Study: Most Americans not interested in immortality

Credit: scene from Elysium/Sony Pictures

In the recently released sci-fi film Elysium, we're presented with a new kind of machine-assisted healthcare that can cure cancer and reconstruct body parts (see the fictional Med-Pod 3000 pictured above), a development that could make many humans virtually immortal. But as medical science and technology converge, we're increasingly finding ourselves asking the question as a species: Do we really want to be immortal?

That's the question that served as the topic of a recent Pew Research poll. The poll, which raises the discussion of futurists and a new life span of 120 years old as the norm, was conducted earlier this year and asked Americans about their feelings related to longer life spans. Specifically, the poll asked if the respondent could undergo a medical treatment that would allow them to live until the age of 120, would they do it? A surprising 56 percent of the respondents said that they would not.

However, the reasoning behind the answers offers an indication as to what virtual immortality would mean to most people in terms of everyday realities. According to the poll, the reason given by those who would not take the life extension treatment is related to the strain on resources a longer lasting population would present. Another reason given was that some believe the treatment would only be available to the wealthy.

Interestingly, 69 percent of those polled said they would be fine living to an age between 79 and 100, an age range that is, at this point in human history, perfectly realistic. Although the study offers a number of other interesting data sets, what would be most interesting is to see the polling results of another question: Would you take the 120 life extension treatment if wealth and resources were guaranteed to be distributed equally among all citizens?

Such a scenario, most often presented in the science fiction universe of Star Trek, could dramatically tilt the results of such a poll. Of course, polls are based on reality, so until everyone has a replicator and free rent for life, we'll have to take the Pew Research study as the stunning revelation that it is: Immortality is just not sexy — yet.

Via Pew Research

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