Here's one potential advance in science that has me worried: human beings may eventually live a really long time.
According to the World Future Society, we are in the early phases of a superlongevity revolution. Thanks to advances nanotechnology and cell and gene manipulation, scientists may eventually learn how to keep humans alive from 120 to 500 years.
Which prompts an important question: Do we really want to live that long?
Sure a longer life would have its upside. I'd love to have my parents around forever. I'd love to swing by for Sunday dinner for at least 100 years more.
It would be great if we were able to keep fellows like Jimmy Stewart, Johnny Carson and Dean Martin around.
It would be even better if we were able to keep around people with great minds, such as Einstein, who could unlock the mysteries of the universe.
But a longer life would have its downside. Do we really want baby boomers, who are now beginning to retire, to vote government benefits for themselves for several hundred years?
And what of our younger generations, kids who are notorious slackers? Mother to son in year 2075: You're 100 years old. When are you going to move out and get a job?
I'm 51 and already showing signs of fatigue. In my experience, life is largely made up of colds, bills, speeding tickets and people who let you down. These experiences are connected together by a series of mundane tasks. The drudgeries are occasionally interrupted by a wonderful meal, a really good laugh, or a romantic evening with a lovely woman.
Then the mundane stuff starts all over again. Who wants several decades of that?
Besides, if we live 100 years or more, how are we going to pay for it? Living is expensive. Are we going to work 50 years, retire, burn through our nest egg, then sling hamburgers for a century or two?
On one hand, I think it's great we humans are getting better at improving our health and life spans. But on the other hand I know this: Dying is what makes life most worth living.
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 two 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? Isn't a comedian funnier when he exits the stage before we want him to go?
Hey, futurists, I'm not sure we want to stick around too long. If you believe in God, 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 years running wind-sprints in summer practice?
When I look up to the stars, I can't help but sense there are better places to go. But 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 tour of that other place.
Though I don't think Purgatory will be so bad. My friends will be there.
TOM PURCELL is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist and is nationally syndicated.