“Research, the pillar of the current surplus, serves the will to power”

“Research, the pillar of the current surplus, serves the will to power”

LEconomic growth is reaching the physical limits of the planet and destroying it. But research is a driving force behind this growth. Because we cannot explain this indirect and essential impact of research, debates about its usefulness are usually limited to its direct consequences.

The proponents of research point out that curiosity and the use of technology are two fundamental characteristics of the human species, or that research contributes to material comfort and longevity. The criticism of the research is also varied and focuses on its military or social applications: manipulation of living beings, unbridled profiteering, degradation of the human body into a commodity.

It is impossible to make a valid benefit-risk analysis from this; no insurance company can guarantee the research, because it has a specificity: its consequences are unpredictable, can sometimes be felt after several centuries, and cannot be anticipated through a statistical analysis of the past.

Take the example of virology. Separately, in 2011, two teams of virologists, in Japan and the Netherlands, modified the H5N1 bird flu virus and caused it to infect mammalian cells. The announced goal of being ready to quickly produce a human vaccine in the event of a pandemic was unrealistic, as viruses were too variable to be predictable (against Covid-19, a different strategy turned out to be relevant).

Experiences of sorcerer’s apprentices

On the other hand, the risk was real: in 2014, given the frequency of laboratory accidents, the United States imposed a moratorium on funding so-called “concerning” research in virology; changes caused it to lose all scope in 2017. In the meantime, researchers from North Carolina transferred their experiments to Wuhan, China, to move faster and at a lower cost. It is still not known whether SARS-CoV-2 originated from there. On the other hand, we know that laboratory leaks have been recorded during the Covid-19 pandemic, including in Taiwan in October and November 2021. In 2022, researchers in the heart of Boston constructed a virus that combines the contagiousness of the Omicron variant . with the lethality of one of the first variants. Pandemic risk versus vaccine promise: what conclusions can we draw?

The indirect impact is certain and more serious. More generally, critical collectives such as Parts and Main d’oeuvre or the Grothendieck group underline, research serves competition and the will to power. Hence, the indirect consequences for the state of the planet are much greater than the direct consequences. It is a pillar of current excesses and of the search for the limitless, which manifests itself, among other things, in experiments with sorcerer’s apprentices: transhumanism, gene forcing, colonization of Mars or the interface between brains and machines.

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