Is donor naming an actual valid way of obtaining immortality, or is it mostly just a farce?
In Immortality I made the argument that it is rational to strive towards having yourself known past death. Sure, it is true that Alexander the Great was buried with his mule driver — but the difference is that we don’t know the mule driver’s name. And while the economic benefit towards the individual of having their name known past their death is small, it does still provide some relief knowing on your deathbed that you’ll be remembered long after you’re gone.
So, with that out of the way, we can talk about ways to obtain immortality. The obvious one is doing great things. But could you… well, buy it? Many people’s names are aligned in museums, science centers, universities, and parks all over the world. Did they achieve their immortality?
I would argue not. Immortality is much like love or happiness — it may be bought temporarily, but it doesn’t last. And in particular with immortality, it not lasting is a pretty major problem.
The issue goes as follows: there is a difference between knowing a name and knowing a person. Most people couldn’t pinpoint a single thing that John Harvard or Leland Stanford actually did. Ask the same question about Julius Caesar or Martin Luther King and the response changes dramatically. And while it’s true many of these famous men (and women) named things after themselves, if we just knew Alexander the Great through all the cities named Alexandria we probably wouldn’t think much of him. It is a fickle, surface-level immortality.
Fickle immortality is no immortality, just like fickle love is no love. Because of this I would argue that the only way to achieve immortality is by doing great things — perhaps not conquering countries (not a great look in 2021) but by making great works of art, fighting for change, and living by your principles. Then these things will come to you naturally.