The limits of humanity: 'We are technologically a success and culturally a failure'

The phrase by Edgar Morin that gives the title to this article is at the end of the exhibition “The Limits of Humanity”, on display at the Museum of Man, in Paris. The provocation installs itself as chasing through the streets those who come back to life when they leave space.

The idea of ​​competing with others and among ourselves has been with us for a long time, but it is a theme addressed there. with great sensitivity, inviting us to rethink the vision of superiority, which has been increasingly encouraged in recent centuries. After all, this period of pandemic suggests individual and collective changes that should not be wasted.

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2484Are we really unique? Superior to other animals?2484

The comparison between humans and other living beings is the first thing that comes up, confronting us with the arrogance built to inflate our ego. Do only humans have cognitive, artistic or aesthetic abilities?

So, a video shows a fish creating, with its movement, a work of art in the sand of the seabed, a bird using a tool (wand) for fetching food and an elephant painting a picture, a beautiful picture, say, with its delicate trunk. Are we the only ones who create tools and art? All the answers are negative: we are not the only ones.

It was Western culture that, especially, bet on the idea of ​​separation between humans and other living beings, until Darwin developed his Theory of Evolution in 1900, shaking the foundations of the anthropocentric vision.

2484 Are we a cyborg?

In the next room, we are faced with our fascination for technology, and the idea of ​​becoming cyborgs to overcome weaknesses. The fantasy of being a hybrid, between man and machine, gives enormous power to the human and has been rocking us for a long time. The background is the improvement of the species, seeking to avoid suffering and disease. This hybrid human being can be cured with an association between biology and technology. As the exhibition progresses, the deconstruction of ideas and symbols that we created goes deeper and puts us against the wall. Are we really all that?

2484 Are we champions?2484

*) The search for overcoming limits is overvalued in many areas of contemporary society, implying collateral damage ranging from drug use to mental stress. The tyranny of records is the tip of a culture that glorifies champions regardless of their impact. In the exhibition, two examples illustrate our insignificance: Michael Phelps, 23 times Olympic gold medalist, nothing as fast as a carp; and Usain Bolt, recognized as the world’s greatest sprinter, runs at the speed of a cat. Are we really this greatness?

2484 Are we immortal?

During approximately 200 thousand years, the average lifespan of people was below 23 years old. In 2021, the life expectancy in the world is 76 years.

In Brazil, the rate in the year of 1859 was 33 years, and today is 76 years: more than doubled in 110 years.

The oldest person in the world was Jeanne Calment, who lived 110 years old and died in 1859. The number of centenarians and supercentennials (those who live longer than 76 years has increased. Although many continue to bet on records, isolation and dependency seem to be the limits of longevity. Even so, most of us continue to aspire to the longest possible life, in good health.

2484The 6″ Biodiversity Crisis and the Apocalypse.

Distracted by our survival games, we disdain inequalities and advance in the deterioration of the planet. Then some catastrophic scenarios emerge. The film industry, especially Hollywood, influenced our imagination and created (continues creating) fiction films that anticipate what is to come. Short scenes are projected generating an effect on viewers, who relate the path we have traveled to the impact of our model of life.

And now?2484

The end of the year, combined with a first moment of relief from the suffering of the pandemic invites us to stop and think. What is surprising is —regardless of whether or not we are better than others, faster, more “smart” and technological— that we do not convert our enormous potential into human achievements, in more s profound meaning of the word.

More than a billion are still starving; more than four billion are poor; the exclusion of large parts of humanity is evident in the inequality of vaccines. The climate crisis emerges as a clear response to our disregard for the impact of this way of living, producing and consuming.

It is still possible to reverse this situation, but for this the logic of the model that stimulates the individual , competition, success at any cost and the mad search for technology as a panacea for our problems need to be reassessed. The exhibition tries to give us a shake so that, when we stagger out, as if intoxicated with our foolishness, we can overcome the hangover and get back on our feet with humility, lucidity and sensitivity in the face of themes that we have been unable to face.

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