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Trianon Scientific Communication

  • Writer's pictureDr Audrey-Flore Ngomsik

What happens when death itself dies?

What happens when death itself dies?


Readers of the late, great Terry Pratchett will know this:


Death is a bony figure in a black cloak carrying a scythe and SPEAKING IN CAPITALS.

Such droll anthropomorphisms aside, death has of course two main aspects: The dead and the bereaved.


The dead


Coffin in a car
Coffin in a car

Have you noticed how dead people are always elevated to the rank of Saints?

Even if they were not when they were alive.

Have you noticed how it seems to have a hierarchy in death?

It is more unacceptable to lose a child than an adult.

It is more horrible to lose a woman than a man.

Likewise, it is more inadmissible to lose a young than an elderly.


We both lost one of our parent. (S)he was beloved. (S)he was cherished deary.

Without wishing to sound glib, for the dead, the situation is comparatively easy.

They are dead, and death is the end of all sensations, at least as far as we can see.

Without wishing to sound glib, for the dead, the situation is comparatively easy.

They are dead, and death is the end of all sensations, at least as far as we can see.


The bereaved


Man in a cemetery
The bereaved

For the bereaved, however, things are changing at an ever faster pace.

Barely 150 years ago, people had nothing but their memories when a loved one had gone, perhaps some letters.

Some 100 years ago, they might have had some black and white photographs to aid them in their grieving.

50 years on, the images had become colourful and in some cases even moving.

Nowadays, we’ve got any number of pictures, videos, sound recordings to carry around with us on our mobile phones at no extra weight.


The future of death

It is nigh on impossible to predict what the situation will look like 50 years from now.

Maybe a “cure for death” will have been found by then, but even the next 10 to 15 years will bring massive changes to the way we deal with the loss of our nearest and dearest.



Scientists in a white room
White room

We leave enough crumbs of our personality in the databanks of the social media platforms for clever, Artificial Intelligence-powered software to synthesize an extrapolation of our very selves beyond our physical existence.

Couple that with holography, and a widow or widower could have their deceased spouse sitting with them in the living room and engage in conversations with them.



Holography
Holography

Right now, anno domini 2022, such developments might still seem a little far off and, perhaps, scary, but they are surely around the corner (maybe around two corners).

In summary, death becomes less and less important.


Life as we know it

Life, as we know it, depends on death and vice versa.

Surely, taking death out of the equation is going to cause major disturbances in the fabric of life.

Or is it?

Firstly, there is, of course, a fallacy in the above argument, namely that while the eternal circle of life undoubtedly does require death we are not talking about the circle of life and death in a physical sense here but much rather our reception of loss and our ways of dealing with such loss.

Despite this flaw the analogy still holds because much as life requires death, happiness and sadness depend on each other as well.


What will the consequences of the diminishing importance of death be?

This sounds like a terribly big question, but it really isn’t.

Or rather, it is a big question for us living now.

For the generations to come who will have grown up in a world in which death is but a minor nuisance any more, this point will be decidedly moot.

Likewise, the people of 100 or 150 years ago might as well have found the way we deal with loss and death abhorrent and shallow.


If we achieve immortality?

And if we manage to abolish death altogether? If we do achieve immortality?

Then we would really cause major disturbances in the fabric of life, not least for environmental reasons.

The earth’s population would then grow at a truly staggering rate and all those people need to be fed, clothed, and entertained.


Crowd
Crowd

The resources necessary could only be supplied by a perpetual motion machine, a very elusive species.

Absurd as it may seem, immortality might necessitate the re-introduction of death.


Some things won’t change

This leads us to the realisation that there is indeed something about life and death that will not change, namely the fact that it doesn’t matter how long a life lasts until death steps in or even if it will last forever.

What matters is what you do with it. A somewhat comforting thought.

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