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Timothy Morton’s Hyperobject

British philosopher Timothy Morton argues that we do not presently possess the potential to "achieve epistemological escape velocity from ontological density", referring to the density of environmental processes and/or the changes we are experiencing in the human environment.The concept of dark ecology demonstrates that knowledge of the environment is ‘dark and strange’ because it requires constant awareness of the relationship between the subject's actions and the consequences of each actions. Before the Anthropocene, people did not think about how their actions might affect the ocean level, precipitation, wind speed, water fauna, and so on. Now, when human actions reached a geological scale, the old basic ideas about the world, the horizon, nature or even the environment, are refuted, as we enter a new era, outlined by the main element of dark ecology — the hyperobject.

Hyperobject is a term that describes global phenomena which have an enormous impact on our world, yet are of such a scale that they cannot be comprehended in their totality.  Their effects of hyperobjects may be experienced even if they cannot be necessarily touched.

The other examples are nuclear radiation, tectonic plates, nuclear radiation, etc. Hyperobjects appear in our world as a product of human thinking through the ecological crisis humanity has invented. Ecological crisis is thought to be the time of hyperobjects when massive of non-human, non-sentient beings make decisive contact with humans, ending various human concepts such as world, horizon, nature, or even environment. 

According to Morton, hyperobject possesses five essential characteristics:

  • Viscous: Hyperobjects adhere to any other object they touch, no matter how hard an object tries to resist. In this way, hyperobjects overrule ironic distance, meaning that the more an object tries to resist a hyperobject, the more glued to the hyperobject it becomes.

  • Molten: Hyperobjects are so massive that they refute both the idea that spacetime is fixed, concrete, and consistent, and the idea of a rigid body extended in space itself (Plutonium has a half-life of 24 100 years, 7% of global warming effects still occurring 100 000 years later).

  • Nonlocal: Hyperobjects are massively distributed in time and space to the extent that their totality cannot be realized in any particular local manifestation. For example, global warming is a hyperobject that impacts meteorological conditions, such as tornado formation. According to Morton, though, objects don't feel global warming, but instead experience tornadoes as they cause damage in specific places. Thus, nonlocality describes the manner in which a hyperobject becomes more substantial than the local manifestations they produce.

  • Phased: Hyperobjects occupy a higher dimensional space than other entities can normally perceive. Thus, hyperobjects appear to come and go in three-dimensional space, but would appear differently to an observer with a higher multidimensional view.

  • Interobjective: Hyperobjects are formed by relations between more than one object. Consequently, objects are only able to perceive to the imprint, or "footprint," of a hyperobject upon other objects, revealed as information. For example, global warming is formed by interactions between the Sun, fossil fuels, and carbon dioxide, among other objects. Yet, global warming is made apparent through emissions levels, temperature changes, and ocean levels, making it seem as if global warming is a product of scientific models, rather than an object that predated its own measurement.

The article is based on: source 1, source 2, source 3.

Photo by Dima Sergeev © 2011 Izolyatsia