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Chapter 4 (Excerpts): The end of the human race?

Chapter 4 (Excerpts)

The End of the Human Race?1—Jean-Marc Mandosio

Amidst the general destruction of all the conditions that might (eventually) allow the individuals who comprise humanity to finally have access to a life worth living, neotechnology2 is the vector and accelerator of a four-fold collapse: 1) of time, or duration, to the benefit of a perpetual present; 2) of space, to the benefit of an illusion of ubiquity; 3) of reason, which is confused with calculation; 4) of the very idea of humanity itself.

None of these collapses is exclusively imputable to neotechnology, which only implements the promises of the technological era. We shall take a closer look at how it does so in the following pages.

“Live for the moment”: the message that the Coca-Cola corporation installed, in luminous letters, on all the soda machines in the Paris Metro stations, is truly the imperative of our time. It is also a literal translation (undoubtedly unintentional) of the “carpe diem” of Horace, the classical reference par excellence, evoking a time when students, “nourished on Greek and Latin, starved”; but what was originally advice offered by an Epicurean to rich Roman businessmen and men of letters has been transformed into a veiled sadistic threat: how could the pallid living dead who drag themselves through the corridors of the Metro in the middle of August “live” in that or any other way? The only thing that is expected from them is an urge to spend money. This slogan perfectly summarizes the spirit of an era in which the worn out slaves of hypermodernity go from fear—for example, when driving the wrong way on a highway exit ramp—to the search for the ecstatic crash when they will finally feel like they really exist. The proliferation of paroxystic states, of “risky” behaviors, from gangbanging to puenting, from shooting heroine or smoking crack to staying awake for days at a time thanks to amphetamines, is the application of the famous subjectivist slogan: “Live without dead time, enjoy without restraint.”

“Live for the moment” is also to immerse oneself in the flow of instantaneous communication, in “real time”, by the mediation of interconnected computers. Anything that is not a part of this permanent happening, where “chat rooms” follow “personal reality shows” with continuous feeds, is null and without value. Now that they are all “interactive”, the spectators are invited to take pleasure in their own alienation. (Hence the slogan of a recent anti-television campaign: “Become the actors of your own life”). The ideology of New Age—which owes its success, just like Christianity and other oriental religions, to its valorization of acquiescence as “self-realization”—says nothing else:

“Millennia are nothing but the products of human imagination; the world only exists in the present—today’s present moment, the image of eternity—as the common universe that we must effectively inhabit, that is, share and love in order to make it our own.”3

This allegedly real time is not time but its absence, its reduction to quasi-immediacy. What is thus falsely called time is everything that is the opposite of duration, of that time that Kant called “the form of internal meaning, that is, the intuition of ourselves and of our internal state”. It is instead the result of that struggle against duration, against human time, that constitutes the characteristic trait of industrial societies, where everything that takes place if even for a short time is by definition a waste of time. Since time is nothing but money, as everyone knows, profitability imposes the law of accelerated turnover: in dining (fast food), in travelling (high speed journeys), in communication (transmission of large amounts of data in a short time), etc. On the other side of the ledger, the prolongation of “leisure time”—that is, the intervals devoted to spending the money that we have been able to earn as fast as possible—will be devoted to immersion, for as long as possible, in “real time” communication, which means never leaving the circle of technological conditioning (and therefore the conditioning of the world of the commodity, since neotechnology is, as we pointed out at the beginning of this chapter, a system that is both technical and economic).

The collapse of time is obviously accompanied by that of memory. From the perspective of real time, a year is a century. You have to avail yourself of the services of a professional historian in order to discover what the world was like six months ago, and the world of twenty years ago is lost in the mists of a semi-legendary past:

“A Little Larousse from 1979 is thus the only testimony of a past era, a technical Middle Ages that is disturbingly close to us, where there were telephone booths, typewriters and televisions without remotes whose programming ended at eleven p.m.” (Alain Le Diberder, Histoire d'@. L'abécédaire du cyber, La Découverte, 2000).

There is still, however, a domain where brevity is still viewed as an inconvenience rather than a blessing: the human lifespan. Death is no longer the natural conclusion of life, but a scandal, an attack on what is supposed to be some sort of human “right” to live as long as possible. Any random imbecile—in this case, a Danny Hillis, specialist in “artificial intelligence” and one of the founders of the Thinking Machines Corporation—can enthusiastically declare: “I value my body, like everyone else, but if a silicone body would allow me to live to be two hundred, I’m all for it.”4

It is true that humanity has always cherished the dream of the elixir of eternal youth. Now that the average lifespan of certain categories of the world’s population has significantly increased,5 can we say that these people who survive so much longer than their predecessors really live, if we do not content ourselves with thinking, along with the biologists, that it is enough for metabolic functions to continue to function in order to affirm that an organism “lives”? There was a time when one could say, with Aristotle, that one can only judge the life of an individual after his death, “… in a complete life … one swallow does not make a summer, nor does one day; and so too one day, or a short time, does not make a man blessed and happy”; but can we judge a life that has been entirely devoted to “living for the moment” in any other way than to declare that it is worthless? What kind of life experience will all these nonagenarians or centenarians who will be exhibited on their birthdays bequeath to their descendants (if they have any) or to posterity?

A laboratory experiment concerning life extension has recently been conducted using transgenic mice. Its results were published in the November 1999 issue of the journal, Nature:

“… for the first time in a mammal, a gene known as p66 has been shown to be directly implicated in the aging process. A recent theory that attempts to account for the aging process attributes a role to oxidative stress, that is, cellular damage caused by free radicals, toxic molecules derived from oxygen. Enrica Migliaccio and her team at first wanted to study the role of p66 in the response to oxidative stress: the researchers then noted that the p66 protein had undergone a change. In order to find out more, they bred transgenic mice, known as 'knock-out' mice, in which the p66 gene was rendered inactive. Then they studied the action of agents capable of causing damage to DNA, via oxidative stress (ultraviolet radiation and oxygenated water) on the cells of these mice. The result was surprising: while the cells of the normal mice died in the presence of the oxygenated water, the mouse cells that did not express the p66 gene survived. This protective effect was also demonstrated in vivo. Because resistance to external stressors is generally related to an increase in lifespan, the researchers wanted to know what effect the mutation had on the longevity of their mice. The result was spectacular: the mutant mice lived an average of 30% longer than the normal mice…. The mutation of p66 does not appear to have serious biological consequences…. The researchers suggest that p66 exercises, under normal conditions, an inhibitory effect on DNA repair mechanisms. The mutation of the p66 gene allows the cells to permanently repair their DNA, and the mice to live longer.” (Enrica Migliaccio et al., “The p66shc adaptor protein controls oxidative stress response and life span in mammals”, Nature 402, pp. 309-313 (18 November 1999).)

The newspapers retained nothing from all of this except the report of the “exceptional longevity” (Le Figaro) of these mice that “live longer” (Le Monde), and live “a long, disease-free life” (Libération). But two other aspects of this research strike us as much more important:

1. The research involved not just longevity, but also “resistance to stress”—in other words, the habituation to harmful phenomena. Let’s translate what we have just related about the mice to the human species. Most human beings adapt quite readily, even to the worst environmental conditions (you only need to read Primo Levi’s If This Is a Man in order to be convinced of this). Normally, our resistance is relatively strong, because we have become accustomed—the process is known as “Mithradatization”6—to concentrations of environmental pollution that would probably kill a man from the 15th century in a few days were he to be suddenly exposed to them; just as we would rapidly become ill were we to be suddenly subjected to the living conditions of the 15th century. But harmful phenomena are proliferating at such an unprecedented rate that the process of Mithradatization (which, like all habituation, must take place gradually and requires a certain amount of time) is no longer effective, and the natural environment is rapidly becoming a deadly environment. Mrs. Migliaccio has found the solution: instead of attempting to change an environment that creates such “stressors” in such a way as to render it less harmful to the individual, all we need to do is to change the individual by modifying his genes to adapt him to an environment that, for that very reason, will no longer be so stressful, and therefore can no longer be defined as harmful. Transgenic man will thus be able to live 30% longer even if he is subjected to a continuous bombardment of radioactive particles in an atmosphere that is saturated with dioxins and other toxic sulfurous, nitrogenous, and organic compounds.
2. The gene in question (“p66”) appears to be totally useless, and since it only has inhibitory effects, its mutation will not have “serious biological consequences”. But in order not to acknowledge a harmful effect for what it is, thanks to the “resistance to stress”—to become habituated, for example, to the infernal racket that prevails in our cities and in all our public spaces; to discover that Pizza Hut is not so bad; not to yield to panic when trapped in a traffic jam, during a hot day, on the highway; to remain calm and cheerful after having witnessed someone commit suicide on the tracks of the Metro—presupposes the loss of the capacity for judgment and therefore of thought. Of course, this is not a “serious biological consequence”, insofar such things no not affect the smooth operations of the main organs responsible for assuring metabolic functions, but there can be no doubt that they represent an important psychological consequence. Experiments on mice are apparently unlikely to lead to such a conclusion; but human beings, unlike mice, supposedly think. Since the loss of the ability to think for oneself is already clearly widespread among the greater part of our contemporaries, we may conclude that transgenic treatments will not change much in their lives: they will not perceive any inconveniences in it, only advantages.7

We do not know if Mrs. Migliaccio read, when she was younger, the report published in 1958 by a study group of the World Health Organization on “Mental health aspects of the peaceful uses of atomic energy”. This report pointed out that “from the point of view of mental health, the most satisfactory solution for the future peaceful use of nuclear energy would be to see a generation arise that has learned to get used to a certain dose of ignorance and uncertainty”.

As each passing day proves, this new generation is already here, and Mrs. Migliaccio’s mice will contribute to the perfection of the ignorance and the uncertainty of the next generations that will come after them. More generally, research projects in genetic engineering, which are conducted with mice, fruit flies and potatoes, all tend, beyond the immediate interests of industry and its profits, towards a eugenic goal, which is the constant and increasingly less openly-avowed concern of the geneticists: to eliminate imperfections, to improve the human stock in the name of apparently indisputable goals (the eradication of disease, life extension…). We do not, however, want our lives to be prolonged by these methods, just as we would not want, for anything in the world, to live to be two hundred years old in a carcass of silicone, even if this were to be possible.

The collapse of time is intimately linked to that of space. The neutralization of distance by the reduction of the time spent on traveling and by almost instantaneous communication via the Internet engenders a false impression of ubiquity. Obviously, real distance is not abolished, but only the representation that we have of it: the subjective experience of distance undergoes, like that of duration, a kind of contraction. To put it another way, being nowhere we can have the sensation of being everywhere at once. In order for this contraction to take place, so that “real time” can be the same for everyone, everywhere on earth, certain a priori material conditions are necessary: the extension of the industrial system to all societies, control of the planet by the establishment of homogenous transportation and communications networks, the standardization of lifestyles (Chinese restaurants in Paris, pizzerias in Hawaii, McDonalds in Beijing)—with the fictitious preservation of various biological and cultural reservations. A paradox then arises: places that are relatively close to each other but which are not connected by air, highways or High Speed Train, become more distant than others that are nonetheless much farther away. The contraction of space is thus accompanied by its destructuring. This paradox, which made its debut in the 19th century with the railroads, is a powerful factor in the desertion of the unconnected zones and concentration around the main “nodes” of communication. The development of air travel and the High Speed Train has only reinforced this trend. The development of the Internet, on the other hand, tends to favor a certain kind of decentralization: we see how some people take up residence far from the cities but remain “connected”, but that is precisely what prevents them from “living in the country” and transforms the latter into the green periphery of neotechnology. The Internet thus exacerbates among those who use it the feeling that what is most distant is at the same time what is closest.

The destructuring of subjectively perceived space is also translated into the new forms of urban or suburban conditioning, where every place is transformed into a “non-place”:

“Aggressive, hard to understand, disconnected from biological rhythms, the contemporary city sometimes seems like it was designed by highly-evolved cyborgs, endowed with a perception of space and time different from that of its ordinary inhabitants…. Unlike traditional urban space, the contemporary city cannot be traversed in any sense of the word. Numerous spaces are reserved for specialized forms of circulation. One cannot just walk wherever one wants because of the multiple obstacles posed by infrastructures…. The resulting space is like a Swiss cheese, crisscrossed by pavements…. Because it cannot be spatially apprehended, the unity of the city is a synonym for a public relations campaign…. Everywhere, the same malls, everywhere a superabundance of signs that are powerless to channel the impression of the fragmentation of urban space, a potentially infinite fragmentation that is similar to a fractal process…. The same scenery seems to be reproduced from one corner of the planet to the other, as if the whole world was being prepared for the advent of a new race of cyborgs capable of understanding an urban environment that has become an enigma” (Antoine Picon, La ville territoire des cyborgs [“The City, Territory of the Cyborgs”], L’imprimeur, 1998).

The destructuring of space also entails that of subjectivity, because space is, like time, an a priori form of perception: it is not something that we perceive, but the very framework of our perceptions, the totality of coordinates within which our sensory experience is constituted (as Kant said, “[space] is the subjective condition of sensibility, under which alone outer intuition is possible for us”). In a space that is fragmented to the extreme, stripped of any point of reference and endowed with paradoxical properties, consciousness itself becomes fragmented and schizophrenic. At least in part, we may thus refer to psychogeography to explain the almost simultaneous appearance all over the world of serial killers and, more generally, aberrant and self-destructive behaviors.

The relativity of time and space that the astrophysicists talk about makes no sense—just like the paradoxical properties revealed by particle physics—except on a non-human scale of phenomena. In our everyday experience, Kant’s observation is still entirely applicable: “Space represents no property at all of any things in themselves, nor any relation of them to one another, i.e., no determination of them that attaches to objects themselves and that would remain even if one were to abstract from all subjective conditions of intuition.” In the same way, despite our knowledge that the earth spins on its axis and revolves around the sun, this does not mean that for us, as it does for Husserl, “the Earth does not move”. Finally, it is not true that “we have a potential, virtual body, capable of every kind of metamorphosis”, nor that “it is infinitely variable” (Michel Serres).

The confusion between the virtual and the real,8 the total disorientation that characterizes the schizophrenics of the post-industrial era, entails the impoverishment and sterilization of the imagination. The latter ceases to be creative—except, in principle, among the “creatives”, whose function is precisely that—and is restricted to the consumption and tedious repetition of prefabricated images.

Memory and the imagination, as they collapse, necessarily drag reason down along with them. We have already seen repeated examples of this decomposition of reason in our comments on the texts of researchers or university professors (not to mention journalists) with relation to neotechnology or other matters. The accelerated dissolution of reason in the tepid waters of inconsistent charlatanry goes hand in hand with the conviction, which is becoming ever more widespread, that reason is nothing but a simple faculty of calculation. This conviction, which has been disseminated with the generalization of information technology, is derived from an enormity attributed to the English philosopher Thomas Hobbes, which is repeated by all the specialists of “artificial intelligence”: “Reason [Thinking] is nothing but Reckoning (that is, Adding and Subtracting).” It does not take much to proceed to the conclusion that calculating machines—and that is all that computers9 are—are “intelligent”.

It is a very big mistake to confuse reason with the art of counting, simply because reason is about something altogether different. Here is how the Abbé de la Chapelle defined reason in the Encyclopedia two centuries ago:

“We can conceive different meanings of the term, reason.
1. We can simply and without further qualifications understand it to refer to that natural faculty of knowing the truth, regardless of the light in which it is understood and the order of materials to which it is applied.
2. We can understand reason to be that same faculty considered, not absolutely, but only to the extent that it is conducted in its quest by certain ideas, with which we are endowed at birth, and which are common to all men….
3. Reason is sometimes understood to mean that same natural illumination, by which the faculty that we designate by that name is led….
4. By reason we can mean the chain of truths to which the human spirit can naturally accede, without the help of illumination or faith.”

There is not the slightest trace of calculation in all of this; it is always about the truth and natural illumination. The word reason was only used in the sense of calculation in mathematics (what we now call an “account book” used to be called a livre de raison). In Latin, ratio certainly means calculation, but this is only one of the word’s meanings, as it can also mean “discourse”, “reasoning”, etc.

Also in the Encyclopedia, Diderot, inspired by Francis Bacon, divided all human knowledge into three categories, i.e., “History, which refers to Memory; Philosophy, which emanates from Reason; and Poetry, which is born from the Imagination”. In an era when these three faculties are not found in most people’s minds except in the most rudimentary form—somewhat like the dilutions of the “memory of water” in homeopathy—it is hard to admit that philosophy emanates from reason, if we understand by “philosophy” the desiring machines of Deleuze, the difference of Derrida or the disciplinary laboratory of Alunni. It is only quite recently that philosophy has become a specialized discipline (whose method and object actually remain quite obscure); in the past, as in the times of Diderot, philosophy embraced all the sciences, divided into “the science of God”, “the science of man” and “the science of nature”, and the mania for mathematical (or pseudo-mathematical) formalization did not yet exercise its tyranny over most disciplines. Only since the advent of mathematical logic—of which informatics is the direct heir—has reason been narrowly identified with calculation: in 1854, one of the founders of this discipline, George Boole (inventor of the famous “Boolean Algebra”), entitled his most important work, An Investigation of the Laws of Thought. But the “truth” that the Abbé de la Chapelle was talking about has nothing to do with the truth that mathematical logic is concerned with: in the former, it is about real knowledge, the knowledge of the nature of things, and in the latter, it is a simple formal framework, one that establishes the conditions that determine whether a logical proposition can be judged to be “true” or “false”, regardless of any external referents.

Reasoning does not consist only of a series of operations of formal logic that a correctly programmed computer carries out unerringly. The classical computers did nothing but mechanically run programs—sometimes incredibly complex programs—based on the properties of mathematical logic, without ever dealing with either the “truth” or “natural illumination”. They were no more related to reason than a plow or a toothbrush. As one author with an exquisite taste for the euphemism said: “Researchers in artificial intelligence undoubtedly employed a formalism that was too narrow and for that very reason they lacked essential concepts for the understanding of the nature of intelligence” (Dominique Pignon, Le mecanisation de l'intelligence en quete perspectives nouvelles [“The Mechanization of the Intelligence in Search of New Perspectives”]).

So, what does it mean to reason? This is not well understood—which is to say that no one has any idea—and perhaps the best definition might still be the one offered by Plato: “a dialogue of the soul with itself” (hence the dialectic, initially the art of dialogue, where thought advanced by successive affirmations and negations). The exercise of reason sets in motion not only the faculty of chaining together propositions logically, but also a faculty which does not pertain exclusively to formal logic, once that embraces the imagination, memory and sensory experience; furthermore, reason is not the attribute of an isolated individual, as the philosophers have always imagined (especially in the model of the Philosophus Autodidactus (the “autodidact philosopher”) introduced by Ibn Tofail in the 12th century), but of a human society. For that reason, even computers that are less rigidly formalized than the classical computers, called “neuronal” computers because their structure supposedly imitates that of biological neurons, and which more or less manage to simulate certain basic perceptive mechanisms (vocal or optical recognition) have—as another subtle coiner of euphemisms said—“many problems in addressing the structured representations of language and reasoning” (Daniel Memmi, Connectionism and Artificial Intelligence as Cognitive Models). And soon they will announce the introduction of “biological” computers, which associate transmitters and neurons (of the planarian, the rat, or the snail), or else replace silicon microprocessors with strands of DNA…. Perhaps these new computers will “calculate” more rapidly than the current ones, but they still will not reason; because what all these machines lack is dialectics.

No one needs to worry about the possibility that machines will ever think and make decisions in our stead.10 Insofar as computers do nothing—and will be capable of doing nothing—but execute the operations for which they have been programmed, what we have to worry about is the programs themselves, and those who design them. This kind of “delegation of power” to a system of apparatuses that are neither comprehensible nor controllable by those who use them (since this knowledge and this control—in this domain nothing has changed, whatever anyone may say, since the time of Taylorism—is exclusively reserved to engineers and technocrats), is already in itself enough reason to reject the influence of technology in general, and of neotechnology in particular, over our lives.11 Returning to reason as it was defined by the Abbé de la Chapelle, it is clear that the process of the destructuring the mind that we have seen in operation with regard to memory and imagination renders the very notion of truth literally incomprehensible. This explains, moreover, the irresistible seduction exercised in our time by deconstructionism and relativism. But we would be committing a serious error if we were to abandon the search for the truth, on the pretext that reason and enlightenment have degenerated, since the 18th century, into positivist dogmatism, according to a disastrous dialectic leading to the “self-destruction of reason”. As Theodor W. Adorno and Max Horkheimer demonstrated during the Second World War, “freedom is inseparable from enlightened thought”, even if the latter contains within itself “the seed of that regression that is evidenced everywhere in our time”. That is why, they continue, “reason must become conscious of itself”, or else “it will seal its own fate”. And, in effect, reason is going down before our very eyes, perhaps irremediably.

Curiously, the subjective dimension of this dialectic of reason was described, a long time ago, by an author who is not exactly deemed to be “a champion of enlightened thought”:

“It is to be feared that by frequently seeing the positions that we assumed to be the most solid and enduring being undermined, we shall succumb to resentful fear of reason as a result of which we will not dare to believe the most obvious truth” (Saint Augustine).

The conjoint collapse of these three faculties that were traditionally considered to have been constitutive of the human mind provides a good explanation of that fact that more and more voices are joining the chorus of those who today propose that we should do away once and for all with the species itself, from which there is not much more that we can expect and whose limitations seem from now on to be an unbearable burden or a scandalous insult against the rights of the individual. The same dialectic that led reason to create the conditions of its own destruction has ended up inverting the “humanist” progressivism of the Renaissance in a project that seeks to purely and simply destroy humanity.12

***

In this “total confusion”, it is necessary to have a fixed point from which it will be possible to issue a judgment and attempt to reorient ourselves. The only point of orientation upon which we can base ourselves is our own nature as individual humans endowed with reason, a necessary (although not sufficient) condition for all discernment. We certainly do not claim to possess the least originality in this matter. Every day, however, we see so many discourses, so many inventions, so many events of such great originality and such imposing novelty appear, that we have not judged it desirable to add any of ours.

In opposition to the imperative that all the propaganda broadcasts never cease to drum into our ears, “Live for the moment”, we proclaim another very different one, which does not require you to purchase anything to put it into practice and which is not aimed at a collective entity composed of seven billion members, but at each single individual, and which opens up the possibility of a progress worthy of the name: “Know yourself.” And we are not employing this formula here in the manner of the psychoanalysts, who use it to disorient men by means of illusory demands and distance them from action on the external world, but because the possibility of collective action on the external world henceforth proceeds by way of the recognition that, over the course of one’s life, an individual is hardly capable of really acquiring and developing more than a very limited number of creative abilities or particular skills, and that what matters is to know what he is capable of if he really desires to be capable of doing what he wants to do.

Translated from the Spanish translation of portions of Chapter 4 of Jean-Marc Mandosio’s book, Aprés l’effondrement. Notes sur l’utopie néotechnologique, Encyclopédie des Nuisances, 2000.

English translation completed in March 2014.

The Spanish translation was originally published in the second issue of the journal, Maldeojo (June 2001).

The Spanish translation of this text may be viewed online (March 2014) at: http://www.network54.com/Forum/280518/message/1170936373/%BFFin+del+g%E9nero+humano-+%28Jean-Marc+Mandosio%29

  • 1. This text is a translation of portions of Chapter 4 of Jean-Marc Mandosio’s Aprés l’effondrement. Notes sur l’utopie néotechnologique, Encyclopédie des Nuisances, 2000.
  • 2. By neotechnology we mean first of all an economic and technical system, that of the “new communications technologies” (it might seem improper to define them as “new”, as is traditional, but this term is actually perfectly applicable, because incessant renewal constitutes an essential element of these technologies), with their production processes, their infrastructures (the “information highway”), their equipment (microprocessors, programs…) and their field of operations (the targeted public, that is, everyone); and secondly, an ideology that is indissociable from this system, which preceded it, engendered it and feeds off its development (this ideology crystallized at the end of the 1940s in the U.S. around the mathematical theory of communication—better known as “information theory”—elaborated by Claude Shannon and Warren Weaver in 1948, and cybernetics, “the scientific study of control and communication in the animal and the machine” formulated that same year by Norbert Wiener).
  • 3. This text is featured as a blurb for a collective work published in the year 2000 by Albin Michel/Spiritualités (From One Millennium to Another: The Great Change), with a table of contents that includes, among other “authors of renown”, Jean Baudrillard, André Comte-Sponville, Thierry Gaudin, Jacques Lacarrière and Edgar Morin. Throw in Paulo Coelho and you will have the entire spectrum of charlatans who invite us to “celebrate a new era in confidence and lucidity”.
  • 4. We could provide a multitude of examples of this kind from the book by David F. Noble, The Religion of Technology: The Divinity of Man and the Spirit of Invention, a very illuminating book that analyzes how scientists largely perceive their work through the lens of religious metaphors that always refer to overcoming (“redemption”) the concrete (the body, the inert, matter, limits, etc.) as a means of access to “paradise” (omnipotence, immateriality, eternity, ubiquity, etc.). [Note of the Spanish Translator.]
  • 5. On the other hand, other humans do not enjoy such “progress”; not to mention the fact that, in many regions of the world (Sub-Saharan Africa, Russia...), life expectancy is falling—which shows that nothing has been achieved and that no progress is irreversible.
  • 6. Legend tells of the Asian king Mithradates who consumed small doses of poison every day in order to acquire resistance to poisoning and overcome its effects should he be attacked by his enemies. [Spanish Translator’s Note.]
  • 7. As usual, however, it will only be when we have “deactivated” these genes, which are not only useless, but also harmful, in human beings at birth, after we discover that they also have some other function concerning which we were previously unaware, that the transgenic babies might be prevented from enjoying their 30% longer lifespan.
  • 8. The erasure of the boundaries between the real and the virtual as the origin of the flattening out of the imagination has been analyzed by Marc Augé in The War of Dreams and L'Impossible Voyage. The transition to “total fictionalisation”, as Augé characterizes this process, means above all the weakening, or the pure and simple abolition, of the frontiers between reality and the domain of fictive creation: now the real, in order to survive, must imitate fiction (places must take on the characteristics of images that are devouring them and finally they must be transformed into images, journalism must be conducted like fiction, politicians must become actors, etc.). To exist is now entirely a matter of being seen. Thus, hardly anyone travels in order to learn how to see again, but only to once again see the images that are identical to the images of the travel brochure that they obtained before their trip. The dissolution of the boundary between fiction and reality also implies that, from now on, only fiction can make itself heard: once it has been separated from the pole around which it once revolved, or against which it clashed and obtained its force, once the distance that generated the tension between the work, the public and the real has been eliminated, fiction is limited to repeating over and over again the same thing; the non-places that Augé analyzed in another book are precisely the expressions of this insane movement of repetition that has the entire world as a stage. [Note of the Spanish Translator.]
  • 9. This is the exact meaning of the English word, computer, and the Italian word, calcolatore; before 1956, computers were called “electronic calculators” in France.
  • 10. Reliance on a mechanism “for support in the decision-making process” does not at all mean that the “expert system” makes the decision; to make such a claim amounts to saying that the decisions that some people make on the basis of the horoscope, the I Ching or any other form of divination are actually decisions made by the stars, the tetragrams or the coffee grounds. A machine that “decides” or that “gives its verdict”, the fate that “wants things to turn out this way”, a god that “demands” or “orders”: all are swindles that are used to deceive others, and sometimes to deceive oneself.
  • 11. See, with regard to this question, the books by David F. Noble on the criteria that determined the introduction of machinery in capitalist enterprises: Progress without People: In Defense of Luddism, for example. [Note of the Spanish Translator.]
  • 12. We are not speaking here of the accidental destruction of humanity in the case of, for example, a nuclear conflict, or from the “collateral damages” caused by industrial development, but of the planned destruction of humanity.