The far future is notoriously unknowable, but one thing we can be reasonably certain of is that we will die. Some very rich and imaginative people like to think that this is not the case—which will honestly make it pretty funny when they eat it like the rest of us proles.
While death itself might be timeless, new causes of death are being invented all the time. With that in mind, here are some ways we might die in the world of tomorrow that are a little more interesting than “fell in the shower while reaching for the shampoo,” ranked from least cool to most.
10. Vaping an unknown alien mutagen
Despite the FDA’s best efforts, vaping is not and never will be cool. On the other hand, being transformed into a horrific, Cronenberg-style monster is pretty sick and could conceivably be achieved by vaping some weird alien goo you mistook for e-juice. In the end, they almost cancel each other out, but being turned into meat goop because you wanted a puff is too fun not to mention.
Coolness ranking: 1 out of 5 Cronenbergs.
9. Choking on a synthetic human meat burger
It seems that the age of alt-meats has truly arrived, with fast food chains realizing the excitement they can generate by using plant-based meat substitutes (instead of animal-based meat substitutes) in their meals. Lab-grown meats cultured from celebrity DNA are sure to follow, with Ellen Nuggets and Kanye Salami Subs becoming lunchtime favorites. Is it cannibalism? Probably, but none of that will matter when a hunk of synthetic pop star is blocking your windpipe.
Coolness ranking: 2 out of 5 Bieberburgers.
8. Power failure while uploading your consciousness to the cloud
Life, man. You can spend billions of dollars developing a system to host a perfect electronic copy of your mind, and then as you’re breathing your last breath in meatspace, neurons shutting down as millions of virtual replicas power up, the dang lights go out. You gotta laugh!
Coolness ranking: 1 out of 1 singularities.
7. Turned into paperclips by a rogue AI
Philosopher Nick Bostrom famously posited that an intelligent machine tasked with creating paperclips could end up turning the entire planet into paperclip factories. This was meant as a general illustration of the dangers of an artificial superintelligence not given sufficiently philanthropic goals (rather than a specific problem to watch out for), but humanity being turned into office supplies by a pathological, paperclip-loving AI is pretty cool.
Coolness ranking: 2.8 out of 5.0 general efficiency points.
6. Killed in the robot uprising
A classic that dates back to the earliest use of the term “robot.” Less exciting than it once was, maybe, but still deserving of a spot on the list.
Coolness ranking: 3 out of 5 Skynets.
5. Killed by a robot without revolutionary consciousness that was just trying to do its job
Basically the same as the scenario above, but stupider, and thus slightly cooler to me.
Coolness ranking: 3 out of 5 ED-209s.
4. Gone Girl-ed by your clone spouse
This one’s a little complicated, so bear with me. It’s 20 years from now, and after your latest failed relationship, you realize your soulmate has been there all along, right there in the mirror. You go to a quickie cloning spot, and two hours later, you’re locking lips with your perfect double. At first, it’s bliss, more fulfilling than any partnership you could imagine. But as the years drag on, the quirks you once found endearing begin to grate. One morning, you wake up and your clone has disappeared, leaving only a trail of evidence that leads back to you. The police have a warrant for your arrest, and after a speedy trial, you’re the first person to be convicted of capital spousal clonocide. As they strap you into the atomizer chair, you look into the observation room and see your own face looking back, smiling.
Pretty cool, right?
Coolness ranking: 4 out of 5 Michael Keatons.
3. Starving to death on another planet
Many have dreamed of traveling to another planet, but fewer have fully considered what they’d do once they actually get there. Create an extraterrestrial utopia where humanity is finally able to realize its fullest creative and spiritual potential? Probably not. Shiver in a crater while rationing out your last slices of space tofu? Much more likely—and pretty neat!
Coolness ranking: 4 out of 5 space tofu slices.
2. Accidentally time-traveling to the second before you left, blowing yourself up
Any number of time travel accidents could’ve gone on this list, but dying in, say, a temporal paradox doesn’t quite have the cinematic quality I’m looking for. If, however, you went on a rollicking journey through time, meeting luminaries of the past and marveling at the wonders of the future, only to return home a second or two early, violently exploding both versions of yourself the moment before your adventure began, that would be pretty tight, in my opinion.
Coolness ranking: 2 out of 1 Marty McFlys.
1. First (confirmed) murder in space
Look, as far as we know, there haven’t been any straight-up murders in space yet. Whether or not that’s true, it still presents an enormous, extremely cool opportunity. While Earth’s highest mountains and deepest trenches have already been reached by humans, any one of us could be the first person legally murdered in space. That alone, I think, is enough to look toward to the future not with fear, but with hope.
Coolness ranking: 5 out of 5 moon machetes.