Immortality: What if you could live (nearly) forever?

This entry is part 1 of 5 in the series Immortality
In 1968, as Baby Boomers were reaching their 20s, Stanley Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odyssey" played with ideas of immortality. Now, 35 years after the  movie's debut, it's a serious issue for Boomers who are well into their 60s.

In 1968, as Baby Boomers were moving into their 20s, Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey” played with ideas of immortality. Now, 45 years after the movie’s debut, it’s a serious issue for Boomers who are well into their 60s.

Is living forever (or at least a very long time) just the stuff of science fiction?

Not so, say an increasing number of scientists and futurists. Advances in medicine, biotechnology, and other fields hold the promise of slowing, stopping, or even turning back the human clock.

Let’s start with this question: If medical treatments and devices could let you live to age 120 or older, would you want to?

The possibility of radically extending human life raises a host of moral, ethical, and religious questions. This prompted the Pew Research Center to conduct a survey of Americans, asking about their views of radical life extension, aging, and related matters.

If you said that you would not want these life-extending medical treatments, you have a lot of company. The majority of Americans (56%) says that they, personally, would not want medical treatments that would allow them to live at least to 120. Just over a third (38%) says that they, personally, would want these life-lengthening treatments.

What about other people? Do you think that most people would want medical treatments that let them live decades longer, even if you would not want to?

Over-two thirds of Americans (68%) believe that most people would want medical treatments that greatly extended their lives. Just over a fourth (27%) believes that most people would not want these treatments.

So, we have a curious paradox: Most people think others would want radical life extension, while most people, personally, would not.

If medical treatments and devices could let you live to age 120 or older, would you want to?

Did the paradox surprise you?

How would you explain it?

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  1. Kristina Schultz says

    I am open to any health improvement or extention movement, but as a longtime fan of scifi I have a much bigger concern: will it only be accessible to a percentage of people?

    Seems to me the bigger issue is providing equal access to modernized healthcare to all, USA and abroad. That one’s current life expectancy depends upon one’s geography, race, gender and class seems like a much bigger moral issue. We clearly do not have that one righet yet.

    If we can get that right, then extending life for all is fine by me.

    Hope that makes sense.

  2. Dave Thompson says

    I don’t think I’d want to extend my life that much longer. I’m a rather healthy 72 years but vision is limited, hearing is slightly impaired, I have type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, Glaucoma, etc. It’s not the length of life but the quality of it. I see most 80 & 90 year olds as quite frail and significantly limited so if you can’t enjoy it as you did when you were 50, Why extend it? The fear of dying will not go away by having extended what we have by 20 to 30 years and we will be a drain on society and limited resources for health care plus taking more from Social Security, etc. With the huge increases in human population, extending life for a few is not a good plan even if we could do it!

  3. Ramblin Rob says

    What do you get by the extension of your life? I am 83. At 76 I had a defibrillator installed to pace my heart. It has done a magnificent job so far. My quality of life depends on this device and my ability to overcome other physical difficulties of aging. I conduct two book discussions and one current events discussion each week at my Senior Residence. I show movies to the residents three times per week. Thanks to medical advances I remain a contributor to life extension. I have received the ability to remain an active participant in my community and add to making life better for others. This is what we live for.
    Ramblin Rob is still rambling.

  4. Yeshualover says

    No thanks!
    I am ready to go home, at 60 years old, at any time. I feel that I’ve “put in my time”, putting up with pain, loss, difficulty, etc. that makes up more percentage of my life than does the good stuff.
    And this world just keeps getting more and more evil; I don’t care to be around when it becomes intolerable.
    I do my part to make it a better world by doing only good and being an example of authentic living, but I am tired…..

  5. AspeeNat says

    I have no want to live that long. As one of the plebs I know I will spend those extra years just working to enrich some douche’s pocketbook while I still just scrap by. No thanks, I look forward to leaving this selfish dog-eat-dog world. Things keep going the way they are I see a rise in the pre planned funeral business that use to be around during Jim Crow. People saving for this amazing funeral as it will be the only fun time they will ever be able to afford.

  6. bhile says

    Yeah, I would totally want to live longer. As long as the quality of life could be kept at a high level, bring it on. There is always more to experience.