In a volume of the Incerto–either The Black Swan or Antifragile, I can’t remember which–Nassim Taleb describes why he kept a resignation letter in a drawer. He claims it allowed him to act more freely; it reminded him that he was always able to exercise the option of “exit” if “voice” proved insufficient.
Personally, I’ve done something similar. I haven’t kept a letter in my desk drawer (my job doesn’t come with a desk) but I have, at times when I’ve been frustrated with my employment, got into the habit of reminding myself that I can quit anytime I want. There’s no arrogance in that statement. I don’t believe myself to be uniquely valuable and capable of doing anything I want, at anytime, for anyone. It is just a reminder that, all things considered, I can probably get a job doing something in a short amount of time.
This preparedness to exit recently increased in intensity, thanks to the public release of my novel-in-progress, Hitler, My Hero. Like all creatives, I anticipated a larger reaction to HMH’s public release than there actually was. As part of that anticipation I hardened both the security and the privacy around my digital footprint. One of the exercises involved in that hardening provoked me to ask, “How would the people I care about gain access to my digital life if the worse were to happen?” I didn’t have an answer to that, so I made certain people aware of certain procedures they should take in case of my death. Thus, I became prepared to quit my life.
This post-exit strategy–which could be called, “having one’s affairs in order”–brought about a novel sense of calm and clarity. Additionally, I realised that this could perhaps be the reason why the old exhibit much more composure than the young: the virtue of their position compels them not only to acknowledge their impending mortality but to plan for what happens in its immediate aftermath. The aged, having made peace with the consequences of their life’s end, are able to more fully inhabit their present life.
The result: I now think that all adults, whether twenty years of age or ninety, should have a similar sort of contingency plan in place. It doesn’t have to be a comprehensive plan for the distribution of one’s estate and assets. It could simply be a short but legally binding document granting certain people the authority to access certain things and places. Yes, I’m aware there are defaults in place for those without such plans. But my conjecture is that deliberately removing such a tiny shard of uncertainty will lighten the burden of life.
That’s one death-related idea. Here’s another: death-as-a-service.
This comes as part of my (rather irreversible) lean towards antinatalism. I’ve read Sarah Perry’s Every Cradle is a Grave, and I happen to agree with the position she stated in a chat with Erik Torenberg: life isn’t that great and maybe we shouldn’t make more of it. I won’t go into more depth on this topic (for now) but antinatalism seems like the undeniable next step after the realisation of the Buddha’s first noble truth: life is suffering.
Anywho… This got me to thinking. In a future civilisation, somewhere in spacetime between now and the societal collapse we’re heading towards, companies will offer death-as-a-service. The offering will include:
- Arbiters to help a person decide whether the decision to die is one taken with clarity, as opposed to being a result of trauma, social proof or pressure, the influence of narcotics, or the presence of real, threatened or imagined violence.
- Guides that help tie up all the loose ends accumulated as a life unravels–think bank accounts, property deeds, recurring digital services, debt, the return of that borrowed CD.
- Organisers that co-ordinate a final death party and notify all strong, weak and familial ties of the customer’s impending willful demise.
- Counsellors to guide the death seeker and closely associated parties before, during and after the death service.
- Doctors to assess the death seeker medically and determine the most fitting form of euthanisation.
- Undertakers to plan and conduct the funeral.
Of course, there are many more aspects I’m overlooking. For example, what’s the difference between a minimal and maximal death-service? And who pays for it? Is the financial burden on the consumer? Is it state-funded? Would death-as-a-service be available to all populations, or only special populations? Would those condemned to life sentences be able to apply for DaaS? How would arbiters mitigate the biased perception of suicide as a gross taboo?
I ended thinking about this because it seems, to me, like a fairly substantial gap in the market. I haven’t conducted a rigorous search, and I may well be misinformed, but I can’t see one organisation that bundles together all the moving parts of a willful death and tars them with the brush of convenience. Maybe that’s the company I should start? Maybe I should flee the decaying United Kingdom, move to a place where euthanasia is legal and sell DaaS? Perhaps Jessica Livingston should add DaaS to their request for Startups and get someone more competent to do it?