Make me immortal!
April 9, 2007 8:16 AM   Subscribe

Say I want to make my name ring out through the ages. What is the best way, for a few grand or so, to make sure that I am remembered for as long as possible? Going for great achievements seems ambitious and too much work, and I am not interested in being known for great crimes. I am thinking more along the lines of the old statues-in-the-desert angle. Any ideas?
posted by blahblahblah to Human Relations (65 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
An endowment to keep a website active (and transfer it to new tech when it comes along) which contains images, videos and words from yourself. Immortality.
posted by A189Nut at 8:22 AM on April 9, 2007

Remembered by whom? You could spring for one of those "DNA on a satellite" deals and you'd be "remembered" until the Sun explodes. If you don't mind coming off as a little controlling, you could set up your will such that in order to inherit, your child would have to name his/her child after you AND attach the same condition to their will (i.e. make it self-replicating). Endow a scholarship.
posted by DU at 8:30 AM on April 9, 2007 [1 favorite]

i think you have to do something worthy of being remembered, like give a TON of money to something, or make a contribution to society of some sort

although grafitti works really well, if done in the right place.
posted by Salvatorparadise at 8:35 AM on April 9, 2007

For a few grand and not a lot of effort? I'm afraid that's not really possible. Most people who are well-remembered are remembered for things that they dedicated their lives too.

Only other way would be to invent something really usefull, that people use in their daily lives.
posted by delmoi at 8:39 AM on April 9, 2007

Change your name to Beer.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 8:42 AM on April 9, 2007

Well...being crucified worked once.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:45 AM on April 9, 2007 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: To clarify, there are three ways this could work:

Way One: That some relatives or family members may know who I am 20 generations hence. As in "one of our ancestors was blahblahblah"

Way Two: That there is a good chance some group of people, however small, will know that there was this guy named blahblahblah who lived 1,000 years ago.

Way Three: That lots of people know blahblahblah, ala Newton or Dante.

I agree that the third way is hard without doing SOMETHING for good or evil, and DU has a potential idea on how to handle the first way. But what about the second, the hope that some group of scholars or enthusiasts might remember who I was with interest. I suppose that can either result from a persistant record of who I was, or from something that might be discovered 1,000 years from now that ignites an interest.
posted by blahblahblah at 8:50 AM on April 9, 2007

You could build a giant statue in the desert.

But that would run up against your resistance to hard work and ambition.

If you're charming enough, or have impossibly giant tits, you might be able to find someone willing to do most of the work for you, like Angelyne managed to do.
posted by notyou at 8:55 AM on April 9, 2007

Best answer: If you're OK with a longish and completely unpredictable interlude (several thousand years, say) between your death and when you begin to be celebrated, why not fabricate some highly fragmentary evidence of having done something extraordinary in 2007 - invented time travel, made cold fusion work, figured out human teleportation - put it in a lead-lined box, and bury it somewhere remote? Be sure to include diaries, or something similar, pointing to some severe kind of introverted personality which explains why you never sought publicity for your invention.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 8:57 AM on April 9, 2007 [3 favorites]

you could set up your will such that in order to inherit, your child would have to name his/her child after you AND attach the same condition to their will

Good luck enforcing this one from beyond the grave.
posted by grouse at 8:58 AM on April 9, 2007

Cost-effective: Work your name into a super catchy pop song. (Do you know the phone number of a girl named Jenny? See what I mean?) It has to be really catchy though.
posted by LobsterMitten at 9:00 AM on April 9, 2007

Better to be known for your works—cure cancer or something. Statues in the desert don't necessarily work out that well.
posted by adamrice at 9:03 AM on April 9, 2007

Statues in the desert don't necessarily work out that well.

I think Ozymandias is doing pretty well in the immortality stakes, actually... just taking an indirect route via poetry.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 9:05 AM on April 9, 2007

Good luck enforcing this one from beyond the grave.

All wills are enforced from beyond the grave.
posted by DU at 9:08 AM on April 9, 2007

i think there is some agency somewhere that lets you buy the right to name an obscure star. as long as that agency keeps being in charge of naming stars, you could be remembered for that...

or, go out in a deserted area and carve your name in enormous letters, nazca line style. then fill the letters with plastic or nuclear waste and cover them back over with dirt. possibly someone will notice eventually.
posted by lgyre at 9:17 AM on April 9, 2007

you could set up your will such that in order to inherit

That, too, runs up against the OPs no-hard-work and no-ambition pre-conditions. Parents of potential heirs are doing it for the money. Blahblahblah would have to get out there and earn some.
posted by notyou at 9:19 AM on April 9, 2007

All wills are enforced from beyond the grave.

No, not all wills are enforceable. For example, the one you propose would violate the rule against perpetuities.
posted by grouse at 9:20 AM on April 9, 2007

Find something no man has found before.


Jesus's Tomb
Amelia Earheart
the clitoris (ZING!)
posted by spec80 at 9:27 AM on April 9, 2007

You seem to have come up with a pretty good answere here.
posted by googly at 9:38 AM on April 9, 2007 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I've heard that with modern engineering, a paltry million is enough to build a pyramid tomb that dwarfs the pyramids of egypt.

Of course, I don't have a paltry million on me. But for a few thousand, and a lot of labour (get your friends in on the act, pay them with beer), I bet you could make an awesome stonehenge. And not one of those old and busted ones like in the UK, a complete one with all the stones, all aligned correctly with today's earth orbit.

Then the local schools will make field trips to it to teach the kids about seasons and time and calanders and their relationship to the sun and stars. And if every block has your name inscribed in it... you're done. Have yourself buried at the centre, and I bet someday a couple will be having sex on your grave. Who knows, if you hang around as a ghost, at the moment of conception, you could posses the embyro and be reborn :-)
posted by -harlequin- at 9:43 AM on April 9, 2007 [6 favorites]

DISCLAIMER: The following post does not seek to condone, encourage, or provoke any unlawful behavior. It is general comment on a hypothetical situation assumed to be for entertainment value only.

If you have no morals or other aspirations in life, the surefire way to get in the history books is to attempt to, appear to, or successfully kill someone famous. Most bang for one's buck, effort-wise.

Failing that - cult leadership and/or martyrdom require a minimum amount of effort.

Buy some exploits of russian blackhats, hire some similar wizards of ill-repute, and have them write a virus that does nothing but propagate and replace common nouns in web browsers with your name. You could do it yourself, but that would probably violate your laziness condition. The Malkovich Worm..

In short, I cannot think of anything that is both moral and easy.
posted by phrontist at 9:45 AM on April 9, 2007

You could have all your money go to buying a TV spot during the superbowl that was just your name, in bold white font on a black background, for 30 seconds. This would only work for the first person to do it.
posted by phrontist at 9:47 AM on April 9, 2007

Best answer: E-mail me your name. My first novel comes out in Feb 2009, and my contract has an option for a second. I'm working on the second now, and I'll name one of my characters after you. No guarantee that either of us will live on forever, but I plan on donating copies to the Library of Congress. Close enough?
posted by headspace at 9:52 AM on April 9, 2007 [5 favorites]

Announce that you are going on a solo expedition in the Canadian Arctic to find (more of) the remains of the Franklin Expedition, or into the remote regions of New Guinea, or to retrace the Burke-Wills Expedition route by camel, and then...completely vanish forevermore.

After making certain to leave a series of increasingly cryptic, desperate, and possibly deranged clues to be found by rescuers later at various points along your meandering course. Preferably, you should end with something completely eerie and as equally memorable as "Croatoan".
posted by Midnight Creeper at 9:54 AM on April 9, 2007 [1 favorite]

Oh, and have a repeating message, like the HeadOn people... this is proven to increase retention:

John Doe - Remember Him Forever
John Doe - Remember Him Forever
John Doe - Remember Him Forever

posted by phrontist at 9:54 AM on April 9, 2007

Statues in the desert are not erected for uninteresting people. You can be a Pharaoh of Egypt and your memorials will still be torn down if they're inconvenient or somebody took a disliking to you.

Even common people in the right circumstances to achieve fame -- think of war heroes -- don't necessarily have names which live in perpetuity. Do you remember Audie Murphy? He's only been dead for 35 years or so, and I doubt he leaps to the minds of anybody under the age of 50.

The only person I can think of who achieved what you want is Abraham Zapruder. He had the extraordinary luck of being an ordinary person doing a very ordinary thing at an extraordinary moment. And I'll bet you his fame will disappear in a couple years, once Americans tire of JFK conspiracies.
posted by ardgedee at 9:58 AM on April 9, 2007

Uh, the Rule Against Perpetuities only applies in some states and international jurisdictions. There are many U.S. states that allow a trust to exist (in theory) forever.
Setting up a trust in such a jurisdiction (Idaho, Wisconsin, South Dakota, Alaska, Delaware, New Hampshire, etc) would be the best way to enforce your will upon the future.

Here's what you do: buy an insurance policy that pays at least $1MM upon your death into a trust that is set up to last in perpetuity (the premiums on such a policy are reasonable but more like a few grand every year; p.s. buy a policy when you're young and it will cost less).

As the trust income grows, you can have the money do whatever you think will keep your name in the public eye. Hell, have your perpetual trust gift to charity in a flashy manner, or better yet, have your trust sponsor a yearly fireworks festival in your home town (burn your name in fireworks across the sky). In 100 years, a million dollars would be several billion assuming you set up the trust to invest and do not make excessive distributions.
posted by 2bucksplus at 10:00 AM on April 9, 2007 [1 favorite]

"If you would not be forgotten as soon as you are dead and rotten, either write things worth reading, or do things worth the writing." -- Benjamin Franklin
posted by futility closet at 10:02 AM on April 9, 2007

cure AIDS. seriously. F*ck the statues.
posted by markovitch at 10:04 AM on April 9, 2007 [1 favorite]

Name a rose after yourself!
posted by OpinioNate at 10:04 AM on April 9, 2007

Create an article about yourself on Wikipedia. :P
posted by archagon at 10:21 AM on April 9, 2007

You could try to beat my historic, record-breaking posting of a duplicate link. This will not be easy, though. You will need to post the same damn link into MetaFilter for a seventh time to beat my six-time record, which is already being celebrated. It will require alertness and perserverance for you to accomplish what I was able to do with simple stupidity and inattention.
posted by mojohand at 10:29 AM on April 9, 2007 [1 favorite]

If you want to be an interesting story in your family why not have your cremains converted into large precious stones and then made into jewelry that gets passed down in the family. This is well within your budget and you being dead is as lazy as you can be. Just be sure to have this written in your will. I myself plan to have my remains done so for my husband's second wedding set.
posted by jadepearl at 10:32 AM on April 9, 2007

Endow a professorship. Wouldn't the blahblahblah Professor of whatever-you-like be swell? You could set up the criteria however you like, and get the professors to write their little reports to you and then your descendents. All it takes is money!
posted by pinky at 10:33 AM on April 9, 2007

Uh, the Rule Against Perpetuities only applies in some states and international jurisdictions.

Such as Massachusetts, where the OP is. Regardless of the state, however, I think it would be very hard to enforce a will that said that the beneficiary would have to replicate the same conditions in his will. Mainly because the beneficiary's will would not come to light until both the beneficiary and the original testator would be dead. Even if it some other beneficiary brought suit to enforce the original terms of the will, I don't think they would be able to recover more than the original bequest.

Setting up a trust where the income could only go to male-line descendants with the same first name would be a different animal altogether. But it wouldn't have the same viral effect—that the descendants income over their lifetime would be tied into the conditions as well. That's what I don't think could be enforced.
posted by grouse at 10:40 AM on April 9, 2007

Whatever you do make sure you have an unusual name which will not get lost in a sea of like names if someone goes looking for you. If you google your name now are you buried on page 10,000? Change it.

Try Zapruder or some close variant to get the "did you mean". Abraham comes up #1.

Try Smith. Can you see Will on the first page?

This, among other things, is where OJ gets real lucky. Common last name, "Orenthal" first name...
posted by scheptech at 10:41 AM on April 9, 2007

Best answer: Knock up approximately 3,742 women. That should give the critical mass to seed the entire future human race with at least some of your genes.

I advise donating to THOUSANDS of sperm banks —internationally— rather than attempting this "the old fashioned way."

The Old Fashioned Way, while fun, is simply too time consuming and wrought with ethical issues and obligations.

So once you verify all your donations THEN build a large 20 foot high granite statue in the dessert. Of a sperm. With your face and name on it. And the words "probably your daddy" at it's base.
posted by tkchrist at 10:45 AM on April 9, 2007 [3 favorites]

I can't believe no one's suggested naming a star after yourself. Not sure how effective it would be, but someone, someday would surely encounter your name and wonder about you. Plus, there's always a chance that a planet orbiting your star might support life! Could be interesting life, too!

The link above is to one of several star-naming agencies I found through a Google search. Caveat emptor.

Another idea: commission a portrait bust of yourself in marble, by a really good artist. There are a lot of those still hanging around from Renaissance times, or even the Roman Empire. The subjects often will be interesting just because of the work of art built around them. A portait is another possibility, but portraits seem more fragile than marble sculpture.
posted by amtho at 10:48 AM on April 9, 2007

It doesn't matter where the poster lives, in fact he doesn't even have to fly over any of the states I mentioned to set up a trust there. This would not be a will, it would be a trust (and not a trust created through a will - i.e. testamentary). Regardless, I think we both agree that a will would be a terrible method to achieve what the poster desires.

A trust, however, could be drafted to do any crazy thing the poster has in mind (see my previous post). I don't like the same-first-name idea (but you could do it in a trust), but I do like the idea of gifting annually and publically to some charity, or sponsoring a free and fun event, or funding AIDS research, etc.
posted by 2bucksplus at 10:48 AM on April 9, 2007

Don't reinvent the wheel.

Spend part of your money on a college intern to do some research. Have them dig around history and find similar people who had a little bit of money, not much ambition, and yet are known generations later. Then just do what they did.

And if you have any luck with that, let me know.
posted by Ookseer at 10:49 AM on April 9, 2007

Sorry - last comment was for grouse.
posted by 2bucksplus at 10:50 AM on April 9, 2007

Blow up the moon. That is the kind of thing that people will remember for a long time. The way I figure it, it should be pretty cheap and easy:

1) For a few thousand dollars you can purchase a nuclear bomb on the black market in one of the former Soviet states.

2) Point it at the moon.

3) Press the red button.
posted by ND¢ at 10:52 AM on April 9, 2007

You could also work as a model for a sculptor or even a teaching studio. You could _get paid_ to be immortalized! (although it can be boring, strenuous work, and your name might not really be attached to the work) (and you might have to be naked).
posted by amtho at 10:53 AM on April 9, 2007 [1 favorite]

I was also going to suggest naming a star after yourself. Another option? Save some redwoods for future generations. It costs 25 grand, but you can pay over three years. When there are none of these trees left outside of parks your immortality is secure.
posted by emptyage at 10:54 AM on April 9, 2007

Be like Ben Franklin and bequeath your hometown (or whatever city you like) that few thousand dollars to be held in trust for 200 years.
posted by MegoSteve at 11:00 AM on April 9, 2007 [1 favorite]

There is this part in this pretty terrible book called A Certain Chemistry, where the main character is discussing fame, and he says something like "In three hundred years, who from today will still be remembered? Maybe Elvis, but that is it." Which got me to thinking: all fame is so transient. Will people remember George Washington in a thousand years? Jesus in two thousand? Western civilization in five thousand?

The whole idea of inventions and children and great works giving anyone any kind of immortality is ridiculous. Even if you were to blow up the moon, and were remembered as long as mankind walked the earth, how long will man exist on earth or at all? A finite length of time would be my guess. Therefore, no matter what you do, no matter how famous you are, no matter how many children you have, one day all memory of you will be erased and it will be as if you never existed. The guy who worked as a night watchmen at a mattress factory will be as immortal as Alexander the Great. There is nothing that you can do about it. One day, and in less time than you might imagine, it will be as if you never were.

Therefore the only answer is to accept Jesus as your personal savior and go and live forever in heaven. That is the only way to immortality.
posted by ND¢ at 11:06 AM on April 9, 2007

if you could find a suitable perch in advance, you could do a nude swan dive onto the stage during the academy awards for free, and that would be remembered for awhile.
posted by bruce at 11:11 AM on April 9, 2007

I think the marble bust, while a good idea, is doomed to obscurity by upcoming technology - in just ten years, the rapidly dropping price of 3d scanners and production via 3d milling machines is probably going to make busts the equivalent of shutterbug holiday snaps. People are already doing it today.
posted by -harlequin- at 11:16 AM on April 9, 2007

Blue light is flickering
Through the city streets
One billion tv sets
Glowing off concrete
One day closer to death
I know that i don't have too long
Whatever happened to soy bomb

Lunch box collector loves all the pussycats
But when he goes to bed
He wonders where he's at
Thrift store shirts and old haircuts
Living in an old sitcom
Whatever happened to soy bomb

The day is coming when you'll have to think of it
Was it really worth it
All that shit

Blue light is flickering
Through the cloudy sky
One billion lonely hearts
Beat until they die
One day closer to death
I know i don't have too long
Whatever happened to soy bomb
posted by ND¢ at 11:18 AM on April 9, 2007

You really will probably have to limit yourself to your way 1 and way 2 criteria. Most people have addressed the improbability of becoming superfamous without becoming an assassin or something similar. So some off the cuff ideas:

Pull off a great hoax like Clifford Irving did with the Howard Hughes letters or the bigfoot videos.

Use a site like Futuremail to send cryptic messages to people in the future. Thousands will bounceback but a well thought out e-mail to info@newyorktimes in the year 2037 might have some effect.

Spend your money getting to know a great songwriter, todays equivalent of Bob Dylan (hard to do I know). Do whatever you can to get your name in a song.

Make coins that look like the new jefferson nickels with your face and name on them and circulate them into the public.
posted by jeremias at 11:42 AM on April 9, 2007

Go to an art supply store, buy some art supplies, make great art. That last part is a little tricky, but people still talk about Giotto 500 years later. And we're talking about an initial outlay of far less than your proposed cost, along with the fact that you'll essentially be producing something you're going to sell, so you can actually make money becoming famous in this way.

Heck, I've already worked on quite a few buildings around town that'll be around for quite a few years, and I collect a salary for producing those.
posted by LionIndex at 11:58 AM on April 9, 2007

This one costs nothing.
Step one- Find a freshly cemented, still wet sidewalk.
Step two- Find a stick.
Step three- Write your name in the wet cement.

Voila! Immortalized for free...or until they recement that sidewalk.
posted by smeater44 at 11:59 AM on April 9, 2007

Change your name to Kilroy, Elvis, or Crapper.
posted by yohko at 12:10 PM on April 9, 2007

Setting up trust funds might be one way, but I think people have a tendency to not pay much attention to them unless they've just gotten some money, and even then the recognition is short lived. "Hey, guys, the John Doe Trust just sent me a grant! Yeah, isn't that cool? No, I don't have a fucking clue who John Doe is, but who cares!"

I think that buying a park and naming it after yourself probably would do it. In most states you can put covenants on the deed to the property, and then assign it to some sort of non-profit corporation, and it'll be around a long time.

Since people will actually be using the park, they'll constantly run into your name. If you put a nice big carved-stone/metal plaque with your bio at the entrance, or where people will see it, that'll probably keep your name alive.

Best place for building a park would be in some suburban area that's currently growing; some place where a park will be appreciated (too urban and it'll just be a development target, too rural and nobody will care because it'll just be some empty land in the middle of more empty land).

If you want a model you can look at things like Joshua's Trust in CT, which is named after "Joshua, son of Uncas, Mohegan Sachem, who in 1676 bequeathed his hunting grounds in the heart of eastern Connecticut to 16 men of Norwich." Which, if you're counting, makes it 331 years old.

Okay, so he didn't get George Washington-level name recognition, but how many other people from 300+ years ago are remembered at all today, and what did they have to do for it?
posted by Kadin2048 at 12:22 PM on April 9, 2007

Become a charter member of The Long Now Foundation. Only 400-some spots left!
posted by jbickers at 12:57 PM on April 9, 2007

Pay great artists a lot of money to create art about you. Hire Henry Mancini to compose your theme song. Pay writers to write books about you. Your hubris will be remembered forever.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:36 PM on April 9, 2007

You could buy some serious local fame and gratitude by improving lives in a corner of the developing world, but there is no guarantee of your fame lasting through ages. You could try adopting a unique name, endowing a maternity hospital, and giving a bounty to each child named after you. The story of how the name started to be used should live for quite a while.

There are a number of posts where a permanent list of the various post-holders is maintained. Mayor of you local town might do. Or minister of your local church, but the names do not usually "ring out". (Hm, aren't the previous popes' names read out at the induction of a new one? Ringing out in St Peter's Square sounds good, but the effort involved may be too much for you.)
posted by Idcoytco at 2:14 PM on April 9, 2007

Ummmmm, about the whole name-a-star thing...
posted by greatgefilte at 3:02 PM on April 9, 2007

Buy land on the moon.
Or Mars and Venus.

50 or 100 years from now your descendants will be landed gentry on the Offworld Colonies and will erect statues in your honor.

I seem to remember there was a similar deal with land in the Arctic and Antarctic, but you'll probably be looking at stiff competition as global warming fears increase.
posted by lekvar at 3:59 PM on April 9, 2007

Die of something interesting.
posted by Pan Agan at 4:05 PM on April 9, 2007

Keep a journal of your life. Write down everything you do, how you live, where you live, include plenty of descriptions and as much detail as possible. Write about other people you know and how they live their lives.

Stipulate (in a will or whatever) that the diaries be donated to your local historical society when you die. Your life will then serve as a model and record of what the average person was like in the first half of the 21st century, and you will be remembered (and studied) for years to come.

At least, that's what I'm planning to do.
posted by Brittanie at 4:07 PM on April 9, 2007 [1 favorite]

It shouldn't take a Wired link for everyone to know you can't actually buy the name of a star...

I'd go with the buying and preservation of land. In the desert, even. John Doe Gulch would be pretty cool 500 years from now.
posted by Roman Graves at 4:42 PM on April 9, 2007

I recently read this book Banvard's Folly. It's about 13 people who didn't change the world. They are people who, for the most part, were really famous and/or popular for some achievement (or quackery), but then faded into obscurity either through natural selection, or because they made really bad choices with what to do with the rest of their lives. These 13 people were completely forgotten, but then became the subjects of this book, so in effect, are remembered for being forgotten.

Anyway, maybe in 100 years, someone can write a book about you.
posted by eggplantia5 at 6:46 PM on April 9, 2007

Buy a statue. Put it in the desert. Seems to work. Though the poem would suggest otherwise, everyone knows who Ozymandius is.
posted by mr_book at 5:59 AM on April 10, 2007

2bucksplus writes "but I do like the idea of gifting annually and publically to some charity, or sponsoring a free and fun event, or funding AIDS research, etc."

I'd avoid aids research. 30 years from now when they have a vaccine/cure you won't be anything unless you beat the wildly unlikely odds of actually funding the cure. A few grand won't fund a months salary for practically anybody involved in research.
posted by Mitheral at 6:34 PM on May 1, 2007

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