The concept and reality of a Longevity World Community, reading Jens Bartelson

Introduction

The immediate focus of this post is to investigate the possibility of a world community centered around longevity. Is there an existing seed of such a community and conceptually what other features make a compelling case for the emergence of an organised Longevity World Community?

The historical apropos is the emergence of such a world-wide longevity community in the last two decades starting in the nineties of the last millennium and the very recent turning of part of this community into a world-wide longevity industry aiming to capitalise on the breakthrough understanding of the biological aging process and interventions counteracting it in order to increase healthy lifespan.

The background context of this mini-study is the question of how longevity can be introduced into politics. One prominent feature of this introduction is informed by the philosophical discussion between Rawls-ian liberalism and its communitarian critics.

The intellectual trigger is Jens Bartelson’s book, called Visions of World Community, published in 2008 by CUP.

Visions of World Community

The main focus of the book is the conditions of possibility (the social ontology) of a world community. The main question of the book investigates the tension between why such a world community is morally compelling and why it is so politically hard to realise. Underlying this question a pragmatic paradox: the implementation of the universal values of a world community always seem to be coloured and eventually blocked by the particularities of local communities. A world community is boundless and all-inclusive in its scope, why all historically existing particular communities are bounded. The edge of Bartelson thinking is that he digs up excellent examples showing how different cosmological beliefs were behind different formulations of world communities. I had a problem first to understand what cosmology means here because by default I was thinking about current day cosmology which is a branch of astronomy and so physics and dealing with the large scale structure and properties of the whole existing universe. Then I realised through the actual examples in the book that cosmology is meant to be restricted to geography as the term ‘world’ in ‘world community’ refers to our actual ‘human’ world, realised in the spatio-temporal unity of planet Earth. For our argument it is important to highlight here, that the examples refer more to the spatial than the temporal component of planet Earth and geography. Think more like maps, lands, territories, localities rather than temporalities, times, trajectories.

Just to show one example: For Kant as Bartelson writes ‘world community is essentially a geographical vision.’

His vision of a united mankind is a corollary of his geographical assumptions of inhabitable continents being interconnected by full navigable oceans. … The only boundaries morally relevant to such a community  are those of the planet as a whole since ‘through the spherical shape of the planet they inhabit, nature has confined them all within an area of definite limits’

Longevity meets World Community

Why do I think longevity and open lifespan (here I don’t make a distinction between the 2) has sufficient potential to serve as a cohesive force behind a world community?

My argument will try to follow the concept/reality dichotomy, if applicable.

The concept element will show how it looks in theory, what is the guarantee or angle to consider the resulting community being a boundless, all-inclusive world community.

The realist element shows the already existing seeds upon which the building of this world community can be further established upon. Alternatively sometimes the reality component is replaced by a practicality point showing a practical consequence of such a position increasing feasibility.

Membership in the longevity world community

Concept:

The viewpoint offered by longevity starts as an individual one: every living human being is given an individual human life to maintain, grow and govern. On a philosophical/ethical level this is backed by the principle of life’s default positivity, please refer to Daily Effort: Thomas Nagel and the principle of life’s default positivity, first take and Is life in a box is better than no life at all? Help and hope, so.

Reality:

Here I would like to characterise 3 different groups, with some individuals overlapping, forming the seed of a longevity world community.

Group 1:

People around the world caring distinctively about their longevity and making extra measures to maintain general health do already belong to this community. Until now, coming out

Group 2:

People around the world  making extra measures to maintain general health and fitness. Think Fitbits, supplements, lifestyle choices adjusted to latest health terms in terms of fitness regiments, dieting.

Group 3:

Older people in late-life operating at the frontiers of life expectancy facing longevity decisions on a daily basis. The true pioneers forming the dynamic and brave wavefront of human life. This category can be made quantitative including actual mortality rates and life expectancy, but this is not the point here.

Logic of longevity is all-inclusive by default and it is not the logic of identity

This is a conceptual point mainly, an extension of the previous point.

The identity of particular, local communities is built around the identity logic of sameness and otherness. Sameness, belonging, membership in such communities can only be constructed upon recognising differences and otherness. This applies to nation-states, the current de facto form of sovereign political and particular communities. As Bartelson writes:

‘According to this logic of sameness and otherness, each particular state is identical with itself by virtue of being different from every other state.’

As opposed to this, a longevity viewpoint does not have the concept of the Other to point to, there’s only potentially All to advantage from it. The vantage point of longevity is inside every individual constructing his belonging to this community and it is also pointing outside towards other people. We also have a theoretical reason to offer these longevity technologies to others first, please see Would you choose to live longer than anybody else or first help others to do so?.

Reality/practice:

Admitting that current longevity advocates form only a small minority this also entails that advocacy includes a lot of attempts to expose others to the advanced understanding of biological aging and the broadening spectra of potential interventions counteracting it. A lots of converting takes place, in the secular sense. This comes from all-inclusivity. I, for instance, am constantly exposing everybody in my local environment to these ideas and knowledge snippets. And learning a lot from them.

Longevity is using temporality, not spatiality to organise a world community

Concept:

Longevity World Community is defined via a temporal and not a spatial dimension. Let’s get more philosophical/metaphysical here: Ownership in its typical, representative from is spatial, I own this bike, and that car is yours. More importantly, when one occupies a particular space, it cannot be occupied by others at the same time. Spatiality is exclusive, coexistence in the same space is restricted. At the same time, temporality is all-inclusive, the same time is always shared by many and all. Longevity genuinely exposes the temporal dimension as a connector of people. There is zero territoriality involved there. Here we arrive at a practical point.

Practicality:

Nation states are the default form of particular political communities and sources of political authority. They present the ultimate challenge for any concept and practice of boundless political world communities. Longevity as the organising principle behind a world community is fully neutral concerning nation states: different dimensions, zero interference. Every nation has longevity advocates (see next point), so no nation is devoid from members subscribing to longevity.

Common historical memory

One component of particular communities are common historical memory and Bartelson sees the lack of such memory as an obstacle in achieving world community. When we think of the 3 groups mentioned above in the Membership section, the actual oldest old, operating at the limits of life expectancy left behind traces of historical memory, wisdom to cope with the experience. Also concerning the other 2 groups, I think when one looks back into past generations it seems clear that almost every generation had thinkers, practicioners wanting to live longer healthier lives. I think showing such traces in every generation in written history would make a nice history project, to prove the case. So in the case of the longevity world community this component is there to draw inspirations from, but with one clear difference from already existing particular communities. The vehicles of this common historical memory are mostly individuals, not a particular community. The first world-wide longevity community has just been formed in the last 20 years, facilitated mainly by emerging internet technology. 

Wrap-up

Longevity as the organising principle of a boundless, universalistic, global, world community is a radical political idea. I have argued that it is a good candidate for constituting such a world community because it is

  • individually compelling
  • potentially all-inclusive
  • existing and diverse groups form its seed already
  • it is using temporality as a dimension
  • it does not rely on the ‘Same vs Other’ logic of particular identity

Further discussion

In the light of Bartelson’s book I see at least 4 more questions left out of the current discussion:

How is diversity guaranteed as a constitutive feature of humanity by the Longevity World Community?

How is communication guaranteed as a constitutive feature of humanity by the Longevity World Community?

How does Longevity World Community meet the mereological principle of the whole being larger than the sum of its parts?

Is it possible to derive/justify global political authority based on the existence and morality of a Longevity World Community?

Hopefully as we go along I can unfold those extra discussion points here.

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *