Transhumanism: The Challenges of Techno-Scientific Power and Sociological Approach to African Backwardness – Article by Siba Tcha-Mouza
Editor’s Note: The U.S. Transhumanist Party features this essay of reflections motivated by the recent TransVision 2022 Conference in Paris, France, from our Foreign Ambassador for Togo, Siba Tcha-Mouza, who represented the USTP at that event, which was hosted by the French Association Transhumaniste-Technoprog (AFT-Technoprog).
~ Gennady Stolyarov II, Chairman, United States Transhumanist Party, December 10, 2022
On the occasion of the annual international conference of all transhumanists called TransVision 2022, organized in Paris (France), by the French Association Transhumaniste-Technoprog (AFT-Technoprog), the theme of transhumanism was at the center of very relevant debates. This conference, entitled “Divergences or Diversity”, dealt with a great vision of human becoming, of human and societal change through the dazzling progress of technology. “Geographical diversity: transhumanism in Africa” was the theme around which I conducted reflections that I summarize in this article. This is a critical look, awakening and warning Africa particularly about the need to already think about transhumanism and to take an active part in the forthcoming fourth technological revolution.
What is transhumanism?
According to the French Transhumanist Association Technoprog, transhumanism is described as an “intellectual and cultural movement that affirms the possibility and desirability of fundamentally enhancing the human condition through the application of reason, especially by developing and making widely available technologies to eradicate age and greatly increase the intellectual, physical and psychological capacities of human beings.”
When out of curiosity, we enter the word “Transhumanism” in the Google search engine (French version), we often come across this:
“Transhumanism is an international cultural and intellectual movement advocating the use of science and technology to improve the human condition by increasing the physical and mental capacities of human beings and to suppress aging and death.”
And it is in particular also the projects around these last phenomena that arouse agitations of all kinds.
Illness, aging, and death, if they belong on the one hand to the natural phenomena of our existence, they do not escape either the socio-cultural aspect which recovers them, reconstructs them without distorting them through a symbolic system. Society is endowed with this ingenious ability to give meaning to even severe natural phenomena by inserting them into a scheme of values, without losing sight of the deep aspirations of humans. They are accepted as fatalities or understood as the result of the failure of human efforts (of naturopathic and allopathic medicine).
We can therefore easily understand the astonishment and the criticisms aroused by the transhumanist ambition to reconsider these phenomena, raw materials in socio-cultural matters, even though they are intimately hated and fought for the fact that they sow desolation and social disorder at each passage. Transhumanism frees itself from contradictory value judgments, and proclaims loud and clear the legitimate aspirations of our humanity, then assigns itself this noble and humanist mission of seeking, through the development of disruptive technosciences, to improve the human condition. The human being is therefore invested with the duty to use his singular capacities, his brain to recreate himself. And that’s what he continues to do since he used a stick to pick the fruit from the tree.
What is the state of play of transhumanism in Africa, first as a reflection and then as concrete projects?
The human beings living on the African continent are certainly all transhumans as much as those of all the other continents. African societies have invented and use the tools to increase themselves. They have access to modern tools to solve or try to solve problems. However, it remains undeniable that they lag considerably behind in terms of innovation and mastery of the most advanced techniques of our century. The mastery of Nanotechnologies, Biotechnologies, computer science, and sciences and techniques of cognition (NBIC) opens the door to incredible possibilities:
– Understanding, then intervening effectively in the biological processes of the appearance of degenerative diseases and aging, thereby allowing an increasingly long life in good health;
– Creating therapeutic artificial organs;
– Creating brain-machine interfaces in order to increase the possibilities of action, particularly in tetraplegic patients;
– Avoiding genetic diseases thanks to genetic engineering;
– Curing currently incurable diseases which create biological, psychological, and social suffering;
– Perfecting intelligent systems that will allow the manufacture of machines that think, speak, feel and act;
– Freeing the human from undesirable and dehumanizing work by replacing it with the intelligent machine;
– Creating or developing intelligent environments and tools;
– Conquering space and developing geoengineering, etc.
In the first Transhumanist Declaration we read the following: “The future of humanity will be radically transformed by technology. We envisage the possibility that the human being may undergo modifications, such as his rejuvenation, the increase of his intelligence by biological or artificial means, the ability to modulate one’s own psychological state, the abolition of suffering, and the exploration of the universe.”
Do not the human inhabitants of the African continent wish to free themselves from the yoke of nature and radically change the human condition as mentioned in the Transhumanist Declaration above? Do they knowingly reject modernity?
The technophobia that drives the deconstructive critique of transhumanism and the disinformative caricature of the movement is far from succeeding in stopping the accelerated manifestation of human potential.
Dennis Gabor (Nobel Prize in Physics in 1971) said the following:
“Everything that is technically feasible must be achieved, whether this achievement is judged morally good or reprehensible.”
The risk is not transhumanism, but rather the absence of transhumanism which would give way to the political anarchy of technologies, and de facto to societal chaos.
Faced with such a risk, the transhumanist movement is committed to predicting, supporting, and directing the social and biological mutations of humans towards a desirable future by minimizing the risks of undesirable events as much as possible. This, thanks to humanistic values and the suppression of negative instincts that plague the world. It is an international movement that cares about the current and future situation of humanity across racial, cultural, and territorial boundaries.
I don’t see the people of Africa as technophobes. I think that their delay in mastering advanced technologies has its source elsewhere than in technophobia. But why this delay of the African continent compared to the others which strive tirelessly to constantly reinvent themselves through the mastery of the secret of the technique?
The historicity of African societies has not helped Africa first for the appropriation of techno-scientific innovation, and then for its participation in the transhumanist movement which is developing to give a humanist meaning to “demurgic” technical power, which falls into the hands of human beings.
I borrow the historicist model of Alain Touraine for whom society is the product of his work through the social relations of its actors. This is what he calls his historicity. In other words, the historicity of a society is the “production of itself by itself, or rather of some of its components by others of its components.”
There are three dimensions of historicity:
a- The accumulation of actions produced, wealth in several forms (objects, capital in the economic sense), culture.
b- The representativeness of the mode of knowledge, of the culture.
c- A representativeness of creativity, of the attraction for innovation, or on the contrary for tradition.
Today, Africa still sees itself hampered from within by its shyness acquired and nourished for centuries, its abandonment and its faith in fate, the concentration of all its energies in social relations without interest or even destructive diverting all attention to major issues, fashionable terminological mimicry without concrete actions, etc.
It is always in this sense that the difficulties of understanding the urgency of participation in ethical reflections on the biological and societal mutation of the human engendered by convergent sciences and techniques are inscribed. Appeals aimed at attracting the attention of even the intellectual strata remain inaudible until now.
Of course, no society on earth is perfect. However, the hierarchy of strength, power and material wealth cannot be denied. If certain countries or groups of countries are considered, rightly moreover, as being world powers, it is precisely thanks to the mastery of the technique and its perpetual improvement throughout history. And this is only possible thanks to their historicity oriented in the direction of the acquisition and preservation of economic, military, diplomatic power, etc.
These companies have a collective vision for the short, medium and long term. They ensure individual interests through collective interests and put in place strong systems such as:
– The cultural and structural conditions in accordance with the objectives;
– Openness to the processes of socio-political change;
– Support for innovations, etc.
Private and state entities increase, in synergy, the technical capacities of their society with which they identify. Power is granted thanks to tireless efforts in the face of the ambitions that we have defined. It is the result of a vision of society or nation through the implementation of human potential and the necessary means; feeling not like an isolated individual but rather like belonging to a society that we must protect and make prosper in a world characterized by power relations.
The feeling of belonging to society implies collective mobilization around common interests, in particular existential issues. The adversity between political currents remains constructive and, in no case, aims to jeopardize the common good. Patriotism, shared ideals and pride in belonging to a future-oriented whole, fuel rules-based values and efforts. The members of society (political and civil) nurture a strong desire to develop and preserve their know-how and to mobilize it if necessary in the global competitive marketplace.
Perfecting its technological capacities is above all ensuring its existence, in order to allow its stability, its economic prosperity, and its influence on an international scale.
Those who have understood it are dominant, and on the other hand, those who have not understood it are dominated, giving rise to de facto discrimination.
A concrete case of the state of African technology:
In the Salon Vivatech held in Paris from June 16 to 19, 2021, it was reported that according to the Partech Africa institute, fundraising reached a record level in 2020 (359 ventures funded, +44% compared to the year 2019). At the same time, the total amount invested fell by 29% (thus 1.43 billion dollars in 2020 against 2.02 billion dollars in 2019).
However, in Europe and the United States of America, investments reach several tens of billions of dollars each year.
French President Emmanuel Macron had announced that he wanted to inject 2.5 billion euros into African Tech until 2022 to make it a soft-power. Unfortunately, difficult realities are underlined because of governance problems within the Digital Africa structure created in collaboration with the French Development Agency (AFD). Managers of the structure are sometimes fired or resign.
During the year 2021, there were more than 700 investments for a total amount of 5 billion dollars. However, compared to the delay, this remains insignificant for an entire continent.
For Maurice Lévy, director of Publicis Groupe and co-founder of Vivatech, said that “African billionaires and powerful people need to start investing in African startups. It’s up to them to do the job. And I call on them to do so! It’s in Africa’s interest, it’s in startups’ interest, and it’s in their own interest.”
In an imperfectly humanist evolutionary context, Africa has an interest in catching up in order to be able to take its place at the decision-making table on the future of humanity.
History teaches us that since primitive societies, humans have always been characterized by power relations and domination. For a hundred and fifty thousand years (prehistoric time), the nervous capacities (the psyche) of the human have remained essentially the same. Annihilate, destroy or dominate the other social group to expand its territory, increase its material resources – these unfortunate tendencies still reside in the DNA of our societies.
International tensions taken to extremes constitute a kind of brake on research aimed at protecting human life from the violence of nature and the biological damage that sometimes robs it of the taste for life. Efforts made by the human to save the human become meaningless as long as the self-destructive instinct remains within humans. And this manifests itself in the relations between social groups or states.
I think, in all sincerity, that humanity can and will be able to get rid of the use of mass murderous violence which is war. Unfortunately, one of the aspects of transhumanism that is closest to my heart is the accelerated evolution of the human psyche. Has the brain forgotten itself in creating and performing the tool? The creature then seems to surpass its creator, hence the urgency of perfecting the human brain. It will be as necessary to revise certain ideologies that lead to human unhappiness, thanks to universal humanist values. The power that humans acquire through technosciences would be an existential risk for humanity if they are not more human, mature and wise. To the technoscientific power must be added a humanist sense to achieve the objectives of the transhumanist movement
In view of social problems, wars, and many other instabilities caused by the dark human will, it is therefore judicious to pose the hypothesis of the shortcomings of our nervous capacities, of the biases already in our reasoning.
This shameful instinctive tendency for our species should no longer characterize the Human Being of tomorrow or the fairly advanced Transhuman, because the latter will be freed from cognitive biases and irrationality in their quest for happiness.
But for the time being, before this desirable mutation of human nervous capacities, Africa must demonstrate objectivity in relation to its aspirations and its concrete actions, to its needs in the general sense of the term. Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the 2030 agenda of the United Nations (UN), of which Africa is a part, and those of the 2063 Agenda of the African Union cannot be a reality without a disruptive vision of the world and the exponential development of science and technology (NBIC). And this, the inhabitants of the African continent must review and make productive the historicity of their societies, directing the internal dynamics towards development, innovation, and avoiding struggles without interests and self-defeating decisions.
Mr. Siba Tcha-Mouza
USTP Ambassador for Togo