Cultural Evolution: Towards The Post-Human

Homo Technologicus Comes of Age

Prof. Giuseppe Longo
University of Trieste

DATE: 29 August 2018
TIME: 15:45 – 17:00 pm
LOCATION: Rigoni Stern Institute, Asiago

When we consider the problem of the relationship between humans and technology, we often tacitly assume that humans and technology are distinct and separate entities. Moreover, we assume that technology evolves very rapidly, whereas human evolution is very slow or even stillstatic. My premises here are quite different: on the one hand, the distinction between humans and technology is not sharp, since technology has always had a big role in shaping the intimate nature of humans, and, on the other hand, technology’s evolution has gradually taken the place of human’s evolution and has become a sort of continuation of it. These two evolutions have become closely intertwined and have formed a “bio-cultural” or “bio-technological” evolution that has set the stage for the appearance of a new species, homo technologicus, a symbiotic creature in which biology and technology intimately interact. The bio-technological evolution is ruled by a mixture of Darwinian and Lamarckian mechanisms and forms a composite tangle, that becomes even more complicated as the human–machine symbionts connect to each other to form a sort of global (cognitive) organism heralded by the Internet. As the Internet develops a sort of connective intelligence of its own, some scientists maintain that we are approaching a post-human era in which intelligent machines will usurp the role of humans as stewards of the planet, and that with the cooperation of humans themselves!

The concept and characteristics of post-human are analysed.

The transformations brought about on man by technology have become deliberate and intentional, and aim at two kinds of target: therapy and enhancement (to repair or improve natural capabilities or to generate new ones, respectively). Enhancements obtained through the use of technology open up the post-human perspectives. However, man has always been post-human, since he has always been hybridized with plants, animals, food, medicines, drugs, and, today, machines; and has always been altered and strengthened by artificial processes. This continuity makes the post-human concept less shocking, since it inserts the post-human into the flow of a natural-cultural evolution; on the other hand it bestowes the full responsibility of his own evolution upon man. Actually while man has always been post-human, only today he is fully aware of this because of the overwhelming power and speed of technological development. Such novel awareness propounds dramatically the serious ethical problems generated by this new progresses. On the other hand most post-humanists are more interested in the enhancement of cognitive capabilities than in the social and ethical aspects.

From 1975 to 2009 Giuseppe O. Longo (Forlì 1941) has been full professor of Information Theory at the Dept. of Electrical and Electronics Engineering at the University of Trieste. Now he is Professor Emeritus. He has introduced the mathematical theory of information in Italy, and currently he is interested in epistemology, artificial intelligence, communication problems and the socio-cultural consequences of the technological development, with particular reference to post-human. On these subjects he has published many articles and several books, among which Il nuovo Golem (Laterza, Roma-Bari, 1998), Homo technologicus (Meltemi, Roma, 2001, second edition Ledizioni, Milano 2012) Il simbionte: prove di umanità futura (Meltemi, Roma, 2003, second edition Mimesis, Udine-Milano, 2013), Homo immortalis. Una vita quasi infinita (con N. Bonifati, Springer, Milano 2012), Bit Bang. La nascita della filosofia digitale (con A. Vaccaro, Apogeo Education, Milano, 2013). Other essays include Il senso e la narrazione (Springer, Milano, 2008) and Il gesuita che disegnò la Cina (Springer, Milano, 2010). With E. Carafoli and G. A. Danieli he has edited the volume The two Cultures: Shared Problems (Springer, Milano, 2009).

Longo is a member of the Istituto Veneto di Scienze Lettere ed Arti and of the Istituto Lombardo di Scienze e Lettere.

In addition to the scientific activity, he is a lecturer and a translator. He collaborates with several newspapers and magazines, with the Italian national Tv and the Swiss Radio and Tv. He is a prominent ad prolific writer, having published three novels and eleven collections of short stories. He received a number of literary prizes and several of his fiction works have been transalted in various languages. He also is a playwright and an actor.


June 2017



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