Compare opinions of world leading experts and influencers.

Is living forever or having a greatly extended lifespan desirable?

The average life expectancy in developed countries is at best 80 years. Advances in technology may inhibit or even reverse aging, to open up the possibility of living extraordinarily long times. However, would this actually be a good thing for society, or even for the long-living individual?

Implications to Other Questions

Is cryonics worthwhile?
Is living forever or having a greatly extended lifespan desirable?

Experts and Influencers

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Experts In Cryonics

Ben Best    CEO of Cryonics Institute
The majority of people regard a greatly extended lifespan as personally undesirable. Interviewers seem genuinely baffled when they ask cryonicists, "Why would you or anyone want to live forever?" Cryonicists too are baffled by the question -- why would anyone want to die?
18 Apr 1998    Source

Experts In Science

Eliezer Yudkowsky    Artificial Intelligence Researcher
...a man spoke of some benefit X of death [and] I said: "...given human nature, if people got hit on the head by a baseball bat every week, pretty soon they would invent reasons why getting hit on the head with a baseball bat was a good thing. But if you took someone who wasn't being hit on the head with a baseball bat, and you asked them if they wanted it, they would say no. I think that if you took someone who was immortal, and asked them if they wanted to die for benefit X, they would say no.
14 Oct 2007    Source

Experts In Economics

Bryan Caplan    Economics Professor
Personally, I'd really like to live forever - in the normal English sense of the phrase "live forever." I wish cryonics could realistically offer me that.
29 Nov 2009    Source

Robin Hanson    Economics Professor
Mostly Agree
A thousand year lifespan would be fantastic, relative to our lifespan. I want it! But it is _nothing_ like immortality... Yes, keep trying to live if you love life, and rage, rage against the dying of the light. Do better; live longer. But why confuse everyone by talking as if you expect to achieve the literally _infinite_ success of “immortality”? It is fine to say “let’s extend lives as much as we can.” But must you really talk as if nothing less than _infinite_ success will do?
01 Aug 2010    Source

Experts In Politics

Benjamin Franklin    Founding Father of United States
Mostly Agree
I wish it were possible... to invent a method of embalming drowned persons, in such a manner that they might be recalled to life at any period, however distant [since I have] a very ardent desire to see and observe the state of America a hundred years... But... in all probability, we live in a century too little advanced, and too near the infancy of science, to see such an art brought in our time to its perfection...
01 Apr 1773    Source

Experts In Philosophy

Robert Todd Carroll    Philosophy Professor
The simple fact is once you are dead, you are dead forever. This fact may seem horrifying, but it is not nearly as horrifying as the thought of living forever.
23 Feb 2009    Source

Experts In Ethics

Leon Kass    Doctor, Conservative Bioethicist
The prospect of effective and significant retardation of aging—a goal we are all at first strongly inclined to welcome—is rife with barely foreseeable consequences. ... The anti-aging medicine of the not-so-distant future would treat what we have usually thought of as the whole, the healthy, human life as a condition to be healed. It therefore presents us with a questionable notion both of full humanity, and of the proper ends of medicine.
01 Mar 2003    Source

Experts In Business

Steve Jobs    Founder of Apple
No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because death is very likely the single best invention of life. It is life's change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new.
12 Jun 2005    Source

Suggested Expert Quotes

Peter Singer
Legendary philosopher Peter Singer once imagined a scenario where a pill could double human lifespan, and argued that such a world would never be as happy as one without the medicine.

Miss Alabama 1994
I would not live forever, because we should not live forever, because if we were supposed to live forever, then we would live forever, but we cannot live forever, which is why I would not live forever.

Woody Allen
I don't want to achieve immortality through my work. I want to achieve it through not dying.

H. P. Lovecraft
Universal suicide is the most logical thing in the world — we reject it only because of our primitive cowardice and childish fear of the dark. If we were sensible we would seek death — the same blissful blank which we enjoyed before we existed. "Nietzscheism and Realism" from The Rainbow, Vol. I, No. 1 (October 1921); reprinted in "To Quebec and the Stars"


Add Your TakeOnIt (click to expand, no login required)
0 Points      Nashhinton      20 Apr 2013      Stance on Question: Agree
Yes, it is desirable.

0 Points      MTC      23 Feb 2013      Stance on Question: Agree
The human lifespan as it currently is, is way too short, and that’s all that you really need to know to answer this question.

0 Points      Rick Thomason      15 Jul 2012      Stance on Question: Disagree
I work with elderly people every day, who have lost all their friends and loved ones, have lost what they percieve as their usefullness. Some have had rough lives, and are just tired. You would not believe how many times I've been asked the question, " Why am I still here ? When can I die ? "

0 Points      TZX      16 Feb 2011      Stance on Question: Agree
I plan to live forever, of course, but barring that I'd settle for a couple thousand years. Even five hundred would be pretty nice. Well, not really. As long as anyhow possible or until I absolutely don't want anymore is the sweet spot.

0 Points      blacktrance      10 Feb 2011      Stance on Question: Agree
"Who wants to live to 100? The guy who's 99." - Dwight D. Eisenhower.

1 Point      terrified      08 Feb 2011      Stance on Question: Neutral
We live in hell if are not going to die.We may already live forever and not know it.Maybe our soul (if there is such thing) was in somebody else's body before we were born and we just can not remember a thing about it.This is hell.We would also live in hell if we did not die.Just imagine.How you feel right now,this never ending.Never.being in this planet and living forever.Imagine that nothing would change.That we would not die.That would lead us to paranoia someday,and we would start to do things without thinking.We would stop thinking one day.We would start to act with no reason.Just do senseless things (ex.biting a branch etc.).We would not care.And then we would start to act like animals again.And then what?We would still have to live.But what would we have left to do?And if we had something left to do,then what?We would still have to live.Forever.And do you know what forever means?It means that this would not stop.Never.Never.Just live.Live.Live.Live.Live.And continue to live.Live.Live.Li--aaaaaaaah can't think of it anymore it is driving me crazy......But we would still have to live.Forever.LIVE.LIVE.LIVE.FOREVER.FOREVER.FOREVER.LIVE...

1 Point      the27th      09 May 2010      Stance on Question: Neutral
I don't know what I would do with more life. I don't even know where I'll be in ten years. It's worth it for someone who has something worth living for. I don't know if that would be true of me.

1 Point      Adam Atlas      26 Apr 2010      Stance on Question: Agree
It is desirable if we can indefinitely extend happy, healthy life. If I don't want to die right now (I don't), then why would I want to die 100 or 2,000 or 5,000,000 years from now if I'm feeling just as good? Maybe my circumstances will change — maybe the world will get really really terrible or be destroyed, or maybe we really will run out of fun — but why would I precommit to wanting to die at some point?

I haven't talked to anyone who's given a clear answer as to what the cutoff point would be — at what age it stops being a good thing to preserve and improve life. One person with whom I was arguing about this acknowledged that eliminating disease would be a good thing, but insisted that physical and mental aging should be preserved (even if we could develop the technology to stop it). The motivation for this, as far as I can tell, is that it's easier to find it morally acceptable to allow the death of a decrepit 80-year-old with Alzheimer's than a 80-year-old with the brain and body of a 30-year-old (especially since people need to die of something)...
The solution is that we shouldn't stop aging, so we don't feel bad about not stopping death?
As ethical reasoning, that seems completely backwards to me.

0 Points      Benja      02 Aug 2010      General Comment
"One person with whom I was arguing about this acknowledged that eliminating disease would be a good thing, but insisted that physical and mental aging should be preserved"

Perhaps you could ask them what their most loved activities are, and then point out to them old people who are less able to enjoy those activities because of their decrepit body and/or mind. Then point out that the whole reason we want to cure a disease is that we don't like being decrepit, meaning that for all intents and purposes aging is a disease.

I think part of the resistance to the idea of halting aging is based on people not wanting to be upset about what they believe to be inevitable. By arguing that aging is actually desirable, people can convince themselves not to be so upset about their body falling apart. I see their reasoning as a riff on retrospective rationalization (I'm not sure what cognitive bias that is), but it's arguably to some extent a psychologically healthy bias. Most of us have considered the process of getting old, and have integrated that somewhat somber consideration into our world view. But really, we don't want to walk around with long faces, so many of us stubbornly refuse to have a negative attitude towards it. In fact, we want a positive attitude towards aging, and that really requires believing in a narrative about how getting old is natural, healthy, and desirable. In a splendid act of double-think and compartmentalization, we somehow overlook the contradiction that becoming old means becoming decrepit, and that becoming decrepit is now somehow healthy and desirable. And of course we conveniently allow ourselves to slip back into the comforting fallacy that "if it's natural then it's good".

2 Points      Packbat      19 Mar 2010      Stance on Question: Agree
I can easily imagine any number of scenarios in which I would want to die, but every one of those scenarios involves some particular unfortunate circumstance - none of them involve some arbitrary time-limit, and for every one of them I would prefer some third option. Yes, as you grow old you become a burden on those around you - I would prefer not to become a burden. Yes, as you grow old you become ill and frail - I would prefer not to become ill and frail. Yes, there are consequences of living longer - I would prefer to avoid the negative, not avoid the life.

0 Points      JGWeissman      06 Mar 2010      Stance on Question: Agree
Of course living forever is desirable. The alternative is to cease existence.