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People want longer lives, but not too long

Assuming most of us have paid taxes, there is only one other inevitability remaining in our lives.

But what if we could postpone death. . . for years, or perhaps forever?

The Pew Research Project on Religion and Public Life found we're not all that excited about living too much longer than expected.

"Asked whether they, personally, would choose to undergo medical treatments to slow the aging process and live to be 120 or more, a majority of U.S. adults — 56 percent — say 'no.'

But we would like to stay above ground at least a little longer.

Pew's survey found that more than two-thirds of us — 69 percent — say we would like to live somewhere between 79 and 100 years. That makes the median ideal life span 90 years, which is about 11 years longer than current life expectancy — 78.7 years.

For all the money and effort we spend on trying to remain youthful, we worry about what life would be like if it were extended dramatically.

Would we run out of resources? Would the world become overcrowded? Could the economy sustain a person working for 40 years and being retired for 60 more?

Or would we drive our children, grandchildren, great grandchildren and great, great grandchildren nuts by insisting they call us once a week.

Some folks do, however, want to live much longer lives.

Russian Internet mogul Dmitry Itskov has started the 2045 Initiative. The goal is to "create technologies enabling the transfer of an individual's personality to a more advanced non-biological carrier, and extending life, including to the point of immortality."

I think that means putting your consciousness in a robot, which sounds pretty dangerous, probably for the robot. Instead of just people making all the mistakes, we would have machines screwing up as well.

There's also a movement called transhumanism, which has as its goals the radical extension of human life, eradication of disease; elimination of unnecessary suffering; and augmentation of human intellectual, physical, and emotional capacities.

A statement on transhumanist values says the only thing missing right now is the "technological means necessary" to reach immortality.

Ah, there's always some small detail.

The Journal of Medical Ethics published a paper in 2007 with arguments against extending the human lifespan.

Martien A.M. Pijnenburg and Carolo Leget contended that while individuals have a right to life, they don't have the same right to an extra long life, especially when the lifespan in sub-Sahara Africa is less than 40 years.

That's the worst possible argument. I doubt most people in that part of the world have a Buick or cable TV either.

I suspect most of the people working on ways to live forever are wasting a lot of the remaining time they have. The fact that we know our time is limited, that we don't know when we'll die, creates some sense of urgency about our lives.

As the Pew poll found out, most of us would like to live a little longer.

We just don't want to live too long.


Kercheval is host of TalkLine, broadcast by the MetroNews Statewide Radio Network from 10 a.m. to noon Monday through Friday. The show can be heard locally on WCHS 580 AM.



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