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The year is 2200, and technology has been progressing at an even faster rate than anyone could have ever predicted back in 2016. For one thing, computers are now completely quantum oriented, storing all data in the form of Q-bits, and even going so far as to transfer all data both within & between computer systems using micro-wormholes & entangled photons.

However, some have taken this new technology just a little bit too far...
Along with wormhole-transmission has come the ability to transfer information through time. While this technology has been heavily regulated by the GBE (Governing Body of Earth), one dark-Web site in particular has caught the eye of the public: death-clock.com.

The interface is quite simple: all that a user must do once on death-clock.com is to:

  1. Enter their full name into the search-box in the center of the page.
  2. Select themselves from the list of profiles that pop up.
  3. Watch as the site prints a date & time across their screen: This is the date on which they will die.

Question: What happens now?

  • How does society react to the existence of such a site?
  • Since the info is available to everyone, how does this effect daily life? (education, carriers, relationships, etc.)

Note:

  • This scenario is based on the fatalistic theory of time-travel, where everything is set-in-stone, and the date that comes from the site is final.


Clarification: I've been getting a lot of questions that don't really have anything to do with the question itself, but more to do with the circumstances surrounding it. In order to clarify, I will provide the following points:

  • The date provided by the website is always stable and never wrong. I.E: if the site says that you will die on 1/28/2306 at 12:02 PM, then you WILL die on 1/28/2306 at 12:02 PM. For the sake of this question, you are to assume that the laws of time-travel prevent any exceptions to this rule from existing.

  • Other, similar sites may or may not exist at this time, broadcasting other information from the future, but my question does not concern these other sites.

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  • $\begingroup$ How does this universe cope with the knowledge of the future effecting the future? Is only a stable solution returned (I.e. The knowledge of the future happens to have no effect on that future) and no result returned if unstable (i.e predicting July 4th causes July 3rd death (terror related death) predict July 3rd now July 4th - no stable solution). [Even assuming a purely deterministic universe with no free will a stable solution may not exist] $\endgroup$ – Richard Tingle Feb 6 '16 at 19:51
  • $\begingroup$ Even a fatalistic theory of time-travel doesn't ensure that information from one particular web site is set in stone. It all depends on how accurate the information the site gets from the future is. $\endgroup$ – sumelic Feb 6 '16 at 22:16
  • $\begingroup$ Predicting the date of death has been humorously explored in Le Tout nouveau testament. It's in French but is hilarious! God lives in Brussels, in a plot twist his rebellious teenage daughter texts everyone with the date of their death (knowing this won't reduce your enjoyment). (If you didn't like Life of Brian, don't go.) $\endgroup$ – NL_Derek Feb 6 '16 at 22:21
  • $\begingroup$ If everything is set in stone, then wouldn't everyone's choices only sour them onwards towards their inevitable doom? Every choice someone makes will eventually be realized as part of the circumstances that lead to their death as predicted. You try to jump off s bridge, but some other guy stops you, meaning you get sent to a mental hospital where a bomb goes off, causing your death on the predicted date. $\endgroup$ – Xandar The Zenon Feb 7 '16 at 5:36
  • $\begingroup$ @XandarTheZenon That is precisely the point. Everything concerning time is to be consisted set-in-stone, including all instances of time-travel. $\endgroup$ – Chef Cyanide Feb 7 '16 at 18:18
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How would you deal with time paradoxes caused by knowing your date of death? Someone crazy enough could look up their date of death and think "yeah, that doesn't go with me" and automatically commit suicide in some almost-guaranteed-not-to-survive way just to prove the website wrong. After that, everybody would know those dates may be orientative or probabilistic, and probably shrug it off like the many death clocks dot com we have today.

However, let's assume the clock is ALWAYS right because it somehow takes into account that you already know that information. You have 20 years to live, now what do you do? Some people might not realize the full implications of this, but if you think for a bit, you will notice you can do the craziest stuff you ever wanted to try without fear of dying. Wanna go skydiving without a parachute? Don't worry, a really strong air current will stop your fall before you hit the ground. Wanna bet on the Russian Roulette? You will be GUARANTEED to win! Even if you loop through the whole revolver twice! Wanna experience first hand how does a nuclear bomb test in your face feels? Some quantum woo will make sure that an anomaly in space-time will protect you from all those gigatons. Wanna win a war? Just send a big platoon of people with long life expectancies and watch the bullets' trajectories miraculously curve around your soldiers. The reality-bending possibilities are endless.

Also, you may be able to trick the death clock into giving you a fake date if you write a testament in which you explicitly ask that your obituary should be released in a fixed date in the future (possibly quite some years in the future to ensure you will be dead by then), if you want to feel better about your death date.

Testaments might also be used to give you your accurate death date. You may ask for euthanasia (assuming the laws allow it) the moment you stay for longer than a week in a comma or are completely impaired to the point you can't take care of yourself anymore. This would work to warp reality even further, to the point that even with no access to the full obituary, you will guarantee that whatever stupid thing you were planning to do, it won't even harm you in a significant way. The military may implement this law to ensure the predictions are accurate and their soldiers do truly come back unharmed from their missions; you can go as far as to implant remote killswitches into your soldiers (or just fake their obituaries as a much more humane alternative) the moment they are captured for longer than a certain amount of time.

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    $\begingroup$ A very interesting take on my question: it seems that the number of ways to abuse the death clock are endless! (+1) However, as amusing as this concept is, I think it's worth pointing out that just because you can't die doesn't mean you can't feel pain, be horrifically disfigured, or become completely paralyzed & trapped inside your own body. In other words, you may not want to detonate that nuke in your face... $\endgroup$ – Chef Cyanide Feb 6 '16 at 23:07
  • $\begingroup$ Talking about reality bending around the fact that you can't die just yet, you might want to look up Quantum Suicide. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quantum_suicide_and_immortality tl;dr everyone is immortal from their point of view and reality bends around this fact. You could actually survive the heat death of the universe this way, which doesn't sound that fun. Of course, this could apply only to your given lifespan in your universe. And, as you said, nothing prevents you from ending up in a bed for the rest of your life even if you didn't die from the most unlikely events. $\endgroup$ – a1901514 Feb 6 '16 at 23:12
  • $\begingroup$ While it guarantees you won't die with that chute it doesn't guarantee you won't end up a quadriplegic. $\endgroup$ – Loren Pechtel Feb 6 '16 at 23:16
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    $\begingroup$ @LorenPechtel While that's true, if you actually ask in advance for euthanasia in that case, you could tighten up your lifespan at the cost of guaranteeing that the rest of your life will be free from such problems. That said, ironies of destiny could bend reality in a similar way and actually end up with an improbable case in which nobody finds out about your skydiving accident and the universe forcefully keeps you alive in the place of your accident (with a bird force-feeding you all the nutrients you need, for example), although that could probably be more suitable for a dark comedy novel. $\endgroup$ – a1901514 Feb 6 '16 at 23:25
  • $\begingroup$ @a1901514 You're assuming euthanasia is legal. $\endgroup$ – Loren Pechtel Feb 7 '16 at 5:06
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I would strongly recommend reading Robert Silverberg's "The Stochastic Man" for that novel's thoughtful, well-reasoned treatment of a fully-realized fatalistically deterministic universe. Of course, there are some significant differences between the central idea of Silverberg's novel and your own, in that in your story the recipients of the unavoidable, deterministic information wouldn't be privy to any of the details about their future other than the date of their death.

But access to such technology would profoundly affect all aspects of society. You have posited the negation of free will, and the negation of any illusion of free will. I posit that such a technology would bring about the end of just about everything we are familiar with, and usher in an entirely alien and frighteningly alienating future.

Here are some responsive questions that I think might (1) help tighten up your premise, and (2) might inspire you to explore more implications of your idea.

  • The Death Date site will unerringly spit out your actual date of death, based on (I guess) a text search of "as yet to be written" obituaries posted online throughout time for so long as something like the internet exists. What happens when people start noticing that for millions of names entered on the site, the reported future date of death is identical? October 17, 2231? Some names reveal dates of death earlier than that date, but nobody has a future date of death later than October 17, 2231. Add angst to taste, stir, and watch society burn.

  • What happens when a future alteration of data storage structures causes the deathdate.com site to suddenly go silent, or start spitting out incomprehensible garbage instead of dates?

  • Where's the competing future-search function for financial news, political news, etc.? Why doesn't some hacker reverse-engineer the rather simplistic search function of Deathdate.com so as to allow for text searches of all future news, not just data-mining of future obituary names and dates?

  • Maybe the tangled futuresearch code can be optimized in other ways to retrieve future video and audio. What happens when competition among future-data-trawling sites drives firms to build a better and more accurate oracle of all things?

  • Superluminary transfer of information invites all sorts of problems, not the least of which are potential existential threats to the fundamental fabric of the universe.

  • How do people cope with the inherent unreliability of future data? Sure, the website says I'm going to die on August 4th. But maybe that's a typo. Maybe I actually die on April 8th, but the site interpreted my date of death (8.4.2218) as if it had been written in American, rather than European date styling?

  • What about the poor guy named Bill Smith, who keeps getting all sorts of crazy, incompatible dates of death because the search engine isn't sophisticated enough to use unique identifying biographical information to distinguish Bill Smith from all the other Bill Smiths?

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  • $\begingroup$ To me, your answer is actually raising more unanswered questions that actually answering the questions presented. Flagged as not an answer. Please try to revise the answer by answering the two questions: "How does society react to the existence of such a site? Since the info is available to everyone, how does this effect daily life? (education, carriers, relationships, etc.)" $\endgroup$ – fi12 Feb 6 '16 at 19:56
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An important part of your everyday routine will be checking the Clock for the names of everyone you know. For a few days prior to a "reported" death, it will be crucial that you avoid anyone you know who is going to die. The reason? If that person doesn't like you, he or she has every reason to try to kill you. After all, he or she is going to die anyways, so why not get revenge while he can? If it's not your day, of course, the effort will fail.

However, that does not mean that you will not wind up in a wheelchair or on a respirator until your time comes.

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  • $\begingroup$ > it will be crucial that you avoid anyone you know who is going to die - I think it might be the other way around, you'd certainly want to hang with your friends while still possible. And it seems unlikely that an average person would actually bother killing some unpleasant acquaintance. $\endgroup$ – user8808 Feb 8 '16 at 12:19
  • $\begingroup$ Why is it unlikely? Because you think that you would not be tempted? If you know you're going to die tomorrow anyways, why not give it a try? You've nothing to lose. $\endgroup$ – WhatRoughBeast Feb 8 '16 at 16:00
  • $\begingroup$ Actually, if someone hates you enough to want to kill you, they would certainly check your Death Clock (tm) first - if they see that you die a few days before them, it's worth making the attempt. If you don't, they know they'll fail - but could still try to at least maim you badly. Or they might go for the more conservative but still nasty burning down of your home. $\endgroup$ – Peter S. Jul 22 '16 at 12:25
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There is a children's story, The princess is cursed at birth to fall into a deep slumber from pricking herself with a needle at sixteen. It is explained to her that fairy magic is so strong that it will occur. If she is locked in a tower and every needle in the kingdom is destroyed, it will still happen.

The seven year old princess makes that logical connection that fairy magic will make sure is alive to accept this curse. Her new hobbies include:

  • rock climbing
  • base jumping
  • rescuing maidens from dragons
  • rescuing dragons from maidens
  • trolling death

How is this different from your site?

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    $\begingroup$ Heh rescuing dragons from maidens +1 $\endgroup$ – nzaman Jul 22 '16 at 17:22
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Nothing really would change. For one, people would be using their time much more wisely. I could imagine a lot of panic on the day the die or a few days before, but in a way, most people would not really care. This could have some impact on relationships and politics. Say an elderly presidential candidate is bound to die two months after he takes office. Now say his vice president was not a great one: people would not be likely to vote for this candidate because he would die in office, leaving with them with his subpar vice president. In terms of relationships, marriages might be delayed or called off completely if you learn that your fiance or yourself will die. Alternatively, health care expenditure could be lowered. By knowing what day you die, doctors effectively do not have to waste their time and energy on curing people dying of diseases. Although this may seem heartless, if the day you die is set in stone, there's no point in trying to cure you. This could motivate or depress soldiers in battle, though. Depending on whether or not your death date lies within the days of the war, you can determine whether or not you will die in the war.

In addition, by knowing the death day of a major political or spiritual leader, elections can effectively occur well before they die, so that leadership is passed over to the next candidate well before they die.

Note: Does it tell you HOW you will die?

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  • $\begingroup$ I haven't yet decided whether or not to include the full obituary, including cause of death. Do you think that including this information would change your answer at all? $\endgroup$ – Chef Cyanide Feb 6 '16 at 19:17
  • $\begingroup$ @ChefCyanide How do you prevent time travel paradoxes? If it says I die in New York City, you can bet I'd be far from the city that whole month. What happens if someone kills themselves on a date way before the website says so? Or if the obit says it's a skydiving accident, I'd never go skydiving (though I guess someone can land on you, but you get the idea). $\endgroup$ – Daniel M. Feb 6 '16 at 19:24
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    $\begingroup$ @DanielM. - The suicide option is simple - you tried and it didn't work. The gun misfired. You puked up the poison. A giant eagle flew underneath you as you jumped from the window and you landed on it. $\endgroup$ – WhatRoughBeast Feb 6 '16 at 19:36
  • $\begingroup$ @WhatRoughBeast lord of the rings reference? $\endgroup$ – fi12 Feb 6 '16 at 19:37
  • $\begingroup$ @ChefCyanide I think knowing this would make people feel more aware, so they would refrain from divulging in a activity that they know they will die by. However, somehow, someway, fate will lead the person back to the activity that they died doing. $\endgroup$ – fi12 Feb 6 '16 at 19:38
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Expect a common cause of death to be suicide bombing. If you're going to die anyway why not take out some great evil in the world?

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There are actually some really interesting issues that arise here, regarding information transfer. This may even push into paradoxical realms where you can mathematically prove such information cannot come into being. Perfect knowledge has a way of doing that.

One might decide the system uses an approach similar to Quantum Mechanics concept of observation. The date at which you die is not set until you access it. Then, to create the necessary twist, the act of accessing the date gives up any metaphysical freewill you might have had to avoid that date. Playing the opposite card of a1901514's answer, you cannot engage in a game of Russian Roulette before your date because you will be incapable of wanting to. The loss of that freewill would dramatically shape the way society treats these individuals. They would cease to be seen as full people, because their soul is now permanently entangled with this quantum computer's prediction.

Alternatively, there's a old myth (I believe from the Vikings) that one could gain the ability to see the future by removing one's own eyes by their own hands. However, to do so was fraught with insanity... soon one became incapable of seeing anything but their own death, fixated on it.

Finally, there's a solution which has profound social impacts. You can get around all sorts of timing paradoxes if you do it right. When the user clicks "View," the clock always reads the same thing:

Now

Suddenly Samantha's 7 days sounds quite amenable, don't you think?

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I would expect a deterministic universe to work like this: you see a date of death 20 years from now. Secure in your invulnerability, you go out drag racing get into an accident and die the next day. Everyone will remember your death date as predicted by the website to be the day you actually died.

In a perfectly efficient system the information has already been acted upon, rendering it redundant.

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