The Long View
Long after the time in which anyone can easily recall who was US president in 2011, or what party was in power, or which wars of declining empire were fought, and then long after anyone even cares about that ancient history, and later, long after the whole downward slope of the history of the US is but a footnote of interest to scholars of the transition from second to third millennium, and later still, long after anyone can even find out with any great reliability who was US president in 2011 ... long after all these things are forgotten, the first half of the 21st century will still be clearly recalled as the dawn of the era in which aging was conquered.
Progress in science and technology is really the only thing that matters in the long term. In that area of human endeavor, the truly transformative advances stand out like beacons across millennia of time - even long after the details of that period are hard to reconstruct, archaeologists can show clearly both when and how the use and understanding of technology changed. So we see the impact of agriculture and we know when it began, for example: it looms large in our considerations of deep human history at the present time, because it utterly transformed the course of our species. Similarly for iron working, and other important advances.
The advent of ways to reverse the effects of aging, largely through biotechnologies in the early stages of development that will repair the low-level biochemical damage that causes aging, will transform the shape and course of human society no less than the great advances of prehistory and early history - but undoubtedly much faster, as we're far better at talking to one another and coordinating our efforts in these years.
So in the final analysis, how much of what we do in our day to day lives actually matters? That's a meaning of life sort of a question, so everyone gets to write their own answer into the box and it's still right, but it's intended to provoke thought. Do you care about end results, or do you care about the journey? Billions of lives in the future hang in the balance of a few dollars or a convincing argument for the development of rejuvenation biotechnology: it's early enough still that we're talking butterfly wings and hurricanes when it comes to how our efforts today will affect the next four decades of progress in ways to slow and reverse aging. I suppose, for someone like myself who isn't in it so much for the journey, it's the case that you can choose to live a life in which you made a difference, or you can choose to live a life in which it doesn't much matter whether you ever existed.
The future can be made a golden place within our lifetimes, and billions of people who are presently destined to suffer and age to death could instead by saved through biotechnology to live full, healthy, and vigorous lives thousands of years long. That all depends on how well and rapidly the present research community works on the first generation of rejuvenation therapies, which in turn depends on acts of fundraising and persuasion carried out by otherwise ordinary folk like you and I. There's an avalanche to be started here, a few pebbles that will bring the whole slope rushing down with it, profoundly transform humanity in the process by banishing aging and the decrepitude, disease, and death it brings.
The opening paragraph applies to much more than Longevity Science and should be memorialized for its far-reaching pertinence.
At the same time, the fundamental question/problem remains: Science needs the support of governments, and science (and especially Longevity Science) becomes a political issue because it is also perceived as a religious issue. "God doesn't want us to live long any more than 'He' he want us to limit population growth."
Until modern society, globally, can effectively limit religious involvement in secular life, rationality is increasingly being denied in the political process.
Good Science is victimized by Bad Politics - or, in the case of theocratic dictatorships, any politices at all.
"live full, healthy, and vigorous lives thousands of years long." Finally Utopia; who knew it was just a matter of funding. Looking forward to an article assuring us that "science" in the pursuit of immortality will not be for sale to government or corporate interests.
Don't get too wrapped around the religion/God angle. The opposition is broader than that. Many on the left end of the political spectrum oppose longevity advances as well, due to short-sighted demographic concerns, and/or their own brand of mysticism -- deep environmentalism. The whole "Humans are a virus" meme.
Does 'destinated' mean destined? Maybe if I live another couple hundred years I can figure that out.
Im 57 years old. I don't have any desire to live for another thousand years. A couple more decades would be sufficient.
Well, maybe. But I'm not sure I want to live longer than people do now. I'm overweight, get winded easily and my feet hurt all the time. I don't even want to mention my sex life.
Living longer in a care home is not a real attractive future.
Unless, of course there are going to be cool android bodies. If I could get one of those I might reconsider.
@currently: Apparently my spellchecker thinks "destinated" is a real word, which would explain how that slipped through.
Seems rather obvious that the future will be filled by those of us who actually do have reasons to see millenia upon millenia of future times as simply adventures to be experienced. The meek will inherit death; the rest of us will be partying at the end of time.
@ Dale Amon at November 29, 2011 8:27 AM: "Partying until the end of time" is as apt a description of Hell as I've ever seen.
After two or three thousand years of champagne, starflight, and orgasms, what then? The barrel of one's pistol in one's mouth, that's what.