In this uncertain period where deconfinement is still fragile, Eric Salobir proposes to draw the first lessons from this pandemic. On our relationship with death, on the place of man and on the carte blanche we too easily give technology. The urgency, he says, is to share meaning.
More than Albert Camus' "The Plague", the current situation reminds me of "The War of the Worlds". H. G. Wells described the invasion of the Earth by superior Martians in 1898 undisputed technology. Martians finally defeated by a commonplace terrestrial virus... Let's be clear. I don't believe, as some radical ecologists think, that we
invade our own planet, which would defend itself with Covid-19. But I believe in revenge that today we are living in a war of the worlds, or to be more precise a war
between worlds. Not only because the war metaphor has invaded all our media, but also because the war metaphor has especially because we are seeing new lines of fracture and inequality emerging: between the teleworkers, the unemployed and those who go to work with fear in their stomachs. Among the elderly, more exposed to the virus and the younger ones who seem to be better protected; between those who have been confine comfortably and those who could not; between the hyper-connected and those who are even more isolated than usual due to the digital divide. Between those for whom the technology leads to a society of increased surveillance and those who see it, on the contrary, as a tool communication, solidarity and ultimately freedom.
I could list other oppositions, but the fact is that we will not get out of this crisis the day we get out of it them between their teeth, ready to go back to our old life, as if nothing had happened. There will be certainly relief, no doubt joy and also hope. But there will be mourning, there will be resentment and mistrust: when the pandemic is, if not defeated, there will be resentment and mistrust.Unless they are under control, the time will come for accounts, or even settlements of accounts.
Among the post-crisis lessons, I would highlight the following:
- Firstly, that of our limits: think that three months ago, we could glossy over immortality within reach of neurons and imagine that death, at least in our latitudes, was held
at a reasonable distance. Aseptic and invisible, or almost. And now, with the outbreak of this virus, death has made a shattering return to our daily lives.
- Secondly that of the place attributed to the human being: some are already thinking about how to use the machine to replace the link in their organisations weak. Others, on the contrary, have made the observation, within a few weeks, that man is certainly fragile but indispensable. And that jobs that are little considered and in advance dedicated to robotization are praised for the courage of those who practice them!
- Thirdly, the role and power that goes with our new technologies, whether in the field of surveillance or use of data, in medical research or in the confinement of the population: we can no longer spare a thought on the fact that our "technological world" has progressively and exponentially acquired its own autonomy, deployed its own logic, and determined, at least in part, the context even of the exercise of human reason. Now, as a good humanist, I believe that technology is an extraordinary tool, good servant but bad master!
This terrible crisis can help us to realise that we have to choose between two worlds: in the first, we allow the technologies we create to shape our world in return society, betting - to my mind doomed to failure - that innovation is always progress and that it will ensure eternal growth. In the second, we are putting these technologies at the service of a well thought-out social project, by assessing their impact as best as possible. The use of personal and health data, as well as the use of artificial intelligence are at the heart of this project. In this respect, the urgency leads us to open a certain number of boxes of Pandora, by definition difficult to close. As this crisis shows, we are fragile. Our voices are fragile. But we can share meaning. "The greatness of man, writes Blaise Pascal, is great in that he knows himself to be miserable". Our fragility is also our strength!
President of Human Technology Foundation