In 2005, Steve Jobs told a class of graduating students at Stanford University, “for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: ‘If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?’"
The idea that we should live each day like it was our last isn’t new, of course, and is supposed to inspire us to, you know, go sky-diving, Rocky-Mountain climbing, and the like. But how would you live this day if it wasn’t your last, but rather the 19,718th-to-last? Or the 8,657th?
A new watch called Tikker claims to have created a way to calculate approximately when, according to its creators, a person is likely to die, and then to input that date into a wristwatch. The idea is that being constantly reminded of his or her own mortality will nudge the wearer to live life to the fullest.
“Tikker is a wrist watch that counts down your life from years to seconds, and motivates you to make the right choices,” the company, which is a Kickstarter-project-turned-real-thing, writes on its site. “Tikker will be there to remind you to make most of your life, and most importantly, to be happy.”
Happy, I tell you! Quick, you only have 57 years, 6 months, and 23 seconds left! Get happy, for Chrissake!
Tikker was created by Fredrik Colting, a 37-year-old Swede who previously gained notoriety by writing an unauthorized sequel to The Catcher in the Rye under the pseudonym John David California. J.D. Salinger sued Colting — his lawyers called the book a "rip-off pure and simple — and a judge blocked its publishing in the U.S.
If there’s one thing you can say about Colting’s newest venture, it’s that it’s definitely original. First, Tikker users fill out a questionnaire about their health habits, risk factors, and age. That information generates the time, down to the second, that the wearer has left until they leave this mortal coil.
Then, start the countdown! Just like on a
time bomb majestic rocket ship blasting off to heaven.
The watch has helped the “Tikker team” create a bucket list, which includes items like, “Perpetually lay on a beach,” “Quit my job and watch every movie I always wished I had watched.” And of course, “Tell the girl at the coffee place that I love her.”
Hey, Coffee Place Girl, would you like to spend the next 473,354 hours with me? We’ll be watching old movies on the beach. Also, it's looking more like 60 hours now because I can no longer buy food since I quit my job.
It’s not an entirely bizarre idea, though. We tend to value things that are scarce, and death is, after all, a scarcity of life. Thinking about death can make us appreciate life more, and it can also make us into better people. For example, when researchers told subjects to imagine dying in an apartment fire, and then asked them a series of questions, the participants showed less greed, more spirituality, and more gratitude.
But if you’ll bear with me for a just a few of your remaining 28.4 million moments, there are a few caveats. Insurance and retirement companies already use “death clocks” that aim to calculate longevity, but there’s evidence that their estimates vary widely, even for the same individual, and there’s a 50 percent chance you’d outlive your deadline. There’s of course also a chance that, like Narcissus, you will become so distracted by your Tikker’s elegant beauty (or actuarial precision) that you’ll get hit by a bus.
And an idea called terror management theory suggests that because we fear death, and death is inevitable, we use self-esteem and positivity to cope with the crushing reality of our finite existence. So when we’re primed to think about death, we actually hew more closely to our pre-existing beliefs and behaviors. One study exposed smokers to warning labels centered on death — and the smokers with high self-esteem only thought more favorably of smoking after seeing the warnings.
The first Tikkers will ship in April. And while you can’t put a price on the icy breath of your impending demise, one watch will set you back $59.