Today I would like to introduce a philosophical phenomenon that continue to surprise me to this day, so I still don’t have a settled theory about it. I’m hoping to reach at least a temporary solution though by writing about it. It is related to thought experimentation and offers at least 2 different ways to imagine ourselves being 572 years old and healthy.
Possible worlds and methodology: times, worlds and selves
To briefly put: possible worlds describe possible – largely, but not necessary spatiotemporal – situations that express of something being the case. Possible worlds are accessible from each other through an accessibility relation that can be defined various ways.
When I got back to the philosophical problems and project of healthy longevity in 2017, after defending my philosophy MS thesis about it in 2005 and spending the next long decade in science and bioinformatics, one of the first problem I’ve found was that of distant self-imagination. This seemed to me as core and also well-defined problem that can be handled with the toolset of analytical philosophy quite well. I’ve found the relevant literature quick and thought and wrote a lot about it, to myself. Then, I realised there’s a relevant branch of psychological research looking into distant self-simulation with interesting results. What I came up with then, as objectivation, was a thought experiment that I turned into an actual little empirical survey as I’ve asked 4 different people to do a series of thought experiments. Here’s the informal slides I presented two them, without the results I typed into some tables during the interaction. 2 years later am now ready to write up the philosophical study in subsequent post and also am happy to report that I managed to find actual psychologists who have taken up on the idea and did a survey including hundreds of people, I presented some results in Brussels in 2018, and a paper is under peer review.
Title: Aging is agings: towards a consensus recursive definition of biological aging(s)
Abstract: Current clinically focused biological aging research, or translational geroscience is going through incredible progress. There’s finally an emerging scientific consensus about our understanding of the major molecular and cellular hallmark processes driving biological aging.
Yet, this consensus is not reflected in a consensus definition of what biological aging is. In the literature, for some reason, almost all scientists feel compelled to come up with their own introductory definitions of aging usually as the first sentence, or part of the first paragraph, of the introduction of their respective papers. Not too surprisingly these opinions on what biological aging is differ a lot, yielding highly idiosyncratic ‘definitions’ that were never accepted as consensus views within the research community. So the problem is while the underlying science goes strong, the conceptual top level, acknowledging this situation, is strangely neglected.
Problem #2: 2/A. What are the criteria for a biological structure/dynamics to qualify for being central in organismal level, multicellular biological aging? A corresponding question (2/B) concerning the translational aspect of geroscience might be: What quantifies/qualifies as a central biomedical structure/dynamics for being used as a medical application in counteracting human biological aging and to inform both diagnosis and treatment? A related background question: Is it possible and desirable to cut across biological pluralism concerning translational geroscience?
After the Introduction into the emerging field of philosophy biological aging research/biogerontology/translational geroscience I promised some actual questions, problems. I list different questions under different problems but otherwise do not differentiate questions from problems by now.
In a way, the perspective papers, opinion pieces, review studies published in peer-reviewed literature about biological aging contain a lot, mostly implicit, formulations already that can be called philosophical problems and arguments. But time to make these more explicit and reflect to them as such.
Here is my starter list of problems and questions.
So far on the course of Open Lifespan the fact that my number one professional occupation is being an active aging/longevity biologist (working at an aging/longevity startup) remained quite hidden, with a reason. While Open Lifespan is an attempt to formulate ethical, political, metaphysical and psychological questions and answers around our biomedically possible, upper limit healthy longevity trajectory, the following attempt below tries to investigate the science itself, the biological and medical (together: biomedical) problems of aging and longevity.
I was invited to give a talk at the Institute of Philosophy, Eotvos University, Budapest, on the 25th of October. The talk is going to be a joint Theoretical Philosophy Forum (TPF) and Student and Faculty Seminar on Logic and Philosophy of Mathematics (LaPom). I’d like to thank Professor László E. Szabó and András Máté for the invitation. The nature of the seminar gives me a great opportunity to focus on the theoretical problems concerning to the philosophy of biomedical sciences, so on the aging part of the aging/longevity complex, that is the underlying core of the Open Lifespan studies.