If you survey people on the topic of developing new medical technologies to enable longer lives, you'll find what looks like widespread opposition to the idea. We are a very conformist species, and in an environment in which everyone else ages to death by 80 or 90, that life span is the goal that many people declare themselves set for - but with a few years added on top to signal personal superiority without veering into a claim that would cause loss of status for other reasons. There is little to no thought given to the realities of the situation, the suffering and pain and loss; this is plain vanilla conformism. Similarly, we live in an age in which anti-technology, pro-death environmentalist philosophy has become so mainstream that the average person in the street feels the need to declare themselves in favor of fewer people, shorter lives, less growth, and less technological progress in order to conform. The Malthusian delusion of impending or actual overpopulation is used as a justification to do nothing to prevent the deaths of billions, and at the small scale as another reason not to publicly declare the urge to live longer than your parents.
People who don the hair shirt to decry their wealth, the technology that sustains them, and their life spans, as well as attempts to improve these metrics, are invariably far from poor when their position in life is considered in the context of the bigger picture. There is a level of attainment in society as a whole at which people become sufficiently insulated from the realities of poverty, or the realities of a lack of technology, or the realities of old age, to forget how things used to be or how life is lived by those who are actually poor or frail. This is pervasive in wealthier nations. Too many people fail to critically consider what it would actually mean to be aged, to have your friends dying around you, and to be diminished, weak, in pain, and dependent. They don't give serious thought as to how exactly it is they will die in this model for the future they put forward, in which their span of health and years follows that of their parents. Then there are the hypocrites, those who have given it thought, but take the shallow path of conformity, helping to weave the web of quiet lies, distortions, and omissions that pervade so much of our society.
The point is made here that perhaps we advocates should do more to persuade people to think meaningfully about what exactly it is that they plan for their own fate. There are personal consequences that accompany the goals declared in opposition to progress in medicine to treat aging, or even when simply following the herd to say that you don't want to live any longer than your parents or grandparents. Many people have a profound misunderstanding of the relationship between medicine, aging, and age-related disease, and of what that will mean for their own lives. Yet they are all doing their part to make it incrementally more difficult for improvements in medicine to be funded, to gain support, and to come into being. On the large scale and over the long-term, the progress that happens is the progress that has broad support across the population as a whole.
I have stated that it is basically a matter of time before we get the diseases of old age (cancer, stroke, dementia...) under control. It is impossible to tell when it will happen. Could be a couple of decades, could be 45 years, could be a century or a bit more. As a precaution, you should never trust anyone who says he can predict the future more than a couple of years in advance. However, progress that is not impossible in principle tends to reliably happen, on its own schedule. Whenever we will get the diseases of aging under control, we will end up with drastically extended healthspan. Simply put, most of us end up sick or dead because of the diseases of old age. Without these diseases, we would end up healthy for much longer. Stating that the diseases of aging will come under control at some point in our future should not be controversial. And you would hope that people would see this as a positive outcome.
The prospect that we may finally defeat aging is either rejected as being too improbable, or, more commonly, is rejected as being undesirable. Recently, one of my readers had this very typical reaction: "As for extending human life, I'm not for it." If you tend to agree with my reader, please think it through. Aging does not, by itself, kills us. What kills us are the diseases that it brings, such a stroke, dementia, cancer. So if you are opposed to people living healthier, longer lives, then you are favorable to some of these diseases. I, for one, would rather that we get rid of stroke, cancers and dementia. I do not want to see these diseases in my family.
If you are in favor of short human lifespans through aging, then you must be opposed to medical research on the diseases of aging such as dementia, stroke, and cancer. You should, in fact, oppose anything but palliative care since curing dementia or cancer is akin to extending lifespan. You should also welcome news that members of your family suffer from cancer, Parkinson's and Alzheimer's. They will soon leave their place and stop selfishly using our resources. Their diseases should be cause for celebration. Of course, few people celebrate when they learn that they suffer from Alzheimer's. Yet this disease is all too natural. Death is natural. So are infectious diseases. We could reject antibiotics because dying of an infection is "natural". Of course, we do not.
I am sure that, initially, some people expressed concerns regarding the use of antibiotics. Now that we are starting to think about eliminating the diseases of aging, people object to that as well. But let me assure you that when it comes down to it, if there are cures against the diseases of aging, and you are old and sick, you will almost certainly accept the cure no matter what you are saying now. And the world will be better for it. Please, let us just say no to dementia, stroke and cancer. They are monsters.