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The Pachinko Machine Of Your Probable Death

Nathan Yau’s life expectancy simulator makes one thing clear: don’t book plans after 80.

Thanks to humanity’s endless fascination with mortality, there’s no shortage of tools out there that will predict how much longer you’ve got to live. But according to FlowingData’s Nathan Yau, all these death calculators have the same fundamental problem: they’re all based on the average of everyone doing the dying. There’s a lot of luck involved in whether you live another 50 years, or just five. How do you calculate that, let alone visualize it?

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Called Years You Have Left To Live, Probably, Yau’s latest visualization is as hypnotic as it is alternatingly depressing and uplifting. It animates your probability of dying from now until the age 110 (the age of the oldest person to ever die in America) almost like a Pachinko machine, rolling the probability of you living to next year like a pinball across the X-axis, and calculating your odds based on where the ball drops.

After receiving the requisite age and sex info, the interactive graphic then pulls data from the Social Security Administration to calculate the probability of you dying next year, the year after next, and so on. It then rolls the dice for each year of the remainder of your life. When you eventually come up snake eyes, the visualization tallies that result in one of six pools, representing how many years you have left to life: 0 to 9, 10 to 19, 20 to 29, all the way to 50 or more.

Let the graphic run long enough, and you eventually get a good picture on the Vegas odds of how many years you have left to live. After running it for a few minutes, Yau’s tool says that as a 36-year-old male, I’ve got a 35% chance of living another four decades, compared to an only 1% chance of dying in the next 10 years. That’s pretty good, but I’ve got to tell you, every time I fail my saving roll on Yau’s visualization, it feels like death’s already tapping me on the shoulder.

Check out the chart over at FlowingData.

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