What are my conditions for wanting to die? Trivial. I get asked this in job interviews all the time. I’ll paraphrase one example:


Interviewer: Ok, Mr. Peretroukhin, you’ve passed all of our coding puzzles. Great job! I have one last question for you, if you don’t mind. What kind of mental or physical trauma would you be willing to face before you’d ask a friend to fatally poison you to end your suffering?

Me: Easy. If I ever lose 12 chess games in a row to players rated below me.

Interviewer: Jesus. You’re twisted. What kind of sick person comes of up with that kind of torture?

End scene.

I’m only half joking. I’d want to die when my mental faculties no longer allow me to fully experience the world as I have before (when everything I do is an inaccuracy, a mistake or even a blunder; when I leave all of the pieces of my life hanging without a second thought). I don’t think I would consider ending my own life for anything related to my physical well-being (as long as my mental health is unaffected and I have at least two senses remaining). Losing control of limbs would of course be devastating. I can’t imagine the anxiety and anguish that comes with having to rely on support workers for the most basic necessities. It’s something I’d never want to experience, but I don’t see them as show-stoppers. If I have my mind in tact, and enough external sensing left to experience the outside world, then I’ll keep on chugging along.

There’s so much of the world that you can taste, smell, see, hear, and touch. I couldn’t imagine leaving behind the smell of a campfire, the sound of a crescendoing movie score, the sight of the milky way on a dark summer night, the feel of bare skin on skin, or the taste of a perfectly crisp, cheesy slice of pizza. As long as I have more of the world to take in (in whatever physical form I’m in), I will want to be there.

A few question to think about for our podcast next week:

1) In certain forms of ‘reduced’ mental states, I may be completely lucid and consciously decide to reverse my decision. However, it’s clear that I am no longer of the same mental acuity. What do you do then? Does my present self get to overrule my future self?
2) What if you lost all of your senses? Would you want to exist as only a mind, with no external link to the world?
3) And finally, I’ll throw the question right back at you, Mr. Chakerwarti, what are your conditions?

I can’t finish off this topic without mentioning one of my favourite novels of all time: Flowers for Algernon for Daniel Keyes. I won’t spoil any of the plot for you, sufficed to say that the book deals with the role of intelligence in our lives, and how it interacts with ‘happiness’. You should absolutely give it a read sometime.