Here’s a question for you. What if we were all born with an allotment of, say, 200 years? This was our total allowable credit at the beginning of life. The genetic hand of cards we had been dealt would immediately reduce the credit, as would our geography, socio-economic conditions and so on.

Then, what if every social occurrence reduced it further by a set amount? Smoking a cigarette, 7 minutes off. Passively smoking a cigarette, 1 minute. Having an alcoholic drink, 3 minutes. A sugary snack, 1 minute. Inhaling the fumes from another car, 4 minutes. And on and on.

Obviously, fatal accidents reduce the credit to zero balance almost immediately, and incurable diseases and other unplanned for calamities seriously eat into your allocation. Somewhat ironically and seductively, oxygen, which we rely on to survive also contributes to cell ageing and therefore ultimately kills us, so we might need to factor in something for exercise or other activities that cause us to draw in more breath than during normal breathing.

I don’t mean this to be a religious question. I think it’s an academic discussion anyway, as believers will argue that the Maker could be behind such a plan, and non-believers will probably think it paints a pretty dystopian picture of 100% scientific and medical transparency.

So here’s the question: if this situation existed, would you live your life any differently? Would you be as generous and act for the betterment of others, knowing exactly the sacrifice in personal time you were making and the added time you were bestowing on your beneficiaries? Or would it descend into a Lord of the Flies thing where we deliberately inflicted time reductions on others, small, petty reductions or big ones?

Personally, I think that even thinking about the concept makes us strive to do our best with each thing that we do.