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The Future Inquires Us

by Richard Meckien - published May 22, 2014 04:20 PM - - last modified May 18, 2018 10:00 AM

The goal of IEA's new research group, whose creation was approved by the Institute's Board on April 4, 2014, is to analyze the current possibility of promoting an unprecedented improvement in the quality of human life, as well as the consequences of this potential's realization. The group is coordinated by philosopher Renato Janine Ribeiro, a professor at USP's Faculty of Philosophy, Languages and Literature, and Human Sciences (FFLCH), and former member of the Board.

From a philosophical point of view, the group will explore utopias aimed at building a world centered on leisure, free of scarcity and where the work is not the most important aspect in daily life. It will also discuss the emergence of a more libertarian society, characterized by the ease of changing identity, opinion, profession, sexual orientation and nationality, as well as breaking social ties and creating more free and flexible new ones.

At first, the group will focus on eight axes of approach: the revolution of inventions, machines and computers; the extinction of scarcity; the end of human history marked by scarcity; violence in a world without poverty; consumerism and conformism; the difference between happiness and pleasure; utopias and their principles; and harm reduction.


According to the research group's project, the techno-scientific advancements constitute a watershed in the realization of utopian scenarios as they make it possible to satisfy desires that used to be repressed by several limitations while questioning the possibility of happiness, in which one can "extract the highest personal satisfaction of the minimum external stimuli," which in turn is far from consumerism. In addition, the development of science and technology enables increased productivity and reduced working hours from a technical or material point of view, which would deploy new utopias.

The prospect of producing more by working less raises a number of issues to be discussed by the group, among which the unprecedented possibility to devote more time to leisure than to work, the emergence of more flexible identities, which would no longer be based on career, the elimination of deficiencies that have marked the course of humanity, the weakening of social bonds and the liquidity of relationships, and finally the end of a long human history moved by or within scarcity.

Some of the major questions of the project are: why do new utopias not become a reality when there is scientific and technical basis for this to happen? Why do we experience intense consumerism, liquidity of relations and senseless violence when happiness becomes technically more feasible than in the past?


The group will begin their activities with a core of five researchers, including the coordinator. The expansion in the number of members will be gradual. There will also be guest panelists, such as anthropologist Massimo Canevacci, a visiting professor at the IEA, and philosopher Olgária Matos, a professor at FFLCH and coordinator of the Research Group Humanities and the Contemporary World, also newly created.

The idea is that the group meets every 45 days during the academic semesters, with a minimum of six meetings per year. These meetings will be devoted to the development of theoretical issues and debate about them in practical terms. The group's proposal includes, in addition to internal meetings, participation in congresses, conferences and publications, such as articles, books and blogs.