Would you want to know?

If you knew that you could live for a whole century, would it change your immediate perspective of life? Would you slow things down, or speed things up? Would you do less, do more, or do the same?

A research team from Boston University studied over one-thousand 100 year old people, they discovered the presence of 150 genetic variants in the elderly people being studied. The research found that the variants were common among those centenarians, and these particular genetic variants are hereditary.

If you want to know if you could live up to 100 years old all it takes it a genetic scan, but would you want to know? I definitively don’t. Information about potentially living up to a century can be dangerous as much as it could have positive effects too. Nonetheless it would give people a feeling of security, some will likely develop ideas such as – “Well my gene scan says I’ll live until I am 100, so this unhealthy food, and no exercise for a week is fine with me.” –  which is not a good outcome. Although, this does not necessarily apply to everyone, some will likely recognize the possibility to screw up their chances at living a century and take great care of themselves. If it would ever become trendy to know if you have what it takes to live until you’re 100 than I imagine both sorts of people will surface.

We already see both types of people, those take take care of their health, and those that do not. While it is not my responsibility to tell someone that they should take care of their own health if they want to live a longer life, surely I can suggest it : ) The idea is simple, knowing that you have a chance to live until you are 100 will change the way you look at your own life. Not knowing leaves you exactly the same as you are now, ambiguously living your life, trying to make a meaning for yourself in the finite time you have. Knowing will of course leave you ambiguously living your life trying to create meaning in a finite amount of time, but that piece of knowledge would tickle in the back of your mind from time to time.

I get  a sense of power from not knowing. It gives off a feeling that every moment you experience is immediately, and irreducibly important to who you are now -not who you were yesterday, or who you will be tomorrow but for who you are at this moment-. Knowing would sit with you for your entire life, and I think it would actually prove to be a useless piece of information for many people.

~ by Peter on August 21, 2010.

2 Responses to “Would you want to know?”

  1. Hi Peter,

    Interesting post. I have to agree with you—here is one piece of technology that would not be helpful to most humans. I much prefer the ‘assumption’ that I’ll live to 100. The assumption and the hope are what empower me to take care of myself. I would definitely be one of the junk-eaters and worse—I still miss cigarettes and would certainly go back to them. I would down a lot more alcohol and drugs. I would smugly challenge this knowledge to see how much I could get away with.

    And what if your scan said you wouldn’t live to 100? That would be even worse. I think there’s a good reason we don’t know—it’s one of those mysteries of life that should remain so!

    An acquaintance whose husband recently died of cancer said to me: “It’s a gift to not know. If we had known he was going to die of cancer, we would have spent our time together being sick over it and having a miserable life together instead of a great one.”

    Take care,

  2. Thank you for the comment and your insight Debra.

    I wish I had taken the time to explore the other outcome of the gene scan -knowing you would not make it-. Nevertheless, knowing that you would not live for a century has potential to cause negative side effects, and positive effects too (surprisingly). The negative aspect is quite clear, you would live a pessimistic life filled with despair and anguish (or not, it would depend on the individual). But, the positive side is that the knowledge would reinforce the importance in immediacy, and that your life is fragile, and therefore you should take care of it.

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