What I Really Want

[This post is inspired directly by some notes Michael Nielsen posted about fundamental limits of matter, and indirectly by ideas I have about what is possible if humans can live on universal timespans and control matter at the subatomic level.]

When I think about what I want my life to look like in ten, twenty, thirty years, there’s an unspoken constraint that guides the space of answers. The question I’m really answering is something like “What do I want my life to look like given current levels of technology and what technology will reasonably be available in ten/twenty/thirty years?”

It’s definitely useful to have that constraint there. I have to live with the current levels of technology, and the current level of technology certainly dictates what is likely to be available throughout the course of my lifetime.

But if only just as a thought exercise, I want to ask that question sans constraint. I want to ask the question “What do I want out of a life in this universe?” If I could actually have my wish, or if I lived during a time of such technological prowess that it wouldn’t need to be considered a wish, here’s how I think I would like to spend my time.

Mostly I want to actually go and see the universe. I want to fly through the atmospheric layers of a gas giant, cruise through the accretion disk of a black hole, walk across thousands of planets each with wildly different geographies and lifeforms and ecosystems. I want to watch a supernova up close.

I want to just be a passive observer from the beginning to the end of an entire civilization of sentient beings. I want the ability to suspend time and teleport so that I can see every event unfolding from every perspective, just because I think that would be so interesting.

I want to live for billions of years, so that I can spend the time to master many deep and complicated things. Things like

  • How to do interstellar and intergalactic travel
  • How to integrate biology with machinery
  • How this technology works that is keeping me alive for so long past natural human lifespan
  • How this technology works that is letting me travel vast distances at great speed

I want to spend years drifting between galaxies, in the complete emptiness of the vacuum, with nothing to see for hundreds of thousands of lightyears in all directions. I might use that time to write, build, or just think.

I want to be able to do all of the above with my best friends. I think the coolest thing about longer lifespans is more time together.

I want to study architecture and build beautiful houses on faraway planets.

I want to learn to cook all the food.

I want to use all of these experiences to write a great novel (or many great novels).

I think I still want my life to be about designing, creating, and building. I have no idea what sorts of things will be possible to build in this hypothetical life, given all of the insane tech that must be available for it to be possible. But I think I would still find fulfillment in creating things for people. That instinct is probably timeless.

So how hypothetical is all this stuff? I think some of it is less crazy than it might seem at first, if we accept two things:

  1. Human aging is a biological engineering problem and there is currently good enough evidence that it can be stopped and controlled.
  2. Vehicles made from custom molecular structures that allow humans to survive in extreme environments like vacuum and intense heat are not impossible to build given what we know of the laws of physics.

As for the time travel and teleportation stuff, fine, maybe that’s too much to ask. But I think there are strong signs that aging is solvable and that we haven’t even started building what is possible to build in principle.

Matt Roll @mroll