Isaac Asimov wrote a sci-fi book called Pebble in the Sky in 1950. This book foresaw a future earth where humans struggled to feed everyone, so by law at age 60 everyone is euthanized. The story revolves around an investigator coming to earth and discovering a plot to rebel against “the civilization of the galaxy spread across 200 million worlds.”
As we value humans less and less in society, as we push different forms of medical death, mainly abortion and euthanasia, I was reminded of a radio play version of this I heard many years ago. It took me a while with Google from the bits of the story I remembered but I eventually found the episode from NBC’s Dimension X in 1951.
Sci-Fi Dystopian Future
One section of dialogue, starting at 4:01, shows how different such a society would be. The euphemism they use for their form of euthanasia is “the ‘sixty.'”
Bartender: When are you folks scheduled for the “sixty”?
Husband celebrating his 40th wedding anniversary: In a month, the 16th of November.
Bartender: Well, I hope you have a nice day for it. My father reached his “sixty” in the pouring rain: he kept complaining we were getting soaked. So, I told him, “What are you complaining about Dad? I’ve got to come back.”[Crowd laughter]
Investigator [i.e. only non-earthling]: Now this “sixty” they’re talking about: are they referring to a birthday?Bartender: Sure. That’s when they put you away. Euthanasia. It’s a custom. You can’t have people living on: it eats up all the food. That’s right, isn’t in pop?
Husband: Yes, mother is coming with me when I reach the “sixty.” She’s not due for a couple of months, but she thinks we might as well go together.
Bartender: That’s the spirit. [Pause.] There’s many a man living past his “sixty” – sneaks. He’s stealing the food from the next generation. A guy should go when it’s his time; it’s only fair.
Later in the story, we see a see an effect that is chilling in a different way. The investigator finds someone’s record that says they have been condemned for evading the “sixty” – they’re a wanted criminal for living to 62. When he tracks this man down, he finds that destructive forces have used this to blackmail him into silence.
We Need to Prevent that Future
This is clearly dystopian sci-fi: it’s a warning of a dangerous path we must avoid. However, as we keep expanding when killing is legally allowed, it comes closer to reality. We started with abortion, then went to assisted suicide chosen by a person. Now we are flirting with infanticide for the disabled and euthanasia where the patient’s will isn’t so clear. Forced euthanasia at a certain age is one likely end of this continued devaluing of life. We must reject all ways that devalue human life like that.
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