Why would anyone want to live forever? Or even live twice as long as everybody else. I simply don’t understand. Don’t get me wrong, this is not a confession of a depressed person about to slash their wrists in the bath while everyone is out to the movies. Life is a gift and all that, I wouldn’t miss it for anything. But
a.) we have a problem with overpopulation on this planet that we have not cracked yet. Unless we spend equal resources on a solution for the question of how we are going to feed and water all those people and provide them with the health, energy and space they crave, any resources diverted to research into eternal life are misguided.
b.) does your life really become more valuable as it lasts longer? Imagine the scenario: Because you are super smart or were selected for an experiment by visiting aliens you have acquired the know-how to keep yourself alive and in good health for twice as long as the average life span of the people around you. Well done you! Better start planning all the great things you will now be able to do that you never thought you would have time for. You can visit those far flung islands and the hidden valley at the foot of that volcano filled with rare species; you can learn five more languages and try a few new sports. You could even buy a bigger house, because you will be working twice as long. Snag 1! Unless you really love your job this was perhaps not the picture you had in mind when you decided to take that drug. Oh well, you’ll manage. You take another look at your life, and realize that your partner will be getting older and speeding towards death twice as fast as you. So will your friends. Your children will catch up with you. It dawns on you that you will be spending the second half of your life without all the people you know and love, unless you take some drastic measures. You brew some more of your miracle potion or beep up the aliens, and convince all your loved ones to take the drug too. They will only agree if they can offer it to their loved ones too, but you don’t have enough miracle potion or the aliens are just mean. Snag 2! Do you really want to start all over with friends and family once the first lot have all gone?
Life is a sociable undertaking. A feeling of accomplishment is relative to how others do, not to outliving everybody else. I am with the Southbank Centre in London, whose “Festival of the Living” is making a case for more personal rituals around dying: enjoy life, and exit with personality and grace. This is what I intend to do. Must remember to write that will.