Danger Lampost

Futurist & Technology Consultant,

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Why do so few people want to live significantly longer and healthier than a so-called natural life span?

As I have discussed the concept of immortality with people over the years, something has consistently surprised me. I ask people, "If you could live a much longer but still vital and healthy life, would you want to live, say, 200 years? 500 years?

Most people do not want to live that long - even if they could remain healthy and vital all that time. It seems what most people are saying, is that they actually *want* to grow old and die.

Yet we all supposedly want to be healthy and strong, and of course we would naturally want to heal ourselves if we got sick or injured - we seek health. Then why this death wish among most people I poll?

I'm obviously in the "Hell yeah, give me healthy immortality" camp, so I'm looking for help from other people in explaining the other side of this please.

Is that a coping mechanism to help accept our own mortality? Would you really turn down an opportunity to live much longer, along with your friends, and healthy?

Or is my own personal polling off? I guess we'll see!

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    Oct 21 2012: We usually forget that the most important thing is how well we live our lives; not how long.
    Because anything in this world, with a beginning, will definitely have an end. A long life will end, just like the short.
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      Oct 21 2012: I think you are so right about that point which you stated very well: It's about living a good life, not a long life.

      Yet still, imagine you are living well: Why not extend such a good life if you have the option available to you?
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    Oct 26 2012: One of the aspects of life that prompts an urgency to do what matters is that our time is finite. Funny how when you have a few minutes or hours to accomplish a task you get right on it, But when you have days, or months,or years there are always other distractions…I think that a purpose of clearly understanding of the timespan we have in this life is to focus our energies on what matters. To give our life to that which we find meaningful in the limited time we have. If we routinely had 500 years to do this, instead of 80, I think our society could develop in interesting and wonderful ways. Our expected level of mastery in our fields and our expectations for a life well lived could extend tremendously.
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    Oct 23 2012: ...perhaps you have asked the wrong people? - most of the people I associate with answer in the affirmative - provided they are mentally and physically fit. There is a million and one things we would all like to do and we don't have time in one short lifetime (even if you do things quickly!).

    When you meet positive, creative people who have 'mastered the inner self' they see the world differently and yearn to learn more and see what the future holds for the human race. When you consider that we may be the only sentient creatures in the universe (unlikely I believe) and certainly we must have a kinship with all sentients everywhere (see Is anyone there?http://www.commonsensethinking.co.uk/philos.html), I personally can't wait to find out if the human race will manage to survive and how. In just a few decades we shall probably have a step change in technology (robotics et al) that takes the human race to another level - freeing us from work and drudgery - who would not want to wait and see how it all pans out? Perhaps we need to teach our children to be more imaginative?
    This reminds me of a nice quote:
    If you make people think they're thinking, they'll love you; but if you
    really make them think, they'll hate you.

    Most people do, unfortunately spend their lives not really thinking much at all, this must be partly because of nature's policy for us and perhaps are poor ability to educate ourselves - especially our children - do we nurture them to really think? (or just train them to keep their heads down?)
    see Fit for Life:
    http://www.commonsensethinking.co.uk/education.html

    Anyway - if you find a way - please put me on your list i'll gladly join you!
    ta, JP
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    Oct 23 2012: I do think it's because they have already accepted their own mortality. They probably feel the second they started wanting it, they would start to fear death again. Which, being life extension still beyond the average individual's comprehension and expectations, would be a pointless suffering. Therefore, they say instead they don't want any of that.

    This is why it's important to spread awareness about how life extension works, and how it's a real possibility. So people feel it's something to strive for, rather than a torturing, impossible dream.
  • Oct 22 2012: All I am saying is ...sure with good health life is beautiful on Earth...but after experiencing all aspects, wouldnpt you want more? like not having this heavy 3D body, going to the bathroom every day, not being able to fly teleport, create instantly? which things are possible in a higher dimension...where we have higher vibrating light bodies...and a wider awareness of everything?
    That is the attempts daredevils try to achive ..but can not escape 3D limitations
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      Oct 22 2012: Thank you for describing that wonderful world. I feel I visit that world often in my lucid dreams.

      Does a natural death for you get you a ticket to that wonderful world, whereas suicide voids your ticket, maybe because you "have more to do on this planet" or something like that? That's the only reason I could think of for not committing suicide so I would be very interested to hear if there's another reason for you?
  • Oct 22 2012: i think it's part of the god dilemma, to quote Achillies "the god's envy us because we are mortal everything is beautiful because we may die at any moment" do you really want to live forever for never? i think thats why people hesitate, while scientists look for longer life cuz they are scared of death other accept and celebrate their mortality... and btw this has nothing to do with religion i am a tea pot atheist and i'm curios of the afterlife like many people :)
    • Oct 22 2012: Yes Arthur,

      I relate well to this quote by Achilles. Thanks for this!
  • Oct 22 2012: That surprised me on many levels for my instinct tells me that most would desire to live longer. Greed appears to be a great motivator of humankind and at the end of the day greed is exactly what life-extension is all about. Perhaps the people you meet are smart enough and blessed enough to accept the finality of their lives. Or as Ralph waldo Emerson so aptly said "Its not the length of life, but the depth of life."

    I like to believe, "Life has meaning only if one barters it day by day for something other than itself.” Antione de Saint-Exupery
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      Oct 22 2012: I think you may have hit the nail on the head as to why some people are against life extension: They believe life extension is greedy and morally reprehensible, which I believe is the conclusion that you seem to have reached.

      So that leads me to ask this follow up question: Was it greedy for us to extend our life expectancy from about 21 years old 1000's of years ago, to about 80 or so today? Or is it only greedy when we extend our maximum potential life span, not so much our average life expectancy? Is it more greedy of us to pro-create at such a fast pace, or to live longer? Aren't both equally greedy, or am I missing the reason why it's greedy?

      If you're saying it's only greed when we extend our maximum potential life span (like with Richard's potion), what is the magic about our current natural life span, versus what we (as mankind) can do to increase that? Is it because that's "the way it's supposed to be" or the way we were created?

      And if it's greedy to want to extend our natural life span, would it be generous to shorten our life span? Why not? Why ever cure yourself from a disease, as you could save those resources for other healthy people?
      • Oct 22 2012: Hey Danger,

        Regarding the life span being increased form 21 to 80 years (at least in in Western countries) ... I feel guilty that there are people in the world who live in countries where the life expectancy is 59 (or less.) I hope that when/if I reach 60, I will have the courage to not make extraordinary efforts to extend my life should I become seriously ill. I want to live as natural of a life and die as natural as a death as possible once I have lived a reasonable life span ( for my personal goals.)

        However .. my goals may change with time... ;o)

        Also, in response to your post above .. I have very chosen to not have children because I have felt that there are others who have children and that I can better serve as support to them than to have children of my own.

        i guess that I do feel that resources are limited and that I want to help other people have a chance at quality life.
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    Oct 20 2012: i believe it is part of what de grey calls the global trance. if death is inevitable and bad, it is a depressing feeling. so since it is inevitable, it has to be good. that's is how people cope with it. as they say, the grapes are sour.

    should there be a breakthrough in life extending methods, people will think very differently.
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    Gail .

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    Oct 20 2012: In my experience, living in this day and age, the idea of living another 100 years sounds awful. Life is changing too quickly, and we're heading to some terrible times unless something is done to change the trajectory. If I were living in a saner culture, I might feel very differently. If I were younger, I might also feel differently. (I do remember this question when I was younger and deciding that I really didn't care)

    I'm just very tired of the oppression, tyranny and massive ignorance.
  • Oct 20 2012: I think that you are assuming what you are trying to prove. I don't believe that you are right unless you mean few people are willing to radically alter their lifestyles to live 300 years. That.s from Asimov's great group of Robot etc. books. You can live longer But what a change.
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    Oct 26 2012: Hello Danger,

    Interesting. A question about immortality is intrinsically related to the question of mortality.

    And even though I know many people who are not afraid of dying, I can't say I have ever met someone who wants to die, well, maybe excluding some very depressed individuals, but in general, people would prefer not to die tomorrow, if that could be a choice.

    As it has been mentioned in other TED conversations, the answer as to why people want to live longer, might just be the irrational (probably genetically conditioned) aversion to dying that we (and other living organisms) have. I am not so sure that it is a minority

    But from a pragmatic point of view, lets imagine that someone found a magic way to make immortality available. Who should decide who can and cannot live forever? It is a fact that if it was a personal choice, and a big percentage of the population elected to, then somehow reproduction would have to be abolished or drastically reduced (can't have a cake and eat it at the same time, right?)

    Now, I am a parent, and that colors my view on the matter. Would I be willing to sacrifice their right to live in order for me to live forever? I doubt it. One of the things i take most pride in is the mere fact that i will be able to pass both my genes and some of my accumulated knowledge down to future generations. Who would we do things for if we were to live forever? just ourselves?

    In any case, great question

    cheers
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    p s

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    Oct 25 2012: 'I don't want to live forever.' Lemmy. Ace of Spades.
  • Oct 25 2012: The problem with living so long is that we can get used to it.
    It may become just a habit .
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    Oct 23 2012: May it be because I am a 'slow learner', or just 'odd' in a way, but I would embrace the chance to extend my lifetime with one condition only - that was, that I am to decide to die whenever I wan't to.

    As far as I can see, as more intellect we grow and - hopefully - wisdom gain throughout our lifes, as less time remains to finally profit from it by its application.

    The only disadvantage I see in extending lifetime is the reduction in evolution flexibility, which may be negative influenced by such a project. But I think, that our minds are not designed for 'infinite' or much prolonged existence, so that there might be a 'natural' barrier, from where most individuals would just wish to end freely.

    One day, I am most certain, we'll have the technology to consider those questions more seriously.
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      Oct 23 2012: I agree with what you say.

      The part I find most interesting in your comment is about having the right to decide to die whenever you want to. Do you think that suicide is an option that should always be available to everyone at any time? Or only for those on extended life span?
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        Oct 24 2012: To me, suicide is one of the highest forms of human dignity, as long it refers to the individual being only and that the decision is formed by a free and healthy mind.

        Political, religious and other 'non being' related motivations are excluded.

        Even though the 'healthy mind' condition is quite a topic on its own, each of us may sense what it would mean for ourselfs.

        As we all carry the instinct of survival within us, a concious decision against it, must therefore bear an ultimate and final conclusion, which is to respect by others.

        Support, help and understanding by others within the process of such a descision is assumed, as, to me, only by this the definition of a 'free mind' should be framed.
  • Oct 23 2012: Would you like to play pinball with 50 or infinite balls, instead of 3 ?
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      Oct 23 2012: Yes I would like to play pinball with more than 3 balls, and I'd like the pinball game to evolve and become ever more interesting to me, as me and my infinite balls explore an ever more interesting pinball game.
      • Oct 26 2012: But what if it doesn't evolve? What if it gets boring and monotonous, "without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.” (to add some C. S. Lewis) Maybe the people you ask are seeing a world losing its simple chances of valuable interaction, or are losing sight of their ability to interact.
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    Oct 23 2012: If you are on the Hell yeah side, it will be difficult to imagine the other side. My question to you is; have you asked, 'why not?' have you searched for an in depth answer from the people that have answered that they just want to grow old and die?? They have the answer!! here is mine; Not everybody is able to live outside of their realm, it is a matter of Biology, the wiring (if I may),. Boredom can and will lead to depression. Some cannot imagine a lifetime of this enclosed reality. The subconscious desire to live past a present and natural age span is very likely accompanied by the desire to experience all parts of existence (life). Some people's worlds are much smaller than others, this is not necessarily a good-bad thing, it simply is; and it is part of a much bigger picture. In order to have the desire for a longer journey, one must be able to imagine this journey. till then, this natural life span is sufficient. Just for the record. I'm also on the 'hell yeah side' ;)
    cheers
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      Oct 23 2012: That's a pretty harsh reality you paint there, and I have to say it's hard for me to argue against. If you're someone who wants to die by natural death at our current life span, I wonder what you think when you read something like Vincenzo's comment?

      My understanding of this argument, is that if you choose death by current natural life span then it's because your biology has limited your ability to experience this universe, so you're naturally inclined to exit this reality sooner than someone else who has a greater capacity to explore more of this universe.
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        Oct 24 2012: Danger. Just imagine doing the same thing over and over again and again. How long will it take till you say "ok, that's enough" ?! I suggest that this depends on your horizons. The bigger your world, the longer your journey. Science is helping humanity with this process, and as you may have already noticed, our life span is getting longer and longer. It has opened our eyes to an incredible vast Universe. You don't have look too far, your own back yard is a good starting point. This sort of enlightenment excites our senses and makes us wish for the longer life span..... as I said before, it all depends on the length of the journey that you are able to imagine. This will help dictate what is a natural life span.
        Once again. Cheers
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    Oct 23 2012: I think:

    That is because they do not enjoy their life, which is due to:

    (1) “The VALID happiness is the short-time feeling of things being a-step-better for keeping one’s own DNA alive. ”
    (2) A long life of 200 years or more will make the “a-step-better” smaller and smaller.
    (3) When the “a-step-better” approaches zero, no people enjoy their life naturally!

    Wrong?
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      Oct 23 2012: Well I wouldn't say "wrong", but I think differently. I completely agree with you that valid happiness is a short-time feeling. That's what you feel when you win the lottery.

      There is a concept of joy, which is ours for the taking, and always around us, if we know how to take it. Sadly It is a cruel fact of our existence that the path to joy is not obvious and often requires going through great pain, but not always. Many disciplines exist to help us discover this joy.

      Joy is a state of mind that is timeless and doesn't need a step better to continue. That's the major difference between joy and happiness.

      With joy in my heart, I can live forever.
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    Oct 22 2012: Health and happiness are not synonymous.

    Part of the reason is religion. People have been taught that we are sinners and are suffering in this life for our sin. They think that the hereafter is much to be desired, so to extend this life would be to forestall the heaven that they seek.

    Another part is the pessimism that many people feel apart from religion. A person can be lonely in a crowd. A person can be miserable in wealth. When you have the vitality of life, but lack the resources or opportunity to do what you would like to do, it's like being in jail. You feel trapped in your circumstances.
    Many people have watched the quality of life grow dimmer with time. Less and less people can afford to own a home. Less and less people can afford the vacation dreams that they once sought after. People have watched their income fall short of their needs with increasing rate. They are being asked to do more with less. They are having to work longer hours with less job satisfaction. They have seen their benefits decline. They don't see this as changing. Only those who don't care what others feel are not affected by this.

    A third reason is that many do not feel that they are their body. They feel that they are a spirit confined in a body. As the cycles of life go on, life evolves to higher dimensions. We see children learning much faster than we did when we were young. We want that for ourselves. To watch the world around us accelerate to new horizons while we remain fixed in our present understanding (its hard to teach old dogs new tricks), would become increasingly more mundane. Those who feel that the body is just a vessel that we cast off at death, are hopeful for what is yet to come.

    A fourth reason is that they don't believe it is possible to live longer and still be healthy. They called old age the golden years to spice it up. No one is bragging about it.
  • Oct 22 2012: The natural death does not necessarily mean one can go and stay in a higher vibrational, dimensional plane of existence, unless one soul is done experiencing, learning and serving Earth life. Suicide is not the way, because it is violence against the body if it comes from negative emotions, is an escape. ( I am not against assisted suicide in case of terminal pain, or some other circumstances ). but the natural soul evolution means, after we "graduate" from 3d Earth school, it is natural desire of our unlimited pontential-ed soul to want to experience a freer, in movement, creativity, expanded consciousness to ascend to a higher plane. After we have experienced joy, sorrow, being in the body, appreciation of what Earth can offer and Yes, learning to be non judgmental, loving...So extension of life is good, ...and many highly evolved beings who are in higher dimension, come back for a period for serving and helping beings on Erth.
    So in short. Life is purposeful, good if you are here, extending HEALTHY life is a good desire, ..I just state that there is a point when one wants greater experience of life in a higher demension, where love , beauty and creativity is more emphasised. There are highly evolved beings who can non vioently leave ther body, with the agreement of their body at the end of their purpose being in physical embodiment,...also in some other dimensions. The body served its purpose, thank it and so to speak fly out of it...
  • Oct 22 2012: IMO, where there’s an end, there’s a fulfillment, and where there’s a fulfillment, there’s an unutterable joy.
    Another thought for this question is that people are willing to choose to do something decidedly(so to speak) if there are limited options available for them.
    Take Sheena Iyengar’s TED talk for example,
    “We decided to do a little experiment, and we picked jam for our experiment. Here’s their jam aisle. They had 348 different kinds of jam. We set up a little tasting booth right near the entrance of the store. We there put out six different flavors of jam, and we looked at two things: First, in which case were people more likely to stop, sample some jam? More people stopped when there were 24, about 60 percent, than when there were six, about 40 percent. The next thing we looked at is in which case were people more likely to buy a jar of jam. Now we see the opposite effect. Of the people who stopped when there were 24, only three percent of them actually bought a jar of jam. Of the people who stopped when there were six, well now we saw that 30 percent of them actually bought a jar of jam. Now if you do the math, people were at least six times more likely to buy a jar of jam if they encountered six than if they encountered 24.”
    As you can see from her quote, we’re kind of trying to engage ourselves in at least some limited period of time so that we can plan for our lives with realistic strategies—once regarded as not wonderful to us when we were young, but as time goes by, we’re getting excited(so to speak) about finding a way to survive in this reality, and enjoy various moments of our “finite” lives.
    Even enjoying the magnificent scenery you can see through the window could become a tedious job if you’re doom to do it forever.
    Maybe we have this unconscious desire that keeps telling us, “That’s enough!”
    There's only so much we can take ... :)
  • Oct 22 2012: Most people do want to live longer, just not in this era with primitive technology, stupid religious nutbars and endless wars. Not to mention being stuck with a 21st century (human being v1.0) brain.

    It's all about quality of life. This planet has too many stupid people on it. Think about this for a minute, there are billionaires and homeless people IN THE SAME DAMN COUNTRY in 2012! The socioeconomic system and the underlying values of the society are one of the big reasons why these things exist. There is no cap on how much stuff people can own.
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    Oct 22 2012: it is simply because they do not look for GOD in their youthful age...there is nothing like immortality without GOD and hope

    food cannot only give us immortality cause it is written that because of Adam and Eve man must die .I do not trust illusions and idols and vague deities that presume they can do what God can ..
    impossible
    God is the only DIVINE IMMORTAL ONE AND THE ONE TO MAKE ANY HUMAN IMMORTAL APART FROM HIM ALL OTHERS ARE LYING THEY CANNOT DO NOT EVEN RESURRECTION
    That is why the bible says by HIS STRIPES WE ARE HEALED ...DOCTORS just try medicines to see which works but GOD has the solution and to heal ...cant you see the pastors pray for people through GOD power ...the HOLY SPIRIT IN CHURCHES ,CRUSADES, ETC
    ALL I AM SAYING SEEK GOD IN A CHURCH IF YOU DO NOT HAVE ONE ATTENDING AND VERIFY THE WORD OF GOD IN IT OR BUY A BIBLE AND READ YO WILL HAVE GODS HELP IN UNDERSTANDING WHAT GOD SAYS AND YET STILL CONSULT A PRIEST
    THERE IS THIS MEDICINE BY GOOD NEWS MISSION FROM KOREA CALLED DOUBYL PRONOUNCED TOBYL THAT CAN BOOST THE IMMUNE SYSTEM AND LET YOU LIVE LONGER SAY 150yrs BUT NOT IMMORTALITY THEY HAVE A SUBSIDIARY CALLED INTERNATIONAL YOUTH FELLOWSHIP IYF THAT ALSO TEACHES PLAIN GOSPEL SEEK GOD WHERE AND NOW THAT YOU CAN FIND HIM FOR THERE IS GONNA BE A TIME THAT YOU CANNOT REQUEST OR SEEK HIM TO SAVE YOU AGAIN AT HIS SECOND COMING TO RAPTURE THE SAINTS THAT TIME WILL 666 FOLLOW YOU CANNOT BUY OR SELL WITHOUT THAT
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      Oct 22 2012: Thank you Michael. I want to make sure you understood my question: My question is about why people do NOT want to live a longer life on this planet. I want to ensure I understand you: In answer to my question as to why people do NOT want to live a longer life, you said it's because people did not look for GOD when they were younger? If I understand that right, then you're saying that If they looked for god, they would wish to extend their natural life span before they get to heaven? Or did I miss what you're saying?
  • Oct 22 2012: Another thought following my last response is this. Is it possible you are asking the wrong questions for the wrong reason. Or at least based on your cultural conditioning? We live in a culture that dictates possessing more and more, will make us happy.

    The fundamental question becomes, what do we lose when we die. Other than that moment and bits of protein in our brain stored as memory

    “Were you to live three thousand years, or even thirty thousand, remember that the sole life which a man can lose is what he is living at the moment; and furthermore, that he can have no other life except the one he loses. When the longest- and the shortest-lived of us come to die, their loss is precisely equal. For the sole thing of which any man can be deprived is the present; since this all he owns, and nobody can lose what he is not his.” Marcus Aurelius
  • Oct 22 2012: My first response comes from the book; "The long drive home was filled with periods of free flowing dialogue punctuated with long spaces of silence. “In reality,” Richard stated, "For 99.9% of humanity's existence, people have lived to a ripe old age of 19. Life expectancy at the end of the last century was around 50 years. Now, it's closer to 80 years.” His wife responded quickly, “Yes, Richard, but that's the point. It took generations of time to adapt, and it wasn't something that was just suddenly thrust on humanity.”

    Another point from the book is "What this means in essence is that you will have a whole generation that becomes lost.”
    Hack took a breath “In this context lost, means young kids will be forced out of the workplace and unable to get into college. You will be extending life to an aging population that will clog the arteries of the economy and the higher education system. The interests of older adults will clash with the upcoming interests and needs of young people. This in turn will cause either rebellion or total apathy from our children.”
  • Oct 22 2012: The thing is, if you believe in other dimensions, with more creative poweres, and bilocation, teleportation in a less dense light body, then to be stuck in 3D limitation is not very attractive.....unless this heavy Erth with our bodies accelerate to a lighter body where we could enter into the next dimensional existence with all of its new possibilities
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    Oct 22 2012: It's actually a bit simpler than you think... It comes down to this... Do you enjoy life? And... More importantly, do you enjoy your work?

    I would suggest that almost half of people enjoy life in general... but that's probably a lower number than you were expecting. 90% of people HATE, their labor. They do it to survive. They spend 40-60 hours a week, almost half their waking life, doing something that brings them absolutely no joy. In the modern world, they rarely even get a sense of accomplishment. In a world where you can live to be 200, it will be very expensive... and most people don't want another 200 years of work they don't enjoy taking up more than half their time.

    If you imagined yourself being a meaningless cog in the wheel of Dunder Mifflin Paper for another 200 years... It probably wouldn't excite you very much either.
  • Oct 21 2012: Very interesting to see this on Ted. I've been thinking about life extension on and off for years, wondering what it would mean for humanity. One day I sat down and started writing about it. The next thing I knew, I'd written a book about it. Within two decades life-extension will be a fact. The biology and science is there. Soon people will be able to live for 125 -160 years. This deserves discussion, and my book, Can You See the Music?, which has not been released yet is an attempt to start that conversation.

    You or anyone interested are surely welcome to read my little story My email is Reagan.McGuire50@gmail.com

    Thank you so much, Reagan! What a powerful story you have. A great read!!
    “As long as I am alive, I will sample what I can of the fresh offerings provided in each moment.” Reagan McGuire, Can You See The Music?
    What would you do if you were offered the chance to extend your life and not suffer the ravages of growing older? Would you use that gift for good or evil? Would you take life for granted or treasure every day, in every moment? Reagan McGuire has posed that question in his novel, ‘Can You See The Music?’ in an honest and powerful view of how humanity has much to learn about life and living.
    Richard has developed a potion to extend the lifespan of the human race. He wants to use it for the good of humanity, and he sacrifices his friendships, family and lifestyle in order to do what he thinks is right. However, in the end he finds that he has sacrificed all for the wrong reasons. He also learns the hard lesson that, in all acts of creation the seeds of destruction are sewn.
    This book was a philosophical read in which you really leave the story thinking about not just life but also humanity in general. Sociologically speaking, Richard was potentially changing the dynamic of society and playing God in a battle of survival of the fittest. Richards fixation with life has not allowed him to accept the reality, there is a beginning to everything.
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      Oct 22 2012: I look forward to checking out your book, Reagan. Do you think if a real Richard really created such a potion, most people would decline taking it, and if so, why?
  • Oct 21 2012: Hey Danger,

    You are a great conversationalist. i don't get to talk about this much because the idea of mortality seems too heavy for most people.

    Yes, the contracts seem to be for "future selves." I set goals for myself and I have things that I hope to accomplish in the set contracts. A big part of the negotiating process is deciding if I am contributing to my community and helping to ease some of the suffering in the world ... I am aware that my existence causes me to consume resources that could be (better??) used by others and so, I want to be responsible and give back what I can by living a meaningful life that is as helpful as possible. Other factors in signing a new contract include the "guilt list" ... a list of who would be affected if I did not sign a new contract . A third factor involves asking some basic questions: is my life interesting, am I doing things that I believe in and want to see through to another level, I am learning and growing as a person? This includes social projects, humanitarian efforts and also art, music and other creative endeavors ... travel is also on that list. If I become seriously ill physically, I would consider y physical suffering and prognosis.

    If I could order a bottle of pills from you that could be taken in 5 year increments to extend good health, I would.

    Control seems to be a big factor in my life decisions ... I want to have a reasonable degree of control over how I live and how I die. I can accept uncertainty in short intervals but the idea of struggling for more than 5 years at a time ... is depressing and not very motivating.

    My mortality is a gift. I know my life will have an end and so I see my life as more precious .. each day is a page to be written with care. Each chapter, I am building upon the original character of Juniper, the young kid who decided to write a book (instead of pull a trigger.) The kid who grew up to be an odd, interesting and basically good person.

    Hugs to you Danger!
  • Oct 21 2012: Well it could have to do with religion. Personally I would not want to live more than like 100-150 years. I feel like, even if you had friends around, I would just get sick of all the violence.
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      Oct 21 2012: Thank you Roy. I believe you are saying that you would choose to leave this planet through a natural death, when offered the alternative to continue living a healthy, vital life, because you are sick of all the violence.

      So I am compelled to ask: Why not stick around and fight the violence? And also forgive me if this sounds crass (I mean this with respect), if you are so sick of the violence, why continue living at all? Or are you saying that you're not so sick of the violence now (not sick enough to end your life), but that in another 10 or 20 or 50 years, you might be?
  • Oct 21 2012: In your question, is it assumed that everyone else shall be living older as well? If not I'd have thought that it could become very lonely. Also, watching everyone that you ever care for (including your children and grandchildren) grow old and die must be rather wearing (and knowing that will be the case for anyone you meet). Furthermore, you would probably become a) a lab rat for scientists to discover "your secret" and b) a celebrity (which would not be everyone's cup of tea).

    If it is assumed that everybody is to live such long lives then we have to consider the unprecedented population explosion that could cause all sorts of unpleasant global issues such as more war and famine.
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      Oct 21 2012: I think you raise an excellent point, Qab. We need our friends and family, and I would add our culture as well, to really live a good life. If it's just you living longer, you'd lose all that (well at least the friends and family part) and then life may not be worth living.

      I didn't specify in my question whether everyone else would be living longer as well, (although I did say you would get to grow older with your friends in my question) but in my own mind [you can read my mind, right? :) ] I was assuming this was an open offer to anyone that wanted it. Thinking more realistically about it, this would likely be an option that is initially available only to upper classes.

      But for the purposes of answering this question, I think it would help simplify things to assume that this offer is available to any person that wants it. So it would be up to your friends and family.

      There is certainly an interesting moral issue here around whether such a gift of increased life span/expectancy should be free to the human race as a whole, or available only to those who can afford it. But I think that is a very different issue/topic from the one I raised.
      • Oct 22 2012: Thanks for the clarification Danger, reading your responses (to the posts of others as well as my own) i have better understanding of where you are coming from.

        Personally I am happy enough with my life expectancy (i would be rather disappointed if it were cut short) but if i were offered a longer life i think i would take it, for many the same reasons as yourself.

        Thank you, again, for starting a very interesting discussion.
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    Oct 21 2012: Hello again Danger!
    Your photo is a nice addition.....I've always wondered what danger looks like....pretty good, in my humble perception:>)

    I can only speak for myself of course, and I am not attached to living a short life OR a longer life. With the information I have at this moment, I know that the life span of humans is increasing all the time. Whether or not we hit the 200 year old mark in the near future, is speculation huh? Whatever my human life span is, I totally accept it, and know that death is part of the life/death cycle. Heck, I already had a chance at death once (near fatal head/brain injury) but I came back to haunt you....LOL:>)

    My guess is, that those who would " *want* to grow old and die", as you say, are probably not creating a very good life experience for themselves? I perceive life to be a wonderful exploration, full of adventure, and I am always curious about the next event. I accept the generally accepted life expectancy, AND I live every single moment to the best of my ability, keeping myself as strong, healthy, alert, open minded and open hearted as I possibly can.

    I am going to "steal" TED Lovers quote from further down in this comment thread because I LOVE it too!
    "Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways - Chardonay in one hand - chocolate in the other - body thoroughly used up, totaly worn out and screaming ............... Whoa what a ride!!!

    Another quote I have at the entrance of my gardens is:
    "Live day by day, like a child in the sun":>)
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      Oct 21 2012: Thank you Colleen for those kind words and your thinking.

      I too have gotten myself to the point where I'm not attached to a specific life span, long or short, but I worry I've gotten there by being overly non-attached. Although I know this may sound like a cute joke, it's not: I have been attached to the idea of non-attachment and more recently realize this is another form of attachment. I'm kind of stuck in this place personally at the moment.

      And I too, perceive life to be wonderful and although you didn't say this part so you may or may not agree, I would add worthy of extension.

      And in the spirit of adding good quotes, I offer this one from Woody Allen:

      "I am not afraid of death, I just don't want to be there when it happens."
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        Oct 21 2012: How can one be "overly non-attached"....example? Why/how does it feel "stuck"?

        Detaching from outcomes, is something that many people do not understand. When we say we are detached, it is sometimes perceived as not caring, and as you probably know...that is not what it is at all. We can be totally engaged wholeheartedly in each and every moment, and NOT be attached to the outcome.....yes?

        Good quote! Actually, I LIKED being there when it almost happened, and I was not attached to the outcome:>)
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          Oct 21 2012: For me personally, being overly non-attached can be an easy way to give up on trying to achieve an outcome.

          For me personally, it works like this. In my mind somewhere I intend to achieve a particular outcome such as: Get a job, buy a house, find a mate, etc.. I want that outcome to happen. Often it does. Sometimes not. But as I'm struggling to achieve an outcome that is not happening, I'm tempted to call it "early game over" by telling myself, "The only reason you keep struggling to achieve that outcome is because you're attached to it." So I put my non-attachment hat on and stop trying, when maybe I should have kept trying.

          I am going to quote myself from my own blog here to describe my personal view of attachment:

          "I think of attachment in very literal terms. If you're attached to something, then when it moves, you move too - because you're attached to it. You're attached to many things, so they pull you around like puppet strings. You're a dancing puppet, dancing to your attachments in the grand ballet of your life.

          When you are unattached to the same thing, when it moves, you choose whether and how to move with it. You are now in control, defining your life by your own values - not getting jerked around like a puppet.

          This doesn't at all mean a lack of empathy or full enjoyment of life. On the contrary - you can still feel the puppet strings moving, only you're not attached to them, so the path you make is truly your own.

          Very truly yours,
          Pinocchio"
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        Oct 22 2012: Dear Pinocchio,
        I see no strings, and your nose is not growing.....yet! LOL:>)

        You say..." For me personally, being overly non-attached can be an easy way to give up on trying to achieve an outcome."

        I suppose it could be, unless we are clear with our intent? If we are clear, focused, and passionate about the JOURNEY, I've found that NOTHING can distract me. If I am NOT clear, focused and passionate, I evaluate the effort, and may decide that it is not the appropriate path for me at that time....it is a choice.

        You say..."For me personally... In my mind somewhere I intend to achieve a particular outcome such as: Get a job, buy a house, find a mate, etc.. I want that outcome to happen. Often it does. Sometimes not. But as I'm struggling to achieve an outcome that is not happening, I'm tempted to call it "early game over" by telling myself, "The only reason you keep struggling to achieve that outcome is because you're attached to it." So I put my non-attachment hat on and stop trying, when maybe I should have kept trying."

        When we focus on a "particular outcome", there is often a plan as to how to reach that goal....it's helpful, and a good thing to have a plan. If it feels like a struggle, it may be time to re-evaluate the plan. Sometimes, we can reach the same goal, with a different plan....we can get to the same destination, by taking another path. If we are focused on the end result, we may be missing possibilities of ways to get to the end result, rather than what we planned....make any sense?

        It seems that what you are expressing in your last paragraph is that we can become the observer...feel things moving...be part of it and not attached...the path is truly your own? You have answered your own question regarding attachment/detachment my friend:>)

        Yes! We can be fully engaged, with ALL emotions, while following our path in the moment and detached from the outcome.

        How does attachment to a particular outcome serve us?
        Sincerely,
        Pollyanna:>)
  • Oct 21 2012: I have not read all the responses here, but I think a lot of people's opinions on living a long life do depend on the quality of life. Does "healthy" mean able to function well in society or does it simply mean not dead? I can look at some older people in my life, and they have great difficulty doing things. They cannot drive, their eyesight is not very good, and many of their close loved ones have already passed away. That would probably influence how long I would want to live.

    There is also a lot of psychological stress that would accompany living that long. Think back on how much society has changed within 300 years. That type of culture is so different than what we are used to now. I could see having to adjust to cultural norms becoming a very burdensome task.

    I see what you are talking about with the mortality of humanity, but I dont think that is the whole issue. Regardless of what believes about the afterlife, living that long seems to be rather tough to do for any human.
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      Oct 21 2012: Not sure if that was a rhetorical question, but what I meant by healthy was being physically and mentally healthy, vital and strong - able to run around with your children (if they also extended their life span) and your great-great-great-great grandchildren, if you will.

      With respect to the psychological stress of dealing with cultural change, I think we can see a relevant analogue there when people from what we would call "primitive" cultures (though they are anything but primitive) are instantly transported to a modern western culture. Many such people not only survive, but thrive. That certainly takes an adjustment as you say, but it's one that some people would look forward to, and some would not.
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    Oct 21 2012: Danger,

    You indicate you have done "research" about the question (you say you have asked people their feelings about it).

    Does your research include their beliefs about an "afterlife" existing or not?

    Many here have stated things like they are "tired of this life" or "would get tired of this life" or would not want to "continue living in this miserable world", etc.

    Obviously, whether a person would want to continue living would be dependant on how satisfied they were with their "current life".

    But I think there may be other expectations associated with the decision they would make. And those expectations could cover various reasons.

    1. "I'm just dis-satisfied with my current life. I'm tired of living this way. I don't CARE what happens after I die. I just want out of this life I'm in now."

    2. "I'm not worried about dying. When it happens, it happens. The lights will go out and I won't be aware of anything anymore anyhow. So I'll fight to live as long as I can, and when it ends, I won't know I'm dead anyhow."

    3. "I'm not worried about dying. There is a BETTER life waiting for me after I die in this life. Let's move on."

    I think a person's view on WANTING to live longer will be influenced by two thngs:

    1. Are they satisfied with their CURRENT life now.

    2. What (if any) expectations do they have about what happens AFTER they die? This is an important question I believe, as history shows many people are willing to die in the expectation of a better afterlife.

    I'm just curious if your research has taken this into account.
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      Oct 21 2012: I see my question wan't clear for you on this point, but I did not and would not call my informal conversations with people "research", as you did. My sample (if I were doing research) is certainly biased by who I happen to be able to engage in such a conversation, which is what I meant to imply when I asked "is my own personal polling off?". And that's the reason why I posed the question to this broader audience and greatly appreciate the broad perspective and deep thinking here.

      In my own personal polling, I've not heard people use either their dissatisfaction with life or the prospect of a better afterlife as a reason to choose death by old age at their expected natural life span, or "when god calls them," however you view it.

      Mostly, I've heard people lament the loss of friends and family, and the isolation they would feel in a different society. Those answers are echoed in some of the replies here. But I've also heard people respond with the idea that this would lead to over population (I don't think anyone's mentioned that yet here), and that older people should naturally die off to make room for the next generation. Those are pretty much the main answers I've heard in my own personal polling.
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    Oct 21 2012: 2,000 years ago the average life expectancy was about 21 years old. It has more than tripled over the years. If you asked one of Jesus' apostles the question (or pick your favorite character from history), "Hey if you had the choice to live a healthy life to 80 years old before you died, would you take it?" If we apply the same reasoning I've heard so far, we would have to conclude that Jesus' apostles might decline such an offer.

    By analogy, I make the same hypothetical offer with respect to today's average life expectancy, and I ask what the difference between these two scenarios is?

    Today we do not turn down the offer modern society makes to us to expect to live to 80 years. It seems the main issue isn't how long our life is, but rather whether it's longer than our expected life span. In my question, the fundamental premise is that we can yet again significantly increase our expected life span. So one need not feel guilty by accepting this hypothetical gift of yet again extending our life span, or like one is avoiding or cheating death because of a fear of or inability to accept mortality. One need not fear one will leave friends and loved ones behind any more or less than we did when our lifespans went from 21 to 71.

    Perhaps a deeper issue here, is that the very idea of extending our expected lifespan may challenge the fragile peace we may have made with the concept of our own eventual death.
    • Oct 21 2012: You are confusing life expectancy and life span. Whilst 2000 years ago life expectancy may well have been about 21 years, people were regularly living to 80 years old and more. The reason life expectancy was so low is due to the high rate of infant mortality and other premature deaths (from illnesses etc that are now preventable and/or curable).

      2000 years ago a 21 year old would still be considered a young man (even if his imminent death would be less surprising). Living three times as long as average life expectancy was not uncommon. Nowadays living just twice as long as the average life expectancy is completely unheard of (that would be about 130).

      This renders your hypothetical analogy about Jesus' apostles inaccurate and irrelevant. It does not, of course, stop your original question from being a very interesting one.

      p.s. I hope this has not come across as antagonistic, i meant only to prevent misunderstanding.
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        Oct 21 2012: Not antagonistic at all and thank you for clarifying the distinction between life expectancy and life span. I was sloppy in my wording in that I started off talking about life expectancy and switched to lifespan. Perhaps my reference to Jesus antagonized some people, for which I apologize and didn't mean anything negative.

        Do you believe there is a fundamental difference, as far as this question is concerned, between desiring a longer life expectancy and desiring a longer life span? I believe increasing either one would result in the average person both expecting to live longer, and actually living longer. I believe that would mean my hypothetical analogy still has some relevance. Perhaps we disagree on that.
        • Oct 22 2012: Yes I think there is a fundamental difference between the two and that difference is part of what makes the question so interesting. I expect if you were to offer a vital and healthy longer life within normal life spans for humans, say 100 years, you would have far more takers and if you were to drop it further to say 80 you would have an overwhelming number of "yes please"s.

          It would be interesting to see an actual study of that. I do take your point that in offering a longer life expectancy you would in fact be offering to double the life span of some individuals. I think what is considered "normal" for humans will have something to do with it but it certainly is fascinating to consider (i can see why you started the topic).
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    Oct 21 2012: As Casey Christofaris stated below, I also believe that the reason why people seek longer lives are because they are afraid of death. I am also afraid of death. Think about it. It is this unknown zone that is covered with myths. You can no longer think, breath, move.. you no longer exist. You are nobody. I cannot bear this thought and I am sure that many cannot either. So I believe that the reason why people seek longer lives are due to their fear of death, fear of the unknown.
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      Oct 21 2012: I agree with you Rosa: people seek longer lives because they are afraid of death.

      However, I think if people find joy in life, then they might naturally also want to prolong that joy by prolonging their life. I'm certainly in that camp - I want to extend that joy. In my case, I realized that I find joy by being of service to other people, so in my case, I want to continue helping other people as long as possible.

      I think wanting to prolong your life is motivated by enjoying your life. Avoiding death is motivated by a fear of death. Both result in the same thing, namely extending your life, but for different reasons. I think most of us have both motivations at work, at some level, and I think both motivations are valid and one doesn't cancel the other out.
      • Oct 22 2012: Trying to avoid death and trying to prolong life may have the same result in terms of how long one lives but i bet they will have different results in terms of the quality of that life!
  • Oct 21 2012: Great post Danger!

    I recently had eye surgery. This is my fourth surgery. I was surprised the first time that I was anesthetized at how calm I felt just before they pushed the meds into my I.V.... I knew that although it was unlikely that I would die during surgery, it was still not an average day's risk. I have had the same feeling as I have embarked on trips to other countries .. some flights were close to 24 hours and as the plane lifted off there was the moment of feeling .. This could be "IT" ... funny ... again ... I knew that it probably would not be my last flight but that again, it might be. Again, I felt incredibly calm.

    These experiences made me think more about my own mortality and I realized that I was more concerned with avoiding suffering than with avoiding death.

    But here, you are offering immortality without suffering. Hmmm .... that is more appealing. I guess what appeals to me most about this idea is that I would have infinite time in this life to gain "enlightenment" or to explore the world and gain greater understanding of it and of myself. But the first major draw back that I feel is that I would want my partner to be able to spend immortality with me ... but then I think that as much as we love each other that is a very long time to not have a major conflict!!! (WOW!! This is a hilarious thought!) Then, what about my friends (and their friends) and so on??

    Oh ... this is getting very complicated.

    As I think about the idea of living forever with my partner, my dog and all of my friends now, I start getting this funny idea of us living as something like Greek Gods and going through all kinds of drama and I hope that we have some kind of agreement too to not have children ... it would surely get cramped on our already somewhat crowded little planet!!

    Oh .... I guess that I would choose that my life should end naturally (and timely.) I'm agnostic but still, the idea of death feels like an adventure .. a final plane trip.
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    Oct 20 2012: fear of death
  • Oct 20 2012: Look around you. Life here is long enough as it is.
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    Oct 20 2012: Hi Danger.
    Great question. I believe the bible to be literally true. That means I have fairly radical beliefs on this subject.
    1) Initially; before the flood; folks had a mortal life of the best part of 1000 years.
    2) Due to changed climatic conditions after the flood, our mortal life expectancy rapidly degraded to pretty much what we have today.
    3) We are eternal beings, & our bodies are merely temporary homes that give us consciousness .
    4) We have eternal existence, but whether it can be called life is dependant on our decisions in this life.

    I can understand why folks wouldn't want to live too long in this present world. It is a mess. Personally I have people that I love & care about,& I would not want to hurt them by dying (I am 61 & healthy), but from a selfish perspective, I'm not bothered about how much longer I have.

    I do look forward to eternal life however, as I will have a body designed for the job, & in a universe with none of the hassle that besets this one. Roll on....

    :-)
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    Oct 20 2012: I would absolutely want to live forever!

    All the sites (ocean(s) floors, space, other planets, other life forms, mountains, caves, etc etc), all the sounds, all the information (endless reading and learning!), and how much I could help others with my infinite knowledge! Why would I not want to live forever?

    I can see why people would also not want to live forever. It seems to be burden-filled and depressing.

    The burdens would lay in constant responsibility one may have to undertake; family, working, and maintaining the said. Yes, there will happiness with the responsibilities, but part of life to many is to know they left their mark and can trust their duties were not in vain - to be left a live for longer times would never allow that euphoric thought exist.

    Depressing to live forever? How? Well, watching all your loved ones die (that is if you are the only one living forever). There is a movie 'The Man From Earth' great film, about a cave man who lived since. He suggests (and part of my argument entails) that how can you love anyone living forever? Knowing you will outlive your spouse and your children? Love is ample to humans, how can you knowingly give up that in order to not die?

    Many feelings we have are due to the fact our bodies respond to an eternal clock. We emotionally know we are mortal (whether we rationally block that out or not), so the feelings we have are more precious because they remind our body we are mortal vessels. They are more intense at moments of great love and anxiety; at these moments we feel time stopping and eternity seems longer.

    Part of being a human, is knowing we will die and how we actively respond to that, is the difference between living life as if everyday was the last or the first day of the rest of our lives.

    Those who wish not to live forever, are most likely concerned with the fact of 'love' - where can you get it, if you are the only one that lives forever? How do you love forever, what does not live that long?
    • Oct 21 2012: I like the idea of growing older and growing wiser but in my life, the older I get the more I learn that I don't know as much as I thought I did. I mean, when I was young, I thought I knew everything and now ... well ... I am not sure that I know much at all. So, wow .. if I was to Iive forever and people asked me for advice, what would I say besides "recycle, wear sunscreen and please be nice to eachother?"
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        Oct 22 2012: Perhaps part of what I think would be good advice would be spiritual and philosophic... Since those are universally important to everyone.
        • Oct 22 2012: Yes . Nicholas ... it would be cool to be a kind of "Sage" ... a very old man or woman who could patiently listen and help others sort through life's questions ... and possibly help them to see new perspectives. That part I would like. :O)
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    Oct 20 2012: Thank you all so far for the great responses. I am seeing two main responses emerging so far: (1) People don't want to keep up with changing society, and; (2) "life is not pleasant".

    The part I'm struggling with, is that you would choose to let natural aging kill you, when you struggle against other diseases like cancer that would kill you. I would think all these same issues would apply to a cancer victim.

    So why don't most cancer victims think like this: "Boy I can't stand this world, and life is not pleasant - thank god I got this cancer because now I'll die quickly."

    Why heal yourself from cancer to live longer, but not stop aging to live longer?

    Are we perhaps programmed to want to die after our perceived life span is up?
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      Gail .

      • +1
      Oct 20 2012: I think the answer to that may be age-related. When my 100-year old mother-in-law was diagnosed with a tumor, she said, "Thank Goodness". My husband and I felt her joy and supported her in it. Her daughter was offended by her "selfish" attitude and she made things very difficult for everyone.

      I think that when the hope of being able to make a meaningful contribution to the world dies, so does the desire to live. What you call meaningful and what I call meaningful might be very different things.
      • Oct 21 2012: Yes, I have a friend who lived to be 97 and she was utterly perplexed as to what purpose there could be for her to live that long. She was not especially unhappy, she said that she had had a good life and was grateful to be
        able to see her grandchildren grow up and all of that ... she was simply ready to die.
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      Gail .

      • +3
      Oct 20 2012: If my husband is still alive and I am diagnosed with a lethal disease, I will treat it, but after he is gone, I will not. He has early dementia and he needs me right now. I have a reason to live, and with reason comes will. Again, it relates to having a meaningful purpose in living.
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        Oct 20 2012: That is very powerful, thank you for sharing. What you said about being able to make a meaningful contribution to the world is so very important - you remind me of Victor Frankl's book on man's search for meaning, the first half of which describes how his fellow Nazi prison camp victims struggled to find meaning in their lives in the midst of the worst Nazi prison camps. I imagine you are doing your best in that difficult situation, and I imagine you are doing what you can to slow down the disease process.

        If a cure for dementia were discovered, would you avail yourselves of that?

        What if we found a way to gradually reverse other aging process for both you and your husband so that for each year that passed, both of you would together grow younger until you hit your desired age. Would you avail yourself of that?

        Or perhaps are you saying, that regardless of how much time we have on this planet, there is only so such much meaningful contribution we can make to the world after which we are done?
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          Gail .

          • +1
          Oct 20 2012: I have a very different worldview than most, so my view may not be fully understood by you.

          Let's say that I spend 20 years learning how to be an artist and 20 years learning how to be a doctor and 20 years learning how to be a horticulturist and 20 years learning how to be a lawyer, and 20 years .... until max life expectancy.

          Now put me in a culture where my voice isn't heard because the political, religious, and economic structures of my culture prevent it (as is the case today). This leaves me in the position of having all of my talents wasted, and how many talents they are already! In such a world, the more I learn, the more pain it brings. Where learning has always been my greatest joy, even that joy is attacked.

          So, as I said in my very first post, perhaps if we lived in a saner culture, my choice might well be different. I'm just very tired of the oppression, tyranny and massive ignorance that acts as a continual assault on humankind. The enforced silence is deafening.

          If there were a cure for dementia, we would certainly avail ourselves of it. Not to prolong life, but to improve it - for BOTH of us.
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          Gail .

          • +3
          Oct 20 2012: Another thing that may be relevant.

          I have lived a very full life. I've done things and faced circumstances in my life that I would not have imagined when I was a child. I've faced my fears and walked through them. I've used this life.

          I have a sign by my back door. It says, "Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways - Chardonay in one hand - chocolate in the other - body thoroughly used up, totaly worn out and screaming ............... Whoa what a ride!!!

          I think that those who have wasted most of their lives are probably most reluctant to die, Just as those who have not become friends with their parents will grieve the most when the parent(s) die. Death is just another adventure for me.

          If you are going to waste 100 years of life, what will stop you from wasting 500?
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        Oct 20 2012: Thanks for making we laugh today - I love that sign on your back door. And for your thoughtful comments on this topic.

        I agree with everything in that sign on your door. Yet I think that concept on your sign is still compatible with prolonging the quality journey as long as you like, through whatever means are available.

        My thinking so far, is that people derive their life's meaning in large part from a knowledge of their own mortality. When you take that away, even in part, people are left floating and feeling like there's no meaning to life. So I am thinking maybe people cling to a natural lifespan as a way to give their life meaning.

        It's hard for me to discuss these things in the abstract though, because in the back of my mind I know we haven't licked immortality quite yet. Perhaps, knowing that, and in order to rationalize, understand, and accept death, we make ourselves alright with death - even to point of desiring death earlier than we need to die. Reminds me of Dan Gilbert's talk on the surprising science of happiness, and the concept that we (or our prefrontal cortex, anyway) manufacturers our own joy. Maybe our prefrontal cortex makes us want to die at our "natural" time as a way of accepting our own death?
    • Oct 21 2012: Fight cancer? For one lifetime, yes.

      I suffer form chronic depression. It runs in my family and I can remember feeling severely depressed as a very young child. By the age of 19, I felt that I could not bear a life time of this suffering. I had access to a very certain means to end my life and one day I made the decision to let myself take my own life. As I was ready to pull the trigger, I paused and s sudden thought came into my head. It sounded like a New York cab driver who said something like "Now, this would be a crappy ending to a short and crappy story." I thought about it and had to agree that yes this would be a terrible ending to a pretty awful life. I also realized that I
      might have a chance of creating a better "story" if I chose to live. So, I promised myself to live another 20
      years before re-negotiating the contract.
      20 years passed quickly. At 40 years old, I signed another 10 year contract ... the 20 years had been alright and I was willing to try another 10. I was still depressed but looking over the 20 years, I saw that although they had been very difficult, most had been interesting years and I had become curious about what the future might hold.

      Since my contact renewal, I have had some medical issues. I will get a pathology report on Tuesday. Cancer is a slim possibility ( but then, it is always a possibility just as death is always a possibility or can be arranged ( if one is willing to break a contract. ) Despite chronic depression and other "stuff" that makes life feel not so great, I feel a willingness to try to keep writing a better story (at least for a few more years.) There are days that I still seriously consider suicide but I know that death will come for me soon enough and so, I will keep writing until it does.

      If I have/get cancer, will I "fight it" ... (smiling) ... probably yes ... Ironically, if it seems to make a better story. And If the cancer wins ... at least my life story will end with a "twist.
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        Oct 21 2012: Thank you for sharing that Juniper. That is a fascinating idea of negotiating a personal contract like that. I know that's a metaphor, but it assumes this idea that you and someone else are negotiating this contract together. May I venture to suggest that the other person you are negotiating with is your future self? Do you have a vision of a future Juniper with whom you are negotiating? Or is it someone else? Or does the metaphor just not apply here and I'm off in the weeds?

        Your metaphor gave me a really fascinating related question though. Maybe indefinite health is too much for you (and many) to handle. Maybe you just want it 10 years at a time or 20 years at a time?

        What if I offered you a pill today (before next Tuesday) that would extend your expected life span by another 20 years. Would you take it?
  • Oct 20 2012: 200 years would be great. It means you get to have kids and still have decades left in your prime after they move out, it also means you get to learn from your mistakes and get second chances, second careers, etc... But 500 years or longer doesn't appeal to me: when you reach the age of 500 you'll probably have forgotten more than you remember and you'll have felt like you've seen it all for centuries by then.
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      Gail .

      • 0
      Oct 20 2012: There's a lot of truth to that. (living too long and seen it all for centuries)

      My husband and I sold our house, bought a motorhome, and traveled full-time for many years. Last night, we were sitting on the porch wondering where we might like to go for another road trip. (We've since become land-locked, as RVers call it when they choose to return to the other world). As our minds traveled over all the places we've visited, we realized that we had seen all that we set out to see. A final trip to the redwoods or a favorite campground on the Mississippi River would be fun for a while, but even that wasn't really exciting enough for us to re-establish our mail-forwarding service.

      Perhaps if I could afford a giant yacht with a crew (I don't like crowded cruise ships), I could think of places to see and things to do, but surely the time will soon come when I will have seen it all and read every book that interests me.
      • Oct 20 2012: It's amazing how you (a retired person) and I (a 20-something) agree on such things. Maybe it's just human nature.
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          Gail .

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          Oct 20 2012: My generation doesn't have a clue as to what I talk about most of the time. My mind "turned on" in the 80s, and I've been walking to a different drummer ever since.

          Your comment on another post is spot on. Sometimes rigid and intolerant generations have to die out to let more enlightened generations create a better world. In that this includes my generation, I can know that there will be a meaningful purpose in my eventual death, and I give that death to your generation as a gift, along with my gratitude for the world that your generation is about to create. I have great faith in your generation.
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          Gail .

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          Oct 20 2012: Human nature? I call it sanity.
  • Oct 20 2012: TED Lover expresses it very well.

    My grandmother lived to be 101. By the age of 85 the culture had changed so much from the culture of her formative years that she felt lost, completely out of touch with the modern world. The technological changes are significant, but much more important are the changes in values and morals. She grew up in a culture that was thoroughly religious and died in a culture that was largely secular. When she was young people swam in clothes that covered almost the entire body. When she died bikinis were completely accepted on the beaches.

    Society and culture are changing even more quickly now. And as we get older, we really do not want to keep changing. The older I get the more I am interested in the basic values and morals that apply to all people throughout all time. This attitude is not comfortably compatible with a long life in a fast changing society.

    There is also the social aspect. Even if we all live long lives, consider how social relationships change over time. With our current life spans it is very rare to maintain friendships and marriages for a life time. It will be nearly impossible if our life spans double.

    As we get older we accumulate memories, and many of them are not pleasant.

    Essentially, long life is not pleasant, for reasons that are inherent to our humanity.
    • Oct 20 2012: I'm pretty sure the world would change more slowly if people lived longer, but sometimes that's a bad thing, sometimes rigid/bigoted generations have to die off before the world can move on.
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    Aja B.

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    Oct 20 2012: There's actually a new TED eBook out about this subject, "When I'm 164: The Science of Radical Life Extension". We had a Q&A with the author here last month: http://www.ted.com/conversations/13575/discussing_the_science_of_rad.html

    It was a good read, and it brought up a lot of these kinds of questions. In his informal polls, he seems to have gotten similar responses from his audiences; most people want to live out a "normal" human lifespan, regardless of technology. Interesting!