03 – Together forever
ChronicleParallel universe, Radio Círculo, Círculo de Bellas Artes, Madrid, 2014.
The immortality of the body places us in a post-human scenario. The third CCPF brought together a group of experts on physics, biomathematics, philosophy and architecture to evaluate the news of the in-laboratory mutation of the telomerase enzyme, which is capable of halting ageing in the human body. To give the news a broader reach, the debate was broadcast on the radio and recorded on a podcast.
The first discussions focused on the notion of species. Can we still refer to humanity as such or have we become a new species? Will humans be in danger of extinction? Will we still be animals? The distribution system of telomerase was also questioned. Who will regulate the procedure? The law of supply and demand? The UN? Should it be distributed evenly? By region? By age? By social class? Would it be ethical to extend this right to all other living beings? Would it lead to a Malthusian collapse? Should a part of the population be eliminated, and an “earthling renewal rate” set? Using what criteria? Through a “death lottery”? Through democratic consultation on a worldwide scale? Subsistence also worried the cabinet members. What ecological capacity would the planet have in the face of a population in unlimited growth? How can food needs be met? Will it be necessary to implement a diet with a low ecological footprint on a global scale? How will landscapes be transformed when most of the earth’s surface has to be used for farming? How will ecosystems be affected when one invasive agent prevails over others? What about oxygen and drinking water? Should we plan the transition to a pre-modern culture, thereby limiting our dependence on natural resources? Or should we instead rely on technology to optimize the hyper-production of goods? Would it be helpful to consider other formulas such as having one part of society hibernate in order to take turns living, in a kind of large-scale “Operation Walt Disney”? What if we sterilize all of humanity and assume that we’re the last generation: the “chosen ones” to live forever? However, the economic forecast looked iffy. How will the markets react? What about credit systems, when the variable of “infinite time” is inserted into the formulas for calculating mortgage payments? How should risk management be reformulated? What about the pension system? Will economic activities based on non-predatory forms of the planet, such as knowledge or culture, be rewarded? Will the number of elderly care service companies multiply? In relation to co-habitation, will gerontocracy be the new framework for governance? How to mediate inter-generational conflicts? How will the moral and legal codes be redefined? What would be the penalty for murder? A thousand years and one day? Life imprisonment? The death penalty? Will there be wars? Could the spoils of war no longer be material goods, but the conquest of other luxuries, such as solitude? Innovation seemed to be a crucial problem. Can an evolutionary paradigm based on progress still be accepted? If knowledge evolves from the changes of perspective brought in by the new generations who interpret the world in an original way, can there be any innovation without death? Could it be that a mortal society is paradoxically more resilient than an immortal one? Should we invent memory wipe systems to ensure such regeneration? What will be worth remembering? Will the idea of legacy or heritage be meaningful in a time of perpetual dejà vu? And, in relation to temporality, will we have passed from the past-present-future scheme to a new tense paradigm: the present continuous? Will we have been freed from being subject to chronological time? Has time become “spatialized? What are we going to do with so much time? The cabinet members were also worried about everyday life. Will relationships or (literally) eternal love make any sense? Will reproduction lose its meaning? Will we keep doing the same job forever? What is the point of laziness in a culture of “put off for tomorrow what you could do today”? What habitability standards will our cities have? Will architecture and urban planning be disciplines of hyper-density? Since the useful life of any construction material is always less than eternity, will we always live in ephemeral architectures? Will it then be necessary to plan for the dismantling of the buildings? Will new architectural typologies emerge, such as gerontotheques, inter-generational centres or infrastructures for euthanasia? Will cemeteries become monuments (as pyramids are now) to commemorate the earlier “Age of Mortals”? Will a repentant man be able to recover his mortal condition? Does he have the right to design his own death? Will “pro-death” groups be born”? Is it possible to look beyond the life-death antagonism and think of immortality as a chance to live many lives in one (all the other lives we have not yet been able to live)? What about religions that proclaimed death as the passage to another life? Has the body-soul duality lost its meaning? Have we become immortal Promethean gods who have overcome death to live “together forever”?
These and other issues can be seen in detail in the minutes of the meetings.
* Synthesis written by Uriel Fogué, from the minutes written up by the CCPF at each event.