I am more and more interested in connecting ecological thought and open lifespan longevity philosophy and in this book blog I have so far made 2 direct attempts, please see Open Lifespan & ecological awareness: scaling up to become global humans and Wanted: a Global Healthy Longevity report a la IPCC study on Global Warming of 1.5ºC .
My current main theoretical inspiration and guide is Timothy Morton’s Hyperobjects. Here I need to acknowledge that I am less certain in what I have to say as Morton writes in the style of continental philosophy and draws largely from that tradition, while the knowledge and method base am using mainly comes from analytic philosophy. But I welcome the uncertainty that comes with moving into a stranger territory.
Let’s start with the thought experiment of assuming that Open Healthspan technologies counteracting the biological aging processes have been developed and mature enough to grant individuals Open Lifespans, that is people have open-ended, indefinite lifespans and a fixed low mortality rate.
Consider now an individual open lifespan trajectory that is your life lived for hundreds of years: wouldn’t that object qualify for being a hyperobject in the Mortonian sense? By the way let’s call this object my, your, her, his or our ‘open lifespan trajectory’ or ‘exponential human longevity’. Also make note that being temporally open grants you another huge favour: you get spatially distributed on a massive scale too as you can explore space 10x, 100x bigger than you could as a human being with a normal life expectancy under closed lifespan.
The briefest, most aggregated introduction (not using the term definition here) of hyperobjects by Timothy Morton is that hyperobjects are ‘things that are massively distributed in time and space relative to humans’.
Make a quick note here that makes my philosophical inquiry tricky, delicate and hopefully provoking rational debate: hyperobjects are defined explicitly to be devoid of objects in the usual human scale, particularly of human objects as their spacetime distributions are defined ‘compared to’ or ‘relative to’ humans. Morton’s objective is part of speculative realism a philosophical movement focusing on the ontological deliberation of non-human objects, entities after a long period of correlationism and anthropocentrism. My attempt certainly does not have an ambition to blend into mainstream speculative realism.
Going back to the main argument: My ‘open lifespan trajectory’ is by definition massively distributed in time and potentially and derivatively can be massively distributed in space. And my claim is that this makes ‘an individual open lifespan trajectory’ an awful lot like a hyperobject.
Let’s now briefly explore 2 out of the 5 qualities of hyperobjects in the context of ‘open lifespan trajectories’ to see whether these qualities apply. The 5 characteristics are viscosity, nonlocality, temporal undulation, phasing and interobjectivity and I will cover here viscosity and nonlocality. Basically playing the ‘What Rita wants‘ game for ‘open lifespan trajectories’ to potentially pass the hyperobject exam and possibly join the crowd of global warming, internet, evolution, bamboo forests, black holes, plutonium and countless others.
The viscosity metaphor:
Viscosity here means that the more you know about a hyperobject, the more entangled with it you realize you already are.’
or from the book Hyperobjects (HO from now on):
‘They are viscous, which means that they “stick” to beings that are involved with them.
Another description by Stephen Muecke:
The pervasiveness of hyperobjects is what Morton calls their viscosity
The question to consider here is once we have started to undergo Open Healthspan interventions then what kind of distancing opportunity do we have from our very own individual open lifespan trajectories, realised that way? Can we use the present, the now, the temporal actuality of instants, the current day, the ongoing week, the occurring year as an anchor to distance from the rest to come? Or we better fuse the future indefinite, but not shapeless horizon with the now and be constantly informed by it? Can we really throw away the vantage point offered by Open Lifespan?
Let me offer here 2 arguments arguing for the ‘viscosity’ of open lifespan trajectories.
The first one is trivial and comes with the assumption that we are talking about our lives. Nearness, proximity are guaranteed as we are always inside of our lives, as we are always at the wheel. However, this applies both to closed and open lifespan trajectories, so does not offer any specifics concerning our focus.
Let’s see the second argument. A global human with an open life trajectory is living in the tip of the iceberg and can expect many times more behind. Instead of death, at any point the main gravity of a global human’s life comes from the rest of the iceberg, the long quantities of time and space still provided. What sticks to the global human is her big container spacetime cone life out of which only a small fraction is available at any time point or can be considered retrospectively. The global human can’t escape her hyperobject projection. As opposed to this the current local human with normal life expectancy >40 can act as an outsider in her life thinking with good reason that the bigger chunk of her life is already behind.
Epistemological phrasing of this feature in the Hyperobjects are Nonlocal post:
Any particular (local) manifestation never reveals the totality of the hyperobject.
Or ontologically put in HO:
any “local manifestation” of a hyperobject is not directly the hyperobject.
An individual open lifespan trajectory can have many spatiotemporal localities, snapshots but those won’t capture the totality of it. Comes from the definition. Also here it is assumed that a life with a normal expected lifespan can be captured in totality from the …. deathbed.
In HO Morton acknowledges the metaphor status of this quality admitting that:
Nonlocality means just that—there is no such thing, at a deep level, as the local. Locality is an abstraction. Metaphorically this applies to hyperobjects.
One thing that needs further consideration here is the analogy and the limits of the spatial analogy applied between being spatially locally here and being present temporally here. This is a deep philosophical subject I will go into later.