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.
This is going to be a very dense daily effort as I’m sitting alone in a big reception tent at the Eden Project in Cornwall, tired and it’s getting cold.
Already discussed Nagel’s Death essay twice, now is the 3rd time. In the text, after he has introduced the principle of life’s default positivity he is aiming to conceptually restrict discussion on the value of one person’s life. So he makes the following attempt to dismiss ‘mere organic survival’:
The value of life and its contents does not attach to mere organic survival: almost everyone would be indifferent (other things equal) between immediate death and immediate coma followed by death twenty years later without reawakening.
Nagel is asking us here to do a first-person, moral thought experiment in which we are given 2 options to conclude quickly that mere organic survival (coma being an obvious example of it) is not satisfactory (fit enough) when the value component of the principle ‘it is good simply to be alive’ is being discussed. He knows that coma technically speaking is still being alive so it’s important for him to dismiss it from the discussion.
I was invited to give a talk at the upcoming Fourth Eurosymposium on Healthy Ageing in Brussels, early November, please see abstract below:
For some people, wanting to live longer lives is genuinely motivated by a serious interest in pursuing multiple and different activities in life and realising the strict time constraints current life expectancy imposes on pursuing such a plan. For others, the trigger is coming from the fear of death and disease and the accompanying pain and suffering. Let’s call the former the upbeat, the latter the downbeat path to longevity advocacy. Continue reading “My talk in Brussels: Preparing to live (way) beyond current lifespan”
The important principle of life’s default positivity was introduced via Thomas Nagel’s Death essay in an earlier post. This essay is a masterful essay of analytical philosophy: dense, full with deep thoughts, yet it is clearly written and most arguments and positions can be recovered with relative ease. On the other hand, it keeps you engaged as it opens up new questions and make you think further. Today my job is to type here almost the complete last section of the essay as it provides a great description of why the assumption of open-ended, indefinite lifespan is a familiar, default and ‘natural’ inner experience of people. As such it can be used as an argument for wanting to actually live an Open Life and push for developing the technology (what I call Open Healthspan) eventually yielding an external experience matching this inner experience. Continue reading “Thomas Nagel and the familiar inner experience of Open Lifespan”
Last time I’ve introduced the principle of life’s default positivity, and the first formula provided was the one used by Thomas Nagel in his Death essay:
It is good simply to be alive.
Another way to phrase this is comparatively
It’s better to be alive than dead.
Let me introduce now a potential counterargument, extracted from the words of one of my favourite fictional characters, Rosencrantz, played by Garry Oldman in Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead. Mind you, this is Stoppard’s but not Shakespeare’s Rosencrantz, speaking. How about watching it first:
The thesis or principle I’d like to introduce today is a (possibly) central thesis behind Open Lifespan philosophy and I’ll keep coming back to it throughout this blog and book in the making. I’m going to extract it first from Thomas Nagel’s masterful and dense essay, Death, originally published in Noûs, in 1970 but am actually going to use the edited version published in Mortal Questions, in 1979.
Then I simply try to provide different formulations. So no arguments today, just a start to understand this principle by stating it and have a glimpses at the heavy philosophical concepts behind it.
Nagel’s main problem in the essay is to investigate why and how and when death can be a misfortune (evil, bad) to the persons who died. And it has to do something with bringing ‘to an end all the goods that life contains’.
And in this context the principle is first stated as an ‘allegiation’ that
It is good simply to be alive, even if one is undergoing terrible experiences.
So first formula
1. It is good simply to be alive.
Let’s continue here cause this leads to another formulation of the principle:
This week brought unprecedented worldwide (media) attention to the dramatic IPCC Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5ºC giving humanity a deadline of 2030 to avoid a climate disaster. To cite from the official press release:
The report highlights a number of climate change impacts that could be avoided by limiting global warming to 1.5ºC compared to 2ºC, or more. For instance, by 2100, global sea level rise would be 10 cm lower with global warming of 1.5°C compared with 2°C. The likelihood of an Arctic Ocean free of sea ice in summer would be once per century with global warming of 1.5°C, compared with at least once per decade with 2°C. Coral reefs would decline by 70-90 percent with global warming of 1.5°C, whereas virtually all (> 99 percent) would be lost with 2ºC.
I’ve rethought my older post in the light of the dramatic IPCC report on climate change giving humanity a deadline of 2030 to avoid a climate disaster. I think it is important to connect and discuss Open Lifespan in the context of ecological awareness. I saved my earlier hyperobject analysis for another time.
The argument: Humans with Open Lives can act on ecological scales
Imagine the following: you are living potentially not up to 100 years but up to 1000 or 10000 years as a biological being without the accumulated effects of aging related negative processes as Open Healthspan technology lets you to counteract those major declines time to time, resets your physiological age and keeps increasing mortality continuously at bay. In short, you have Open Lifespan and you are living an Open Life.
If your potential lifespan gets so close to the time-scale of many big environmental processes then human ecological awareness might reach a new level as full ecological responsibility can be taken for the things you do. From this point of view Open Healthspan technology can be considered and desired as a mighty enabler of ecological thought as by achieving this aim you get to act on previously unprecedented timescales, you get to act like a fully, environmentally responsible human being. At 1000 year old with a pretty good chance you are going to be amongst the Guardians of the Galaxy. And at 1001 even more so.
Our daily today is posing a heavy philosophical question: can we build a better self without building a better world? For understanding the level of this question one needs to take a moral/ethical concept of the self granted. But we don’t need to dig into the depth of the malleability of personal identity, but mostly focus on our narrative, social construct of our selves that is a prime bearer of moral values and changes and agent of moral decisions. Continue reading “Daily Effort: Can we build a better self without building a better world?”