There has been more discussion of the future of medicine and human longevity in the print media of late. I attribute this to a combination of Google's announcement of their Calico initiative and an ongoing low-key advertising campaign run by Prudential, wherein that company seeks to differentiate itself through displaying an awareness of the potential for large increases in human life span in the years ahead.
There is also a larger than usual fraction of articles that take longevity science and medical development seriously, which is pleasant. Though I'm sure that this is at least partially because it is a lot harder to do otherwise without looking like an idiot these days, given that ever more scientists are willing to talk in public about extending health life spans. It is much easier to find scientific literature, reviews, and interviews with researchers in which they talk favorably about a future of longer lives. Beliefs and opinions change step by step, one increment at a time. That said, while it's harder to dismiss the science out of hand nowadays, there are still plenty of people willing to tell us that it is better for countless millions to die horribly and slowly than for any of those people to survive to risk being bored sometimes, or that old people are too dangerous to be permitted to live any longer:
Depression runs high among retirees, and not just because of reduced income - in fact, the baby boomers who have recently retired are living a life of relative luxury compared with those of us still a few decades away. No, the reason they get depressed is because when you're retired, it is easy to feel like you have nothing to live for anymore, no purpose, nothing to get up for, no reason to even get dressed. In a word, they are bored.
What we forget when we focus on extending our lifespan as long as possible is that things make us happy because they are rare, finite, and therefore valuable and precious. Diamonds. Newborns. Laughter. Great first dates. Great third dates. Sunshine. (I live in London. Trust me, sunshine is very rare and very finite.) Make these things available to everyone all the time, and they would lose their glow, become mundane.
Now consider radical life extension. It means that decision-making power, and economic and political authority, will be vested in a generation that is already obsolete and growing more so. People who find Facebook's and Twitter's popularity incomprehensible and more than slightly spooky will be making employment decisions based on outdated concepts of public and private personas. The young and innovative will be held at bay, prevented from creating new information forms and generating cultural, institutional, and economic breakthroughs. And where death used to clear the memory banks, there I stand ... for 150 years.
The social order of today versus that of the Roman Empire are remarkable for their similarities, not their differences, despite the much greater length of life we expect to enjoy today. Positions change, people change, and leaders are overturned on a timescale that is small compared to our life spans - and that timescale is much the same as it was two thousand years ago. I don't see it changing in the slightest if people lived twice as long as they do now, as the factors leading to social change have very little to do with overall length of life, proceeding as they do on a month-to-month and year-to-year basis, driven by what people want here and now, not ten years or twenty years away.
All in all it is odd that people are so willing to hold up such airy constructs of speculation as those above as viable arguments against efforts to prevent the very concrete cost of aging: the death of tens of millions every year and the ongoing suffering of hundred of millions more. But not every op-ed and article is negative these days; there are signs that more and more people are becoming accustomed to and even supportive of the idea that living longer in good health is the future, and that medical research aimed at increasing human longevity is a good and deserving cause.