Stages of Human Life

The New York Times provides us with a fascinating look at the various ways that the stages of human life have been considered throughout history. Wonderful, literary, and in many ways very revealing of how we tend to think about our mortal existence.  The “Op-Chart” is inspired by the prediction that half of all Americans born in 2007 will live to be 104 years old or older, spurring a redefining of the stages of life from child, adult, old age to child, adult, young old age and old old age.

Personally I think part of the interest of this is the inevitability syndrome that I think disturbs all people.  The inevitability syndrome, in my consideration, is the personal discord that we face in contemplating our own pending demise.  Considering those births in 2007, does the prediction mean that if I was born in 2007 I have a 50% chance to reach at least 104 years of age?  No, not necessarily, because the prediction cannot contemplate unforeseen events that could cause massive human deaths.  Furthermore it cannot offer any certainty statistic on matters such as genetic disposition, economic standards of living, and any other number of factors that could significantly decrease the life expectancy of individuals.

And what does this 104 years mean to those of us born before 2007?  Personally I’d say it means little besides an interesting contemplation about the fact that we are living in a day and age of increasing medical advancements that may prolong our lives and provide us with better standards of living.  That is really all.  The inevitability syndrome will still remind us that regardless how long we may live, when it comes to statistical probability the best we can assume is that all human mortality rate is 100%.  Perhaps a bit grim for an early Monday morning, but a truth nevertheless.

Still, it is interesting to imagine what those people born in 2007 might experience in 2111.  The world will unquestionably be much different then.  And who knows, if people born in 2007 have a good chance of reaching their 104th birthday, what are the odds for people born in say 2057?  Or those born in 2111?  Who knows, maybe the odds are theoretical immortality or perhaps they are nil.

~ by Nathaniel on October 19, 2009.

One Response to “Stages of Human Life”

  1. Just as a reference, I cannot claim that inevitability syndrome is actually any real thing, besides a personal philosophical theory about human life. I believe it is based in part upon the Terror Management Theory (TMT). Simply put, TMT supposes that all humans are aware of the inevitability of their own deaths and the cognitive dissonance created in this knowledge shapes much of the ways in which we act ourselves and interact with others. I light of TMT then, I would suggest that the inevitability syndrome is that part of the TMT in which we are often confronted with the anguish of our pending deaths, further complicated by the fact that we have no ral control over when that inevitable death will arrive. The syndrome thus makes us act with a certain degree of caution and skepticism about the world, while at the same time often perusing a strange disregard.

    For example, I take care not to leave the stove on, and to look both ways while crossing the street, but then I might choose to drink a lot of alcohol, or spend too much time out in the cold. We wish to preserve life but at the same time realize that in the end we are bound to die one way or another. I think that the inevitability syndrome can be used to explain why people are willing to go away to war, willing to become suicide bombers, willing to do all sorts of seemingly illogical and reckless things. Our conscience lives in someways overcome our evolutionary desire for preservation, because we are able to pre-contemplate our own demises.

    Weird stuff really. Also a huge comment right after the post. So it goes.

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