Hugh Pickens writes "Since 1900, the life expectancy of Americans, driven by improved hygiene, nutrition, and new medical discoveries and interventions, has jumped from 47 years to almost 80. Now, scientists studying the intricacies of DNA and other molecular bio-dynamics may be poised to offer even more dramatic boosts to longevity. But there is one very basic question that is seldom asked, according to David Ewing Duncan: How long do you want to live? 'Over the past three years I have posed this query to nearly 30,000 people at the start of talks and lectures on future trends in bioscience, taking an informal poll as a show of hands,' writes Duncan. 'To make it easier to tabulate responses I provided four possible answers: 80 years, currently the average life span in the West; 120 years, close to the maximum anyone has lived; 150 years, which would require a biotech breakthrough; and forever, which rejects the idea that life span has to have any limit at all.' The results: some 60 percent opted for a life span of 80 years. Another 30 percent chose 120 years, and almost 10 percent chose 150 years. Less than 1 percent embraced the idea that people might avoid death altogether (PDF). Overwhelmingly, the reason given was that people didn't want to be old and infirm any longer than they had to be, even if a pill allowed them to delay the inevitable. Others were concerned about issues like boredom, the cost of paying for a longer life, and the impact of so many extra people on planetary resources and on the environment. But wouldn't long life allow people like Albert Einstein to accomplish more and try new things? That's assuming that Einstein would want to live that long. As he lay dying of an abdominal aortic aneurysm in 1955, Einstein refused surgery, saying: 'It is tasteless to prolong life artificially. I have done my share, it is time to go. I will do it elegantly.'"
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