Death is coming and, of course, there’s an app for that. It’s called Life Clock. If Apple allows third-party faces for its Apple Watch—and this is a big if—Life Clock will be able to live on your wrist, counting down the seconds to your ultimate demise.
Life Clock is not altogether macabre. In the same way that skydiving is an activity that affirms your vitality by putting you in touch with mortality, so too does Life Clock. It calculates your life expectancy based on a number of variables and, as you do healthy activities like working out, adds to that number. “By reminding us of the future,” writes Wired’s Kyle VanHemert, “a watch face could help us make healthier decisions in the present.” The watchface, then, is the quantified self movement with some ambient fear in the background. You can also think of it as Freud’s competing life and death instincts (eros and thanatos) mounted on your wrist.
Maybe Life Clock still sounds a bit dark. Why? We engage with the idea of death all the time, often enjoyably so. Grim Fandango, for instance, is a journey through the “land of the dead”–and a fun one at that. This fascination with the afterlife also permeates the more recent The Absence of Is. How do you think you’ll get to whatever comes after death? You do know death is coming, don’t you?
The day is not the natural, God-given unit for the watch. It represents a conscious choice about how to conceptualize time. In most use cases, this is probably a good choice. But the 24-hour clock and workday are also countdowns towards death. They are simply less explicit than Life Clock. All time leads to death, but that doesn’t prevent you from interrogating your relationship with death, as you can in Grim Fandango or The Absence of Is. Life Clock is simply the logical extension of that phenomena.