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Superconversations Day 31: Diann Bauer responds to Aleksandr Bogdanov, "Immortality Day"



Multitime Monolife
Diann Bauer & Alexandra Bogdonov

Tatlin’s Tower, or the project for the Monument to the Third International (1919–20)

One thousand years have passed since the day that Margarita Anche, the genius chemist, invented a formula of physiological immunity. Its injection renewed the tissues of the body and sustained in people their eternal blossoming youth with the exception of the female reproductive system. With a set number of healthy eggs at birth the female human would still have a 30-35 year window in which to have a child if she so chose. Anche had also developed the process of ecto-genesis so that if an individual wanted a child but for whatever reason was not biologically able or interested in doing so they still had the option, though this was also restricted to those in early life. It was thought that the later years were better reserved for activities other than child rearing.

Cities in their previous forms ceased to exist. The Earth where Anche would be celebrating the millennial anniversary of her accomplishment was now covered with one megacity linking the old cities of the world via a network of urban corridors and high-speed transit (though this transit system was mostly reserved for nostalgic forms of tourism). Most daily business was not conducted in person anyway.

The parts of the planet that were not urbanised existed as a combination of wild vegetation and automated farming. Though the majority of edible plants came from the vertical gardens designed into the urban centres and corridors.

Only one danger threatened Earth – overpopulation. This was beginning to be dealt with by highly incentivised programs to relocate to Mars and Europa (which along with Earth came to be know as the Helio-Triad, or the HT). Humanity’s unlimited life expectancy now permitted very distant journeys. Further exploration beyond the local solar system was in development but not yet a viable alternative for habitation in the way Mars and Europa were.

Having woken up on a luxurious bed made of platinum wires and aluminium, Anche took a quick shower, performed her routine gymnastic exercises, put on her clothes woven from a light thermofabric, which emitted heat in the winter and kept one cool in the summer, breakfasted on nutritional chemical bars and an extract of processed wood fibre, whose taste was reminiscent of Bessarabian wine, while listening to news reports from around the HT.

A tranquil and happy feeling of strength and of health spread throughout her entire slim and firm body, which seemed to be made of only bone and muscle.

Anche remembered that midnight would mark one thousand years since the discovery of the formula, but also one year since the suicide of Fride, her husband of 82 years… Almost in spite of herself, she began to take stock of her life.

Suicide had become a global pandemic of sorts. All humans had equal rights to the rations of the formula Anche had developed but as they approached 1000 years of physiological immunity, many of them began to withdraw into themselves. They would lose interest in the world around them, and work that had previously filled them with joyful enthusiasm was left unattended. They would become increasingly self-absorbed, speaking only about themselves, their feelings and their individual place in the world, until finally they would commit suicide. The ancient Japanese tradition of Seppuku became a preferred method. Whole industries grew around this demand. It seemed to align with the romantic self-valorising that was a part of the malady. And sadly, her dear Fride had also succumbed to the same fate.

Anche had learned early in her education to not accept fate, that if nature is unjust, change nature. [1] She had done this with her formula, saving humanity from the pain of decay, but now, in her inclination to find a solution to the suicide epidemic, she could no longer tell if she was looking to change nature again out of a search for justice, or out of sentimentality and a personal sense of loss.

The affliction was happening consistently and significantly more often to individuals on the male end of the gender spectrum. It had been determined that this was happening due to a chemical difference in the brain and its ability to process multiplicities of perceived complexity and simultaneity of event. Much research had been done on the human perception of time as the body aged, even before the pandemic surfaced. The perception of the acceleration of time, previous to Anche’s invention, not been an issue beyond what seemed a small cruelty: as humans age, death’s inevitable advance seems to come at an ever-increased rate. But now that the body had the capacity to carry on indefinitely, the perceived acceleration still happened but without the inevitable demise to greet it — at least for some.

And along with this perceived acceleration of time, an increase in the perceptible complexity of the world began to take hold. This was not as a result of a deterioration of the brain — the formula has eliminated this — but, on the contrary, to the brain’s development. One thousand years of learning and cognition has actually allowed the brain to cognate more of the information, information that had been there all along but which, because it had not previously been evolutionarily expedient, had not previously been perceived.

Historically, the lived Now had a fascinating double aspect. From an epistemological point of view, it was an illusion: the present was an appearance. Until the development of the formula the singular moving window of the conscious ‘Now’ had proven to be functionally advantageous for humans: It successfully bundled perception, cognition, and conscious will in a way that selected just the right parameters of interaction with the physical world, in environments like those in which their ancestors fought for survival. In this sense, it was a form of knowledge: functional, nonconceptual knowledge about what would work with that kind of body and those kinds of eyes, ears, and limbs.

But, in reality, in the physical universe there is no ‘now’. For certain physical organisms, such as humans, it had proved viable to represent the path through reality as if there were an extended present, a chain of individual moments through which they lived their lives but reality itself was much richer than this and it was only through the extended life span, granted by the formula that this richness became apparent. The historical human brain had been an exception. [2]

The capacity to cognate this richness, this collapsing of nows, was not however universal. It seems only 62 percent of the population had adapted to be able to accommodate perceiving and cognating a multitemporal existence. For the other 38 percent there had been a sort of shutdown from overstimulation to the brain, from too much information at once, and they, one by one across the planet, had retreated into a self-aggrandising ennui, most commonly culminating in suicide. Those on the female end of the spectrum had been served well by millions of years of evolution, where doing many things at the same time had been a necessity of survival. Research was currently underway to see if this was part of the gender discrepancy in the suicides. Hormone treatment has been successful in some cases but not universally. It had been decided by decree that because this loss was not disadvantageous to the species, and that the greatest problem facing the species was in fact overpopulation, no further efforts to stop the practice of suicide were to be developed through research into better understanding the condition would continue.

Anche, lost momentarily in her reverie, rushed quickly to get ready for the day. She still had a good deal of work to do at the lab before the evening’s millennial celebrations.

Diann Bauer is an artist who works both independently and collaboratively. She studied art and architecture at Cooper Union and Goldsmiths College. She is a co-organizer of Fixing the Future and a member of the feminist collective Laboria Cuboniks.

Alexandra Bogdonov is her Sasha Fierce.

[1] Xenofeminism, a Politics of Alienation, Laboria Cuboniks, 2015.
[2] Thomas Metzinger, The Ego Tunnel, The science of the mind and the myth of the self, Basic Books, 2009.