September 12, 2012

Live to 150? Fuhgeddabouttit

Indeed, a majority of Americans say "nety" to ideas like this, whether hyped by futurists like Ray Kurzweil and his singularity and Michio Kaku and his techno-contact lenses, or quack peddlers of human growth hormone substitutes, or borderline illegal peddlers of the real deal and other substances.

Reality? A full 60 percent of Americans (a study of 30,000 is definitely statistically accurate) are fine with the current lifespan of 80 years. Some 30 percent would like to live to 120, and only 10 percent want to hit 150.
Overwhelmingly the reason given was that people didn’t want to be old and infirm any longer than they had to be, even if a pill allowed them to delay this inevitability. 

Others were concerned about a range of issues both personal and societal that might result from extending the life spans of millions of people in a short time. These included everything from boredom and the cost of paying for a longer life to the impact of so many extra people on planetary resources and on the environment. Some worried that millions of healthy centenarians still working and calling the shots in society would leave our grandchildren and great-grandchildren without the jobs and opportunities that have traditionally come about with the passing of generations.
And, people had a fourth option — eternity, albeit on planet Earth.

Either a lot of people haven't really thought about traditional religious ideas of heaven, or else they expect God to be a great entertainer, because only 1 percent wanted this option.

They also reject Kurzweil's cyborg/computer fueled singularity equivalent, or at least steps in that direction through bionics:
Curiously, after learning about these possibilities, few people wanted to change their votes. Even if I asked them to imagine that a pill had been invented to slow aging down by one-half, allowing a person who is, say, 60 years old to have the body of a 30-year-old, only about 10 percent of audiences switched to favoring a life span of 150 years. 
So, there you go. To riff on Bruce Springsteen, if there's 5,700 channels and nothing on for 150 years, most people don't want that.

The story is good otherwise in assessing what's realistic in terms of life extension in the next couple of decades.

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