Death is the ultimate leveler. The day we all become the same thing and put aside our differences. The grave. We spend our whole life working to avoid it, in premise at least. We try to watch our weight, drinks sensibly and look both ways when we cross the road. Sometimes, we go YOLO! and go a little crazy, but generally we know that to live long we should be good.
So why are we so obsessed with death? In the last year I’ve seen a number of gadgets and apps arise that all focus around our personal expiration dates.
We told you about the Tikker Watch, a recent Kickstarter project which raised over $90,000 in donations to create a watch that counted down the estimated days to your death (they didn’t get full funding). Then there is Days Of Life, an iOS app launched October 2013 which is called “a counter for the days you have left to live.” After inputting your sex, age, and location it gives you a death date and then counts down to your expected end. If you don’t open the app it will even send you weekly updates, just to remind you.
I can continue. There’s the Day of Death app in the Android store that does the exact same thing. User reviews say, “This app is stupid Not true it was a waste of time to download. Only god knows the day, year and how u will die. Dumb!!!” (note: user left review after having downloaded it).
A quick search on Indiegogo finds a number of death related projects, like writing your own eulogy online. “Why not, they thought, create a website where you can upload your own eulogy, and be remembered the way you truly are?”, projects designed to address how people talk about the end of our lives and a look at the Android App store finds so many death apps, I can’t even give you a number.
RIP Death Date, December 2013
Death time calculator, September 2013
The Day of Your Death, September 2013
Death Clock, September 2013
Death Calculator, July 2013
Morbid Death, July 2013
Psychologist Art Janov, creator of Primal Healing Therapy writes that,
“Many of us come close to death at birth or before. The massive anesthesia given to a 130 pound mother is overwhelming for a 6 pound newborn. Later when we are capable of articulation we are still obsessed but now we give it a name and an idea. The death experience is ever present and does not go away because it is an imprint that cannot be erased. In infancy and childhood that imprint can move the child constantly in hyperactivity; then later in attention deficit problems, then still later a preoccupation with death. Enter religion. Its first task is to take care of death. It provides an ideology and a belief that diminishes the threat; it takes the place of the obsession. Now there is a new obsession—God. That idea suffocates the death fear for a time—until the next prayer. The belief has to be strong and persistent to keep the real fear at bay.”
We realize that’s not exactly helpful. But the current obsession with death isn’t a new thing. Technology might be pervasively helping those who fret over the end to allow it deeper into their lives, but fascination with mortality has ancient roots. The symbolism- the skull, the scythe, the end has been handed down from folklore and literature.
The creator of the Day of Life App says the reason for their app is to maximize the time left. “Many entrepreneurs have achieved success after recognizing that life is short and every minute counts. Use this app every day for motivation and to set short and long term goals,” they said on the app store.
The premise of making every second count is a valuable one, but there are many other ways to do that than by watching your time on earth slowly fall away. Perhaps some people need the shock of an "expiration" date to realize how finite time is, but others might find this distinctly morbid.