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Posted on Mon, Sep 9, 2013 : 5 a.m.

Immortality: What if you could live (nearly) forever?

By Wayne Baker

Editor's note: This post is part of a series by Dr. Baker on Our Values about core American values. This week Dr. Baker is discussing immortality and longevity.


Is living forever (or at least a very long time) just the stuff of science fiction?

Not so, say an increasing number of scientists and futurists. Advances in medicine, biotechnology, and other fields hold the promise of slowing, stopping, or even turning back the human clock.

Let’s start with this question: If medical treatments and devices could let you live to age 120 or older, would you want to?

The possibility of radically extending human life raises a host of moral, ethical, and religious questions. This prompted the Pew Research Center to conduct a survey of Americans, asking about their views of radical life extension, aging, and related matters.

If you said that you would not want these life-extending medical treatments, you have a lot of company. The majority of Americans (56%) says that they, personally, would not want medical treatments that would allow them to live at least to 120. Just over a third (38%) says that they, personally, would want these life-lengthening treatments.

What about other people? Do you think that most people would want medical treatments that let them live decades longer, even if you would not want to?

Over-two thirds of Americans (68%) believe that most people would want medical treatments that greatly extended their lives. Just over a fourth (27%) believes that most people would not want these treatments.

So, we have a curious paradox: Most people think others would want radical life extension, while most people, personally, would not.

If medical treatments and devices could let you live to age 120 or older, would you want to?

Did the paradox surprise you?

How would you explain it?

Dr. Wayne E. Baker is a sociologist on the faculty of the University of Michigan Ross School of Business. Baker blogs daily at Our Values and can be reached at or on Facebook.


Silly Sally

Wed, Sep 11, 2013 : 10:53 a.m.

Being 110 and living like I'm 30 years old, OK say 60 or 70, would be just fine, as long as I can accept all of the changes that will have taken place in my life since I was a child. But to be like so many 90 year olds in a nursing home, and then for 30 years, that is a far different proposition. That sounds just awful.