human being. People would take their children to these “events”, much as we might go to the zoo or skating rink today. Immanuel Kant, one of the most enlightened philosophers of his time, believed that women had no place in civic society. And how many people cared about the welfare of animals 50 years ago? There are numerous examples of vast human progress that pessimists simply take for granted.

While humans can be greedy and selfish at times, we can also be remarkably generous and selfless at other times. There are countless examples of people sacrificing everything for others.

Steven Pinker posits that we all have five inner demons: predatory or practical violence, dominance, revenge, sadism and ideology. But at the same time, we also have four internal strengths – the “better angels of our nature” – namely empathy, self-control, moral sense, and reason.

Given the wrong circumstances (e.g. anarchy, cults, a bad upbringing) our inner demons will often win. But in the right circumsntaces (e.g. a state of social order, a loving family, a good upbringing) our better angels will rise to the fore and determine how we behave. And it seems to me that the world is steadily moving towards a state that fosters our better angels and discourages our demons.

Being overly pessimistic about human nature is counterproductive. Pessimists tend to be quite comfortable to wallow in negativity rather than attempting to find solutions. The great achievements of the American civil rights movement were built on the backs of optimistic “dreamers” like Martin Luther King. Useless lamentation, by contrast, would have done nothing to improve the rights of black people.

I like to view humanity as a troubled teenager on his way to becoming a wiser adult. He’s on the right track, but he still acts with selfishness, greed, and outright ruthlessness at times. He is, after all, still a teenager! To conclude that he’s a “bad person” doesn’t capture the full story. And merely focusing on his bad qualities and blaming him – without offering any help – will hardly promote his growth as a human being.

You wouldn’t call your troubled son “evil by nature” or “irredeemably corrupted”. So why feel that way about our whole species? We should never be blind to human foibles, but we should have faith in the possibility of improvement. Lock your doors, but trust that robbers won’t try to break in while you’re out. Have faith in humankind!

Belief is self-fulfilling.

The more people believe in an Eternal Blissful Life and actively pursue it, the more likely we are to experience an Eternal Blissful Life. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy!

That’s probably my main motivation for writing these articles and creating this website in the first place. I hope to convince others to imagine an Eternal Blissful Life and actively pursue it. The more people who take care of the environment, tackle the world’s problems, and choose an ethical life, the better. It’s in everyone’s interest.

Dan Pallotta, in his inspiring TED talk, discusses the need for people to collectively “dream big” again. To me, the dream of an Eternal Blissful Life for everyone is the greatest dream of all. If society works steadily towards the realization of this dream, it would lead to a truly amazing world. The results of the goal would be well beyond anything we can currently imagine.

In his book Superintelligence, Nick Bostrom talks about the need for our brightest minds to step forward and begin working on the AI control problem. 3 There’s one quote from the book that applies very well to the broader question of how to pave the way to an Eternal Blissful Life. So, without further ado:

May the best of humanity please step forward!

The search for spirituality

Some argue that humans have evolved to be religious, and that our capacity for self-transcendence is a basic part of being human (Ted Talk).  It seems for many people, some form of spirituality is a basic need, or at least something that yields profound benefits. “Spirituality” – when freed from its religious associations – is the feeling of being part of something beyond ourselves; of our existence being something more than what Nabokov called a “brief crack of light between two eternities of darkness”. The yearning for inspiration, for awe, and for wonder, is deeply ingrained into our genes.

In the past, organized religion performed that function. But its irrational basis doesn’t hold up well to our modern scientific standards – and people often feel that secularism itself is unable to rise to the challenge. Unfortunately, most forms of spirituality involve leaps in logic at the very least. (There are exceptions, however, such as the form of spirituality Sam Harris offers in his book Waking Up.)

The promise of an Eternal Blissful Life might be able to fill the gaps left by the “death of god”. It doesn’t involve any questionable metaphysics, and it’s perfectly aligned with an enlightened scientific view of the universe. Nonetheless, it offers meaningful answers to some of our most urgent questions: “What’s the purpose of life?”; “How should I act while I’m alive?”; and “What happens when I die?”, to name just a few.

Thinking, or dreaming, about what the future holds – especially beyond the limited horizons of our Current Life – encourages a feeling of self-transcendence. Personally, I never cease to be in awe of the 21st century and the great opportunity it gives us to live an Eternal Blissful Life. It’s an opportunity that none of the billions who came before us were given. And it’s a way to give our life a suitably noble mission.


In my view, there are three main points worth considering about an Eternal Blissful Life.

First, it makes me feel happy in my everyday life. During even the most stressful situations, I can always take a step back and realize that none of it really matters in the long run, because “this too shall pass.” At the end of the tunnel is a very bright light indeed, and it’s fantastic to have something magnificent to look forward to.

Second, it has given me a greater sense of purpose than ever before. I have found my Ikigai – my reason to get up in the morning. By repeating the mantra, “I want to make my Future Self proud”, I can keep on top of everything my ikigai entails: taking care of my physical and mental well-being, contributing to a better world, and giving everything the best I can give.

Finally, my belief in an Eternal Blissful Life is essentially an attempt to introduce a form of spirituality into my existence. It provides me with answers to the “big questions”, and encourages feelings of self-transcendence and awe.

I’m convinced, now, that I’m not merely a cluster of atoms on a rather average planet – sans soul, sans purpose, and destined for oblivion. Instead, I believe that everything I experience in my Current Life is just the very beginning of an extremely long story. The breadth of future possibilities is extraordinary! It seems to me that, in a literal sense, even the stars are not the limit.

All this has led to a tremendous improvement in my overall well-being. Life is deeply satisfying, and the future is endlessly exciting. While I was working on these articles, one persistent thought kept popping into my mind:

Perhaps simply believing in an Eternal Blissful Life is itself a source of bliss . . .

call to action #3: Make your Future Self proud

First things first: what exactly do I mean by making your Future Self 4 proud? The concept is a little fuzzy, and each person has to work out the details for themselves. It basically means: do what makes you proud in your Current Life, and what you won’t regret later. “Make your Future Self proud” is my way of saying, “Give everything your best!”.

Giving your best is making choices you can be proud of. It’s being the person you want to be. It’s avoiding excessive moping, and instead extracting value from every moment. It’s imagining each day through the eyes of a future biographer. Do you really want that biographer to write: “between 2018 and 2021 he was stuck in a rut” or “she frequently succumbed to procrastination”?

As John Anster memorably put it in his rendition of Goethe’s Faust:

Then indecision brings its own delays, And days are lost lamenting over lost days. Are you in earnest? Seize this very minute; What you can do, or dream you can do, begin it; Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.

A woman standing on top of a mountain, looking proud.
Make yourself proud – and don’t forget to bask in your successes!

In my experience, a great way to make my Future Self proud is to start building upon the first two calls to action. After I quit smoking, for example, I would sometimes feel an incredibly strong biological urge to smoke a cigarette. During these moments, I would remind myself that giving into temptation – or successfully resisting it – would mean the difference between heavy disappointment or chest-swelling pride in the future. By keeping my Future Self in the picture, I found it much easier to stick to the straight and narrow. For the same reason, it helped me commit to vegetarianism and contribute to the world in various ways. It’s the mantra I repeat to myself whenever laziness, procrastination, or negativity rear their ugly heads.

Ancient Romans aspired to the four Stoic virtues, originally formulated by Plato: wisdom, courage, justice, and temperance.

a statue of Marcus Aurelius

In addition, they were obsessed with how they would be remembered by posterity, and constantly took into account what future history books might say about their actions and words. It’s partly for this reason that Cicero’s speeches, Ovid’s poetry, Seneca’s philosophical tracts, and Marcus Aurelius’ statesmanship are so exemplary. All of these men were effectively “making their Future Selves proud.”

Though it’s important to make your Future Self proud, you should also be kind to yourself and tolerant of your foibles. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to be perfect. Give everything your best, according to your strengths and weaknesses. After all: Cicero lost some of his debates; Ovid was exiled; and Seneca educated one of Rome’s worst emperors and wound up committing suicide in a bathtub. Yet despite their mistakes, the rough age in which they lived, and their comparatively brief life expectancy (50 was considered very elderly), these men managed to achieve extraordinary things.

Perhaps most instructive is the case of Marcus Aurelius. Even more than the others, he strove for Stoic purity, virtue, and excellence in all pursuits. Yet he was far too hard on himself, and his Meditations are full of despair at his own perceived failings. This just reinforces the need for proper perspective, for lightheartedness, and for a degree of self-forgiveness when you stray from the right path.

You alone know your story, and what you can reasonably expect from yourself. If you have severe depression, “giving your best” can simply mean getting out of bed in the morning after days of staring apathetically at the ceiling. If you’re an ambitious young professional, it can mean delivering well-executed projects for your clients. If you’re a racketeer, it can mean deciding to leave your unethical business behind at last. The key is not to focus on what you have done wrong, but what you can do right.

a narrow elevator
A claustrophobic person can make his Future Self proud by facing his fears and taking an elevator.

But why, you might ask, is the mantra not simply “make yourself proud”? Why the emphasis on the future? And what does this all have to do with an Eternal Blissful Life?

I believe that making your Future Self proud will make a bigger difference in the long run. It will help you keep a broader perspective, and escape the narrow thinking patterns of everyday life. We’ve all heard what old people say on their death bed: they almost always regret what they didn’t do, not what they did do. And in order to have initiative and take effective action, it’s useful to imagine what you’ll be thinking on your death bed 2(click me) rather than what you’ll be thinking later today.

Similarly, I imagine our Future Selves will care a great deal about what we did in our Current Life. In the same way that an old woman regrets her youthful mistakes, our Future Selves will regret the mistakes we made – or the opportunities we missed – in this formative first chapter of our lives. And unlike old people today, our Future Selves will actually have to live with these regrets. So there’s another way we can rephrase the third call to action: “Live your life in a way you won’t regret on your deathbed!”

withering roses

According to Richard Leider, there are three extremely common deathbed regrets that most people share. To paraphrase, they are:

  • Not being reflective enough. Never pushing the pause button and looking at one’s life more wholesomely.
  • Taking too few risks. “Risk” doesn’t necessarily mean going base jumping or mountain climbing. It can also mean living more authentically, giving more to relationships, or speaking up on behalf of others.
  • Not searching for a purpose. Ending up on autopilot without considering what gives meaning to one’s life.

(cool video summarizing the above)

By keeping in mind the exhortation to “make your Future Self proud”, you’ll remain aware that life is not just a single point in time, but a stretched-out continuum. You’ll take a step back and consider not just what seems best at the moment, but what will be best in the long run.

In one of my previous articles, “Take a step back and look at your life from the greater perspective of an Eternal Blissful Life”, I wrote that in a sense, “nothing in your current life really matters, since your current life will only be a tiny fraction of your total life”. But this is an exception to that statement; making your Future Self proud by acting well in your Current Life does in fact matter! And it’s a good thing; I actually quite like the thought that in the very distant future, I’ll reminisce on the actions I took today. Ideally, I’ll be smiling when I do so! This imagined future spurs me on to give my best in my Current Life.

Additionally, it’s conceivable that our Current Lives will be the last time we ever face serious challenges. It could be the last time we have to “struggle” to survive and prosper; when the difference we make can be a matter of life and death for other people. It’s perhaps our last opportunity to defy terrible odds and do something extraordinary. Like a soldier who fought in WWII and then went on to prosper in America – or a millionaire who started a business from nothing – we’ll be able to look back on our Current Lives as a time when we demonstrated remarkable strength of character. The soldier who fought in WWII might recall risking his life to save someone, refusing an order to kill innocent civilians, or sharing his last morsels of food despite being on the verge of starvation. By comparison, his prosperous post-WWII life wouldn’t have offered many opportunities for heroics. Helping a grandma cross the street doesn’t really test the iron in your soul!

Irena Sendler
Irena Sendler

The Polish nurse Irena Sendler saved around 2,500 Jewish children by smuggling them out of the Warsaw Ghetto during WWII. She was caught by the Gestapo and brutally tortured, but refused to betray her comrades. She eventually escaped, her will unbroken – and then continued to save Jews. 3 Even if I had such heroism within me, I’d have a pretty hard time proving it in 21st-century Germany…

Almost by definition, your Eternal Blissful Life will occur after humanity has solved all its major problems. So there’ll be fewer opportunities to prove your mettle like Irena Sendler was able to. There won’t be horrible factory farming to oppose, refugees to help, or dictators to stand up to.

The way I see it, the fundamental human struggle is between our lower animal instincts and our more noble traits 4, between our limbic system and our neocortex, between our inner demons and the better angels of our nature. As Gore Vidal wrote in his essay on The Twelve Caesars, human beings are “half-tempted creatures, whose great moral task it is to hold in balance the angel and the monster within – for we are both, and to ignore this duality is to invite disaster.” We usually rely on willpower alone to ensure that our better side prevails. But by the time we reach our Eternal Blissful Lives, human nature itself may have changed in a fundamental way. We may have developed more effective methods of controlling the inner workings of our brain and fighting our primitive impulses. 5 We’ll be less prone to distraction and procrastination 6 , and we’ll be more empathetic and compassionate.

I even envision a scenario in which our brains can be uploaded to a digital world, or in which we can genetically re-engineer ourselves to enhance our best qualities. Thanks to brain-computer-interfaces, our brains might be able to communicate directly with artificial superintelligence, thereby helping us become a kind of advanced hybrid 7 – the cerebral equivalent of a prosthetic limb. Some transhumanists even argue that we might become practically omniscient and omnipotent creatures in the future.

life in the future

The implication of all of this is that our Current Life might be out final opportunity to prove ourselves, using only the physical and mental resources we’ve developed naturally. It could be our last chance to demonstrate the iron in our souls – despite our limited cognitive abilities, and the constant moral struggle between our rational selves and our primitive instincts. 8

Your Future Self may not have to deal with the same primitive human challenges (such as checking poor impulses) that you currently deal with. But you’ll know what it was like to have those challenges – and you’ll know how well you dealt with them. That knowledge will influence how you view yourself. It will contribute to your self-image, and affect how you’ll be seen by your future friends. Imagine if everyone knew that Zeus began his existence as a rather cowardly mortal, good for nothing and prone to self-pity. That would surely have influenced the Greeks’ feelings about him as an all-powerful god!

Of course, I have no idea what my future will really be like. All this might be nothing more than a daydream. But if it turns out to be true, I want my Future Self to have an impeccable reputation. I don’t want to have been a coward before fearlessness was made easy. I don’t want to have procrastinated until technology helped me avoid distraction. That’s why I want to do my best to deal bravely with typical human challenges. I want to make my Future Self proud!

I leave you with this apt meme:

a funny meme

Call to Action #2: Contribute to a better world

This one is simple:

Contribute to the world in meaningful ways, to make sure it keeps heading towards an Eternal Blissful Life for everyone!

The better and brighter the world we live in, the more likely it is that humanity will eventually solve all its problems. Obviously, the world right now is far from being perfect. But if everyone does their bit, we can make it a much better place. The sooner this happens, the sooner we can all enjoy our Eternal Blissful Life.

There are at least four distinct spheres in which improving the world becomes not just inherently worthwhile, but also increases the likelihood of an Eternal Blissful Life.

First, we should take care of the environment. Living for centuries may not be particularly pleasant, after all, in a world plagued by pollution, cluttered with garbage, and lacking a proper ozone layer. Streams that can’t be swum in, seas that destroy our coastlines, and increasingly extreme weather events will remain problems unless we actively do something about them. We don’t want to recreate the scenario of the film Interstellar, which sees the world become uninhabitable due to crop blights, dust storms and a host of other environmental problems.

Great Barrier Reef
The world is beautiful. We want it to stay this way!

Second, we should strive to do good in our own small circle of friends and acquaintances. If you’re consistently nice to those around you, they’ll be more likely to pay it forward to someone else. Be a role model: shy away from cheating and lying, always be fair, try to help others as much as possible, and be thoughtful and respectful of others’ needs. If people see you behaving this way, many will follow your example. As Rudyard Kipling wrote in his classic poem If:

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

. . .

If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

Hatred, jealousy, and deceit are potholes on the path to an Eternal Blissful Life. The more you resist these things, the smoother the road will be – and the first step is to rid them from your own mind. Every person you have a positive influence on is more likely to become the next philanthropist, humanitarian, or benevolent scientist.

Third, you should contribute to the world at large. You might do this by fighting poverty, looking for ways to cure various diseases, volunteering at a soup kitchen, or by taking initiative in some other way. The benefits of this approach aren’t limited to the world outside yourself. This video explains why altruism can improve your own life, too:

The basic argument goes like this: The richer, healthier and better off everyone is – even in developing countries you’ve never heard of – the more speedily we’ll come up with technological breakthroughs that ultimately benefit everyone, including you. This is due to a simultaneous increase in demand and supply. In a more prosperous world, more people feel the need – and possess the means – for such innovations. And at the same time, more people are skilled enough and comfortable enough to pursue work on those innovations. As increasing numbers of people are able to afford a theoretical cure for cancer, for example, they’ll start to put more money into cancer research.

Interestingly, even helping the poorest children on Earth will improve your chances of an Eternal Blissful Life. By reducing child mortality and giving women freedom over their own reproductive cycles, population growth is actually mitigated rather than accelerated. This video explains why such a counterintuitive correlation exists. A smaller and steadier population, engaged in less competition for scarce resources, will make it easier for rejuvenation biotechnology to become widely accessible. 9(click me)

Finally, you can also support anti-aging research. This arguably has a big potential to reduce suffering and make the world a better place. 2 Obviously, it would also increase your chances of living forever. You can support this research by advocating for it, donating, or even becoming an anti-aging researcher yourself. Check out these links to get started: SENS and lifespan.io.

If you support the variety of anti-aging research that aims to increase our healthy lifespan 3, specifically, then you’ll be helping scientists reduce the ever-expanding period at the end of our lives that we spend sick, frail, and stuck in a hospital bed. Increasing our healthy lifespan would also yield massive economic benefits, since people will remain productive for longer and will require less dedicated care when they’re old. 4

scene from a retirement home
Although some elderly people do enjoy their time in retirement homes, they’re most often there because they have no choice.

Rejuvenation biotechnology aimed at increasing healthy lifespans would give older adults the ability to choose. The suffering that old people endure these days – that they are expected to endure – could one day become a thing of the past. Aging may one day become the next polio – something that used to happen to people before an effective cure was found. That’s why supporting anti-aging research has a big potential to reduce suffering and make the world a better place.

Of course, you probably don’t need to be persuaded to make the world a better place. Regardless of how you feel about an Eternal Blissful Life, I imagine this is something you want to do anyway. But a belief in the possibility of immortality merely provides an additional motivation – an additional reason to fight the good fight. And for the more intransigent among us, it may be precisely what they need to nudge them into a more ethical and altruistic  way of life. 5

Putting it into practice

There are many ways to be a good person. On a personal level, you can try to make the people around you happy, be a good friend, and avoid cheating and lying. Don’t be egoistic or self-centered. It’s variation of the Golden Rule: be the kind of person you want everyone around you to be! 6

In terms of the environment, you’ll probably get the biggest impact by becoming a vegetarian. Additionally, you could take care not to litter, not to waste any food, and to recycle as much as possible. Use a bike instead of a car, and so on – you get the idea!

The single most important decision you’ll make regarding your impact on the world is probably your career choice. The NGO 80,000 hours  estimates that you’ll spend approximately 80,000 hours of your life 7 working. Wouldn’t it be nice if you had an ethical job, which allows you to do what you love, what you’re good at and what pays well, while at the same time contributing to the world in a meaningful way. The mission of 80,000 hours is to help you find out exactly what that job is. They also produce fantastic evidence-based articles on what makes for a dream job, and how to be successful in any job.

Remember the Japanese concept of Ikigai  – “the reason to live”? Why not contribute to the world via your professional career and find your ikigai there?


A good way to maximize your positive impact on the world via your career is to be ambitious, climb the career ladder and attain as much power, influence and money as possible (as long as you don’t harm anyone along the way), since this puts you in a far better position to do good. Making the world a better place is far easier when you are the CEO of google, the president of the United States, the next Oprah Winfrey, or if you have a billion dollar in your bank accounts. Often, the best way to change a bad system is to infiltrate it and beat it with its own rules. You can try to get leaders to do good – or you simply become a leader and do good yourself!

Besides your career, the Effective Altruism movement is in my view the best way to contribute to the world. You can learn about some of their key ideas in this talk:

Effective Altruism uses reason and evidence to find ways to “do good better”. To take an example from the movement’s website: Suppose you have a $40,000 budget to fight blindness, which you can spend as you wish. One possibility would be using the money to provide a guide dog to a blind person in the United States, helping them overcome their disability. Due to the intensive training and upkeep involved, a single guide dog costs $40,000. Another option would be to pay for surgeries to reverse the effects of trachoma 8 in Africa. This costs $20-50 per patient cured.

There are of course many other options, but for simplicity’s sake let’s consider those two. The difference between the two choices is stark: you could use your entire budget to help one person overcome the challenges of blindness, or you could use it to cure more than 500 people. If you believe that all people have equal moral value, then the second course of action is infinitely better than the first. Based on considerations like this, Effective Altruism tries to determine how you can do the most good.

Effective Altruism focuses not only on global poverty, but also on animal welfare and on improving the well-being of future generations. Importantly, it also aims to reduce existential risks. 9. Its advocates work closely with institutions like the Future of Humanity Institute , the Future of Life Institute, and the Machine Intelligence Reseach Institute. All three of these institutions are well worth checking out. Supporting them in any way – ideally by working for them – will ultimately benefit everyone.

Besides doing good by picking the right career or volunteering in your free time, another easy and effective way to improve the world is by donating money to a worthy cause.

relation betwenn income and happiness


As you can see, once you’ve reached a certain income level, having more money only makes a slight difference in how happy you are. On the other hand, donating money is proven to make you happier. So if you have a decent income that fulfils all your basic needs, donating 10% of it probably won’t decrease your happiness at all. 10 Also, as explained in this TED talk, money does buy happiness – if you spend it on others.

If you decide to donate money, I strongly advise you to read the recommendations on GiveWell. Like the Effective Altruism movement, Give Well uses reason and evidence to determine where your donated dollar will go the furthest.

Besides simply donating money to a worthy cause, you could also undertake voluntary work or become a more active member of your community. You could donate items like food, medicine, or clothing to people in need, or offer them pro bono services. You could make more ethical choices in your career, refuse to do the wrong thing, and be a role model for your colleagues. Even something as simple as baking cookies for people living on the street can make a difference. There are a million ways to make the world a better place – so you can invent a way that suits you!

The great thing about helping others is that it’s also extremely good for you. Here is a nice summary of all the health benefits that can stem from being altruistic. Those who undertake social work are less likely to suffer from ill health later in life, and generally have lower mortality rates. But perhaps even more important is the fact that contributing to society in meaningful ways can lead to greater eudaimonic well-being. In other words, it gives you a greater sense of purpose, meaning, and self-realization. (source)

As you can see, helping others is fantastic for both your physical and psychological well-being. It’s good for the planet – and at the risk of stating the obvious, it’s certainly good for the people you help! Furthermore, it prolongs your life and improves the odds that you’ll experience an Eternal Blissful Life. A true win-win situation!

If you need additional motivation to start making a difference, I highly recommend the following video. It may be a little corny, but it’s certainly persuasive! (Disclaimer: I don’t know Mindvalley or Vishen Lakhiani, so I don’t have an opinion on either of them. I just think this particular video hits the nail on the head.)

Call to Action #1: Live a long, healthy and happy Current Life

The longer you live, the more likely you’ll someday experience an Eternal Blissful Life. That’s the simple truth. You’ll be more likely to witness the Singularity, more likely to witness the development of adequate rejuvenation biotechnology, and more likely to witness a society in which longer lifespans are expected and accounted for. 11(click me)

If you die an untimely death, you’ll have to rely instead on cryonic suspension. The later this happens, the better the outcome you can expect, since there will have been more progress in techniques for cryopreservation of the human brain. 2

Therefore, the first of my three calls to action could be rephrased as:

Increase your life expectancy as much as possible.

Conveniently, practically everything that increases your life expectancy will also improve your well-being in your Current Life. Thus, the desire to increase your life expectancy is merely an extra reason to do what’s good for you regardless. There are two distinct ways to increase your longevity: Take care of your body, and take care of your mind.

First method: take care of your body.

This one is simple. Try to live as healthily as possible, and avoid any overly risky activities! It’s a simple and effective approach, which I made a strong commitment to myself. Since I began to take care of my body, I:

  • Quit smoking. I used to smoke as many as 20 cigarettes a day!
  • Became a lot more mindful about the amount of alcohol I drink.
  • No longer mess with my circadian rhythm, and ensure I get regular amounts of sleep.
  • Committed to having a healthy diet.
  • Exercise almost every day, in one form or another.
  • Make a conscious effort to reduce risky behavior. For example, I now wear a helmet every time I ride my bike, and avoid speeding when driving my car.
  • Get regular health checkups with my doctor.
  • Use sunscreen to reduce the risk of skin cancer. And I don’t visit solariums anymore. 3

There is nothing particularly special or original about this list; the point is that most of it is already obvious to most people, yet they resist making the necessary changes to their lives. But I want to mention an important distinction.

Living healthily has always been quite important to me. 4I would often eat healthy meals, and feel quite chuffed with myself for doing the right thing. But ever since I began viewing the notion of “eating healthily” through the lens of an Eternal Blissful Life, it began to feel considerably more rewarding. The same is true for everything else in the list above. I now have a much stronger sense of why taking care of my health is so important. And to be clear about why you’re making positive decisions is a source of true satisfaction. It also helps you stick to your course of action when you’re absolutely convinced of its necessity. It now seems that my brain has successfully tricked me into thinking that healthy food actually tastes better!

It feels good to make a healthy choice when you have so many excellent reasons to do so.

It’s a similar story with smoking. I always knew, of course, that smoking is awful for us – but as a healthy 25-year-old, lung cancer seemed like a pretty remote possibility. I half-heartedly tried to quit a few times, but was never successful. So what made me quit, then? It was realizing just how massively it would suck to die from lung cancer a few years before the Technological Singularity. The horror of that scenario made it easy for me to quit. These days, a ten-year difference in life expectancy doesn’t simply mean dying at 80 rather than 90 (it was hard for me to truly care about that). It might be the difference between dying at 80 of smoking-related complications, or living an Eternal Blissful Life.

Second method: take care of your mind.

The second way to increase your life expectancy is less obvious, but equally important. You should make every effort to avoid stress and live a happy, fulfilled life! A recent review of the relevant literature concluded:

Happiness is positively correlated with indicators of superior mental and physical health. Happiness, as well as the concomitant experience of frequent positive affect, likely plays a role in health through its positive effects on social relationships, healthy behavior, stress, accident and suicide rates, and coping, as well as possible effects on immune function. (source)

According to this study, the risk of death over a specific time period is 14% higher among those who are not happy compared to those who are very happy.

In short: if you aim to make your Current Life as interesting, fulfilling, and happy as possible, you will live longer as a result. And this in turn will increase your odds of experiencing an Eternal Blissful Life.

a happy couple having fun together
Aim for many happy moments like this one in your Current Life. They increase your odds of experiencing an Eternal Blissful Life!
But can you really control your psychological well-being? Apparently, you can! Research has shown that about 50% of our happiness is determined by genes, and 10% is determined by life circumstances. But the remaining 40% of our happiness is within our power to change.

Now, we all know that chasing happiness directly usually backfires; it’s better to focus on creating the necessary conditions for it to appear. But even if you’re already fairly content with your life, it’s still worth making some conscious effort to get the most out of that malleable 40% of your total happiness. It’ll increase your life expectancy – and besides all the other advantages, it’ll obviously make you a happier person!

So what can you do to improve your psychological well-being? This article is by no means intended to be a complete guide, 5 but I’ll discuss some simple rules I follow as part of my own longevity strategy. These are the low-hanging fruits on the road to becoming a happier person.

The first one is NOT doing anything recommended in this video:

To summarise:

  • Don’t stay still! Be active, explore, go outside. Don’t stay in bed all day. Just do something with your body!
  • Don’t mess with your sleep. As frequently as possible, try to fall asleep and wake up at a consistent time of day.
  • Don’t spent too much time in front of a screen. Limit social media, Youtube, TV shows, mindless surfing of the Internet etc.
  • Don’t bother to much about big unsettling problems that are completely out of your control. These will merely put you in a bad mood and make you feel helpless. Limit your news intake – unless you actually plan to use the information.
  • Do have SMART, not VAPID goals.
  • Don’t pursue happiness directly.

Another important aspect of call to action #1 is to prioritize your friends and family. As explained in this TED talk (about lessons learned from the longest ever study on happiness), the factor that seems to contribute the most to happiness and longevity is maintaining good relationships with friends and family.

Regular physical exercise is also a huge contributor. Exactly how much exercise you should be doing depends on your age and other factors. Check out the UK National Health Institute exercise recommendations  to find out what’s best for you.

Meditation is another easy way to improve your overall well-being. I recommend Headspace, a science-based meditation app.  If you need some motivation to get you started with meditation, check out this short video by ASAP Science.

More generally, call to action #1 requires that you frequently reflect on what “a happy life” actually means for you – and actively search for ways to get there. The end result of such a thought process might be giving up a lucrative but stressful career in order to spend more time with your family, for example.

Sometimes it’s all too easy to sabotage your own life merely by staying on autopilot. If you’re too passive about your existence, you run the risk of getting stuck with toxic relationships and with the wrong kind of friends. You’ll procrastinate over important decisions, or mindlessly pursue the wrong goals. Please don’t do this! Make an effort to turn autopilot off every single morning. Your future self will thank you for it.

Other things you can do to increase your life expectancy.

The strategies mentioned above are inherently worth pursuing, because they’ll improve your Current Life. If you want to go beyond this, and focus specifically on making your life longer, there are a few more steps you can take:

  • Read Ray Kurzweil’s book Transcend: Nine Steps to Living Well Forever. Besides what I’ve already mentioned in this article, Kurzweil recommends talking regularly your doctor, doing all kinds of frequent medical tests, and taking supplements 6 A similar book worth reading is this one.
  • Check out the Forever Healthy website, which has lots of tips on how to extend your life.
  • Track your biological age using apps like Young.AI or this one. I get the impression that this variety of apps is still in its infancy, but I’m sure it’ll become a much bigger thing in coming years.
  • Check out this “roadmap to immortality
  • Check out this summary of all the things most centenarians have in common.
  • Adopt a caloric restriction diet or do intermittent fasting. For example, check out this article, and this one by Scientific American.
  • Support anti-aging research by promoting it, donating or participating. Start with these links:  SENS and lifespan.io.

For an example of someone who pushes the idea of “taking care of yourself” to unprecedented heights, read this article by Silicon Valley millionaire Serge Faguet: “I’m 32 and spent 200k on biohacking – became calmer, thinner, extroverted, healthier, happier” (link to article).

It’s also worth visiting the website of Serge’s personal doctor, Peter Attia. It’s full of useful health advice. 7

Last but not least, I highly recommend watching this talk:

To summarize: If you believe an Eternal Blissful Life is possible, and you want to increase your chances of having one, you should make it a priority to take care of your physical and mental well-being. Of course, this is important regardless of whether you believe in an Eternal Blissful Life – but holding that belief gives you an additional reason to strive and stay motivated. Yoga becomes much more appealing when you’re doing it to stay healthy, feel better, AND increase your chances of enjoying an Eternal Blissful Life. For me at least, this additional motivation can make a big difference.

Also, the strong feeling of “being on a mission” – a mission to live forever – adds meaning to my life and improves my self-esteem. It no longer feels that I’m mindlessly going about my life; instead, I have a specific destination to work towards. Favorable winds are all the sweeter when you know which harbor you’re sailing to. 8 We all quite rightly yearn to be the “master of our fate, the captain of our soul” – and having achievable goals is the first step towards this.

The mission to increase my life expectancy is my first meta goal, overhanging all the smaller sub-goals I have for my Current Life.

I’ll explain my second meta goal in the next article.

Thought #3: You are not afraid of death anymore

The idea of death haunts the human animal like nothing else.

The real world is simply too terrible to admit. It tells man that he is a small trembling animal who will someday decay and die.
– Ernst Becker

I recently met an elderly Christian couple who were absolutely convinced about the existence of an afterlife. It was obvious how happy – one might almost say blissful – their faith allowed them to be. They radiated a sense of calm contentment I previously thought possible only for the greatest Zen masters. They had found their peace of mind through their belief that God was looking over them and guiding their life. 9 (click me)What I found most remarkable was that – despite their frailty and their awareness that their lives were nearing an end – they weren’t the least bit afraid of death. In a strange way, it almost seemed that they were looking forward to it. They trusted that death would not prove to be the end of their story, but merely the beginning of their happy afterlife together.

sun breaking throuhg the clouds
Heaven . . . on earth?

In an analogous way, you can derive genuine happiness and tranquility from a belief in an Eternal Blissful Life. This belief, too, assures you that death 2 will not be the end of your story. The crucial distinction is that you don’t need to rely on blind faith to justify this belief. We’re not talking about an ethereal realm overseen by a supernatural and omnipotent creator; we’re talking about a “heaven on earth” that’s entirely within the realm of scientific possibility.

Signing up for cryonics could give you peace of mind on your death bed. You’d have the hope of waking up again! ( image source )

I have a very naturalistic world view, and agree completely with how Stephen Hawking once put it:

The human race is just a chemical scum on a moderate-sized planet, orbiting around a very average star in the outer suburb of one among a hundred billion galaxies. We are so insignificant that I can’t believe the whole universe exists for our benefit.

We are born; we live; we die. That’s what the process of evolution has resulted in: all life is destined to die. Humans are just electrochemical reactions in progress. Sure, we’re a fairly complicated and fascinating reaction 3 – but there’s no more inherent meaning or purpose to our lives than there is to the process by which rocks turn into sand. All the meaning we give our lives is artificial – invented by the people, for the people. The term “fate” – much like the concept that “everything happens for a reason” – is often used in a misguided fashion. Everything is caused by something else, sure; but that doesn’t lend the chain of causation some sort of deeper meaning. 4

I used to think that at the end of our insignificant lives, we simply die. End of story. There would be no afterlife, no transmutation of the soul – simply a cessation of existence, and a gradual decay of one’s body into dust.

That’s how I used to think. It’s not like I couldn’t live with that morbid thought – it didn’t actually cross my mind very often – yet I nonetheless find it far more pleasant to believe in an Eternal Blissful Life to fill the void left by religion’s demise. It’s a relief to think that I won’t merely die and dissolve into nothingness within the next 100 years. I were lying on my death bed right now, I would at least have hope.

In this entertaining TED Talk,Amanda Bennett says:

What experts call denial, I call hope. It is not a human bug. It is a feature!

I like that thought!

As to the meaning(lessness) of life: in an earlier note I had some fun about simply “inventing” your own meaning, since there’s no satisfying inherent one. But I’m actually a big believer in the need to invent your own meaning in order to make sense of life.

Here’s my version of an “invented meaning”: Far from my Current Life being insignificant and meaningless 5, I now think it’s tremendously important. It’s the springboard to my Eternal Blissful Life, after all. And I want that leap to be graceful! I would like the first chapter of my life to be thrilling, so that I’m deeply excited for it to continue. And in order to make the transition as graceful as possible, I need to be content, to take care of my body, to contribute to the world, and to be proud of my achievements. 6

I want to do all of these things because they’re what contribute to a good life. And having a good life increases my chances of one day enjoying an Eternal Blissful Life. 7

A final thought: it’s not just your own death that should seem less frightening thanks to cryonics and other scientific advances. It’s also the death of your siblings, your friends, and your children. 8 Many of the people closest to you may be able to live forever alongside you. To get a feel for this concept, I recommend reading this touching letter by transhumanist Eliezer Yudkowsky about the recent death of his brother.

I leave you with this quote by Syrio Forel, from Game of Thrones:

Quote by Syrio Lorel

Thought #2: Looking forward to the future

“Everything that is not forbidden by laws of nature is achievable, given the right knowledge” – David Deutsch

Whenever I need a reason to smile, I just think about what it’ll be like to have an Eternal Blissful Life. This thought makes it hard for me to be truly sad about anything. It’s like when young children look forward to Christmas, and are full of life and excitement for days or even weeks in advance. The anticipation of something great on the horizon can overshadow everything else.

Sometimes I look at the stars in the night sky, wondering what it might be like to visit one of them. What would it feel like to walk upon another planet? Are there aliens out there somewhere, within reach? How far will humanity be able to go? 9 (click me) . Since I believe in an Eternal Blissful Life, I’m optimistic that there will come a time when I don’t need to wonder idly about these things anymore. I myself will find out the answer to all these questions and experience these new and incredible sensations firsthand. 2

a young men looking up to the stars

I can gaze up at a specific star in the night sky and think to myself: One day I will visit that star!

And I can hold this belief without self-deception.

It doesn’t matter how likely it is. What matters that it’s totally feasible according to everything I learned during my study of physics. I can envisage a plausible way to live long enough – and what’s more, humanity is headed rapidly in the right direction. 3. This is the power of conditional optimism! 4 I can justify my conditional optimism because I’m young, healthy, and live in Germany in 2018.

When I look at the stars and dream about the future, I also like to reflect on what had to happen for me to find myself in such an extremely fortunate position. It’s worth watching this video, just to remind yourself how far we’ve had to travel as a species in order to attain such high levels of comfort and prosperity.

Isn’t our story incredible? I strongly believe that we should be proud of ourselves – or at least grateful to the whims of fortune – about how everything has turned out. 5

Reflecting on our past makes me even more excited about what’s still to come. I love to indulge in the delicious feeling of being part of something larger than myself – the fascinating story of humanity. And I feel incredibly fortunate to have been born in circumstances that give me a solid chance of seeing how this story will unfold over the coming centuries. The same is probably true for you. Chances are you live in a time and place in which you can realistically hope – for the first time in human history – to live into the distant future. If you entered this world at any other time – any moment in the approximately 200,000 years that Homo sapiens has walked the earth – then you would have had no chance whatsoever. But you were born in the 21st century, which many claim will be one of the most significant and transformative centuries in human history. 6

It seems that many of us were born at the right time and in the right place.

I try to keep the above always in mind, and cultivate a sense of gratitude every time I indulge in daydreams about my Eternal Blissful Life. That way I manage to derive even more satisfaction from it.

Science has confirmed the benefits of thinking this way. A single person, over the course of their life, can be focused on different time perspectives: past, present, or future. The way their mind filters information depends on which time perspective has become dominant. Our adherence to one or another time perspective is a product of lifelong learning, and it can change with education and training. Unsurprisingly, a future time perspective is known to support a healthy lifestyle and can promote psychological wellbeing. So thinking positively about the future doesn’t merely feel good – it also increases your ability to live a better Current Life. 7

You don’t need a PhD in psychology to know that being grateful and optimistic is good for you – there’s a whole host of evidence to support this idea. Pessimism can soften the blow of bad news, but it usually isn’t worth it in the long run. 8 The act of visualizing future scenarios in detail, or otherwise actively engaging with them, yields fantastic psychological benefits. 9

Every day, especially when I’m feeling low, I try to keep my Eternal Blissful Life in mind and imagine what I might be able to do with it. Sometimes there’s a specific thing that I look forward to. 10Other times, I simply look forward more generally to my Eternal Blissful Life, and my spirits are lifted by the notion that everything will be OK in the end. Even if I have a particularly unexciting and mediocre day, I can at least comfort myself with the thought that I’m one day closer to heaven on earth.

It feels nice to have a dream – a vision – to look forward to. When Elon Musk was asked why he wants to build a city on Mars, he answered:

“I think it’s important to have a future that is inspiring and appealing. . . . there have to be reasons that you get up in the morning and you want to live. Why do you want to live? What’s the point? What inspires you? What do you love about the future? And if the future’s not including being out there among the stars and being a multi-planet species, it’s incredibly depressing if that’s not the future we’re going to have.” 11

You may disagree about whether going to Mars is desirable goal, but having an exciting future to look forward to is clearly very enriching.

scene from the movie Interstellar
Scene from the movie “Interstellar”
It is just fundamentally more exciting to live a life where you are looking forward to the future, where you “look up in the sky”. I personally don’t get the current zeitgeist of pessimism about the future (pessimism that is simply not justified, way beyond just pragmatism), and the “worry about our place in the dirt”.
Looking forward to something is not a contradiction to having fun in the present. And far from being a reason to be lazy in my Current Life, this vision I have about an Eternal Blissful Life also serves as a great motivation to take care of my body and my mind (not least to increase my life expectancy), and to contribute to the world to make sure it stays on track to a good future for everyone. My optimism in an Eternal Blissful Life is conditional, meaning I know it is possible, but it doesn’t just happen by itself. One has to work towards it. You will read a lot more about this later in my articles about the “three calls to action”.
For now, I leave you with this awe-inspiring video:

We are lucky to be born just in the right time and place. The future will be amazing, and we can already look forward to it now!