In France, transhumanism – this movement which advocates the improvement of humans through technology – does not inspire many people to dream of. According to a poll conducted by Opinium Research at the request of Kaspersky, only 32% of French people think that such an improvement in human nature would be “Acceptable”. Among the 15 European countries analyzed, France is thus at the bottom of the ranking, just ahead of the United Kingdom (25%). Conversely, southern countries such as Italy, Spain and Portugal are much less conservative, with an acceptance rate of 50 to 60%.
In France, this low acceptance rate is compounded by deep pessimism. Of those who find transhumanism acceptable, only 39% believe it will improve quality of life. On average across all countries, this rate was 55%, so clearly the majority. The French are also less convinced than others that augmented humans will be able to express themselves better creatively. Finally, our fellow citizens stand out with a pacifist streak, believing that “human augmentation” should not be used in a military context.
If the French are wary of transhumanism, it may be because they think the risks outweigh the potential benefits. Among these, the ones that are mentioned most often are better health, better eyesight, more attractive body, smarter brain and greater strength. But this hope is showered by a whole series of threats, real or imagined. Thus, people fear that these technologies could be controlled or hacked by cyber criminals or that they could cause irreparable damage to the human body.
Another very strong fear is that these technologies could endanger society. This idea is shared on average by 39% of respondents, but in France it is 54%. This can be explained by a particular attachment to equality. Indeed, transhumanist technologies can considerably increase inequalities. If their development is carried out solely according to the law of the market, only the richest could benefit from it, which 68% of French people think.
What place for freedom?
It must be said that social questions are particularly numerous on this subject, as demonstrated by the debate that Kaspersky organized on the occasion of the publication of this study. All participants agreed that the increase in human was an inevitable development. The problem is how to organize it. For his part, Zoltan Istvan, founder of the American transhumanist party, advocates absolute liberalism. “People should be able to do whatever they want. It might take a bit of regulation, but as long as these technologies don’t hurt, the decision-making power should go to them. If one day I can choose between a purely biological, totally dematerialized or cybernetic existence, I must be able to do so. Freedom is more important than anything, and the law of the market is the best way to achieve it ”, he believes.
A point of view that Julian Savulescu, professor of ethics at the University of Oxford does not share. “I like freedom too, but we are much less than we think. Technologies can also enslave us by taking advantage of our loopholes, such as the search for social status, jealousy, the desire for wealth, recognition by peers, etc. Many people, in reality, do not know how to manage freedom ”, he emphasizes. In this field, he is joined by Marco Preuss, director of research and analysis at Kaspersky. “Freedom often boils down to self-expression and self-centeredness. It would be better to analyze the impact of transhumanism on the level of society and collectively decide where we want to go “, he believes.
One area where transhumanism is likely to be emulated a lot is that of work. “People will want to scale up to stay competitive with robots and artificial intelligence. This is normal, because they will not want to lose their job “, predicts Zoltan Istvan. “This is the scenario of Welcome to Gattaca, emphasizes Marco Preuss. Such a technological revolution could deeply divide society into two classes. It is a particularly divisive societal choice “.
It remains to be seen what will really be our room for maneuver to organize the rise of transhumanism. Because according to Zoltan Istvan, China is already a forerunner in this area and risks, in the long term, to impose its freedom-killing choices on us if we do nothing.