Immortality comes before the court for the first time
Court is in session, announces, from the yellow pulpit, Philip Euzen, the presiding judge for the Court for Future Generations, who is incidentally a reporter with monde.fr. On the agenda tonight: immortality. "This question is not new,” begins the judge without a robe, “one of the major philosophical exercises since Ancient Greece has to do with taming the fear of death.” For evidence of this, we need only look at images of Indiana Jones, Highlander or Twilight projected on screen, which are proof of our obsession, as a civilization, with eternity. "Today, thanks to science,” the judge continues, “man seems to be closer to his ultimate dream. So are we moving towards a posthumanism? Science fiction has predicted this for a long time, and science is already traveling down that road. How far can science go? Will man be able to give up some of his inventions for his own good or is the quest for eternal youth inevitable? "
In a solemn tone, Judge Euzen recites the real names and functions of the characters in this fake trial. The defendant: Marc Roux is a teacher and the president of the French Transhumanist Association The witnesses:- Jean-Marie Robine, demographer and epistemologist, research director at INSERM
- Jerome Pelissier, writer, doctor of psychology and researcher in psycho-gerontology
- Raphaël Granier de Cassagnac, science fiction writer, author of RPGs and Eternity Corporated, forthcoming this year, and researcher in particle physics.
"Any volunteers in the audience to serve as jurors?” asks the presiding judge. Otherwise, your names will be drawn... "“Normally they are not volunteers," cries out a man in the audience. "It's a strange concept of justice..." replies another. One can almost feel the potential for protest in the audience. C4, D16, H16, E2,... the seat numbers in the auditorium-courtroom are drawn in an atmosphere of naval battle. The artist shakes her brushes in the water. Everyone is in place.
Transhumanism: life as an open-ended contract
Marc Roux approaches the stand, collected and sure of himself. "I am pleased to appear freely," he says bluntly, "it will perhaps not always be the case." He launches a Power Point to present his association, Transhumanism, its history since its inception in California in the 1970s, and the future of man thanks to new technologies. Through a professorial and well argued statement, we learn that transhumanism is "an intellectual and cultural movement based on the belief that the human species in its current form is not the end of our development but rather an intermediate stage, the current result of a past evolution.” The speech is well conceived and the accused defends his belief in immortality. The danger of Martian attacks, of Near Earth Objects, the death of the sun ... "Mortal danger still exists! ", he maintains. “Transhumanism is therefore the belief that one can overcome biological mortality, not accidental mortality," says Marc Roux, as if to be reassuring. The jury does not bat an eyelid. “It offers a healthy life for an indefinite period of time and thus does not make any promises, if only what remained at the bottom of Pandora's box: hope." The ad-like summation comes to an end. The Macintosh running the Power Point signals that it will soon run out of battery power. The accidental death of the computer would be a sad irony.
« We're just machines designed to live! »
« These are fabrications, bad science fiction of the 1950s! Let’s return to the facts.» There is no doubt, it’s a scientist taking the stage. With swaying body movements, the demographer, Jean-Marie Robine, narrates a little history of mankind starting with the Neolithic era. "In the Neolithic era, the estimated life expectancy was 18 years, 100,000 years later, around 1880, it was 40 years. From 1880 to 1950, life expectancy increased by 5 months per year but that was mainly due to the decrease in infant mortality. Since War World II, the growth of life expectancy has been 3 months per year. Will it continue? A number of my colleagues predict that life expectancy will be 100 years in 2060.” The audience tries to keep up. The scientist points out that, despite everything, there is no sign of change in our biological aging. Is life expectancy in good health improving as much as overall life expectancy? We arrive at his thesis: "Our longetivity today is not due to what we are biologically but to the fact that we are increasingly enduring our environment. We transform it continuously so that it is more conducive to our well being, therefore we last longer. We are just machines made for living." The shadow of Jean-Marie Robine shakes across the walls. "We dream of biologically altering man so that our longetivity is the general consequence of the quality of our environment. By living in a bubble, perhaps we can live forever!" Dramatic finale! Immortality is not where we thought it was hiding.
» Isn’t immortality a bit heavy? »
« I think it's important to have a more poetic and spiritual vision of the world » says Jerome Pelissier, the second witness, looking up at the starry yellow ceiling of the auditorium and its spotlights. The speech by the researcher-writer wanders from personal experiences to literary references. He'd much rather quote Césaire and Senghor than computers, the myth of Aurora and Tithonus rather than statistics. With a smile, Jerome Pelissier makes fun of the optimism - applied to technology or to the environment - of his predecessors on the stand, whom he labels as too "Darwinist" for him. He disagrees with the idea of the continuous progress of mankind: "Will human beings be better? More efficient? What does this mean? How would this increase our well-being, our quality of life, our sense of belonging to humanity?” In short, it is the merits or usefulness of immortality that he questions. "Isn’t immortality a bit heavy? », he finally asks himself and us.
The last witness is not the one we think
Raphael Granier de Cassagnac is not the writer of science fiction who was introduced to us. »I come from the future! ”, he announces in his blue and green polkadot shirt – a “shirt of the future”, he will go on to elaborate at the end of the trial. "In terms of immortals, I therefore know a few and I'll explain how it really works." After the initial disbelief that shook the audience, it becomes obvious that he is a man from the future who is very well informed about our mortal works of science fiction. His references to immortality come from Permutation City by Greg Egan, The Great Secret by René Barjavel or "the only book of SF " to have received awards, The Possibility of an Island by Michel Houellebecq. Between two books, one can’t help wonder what made him an immortal ... His ears? He’s talking about Gollum from The Lord of the Rings. Are those rings on his fingers? Finally, Raphael Granier de Cassagnac gently gives us a few tips on how to better live our immortality, which leads us to conclude that all SF writers are not well informed. Before we are able to solve the mystery of his immortality, he ends with: "I plead for the outright acquittal of the defendant. Not case dismissed, because immortality might not be an illusion. »
«I do not really feel like a defendant" says Marc Roux, noting that here we are "on the threshold of a very open debate." A good sport - or perhaps we should say good defendant - he finds that the witnesses have rather diverging beliefs. His fate is far from sealed. His facial features relax. And accepting the role of sacrificial victim, he adds: "Even in the form of a trial, I think this can make a difference. »
The jury is worried
The jurors have to deliberate. Still a bit shy in their seats, they will soon rebel. An octogenarian who has never gone to the doctor, a communist militant with a crew cut, a bald man tapping his fingers on his computer, they clamor about their fears regarding scientific progress, the related ethical issues, big capital that controls our environment, transhumanism that would thrive on the fall of ism-utopias, the issue of the democratization of these technological advances ... "Would we not be wrong to blame? " asks a man who refers to paragraph 2 of Article 223.6 of the French Penal Code that provides for a 5-year prison sentence and a 75,000 euro fine for anyone who willfully fails to render assistance to a person in danger. A feverishness takes over the auditorium. “Is Mr. Roux accused of not sufficiently behaving as a person in favor of medical advances?” continues the well-informed man. Jérôme Pélissier, the researcher-dreamer, speaks: "I support the rebellion of the jury who refuses to be locked in a binary choice!” A member of the audience leaves in a hurry. Is it the suspense of the verdict or the late hour? A juror with slicked-back hair continues: "Is it even right to answer these questions about immortality?" Raphael the immortal, once again well informed as to earthy mores, replies: "There is nobody else but us.. uh ... you, the people, represented in the courtrooms, to answer these questions." The presiding judge is overwhelmed by the jurors, who are now summoned to declare by a show of hands whether or not they find the defendant, transhumanist Marc Roux, guilty.
Following noisy deliberations, the verdict of the judge is handed down: "The question of immortality remains open. It will be up future generations to address it. "
Another cased dismissed.