Neil deGrasse Tyson on Living and Longevity

Astrophysicist and Science Educator
The astrophysicist wants to shift the focus from avoiding death to living a full life.
  • Transcript


Question: Does a fixation on longevity detract us from living a full life?


DeGrasse Tyson: rather think that we’d be spending more energy learning how to live better. I’d rather start there and then worry about the longevity thing a little later.

Part of knowing that you’re going to die, not to get all philosophical on you, but knowing that you’re going to die creates a certain focus on your activities in life in the present.

If you knew you’re going to live for a thousand years, then, at any moment, you would say, well, what’s my hurry, why should I finish this manuscript today or why should I work late in the lab. I can just go home and watch the game. A

nd so, knowing that you lead a finite life creates a certain urgency to the minutes that you live that I value greatly. I don’t know what would mean if we live forever or live a really long time. I don’t know what would mean for my focus. Maybe it’s, you have to be careful what you wish for here. They would live a long time, people become less productive than they do when they don’t live very long at all.

I think of the mayfly that live no more than 24 hours. What is life like to them? They will never see a sun rise if they’re born in the daytime. The things that we take for granted that they never see. So every minute of their life, it’s a wall. It’s a ceiling. It’s a moon. It’s a grass. Everything is this life experience that’s captured and presumably valued in their little brain.

So, I like to take my 75 years on this planet and be like the mayfly, thinking they’re only living for a day and just take it all in.


Recorded on: February 9, 2009