6) We’re All Dying – Page 39
In 1950, the average life expectancy in first world countries was 68.2 years. Fifty years later, it was 77.1. In 2050, it was 81.3, half of the previous increase for the same period. The truth about life expectancy is that it’s a magnanimously inclusive statistic, selfishly applied. We think we are riding a wave of medical miracles, saving us from an early death when we are 30 and postponing the inevitable when we get old, and the average life expectancy proves it. Yet it’s a statistic that has almost nothing to do with the middle-aged or elderly and everything to do with babies.
Prior to 1900, death in childbirth was a common occurrence for both the mother and the child. During the 20th century, the chance of dying in childbirth dropped dramatically. New generations of children were born into a world of immunizations and vaccines, protecting them from the commonplace and fatal diseases of the past. Doppler sonography, basically the same technology as meterologists use to predict the weather, served the same purpose in both applications: it showed problems coming before they arrived. More kids grew up to die of coronary failure instead of small pox — and average life expectancy made a marked jump. What happens to that statistic when childhood death has gone from expected to extremely rare?
From another angle: the average age of a person in the world is older than it has ever been. We are an elderly populace, every year getting older, and every year our expectancy gets more static — a mass of people that doesn’t have an extra 50 years to gain from temporarily avoiding death like we did in youth. And you have a thousand more things wrong with you than you did in your youth, piling up like compound interest.
We’re dying. What is there to do? Death and taxes, people say, because both are inevitable. It’s all insurance, actuaries say — you put the details of your life into a chart and you come out with a number for paying the piper. Not necessarily for you, but a person like you. Those statistics are magnanimously inclusive, and not meant to be selfishly applied.
There was nothing at all to do on the ship. Chandrasekhar had checked and double-checked everything: the core systems; the waste and atmosphere renewal devices; the course the computer had plotted. That last was more from paranoia than real scrutiny. Chandrasekhar’s knowledge of mathematics and astronomy was rudimentary in comparison to what the computer could handle.
He got up from the control chair and walked back to the primary passenger cabin. It was a small room, unadorned with any decoration. The few shelving and storage units it had were empty and built flush into the bulkhead. The near wall was a pure white, designed for projecting images onto – the others had a soft putty tone. A large float-down bed was embedded in the ceiling, large enough for two. It was designed to save space; when desired, it would descend to within inches of the floor and hover there.