Ein kurzes Interview mit Marc Roux, Präsident der Association Francaise Transhumaniste, einer transhumanen Vereinigung, welche hauptsächlich in Frankreich aktiv ist. Unter anderem wird vorgestellt, welche Themen der AFT wichtig sind und wie sie diese anstrebt. Da das Interview über Email in englischer Sprache geführt wurde, ist es im Original belassen worden.
Lucas Steinführ: What is the main topic of the AFT and how does it strive to build awareness about it?
Marc Roux : We try not to focus on one specific topic but to articulate a political enthousiasm about several subjects that are going to deeply transform society : nanotechs, biotechnologies, AI, robotics, cognitive sciences… So we want to be optimistic about them, and prove that they can create more happiness and reduce poverty and inequalities. Which is not the dominant opinion in the media. In order to do that, we regularly publish on the website, we have created a monthly newsletter, we answer to every media inquiry, participate in every meeting we are invited to, and organize ourselves several conferences and talks every year.
Lucas Steinführ: The AFT has been active for several years. What are the most meaningful achievements?
Marc Roux : Our main achievements might be :
- the international symposium TransVision 2014 (3 days of debate about “transhumanism facing social issues”, 30+ speakers including several international transhumanists, 200+ attendees and 5 broadcast teams (TV and documentaries) for more than 40 press articles)
- An updated website mixing news and deeper articles
- a book, TECHNOPROG, which develops the main values and ideas from the association
- in February 2016 one of our speakers was invited to the Assemblée Nationale (parliament) to take part in the making of a “white book” handed to the presidential candidates of the 2017 election
- more generally, between 2013 and 2017, the growth has been exponential at the AFT, doubling membership, talks & media intervention figures every year
- today, we have more than 100 members and 1000 followers. Inquiries from the media and from academics are about 4 per week.
Lucas Steinführ: Did you have to face many problems during or after the founding of the AFT in terms of opinion of the publicity?
Marc Roux : While creating the AFT, in 2007, transhumanism was mainly unknown in France. However, apart from 2 or 3 books (notably, Les Utopies Posthumaines, Posthuman utopias, Rémi Sussan, 2005), most of the critics were negative or caricatural. The official emergence of the association, around 2010, had two consequences. The first one was that the opponents were more radical, some of them occasionally comparing transhumanism to jihadism or nazism. A radical neoluddite group, PMO (Pièces et Mains d’Oeuvre), did once manage to cancel one of our scheduled appearances at an ecologist conference. But the second consequence was that more and more people took the movement seriously, and joined it. Many celebrities, scientists, intellectuals, artists, entrepreneurs, politicians, etc publicly supported our ideas since then.
Lucas Steinführ: Are there smaller groups oft he AFT which are locally active?
Marc Roux : The first active group in France seems to have been the Mutants (2002-2008). They were very radical, only a few, and have now disappeared. Since 2006 there is a cryonists group, linked to the Cryonic Institute. They have an annual newsletter but are not very active. Some groups appeared briefly like the FTSL foundation, or Meet’Up groups in Lyon or Paris, but they never managed to remain active on the long term. Since the end of 2016 we have an active local group in Strasbourg – maybe an occasion for a cooperation with the Baden-Wurtenberg local section of the TPD ?
Lucas Steinführ: Is the AFT internationally active?
Marc Roux : The AFT is internationally active in several ways :
- “F” stands for française but in the linguistic sense ; so we have members in several french-speaking countries (France, Belgium, Switzerland, Canada, Cameroun, Tunisia) and expatriates (Greece, Portugal)
- the AFT maintains regular contacts with various international transhumanist or longevitist organizations, be it Humanity+ (of which it is formally a chapter), HEALES (Belgium), the London Futurists, l’Associazione dei Italiani Transhumanisti, etc.
- The AFT has an even closer relationship with James Hughes’ IEET (Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies), an american Think Tank. Two AFT members are also on the advisory board of the IEET and our articles are systematically published on their website.
- We participate in international conferences and talks (especially Didier Coeurnelle and Marc Roux, vice president and president of the AFT).
- In 2009 the AFT took part in the first (and only, to date) meeting of european h+ leaders in Milano. We are now thinking about organizing a similar experience.
Lucas Steinführ: Are there prominent persons in France who openly speak about Transhumanism? What are the reactions of the french media?
Marc Roux : We have a very famous entrepreneur, Laurent Alexandre, founder of Doctissimo and now working in DNA sequencing, who is not openly transhumanist but talks very frequently in the media about it being unavoidable. Luc Ferry, a former moderate right-wing minister from Jacques Chirac’s era, and also a philosopher, has become a pro-longevity advocate in the recent years. We could say that the media is curious, some newspapers and magazines being openly pro-transhumanism (Usbek & Rica, Sciences et Vie…) while the mainstream ones often associate transhumanism with Silicon Valley maniacs and hybris. The harshest condemnations come from far right or far left papers.
It is interesting that several politicians started to talk publicly about the subject : the PS (Socialist Party) speaker Corinne Narassiguin, the FdG candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon (our local Oskar Lafontaine), Hervé Morin (UDI centrist party leader)…
Other ones include Enki Bilal (famous comics author and filmmaker) or Yves Coppens, a world-class paleoanthropologist.
Lucas Steinführ: The social question seems to be a very big issue in the AFT. How does the AFT wants to achieve its goal of enabling participation for everyone, especially those who are underprivileged?
Marc Roux : We indeed think that this issue is central. And in the same time, it will be one the most difficult goals. So we articulate our discourse around two directions :
First, we are trying to convince all the members of the society that an equal access to human enhancement technologies is key, to avoid dramatic social reactions. It is not only a moral and democratic necessity, but also a social and economical one. So we are directly addressing business and political leaders on that. We are focusing on lawmakers : we just published an open letter in favour of radical life-extending public health policy. We also make presentations to enterprises which are beginning to open up to transhumanist issues and we include a technoprogressist approach.
The other axis is to make clear that transhumanism and politics can be distinguished. As explained by James Hughes in Citizen Cyborg, transhumanist thought is transversal to politics. It means that in order to achieve a progressist transhumanism, we will still have to continue the preexisting political struggles. If transhumanism happens in a deeply inegalitarian society, it will be inegalitarian. If you look at today’s dominant tendencies, the risk is very high. It is not clear that the redistribution-prone intrinsic qualities of some technologies, like peer-to-peer internet, free software, generalized mechanization, blockchain, 3D printers of DIY biology are sufficient to modify the logics of capitalism. The traditional political engagement has still many good years ahead.