Countdown to the End

What would you think if there was an app on your phone which could you inform you when you will die? Would you download it? Until now, the ability to divine the future and determine the time of our deaths has been an ability regarded only by mystics, witches, or charlatans. But what if dying could be a phenomenon determine by science and not the obscure?

A couple of weeks ago, I read the novel They Both Die at the End form author Adam Silvera, a coming from age story in which the main premise of the book is that in this fictional world, people will receive a phone notification of their imminent death in the next 24 hrs. The author does a splendid work in imagining how an invention like this could affect our everyday lives in a world dominated by social media. Sadly, the author only provides “rumors” about how a technology company can figure out the future instead of attempting to elaborate an interesting theory about it.

By doing this, the book steps away from the science fiction realm and from answering the troublesome questions posed by this kind of technology, and instead, focuses on how the two main characters experience their last day of their lives. It’s common to experience a behavioral change for all those hopeless suffering a terminal disease, but in the book, it’s seen from the perspective of healthy young boys fated to an accidental death.

After finishing the book, I could not avoid pondering if an application could tell us the precise date of our passing, would it change humanity for the better? Oddly, when we come to this world, the only certainty we have is our deaths looming in our life’s horizon, yet we waste most of our time doing things doesn’t fulfil us as human beings, trying to please people we don’t care about, worrying about irrelevant and mundane things, and an endless list of etcetera. Perhaps that is what we really need, our smart phone displaying the countdown to our own demise every time we unlock the screen. Do you think would that help you focus on what is important to you? To avoid procrastination?

Stoic philosopher Seneca wrote, “We are dying every day, and all the days we have lived up to now are already in the hands of death.” This appreciation of our present day, as a piece of us given to the death, is a way to shift our perspective and change our behavior in how we decide to live our present, not really knowing if will be the last. This can help us prioritize what is important to us and avoid worrying about purposeless things.

Maybe this concept was more present to the ancient since there are few metaphors which can capture the fugacity of our lives better than an hourglass. Since we can’t have an app on our smartphones telling us how much time we have left, maybe we should replace it with an hourglass. What do you think?

M. Ch. Landa

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