Time is on our side

If you could live to be 200 years old, would you do it?

Think about that: When researchers eventually figure out how to repair or reprogram cells that age or go haywire, it’s not out of the question our lives could be extended way beyond our typical lifespan today.

I hadn’t spent much time contemplating this option until I read a recent New Yorker magazine article describing a star-studded event in Hollywood convened to award $25 million to scientists beating the odds on aging breakthroughs.

Goldie Hawn was there, enthusiastically raising her hand when the crowd was asked who wanted to live to be 200. Moby was there. Sergey Brin, one of Google’s founders, was there. Norman Lear, too.

They were all cheering the evening’s stated goal: To make death optional.

Living to 200, making death optional … it all sounds pretty far fetched. Who would want to live to be 200 today, when by the time we reach 100 those few who make it generally are hard of hearing, seeing and thinking?

But eventually, so the theory goes, altering our cells, tweaking our DNA, continuing to figure out how to stop the deadly proliferation of cancer and other diseases in our body — all of this may someday give us the “option” of extending life indefinitely.

Let’s say it’s possible, that we really could live to be 200 with the right injections, gene alterations and a certain amount of good luck — maybe the driverless cars clogging the roads in a few years will be more judicious about mowing some of us down than cars driven by humans, for example.

All of this is going to cost lots of money, and we already have a healthcare system we can’t afford.

But for the purposes of today’s discussion, let’s just say we can afford it, that the rich won’t somehow commandeer the ship and make the rest of us walk the short-life plank.

Would we accomplish more with our lives if knew we had more time? Or would we make even less of a difference than we do now?

Would working for 140 years at our jobs make us more or less productive than just working the 40 or 50 years we put in now?

Would surviving an extra 100 years of hurricanes, floods, pollution and other disasters make us more or less optimistic about our futures?

Would enduring an extra 100 years of national politics and media gamesmanship give us more or less confidence to life our lives to their fullest?

If each of us had 100 extra years, what would we really do with the bonus time that we can’t do with our lives now?

Twice as many years of uncertainty, doubt, finger-pointing, race-baiting and acrimony aren’t likely to make those extra 100 years speed along happily for most of us.

If we can’t make ourselves happy with what we already have, why would we believe things will be better with twice as much time?