What reassurances do the community need regarding life extension? Evidence from studies of community attitudes and an analysis of film portrayals - Mair Underwood

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It is increasingly recognised that community attitudes impact on the research trajectory, entry and reception of new biotechnologies. Yet biogerontologists have generally been dismissive of public concerns about life extension. There is some evidence that biogerontological research agendas have not been communicated effectively, with studies finding that most community members have little or no knowledge of life extension research. Perhaps because of this lack of knowledge, community members’ attitudes and concerns reflect issues raised in popular portrayals of life extension (e.g. in movies). In order to investigate how popular portrayals of life extension may influence community attitudes we conducted an analysis of 19 films depicting human life extension across different genres. We focussed on how the pursuit of life extension was depicted, how life extension was achieved, levels of interest in life extension among characters in the films and experiences of extended life both at an individual and societal level. This paper compares the results of this analysis with the literature on community attitudes to life extension, and makes recommendations about the issues in which the public may require reassurance if they are to support and accept life extension technologies.