SUBMITTING PROPOSALS AT THIS STAGE IS NO LONGER POSSIBLE. THE CONFERENCE PROGRAMME IS NOW COMPLETED: SEE WWW.ETHCONFERENCE2018.COM/ENG/AGENDAS
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CREATE AN ACCOUNT AND SUBMIT YOUR ABSTRACT AND/OR YOUR PANEL (ACADEMICS) OR PARTICIPATORY WORKSHOP (PROFESSIONALS, NON ACADEMICS) PROPOSAL FROM YOUR DASHBOARD
The best PhD student paper will be awarded the ETHConf2018 Prize (500 euros)
The best papers in English will get published in a dedicated collective work by Peter Lang (https://www.peterlang.com/). The best paper written in French will come out in an essay collection published by Liber Publisher. The editorial follow-up will be ensured by the "Ethics and Transhumanism" Chair (http://www.ethconference2018.com/eng/questions) of Lille Catholic University.
As another possibility, scholars have the option of submitting their final paper to the Journal of Posthuman Studies (http://www.psupress.org/Journals/jnls_JPHS.html), a fully double-blind peer reviewed, multidisciplinary journal developed to analyze what it is to be human in an age of rapid technological, scientific, cultural and social evolution. It is published by Penn State University Press and accessible via jstor: https://www.jstor.org/journal/jpoststud
CONTRIBUTIONS (IN FRENCH OR ENGLISH) MAY INCLUDE:
- Individual paper proposals (20 minutes)
Individual proposals (400 words) include a presentation of the topic, issue, working hypothesis, method of investigation, empirical or theoretical data analysed, and main bibliographical references. Submit your individual abstract proposal (by March 10, 2018) via your personal registration account on the ETHConference2018 website.
- A panel consisting of 3 or 6 papers (20 minutes per paper) organised around the same theme.
A panel proposal includes a general presentation (800 words) of the panel theme, the targeted issue and its stakes, as well as the names of the speakers chosen by the panel organizer and the title of the paper each of them will present. Two important points: 1) Before submitting a project on the ETHConference2018 website, the organizer of a panel is responsible for the prior selection of the 3 or 6 speakers who will make a presentation in his panel; 2) Once each speaker is notified (we advise to make your notifications before March 5, 2018) of is selection by the panel organizer, the latter will ask to each of his selected speakers to submit his individual abstract (by March 10, 2018) via his personal registration account on the ETHConference2018 website.
- A participatory workshop (1 h 30 min max.) to allow researchers, professionals and the audience to exchange questions on a specific issue.
Workshop proposals (800 words max.) include a presentation of the chosen theme, the pedagogical framework, the logistical support required, the workshop facilitators, the intended objectives, and the expected audience. Themes may be for example a new technology, a new project a company or a entrepreneur wants to challenge with an audience, ethical stakes raised by robotization and AI in specific economic/social areas, art perspective on contemporary and future transformations, big data, policies and privacy, and any other topics and issues encountered by stakeholders in their field commitments… Anyone who would eventually need some advice and feedback in setting up a participatory workshop can contact Prof. Jean-Charles Cailliez (firstname.lastname@example.org), Director of HEMiSF4iRE, the Design School of Lille Catholic University. Submit your participatory workshop proposal (by March 10, 2018) via your personal registration account on the ETHConference2018 website.
TOPICS (NON-EXHAUSTIVE LIST):
Transhumanism history/histories / Post, hyper, trans...humanism(s) / Future, Foresight, and Transhumanism / Sociology of the transhumanist movement / Economy, work and transhumanism / Philosophy, ethics and transhumanism / Theology, religions, and transhumanism / Contemporary imaginations and transhumanism / Criticisms of transhumanism / Feminism and transhumanism / Technophilia, technophobia, techne crisis? / Philosophy of technology and transhumanism / Science and transhumanism / Economy and transhumanism / Defence and transhumanism / Personal identity and transhumanism / Democracy and transhumanism / Science fiction literature and transhumanism / Cinema and transhumanism / TV series and transhumanism / New alterities: robot, cyborg, prostheses, etc.
Applied approaches / Analysis of practices:
Education, new technologies and intelligence(s) / Automation, langage and cultural innovation / New generation of prostheses, hybridization, and subjectification / Interactions between human agents and artificial agents / Anthropotechnical practices and enhancement technologies / Defence, robotics and the enhanced soldier / Ethics and automated vehicles / Automated objects ethics, design, and policies / Digital health, therapeutic education, and ethics of care / Digital revolution, right to privacy, and security / Neuromarketing, freedom, and ethics of attention / Education and new technologies
EXTENDED DEADLINE FOR PAPERS, PANELS AND WORKSHOP PROPOSALS:
30 MARCH 2018
Authors will be notified of the Scientific Committee’s decisions on 5 APRIL 2018.
GENERAL ARGUMENT OF THE CONFERENCE
For some years now, transhumanism as an intellectual movement has had an undeniable influence on both sides of the Atlantic - as well in the media as in the academic, the political and the economic worlds.
A problematic unity
Since its emergence in the second half of the 20th century, the transhumanist movement has been comprehending a plurality of alleys, of actors, of gathered facts and concepts. Whether one sees in Julian Huxley or Pierre Teilhard de Chardin the originator of the term “transhumanism”, or one makes the history of the movement start with such names as Max More, Ray Kurzweil, James Hughes or Nick Bostrom, it is the meaning of “transhumanism”, and the notions which, in all their wide diversity, it encompasses, which makes us wonder how to define its very nature. Is “transhumanism,” for instance, utopian or dystopian? a new civilizational ideal? a marketing ploy? a philosophy? a form of secular mysticism? a new anthropological paradigm? a political movement? a type of social engineering? or possibly all of them together? In a nutshell, what is transhumanism?
Over and above the challenge of reaching a consensus about the nature and status of transhumanism, it is equally important to distinguish between oversimplified media representations of transhumanism and what there is for real, i.e. the prestence of many, sometimes divergent, sometimes highly developed, or much shallower, theories of what “transhumanism” refers to. Although the “Transhumanist Declaration” (the statement outlining the principles of transhumanism first developed by the World Transhumanist Association in 1998) is widely accepted among transhumanists, divergent interpretations of it, and/or divergent emphases on the contents of the Declaration are evidenced in the scope of actions, ideas and discourses, it has triggered. In the face of such diversity, a question arises whether sufficiently general criteria exist to be of relevance in all perspectives adopted. Would it be possible indeed to find a common thread between Max More’s libertarian transhumanism, Nick Bostrom’s theory of superintelligence, Ray Kurzweil’ singularity, Hans Moravec’s theses on artificial intelligence, Julian Savulescu and Ingmar Persson’s proposals for moral improvement, Anders Sanberg’s cognitive enhancement theory, the democratic transhumanism of James Hughes, the social technoprogressivism of Marc Roux, Toni Negri’s neo-Marxist explorations or the accelerationist movement of Nick Land, Nick Srnicek & Alex Williams? Does such plurality entail that any attempts at shaping possible futures are bound to be uncoordinated, incoherent and, ultimately, ineffective? Or are we on the contrary witnessing currently, distorted through the lens of fashionable culture hype, media and literature, a fundamental anthropological mutation properly at work?
The underlying logic of transhumanist theories
Transhumanism must be approached from both typological and ontological perspectives. It is not only a matter of asking whether it centres around a set of key ideas, a single ‘ideal type’ or worldview with which every transhumanist would agree, but also of examining the various historical systems and principles of reasoning being mirrored or reflected by transhumanist theories.
Assuming there is some commonality in transhumanist thought despite the diversity of its idiosyncratic forms of expression, some researchers might see the search for “a- mortality” and the claim to a fundamental right to unbounded morphological freedom as the climax of the type of hyper-individualism characterising Western rationalism and the history of its practical realisations and principles (S. Deprez, N. Elias, L. Dumont, M. Gauchet). Transhumanism is sometimes conversely presented as the continuation of the worldview of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, wherein the goal of building a planetary brain (noosphere) replaces anthropocentrism and modern individualism with a renewed focus on ecosystems, in turn allowing the rise of a ‘planetary’ consciousness (Cl. Vidal). Yet other authors spot in transhumanism a form of secular gnosis (J.-M. Besnier) or perceive in it the expression of a religious dynamics (R. Geraci, H. Tirosh-Samuelson).
The desire, expressed by some transhumanists, to convert (bio)physical beings into replaceable, ‘upgradable’ and even immortal entities has been interpreted by others as positioning transhumanism as an extension of the pervasive logic of contemporary capitalism (F. Adorno, C. Lafontaine, N. Le Dévédec, E. Sadin, B. Stiegler). Seen in that perspective, transhumanism is sometimes seen as a tool for manipulating the social imagination in a strategy developed and financed by major economic actors (such as GAFA, Microsoft, IBM, Tesla, etc.) to create the need, desire craving and demand for existing or future products. According to other authors, transhuman ideals are, rather, symptomatic of a civilizational depression (G. Anders, A. Ehrenberg, J.-M. Besnier), an existential fatigue translating into an expectation of the ‘post-human’.
The field of hypotheses does not stop here. Unlike many other authors, Marc Coeckelbergh for instance does not see in transhumanism in the wake of the Enlightenment, but a contemporary expression of Romanticism. In the eyes of other researchers, transhumanist expectations are the outcome of deep changes in scientific rationality over the last twenty years related to the organisation and modes of production of knowledge and technology (as witnessed in the field of nanosciences or of data processing). In a more metaphysical vein, some authors see in the hybridisation of the human and the machine (as implemented with the cyborg), or in the development of artificial intelligence (deep learning, machine learning), the burgeoning signs of a technology becoming capable of self-awareness and/or self-determination (R. Kurzweil, M. Alizart). The rise of the living within biological evolution would further its path through technological evolution (K. Kelly). That is, unless in our Anthropocene era transhumanist aspirations are nothing but a survival strategy for our species although unaware of itself; from this viewpoint, the quest to achieve the post-human, the mechanization of man or space colonisation are part of a Cunning of Reason stratagem (P. Jorion), i.e. a set of cosmological pressures are driving humankind threatened by the rampant destruction of its natural environment, to seek means for overcoming its vulnerable biological condition and potential extinction.
To what extent are these various narratives generated by the transhumanist movement true or useful accounts of our world in transition? What they claim differs no doubt widely, but are they in any way compatible and open to be integrated into a unified worldview? Are they all legitimate? What do they teach us? What do the transhumanists themselves think about such questions - and what validity should be assigned to their own views on the subject? Quite evidently these diverse narratives of transhumanism and the keys to decipher them are in need to be clearly brought out and assessed.
Conditions of veracity and contexts of social interests
What does the diversity of interpretations of transhumanism as such tell us? Far from seeking a particular explanans to satisfy the explanandum, it is a matter of undertaking a preliminary assessment of these interpretations and of defining their scope on at least two levels: epistemic and pragmatic.
As a first principle, an account of all possible interpretations of transhumanism should aspire at making it better understood so as to build a genuine critical body of knowledge. The explanation of any phenomenon aiming at clarity and at a rendering its genealogy will necessarily reflect partly the idiosyncratic experience of its author and his/her own standing within the epistemic space. This is why any narrative should meet the test of intersubjectivity. Such debate allows us to identify the conditions for establishing the validity of a particular discourse within a pluralistic narrative field, as well as to assess its potential contribution to the elaboration of a complex explanans which is both multifocal and multidisciplinary (drawing from economic, sociological, political, philosophical, historical, technological, and industrial sources of knowledge). Moreover, if public dialogue allows gauging the validity and relevance of a particular narrative, it also allows the possibility of new ways of understanding the transhumanist phenomenon - perhaps as the outcome of conflicting interpretations or of unexpected junctures between existing narratives – whether these are born from the academic, scientific, media, literary or cinematographic spheres or from the storytelling of economic or scientific actors.
The second reason why one needs to consider the diversity of narratives and interpretations of transhumanism before the possibility even of a synthesis opens up, is of a pragmatic nature: such a diversity would be incomprehensible remaining “off-the- ground”, being contained to scholarly analysis of the theoretical content of media (publications, cinematographic material, digital media, etc.) being the means for its widespread diffusion. Such is one of the lessons of American pragmatism (Pierce, Dewey, James), which historians, anthropologists and sociologists have been familiar with over the years: no belief ever finds its meaning, the preconditions to its birth and its truth independently from a context of actions and concrete social interests. The true significance of any belief, theory or narrative coincides with the tangible benefits it generates; that is to say, within the context of its usefulness function coming to the open due to the practical aims they allow to pursue.
Seen from this viewpoint, it is necessary to show – through research (philosophical, sociological, anthropological) – the plurality of the contexts that give rise to the diversity of transhumanist narratives and their interpretations. In the absence of such studies, a theoretical synthesis would be incomplete. In short, what are the pragmatic conditions for the genesis of transhumanist ideas and the way they are being read? What is known of the networks of actants (“subjects-artefacts-symbols”) responsible for the birth of the transhumanist phenomenon and who are its beneficiaries? To what concrete needs do transhumanist notions allow responding – suspending judgment on their feasibility or possibly uncanny nature? Who are the social, economic, political and cultural agents likely to benefit from the adoption of transhumanism, and what are their roles and functions within society? What objectives do they allow to pursue? Researchers cannot address such questions without the input of political players, of observers of the community, and of real life stakeholders.
Ethical and political issues
Parallel to the analysis of narratives, stories and genealogies of transhumanism, one must assess, at the ethical level, at the juncture of narrative and action the anthropological, social and political orientations generated by the transhumanist semantics, with the intention of making sense - in terms of ‘meaning’ and ‘direction’ - of the novel technological developments.
Whether one reads a success story in the technological process of recent years (human- machine interfaces, intelligent prosthetics, artificial intelligence, enhancement techniques of cognitive abilities, etc.) or on the contrary “existential risk” for humankind, both interpretations lead to question their modal status: must we accept the advent of the technological future we are presented with as inevitable, or should public exercise of critical reason – of an “enlightened catastrophism”, as J.-P. Dupuy would term it – suggest other possible futures? For what ethical reason(s) should we privilege one forecast of the future over another? How can we, from a pragmatic point of view, influence the course of events in history?
On the political level, the relationship between transhumanism and politics is undeniable, first and foremost because many explicitly or implicitly transhumanist narratives touch on political issues. Over the recent few years debate has been raging between libertarians (R. Bailey, M. More, J. Harris), liberals (J. Hughes, N. Bostrom or in France M. Roux) and leftists (the neo-Marxist T. Negri and the accelerationnists N. Land, N. Srnicek, A. Williams) over the role of the State and the form of political governance best suited to overseeing the dissemination of new technologies - of enabling access of the greater number to the longer lifespans (eventually even immortality) promised by them. One can therefore wonder about the political stakes of the various transhumanist discourses, whether they be scrutinised as ‘ideologies’, ‘political agendas’ or as ‘technological utopias’, depending on which particular strand of them one has in mind.
On the ethical level, most transhumanist discourses are meliorististic, consequentialist or minimalist. Moreover, most transhumanists strive for the continuous improvement of the conditions of human existence and for the right to fashioning oneself according to one’s fancy. Independently of whether there exits a unified transhumanist ethics, achieving a fundamental improvement in human corporeality seen as the source of the physical, psychological and moral vulnerabilities overwhelming humankind, transhumanists all agree on the necessity of the enhancement of human nature because of its fragility and intrinsic imperfection. But isn’t it the case that we wouldn’t at any cost wish getting rid of some of our human qualities linked to our biophysical, psychic, and moral shortcomings, despite the risk we’re incurring through them, or the benefits accompanying their possible erasure? Having in mind the personal efforts required when overcoming some weaknesses through continuous inner work, can we fathom what would be the consequences of trying to avoid them through technology? What type of a moral subject would the transhumanist ideals bring about? What would be the bases, or the criteria for acceptability of a transhumanist ethics dedicated to correcting natural processes, amending them or even modifying radically some of their outcomes? What would be the values, the assets and the limitations of such an ethics, and would sound like the discourse aiming at justifying it?
We may have good reasons to accept certain transhumanist proposals and to reject others. Some transhumanist aims may also appear to our eyes desirable, regardless of their feasibility. But are they at all desirable? Faced with future scenarios presented by a small number of individuals (scholars, economic players, scientists), companies and public institutions, it is crucial that the powerful associations between transhumanist symbolism and developments of technoscience are discussed in the public sphere, ordinary citizens, academic researchers, economic and political actors getting involved in the debate. Rigorous analyses of transhumanist ethics need to be conducted, alongside a public assessment of transhumanist proposals, based on clear, justified and shareable criteria.
• Francesco Paolo Adorno, University of Salerne (Italia), http://www.unisa.it/docenti/francescopaoloadorno/index
• Sylvie Allouche, Catholic University of Lyon (France), http://www.ucly.fr/sylvie-allouche--183403.kjsp
• Bernard Baertschi, University of Geneva (Switzerland), https://www.unige.ch/medecine/ieh2/alumni/bernardbaertschi-2/
• Catherine Belzung, University of Tour (France), http://www.univ-tours.fr/mme-belzung-catherine-845.kjsp
• Jean-Michel Besnier, Paris-Sorbonne University (France), https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jean-Michel_Besnier
• Benjamin Bourcier, Lille Catholic University (France), http://lillethics.com/benjamin-bourcier/
• Stanislas Deprez, Lille Catholic University (France), http://lillethics.com/stanislas-deprez/
• Fernand Doridot, Institut Catholique des Arts et Métiers (France), https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Fernand_Doridot
• Xavier Dijon, University of Namur (Belgium), https://directory.unamur.be/staff/xdijon
• David Doat, Lille Catholic University (Belgium), https://icl-lille.academia.edu/DavidDoat
• Jean-Yves Goffi, University of Grenoble-II (France), https://www.amazon.fr/Jean-Yves-Goffi/e/B004N54KIQ
• Paul Jorion, Lille catholic University (France), https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_Jorion
• Stefan Lorenz Sorgner, John Cabot University (Italy), http://www.johncabot.edu/directory/Faculty_Form.aspx?IdFaculty=578
• Dominique Lambert, University of Namur (Belgium), https://directory.unamur.be/staff/dlambert
• Jean-Baptiste Lecuit, Lille Catholic University (France), http://theo-psy.fr/auteurcontact/
• Nicolas Le Dévédec, Haute Ecole de Commerce of Montreal (Canada), http://www.hec.ca/profs/nicolas.le-devedec.html
• Richard Lewis, Free University of Brussels (Belgium), http://www.vub.ac.be/ETHU/?author=34
• Jean-Marc Moschetta, Catholic University of Toulouse, and ISAE-SUPAERO Aerospace Ingineering School (France), https://personnel.isae-supaero.fr/jean-marc-moschetta/
• Jacques Printz, Conservatoire National des Arts et Métiers, CNAM (France), https://www.amazon.fr/Jacques-Printz/e/B004N5WIV2
• Laura Rizzerio, University of Namur (Belgium), https://directory.unamur.be/staff/lrizzeri
• Johan Roduit, Zurich University, (Switzerland), http://www.ibme.uzh.ch/de/ethik/team/mitarbeitende/johannroduit.html
• Alberto Romele, Lille Catholic University (France), https://www.albertoromele.com/
• Anders Sandberg, Oxford University (GB), https://www.fhi.ox.ac.uk/team/anders-sandberg/
• Marie-Jo Thiel, University of Strasbourg (France), https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marie-Jo_Thiel
• Clément Vidal, Free University of Brussels (VUB Belgium), http://www.clemvidal.com/
• Lina Williatte, Lille Catholic University (France), https://www.williatte-avocats.fr/
30 MARCH 2018
Authors will be notified of the Scientific Committee’s decisions on 5 APRIL 2018.
(Lille Catholic University, ETHICS EA 7446)