Some interesting material from a scientific study of attitudes to healthy life extension and enhanced longevity is posted to Cryonet:
The age of the respondent was related to life-extension attitudes [with] the older respondents tilting in the pro-longevity direction.
Pro-longevity attitudes were strongest in the separated-divorced group and weakest in the single group.
From a utilitarian, economic action viewpoint, that is much as I would expect. I think there's ample circumstantial evidence to suspect that those who claim to be fine with aging and dying will mostly change their minds when they get there. The unpleasant future is all too easily hand-waved away for another day - until that day finally comes home to roost.
The study presented subjects with a range of positive and negative viewpoints on healthy life extension. The viewpoints vary widely in validity, with those on the economic side of the house being particularly bad, but I don't think that's too important when it comes to drawing conclusions from the reactions of study participants:
I. Personal Emotional Rejection (PER) reflects a harsh rejection of life extension with endorsement of items focused on pointlessness and waste, and contrary-to-nature aspects of extending life span. Other items reflect the personal cost of life extension (e.g., delaying commitments or prolonging goals, inducing boredom).
II. Utopian Vision (UV) points to the many advantages of life extension for older people and for society at large.
III. Social Economic Burden (SEB) highlights the economic burdens on the individual and the health-care system flowing from life extension. The highest loading items stress preference for health over longer life and a fear of financial dependency for the individual, and exhaustion of resources for the society.
Age was significant for each of the factors. ... The older the adult, the more likely is he or she to reject the harsh negativity toward life extension reflected by the items loading on factor I. Correspondingly, chronological age is positively associated with endorsement of items that promise a Utopian future with life extension (Factor II). Finally, the outcome for Factor III is somewhat counterintuitive as we observe that older adults are significantly more disposed to endorse anti-longevity items. These items concern the added costs of health-care and social welfare and hence raise the possibility of exhaustion of financial resources.
That last point only reinforces my conviction that economic ignorance is one of the greatest threats to the future of healthy life extension (and indeed to all meaningful advancements in technology). It is a strange world when so many believe that more healthy people working away to produce value and trade with one another will somehow make us all poorer:
- Jealousy, Fear, Envy and Economic Ignorance - Powerful Poisons
- If We Fail, It Will Be From Ignorance
- Death (For Everyone) Before Inequality (For Anyone)
The points that found the most favor in the study might lead us to a little more optimism, however:
Of the positive survey items, these were the most stable across the studies:
Longevity improving life more time for goals
Extending life giving respect to old age
Longevity research as duty to future generations
Long Term Relationship (LTR) quality will increase with longevity
Society will benefit from greater wisdom
Increase budget for this research
Other positive items from the LEQ:
Favor longevity research even if product unaffordable
Extend life to have more leisure time
Estimate satisfaction greater at age 110 than 75
Families benefit from cross-generation interaction
I'm sure you'll recognize a number of these in past material produced by longevity advocates, myself included. Biomedical gerontologist Aubrey de Grey in particular has argued for duty to those yet to live - in his view, who are we to decide that our grandchildren's lives must be as short as our own? By failing to heed the moral imperative to longevity research, we condemn future generations to have no choice in their own longevity.