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August 12, 2009

question: lifespan

You partake in a medical experiment. In the experiment you are given one of two pills. You don't know which one until after you take it. One shortens your life by 10 years, and the other lengthens your life by 10 years. You have just found out which pill you took. The question is: which pill do you think will increase the quality of your life the most? Would one make you change the way you live your life more than the other?

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Comments (127)

It would be very noble to pretend that shortening my life by ten years would make me suddenly leap out of my seat and give the time I have left more meaning, visit more places, contact more old friends and relatives, etc, etc. But frankly finding out I got the shitty deal would be devastatingly rubbish and depressing.

Clearly, getting ten more years would improve the quality of my life the most - I'd be over the damn moon.

Posted by: Si Brindley at August 12, 2009 1:54 PM

The life shortening pill would definitely impact my life. We are already dying one day at a time, the prospect of knowing that I have less time would definitely help me prioritize the things I still want to do in life.

Taking the life extension pill would make me a procrastinator.

Posted by: Devin Glage at August 12, 2009 1:55 PM

Honestly, the way I live my life and the quality therein is not determined by how long I will be here or how much time I will have. If I had 10 days left I would still be able to reconcile that for everything I wouldn't accomplish, the sheer act of existence would be enough to provide contentment.

Reaching the end of life as we know it (death) has never been the point of life as I see it.

Posted by: ilmari at August 12, 2009 1:55 PM

I am twenty-five years old. I sincerely doubt that either would change my life in any significant way. I would most likely stop appreciating the effect until I were just about dead. Regardless of when that happens.

Posted by: Max at August 12, 2009 1:55 PM

I think the pill that lengthens your lifespan would increase the quality of my life the most, because I would know that I had at least 10 more years to live and could start long term projects. Also, I think that knowing that you had shortened your life would be depressing.

Posted by: Emily at August 12, 2009 1:56 PM

The one that shortens your life, of course. Realising that my life will be shortened is impetus enough for me to get off my arse and do things I save away.

Posted by: Alexia at August 12, 2009 1:57 PM

Carpe diem.

The pill that shortens my life by 10 years. There would be less in money savings and more in my pocket to burn, more butter, more wine, and less sleep.

Posted by: weez at August 12, 2009 1:57 PM

The thing is that you don't know what your original lifespan *is*. So this presumes that it is fixed and can be added to or taken away.

I say it doesn't change, because if my lifespan was to be 90, and now I'm going to live until 100, I'm not sure if that's a good thing. Or, if my lifepsan was to be 40, and now it's 50, that's a whole different issue, yes?

Maybe if we could know what the original number was, THEN it may change how I live. But without that, it's just a guessing game.

Posted by: K at August 12, 2009 1:57 PM

Knowing human nature, likely the pill that shortened my life would spur me to try to do more, and yet also accept that there's only so much I can accomplish. An extra ten would likely lead to more procrastination...

Posted by: Peter Cook at August 12, 2009 1:57 PM

Both pills will make you evaluate your life assuming you know what is your death date. You would begin organizing your "Bucket List" as soon as you know either way.

Just because you have ten years either way + or -, you really need a death date to know how much time you have left. If you are in the experiment, and if you took the pill that shortens, you can assume that the next day could be your last assuming you have been slated to die 10 years from the time of the experiment (10-10+0).

Cannot compute. I need more data like the a death date.

(From Ze: But Bruce! You took the pill already...)

Posted by: Bruce at August 12, 2009 1:58 PM

It's so hard to say. I could get hit by a truck tomorrow, so by taking the lifespan -10 pill i could die instantly.
We're talking about 20 years of ones life that one generally can't control much of anyway, y'know? It's something like a toss up anyway. You could eat healthy, work out regularly, not smoke and still have a stroke at 57 and be a veggie for 20 30 years. If I found out tomorrow that i had HIV, for example, I'm not sure what I would do, and at this point, as i'm 30 and can afford good meds, that's talking about only reducing my lifespan by 10-15 years supposedly. I'd still think my life was over. But that also has a lot of other stuff that goes with it. This medical experiment is tough. The 'extended' would probably change the way i live my life less because i'd assume I'd have time to do things, even though in theory it wouldn't be that much. It doesn't say that the quality of those last 10 years is going to be very good. Ultimately, the 'shorten' one would probably bother me more. I'd probably really get down on myself for participating in the test.

Posted by: Matt Mager at August 12, 2009 1:59 PM

the most obvious answer is that the one that shortens my life would more drastically change the way I live my life, for better or worse. As far as increasing your quality of life, that's a tougher question to answer. A lot of us would like to hope that we'd take our lives more seriously if we found out we had less of it, but I don't think that our lives are that hollywood-made. I'd have to say that an increase in my lifespan would give me more opportunities to improve my quality of living.

Posted by: David Cameo at August 12, 2009 2:00 PM

My first impulse is to say my life would be improved most by the one that shortens the span, the idea being that it's motivating to have a deadline (ha! deadline). But I would still be restricted by time - what would it take to improve my life? How much work/effort would it take? Do I even have the tools to do it?

Having more time might actually result in a higher quality of life because I still wouldn't know my expiration date. I might only have those ten years! And at least I would have those ten to really get down to the business of self-examination and improvement.

I think just contemplating one's mortality can be enough to stimulate change. And of course, being fully in touch with that generally comes with age and maturity or a life-altering experience like a serious illness or loss of a loved-one. One thing I know is that I'll be thinking about this question for a while.

Posted by: Jennifer at August 12, 2009 2:00 PM

Neither. I could be hit by a bus tomorrow.

Posted by: Claire at August 12, 2009 2:00 PM

I think if I received the pill that shaved 10 years off my life, I'd be more inclined to live life to the fullest everyday. Just writing this I realize how sad it is that I feel that I don't presently do so. My family, my children, my wife. They deserve all of me all the time. They deserve all of my attention, not just the attention I "spare" for them. Thanks for asking this one Ze.
At the same time, I think I'd be happy to have the other pill as well, tho not knowing when my life is supposed to end, I could drop dead 10 yrs later to the day I took the pill. :\ Either way, I need to reevaluate my attention.

Posted by: David Sobkowiak at August 12, 2009 2:00 PM

Depends what my lifespan was before the experiment.

If I was gonna live for 90 years, probably no change either way (just extended the amount of time I'd be wearing diapers and talking about the good-old-days)

But if I only had 11 years left, I think there might be some significant changes!

Posted by: Matt S at August 12, 2009 2:00 PM

I think the pill which shortens my life would cause me to become more aware of the here and now, intensifying the experience of the moment at hand - a definite improvement, but not one I would necessarily wish for. I hope I would take the time right away to write a note to all I would not get a chance to say goodbye to, and waste no time on the hate.

The pill which would lengthen my life by 10 years would cause me to procrastinate more. I might enjoy the time in a more lazy way, but I still tend toward enjoying my time vs. making it 'work'

That's just how I roll...

Posted by: tommy at August 12, 2009 2:00 PM

Being a typical procrastinator, I've seen the past year of my life just fly by -- without much effort to try or experience something new. I've grown extremely comfortable with my "stagnant" life, even staying in a job where I'm not learning much and really don't enjoy.

If I was told that I had 10 fewer years to live, perhaps it would get me out of this "rut" I'm in. I'd feel pressured to travel, see everything that I've ever wanted to see, spend time with loved ones, and (I know it sounds cliché) really "live life." So maybe 10 fewer years would increase the quality of my life (although, no one ever wishes for less time).

Posted by: Am at August 12, 2009 2:00 PM

The ten years less pill would increase the quality of life and most change it. Primarily because you know that it's ten years less but you still don't know when the end will be, just that it's ten years sooner, thus increasing the likely-hood that it'll be "any day now".

It leaves you no time to procrastinate.

Posted by: masukomi at August 12, 2009 2:01 PM

Isn't there a control group with a placebo?

Posted by: Karl at August 12, 2009 2:01 PM

Neither. I could be hit by a bus tomorrow. Plus, there are things that shorten the lifespan (smoking, alcohol, etc) and I partake in these for enjoyment--so the question is moot for any person who has taken part of a high risk activity.

Therefore, I risk days of my life for the now. Pill or no pill Im going to die eventually. Whether it be 90 and hanging on for every breath or 65 and a sudden heart attack. Or 31 and hit by a bus.

Ask me again in a few years when I have children and see if that changes the answer...I'd be interested in seeing ;)

Posted by: Claire at August 12, 2009 2:03 PM

I'd say it's irrelevant, - as we don't know when we will die anyway.

I have no idea if I'll live to 40 or live to 105.

Why would 10 years sooner or later make a difference?

Posted by: James at August 12, 2009 2:03 PM

Sadly, I think the one that shortens life by 10 years would most improve my quality of life. I could stop worrying about savings, healthcare, retirement and take more risks, treasure limited moments more, take up smoking again (which I miss terribly, c'mon!) and in general live for the moment rather than an uncertain future.

Posted by: Corrine at August 12, 2009 2:03 PM

I think the pill that shortens your life would increase the quality. I'm a firm believer in the general idea of an inverse relationship between length and quality of life. That being said, I think you would have to know what the end date was, rather than an arbitrary +/- 10 years. If I just lost 10 years of my life but I didn't know what I had started with I'm not sure it would have much impact. Same for the life lengthening pill.

Carpe diem looses meaning for the immortal.

Posted by: Michael Krauklis at August 12, 2009 2:03 PM

Is it not all a bit moot if you don't know what the starting point is? If you're 19 and you were going to live until you're 75 but now it's 65 I imagine you're so devastatingly arrogant to still believe you're immortal and will never actually die? despite still having another 50 to go at!

Posted by: Mark at August 12, 2009 2:03 PM

I have a fairly high chance of having inherited various autoimmune disorders - ones that are unlikely to kill me immediately, but will probably make the last few decades of my life quite uncomfortable.
If I got the lifespan-enhancing pill, I would wonder if it merely adds ten years to how my life is going to go (that is, if I just get another ten years of misery at the end), or if it's added incrementally throughout my whole lifespan, prolonging my functional time a bit.
And really, the same for the lifespan-reducing pill - what parts of my life does it chop off? If it's just the last ten years, I'll be pleased, but if it takes away from my good years, too, then... I'll be a little depressed, honestly.

I try to live like life is short, anyway, because if I did inherit some of these things (and it would be pretty difficult to tell right now), I'll probably have about fifteen to twenty years (from this date) to accomplish whatever it is I want to do.

Posted by: Ety at August 12, 2009 2:04 PM

The lifespan shortening pill would change the way I lived my life the most.

Like most people I suffer somewhat from the illusion that I have an infinite amount of life ahead of me. I try to regularly remind myself that this is not the case and, when I do, that's when I'm most likely to to do something worthwhile and life-affirming. The lifespan shortening pill would be a major dose of reality that I'm sure would have the same effect.

The lifespan lengthening pill would undoubtably have the opposite effect, that of allowing me to sink back all the deeper into my laurels.

Posted by: RogueWolf at August 12, 2009 2:04 PM

for me, just knowing that i may have limited time will be the impetus to increase the quality of my life. it's the luxury of the belief of immortality that causes most of us to take advantage of our time, not living in gratitude but living in the attitude of "when is life going to give me what i want."

carlos casteneda once spoke and said something like living with the thought of death on your shoulder heightens your awareness and increases your gratitude.

we are all responsible for the quality of our own lives. it's the choice we make. what's that country western song? "life like you were dying". i think that's a good thing to take on. we value what we have less of...

Posted by: Sara Cooper at August 12, 2009 2:05 PM

If I took the life-shortening pill I would definitely change how I do things, perhaps change my career goals entirely, reach out to those in life who need it most, be less concerned about saving for retirement and living for the time I have.

Of course, none of us know how long we're going to live, we can look at the statistics and have some idea, but all it takes is a poor lane-change maneuver and it could come to a screeching end. So maybe what's really more important right now is living life to its fullest, if you're not happy, figure out why you're not happy and try to find a way to fix that. Once you've dealt with your own personal happiness (or concurrently) try to make the world a better place for others, after all, we live in one world, we all have one life and the betterment of your neighbor's life is just something we humans should do.

Posted by: Paul at August 12, 2009 2:06 PM

The pill that would shorten my life by 10 years would make me change my life the most, to squeeze the most I could out of the time remaining to me.

I have already been through something like this - when I was diagnosed with MS a dozen years ago. I have a mild case, and there has been little effect on my ability to work or play. Still, I found that the diagnosis resulted in me paying more attention to the positives in my life, and less attention to the negatives, though that effect has waned somewhat with time.

Posted by: Anita at August 12, 2009 2:06 PM

That question was very thought provoking and from a personal point of view the whole concept of taking the two pills is almost like a placebo, even though it shortens or lengthens your life span it changes your psychological outlook on life.

For me personally; taking the pill that shortens my life would put me under quite a bit of stress compared to the other. It would probably decrease your QOL (quality of life) as you will get yourself into a mind set of living day by day. This is mentally unhealthy. The other pill which lengthens your life span for me is the better option. It gives you a more positive outlook which allows the person to use a futuristic style of thinking so in turn more can be accomplished. This will certainly increase that persons QOL.

Some people may disagree with me but as I said previously it is my personal opinion.

But at the end of the day you never said how long you were originally going to live.

Posted by: Paul M at August 12, 2009 2:07 PM

The +10 years would increase my quality of life more. Why? Because I'd know for a fact that I have at *least* 10 more years to live. There isn't a single person on earth that has that luxury right now.

The -10 year pill would drastically decrease my quality of life because I'd never stop kicking myself for gambling away 10 years of the most precious gift ever.

Posted by: MC Fisticuffs at August 12, 2009 2:08 PM

For me it would really depend on when I'm going to die... If sans-pill I'm living until I'm 70, an extra 10 years would probably not really be worth a whole lot.

On the other side, being done at 60 seems too young. I think that I would at least try to live better and really get things done.. but in reality would probably not change a damn thing and just end up with regrets and depression as I realized I had lived the way I wanted, not the way I thought I should.

In short I'd hope to have the +10 year pill, just not to miss the time that I might otherwise have had. If that makes any sense at all.

Posted by: Jarod at August 12, 2009 2:08 PM

Logically, I think the answer is unable to be determined because it is relative to an unknown factor: you do not know how long your life is going to be to begin with, so + or - 10 years is still sort of unknown.

Now if one pill made you die in 10 days (weeks/months) - which would be a known factor - and one would just not, then that might change things.

In reality, if I knew for a fact I only had X number of days left on earth, I would not spend it working... rather I would spend it documenting things for my daughter, spending time with her (and other family and friends), and traveling.

Posted by: steph at August 12, 2009 2:09 PM

I think I'd probably continue to live life the same way - like it is temporary and I'd better do what I really believe in and want - because I could always still get killed by a bus or something.

Disregarding that factor, I think I'd have to say that having a shorter life would definitely increase my quality of life. I know I'd work even harder to accomplish what is important to me. I guess because I use the concept of dying early to motivate myself to pursue my dreams.

So in that sense, being certain that my life would be longer would probably change the way I live the most. I might actually relax and not worry about dying before I get to everything I want to do. It would be nice not to feel hounded by mortality so persistently.

Posted by: Phoebe Southwood at August 12, 2009 2:09 PM

Having ten more years would be awesome (at least you know you get to live for 20 more years (you need a base of ten or the shortener couldnt actually shorten your life ten years (less and you would die immediately. this is a technicality but even living for 10 more years is awesome). This would be relaxing.

The other pill would cause huge anxiety bc I would think about dying at any moment and that i fucked up my life by taking some jerk pill.

Posted by: michael at August 12, 2009 2:09 PM

Hmmm. An extra 10 years for me, please.

I wouldn't have known when I was going to die before I took the pill, right? So if I only had 10 years to live before, I'm screwed now. Maybe some people would be motivated by a shorter lifespan, but I'd just want to throw up.

But if I knew that I definitely had at least ten years, I could do some cool stuff with that decade and the rest would be a bonus.

Also, this is why one shouldn't take candy from strangers. Listen and learn, kids.


Posted by: Lisa Baldwin at August 12, 2009 2:10 PM

lengthen. despite what some women say it matters.

really, i think i can get a lot done in an extra ten years and i'm already pushing myself so i'd be happy to know i'd have 10 more years for idiotic projects.

that, and i want to outlive all my enemies so i can piss on their graves.

Posted by: Tom A at August 12, 2009 2:11 PM

My mother was recently diagnosed, at the age of 69, with advanced lung cancer - so she has pretty effectively been given the -10 pill. Since this has happened, our relationship (previously pretty damn awful) has improved tremendously - both of us shelved all the petty shit we used to hold grudges over, and have gotten on with getting to know each other properly and as adults.

I know that on some level my mother is *relieved* to have been handed this death sentence, because she has watched multiple people in our family die of Alzheimer's, and she would gladly trade a decade of life for the ability to still think and be herself when she dies.

Quality of life isn't linked to lifespan at all - in this case, for my mother, shorter = better. It's hard to say I'm glad of my mother's cancer, but in a way I am because we were both so miserable to each other before. She feels the same way and has said so. I have a lot of things I'd like to do while I'm still alive, but my expected length of life isn't going to meaningfully affect the way I live on a day to day basis - beyond the fact that an announcement of my mother's impending death has served as a valuable wake-up call.

Posted by: Alice at August 12, 2009 2:11 PM

I don't really think that either would effect my daily life. Life span is so very variable. this is something that I have never kidded myself about. It is very easy to die "early"... so shortening/lengthening via said pill won't change my perspective very much because life is so delicate in the first place.

Posted by: James Re at August 12, 2009 2:12 PM

You know when you pay X much for an item with mail in rebate, then spend the rebate carelessly?
I'd like to think that's what i'd do if i had those extra 10 years.
Just knowing i lost 10 years would be too depressing to take advantage of, it may take me another 10 years to get over it!

Posted by: Chuck at August 12, 2009 2:13 PM

In my case - I don't think either would change the way I'm living my life right now. I contemplated my mortality early and I revisit often. At first it led me to passionately pursue a career in the arts, despite the many obstacles I encountered, poor odds and my personal imperfections. I made many mistakes and was left disillusioned and depressed, emotionally and financially.
Having put that aside, the question I ask myself now is - what really matters *right now*? Fame? Glory? Pleasure? What I seem to be discovering is that what matters, to me at least, is trying to become someone who is self-sufficient in as many ways as possible - something that has been lacking for most of my life - so that I can both manage my life and hopefully empower and assist others. If I die tomorrow, I can't say that I have no regrets, nothing more to do. But I believe I'm doing the right thing for right now - which is all you can do.

Posted by: Marianne at August 12, 2009 2:14 PM

Increasing lifespan would improve the quality of my life most. This is certainly true if we assume the pill works by essentially slowing aging, so each year that passes takes a slightly smaller toll on me. However, I think it's still true if it works by allowing me to survive 10 extra years of decrepit old age. I want to see the future, even if I'm old.

I don't think either pill would alter how I live my life much, though. Since I don't know how long I would live w/o the pill, knowing my expiration date is x+10 vs x-10 doesn't seem very consequential.

Posted by: Gene Roseberry at August 12, 2009 2:16 PM

i think if i knew i had 10 more years i would probably not value the extra time as much, and i probably wouldn't try to be as healthy, ect. If i lost 10 years, i would have to use the time i had left wisely.

Posted by: Chris at August 12, 2009 2:22 PM

The problem is you still don't know how much time you have left. Maybe you'll still end up being a 100 years old even if you just lost 10. As long as you don't know you're going to die next week/month/year the quality of life won't improve or at least not for long.

You always have the feeling there's plenty of time left. If you'd know an exact date you could basically start planning to try and do everything you ever wanted to do in that timespan.

Posted by: n3wjack at August 12, 2009 2:24 PM

I think the pill that would reduce my life span would make me appreciate life a lot more. Therefore I would probably enjoy it more and so have a better quality of life. As to one making me change the way I live, I think they would both do the same: Life shortening pill = life it up cause you dont have much longer. Life lengening pill = live it up cause you've just been granted 10 more years of fun.

Posted by: Lee Leplaw Deichmann at August 12, 2009 2:24 PM

a couple of assumptions.

the fact that the pill can decrease the time i am alive by 10 years makes me assume that it can't go negative (meaning I'm 30, was to die at 35 and take the decrease, dying instantly is not possible) and there must exist those 10 years between now and the time of my original projected death (projD).

So, the difference is between projD-10 and projD+10.. but again, we can't know projD ever, right? So proj-10 is at a minimum right now.

So; if i have taken the proj+10 pill, I have essentially at least 20 years of life, at least, left. Given my current age (30) I kind of assume that, barring accident which these pills do no influence, I would have that anyway. Taking that pill would likely not impact on the way I live my life then, because once those 20 are over, I'm back to no idea when my new projected death is... could be anytime after that.

For the -10 pill I'm death's door from now on. Though, before the pill, I was for all i knew anyway and lived my life just fine.. I imagine I would probably enjoy my time much more (at least after the initial week if i made it) and settle into a more contented living for today life.

Without the worry of saving money for when I'm older i probably enjoy the first few years of that life more than i would have otherwise.

..of course, i could have projD=100 and 90 would leave me shit outta luck.

Posted by: drpowl at August 12, 2009 2:28 PM

I'd prefer the pill that adds 10 years. I doubt I'd be able to do a hell of a lot more 10 years less because, honestly, I don't have the money. Judging by these college loans, I wont for some time. So, I'd like to extend my life given the opportunity to do so, so that at the end- I might enjoy it more thoroughly.

Posted by: Scott Holford at August 12, 2009 2:32 PM

I'd think just participating in the experiment would make you appreciate life more. That time spend before knowing, debating how either outcome will change your life. Of course, what does it say about your appreciation of life to participate in such an experiment in the first place?

Posted by: Georg at August 12, 2009 2:34 PM

Depends on the individual.

I probably wouldn't change anything that I'm doing. It's like learning you have cancer or something.

Some people are motivated to do something, "meaningful' with their life. Meet some grand goal.

But I tend to think that life is meaningless at the core. This earth will continue to spin on its axis whether we (humans) are here or not...collectively and/or individually (barring some unknown cosmic event.

I don't care how long I live...I just live the best I can.

Posted by: miss malevolent at August 12, 2009 2:36 PM

First I would think "Why, oh why didn't I take the blue pill?"

A little more seriously though, since I don't know which day I would originally die, there isn't much reason to do anything differently. Without the pills, I could die tomorrow or live to be 100+. If I took the life-shortening pill, I could still die tomorrow, so I should still live my life as if every day were my last. If I took the life-lengthening pill, I would at least know that I have a good ten years to live, but since I am relatively young, I plan on living at least another 10 years anyway.

I think the mantra "learn from the past, live in the present, plan for the future" would apply in any case, pill or no pill.

Posted by: hed at August 12, 2009 2:38 PM

I think the only pill that could change the way I live is a pill that makes me immortal. +/- 10 years doesn't seem like a big difference given that life is already finite.

Posted by: Jocke at August 12, 2009 2:44 PM

Life is valuable; more life is more valuable than less life. Therefore, the lengthening pill.

To all those who say that they shortening one would make them value life more: I call BS. If you're sitting on your butt now and not taking advantage of the life you have, having ten years less wouldn't change your mind. With hyperbolic discounting and assuming you're already valuing present time so little that you're wasting it, the chance is tiny that anything other than giving you a defined deathdate within the next week would motivate you.

To those who said it matters whether you were originally going to die at 40 or at 90 - why? how is living to 50 better than living to 30, but living to 100 isn't better than living to 80? And at what point in there does living longer change from a positive to a negative? It's easy to repeat the cached thoughts, but can you actually explain the reasoning behind them?

It's not a trick question. If a 95-year-old is threatened by death from old age, it would be good to drag them from those train tracks, if possible.

Posted by: Eric at August 12, 2009 2:48 PM

The one that shortened my life would make me live healthier, trying to sxtend the 10 years I've lost. The one that lengthened my life would probably not change much. I mean, say I was going to originally get hit by a car tomorrow - now I'll get hit by a car in ten years. I'm still dying way too young. Unless the experiment doesn't work to that extent. Maybe it just makes my body live that much longer - unless I get hit by a car or something. In which case, an extra ten years doesn't mean much if you get in an accident.

So, maybe if I took the ten years longer one I'd live life a little more carefully, knowing that as long as I don't get in a stupid accident I could have ten more years.

The ten years shorter one would make me live that much harder and that much healthier to both make up for the time I'm losing and help my body live that much longer.

Ultimately, though, it might not change much. I mean, we all know we're going to die and none of us knows when. It's a possibility that any of us will die tomorrow and we know that, so we're all living life the way we would if death were right around the corner, or 50 years away.

I think this would most change the lives of people who are facing death as a more pressing matter. If someone had cancer and took the ten years longer pill they would have a dramatic change in life. If they took the ten years shorter pill the possibility that they will die tomorrow would be much higher.

So, yeah. I meant this to be a short response, turned out to be more complicated than I thought!

Posted by: kate at August 12, 2009 2:48 PM

I don't think it would make any difference. I assume my lifespan will be pretty high, I'm really counting on living until at least 80. Ten years less and I'm dying at 70. I might put aside less for retirement, so I might have a little more disposable income, that's about it. Ten years at the end of a long life is just too far in the future to really affect my present behavior.

Posted by: Gus Snarp at August 12, 2009 2:51 PM

I'd also add... if you chose the pill that shortens life, do you smoke? Do you eat healthy? If the answer to the first is no or the answer to the second is yes, then you've got some splainin' to do.

Posted by: Eric at August 12, 2009 2:51 PM

I don't want to have to worry about all the things I need to get done before my new time is up. That would defeat the whole purpose of QUALITY. I don't want to run around trying to get all the things done on my bucket list without being able to enjoy them. That being said, I think the lengthening of time would give me a perspective on life and how easily it could be taken away (i.e- the simple notion of taking the wrong pill).

Posted by: kevi at August 12, 2009 3:04 PM

No matter how you put it, truth is we're talking about a 20 year differential here, not 10.

If my life span is fixed at 80 (lets just suppose it), then one deal would stop me at 70; the other would get me through to 90. Assuming that you'd end up in one of these two scenarios, we're really talking about a 20-year difference in the end.

And if we're dealing with reality, then the increase pill (IP) would somehow have a beneficial enough effect on my health to make me outlast my normal life span, which would in turn mean the quality of my life would improve accordingly. Don't exactly know how (it's just a philosophical exercise), but if I'm going to last 10 extra years, I have to be healthy enough to do that. So, the IP pill would improve my health in some way.

By the same measure, the DP pill (decrease pill, of course, don't know what you were thinking of...) will have some kind of malicious effect that will shorten my life span. (DP could also stand for Danger Pill in this exercise).

I don't know if there's a right answer for this. It's your show. But my present state of mind regarding this issue leads me to believe that it's better to be IP'ed that DP'ed.

Posted by: André Toscano at August 12, 2009 3:08 PM

I'd like to think that the pill that shortens your life span would make you more appreciative and give you the motivation to "live life to the fullest," but I have the sneaking suspicion it would make me depressed, bitter, and probably angry at myself.

Honestly, whatever the reaction, it would probably be temporary. People tend to adjust to whatever their circumstances and re-center or go back to normal. I'm not sure what it takes to get someone to really make a change.

Posted by: typo180 at August 12, 2009 3:15 PM

The life shortening pill will increase my quality in life. And believe me, i am having fun now. It's only that if you now that you have -less- time, you will do what's called 'relativeren' in dutch. Also you will make sure you enjoy what you actually like, more. So fucking simple. And still so fucking shameful if you think of it.

I'm available for q&a if you need additional info on my view.

Posted by: deesje at August 12, 2009 3:32 PM

No I don't think that it would change much. For either pill it would still be very questionable as to when I would die. If I got the one where I would live for ten more years then that would only guarantee that I would live for another ten years after taking the pill and then I could die the day after the ten years is up. If I took the other though I wouldn't know when I was going to die in the first place so it would come at any point after taking the pill. Now I don't think that this would change anything about the way I live. I'm only twenty so I still feel like I have a long life ahead of me. If I were say 75 my answer would change drastically.

Posted by: Taylor at August 12, 2009 3:34 PM

well as i was formulating my earth shattering answer to this- I came across hed's answer- and will now- show no shame by taking this answer to be mine as well- makes sense to me...that just because you take the life extender pill- something could actually happen to you- to cut ya down- before the added time is used............

Posted by: karen todd at August 12, 2009 3:38 PM

Neither as I don't know when I will die. Even with my last breath I won't know if I'm 10 years early or late.

Fun question though.

Posted by: Rick's Cafe at August 12, 2009 3:39 PM

I'd like to think that regardless of the pill chosen, I'd still take pleasure in all the little details.

None of us know when our time is up, so why worry about our own expiry dates? Our main concern should be on living well, taking pleasure in being alive and treasuring our loved ones and the time that we are here.

Posted by: luisa at August 12, 2009 3:46 PM

everyone says less life is better..??!! the quality of it would some how be intrinsically better? I don't understand that. you still wouldn't know how much time you had, just that it was less. I don't think anyone really appreciates how much time they have in their lives until its near the end.

I'm not sure how much it would change for me. I would probably end up doing more with more time.. I'd have more time do everything and anything. I don't sit idle, not really. I've seen and done amazing things in my life already. I've seen how easy it is to accomplish what it seen as monumental tasks. My life will never be ordinary.

Posted by: mike at August 12, 2009 3:47 PM

I'd like to think that regardless of the pill chosen, I'd still take pleasure in all the little details.

None of us know when our time is up, so why worry about our own expiry dates? Our main concern should be on living well, taking pleasure in being alive and treasuring our loved ones and the time that we are here.

Posted by: Luisa at August 12, 2009 3:49 PM

Clearly, losing ten more years would improve the quality of life the most!

After being diagnosed with cancer at 22, I changed. All the little annoyances of life faded away. I push myself extra hard when it comes to work. I left my safe position on the walls at social events and would interact more with people. I love the confident person I have become as a result.
I currently only curse the big 'C' when it comes to medical bills.

Posted by: Anonymous Lucy at August 12, 2009 3:51 PM

life shortening pill: i *love* the thought that this would make me live life fully. that it would make me cherish life. i am not certain that this is true though, since i seem to have a remarkable talent for wasting precious time.

life lengthening pill: not sure i want to live longer. but those who are older than i tell me i don't know what i am talking about.

of course because i think the way i do, i'm actually thinking, "i would never participate in something like this." and "are there any other groovy side effects?"

Posted by: ingrid at August 12, 2009 3:53 PM

If I partook in such an experiment, I must already be suicidal, because there's a non-trivial chance that just taking the pill would kill me instantly. So I think my quality of life is already pretty much shot. :)

Posted by: Ben at August 12, 2009 4:05 PM

It would matter to me, too, to know how old I would be at my original date of death. Still, I can't help but think that the life-shortening pill would help me more, in the lighting-a-fire-under-one's-ass kind of way.

Then I think of my fiance, and well, things get sticky.

What happened to thinking so I didn't have to, Ze?!

Posted by: Claire at August 12, 2009 4:15 PM

I think both pills would have a significant impact on my life. The lengthening one would probably cause me to procrastinate things a lot more than I do already. Since I don't knwo when I was going to die in the first place, thus even though there are no guarantees I'll live past 10 years + 1 day from the day I find out about this. My career and personal goals would be delayed and I'd probably be more lazy. On the other hand, the shortening pill could mean I'll die at 70 instead of 80, or it may mean I'll die tomorrow (instead of in ten years from now)... but the simple fear of an early exit, would probably motivate me to live like its 1999 ...err..I mean... like my last day here.

In the end I think both pills would change my life...just in opposite ways. Its an interesting irony though, because the shortening one would increase the quality of my life, (AFTER the fact of finding out), but if I had the choice, I wouldn't take the pill. Yet with the lengthening pill, I would most definiately WANT to take it if I had the choice, but after the fact it would probably decrease the quality of my life....
..ugh..you ask all the difficult questions.

Posted by: Szymon at August 12, 2009 4:16 PM

I think my answer to this would be different at different ages in my life. When I was very young and felt the time before me was unlimited, I don't think the the idea that I had 10 years more or less would have made much of an impact on me. I thought I would live forever and lived my life fairly unconsciously. As I got older -- like in my 40s -- I think I would have freaked out if I had 10 years less to live, and I'd start to reorganize my life to make sure I was doing what I really wanted to do and being with the people who were most important to me. Heh, in fact, I did that in middle age! Not because I took some pill, but because I got to the point in my life when I realized we ALL die sooner than we'd like to -- there is never enough time -- even if we live to be very, very old. So now that I'm an old bat -- 58 -- I pretty much live every day fully and joyfully. I am doing work that I love to do and spend time with people that I love to spend time with, and am working and playing and loving and learning to my fullest capacity. It doesn't matter how much time I have left on this world. Every day is precious and wonderful and I am fully engaged. The pill is irrelevant to me.

Posted by: efemmeral at August 12, 2009 4:26 PM

No, wait. Don't tell me which pill I took. I just did something with my life and I want to savor the moment.

Posted by: tsaot at August 12, 2009 4:34 PM

I think that neither would really change my life because as is, people tend to mostly die in a 20 year range anyways. 60-80. also since you are still wouldnt really know what date you were going to die on in the first place, taking 10 years off of that isnt such a big deal.

I also dont think that a person can prepare to die for that long (assuming that it will be 35 years before i get to that range at least) and quite frankly, knowing when you are going to die either way shorter or longer will make you have some sort of mental problem. I guess if one pill would make you die 1 year from today, and the other 21 years in the future, the pill that would kill you in 1 year would make you try new things and "better your life" although you would probably go crazy with knowing when you are supposed to die.

Posted by: erin at August 12, 2009 4:46 PM

hmmmm...this is an interesting one.
initially i believe, in the -10 case i would try to make the most of it by being very bold and daring about my choices. Whereas in the +10 case, i would take a step back each time and think more carefully, since i would have all this extra time to play around with.
But i think both resolutions are applicable to each pill, with the only difference that in the -10 case, i wouldn't have the extra time. Eventually, i would get accustomed to this new given as a normality.
What would have changed in the process, would be my actions up to that point, which would eventually influence my further development, and thus quality of life / fulfillment. I think ultimately it's a choice of seeing the glass 1/2 full or 1/2 empty, after the initial experience of the which-pill-revelation, which clearly depends upon one's previous state of mind in that regard. whether the glass will be switched again, is an entirely different matter

Posted by: anna at August 12, 2009 4:56 PM

On a long enough time line everyone's survival rate drops to zero. The thing is, weather your life is shortened or lengthened, you'll never know.

I'm lucky enough to have realized now, before I'm too far into my life (I'm only 20), how important it is to balance your life with work and play as to attempt to enjoy life with rewards not only intrinsic and extrinsic but in the long haul and in regards to instant gratification.

I can't help but feeling as though if we lived every day like it were our last it couldn't lead to a fulfilling life in comparison to someone who plans for the future and enjoys a few immediate happiness-es.

But that's just my opinion ;)

Posted by: Emily at August 12, 2009 5:14 PM

I'd like a pill to see how much I've shortened it already by being unhealthy. Going back to the question, I would be depressed if I had inadvertently shortened my life 10 years by taking just one pill when I could have reached the same conclusion having a lot of fun. To be honest I don't think i'd change a thing either way.

Posted by: lucyj at August 12, 2009 5:46 PM

The moment they put the pill in your hand and you’re there staring at it would enhance anyone’s consciousness. Always a good thing.

To me, -10 would be the mover-and-shaker. Inevitably for the better. No bitterness, no depression. Doubtlessly, some occasional mind-numbing panic, but the kind that would wake me up, see things more clearly and reflect. Am I too focused on my destination and not my journey? Am I appreciating every moment? I could end up “saving” ten years of my life just by eliminating the routines that serve no purpose to me or the people I love.

Knowing me, it wouldn’t necessarily make me shake off my vices, but it would definitely make me focus on the incredible beauty of the present, even the little things (which is what I interpret as “quality of life”). It would give me a kick in the behind to get out there and experience things ~now~ instead of planning on doing them on “Someday, 20__”, which is my habit. Knowing I had ten more years would only make me procrastinate even more and be less likely to do things at all.

Imagine experiencing both pill scenarios, -10 and +10, and then going away for a weekend convention with a group of people who took the same pill as you did. I think they’d be completely different, and I’d much rather be there listening to the -10 crowd’s stories.

If I knew I were destined to end up -10 and I had the option, I’d happily request ten annual -1 pills instead. Seriously. It would periodically remind me to appreciate life. It’s so easy to slip back into the daily routine.

Just imagine a 10th anniversary convention of a -1 per year crowd. The stories they’d have to share would be freaking amazing!

Posted by: Paperotta at August 12, 2009 6:07 PM

I think your question generates both an "expected answer" and a "realistic answer". I share the same opinion as Si (nothing relating to us having similarly fantastic first names).

Posted by: Cy K at August 12, 2009 6:35 PM

Allow me to paraphrase Si Brindley (who was the first to post a comment here):

It would be very noble to pretend that [getting ten more years] would make me suddenly leap out of my seat and give the time I have left more meaning, visit more places, contact more old friends and relatives, etc, etc. But frankly finding out I got the shitty deal would be devastatingly rubbish and depressing.

Clearly, [shortening my life by ten years] would improve the quality of my life the most - I'd be over the damn moon.

Posted by: Caesar Grubel at August 12, 2009 6:53 PM

It all depends on you

(From Ze: I know. and I'm asking YOU)

Posted by: Lux at August 12, 2009 7:03 PM

increase quality = 10 more years
change the way live = 10 fewer years

since i may have exactly 10 years and one day to go as it is, reducing life by 10 years would require me to make drastic changes.

increasing life by 10 years would make me know that i've got at least 10 years to go, and wouldn't worry much at all for at least that long.

Posted by: phoebepeck at August 12, 2009 7:03 PM

The life-changing bit is taking the pill in the first place. When confronted with this choice, the rational move is to refuse to participate, because there is no net advantage. The act of taking the pill is an undertaking to change the course of one's life, by altering its length by ten years. This is a high-stakes leap into the unknown, the act of a risk-taker, someone who seeks challenge and change.

After this, which pill you've taken is almost irrelevant. Each will change the course of your life profoundly, and there's no backing out.

Posted by: woulfe at August 12, 2009 7:04 PM

If I don't know what my lifespan was going to be, ten year plus or minus that number doesn't help or (likely) motivate me unless I know what my lifespan was before the pill.

If I'm 30 and was going to live to 80, 10 years plus or minus would be unlikely to make me change.

If I'm 30 and was going to live to 40, 10 years plus is a gift. 10 years less is a bit of a problem.

Posted by: Darrin at August 12, 2009 7:15 PM

Any moment when we come to face our own mortality gives us greater motivation to increase the quality of our life...how long that motivation lasts is up to individual temperament.

No pill would increase the quality of one's life either way. The most accessible example might be regarding those that smoke cigarettes. The irony of your example is that:

"Fifty years after British researchers published the first study firmly linking cigarette smoking to lung cancer, the same scientist following the same group of British doctors has reported the most detailed and long-term results ever of the health effects of smoking. His stark conclusion: A life of cigarette smoking will be, on average, 10 years shorter than a life without it."

Washington Post - June 23, 2004

Current smokers know that they decrease their lifespan because of their habit. My hypothesis is that the correlation between smoking and motivation to increase one's quality of life does not exist - the science has yet to be done.

Posted by: Mike at August 12, 2009 7:15 PM

The thought of a life shortening pill is reprehensible. A life extending pill would only matter if those ten years would be healthy ones. IMHO.

People should be living the best quality of life they can for life's sake. I'm firm beleiver in quality over quantity.

I volunteer at a Hospice. We help give people good quality to the end. In talking with patients. They usually don't regret what they have done. They regret what they didn't do. Life is pretty much what me make it for ourselves.

Posted by: Thom at August 12, 2009 7:21 PM

Women in my family tend to live into their 90s -- but they also tend to lose their marbles about 10 years before they go. So I think the pill lopping 10 years off would improve my quality of life, assuming those were the 10 years I'd lose, because I wouldn't have to worry about whether I was saving enough money for expensive end-of-life nursing care for dementia.

Posted by: FF at August 12, 2009 7:31 PM

Since I don't know how long I'll live anyway, I don't feel affected by this question much. It's an unknown number plus or minus 10, so ... what? Also it's too metaphysical a question. Assuming a pill could increase or decrease your potential longevity, you can still be hit by a bus 20 minutes from now. The converse is that we are blind to this. So many of us fall into a rut and stop noticing all the wonders around us.

Posted by: nerkles at August 12, 2009 7:41 PM

My initial reaction to the question is that the life shortening pill would naturally cause the biggest change in my lifestyle. But as I thought about it (and skimmed through the comments already posted), I realized that if I were really being honest, my answer would actually be that the life shortening pill would change my life more for about a month. With the way that I am, the immediacy would wear off, and I'd fall back into the comfortable rhythms of my life. I feel this is especially true since I still don't know when I'm going to die, it's just happening 10 years sooner than it would have. So ultimately, for me, I feel neither pill would really impact the way that I live.

Posted by: Jason at August 12, 2009 8:26 PM

If got the life-shortening pill I'd likely get more done due to the pressure of a deadline; and if I got the lengthening pill I'd probably dawdle and daydream more. The former gives a sense of accomplishment, the latter makes me happy in the present moments. The irony is it's not as much fun to dawdle if I don't have something to do later.

Growing old is difficult, tends to be nearly impossible, so the shortening pill would take some pressure off the worry about a lengthy deterioration; and the lengthing pill would force me to invest in eldercare insurance, eat right, avoid alcohol, sugar... uh oh, I should do that anyway.

Short lifespan forces fun.
Long lifespan forces responsibility.

Each would improve the quality of my life in different ways, but I expect to live a long life so the shortening pill would make me change my life more - I'd probably start traveling to see the world within a week of taking the darn thing. Long life: there's always tomorrow.

Posted by: jeano at August 12, 2009 8:28 PM

Increase in quality and a change in the way I live: ten years shorter, for sure.

I'm already a little worried about what the last years of my life will be, with no right-to-die in the United States. Shaving those last 10 years off would relieve some of that worry -- and I could just carry on with living.

Posted by: Matthew Jent at August 12, 2009 8:34 PM

either way i would feel like dancing

Posted by: Lyn at August 12, 2009 8:40 PM

I think that anything that reminds you that life is finite will encourage you to be more active, and either way, the pill would make me do that. However, I think that we are also quick to forget so I think any reaction to the pill will wear off pretty quickly. Unless of course every year or so we were forced to take another pill without knowing which one we take so that we are continually actively gaining or losing ten years of our life. Odds are that it would all even out in the end and we would be more likely to live life to the fullest because of the yearly reminder that sooner or later, we will one day die.

Posted by: Ari at August 12, 2009 9:11 PM

The life shortening pill. Upon realizing I had 10 fewer years to live, and that these scientists had a pill that could extend my life by 10 years, I would immediately change. I would begin spending 18 hours a day training to be a ninja. Within 5 months, if I hadn't already met the reaper, I would storm the complex, retrieve all of the pills, restore my original mortal span, and use my new-found stealth and fighting prowess to improve the lives of disadvantaged people everywhere.

Furthermore, if a well-placed kick ever did threaten to do me in, I would simply chomp down on my extra 10+ year pill-tooth. Take that, evil nemesis!

Posted by: hoosteeno at August 12, 2009 9:20 PM

Uh [said the career neuroscientist researcher] what Institutional Review Board approved this study again?

Posted by: Anna Barrett at August 12, 2009 9:30 PM

In all honesty; 10 years shorter would freeze me and cripple me and likely knowing this tidbit would be the true reason why I was losing 10 years in the first place...depressing but true.

Posted by: Brian at August 12, 2009 10:34 PM

I treat my life like there is time tomorrow to do whatever I feel. If I could live with a few more years, I could more fully enjoy the days I'm still here. Let me define how I define living life to the fullest. To me, it's not necessarily about achievement, but rather being content with my life. This is hard, as I feel guilty about what I feel like I should be doing. There are times when I'm lazy, productive, social, or like a hermit. These moods happen outside of my desires for what I would like to do, which naturally causes guilt to do some creative work when I feel like reading fml's again...
Having my life shortened would panic me. I would feel there is no time for relaxation and that I must work and create despite my natural desires for the opposite. Time would be running out, and I would have to work double time. I could never take a day off without feeling like I'm throwing my already short life away. Having my life lengthened would calm me: give me time to do all the lounging about and creative work that I long to do. With this added time limit to the time bomb that is my life, I could appreciate the time I'm alive.

Posted by: Captain_Fabulous at August 12, 2009 10:41 PM

I don't think either would

Posted by: nader at August 12, 2009 11:28 PM

If I took a pill that shortened my life span by two years, at my age, I might already have been dead for a couple of years,

Posted by: David W at August 12, 2009 11:51 PM

To me the pill that will make my life most would be the one that shortens my life in 10 yrs. It's because thru this, I'd be able to do what I haven't been done in my life. It's like the movie the bucket list.

Posted by: Alex at August 13, 2009 12:04 AM

I think either one would make an impact drastically. If I got the life shortening one, yeah, i'd be upset that I had less time, but I'd use that as an initiative to get the things I want to accomplish done sooner.
If I got the life extending pill, I'd feel like I'd "won" something big and wouldn't want to take that for granted, so again I think I'd take the "good" news and run with it.
Though both would obviously life changing, I think the losing 10 years would drive me to do more. I'd want to squeeze as much into my "shortened" life span as possible.

Posted by: Toni Pizza at August 13, 2009 12:16 AM

I've been living for decades as though I swallowed the shortener. Days filled with low grade mortal terror. I keep relaxing into moments as though each one is a gift for an unknowable duration. I believe that is the ultimate truth, the greatest inner challenge, and the too real reality for most, regardless of the length of time we have.

If I took the lengthener, I might relax more, fear less, be more contented. If I knew my end here was definitely far off, without question, it would give me great peace and joy. I love it here so much. Living with less neuroses would change a lot about me for the better I think.

Posted by: Shelley Noble at August 13, 2009 2:57 AM

Interesting question!

But I'll go with the extension pill~~ I think I'm already motivated with life.

On the other hand, I dont think it matters having more or less time, the only thing that matters is that you're living life NOW and doing what you want to do.

I go with the extension pill because I think it's great to be alive.

Posted by: Kevin at August 13, 2009 3:40 AM

I think its a bit sad that we need to know we are living 10 less years to get off our ass and do stuff. The fact that we think that should be enough to get up and do it anyway. I would take the pill to live longer, then look after myself, have fun, travel heaps and heaps and get to grow old with my grandchildren climbing all over me.

Posted by: Leigh-Anne at August 13, 2009 4:02 AM

I presonally live every day to its full as much as possible. i quit my job a while back due to an illness and because of the fact i flatlined in hospital for a while i decided to start my life afresh.

i have the scars that go with my time in hospital as a constant reminder.

having the extra time would just mean that i would fit more stuff in. having 10 years less i would probably end up doing so much that i would end up self destructing as i would just ware myself out and start taking really silly risks.

Posted by: Dave Williams at August 13, 2009 9:32 AM

Experiment would never get IRB approval.

Posted by: Nameo at August 13, 2009 11:19 AM

Definitely the one that would extend my life.

I already live mine to the fullest - so yea :)

Posted by: jenUnderscore_ at August 13, 2009 11:35 AM

Echoing other comments, neither pill would actually effect much change since I don't know the moment I'm going to die anyhow. But psychologically, taking the shorter span pill would cause me to immediately get things in order and begin more actively accomplishing long-term goals. I'd probably have a couple kids, play the lottery more, etc.

The extender pill would be like a procrastination pass. Although assuming I'll be living 10 years past a normal age expectancy I would probably still get all my things in order quickly and start making as much money as I could so as to afford the massive end-of-life care bills I'll be paying to 10 extra years.

Posted by: Mateo at August 13, 2009 11:53 AM

I think I wouldn't take the pill. 10 years lost to me would be a huge loss, and in particular much bigger than gaining 10 years. If I am to live until 75, I risk to die at 65 for the opportunity to live until 85. I'll put my bets on the younger and healthier self living through 65, reaching 75.
And I don't believe that anyone would change life just because they know that they have 10 more or less years to live. 10 years more/less than...? It remains undefined when you would die, and human brain likes to think that the undefined time is somewhere far away at 90 anyway.
I'd like to know, though, few weeks, a month ahead, to be healthy enough to wrap things up, to say my goodbyes, to plan some funny stuff for the funeral and so. To know when I die, whenever that may be, just a little bit before, is worth more to me than 10 years extra to a day I cannot decipher.

Posted by: sonja at August 13, 2009 2:12 PM

"live your life like there's no tomorrow"..
taking the pill wouldn't bother me these days...if it was over tomorrow or even if i got 10 added years, it's about quality of life everyday and appreciating the "now" with your heart/mind wide open. Happy... sad...Happy... sad.. loving everyday

Posted by: nancy pene at August 13, 2009 2:37 PM

I'm going to define 'quality of life' as level of contentment, and for me finding out I just took a life-shortening pill would significantly DECREASE my quality of life.

I would be so pissed - at myself, at the situation and at the experimenters. I could see myself spending a good chunk of my already reduced time fighting to get that time back, whether suing the experimenters or raising funds to afford the other pill or both. I'd like to think I'd also exercise more and eat better, but realistically that's not where I'd channel my energy.

On the other hand, finding out my life has just been extended 10 years would definitely increase my overall life satisfaction. I'm guessing I would also focus more on exercise and diet as positive activities that will make those extra 10 years even more pleasant.

I'm curious what the actually likelihood of being killed by a bus is, since so many people seem to be basing life decisions on this possibility.

Posted by: Bonita at August 13, 2009 3:40 PM

is it too late to change my answer?

Posted by: nader at August 13, 2009 4:17 PM

Simply participating in the experiment would force an existential crisis. We're focusing on the most basic philosophic question of life - whether or not to continue living it - but rephrasing it to determine whether more life or less life would make life more valuable.

Since you didn't know pre-experiment how long you were going to live (as one comment pointed out, you could get hit by a bus tomorrow), and the experiment didn't indicate in any way what age you were adding to or subtracting from, I think it would probably induce an attack of anxiety (Sartre-esque).

Ten years, in the monolithic space/time continuum, is miniscule, and gaining or losing it shouldn't impact any feeling of mortality. I think it would just impose an immediate and inescapable consideration of one's own mortality.

I wonder, if you could perform the experiment with me, tell me I gained ten years, and record my action, rewind time, perform the experiment again, tell me I lost ten years, and record my action, wouldn't the reactions be remarkably similar?

Its a damn good question, though, and would reveal the core of an individual if correctly implemented.

As for myself, I would probably say "so it goes" and continue with my work.

Posted by: Brit at August 13, 2009 5:34 PM

I would love to lose 10 years of my life.

Posted by: Edamame Obake at August 13, 2009 8:13 PM

If I've only got 5 years left, then I'd be very disappointed to find I've taken the one that just made me dead.

Then again, maybe I don't have that much to reconcile anyway.

Posted by: Deron at August 14, 2009 10:08 PM

Since I don't know how old or young I'll be when I go, I can't say it will affect me too much. The average lifespan nowadays is in the late 70s. Living to the late 60s still means I'd have to work, save up a retirement fund, etc. Living ten years longer means I'd have to work/save even more (easier to give money away than to get it).

That said, the shortening pill would affect me negatively because I'd worry more. Of course, the lengthening pill would have me worrying about bioethics/the supernatural, but it'd be better for my mental (and obviously, physical) health in the long run.

I sound so boring, but I'm more stoic than epicurean. I'm 23 and unemployed. I don't have money to spare to go traveling the world (though I'd love to do so) or to take up a dotty hobby. I can't afford to do all those crazy stunts people confuse with living life to the fullest. All I'd do is the same thing I'm doing now--trying to enjoy each day I have, to not take my mind, body, the things around me, and my blessings for granted, while also trying to improve my life one small goal at a time.

Posted by: Audrey at August 15, 2009 5:09 AM

If I learned that I took part in an experiment that instantly shortened my life expectancy by 10 years I would visit a shrink to get over it as son as possible.

Posted by: Mike Stebbins at August 15, 2009 9:53 PM

Both: If I take the life boosting pill, I have 20 extra years to celebrate. If I don't, I sue for millions of dollars! Yay both win!

But seriously the one that shortened my life would be better, because I'd have more money, AND I wouldn't have to live with myself for an extra 20 years! HAHAHA

Also Ze I totally see what you're saying but a 5 year change seems like a better length, but I guess 10 years makes it easier to think about..

Posted by: Brian at August 15, 2009 11:28 PM

Can I take this pill when i turn 85?

Posted by: Varion at August 17, 2009 1:14 AM

extra 10 better if you make the most of life naturally.

less 10 better if you're a lazy procrastinator.


Posted by: moira at August 17, 2009 12:26 PM

It would've been nice to see the age of all those who've posted. I wonder how and if the general viewpoints differ say from 70-80 year olds to 20-30 year olds.

Posted by: Cy K at August 17, 2009 2:37 PM

I certainly think shortening my life life would have more of an impact. That should motivate a person to get out and live and do those things that one puts off. And hopefully realize what, and who, is truly important in your life.

Posted by: kate at August 17, 2009 5:36 PM

No effects, both.
If it increases or decreases my lifespan is irrelevant.
The point is I still have no idea when I'm gonna die, so I still don't know how much time i've got left.

Posted by: Erto at August 20, 2009 1:07 PM

What if I walked out of the experiment and got hit by a bus? Would it matter?

Posted by: Frank Standard at August 24, 2009 6:04 AM

I'm a late bloomer, existentially, but a progressive one, so ten extra years would only further ripen the potentially ever-ripening fruit that is the human soul. I would just have to focus on the symbolic in the half-human half-symbol ratio that I manifest.
I'm aging backwards.
Ten Extra Years, said the beast to the beauty, whence they switched places.

Posted by: Samuel Beddow at August 30, 2009 2:13 PM

Mmmmm... I think no matter witch one, would not make much of a difference. Longer life doesn't mean better life and shorter life doesn't mean I'll become a saint.
How about taking both and accepting that the best part of life is today.

Posted by: Jéjé at September 9, 2009 8:45 PM

Trick question.
I died in a car wreck.

Posted by: Seth at June 18, 2010 3:45 AM

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