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Jewish World Review August 1, 2003 / 3 Menachem-Av, 5763

Tom Purcell

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Do you really want to live until 500? | It's a concept that's going to get old real fast.

According to Reuters, scientists and futurists who spoke at the World Future Society conference believe advances in cell and gene manipulation and nanotechnology will allow humans to live well beyond our current life expectancy - anywhere from 120 to 180 years, and maybe even into the 500's.

Now I'm really worried the Clintons aren't going to go away.

Though there are some skeptics, a longer life expectancy is possible. Scientists did crack the human genetic code in 2000, and as they work their way through the human genome - the comprehensive blueprint for how to build a human - they just might figure out how to regenerate our cells and keep us alive for a very long time.

But do we really want to live until we're 500 years old?

Do we really want "me-generation" Baby Boomers to have hundreds of years to vote government benefits for themselves, now that they're coming of retirement age?

Do we really want to hear Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandan complain about the Iraq war for several more decades?

Do we really want to encourage our younger generations, notorious slackers, to keep putting off adulthood? (Mother to son in year 2075: You're 100 years old, when are you going to go out and get a job?)

I don't wish to be a Luddite on the concept - those backward-thinking fellows who rebelled against technological advancement - but I see only a limited upside on this one.

Sure, I'd love to have my parents around forever. It would be great if Bob Hope could keep telling jokes, or someone like Albert Einstein could keep advancing science. And what stability our markets would enjoy if Alan Greenspan lived until 180! (Wait a second, he IS 180.)

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But the rest of us?

I'm 41 already and have no desire to exceed 100 years in this place. In my experience, life is made up of colds, bills, speeding tickets and people who let you down. These experiences are connected together by a series of mundane tasks that we must complete to sustain ourselves. This drudgery is occasionally visited by an exciting and enjoyable moment, then the unpleasant stuff starts all over again.

Do we really want 500 years of that?

Besides, how would we pay for it all? Living is expensive. Are we going to work 35 or 40 years, retire, burn through our nest egg, then sling hamburgers at McDonald's for a few hundred years?

Before our scientists dramatically increase our life spans, they need to remember one important fact: what makes life most worth living is dying.

Look, would you enjoy a movie if you knew it was going to play for 24 hours? No, what makes the movie enjoyable is its ending. And it better end within 2 hours or we all start squirming in our seats.

The key to human happiness, you see, is not an abundance of a thing, but the lack of it. Doesn't pie taste better when we know it's the last slice? Doesn't a football game capture our attention more when it is the last of the season - the one that determines who goes out the winner and who goes out the loser? And isn't a comedian funnier when he exits the stage before we want him to go?

Hey, futurists, we don't want to stick around on earth too long. If you believe in the Creator, as I do, this is just a testing ground anyhow. This is just practice. It's like two-a-day football drills. We must first prove ourselves during the agony of summer practice to earn our rights to play in the big game. Do we really want to spend 500 hundred years running wind sprints in summer practice?

Any fool can look up to the stars and conclude there are better places to go. It's not until we check out of Hotel Earth that we're able to enjoy a place with more amenities and better service. My religion says that place is Heaven, which I figure I'll get to sooner or later - after doing a long tour of that other place.

Though it won't be too bad. Most of my friends will be there.

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07/18/03:"Ain't-my-fault" lawsuits are becoming more creative
07/18/03: The real story never makes for good summertime drama in Washington
07/11/03: Government bureaucrats, not elected officials, are really the ones determining what people and organizations can and can't do
07/03/03: Overworked Americans
06/27/03: The Metrosexual Male
06/20/03: Crime Etiquette in Washington, D.C.
06/13/03: My Father, the Thief and the MGB
06/05/03: An Open Letter to Bill and Hillary
05/30/03: We are a busy people
05/23/03: Liar, Liar
05/16/03: Laffer all the way to the bank
05/09/03: My mother's house
05/02/03: Teaching the Iraqis how to protest
04/25/03: Iraqi TV
04/21/03: Explaining Democracy to the Iraqis
04/11/03: Major increases to the beer tax? That's a cheap shot right to the beer gut
04/04/03: War humor
03/31/03: Dolphins, PETA and the USA
03/21/03: Traffic Wars
03/14/03: Ronald Reagan's St. Patrick's Day
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01/21/03: "Misunderestimated"
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12/31/02: They provide unending joy to those who are wise enough to let them in
12/13/02: Hurried Man Syndrome
12/06/02: In DC, snowstorms have important ramifications --- or, at least, they should
11/26/02: Police advertising
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10/25/02: On edge in Washington, D.C
10/11/02: Giving new meaning to "selling your body"
10/04/02: Bush's Angels
09/27/02: Conservatives, Liberals, Dick Armey and Barry Manilow
09/20/02: Are SUV drivers are the new GOPers?
09/13/02: Bubba is Dubya's man
09/06/02: The Freedom to Picnic
08/16/02: Ah, the $izzle of anti-terrorist pork
08/09/02: Vacationless prez and gutless Americans
07/26/02: Study gives women permission not to hide their emotions
07/15/02: Patriot food
06/28/02: Eavesdropping on a San Fran classroom
06/21/02: The crowded skies
06/14/02: Contemporary Father's Day: A conversation for the ages
06/07/02: Legal rights for animals?
05/19/02: Advice for prom goers this year: Hold onto your money
05/10/02: Don't take her for granted
05/03/02: Letter to the parents of a tubby teen
04/26/02: Zacarias Moussaoui gets expert legal advice

© 2002, Tom Purcell