Phil Bowermaster is commenting on an article I also noticed the other day. It touches on transhumanism, if not terribly respectfully, improving the human condition, and the far reaches of healthy life extension. Phil notes:
But living forever could rob life of its meaning, said Bill McKibben, author of "Enough: Staying Human in an Engineered Age." In the book he argues that without death, humans have no opportunity to sacrifice for their children, no reason to pour out a life's work under the literal deadline of mortality.
Well, first off: there aren't that many transhumanists who see "living forever" as being in the cards. Aubrey de Grey talks about life extension that might buy us a few centuries. Eliezer Yudkowsky has a more expansive view, promoting a Theory of Fun that would help us to make the most of a life that extends to millions or even billions of years. The only transhumanist I can think of offhand who talks in terms of "living forever" is Frank J. Tipler in The Physics of Immortality. But to object to Tipler's model of living forever is to object to the religious idea of dying and going to heaven, since it amounts to the same thing. I wonder whether McKibben has the same objections to religious ideas about living forever as he does transhumanist ideas on the same subject?
First let me say that McKibben talks nonsense on this topic. Using his logic, we can surmise that we would all be better off living in a society in which people were executed at age 30. Ridiculous. Does he think that people were better off when disease claimed them at 40 instead of 80? Is suffering and death really such a wonderful thing? I am continually amazed at the lengths people go to in order to protect and rationalize the status quo, no matter how awful it is.
Secondly, on the differences between living forever and merely living for a lot, lot longer...I'm definitely of the opinion that it can't hurt to aim high (while remaining realistic about the underlying science that supports these goals). If you aim for immortality with a sound mind and good science, the worst that can happen is that you'll live a longer, healthier, more fulfilling life. Not all that terrible, right?
Looking at science and medicine, a number of serious futurists have postulated reasonable, physically possible paths through the future that lead to extreme longevity, as Phil points out. If the funding is obtained to make even Aubrey de Grey's comparatively modest proposals a reality, then we'll certainly have a nice long time to figure out what comes next - including how to avoid becoming a statistic along the way.