203 Essays on Infinite Lifespans   Eric S. Rabkin that some progress is being made in the eternal human con- frontation with death. Second, the focus on the germ-cells, “on the other hand,” is as isolated and masturbatory in its own way as Poe’s focus on mesmerism, another trick of the mind, like Freud’s notion of the death wish, to hold back the ultimate terror. And third, this notion of immortality for the germ-cell reduces the human being as we would normally view it to a mere convenience. While this may be the view of modern sociobiology observing what Richard Dawkins has called “the selfish gene” [14], it has little to do with the aspira- tions of individuals. But surely we are not our mere bodies. If one lost a finger, the  self  would  not  change.  But  what  if  one  lost  an  arm? Or the ability to procreate? It is clear that we are not much like our younger selves at the age of, say, three, when we were all prepubic, utterly dependent, and largely ignorant – indeed, there may be few atoms in our living bodies that have not been replaced over the years –yet we like to think of ourselves as continuous. This is in part an example of the famous philo- sophical conundrum of the farmer’s axe: “Have you had that axe a long time?” – “Oh, yes. Twenty years. I’ve replaced the handle three times and the head twice.” The persistence of the individual is a fantasy, clearly, yet a productive fantasy without which we would have no sense of self, and hence without which the very notion of immortality would be reduced to mere persistence, a state not unlike that of a rock. Modern science fiction has, of course, imagined selves con- cretized if not in rocks then in silicon. In Clarke’s The City and the Stars, citizens of Diaspor live so mind-numbingly long that they eventually voluntarily walk back into the “Hall of Creation” where machines “analyze and store the information that would define any specific human being” [15, pg.15] and then they give themselves back up to silence – one shouldn’t