Author Information: Alexandra Argamakova, Russian Academy of Sciences, email@example.com
Argamakova, Alexandra. “On the Technoprogressive Declaration.” Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 4, no. 1 (2014): 1-2.
The PDF of the article gives specific page numbers. Shortlink: http://wp.me/p1Bfg0-1O4
Image credit: Daniela Goulart, via flickr
When I was invited to give my response on the Technoprogressive Declaration, I originally felt that I had no say in the matter. The Declaration is designed to shape the Western political agenda, while I am a Russian citizen outside of European life. Nevertheless, it might be interesting for you to get to know how the declared ideas are perceived from ta Russian intellectual and cultural perspective. So, I hope you will find my response interesting.
There are theoretical and practical sides of the Declaration, both of which I will discuss. The theoretical side concerns the ideological points of technoprogressive outlook; and the practical side addresses ideas relative to the process of concrete social organizing to achieve “a brighter future”.
I am quite comfortable with the main part of the theoretical side. The call to freedom, democracy, social justice and equality seems very timely in the face of the social, economical and technological challenges facing the West and the whole humankind. Since the Western countries have leading positions in the political, scientific and technological areas, they currently influence many global processes. In this context, it is remarkable that Western intellectuals realize their responsibility and work together for a better future that could suddenly come for many all over the world.
Scientific progress opens the doors both for a social utopia or dystopia. That is why so important to guide this process, and to create the conditions for open access to the results of the progress. The transhumanist future will come naturally whether someone wants it or not. The only task is to reduce the possible negative effects of forthcoming changes and to take the possible positive advantages, socially speaking. And the additional task is to come to some agreement about what outcomes are positive or negative.
There is also the practical side of this enterprise concerning the social mechanisms of promoting the desired projects. Reading this part of the Declaration, I feel some cultural “otherness”. An initial question relates to the proposed list of the builders of “a brighter future”. Who could imagine (Marx? Lenin? Who?) that in the 21st century there would appear a new social force such as the homosexual vanguard struggling together with drug users on the front line of the social war for the new order? This naturally raises the following questions: Why are all these gay/androgyne/drug/abortion defenders so important in the context of this vision? Do they represent the most progressive outlook? Do they talk about the most pressing social problems? Why are the defenders of abortion and “free love” more important than, for example, defenders of the institution of family, which is being destroyed by the conditions of modern societies? The Declaration did not mention the various academic and research organizations, ecological movements (as was written here), student communities, trade unions and many others who are more likely able to shape the better tomorrow.
If this Declaration were written for Russia, I would say that it is not acceptable, especially because any appeal to non-traditional sexual orientation and those, who popularize it, will receive a concrete negative social reaction. Russian people (more than 70%) have conservative values with respect to family and relationship between the sexes. I suppose the West and Russia differ in the following points: 1) the understanding of the sexual normality; 2) the level of readiness to tolerate with non-traditional sexual orientation; 3) the situation with regard of social discrimination. Things like homosexuality or free sexual self-determination are regarded by Russian society as sexual deviations. If the biological organism cannot fulfill its reproductive function, it is disabled from the standpoint of nature. The same is seen in the case of homosexuality, sex-changing and the like. That is the predominant way of thinking. You can remember the recent event in mass culture surrounding the person who won Eurovision 2014. In Russia, the persona Conchita Wurst caused a violent reaction in public discussions, triggering much emotional talk about the decline of the West. Perhaps, this reaction looks like hard intolerance, homophobia or discrimination, but in reality the situation is much more complicated. Indeed, the people with non-traditional sexual orientation can live here as they want, but our society usually does not support their attempts to popularize their own lifestyle.
In general, I do not find any need or reason to convert the values of Russian society. So, if someone were to formulate a similar techoprogressive declaration for us, it would sound a bit different. The Western quest for freedom of personality is understandable to me insofar as I am a philosopher. But if such “rational” people want to be truly rational, it is also necessary to research the social and the humanitarian consequences of such liberty. The question about the limits of the transformation of human nature and the condition of human lives is open and it must be the subject for the most careful studies. No one would prefer an apocalypse to “a brighter future”.