Wanting to Live Multiple Lives

It’s really a bummer that you can only live one life. At least as far as I know you can only live one life. I assume if reincarnation were a thing then I wouldn’t be the first instance of the my being. My experience is that I have no past lives, and so I don’t expect to have future lives.

I mean maybe there could be reincarnation if it worked in a way that when you are living a life you don’t remember your past lives, and like when you die in one life maybe there is like an intermediate period where you return to your full, complete self in the void and you remember all of the lives that you’ve lived until that moment, and then you go into another life.

But I don’t think that matters for me at the moment. At the moment, I have to assume you don’t live multiple lives.

And like I said, that’s a bummer. I want to live multiple lives. I want to have entire lives worth of different experiences. Different paths taken. I want to live one life in high finance, jet setting all over the world making deals with giant companies and netting millions of dollars in cash for myself and spending it on luxurious hotels in faraway lands.

I also want to live a life as a traveling hermit philosopher, reading and writing my way all over the world by bus and by boat, never having more than a few hundred or a few thousand dollars to my name, pursuing the truth of the universe through human experience and storytelling.

I would also want to live a life as a soldier. Joining the military and learning to fight and then actually fighting in service of something I believe in.

If I could live multiple lives then I’d take more risk in the current life, because in this hypothetical system I just made up, if you die then you just start over as a baby. But there would be some mechanism by which you remember you experiences.

Or maybe you don’t? Like, would it really be meaningful to remember all your past experiences when implementing your current life? Would it be meaningful to remember a life as a jet setting financier while living the life of a nomadic hermit pursuing truth through human experience and storytelling?

It seems to me like you might not want to remember all those past lives, because then you would know that the system is bigger than whatever you are currently experiencing. You would know that it’s not possible to really know what’s going on without transcending your reality. And just living a life inside the reality by definition does not transcend it. So actually I don’t think you would want to retain knowledge of past lives, or even the fact that multiple lives are possible.

Which weirdly brings me back to the point that I started out with, which is that since I don’t know that multiple lives are possible, and it seems impossible to test, I have to assume that multiple lives are not possible.

And since multiple lives are not possible (by assumption) I take less risk in this life. But my idea of a world in which multiple lives are possible is one in which a) I take more risk in each life, and b) in each life I do not know about the existence of past lives.

So this is a problem: how do you design a system in which multiple lives are possible, but in each life you don’t know about the existence of past lives, and yet you know enough about the system to take the risk of living a particular life path?

Damn, this is a hard problem. Because I want myself to know about the system in each life, however minimally. Because I want the risk taking to make sense in that life. But I don’t think that fits with the goal of this thought experiment, which is a system where lives are lived entirely within the system and without knowledge of the larger system, because I think that would make life within the system less meaningful.

Ok, what if during the intermediate period between lives – after the death of one life and before the birth of another – you choose which path you are going to go down next and design the character stats in a way that will lead you down that path without knowledge of the broader system.

And you also might choose the starting conditions. So like if I wanted to live a relatively safe and comfortable life as a knowledge worker where I married young and started making lots of money in my early twenties, I would put risk-tolerance on the low side, intelligence on the higher side, and cause myself to be born to highly-educated knowledge worker parents in the suburbs of Boston at the turn of the millennium.

But if I wanted to live life as a jet-setting financier, I might leave intelligence around average, crank up risk-tolerance (especially the ability to take risks for other people), and have myself born to some New York aristocracy family.

It’s a little hard to reconcile what this means for my current life. Because as I’ve designed the system, I may very well be living in it. The consolation is that if I am living in this system, then the best thing to do is just live life as I see fit, because apparently I tuned my character stats to pursue the kind of life that I wanted to pursue this time around.

Matt Roll @mroll