Over two decades ago, Philippe Quéau, former head of the French National Audiovisual Institute, wrote an article entitled, L’UTOPIE CYBER: noosphère et cybercosmos, which begins with a problem we have yet to solve:
Economic and technological globalization has yet to be accompanied by a political, social, or ethical globalization, which we could call a ‘globalization of souls’.
It is noted that I am translating in a shorthanded manner: my purpose here is to share the gist.
He notes the epochal moment of IPv6, which I found illuminating to revisit:
With the new Internet protocol of IPv6, we are using an address code that has 128 bits at the ready. We thus have at our disposal an absolutely enormous number of addresses: 2 to the power of 128, which is to say a 1 followed by more than 125 zeros… That is, a number greater than the number of atoms on the earth. We can give an Internet address to billions and billions of machines. But we can go further and give, for example, an Internet address to the vital organs of the bodies of all of mankind to surveil them medically. We can allocate a numerical address to all intellectual products, to track their use and assure payment for the rights to intellectual property (with the DOI: Digital Object Identifier). We can transverse the world with GPS coordinates to map out every square centimeter of the planet (rushing again to the particularly precise mode of differential calculus, used by the army today but tomorrow by all).
He then returns to his thesis:
Virtial communities and ‘invisible faculties’ which constitute new forms of sociability, allow for group work on a global scale. Cyberculture is largely founded on the feeling of belonging to a global community of Internet users. Of new types of ‘virtual’ presence, ‘nano presence’, ‘distributed’ presence, vigilant and surveilling presences…
Networks, addresses, realities, landscapes, presences: behind these metaphors, cyber utopia provokes us and obliges us to ask old questions anew. What civilization do we want to build in the 21st century? What kind of solidarities will we have need of in a world that is as of now interdependent? What will the place of the human being be in a world increasingly dominated by abstract machines and logic? (Emphasis added.)
As a seasoned if ideologically-inspired teacher, I am intrigued by what Quéau goes on to urge – and note that his utopic accent is shared by some cyberneticists (e.g. Lepskiy: 2018, Medvedeva & Mulej: 2019, Social responsibility as a key indicator of the [sic] social and economic change). Quéau writes:
Bound at the heart of cyberculture are profoundly ethical stakes. Far more than defining a code of conduct on the Internet or regulating e-commerce, they entail debating over the future of global society, with as great a participation as possible by those whose interests are at stake, which is to say, by all six billion planetary citizens.
He sees the key of the future to lay in our ability to account for even the most miserable among us. Our wealth will be determined by whether or not we can perceive their human quality: ‘It is they who will create the enduring qualities of peace.’ This section of the paper reads:
The world is in need of a vision, of a project that can account for everyone, especially the most destitute and dis-inherented. It is they, in effect, who hold the key to the future. If we don’t account for them, we will collectively move towards our ruin, theirs as well as ours. If we recognize their human and infinitely precious qualities, it will be they who will enrich us thanks to their difference and development. It is they who create the enduring qualities of peace. It is they who reveal to us that which we cannot see, that which we are incapable of admitting to ourselves, the narrow limits within which we are enclosed, egoistic and myopic. As Riccardo Petrella wrote: ‘The common good is represented by the existence of the other.’ And those who find themselves to be the most unfavored are the most ‘other’, simply because they are the least favored. It is they who thus represent the best of the true common good. The ethics that we therefore need, and with which a true culture should ally itself, is an ethics of the ‘other’.
The ending is quite beautiful; I hope at least one reader will pursue it. But to distill a few key phrases, in shorthanded translation:
The spirit of the age now weaves virtuality and alterity, as it once glided above the waters. The atmosphere of our society is impregnated with images and simulations … From now on, the real can no longer be separated from the virtual: they complete and explain each other. This unnatural marriage lays for us a meagre prison cot in which to lie. It will only become more difficult for us to seek the irruption of the unthinkable, inaudible, unknowable, unexpected, in a world of codes and languages. It is a fitting image of man where the marriage of the real and the virtual teaches him morals once again, from now on, by reminding him – like a negative – of the obligation of his dreams, his ecaped necessitation, his aspiration towards the infinite.
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