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'Wired' Founder Becomes Macabre Clock Watcher

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'Wired' Founder Becomes Macabre Clock Watcher

Technology

'Wired' Founder Becomes Macabre Clock Watcher

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MADELEINE BRAND, host:

Alex, let's say you knew exactly how much time you have left...

ALEX COHEN, host:

On this planet?

BRAND: ...on this planet.

COHEN: Mm-hmm.

BRAND: Would you do anything differently?

COHEN: Ah, I guess that depends on how much time I had. It's a bit of a time management quandary.

BRAND: That's right. Well, this guy Kevin Kelly, who co-founded Wired magazine, he figured out exactly how much time he has left.

Mr. KEVIN KELLY (Co-Founder, Wired Magazine): According to my calculations, I have 8,497 days until I die.

BRAND: That's very precise. How did you figure it out to the day?

Mr. KELLY: I used the actuarial longevity tables published by the government, which are basically just statistics of an average lifespan for a male born in the year that I was born in, in America.

BRAND: So just some quick math here, translated that's about 23 years left.

Mr. KELLY: It's approximately 23 years. So the government says that I should croak when I'm 78.68 years.

BRAND: Well, 23 years, that sounds a lot longer than 8,497 days.

Mr. KELLY: I think when you translate some times into the kind of units that we're familiar with and we work with, it changes the picture. Do you realize that the Web is only about 5,000 days old?

BRAND: Really?

Mr. KELLY: Yes. And so...

BRAND: I'm going to check that...

Mr. KELLY: Thinking in terms...

BRAND: ...on my computer.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. KELLY: Thinking in terms of days gives us a different view on the world.

BRAND: Well, it makes it seem shorter, because during that little calculation I just did, that's 13 years.

Mr. KELLY: That's right.

BRAND: Yeah. That's seems like a long time to me, 13 years of the Web being around. But when you say 5,000 days, I think, oh, that was just yesterday.

Mr. KELLY: Exactly.

BRAND: So do you physically every day see that number in front of you?

Mr. KELLY: Yes. I found some free computer applications that will flash this number on my computer screen. And so I'm constantly reminded every day about how many days I have left to do whatever I'm going to do.

BRAND: So what are you going to do? How has that changed what you do every day?

Mr. KELLY: Well, it's focused me into trying to make sure that when I see that number one less the next day, I don't feel I've wasted it. And secondly, the most important thing is it provoked me to ask what's important because what I'm trying to do is make sure I do important things during a day.

BRAND: I think the flipside of this is, you know, I would sort of end up doing things that I have to do just to get through my day, you know, errands and things like that, shopping, and then feel incredibly guilty that I'm wasting that time because I have in mind, oh, 8,000, that's all; what am I doing at Trader Joe's?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. KELLY: Well, I think it's true, although in my calculations, I think there's still room for Sabbath; you have your day off. And I'm not sprinting to the end. This is a, you know, it's a long haul. So you need to have days of rest. But still, that leaves plenty of time to do the things that need to be done.

BRAND: Let's say you looked up at your computer and you saw the number two.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. KELLY: Oh my gosh. I think what I would do would be the same thing you do if, you know, you had one day, you make sure your affairs are in order, you say goodbye, you have the best meal of your life, and you bring everybody in the room together. I would also try to make sure that I had no other regrets and had left no other things unsaid.

BRAND: Okay, 8,497.

(Soundbite of laughter)

BRAND: 96, 95, 94.

Mr. KELLY: Well, I have to say that today was a really good day. And I got a lot done.

BRAND: Well, good.

Mr. KELLY: Thank you.

BRAND: Now take a break.

Mr. KELLY: Okay.

BRAND: Enjoy what time you have left.

Mr. KELLY: Yes. And you too.

BRAND: Thank you, I will.

Mr. KELLY: All right.

BRAND: But I'm not going to think about it. Okay.

(Soundbite of laughter)

BRAND: Bye.

Mr. KELLY: Bye.

BRAND: Kevin Kelly is a co-founder of Wired magazine, now its senior maverick editor.

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