Is Death Random or Predictable?

Another way to ask this is: is it more like a casino game or a battery?

Let's visit each position.

Death is Random:

Welcome to the Longevity Lounge!  

We invite you to play a game we call Ticket to Paradise.  We will enter your name into our system and then all you have to do is watch the news feed for your name to appear.  Names appear constantly.  Once your name is called, you win!  Your time with us is over and we will send you on a one way trip to Paradise.

One more wrinkle to the game is that there are several ways to get to paradise, and the manner by which you get there is also totally up to chance.

How does the system pick a winner you ask?  We can't give away our secrets, but I can tell you that there are several groups that study the outcomes of the game.  They do a decent job of using their observations to model the chances of winning. They still get surprised occasionally. 

Is there anything you can do to influence your chances of winning? Well, if you go the pub you will find a number of guests trying to answer that very question. One of the strongest opinions is that your odds of winning improve based on your location. A second factor seems to be how much time you spend in the smoker's lounge. The other ideas you will have to explore at the bar.

Death is Predictable

Welcome to Longevity Labs!  

You are here to learn more about our Heat Emitting Adaptive Response Technology (H.E.A.R.T). Specifically, you want to know how long something powered by H.E.A.R.T will last. 

If you take a unit and just let it go, never changing anything, we could predict exactly when it would run out of energy. Like many things in physics it follows a rate of decline that can be easily mapped with a mathematical formula. 

In the real world, the draws on H.E.A.R.T power can vary.  Sometimes there is a lot of strain on the system, and other times it can run smoothly.  Also, maintenance helps. If the unit starts to accumulate junk, it will not operate as effectively.  

So, while you can influence how slow or fast you deplete the power, there is always an underlying force that pushes the H.E.A.R.T toward expiration.

A Mix of Both

The Longevity Lounge seems to fit with our experience. News headlines tell of the early demise of beloved celebrities. Accidents and natural disasters cause heartbreak in communities across the globe. We develop phrases like 'live for today' and 'carpe diem.'  In fact, accidents still rank rather high on the list of 'cause of deaths'. It's as if we are unwilling participants in a game of Russian roulette.  

And the technology in Longevity Labs seems to fit too.  If we successfully avoid accidents and diseases, we still get older.  Aging seems to occur no matter what we do.

It turns out that in the study and modeling of life and death, both views matter.  If we first gather data, like the players in the casino, we can build estimates of likelihoods of 'winning'. As we begin to multiply those odds together, we begin to see a pattern, something that seems to approach a path over time. 

A diamond merchant named Benjamin Gompertz noticed this path idea in 1825, and created an equation to fit the pattern.  A little while later, this got a little tweak to account for the randomness, thanks to an actuary named William Makeham. The result is quite a simple looking equation.  The red part is the internal component and the blue part represents the randomness.

A Bit of History and Trivia

Getting Biblical: The Bible accounts of  Methuselah, who almost made it to 1,000 years old.  But later verses tag the limit of life to 120. And the expectancy of life is called out at 70-80 in Psalm 90:10.

Finding Death Among the Stars: One of the first mortality tables ever published came from an astronomer, who's name you might recognize. Edmond Halley, the comet guy, compiled a table in 1693.

Getting Naked and Defying the Laws: The Naked Mole Rate is a intriguing specimen in the field of longevity since it's aging pattern is linear, and not curved!