At the time of this writing, there are sixteen thousand two hundred and seventy-seven days remaining in my life. I know this because an app I have installed on my phone tells me so. I downloaded it about a week ago, back when I still had sixteen thousand two hundred and eighty-four days left to live, a number that strikes me in retrospect as an embarrassment of riches, days-wise. By the time you read this, I will have even fewer days left to live. Depending on the turnaround time for this piece, I could be down to a number as low as sixteen thousand two hundred and seventy. I’m running out of days here, is what the app is telling me, in its bluntly literal way.
This little contrivance is called Days of Life, and it’s as chillingly simple and straightforward as its name suggests. Here’s how it works: you punch in your date of birth, your gender, and the country you live in, and then it estimates your life expectancy based on these variables. I happen to be male and Irish and so, by the reckoning of the app, I will live for seventy-nine years. (If I happened to reside in either of the two options above or below Ireland on the scrolling list of countries in the settings—Iraq or Israel—I’d be looking at sixty-five and eighty years, respectively.) It won’t take any further particulars into consideration; it doesn’t care whether I’m a smoker, what my B.M.I. or my income is, whether anyone in my immediate family has died from cancer. No: I’m a thirty-four-year-old Irishman, and so I’ve got sixteen thousand two hundred and seventy-seven days left to live.
Actually, it’s more like sixteen thousand two hundred and seventy-six and three-quarters now because, what with one distraction or another, it’s taken me an absurdly long time to get the preceding two paragraphs written. (How did this happen? Where did the time go, and why did I allow it to get away? Did I really need to answer those e-mails, read those tweets, make and drink those cups of coffee?) And this is essentially the point of the app. It’s supposed to make you think like this—to terrify you into productivity, turning mortal dread into a procrastination preventative.
At the top of the screen, there’s a digital-clock-style display that informs you how many days you’ve got left. This is grim enough, of course, but what’s really unsettling is the circular pie chart that takes up the bottom half of the screen. When you fire up the app, this circle is entirely filled with little green dots; but then, in a sickening, clockwise sweep, these dots begin to turn orange, until the proportion of your life that has already passed—gone, finished, irredeemably over—is represented in contrast to the only slightly larger proportion that remains. And, suddenly, you’re looking at your life in pie-chart form: a handy infographic of personal transience, an illustration of how close you’re getting to being dead. It’s the Quantified Self in its most reductive form.
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Via The New Yorker