Lifelong Questions

At the end of this conference sponsored by Time Magazine, Ray Kurzweil, everybody’s favorite positive extrapolist, predicts that coming biotech advances will allow him to live to be 1,000 years old.

This reminds me of what Ian Pearson, British Telecom’s in-house futurologist, told me a coupla years back. It went something like, “We may be the last generation that has to die. I can’t tell you how much that annoys me.”

Such speculations leave me wondering how long I really *want* to live. How long, as a faithful Christian, *should* I live? Are we made to cling to this life? Remember that whole “dying to self” thing? Will we have to actually *choose* to go to heaven?

Part of my life goals, though, has been to live into the upper quadrant of whatever the life expectancy bell curve is for my demographic when I am old. I don’t want my survivors to feel cheated. I want them to be assured by my long life and that it was “my time” to go. But what do we do when faced with the freedom to indefinitely delay our “time to go,” our own natural demise?

And, as a matter of social justice, just how large should we let the “Longevity Gap” get? How much longer should the faithful Christian seek to live than the poorest in our world? We Americans already enjoy a lifespan longer than those in the developing world. The world’s poorest people, many children actually, die young for lack of access to the most basic medical technology such as $.80 measles vaccinations and basic nutrients. How much worse will this gap get when we among the richest populations have access to new life-extending technologies?

Granted, Kurzweil, as usual, is being wildly optimistic. And, as usual, the press seizes on the wildest and most sensationalistic prediction at the conference. But it’s a possibility that we ought to consider. When we start mucking with life and death, we are also mucking with our concepts of redemption, judgement, and the afterlife. What would Jesus do?

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