Is Internet really ungovernable?

First of all, allow us to speak about the internet without block capital I, as we don't speak anymore of Telephone, or Television, but simply of the telephone or of the television. It is not a trade mark, it is getting banalized and there is no more justification of reverencing Internet like a God!

I think that the internet looks today as any other real territory. It has a government in each country, it has an American ICANN institution, with regulations according to the use of domains - which should be enlarged and get international, probably under control of UNESCO. It has a cyber police, but also cyber criminality of many kinds. A large part of it is unknown from Googol (metadata and website which don't appear on the maps). So it is partly governed and partly like the Far West without a sheriff. More and more the internet goes under the law of the sociological gravity. Technically, it could be fully controlled and get transparent for those who want to control it (Big Brother), as it is difficult to erase your track as soon as you move into the cyberspace, send or receive a file, hack or pirate any music, film or software, Every gesture is inscribed in the history of the private computers and of the servers. This issue will be more and more in the future a big question mark in relation with democracy and the right to protect your private life. Unfortunately, today, the threats of terrorism justify more and more a cyber surveillance which is somehow salvage. We have to work hard to develop models of real democracy in the cyberspace, to allow a good equilibrium between liberty and regulations, new cyber laws to elaborate, including the normal real rights and sanctions. Internet is so recent with the Web, that it will need more years to establish its democracy. For the moment it is in-between Far West, a commercial mall, and cyber surveillance. Just born! A last word: it will for sure favor more and more democracy in the whole world.

What does the internet mean for humankind these days? Is it changing the attitude and formation processes of intellectual humankind? How far does the intellectual, professional, and human impact go?

Step by step, the internet will get banalized, even if it is still a privilege to have access in Cuba and many other countries. Internet is a revolution in itself. As a writer, as an academic, as a politician, as a journalist, as a businessman, as a scientist, it is getting impossible to compete with the others, to collaborate, to keep a professional status without internet. Not to speak of our private communications with so many members of our families, so many colleagues, so many friends: we are building an immense, nervous, active, powerful network locally and internationally. The internet is becoming an infrastructure of the information society, such as rivers, roads, trains, airplanes, etc. And now it is getting so cheap to use that the rates of the traditional voice telephone are dropping. Internet is transforming our cultures, our arts, our private lives, our democracies, the ways of developing education, economies, banking, criminality, etc. I have described in Digital Shock (McGill and Queen's University Press, Canada, 2006) these soft but radical changes, which I consider as important as the beginning of the era of fire in the primitive times, announcing an anthropological mutation of our species.

Are there the internet supporters and detractors? How would you define both opposing sides?

90% of the population in the world has no internet access. The digital devide is a big issue. The internet looks as an extension of the metropolitan cities and still don't reach the rural areas and the poor countries. As such it digs deeper for now on the gap between rich and poor countries, between inforichs and infopoors. But thanks to the satellite it will be more and more invasive. The humanitarian organizations should and will use it more and more as a developing tool for education, health, microeconomy, local communities, such as groups of African women, etc. The World Summits of the Information Society organized by the United Nations in Geneva and in Tunis have intended to sensibilize all of us to the power of Internet as a developing opportunity, even if it still needs basic infrastructures such as electricity and a minimum of education, literacy, etc. In India, the Simputer may become, within a few years, a basic computer with batteries, tactile screen, multilingual functions and internet satellite connection, allowing for one hundred dollars each to support many developing issues of this country and later on of any emerging country of the world. The quantity of the production will allow the prices of production to drop dramatically, as it happened with radios. We started with internet as a mass media only ten years ago. Think just of 50 years ahead. If the planet has not been destroyed meanwhile, it will become more and more a digital planet (Hyper Planet, vlb, Montreal, 2004).

For instance, the internet allows Cuba to escape its isolation and to connect with the whole world, broadcasting Cuban culture and ideas. The US blockade is not able to stop it.

In previous years you opened the morning newspapers or listened to the news at any time of the day and thought you were updated with whatever was going on in the world. That’s not the case nowadays. The internet offers now a plurality and a wide variety of information sources. So much so that it makes you feel misinformed. Is this a true feeling or is it just confusion due to the variety of sources? Is the internet kind of saying: you were misinformed before, or wrongly well informed, which makes it even worse?

We will learn more and more with time to navigate in the cyberlabyrinth and select our websites. Too much pluralism and a lack of credibility of much information is an excellent opportunity for education and more democracy. We should think of integrating the use of internet in school classes, like teaching reading and calculating. Of course, internet is a self media and a mass media at the same time, which favors cultural diversity but also a loss of authority of the information. This is an unknown situation, a challenge. But again, don't expect to have a maturity of the uses of internet within only ten years! We are, so to speak, immigrants in the cyberworld. We need to adapt ourselves. Therefore, we receive it as a digital shock, which we have to learn to master. But think of our children. In the developed countries, they are cybernatives, like fish in the water. The danger is more on the lack of critical distance and addiction. Because internet is like a drug, a psychotropic drug stimulating our desires, giving the illusion of escaping the real difficult world into games and entertainment, or offering role videogames with multi-users, in which they may think they are getting magically powerful.

No matter how hard you organize the sources and accesses, surfing the web gives the idea that the more you read and advance, the less you know. It is a feeling of uncertainty. You feel small, helpless, misinformed. You feel that you know nothing and that you are walking in the jungle. Is this a fact or just a myth? Can this feeling harm humankind?

A strong awareness of the human relativity of everything is very important. We have to adapt ourselves to the new technology, as we had to adapt to industrialization and urban life in the XIX century. It is stimulating but difficult. It needs from us to be able to master new challenges, to develop new cyber humanism, which I call hyperhumanism. But never forget that we should not oppose humanism to machinism. Machines are human, because they are invented by human beings for human users. There is a shock because it is sudden and radical, because it presents itself as a human mutation. But this is not the first human mutation since the time humanity stepped down from the trees and started to walk vertically and to develop a very sophisticated new brain. Human evolution is going ahead, with new needs for adaptation, big risks of destroying ourselves (this is brand new and calls for an evolution of our cerebral maturity and skills), as the gap between our instrumental digital power and our human wisdom is expanding. Our lives and destiny are getting more and more dangerous. The question is: will our human brain mutate quickly enough to allow us to master the next step, or shall we disappear like arrogant and imprudent sorcerers’ apprentices?

How can we dominate the internet? Is this possible? Is it going to get worse in the future?

I am pessimistic by prudence and optimistic by will. We all have to contribute to take responsibility into this evolution. Progress is not a natural social trend. It is a fragile human will and action. The sense of life is not given to us by god or by nature. We have to build it. There is no god in the plane to pilot the human plane. We have to fly it ourselves, with knowledge, wisdom, and energy. There is no written destiny of humankind. If there is no god, no natural wisdom and justice, we have to assume these difficult responsibilities as human beings. This is the vision I have suggested in my book: Nous serons des dieux (vlb, Montreal, 2006). The digital era is calling us to more responsibility, planetary ethics and hyper humanist commitment than ever.



In the S F films, we discover chimerical beings -belonging for at least 90% to the human species, but with a few morphological features issued from animal species in their faces and hands, such as bulgings, ears, horns, claws, hairs and furs. The christian Western civilization has established a sacred opposition between man and animal, quite the opposite to most of the other mythologies and so called pagan religions, Hinduism included, and to the Greek tradition of minotaurs, sirens, satyrs or other centaurs. It opposed also to the Middle-age's cultures and its fabulous hybrid animals, such as werewolves, empowered beasts, vampires, etc. And we continue now a days with Disney world's animals, and famous characters of George Lucas' Stars War such as the Jedi, Teki, Yoda, etc.. Simultaneously, we observe that today's scientific research in the field of biology shows more and more interest for chimeric embryos. Most recently, the British government has authorized Dr Stephen Minger and his team of the King's College in London to go ahead into such an investigation (April 2007). What is it about? Precisely to grow hybrid cytoplasmatic embryos starting with ovules of cows, ewes, mousses or rabbits, replacing the nucleus by a human cell, and merging both tanks to an electrical shock. This process allows combining the genetic information of the animal's ovule (mitochondry) with the one of the human cell. Such an hybrid embryo may be called a chimera because it merges the genetic heritage of two different species. Of course searchers work hard to obtain a embryo which (who) reaches the highest possible human characteristics, and may still able to develop itself by division and reproduction of its cells. It is aimed to extract of it stem cells - the only use which is legal - before destroying these hybrid embryos after two weeks, as requested by the law.
No doubt, with such practices we encounter the extreme limits of a transgression, which is as much from genetic as from civilizational nature. Traditional ethics reject such an attempts, and the law is hesitating, allowing it with strict restrictions or prohibiting it absolutely. And theses researches confront us to the mythic imagination of humankind, reptilian and more present than ether: let's just think of the posthuman, transhuman and extropian utopias of today! Siliceous mixes with carbon, machine with man, flesh with metal, and we create virtualy new ways of life and alternative universes. Not surprisingly we meet here the same interests which nourish bioart, and in particular the transgenic art of artists such as Eduardo Kac, the morphologies of Marta de Menezez, or the biomecanic constructions of the Australian group Symbiotica ((Oron Catts, Ionat Zurr, Guy Ben Ary).
Humanism, animalism, mechanism, hybridism
To reach to such an extend of audacity, even if methods, expressions and aims may change, merge or oppose considerably between art, science and science fiction, it becomes evident that all three are minded by the same cyberpromethean obsession which drives humankind.It seems that the very nature of such a desired hybridism, or the very intention of this chimeric superbrain to which we aspire, tends to merge humanism, animalism (with its extensive sensitive capacities) and mechanism (with the digital empowerment it allows). It is all about overcoming our limits, exploring the "frontier of the future" or the so called "Singularity", which fascinate scientists and SF writers. In a few words: we dear to question and create ourselves our human destiny. Scientific arts and Science fiction (mainly literature and cinema) have specially in common to get their inspiration from science and technology and same need or function to bridge the main myths and questions of contemporary technoscience with the creative cultural processes of the XXI century.Hervé Fischer.


Dans les films de science-fiction, nous voyons évoluer des êtres chimériques : à 90% de l'espèce humaine, mais avec des traits morphologiques d'espèces animales dans les visages et les mains - notamment des protubérances, oreilles, cornes, pilosités, griffes.L'occident chrétien a institué une sacro-sainte séparation entre l'homme et les animaux, mais qui s'est opposée à la plupart des mythologies et autres religions dites païennes, y compris l'hindouisme, à la tradition grecque des minotaures, sirènes, satyres, et autres centaures, aux animaux fabuleux des cultures du Moyen-Âge - loups-garous, bêtes, vampires, etc. Et nous continuons aujourd'hui aussi bien avec le monde de Walt-Disney qu'avec les Jedi, Teki, Yoda et autres personnages vedettes de la Guerre des étoiles de George Lucas. Or il se trouve que la recherche scientifique contemporaine s'intéresse de plus en plus aux embryons chimères, et que la loi vient d'autoriser en Grande-Bretagne le Dr Stephen Minger, du King's College de Londres à poursuivre cette exploration (avril 2007). De quoi s'agit-il? De créer des embryons hybrides cytoplasmiques, notamment à partir d'ovules de vaches, de brebis, de souris ou de lapins, dont on remplace le noyau par une cellule humaine et dont on assure la fusion grâce à un choc électrique. Ce processus assure la réunion du matériel génétique de l'ovule animale (mitochondrie) et de la cellule humaine. L'embryon hybride - qu'on appellera chimérique, parce qu'il réunit les informations génétiques de deux espèces différentes -, et dont on voudrait qu'il soit à dominante humaine la plus grande possible -, commence alors à se reproduire par division cellulaire et on en extraira des cellules souches à visée thérapeutique, ce que seul autorise la loi actuellement, puis le laboratoire a l'obligation légale de détruire ces embryons hybrides au bout de deux semaines.Nous sommes ainsi aux limites extrêmes de la transgression, tout à la fois génétique et civilisationnelle. La morale traditionnelle s'y objecte, la loi hésite, et selon les pays, autorise, restreint ou interdit formellement. Et nous rejoignons ainsi l'imaginaire mythique de l'humanité, tout à la fois reptilien et plus actuel que jamais, lorsqu'on aborde les utopies posthumaines, transhumaines, extropiennes, etc. Le silicium s'allie au carbone, la machine à l'homme, la chair au métal, et nous modélisons virtuellement des modes de vie et des univers alternatifs. Bien entendu, c'est à ces questions que s'intéresse aussi le bioart, et notamment les démarches transgénétiques d'artistes tels qu'Eduardo Kac, morphologiques de Marta de Menezes, ou les constructions biomécaniques du groupe australien Symbiotica (Oron Catts, Ionat Zurr, Guy Ben Ary ).
Humanité, animalité, machinité, hybridité
À ce stade, même si les méthodes, les modes d'expression et les buts recherchés peuvent varier, s'hybrider, ou s'opposer considérablement entre art, science et science-fiction, il est clair cependant que c'est la même obsession cyberprométhéenne qui anime art, science et science-fiction. Il semble que la nature même de cette hybridité, que ce supercerverau chimérique, auxquels nous aspirons tant, tende à allier les caractéristiques de l'humanité, de l'animalité (avec ses capacités sensorielles qui dépassent les nôtres) et la machinité (avec la surpuissance numérique que nous en attendons).On pourrait donc l'énoncer ainsi : dépasser nos limites, explorer le "mur du futur", ou ce que science et science fiction appelle la Singularity, pour créer et questionner la destinée humaine. Les arts scientifiques et les œuvres de science-fiction (littérature ou cinéma) se rejoignent alors tout particulièrement en ce sens qu'ils s'inspirent tous deux de la recherche scientifique et en relaient les grands mythes et les grandes questions au cœur de notre création culturelle du XXIe siècle. Hervé Fischer.