07 – Countdown
ChronicleEutopias, Summer Course, Néctar, Barcelona, 2017.
A scenario of widespread infertility places us in a world without a future: a time of pure present. The seventh CCPF brought together a heterogeneous group of experts in utopia, made up of artists, historians and art curators, to face the “countdown” to the extinction of humanity in a few generations.
The first speakers questioned the exceptionality of the situation. Why should the extinction of humans be considered more serious than the extinction of other species on Earth? Will this be the first time that a species is aware of its own extinction? The problem was also addressed from an economic approach. How will the markets react to a world whose future is fading? Could the more than likely economic upheaval be an opportunity to reformulate our socioeconomic relations? Will some economic products such as mortgages or investments continue to be valid within a finite time horizon? Does an inheritance without heirs make any sense? Can we reformulate this concept to think of it not so much as the transmission of a past heritage, but as something to be projected, something like a inheritance towards the future? Another part of the debate focused on culture. Should we create a vast repository of human knowledge as a historical legacy? Who should dictate the contents to be included in such a “total archive”? Who would it be meant for? What if we erected a great memorial to the history of mankind? In that case, which history would be remembered? The one about human achievement? Shouldn’t other human “exploits” like Hiroshima be reflected as well? Isn’t the Anthropocene already a kind of monument to human action, materialized in the form of geological force? What if, instead of commemorating the historical period that comprises human life on earth, we make an assessment of it? What if instead of aspiring to endure, we try to eliminate any trace of humans from the planet? Should this be, perhaps, the last human undertaking on Earth? Are we responsible for “cleansing” and “purging” all human actions on the environment before they disappear, as there is no longer a moral debt to future generations? Is it better to let the planet run its course “without us”? The consequences of the impending depopulation process were then assessed. What will a society that gradually converges towards the same age range be like? In a world that is becoming depopulated, will children gradually come to be considered a treasure? Will they become fetishes? Will they be traded? Will this de-densification imply the need to think about a simpler way of life, less dependent on industry and resource consumption? Should we learn to be ascetics? Or, on the contrary, as the population drops, will the distribution of resources be more profitable and will we be able to live, at last, a life of leisure, with less responsibility? Will there be migration of survivors to safe and comfortable climates, with the aim of building communities, as the number of people declines? Will the richer countries show solidarity with the poorer ones, since they no longer have anything to lose? Or, on the contrary, will they reinforce their already militarized borders in order to guarantee the safety and “good life” of their inhabitants, seeking refuge in powerful fortresses? How will the fact that rich countries today have older populations than poor ones affect the distribution of global wealth? Will they eventually lose their military power and ability to intervene and influence other countries? The role of technology in the “countdown” process was also discussed”. Is it possible to achieve human immortality through cyborg technology? Will we be able to “download” our consciousness into technological supports equipped with artificial intelligence in order to live, thus, a post-human future, as some scientists predict? Should we invest the rest of our lives in programming such technological devices, where we can reproduce human behaviour, moving “life” into a virtual world, populated by characters with artificial intelligence? Should that be the footprint that humans leave on the earth? Should we keep using dual metaphysical arguments that separate the soul from the body? Issues related to education were also discussed. Does it make sense to maintain curricula based on “training for professionals” if there is no opportunity to put them into practice? Shouldn’t general education training be oriented towards the care of some gerontocracies to come? Finally, the sense of coexistence was discussed. What ethical values should we consider, now that many of the transcendent maxims whose value criterion was based on principles of eternity or long-term formulas have ceased to be useful? How will our perception of time change in a present that has no future? How do we think of our installation in the world beyond reproduction, need or survival? What do “expendable” and “indispensable” mean now”? What if we throw “the last big party”? Will a party that lasts 80 years be boring?
These and other issues can be seen in detail in the minutes of the session.
* Synthesis written by Uriel Fogué, from the minutes written up by the CCPF at each event.