I’m about to share a link with you, and maybe I shouldn’t. Because once you see it, you’ll have to use it–anything else is bucking human nature–and there’s no answer it will give you that will feel satisfying in any way.
See Your Folks is a website that predicts how many more times you’re likely to see your parents before they die. Created by Luke Tipping, Daniel George, Robert Holmkvist, and Omar Karim, it’s not some mystical mood ring or Magic 8 Ball that’s randomly generating a numerical horoscope of your life. It’s a streamlined front end that number crunches World Health Organization longevity research so that, within just a few moments, you’ll know how many more visits the statisticians say you and your parents have left.
“Sometimes we’re so busy growing up we forget that our parents are growing old,” explains designer Luke Tipping. “Increasing awareness of death can help us to make the most of our lives. The right kind of reminders can help us to focus on what matters, and perhaps make us better people.”
That might sound like a sanctimonious message, but in fact, the site’s idea was born from a situation most of us have been through before: Being forced to choose between family and friends. Tipping’s inspiration came when he was planning to visit his parents out of town, but his friends wanted him to stick around London to attend a few parties instead. He quickly ran some basic math: How old were his parents? How many times a year did he typically see them? How many years did they probably have left?
After calculating the resulting number, he says “the decision was made for me.” And taking the site for a spin for myself–even being greeted with a number that was actually a bit higher than I’d pessimistically braced myself to see–I know exactly how he felt.
“Whatever the result is, it’ll never be enough,” Tipping says. “As a piece of stimulus nobody enjoys seeing the number. Although its power is in creating behavior change.”
Indeed, there’s nothing quite like having a reminder of your parents’ mortality rendered in optimistic Capri. Surrounded by clouds, the site is one-part “I’m sorry for your loss” trifold, one-part “Twitter app of the week.” But in any case, it’s true that you can’t visit See Your Folks without being affected, without wanting to call your parents, thank them, and see them soon. And for that reason alone, it’s a huge success, even if it’s terrifying when you do a little more math and imagine how big data could quantify the mortality of all our relationships into the future.