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On Transhumanism and European Left

An Interview with AIT Chair Riccardo Campa


Juha Matias Lehtonen


Abstract: Journalist Juha Matias Lehtonen interviews sociologist and activist Riccardo Campa on transhumanism, left-wing politics, technological risk, and spirituality. Fragments of this interview have been published in the Finnish newsmagazine City (see the article “Ihminen 2.0” at [ + ]
1. Many of our readers are politically active and especially here in the capital area the academic youth is mostly left-wing. What do you think that transhumanism has to offer for socialist political thought and action?
First of all, the left should avoid to fall victim of any anti-science or anti-technology fascination. To be clearer, the left should keep far from Latouche’s idea of degrowth. We should remember that “scientia est potential” (science is power), so it would be suicidal to give up new technologies. This implies giving power to other parties, other social classes, other countries. Socialists should always try to possess and use new technologies. Computers and internet are a fantastic instruments also for political propaganda and to organize political activities. Let’s remember that Karl Marx was strongly critical toward Luddites. He said that workers should not destroy the means of production (technologies), but take possession of them. Besides, he was convinced that it was necessary to overcome capitalism, not just because it is unjust, but because this system sooner or later will collapse and bring us to degrowth. Only socialism could guarantee – in his view – an infinite growth. I do not totally agree with the form of socialism proposed by Marx, but I agree with him about the fact that capitalism is potentially self-destructive and that socialists should always fight for the access to technologies. This applies also to transhumanist technologies. Biotechnologies may open the road to self-directed evolution. If biotechnologies will be available only to the rich, in the future, instead of a class struggle we may have a species struggle. We do not like this scenario, but we cannot stop science. Prohibitionism would just bring a black market, open to an even smaller amount of people (gangsters and the very rich). So, the best solution is fighting for the wider possible access to biotechnologies.
2. What would be the three most important technological breakthroughs that humankind should try to achieve in order to make the society better?
First, we should try to improve longevity and slowing down (or removing) aging thanks to stem cells therapies or genetic engineering. Secondly, we should try to radically reduce (or even abolish) involuntary work, by replacing humans with robots in any factory or office. Obviously, people should receive anyway a “citizen salary” to buy products and enjoy their life. If someone wants to work, in order to earn more money, should be free to do that. But this should not be necessary in order to survive. We have better technologies in comparison to a century ago, but we are still working the same amount of time. This is a nonsense. This means that a small group of people is taking advantage of this technologies to get richer and richer, without sharing the benefits. Third, we should stop imprisoning, torturing, and killing everyday billions of animals. We should produce and eat artificial meat, instead.
3. What have been the three most important transhumanist technological breakthroughs of the 2000s so far?
In my view, stem cells therapies, cyber prosthetics (artificial arms, legs, organs, eyes, etc.), and genetically modified organisms.
4. What do you think are the three greatest hazards that lie in transhumanist technologies? And how should we protect ourselves from these?
As I said, the first problem could be an access to new technologies limited to affluent people or gangsters. The second problem is connected to overpopulation. If people do not get old and live for hundreds years (perishing only for accidents or illnesses), the world population could grow too much. This problem can be avoided if people will be enough mature to reproduce as they are doing now (2 or 3 children maximum, even if in their longer lifespan they could have 20 or 30 children). The third danger could be combat robots. A country could use very sophisticated robots in order to conquer and dominate other countries. The solution? Peaceful countries should always try to possess the most advanced technologies, in order to stop the invasion with better machines.
5. Does transhumanist philosophy affect your daily life? For example, have you chosen a special diet to follow, as I know many transhumanists have?
Yes. I take care of my body and mind, because I know that in a few years I could have access to fantastic technologies. So, healthy life, no smoke, no much alcohol, some sport, and food integrators. However, no obsession with all these things. It’s important to enjoy life. To live longer without pleasure makes no sense at all.
6. Do you feel that there’s a spiritual side to transhumanism?
Yes, I do think that. According to one internal survey, about 70% of transhumanists are atheists or agnostics. While the remaining 30% adhere to a religion. Personally, I’m agnostic. I know that I do not know. In my view, death is a mystery and such must remain. I try to avoid this mysterious event as much as possible, but I am also philosophically ready to face it. I will face it as the last adventure of my terrestrial existence, hoping it is not the last one. “Hoping” is different than “believing”. I am much more interested in philosophy than in rituals and traditional religions. However, even philosophy may deal with metaphysical hypotheses, and therefore with the spiritual side of our existence. I think that if humans will become posthumans, if they will live longer, if they will enhance their minds, in the future they will ask questions about the sense of life, or the sense of this world, perhaps even more than us. Probably posthumans will be less satisfied than humans, as regards the response offered by traditional ritual religions. However, I am pretty sure that they will ask these questions, and they will give them new answers.

Da: City




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