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Request for Proposals

by David C. Kopaska-Merkel

I have to start with some ancient history.

It began with medicine, of course. Our lives were extended from an average of 25 standard years to 50, 60, then a hundred, and then several hundred. Gradually, we stopped taking chances. Laws were passed to prevent activities society deemed dangerous. Then those too young to reproduce were forbidden all sorts of behaviors once typical of childhood. Remember rollerskates? I loved them once... The laws weren't the most insidious change. Soon we voluntarily stopped sliding down slopes, swimming in water, and eventually even going outdoors. Nanotechnology accelerated the process. You might think that replacing the human body with self replicating machines would have reversed our growing obsession with safety and preservation of our lives. After all, if you broke your neck skiing and you were a nanoman or nanowoman healing was a cinch. But we had already gone too far. We now had the potential to live for millennia. The old joke

Q: Do nanofolks live thousands of times as long as biological people?
A: Yes, but it doesn't feel like it.

wasn't funny anymore. It was true. People began obsessively calculating probabilities and avoiding anything whose probability was greater than this or greater than that. Soon, anything whose probability was measurable at all. Giving up pets was hard. I almost still miss my last cat. He was affectionate in a self-centered way, but when he died I could not risk replacing him. Finally, even sex became too dangerous. Progeny were all engendered in vitro. After a while, no one bothered with that. The drive to propagate had been replaced with the drive to prolong the self.

And that's why I'm contacting you now. I'm sitting here, inside my personal event horizon, having a radical thought. If I'm NOT the only one left, and I might be, maybe I should go out into the universe and try to find some other people. It's time for a new research program, one that I'm sure we can all get behind. See, we need to find a way out of this universe fast, before entropy snuffs it out. Because our black holes won't last forever. When they evaporate we will be gone. And I'm not ready. I've hardly had time to live!

The end

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