I gave CGP Grey’s newest video a thumbs down. It was the first time I’ve disliked a video of his. The Fable of the Dragon-Tyrant is a weak allegory about death and dying. And what is most frustrating about it, is how Grey, usually rational and realistic, presents three completely illogical points.
First, death is not evil. It just is. Like gravity. To equate death to an evil dragon is illogical and childish. People don’t die because some evil entity needs to be placated. People die because our biological systems fail.
Second, Grey presents death as just one problem that needs to be solved once. But in reality people die for a multitude of reasons. Even if we find a cure for aging, there is still cancer and disease. And if humans somehow master biology, then there are the deaths due physics, like car accidents and plane crashes, the eventual collapse of our sun, and the inevitable death of the universe. The quest for immortality is a hamster wheel of endless problems to solve.
Third, Grey ignores the enormous advances in medicine that humans have already made, from the discovery of bacteria to CRISPR. The average life expectancy has only increased since our ancestors just 200 years ago. Humanity isn’t taking death lying down. We’re doing very well actually.
I am sympathetic to the existential crisis. In the book Love’s Executioner, famed Stanford psychiatrist Irvin Yalom writes, “I had come to believe that the fear of death is always greatest in those who feel that they have not lived their life fully.” I wonder if Grey might be better off considering whether making YouTube videos is really fulfilling.
And if you want to read something internet-y with stick figures about death I’d highly recommend this Wait But Why post on Cryonics.