This is a topic where I can draw from personal experience as someone who has been interested in life extension from the age of 14. These are the reasons I became interested:
Realization that the future is always more exciting than the present, and I want to live long enough to, at the very least, walk on the terraformed Mars. It mostly came from science fiction that plausibly imagines humanity’s near future (preferably non-dystopian one) such as Arthur C. Clarke’s Odyssey 2001–3001 or Mobile Suit Gundam 00, and to a lesser extent from witnessing technological progress.
Realization that time is the most valuable asset, and the most unique: while converting time into money is straightforward and available to all (by earning a wage or an interest), the opposite conversion is limited—money can buy personal assistants, faster transportation and better healthcare, but in this regard there is little difference between Elon Musk and someone with 0.1% of his net worth, and nobody can exchange even a trillion dollars for a hundred years of life. Thus, the best use of time (and money) is finding ways to get more time: from the simple matters of exercise and diet to the appropriate scientific research.
Unfortunately, young people are pressured by society to engage in self-destructive activities (binge drinking, sleepless partying etc. that are the absolute worst use of time because they rob us of even more time than is actually spent on them) and in general to spend time indiscriminately. On the other hand, there is no shortage of advice to spend your time “productively”, i. e. to ultimately earn more money. But money is the wrong goal; time is the right one. Sleeping more or walking in the woods are not productive, but probably constitute net positive time flow.
I was intrigued by the 2011 film In Time based on the concept of time as the universal currency, although it paints a rather bleak picture of the future where aging has been defeated—on purpose, no doubt, because the entertainment industry, while being seemingly obsessed with youth, is curiously pro-aging and pro-dying as if it were run by Malthusians.
In Harry Potter teenaged Tom Riddle sought immortality because he was evil, became unsightly in the process, and in the end lost everything. Nicholas Flamel achieved immortality, but his existence was unpleasant (permanent old age—biologically absurd), and he gave it up because he was not evil. Harry Potter acquired the means to conquer death, but threw them away because he was not evil. “There are things much worse than death” professes Dumbledore, and if you disagree, you are literally Voldemort.
In Stargate SG-1 there is an alien device—the sarcophagus—that can indefinitely maintain the youth and vigor of a human, but gradually makes the user evil. The villains in Stargate Atlantis are essentially vampires, a hybrid species accidentally created by humans in scientific pursuit of immortality. Another alien species—the Asgard—gained immortality by transferring their minds into clones, but with each iteration their bodies degraded, their civilization waned, and they committed mass suicide.
In the film The 6th Day a similar technology of transferring minds into clones is invented by humans, but the hero played by Arnold Schwarzenegger puts an end to this illegal (not to mention evil) enterprise.
I believe many more examples of this propaganda can be found and it must be counteracted.
One popular counterexample, where the protagonist embraces immortality after much angst, comes to mind (The Twilight Saga), but it’s about vampires and can’t be taken seriously. However, its vast commercial success probably means that young people would gladly choose to remain young forever if the idea were not relegated by popular culture to the realm of pure fantasy.
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