Brazilians like to enjoy life – indefinitely. (Photo by morrissey)
If you had the choice to live forever, would you?
Before answering, let me remind you that we're not talking about being doomed to spend an eternity in poor health. A million years of dementia in a nursing home is not what this question is about. Rather, we're talking about having the option to stay youthful for as long as you wish.
Reader's Digest asked this question from people around the world and got some interesting results. Seventeen countries in total participated in the questionnaire, with 150 people in each country surveyed. Here's a quote from the website:
So much for eternal youth! Most respondents to our latest global survey are just fine with their limited shelf life here on earth. Not even the younger crowd consistently chooses immortality. In fact, more than 50 percent of those 45 and under in seven countries (including the United States) report that they don't want to live forever. Brazilian youth buck the trend, with 74 percent preferring no expiration date. Two surprises: In the Philippines, everyone over 45 wants life everlasting; in China, not a single older survey-taker does.
Who would have thought that the country with the most positive attitude towards life extension would be Brazil? Apparently 72% of all Brazilians prefer living forever. Women were slightly more negative than men, with 66% and 77% answering the call to immortality, respectively.
At the bottom of the longevity list are the Russians, only 36% of whom answered yes. A closer look reveals that it's really the women who are against the idea of dramatically increasing lifespans: a whopping 73% answered no, while the same figure in the male group was only 55%.
In fact, if you look at the results from each individual country, you can see that this same trend is found in many countries. For some reason, women in general appear more hostile towards life extension than men. The countries where the opposite is clearly true are China, India, Singapore, Spain and Turkey.
Some may see these results as worrying – after all, why would anyone not want to stay young and healthy? – but I'm fairly optimistic about their implications. The fact is that in over 40% of the countries, the majority of people did want to live forever. That's not a bad number at all. I'm guessing that if this same survey had been done 10 or 50 years ago, the general atmosphere would have been more negative.
It seems to me that the life extension meme is definitely spreading. All you have to do is to look at the news to see it happening. Not only are we making scientific discoveries related to aging preventation, but we're also seeing more and more positive news reports on the subject. Slowly but surely, the attitudes are changing.
And even though time is the enemy, in this case, it's also on our side. To quote the German physicist Max Planck:
A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.
So it is with life extension. Those who prefer old age, decrepitude and death to good health, youthfulness and life, will eventually disappear from the face of the earth by natural means, leaving us immortalists to pursue our search for eternal happiness. Hopefully we'll still be around.
So, time to ask the question again. If you had the choice to live forever, would you?
For more information on aging and living longer, see these posts:
How to Live Forever: My 5 Steps to Immortality
Biotechnology and the Future of Aging
Anti-Aging in the Media: Vancouver Sun on Immortality
End Aging to End Anxiety: Filmmaker Jason Silva Talks about Immortality