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A small man in a big world

by Jacques de Guillebon

" The humanity of tomorrow will not be the organic robot that has been announced "

They’ll try, but they won’t succeed. Caroline Gaudriault, in her interview with Francis Fukuyama and, later, with Théophane Le Méné posit that the time of old humanity has passed and that we now find ourselves swept away in the maelstrom of a technologisation of the human that nothing can stop.

“All that Mankind can do, it will do”? Perhaps. But this is to wager on the worst case scenario. Yet the history of men and their conscience – a history that has been too quickly buried – provides many counterexamples. Were we not promised, in still recent times, a nuclear apocalypse that never happened? Yes, there was Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but the Cold War, with its two blocs, their nuclear devices and their world-destroying red buttons, came to a close. Maybe the balance of terror was successful, the two powers cancelling each other out. We should remember the judgment of Ivan Illich, according to whom, pushed to a certain point, all technology produces the opposite of what it was intended to. And to imagine that Mankind is, collectively, incapable of recognising this would be to seriously underestimate human conscience. We know that Hölderlin said: “There where peril grows, also grows that which will save us.” A decade ago, we were promised that human cloning was upon us. But where has this monstrous event happened? Nowhere. If we look back further in time, we cannot forget those moments of grace that have, like other moments, fashioned history, for example Tokugawa period Japan (mid-17th century) that voluntarily gave up manufacturing and using firearms.

But at a deeper level, we cannot forget that, as Jacques Ellul said, in one of his early works, “It is not technology that enslaves us, it is the sacred transferred to technology.” So, nothing is lost, and the current generation, at least in the West, has understood perfectly the issues with which it confronted. Transcending the false divides between left and right, it contests, with a single voice, the new world promised to it, a world of instant communication that does away with both time and space. Here, it calls a halt to Vinci and its proposed Notre-Dame des Landes “Ayraultport” in the West of France; there, it reinvents local – or “short-circuit” – economies; elsewhere, it rejects biotechnology that promises it children à go go. Of course, thanks to inertia, Modernity staggers on, but only as a result of the immense amount of energy that it has expended over the course of the centuries. In reality, its engine is running out of fuel, and the humanity of tomorrow – let us make this wager – will not be the organic robot that has been announced. Because Mankind transcends Mankind infinitely and has not finished astonishing the universe.

Jacques de Guillebon

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