Changing the metric on longevity

Alex Cox
2 min readDec 4, 2020

Optimize for years of consciousness, not existence

Sleeping koala. He’s awake 3 years of his life. 4 hours less sleep a day means 6 years of consciousness
Photo by David Clode on Unsplash

We sleep about a third of our life — 26 years on average.

What if we slept four hours a day instead?

We’d get an extra 13 years of consciousness back — 13 more years of experiences and memories.

In the past nearly 100 years life expectancies have risen dramatically from an average of 58 in 1925 to 78 years today. That’s 20 years of existence and 13 more years of consciousness. Not bad…

…But we’re tacking years of existence on to the end of our lives when our bodies are worn out instead of maximizing our total conscious years.

Four fewer hours of sleep would mean four more hours of consciousness at every phase of life.

But there are tons of studies saying not sleeping enough is indisputably going to reduce your life span.

But enough…enough is a subjective word. For a small percentage of our population, enough sleep means four hours a night. These short sleepers are already getting 13 more years of consciousness today without any known downsides.

We already have a known set of genes that can reduce sleep and researchers have already successfully added those genes into mice. Now, it’s time for us to decide if we’re ready to update a human embryo’s genetic code.

It’s taken the past 100 years to achieve 13 more years of consciousness. Adding in these genes could double that within the decade.

This change could mean future generations have 20 hours of consciousness a day. Today’s 78-year life span would be the equivalent of 65 conscious years. Up 13 years from 52 years of consciousness.

Are we ready to change the longevity metric? Are we ready to take the leap?



Alex Cox

Product Manager and designer writing about ideas. Living and working in SF. See more of my projects at