Measurement Of A Lifetime

The departure/arrival board showed 6:13 pm as Lester Sims worked his way onto the plane to take his seat. He was headed home after a hot August week of training just outside Washington D.C. 

He had a window seat, his normal preference. That way he’d have something to view when he got tired of reading on his long flight to LA.

The plane was nearly full and the flight attendants were getting ready to close the doors. He thought he might get to spread out since the seat next to him was still unoccupied. But just as this thought materialized, so did the late passenger assigned to that seat.

“Sorry to spoil your chance to stretch out, mister,” he said. “I promise I won’t snore. Wiley’s the name. From Baltimore.”

“Well, take your seat, Wiley. With a name like that, you might prove interesting,” Lester replied.

“Thanks,” he said. “I just finished writing an app and I’m headed for some vaycay in sunny LA.”

“Oh? What kind of app would that be?” Lester queried.

“It’s an app that calculates in real time how long you have to live,” he proudly stated.

Lester, a bit skeptical, said, “there are already apps that do that, but I’m guessing you already knew that and went further. Is my assumption correct and what do you use for data?”

Wiley, anticipating this response replied, “Yes, let me explain. Current longevity apps just work mostly with weight, age, and height. This app works with smart watches that collect heart rate, sleep, and exercise data. That data is analyzed with the medical history of the user, provided from their records. It also regularly requires the user to collect data from smart health devices like scales, blood pressure cuffs and thermometers,” Wiley explained. “So it’s not entirely passive. It recalculates your life expectancy any time a health measurement value changes. It displays your remaining time in years, days, hours, and minutes, followed by the projected date you will expire. We think it won’t be long before we can gather all this data and even test blood without all these steps.”

“Well, I suppose most folks would want to know how long they have left,” Lester said with a tone of sudden interest. His mind, though, took a quick detour to the junk that used to be advertised in comic books, like a device that allowed you to see through walls or a hypnotic whirling coin. “How accurate is it? Can you show me?”

“Sure,” Wiley was quick to offer. “I have it running on my Apple Watch. Here, take a look but remember that we’re still testing it. It’s not on the market yet. Also, since we can’t gather and analyze every conceivable bit of useful data, it is not going to be perfect. This isn’t like “The Minority Report.” There will always be unpredictable things like accidents. We’re testing a warning system that sounds an alarm if a health measurement drastically lowers the life expectancy.”

Wiley displayed the app to Lester. “Ok, here’s my life expectancy. The year is 2032 and I’m 43. It says I’ll live to be 87. Date of death is estimated to be at 4:32 am, Sunday, September 20, 2076. I gained a couple hours since yesterday. That’s probably because of my three-mile run this morning.”

Still doubtful, Lester asked, “Well, how do you know it works? Has anyone using it actually died?”

Wiley smiled. “We knew we had to have some evidence that it works or it wouldn’t be any better than what’s out there now. You can‘t wait 44 years to see if it works so we’re testing it on some elderly people who don’t mind it predicting they have less than a year to live. I admit this will be a novelty until we get more results on expiration accuracy. Someday, doctors will rely on apps like this.”

Lester finished his cup of Pepsi. “I must admit this is intriguing but a bit hard to believe. Don’t you wonder if the woman’s death was attributed to anxiety over knowing she might soon die?”

Wiley agreed. “This is very cutting edge stuff. It’s not easy testing it in the short term.”

They talked some more about the app, but after their dinner of something announced as lasagna, they both nodded off.

An hour or so later, Wiley’s watch suddenly sounded a high-pitched alarm loud enough to be heard in the din of the flight. Lester woke up and tapped Wiley.

“Wiley, wake up! Your watch is going off.”

But Wiley remained motionless. A doctor on the flight confirmed that Wiley was dead. The watch alarm had stopped and when Lester looked at it, the date and time of Wiley’s death had changed to that exact moment.

“What? This is crazy!” Lester thought. “Poor guy. I suppose it’s easy to predict longevity when there’s no heartbeat.”

It was then that Lester saw the name of the app boldly displayed on Wiley’s watch – “Time To Go.”

“I wonder if it was the lasagna.”

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