Longevity and death are no longer mutually exclusive. A new Y Combinator startup won a sizable government grant for their brain-uploading enterprise, guaranteed “100% fatal.” Who would sign up to live forever, if it meant they had to die first? Years of life remaining are the last great commodity, priceless and non-transferable, and if we are to give them up, then we better do so for a very, very good reason. — The Eds.
In a zeptosecond GenEthics’ Quantum Edition will break the following story:
The first successful pilot “cap and trade” was performed today by famed geneticists and tech supercouple T. Lorenzo and G. Lochbaum, aka Lorloch. At thirty-five years old, their child, Quotient Lorenzo-Lochbaum has agreed to forfeit her remaining years on Earth—a life expectancy of 190 years—to grant Lorloch the necessary immortality credits to endure beyond the maximum allowable age. While Lorloch’s exact age-extension has yet to be determined, it’s rumored to be in the neighborhood of 250 years. The cap and trade will take place with minimal waste. Once Quotient’s consciousness-uploading to the SingularNet is complete, a whole body donation will be made to OneLegacy.
Quantum Edition has received a leaked copy of the strangely foreboding yet poignant last rites of Quotient Lorenzo-Lochbaum. We reproduce it here, in its entirety:
Quotient, before you uploaded your consciousness, you had asked me a final question. “Mom,” you inquired, “if you had your life to live over, is there anything you would do differently?”
However insouciant your question, I have resolved to provide you with a reasonable answer. These are your last rites, after all, and I must do what I can to honor your escape of samsra for the subsequent achievement of nirvana.
So, in answer of your final question: No, Quotient, I have no regrets.
If I had to do it all over, I would do everything much the same way. Nothing would change. I would marry your father again at eighteen, three years post university; I would perform research around the world at multiple biotech labs. Secure in my prodigious talents and light years ahead of the others, I would have no qualms about helping the competition. Just as before, I would again give birth at fifty-five, a process aided by my post-graduate innovation, the egg-extending Invitro10, which allowed me to breed in the romantic, and burdensome, death-dealing way of our beloved ancestors, garnering the great appreciation and endless gratitude of Don, your father, my better half and partner-in-genomic-crime.
If I had my life to do over, I would again prod you to live up to your potential, pledging to award you a majority stake in your very own blue chip tech company if you would just take your course work more seriously and shine in that family way from time to time.
Ever since you taught yourself to read in vitro, Don and I knew that you were destined for greatness. Your I.Q. of 161, two points above Einstein and Hawking, was proof positive. The Lorenzo-Lochbaums had produced progeny of great potential. And in the most natural sense, too: GE was not a factor. Your arrival was pure fluke, the best kind of chance experiment.
But you seemed to lack the family need to dazzle and outperform. At five, you incited jealousy in our lab technicians with your facile knowledge of Godel’s incompleteness theorems, but you were leery. Instead of demanding you demonstrate your commutative algebra skills at our weekly meetings, we downplayed your genius: she’s just learning to count, you had us say, adhering to your plaintive Zen family therapy requests. Likewise we were conscious not to spark bitter rivalries between you and your cousins, talking down your exceptional cognitive skills on family retreats to our Sedona, Arizona Endtimes bunker. Quotient knows nothing of The Improbability Principle, and more embarrassing, Our girl has yet to patent a single genomic discovery. She is soooo behind! From our lounging pad in the Big Room, we watched in complete horror as you scored abysmally low on your favorite InVivo game, while your less capable cousins laughed, clobbering you with primeval strategies of “duck left” and “duck right.” At home, you were the most dominant, decorated player in the country, yet in the company of family you botched the easiest of tasks, enacting a dizzying rate of in-game body failure. What choice did we have but to dismantle the InVivo console when the family idly slept? What concerned parent wouldn’t do the same?
Had you applied yourself, there would have been no limit to your accomplishments. A Heineken Prize by the age of 18. A Mathematical Olympiad gold medalist six, seven times over before the first signs of puberty. I even feared your meteoric ascent might rival my own: A Harvard alum by age 15, biotech innovator, holder of twenty exclusive genetic patents before 25, and the first to win the prestigious Senescence Award years before you were a glint in your father’s eye. Disconcertingly I had yet to win that 20th century relic, the Nobel, but had my eye on it all the same. Your gift of longevity would take me there.
It had seemed to me that with your arrival, I would have had to work even harder in order to achieve my goals before you beat me to them. You had a head start after all. I grew up in a household headed by members of the grey economy (Airbnb superhosts, no less!) and was the first in a long line of undistinguished workers to go to college. On the other hand, your every moment was designed to be educational. I will never forget the sound of your rapturous gurgles, the pucker of your first smile, as you lay in your crib delightfully eyeing the periodic elements, the pnictogens, chaclogens, halogens and noble gases of your digi-mobi.
As practicing Buddhists we do not shun family members who exhibit undesirable traits. Your unwillingness to thrive was our dukkha, our pain, our anguish, our distress. Through the practice of the Noble Eightfold Path we would make right our wrongs and mediate this dukkha. Sila (virtue): right speech, right action, right livelihood; Samadhi (mental cultivation): right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration; Panna (wisdom): right view, right resolve.
Emotional prisoners of your uncalled-for modesty, we kept your deep dives into edge computing systems to ourselves. We trusted you when you insisted these malicious hacks were for Robin Hood purposes only. Should we have disowned you then? Is this the regret you speak of?
“How will I ever learn of the world’s ills locked away in this plutocractic scientific tower of yours? How will I challenge the status quo, cloistered in your Minowski space library, spoon-fed everything there is to know about the universe? That’s no life,” you lamented over multiple iChat and iRate accounts. The ringing in our ears was deafening.
You were going to set the wrongs of the world right, you told us over long pours of immuno-enzyme boosting Soju whenever we joined in The Boring Tunnel, Downtown. We so wanted to believe.
Finally the day came when you redeemed yourself with a failsafe program for hack-back attacks. We thought our troubles had ended. Our right speech: never swearing at you, no matter how breathtakingly bad your mistakes were, or how unduly vicious your vitriol. Our right efforts: harboring climate-change refugees on our fleet of four hundred and thirty nanotube yachts. And no less important, our right-resolve: refraining from interfering to allow you to learn from your own mistakes. These noble acts, we momentarily believed had paid off. You were finally on the path to familial greatness.
That’s when you took a turn for the worse. Why didn’t I see it coming? If I were not versed in hereditary genetics and an expert Genetic Engineer, I might blame your prenatal nanny Anna Sui for steering you wrong. How dare she expose your budding consciousness to the horrors of racism and post-colonialism, to the indecencies of material accumulation, neo-imperialism and endless war long before you had a healthy Anatta? I might say. Castigating myself: if only we had spent more time with you on Sundays, instead of hurtling further down the path to digital immortality, you might not have taken such a rebellious path.
But there was little we could do: The trouble was with your genes.
Headed for anti-hacking fame, you took an about turn at the age of twelve, signing on with the International SLOW Movement (ISM). After receiving your advanced degrees in Machine Learning and Art History (a PhD in art history, really?) you had the audacity to move to the “airidity line,” with the least arable land in the world in order to prove the obvious: that development had gone too far. Yes, we all know. How though would the reenacting of nomadic farming practices be helpful when the agreed-upon solution for climate change was geosequestration?
At first your logic had had an appreciable charm.
“In dollars my personal net worth is equal to that of one billion or more of the world’s poorest citizenry. I must take my inflated valuation to broadcast the impossible conditions faced by the rest of the world: those who at one time or another have been negatively impacted by colonialism, neo- and post- and early age imperialism.” I did what I could to set you straight: “Climate change is far cheaper than traditional war and far less agonizing than an unheeded plague, it serves a perfectly reasonable neo-Malthusian function. These environmental genocides are inevitable. You are wasting valuable time trying to manage the discourse.”
After a time you registered the pure idiocy of the ISM’s attempt to turn back the clock some two thousand years and returned to the Disunion. You then proceeded to slack, ad infinitum.
We closed our eyes to your midnight flights to underground art shows, those sections in the outer radiation belts declared unfit for procreation.
You refused to live up to your promise while our scientific breakthroughs on the protein-folding problem of neurodegeneration and the safe regeneration of telomarase took the world by storm. You complained that aging was not something to eradicate.
“It is not a disease,” you carped.
“Of course it is,” we said. “Aging is by very definition a disease, a risk factor that must be eliminated. Impairment of tissues and organs are by FDA standards a disease, to wit, a medical problem that must be stopped.”
“I won’t have my telomeres adjusted,” you complained.
“Then are the perfect specimen for Cap and Trade.”
At which point I could not help but make you the following proposition: “Quotient, you have failed at nearly every one of your social activist goals. Your angry street protests have amounted to nothing. Your political memes are rarely followed. Even your ardent socialist-themed public sculptures have made little to no dent in the public opinion. Capitalism, and the cult of the top performer, is here to stay.
You could however turn your longevity into something of real promise.”
I had you here. Your blue eyes long since dimmed by years of stunning underachievement took on the dazzle of a promising youth. For a brief moment behind those lugubrious orbs of indulgent feeling flashed all of the world’s history.
It didn’t take much to convince you. What activist worth their salt could pass up such an opportunity? We will name the pharmaceutical company QLL in honor of your sacrifice. Sub Saharan Africans unable to afford costly cures for cancer and HIV will now enjoy a lifespan more approximate with your own. Our generics will be far cheaper than those produced by the Peoples Republic of Maoist-Taoists. By agreeing to become the first human participant in Cap and Trade, you have extended the life of billions.
The procedure was not as difficult as you might think. Once the Aging & Acquisition board approved our request, and we had settled upon a skeuomorphic likeness, we had little trouble with the Copy-and-Transfer. Uploading your mind was far less troublesome than your birth.
April 18, 2075. I will be turning a glorious life-extended forty-five. “I would like to thank you, Quotient, for this gift of seemingly everlasting life.”
As a matter of your last rites, I glance at your striking skeuomorphic image hovering over my bedside table. I don’t think you have ever been so affecting with your proud smile and lustrous hair, your deep, penetrating stare. The look in your eyes tells us your sacrifice has not been in vain.
Your father and I join in chanting a final last rite:
“I take refuge in the Buddha. I take refuge in the Dharma. I take refuge in the Sangha. Destroyed is birth, the holy life has been lived; what had to be done has been done, there is no coming back to any state of being. Like the Buddhist arahant who has walked the Noble Eightfold path you are now liberated from all bonds.”