[-empyre-] Week 2: Intersubjects

WA Watters F mendrevin at epdo.cc
Sun Jul 19 02:47:37 AEST 2015


I write this firmly in the spirit of what Ileana called a "gesture not exclusively in the realm of new media art practice" and in answer to her question "what if we were to expand that very notion (as parameter) up to the edge of the observable universe?"

As mentioned earlier, intersubjectivity requires interaction.  Also, we know from modern physics that no interaction can be communicated faster than the speed of light: as far as we know, this is a universal physical limitation.

As two people move farther apart on the Earth, their interactions, mediated by modern telecommunications technology, are not significantly compromised.  But if they were to move farther apart in the solar system, the effects would soon become very noticeable.  For example, a message from a person on Pluto would require several hours to reach someone on Earth.  The rate of the interaction is significantly slowed down.

One "light year" is the distance light travels in one year: it is a unit of distance, not of time.  When we look at the night sky with our unaided eyes from a dark location, we can see about 1000 light years into space.

And so, most of the stars we see are much farther than 50 light years away.  What I wish to point out is that "intersubjectivity" breaks down completely at this distance, because humans do not live long enough to exchange even one message with a person (or alien person) living near a star that is a little more than 50 light years away (i.e., 100 years are required for send-and-reply).  At 50-100 light years lies the horizon of permanent subjective isolation.

And this is not very far: our galaxy alone is 100,000 light years in diameter, and galaxies are typically millions of light years apart.

Now to answer Ileana's question directly: intersubjectivity, even for immortal beings, is impossible at the scale of the observable universe.  A message transmitted from the edge of our observable universe must have been sent when the universe began.  An even longer time would be required for us to answer.

If the expansion of the universe continues to accelerate, it may happen eventually that intersubjectivity over even much shorter distances becomes permanently impossible because space is expanding faster than light can cross the intervening distance. 

Wes

-- 
W.A. Watters Farfan
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