2021

How Do You Define Life?

How do you define life?

Life is often defined in terms of biological processes. The concept can refer to an individual organism or being. For instance, “life” tends to evoke the image of organisms, or collections of cells and that undergo birth, metabolism, and reproduction. These organisms are often divided into those with consciousness and those without. Such a distinction is also used by Schrödinger in distinguishing between the living and non-living.

With humans, the life cycle at its most basic stages range from prebirth to late adulthood. Life is often viewed as being an adventure, with twists and turns as an individual grows. Life is often associated with active and moving systems that self-regulate and interact with each other; however, the concept of life may also refer to the life cycle itself as opposed to a cell or organism. When we picture “life” as a cycle, we can imagine it as a journey with a constant flow between beginning to rebirth.

With this notion in mind, the definition of “life” can therefore extend to objects, topics, and ideas that may not necessarily match the general interpretation. For example, a company can be thought of as experiencing a life cycle. In particular, startups undergo different stages of “life,” including ideation, production, growth, establishment, expansion, maturity, and exit. While these are broad categories and startups can follow unique routes, each startup will undergo a life cycle and journey.

It is also important to note that a company is essentially a “living” entity, with the teamwork between people who leverage resources to achieve a common goal serving to grow and sustain the company. If a company is an ecosystem, then each of its moving parts are the organisms that live and interact with each other in the ecosystem.

The health of the company itself rests on resources as well. Similarly, with inequitable access to resources among many communities across the globe, the opportunity to live a long, healthy life has been compromised for many. Social determinants of health represent the factors that affect wellbeing and length of life. It is critical to strive toward addressing inequities, within housing and education, for example, in order to foster healthy communities.

Within all the moving parts of an organization, the life cycle of individual products in a business can also be broken into stages that resemble the life cycle of organisms and companies. The categories include introduction, growth, maturity, and decline. Just as people and companies transform over the course of their life cycles, products do as well. In addition, the interaction among people throughout their lifetimes mirrors that between companies and products in the market. Though the relationship may not be exactly the same, each action by members of a community can shape another’s life, and this effect manifests itself in businesses and organizations as well.

Ultimately, while there may never be a universal definition of “life,” the life cycle itself certainly applies across a range of areas, from human beings to natural ecosystems to organizations. Healthcare and life are inextricably linked, with social determinants of health becoming a rising critical issue. Further, extending one’s life, or longevity, is becoming increasingly relevant as new technologies and treatments are being designed to lengthen the life cycle. Particularly since the definition of life is one part of the question and the meaning of life is another, seeking ways to improve upon health and extend the life cycle could be the next step forward in discovering the other secrets to life and its purpose that continue to remain hidden or in question.  

Everything has a life cycle, but what if we could live a longer, healthier, and happier life by making small adjustments to our everyday lives to help seek out our purpose? No matter what stage in life you are at, Life Summit 2021 is a platform for you to get inspired, learn, and make valuable connections. We will be discussing the present and future of health and the life sciences, and we will be focusing on not only the technological advancements that are addressing health challenges but also the role that each of us as individuals have in tackling such questions around life.

About THE author

Emy Li

Emy Li is a student at the University of Southern California studying Applied and Computational Mathematics. She is passionate about green innovation and hopes to combine her interests in technology, entrepreneurship, and sustainability to create positive environmental and social impact.

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