How should we approach the broad set of sweeping risks posed by fast-changing technologies with radically unpredictable consequences? Is the 'precautionary principle' the most sensible response? Should we abstain from all actions which lack full scientific consensus as to their safety?
The 'proactionary principle' was introduced by transhumanist philosopher Max More as an alternative to the precautionary principle. It is now the subject of an important new book by Steve Fuller and Veronika Lipinska of the University of Warwick. The two authors are joining London Futurists in this meeting to share a selected summary of the arguments in the book.
About 'The Proactionary Imperative'
Whereas precautionaries believe that we are on the brink of environmental catastrophe because we're too willing to take risks, proactionaries believe that humans stand apart from the rest of nature by our capacity for successful risk taking. In terms of current environmental problems, therefore, solutions lie not in turning our backs on our love affair with technology but by intensifying it - through finding new energy sources or even looking at the possibility of inhabiting other worlds.
This fascinating new book explores attitudes towards the transformation of human nature. The authors point out that, politically, both those on the right and the left contribute to different sides of the precautionary-proactionary debate, and argue that it will be this distinction, between caution and action, that will come to dominate the political landscape and create new political divisions.
Drawing on perspectives from both theology and biology, and completing a trilogy of works exploring 'Humanity 2.0 ', Fuller and Lipinska ultimately endorse the proactionary position, which supports individuals taking risks - for example with new health treatments, as they try to expand their life chances. They accept that such a risk-taking culture may result in set-backs and failures, but argue that this simply requires a new conception of the welfare state.
The results may be an incredibly diverse society that will challenge our notions of tolerance, creating a world where 'traditional' humans live side by side with those who have artificial organs or have received substantial genetic modification. Humans have yet to treat all 'normal' members of Homo sapiens with proper respect and dignity and the proactionary principle opens up new challenges to our conceptions of equality.
The book ends with a Manifesto that draws together the arguments to present a challenging vision for the future.
About Steve Fuller:
Steve Fuller is Auguste Comte Professor of Social Epistemology at the University of Warwick, UK. Originally trained in history and philosophy of science, his research programme of 'social epistemology' now encompasses a quarterly journal (founded in 1987) and twenty books, including Humanity 2.0: What It Means to be Human Past, Present and Future.
Steve is a member of the UK Academy of Social Sciences and the European Academy of Sciences and Arts. He is also a member of the Futures and Philosophy advisory boards of the Lifeboat Foundation.
About Veronika Lipinska:
Veronika Lipinska holds degrees in law and sociology from the Universities of Warwick, UK and Lund, Sweden. Her interests include European tax law, intellectual property law and cyberlaw.
A member of the Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective, she is co-editor with Steve Fuller of the Epistemology section of the forthcoming Wiley-Blackwell Encyclopedia of Social Theory. She has chaired academic conferences all over Europe and won numerous academic awards. Her focus is on the issue of ‘future generations’ and the consequences of contemporary policies on the development of human populations, technology and ecology.
2pm-4pm, Saturday 13th September 2014.
Venue: Room B18, Birkbeck College, Torrington Square WC1E 7HX, London.
Room B18 is on the basement floor in the main Birkbeck College building, in Torrington Square (which is a pedestrian-only square). Torrington Square is about 10 minutes walk from either Russell Square or Goodge St tube stations.
Coffee and other light refreshments can be purchased from the Costa Coffee shop in the reception area of the building, either ahead of or after the meeting.
The event will be followed by a chance to continue the discussion in a nearby pub - The Marlborough Arms, 36 Torrington Place, London WC1E 7HJ.
Covering meeting costs:
A small fee (£5) is payable to attend this meetup. This fee covers room costs. Please pay in advance, online.
This will be refunded if the meeting is cancelled or rearranged, or if the attendee cancels at least 3 days before the meetup.
Alternatively, if there are still seats available, payment can be made in cash at the door on the day. (Requesting payment in advance assists with accurate planning of the event.)
Journalists are welcome to attend the meeting free-of-charge - please contact the organiser, notifying us in advance of your plans to attend.