Rostam J. Neuwirth
En verité nous sommes certainement à un instant où un nouveau paradigme va devoir se substituer aux anciens (Vivant 2000: 17).
Culture, law, economics, politics, technology, science, and religion are all general concepts that are used to explain particular aspects of a mysterious process called “human evolution” – the final destiny of which still evades our intellectual grasp and, therefore, continues to be the subject of scientific speculation and spiritual divination. The continuing uncertainty surrounding human evolution and its destiny invites questions about the adequacy of both our senses and our cognitive modes of perception. Put differently, when a number of questions yield divergent responses, it may be time to rethink and reframe the questions themselves. From time immemorial, human efforts have been devoted to unravelling the mysteries enclosing human life, which became known by different names, like the “holy grail” or the “philosopher’s stone”. Many but not all of these efforts have become translated into innovative tools, devices, or machines that were designed in acts of ingenious creativity that today are simply referred to as “technologies”. Today, technologies are often falsely separated from the arts, with which they share “creativity” as their central source of inspiration (Heidegger 1979: 318). Certainly many different technologies exist and serve even more numerous purposes. But in the quest for the destiny of humanity, those technologies that were meant to enhance and that did actually enhance our perception and understanding stand out. Compressed in time, some of the principal inventions for sight or visual perception include optics, the camera obscura, still photography, cinematography, and the computer and its digital technologies, to mention but a few.
Each one of these inventive steps has, no doubt, enlarged our vision. But, in sum, have they also helped to cast more light on the original mystery of life and the direction of its evolution? Arguably, in recent years tremendous progress in all fields of science has been made, which is especially visible in an ever accelerating pace of innovation and in the development of novel technologies at an exponential speed. Progress is, in fact, considered to be so great that the modern age is now referred to as a new epoch, the Anthropocene epoch, i.e. a time when human activities have a significant global impact on the earth’s ecosystem (Crutzen 2006: 13). Alternatively, it has been captured by the term “singularity”, that is to say a world where the differences between machines and humans or real reality and virtual reality will gradually vanish (Kurzweil 2005).
Yet, in this acceleration of perception, of history (Nora 1989: 15), or of “everything” (Gleick 2000: 6), despite all the efforts and progress made every “nanosecond”, it appears that – paradoxically – we are no nanometer nearer than were our ancestors to the goal of understanding the process leading towards our final destiny. Or, to put it differently, “the empire of man over himself” has not kept pace with “the empire of man over nature” (Luzzatti 2005: 376). In this sense, humanity today perhaps even seems to be going backwards in comparison with previous generations. The same regression may also apply to the law and the process of the regulation of these new technologies, as the speed of their regulation seems disproportionate to the speed with which they occur (Picker 2001: 185; Bennett Modes 2011: 768). In other words, the law appears to lag behind technological innovations, thus opening a gap between these technologies and their legal and ethical oversight (Marchant, Allenby and Heckert 2011). One of the reasons for this may be that the objective of the law may be diametrically opposed to the objective of technology, as the former aims to maintain, preserve, and avoid sudden changes in order to guarantee the rule of law in terms of legal predictability and certainty, whereas the latter constantly pushes for change, and for improvement through innovation. Human evolution, however, appears to encapsulate both tendencies. Ultimately, the question is what causes the alienation between the progress in science that is manifest in new technologies and the better understanding of human evolution and its eventual destiny.
This question will be pursued by a brief look at the role of the UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions in the coming decades, notably in the future of the governance of global affairs. This is justified because, legally speaking, the Convention has been found to “only unfold legal effect pro futuro and will by no means have retroactive effects” (Neuwirth 2006: 819 and 847). Certainly it will not have direct retroactive effects, but perhaps it will have them indirectly, namely, paradoxically, by instigating a fruitful debate that, by changing the future, will in hindsight put a different complexion on the past. To this end, the present chapter first features a prologue introducing an allegory as a hint at the possible correlation between humanity’s striving for scientific discovery and its final destiny. Put differently, the allegory may contain a clue about the purpose of technologies, by considering not only what they allow us to achieve but also what they tell us about ourselves. Consequently, the chapter briefly revisits the historical origins of the Convention so as to pave the way for a better understanding of its potential shortcomings in the future. To avoid these potential shortcomings, the chapter then looks at clues found in the present scientific and legal debates as well as in daily public discourse, and the key concepts featured in these debates. In the following some existing technologies are briefly listed before some findings and recommendations for the future of the Convention, as well as for UNESCO as a whole, are formulated as concluding remarks. Last but not least, an epilogue unravels the mystery enshrined in the allegory mentioned in the prologue.
Verne’s future looks backwards, just as his past looks forwards. It is anticipation in reverse. Verne is both a visionary and a nostalgic, and the particular difficulty of his work is that he happens to be both of these at once (Unwin 2000: 31).
In humanity’s historical quest for “enlightenment”, certain people have, periodically, albeit often only posthumously, been considered to be visionaries in the sense that they have anticipated important developments marking the progressive stages of human evolution. The French writer Jules Verne (1828–1905) is definitely one of these people (Unwin 2000; Evans 2013). With his numerous novels, among them, notably, From the Earth to the Moon (first published in 1865) and Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea (first published in 1870), he is said to have anticipated technological developments long before they materialized. Interestingly, these two book titles also correspond to elements of an ancient allegory about humanity’s quest for “divine light”, which translates into a greater understanding and awareness of the direction and destiny of human evolution. This allegory runs as follows:
There was a time in the history of the race when the gods stole from man his divinity, and, meeting in a high conclave, sought to decide where to hide that which they had stolen. One god suggested that they hide it on another planet, for there man could not find it, but another god arose and said that man was innately a great traveller and they had no guarantee that, eventually, he might not find his way there. “Let us,” he said, “hide it in the depths of the sea, at the bottom of the ocean for there it will be safe.” But again a dissenting voice was heard, and it was pointed out that man was a great natural investigator and that he might someday succeed in penetrating to the deepest depths as well as the greatest heights (Bailey 1979: 106-107).
In hindsight, as anticipated by Jules Verne, humans have already travelled to the Moon (although this is not a planet in a strict sense) and to the bottom of the deepest spots in the oceans and would, therefore, most likely have found the divine light there. But the story continues; after the discussion went back and forth, one bright god arose and suggested another hiding place for the “stolen jewel” of human divinity, a place where he was certain humans would never look. After he made his suggestion for a hiding place, the conclave broke up happily as “the gods realized that a truly inaccessible place had been indicated, and for eons it seemed as if the light hidden in man was lost forever” (Bailey 1979: 107).
Thus the question is: what was the place he suggested as being the safest hiding place, where humans would not be able to find human divinity? If one considers another novel by Jules Verne, the answer could well be found in the centre of the Earth (Verne 2011). But in this regard, perhaps even Jules Verne may have used the Earth as a metaphor for humanity’s quest for divine light or greater awareness. Perhaps a clue as to the meaning of the metaphor can be found in the UNESCO Convention and the mandate given to UNESCO in general.
The real phenomena of human economy, as paradoxical as it may sound at first, are to no small extent of an uneconomic nature (…) (Menger 2009: 218).
The UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions, adopted in 2005, is itself a child of new technologies. In brief, it was born out of the disagreement over the treatment of cultural, particularly audio-visual, products during the Uruguay Round of negotiations on the establishment of the World Trade Organization (WTO). More concretely, the global increase in the volume of sales of Hollywood movies in the wake of the international trade liberalization undertaken in the 1947 General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) were regarded as threatening the diversity of cultures displayed in the world. The underlying conflict goes back to a centuries-old struggle consisting of attempts to meet regulatory challenges derived from the apparently disparate objectives related to culture on the one hand and to international trade and commerce on the other. In line with a broader tendency of fragmentation, culture and trade (in the same way as many other areas of human endeavour) were largely perceived to be mutually exclusive, incompatible and irreconcilable, which also explains why they were assumed to need to be regulated separately. The tradition of their separate regulation can be seen from the Roman legal concept of “res extra commercium” to the adoption of Article IV GATT on cinematograph films, and it still persists in Article 20 of the UNESCO Convention itself.
The regulatory separation between culture and trade, however, came under pressure during the late 19th century with the invention of the cinematograph, which created the novel category of motion pictures or movies. This growing pressure resulted from the dual character of movies, both economic and cultural, which drew the two areas closer. Their dual character but remaining inherent contradiction was also captured in the concept of “culture industry”, which was deliberately coined as an oxymoron, i.e. a figure of speech combining two apparently antagonistic and hence irreconcilable concepts. Ever since, the said pressure has continued to increase exponentially. This has occurred mainly as a result of the advent of digital technologies, which started a broader trend towards the convergence of different industries and products, and which from that time on has continued to challenge the regulation of international trade and the diversity of cultural expressions alike (Guèvremont et al. 2013; Neuwirth 2015a). Thus, the cinematograph, which literally set pictures in motion, both accelerated and expanded our means of perception, but the expansion came at the cost of blurring numerous regulatory distinctions that had been carefully drawn between concepts and areas in the centuries before.
During the past few decades, the regulatory challenges caused by the acceleration of perception and the blurring of earlier lines of distinction have been increasingly met by the creation of a category of concepts that is able to cope with both trends. This category is called “essentially oxymoronic concepts” and comprises paradoxes, contradictions in terms, and oxymora (Neuwirth 2013c). These concepts mark a shift or move away from a dualistic conception of scientific discourses that, hitherto, relied on a tradition of diverging views or even an opposition between hypothesis and antithesis that was captured by the notion of “essentially contested concepts” (Gallie 1956). It hardly comes as a surprise that a category of concepts that are inherently contradictory will come to clash with a strictly dualistic method or the classical logic of legal reasoning as exemplified by the legal syllogism. This dualistic conception of the law was superbly summarized by the nomos or legal universe that is constantly created by “a world of right and wrong, of lawful and unlawful, of valid and void” (Cover 1982: 4). However, it is argued that the growing pressures exercised by innovation in technologies and industries are only slowly or inadequately met by appropriate changes in the regulatory and legislative environment, both institutionally and substantively. Instead of critically rethinking the foundations for regulation or law and policymaking, the many drastic changes in the regulatory environment are met mainly by a fuite en avant that is manifest in a deluge of norms caused by excessive regulation or a proliferation of norms and regulatory bodies alike (Heldrich 1983; Oppetit 1990: 317). Before it is possible to contemplate the challenges to the existing regulatory approaches that are set by these changes, it is necessary to discuss briefly some of the essentially oxymoronic concepts as they are used today.
Paradox is a rich source for artistic creation; it is, however, a poor basis for the development of cultural trade policy (Dymond & Hart 2002: 32).
It was mentioned earlier that the UNESCO Convention itself may perhaps have been born out of the oxymoron of the culture industry. The decision to negotiate it was also triggered by the oxymoron of an “agreement to disagree” between the trade negotiators of the EU and the US (Elliott & Luce 1993: 1). On a broader level, the debate preceding the Convention’s adoption was based on the paradox of culture and trade, which consists in the conundrum of how to best reconcile the seemingly irreconcilable objectives of cultural policies or the protection of cultural diversity on the one hand and trade policies or international trade liberalization on the other. The paradox also became visible in the first draft of Article 20 of the Convention on the relationship with other instruments, which stipulated that the Convention should not affect the rights and obligations of the Parties derived from other international agreements, and that neither should other international agreements affect the rights and obligations of the Parties under the Convention (Neuwirth 2013a: 406). The culture and trade debate itself gave rise to an abundance of culture and trade paradoxes. (Neuwirth 2015b; Dymond & Hart 2002). Even cultural diversity, when understood as discordia concors, may be framed as an oxymoron. By comparison, the notion of cultural variety would be easier to reconcile in logical terms, by stating that members of a culture share its values or features but still display a great variety. Even related concepts, like that of cultural property, have been referred to as a paradox given the inherent tensions between property being fixed and culture being unfixed, dynamic, and unstable (Mezey 2007: 2005). The UNESCO Convention itself restates that culture is an evolving concept, taking “diverse forms across time and space”, which is why the regulation of culture and the cultural industries has been found to constitute a paradox and an oxymoron (Adorno 1991: 123; Pratt 2005: 31-32).
The concept of cultural diversity is also closely related to the fears associated with globalization and its negative outcomes, such as the “Coca-Colonization” of the world’s many distinct cultures (Melnick & Jackson 2002: 429). In response to such fears and to emphasize local differences, it was proposed that the concept of globalization should be replaced by the one of “glocalisation”, another seeming oxymoron (Khondker 2005: 187-188). The role of cultural diversity in development was equally recognized, particularly in the context of sustainable development, which also displays an inherent contradiction akin to an oxymoron (Sachs 1999: 38; Njiro 2002; Redclift 2005). Finally, new technologies and their convergent trends gave rise to many new product categories, often captured by portmanteaus of previously separate products. These products do not only include cosmeceuticals or nutriceuticals, products merged from the cosmetic, pharmaceutical, and food industries (Ulbricht 1993; Dureja et al. 2011), but they also invaded more traditional industries, as can be seen from products like sports utility vehicles (SUVs), ice tea, or Frappuccino, all of which can be described as oxymora. Finally, advertising also embraced these concepts with slogans like “less is more”, “spend more and save more”, or “the world’s local bank”.
The new challenges derived from the management of these new industries were also addressed by oxymora, such as the one of coopetition, which combines elements of cooperation and competition in order to address the consequences of industry convergence (Ancarani & Costabile 2010: 216). Paradoxical thinking was even introduced as a way to enhance profits (Fletcher 1997). Law and regulation soon followed suit and used the oxymoron “coopetition” to combine public and private actors or governmental and non-governmental regulatory processes, as well as processes between the different international regimes (Esty & Geradin 2000: 235, 237 and 253; Neuwirth & Svetlicinii 2015: 369). Generally, law has often been described by reference to paradoxes or contradictions (Cardozo 1928; Fletcher 1985; Perez & Teubner 2006). In sum, there exist many more examples of essentially oxymoronic concepts, but the present listing should suffice to support claims that contemporary times qualify as the age of paradox (Handy 1995). In turn, this should also suffice as support for calls for a new conceptual and possibly cognitive approach to law and policymaking in the future. As will be outlined below, this should particularly apply to UNESCO and its mandate. First, it will be interesting to take a look at the future, particularly from the perspective of new technologies and their impact on culture or cultural variety.
La gente sin sueños se muere antes (Subiela 1995).
In his oxymoronic character as a nostalgic visionary, Jules Verne was able to combine the insights from the past creatively with projections about the future. To put it another way, as a writer he possibly “foretold the future, “inventing” modern technology through the power of his imagination” (Unwin 2000: 18). Imagination and creativity may be exactly the same thing and, as a source of inspiration, they also serve scientists as well. Take the example of Peter Higgs, who with colleagues correctly anticipated in 1964 the discovery of the Higgs boson or “God’s particle” in 2013 (Higgs 1964; Alison 2015: 285). It is interesting to add that the discovery was made possible by an oxymoronic method, namely a “creation from destruction” consisting in the collision of particles at high speed in the Large Hadron Collider (LHC). Another such scientist is Leon O. Chua, who in 1971 also anticipated, theoretically, the discovery in 2008 of a fourth physical device alongside the resistor, inductor, and capacitor; he called this the “memristor”, a portmanteau word coined from memory and resistor (Chua 1971: 507; Strukov et al. 2008). Before this paper can delve into the significance of the discovery of the memristor, it must briefly cover the current state of technologies and their potential impact on the Convention.
In this endeavour, as in a game of billiards, it is difficult to predict the future of one technology because of its interaction with other fields. In other words, it may be easy to predict the future automobile based on current automobile technology but it becomes more difficult to do this in view of possible advances in related technologies like computer technology, materials science, laser lights, and simple human ingenuity. In this complex entwinement of numerous unknown factors, the law (and politics) is also called to play a paradoxical role. This paradox consists in the fact that law and regulation may well alter or direct the development of new technologies (e.g. telecommunication standards) (Gruber & Verboven 2001), while new technologies often prompt the law to react and adapt to them (e.g. medical technology) (Warnock 1998). At the same time, economic factors will also play a significant role, as some inventions, even if sanctioned by the law, will, like supersonic air travel, prove not to be economically viable, and others, like a virtual currency such as Bitcoin, may alter the understanding of the economy drastically (Koller & Seidel 2014).
In concrete terms, this may also mean that the legal role and value of the UNESCO Convention in the future will depend largely on the overall context within which the Convention will be placed. This means that account must be taken of what the global legal and economic order of the future will look like and of who will be its primary actors: private persons, states, regional bodies, international, global, or possibly even “interplanetary” organizations as mentioned by Stanislav Lem (Lem 1985: 34). As these questions go beyond the present context, the main focus here is solely on technological aspects. But even in isolation, technological progress faces a similar challenge of complexity or, actually, “simplexity”, to use both a paradox and an oxymoron (Kluger 2008; Mossman 2014).
To simplify the task, an attempt is made to enumerate briefly a few existing technologies that are expected to innovate further and evolve quickly. A first and broad glance reveals a trend of the convergence between several particular technological subgroups, including nanotechnology, biotechnology, and information and communication technologies (ICT). To these categories, the field of cognitive studies is added as bearing enormous potential in the future (Roco & Bainbridge 2003). The field of transport, which is closely connected with communication technologies, should perhaps equally be added to them (Zacher 1996). Jointly and through close interaction, these fields will drastically alter the way we live our lives, and they have already begun to do so. For instance, nanotechnology will alter everything we use in terms of materials, from clothes, food, and cosmetics to machines, weapons, and computers (Baumberg 2007). Biotechnology has already invaded our lives with genetically modified food and other potential applications ranging from the development of new drugs and new chemicals to animal and human cloning (Sager 2001: 109). These two areas, combined into the concept “nanobiotechnology”, are also likely to push this process even further (Ramsden 2005: 14). As for information and communication technologies, we can already see how the Internet, having recently merged telecom, audio-visual, and even printing goods and services, changes our lives through its many applications. Other existing technologies, like mobile and video telephony, social and other media, and instant messaging applications, from 2G to 5G networks, which will provide global roaming across different types of wireless and mobile networks or a so-called “wwww” (wireless worldwide web) (Akthar 2008), will continue to evolve. Foreshadowed by drones, transport too will continue to accelerate, in accessibility, volume, and speed, but it is too early to tell when revolutionary means of transport, like “beaming” or “teleportation”, will be available to commuters and travellers alike (Zeilinger 2003). Equally, communication technologies will evolve as speech technology and machine translation improve (Kay 1997), and this can be expected to have interesting effects on linguistic and cultural diversity. As a whole, science will have a major impact on life in the future (Kaku 2011).
In all these fields separately, considerable progress can be expected in the decades to come. What is more difficult to forecast is the arrival of a so-called “tipping point” (Gladwell 2000) or “paradigm shift” (Kuhn 1996), when a major game changer occurs that leaves no stone unturned and drastically alters at least some of the fundamental assumptions (like gravity) that we have about life. Such game changers are hard to imagine, but could be such things as the discovery of alien life forms, new and inexhaustible energy resources, or mind-reading or dream recording devices (Horikawa et al. 2013), or insights into the nature (or non-existence) of death.
In the same way as before the entry into force of the Convention, this brief and incomplete survey of some future technologies that are likely to see the light in the coming decades does not support a greater legal value for the Convention in the future. It is even hoped that some concepts and terms in the operational part of the Convention will lose their meaning and relevance because of changes in the global legal order; these include the developing–developed country dichotomy (e.g. Art. 14 CDCE), or the insistence on a national and territorial right (Art 6 CDCE), or the apparent opposition of cultural considerations with economic considerations (Art. 20 CDCE) (Neuwirth 2013a: 405-406 & 415; Neuwirth 2013b). However, it is more likely that most of the guiding principles listed in Article 2 CDCE will maintain their relevance, albeit in drastically changed conditions, except perhaps for the principle of sovereignty, which should also give way to a new principle in line with a more cosmopolitan conception of the state (Glenn 2013). In sum, these dim predictions for the future legal role of the Convention do not release law and policymakers from one important responsibility. The role of law and regulation is not only to react to changes that have occurred but to prepare proactively for future changes induced mainly by new technologies. As a last example, this responsibility of the law entails another paradox, namely that the design of future technologies will be the result of a dialectical process of simultaneously influencing and being influenced by law-making.
In this paradoxical task, it can be expected that the computer will continue to assume an important role in our scientific quest for answers. Furthermore, the future computer is likely to play a role in our attempts to enhance our means of perception, that is to say, to enhance our perception in order to create more possibilities based on a so-called “augmented reality”, as an intermediate position between science and fiction or virtual reality and reality. The themes of recent movies like Inception (directed by Christopher Nolan in 2010) or Lucy (directed by Luc Besson in 2014) already reflect public interest in the possibilities of enhanced perception and augmented reality (Tönnis 2010). In this process, computers are also subject to revolutionary innovations, and one possible such innovation occurred in 2008 with the discovery of the memristor, as mentioned before. The memristor has been hailed as a revolution first because it will allow the building of better, faster, and more energy-efficient computers, which, for instance, will instantly turn on and off without losing data, meaning that the RAM or memory will no longer be erased when the machine is turned off (Itoh & Chua 2008: 3183; Prisco 2015). Second, the memristor has generated so much interest because of the suggestion that it will allow us to build “creative computers”, that is to say “brain-like” or “neural” computers, which may provide robots with the capacity needed “to plan for the future, learn from the past and make intelligent judgements in the present” (Gale, de Lacy Costello & Adamatzky 2013). As an additional interesting facet, memristors will allow computers to escape the boundaries of binary codes (Prisco 2015). Thus, they can apparently implement fuzzy logic (Merrikh-Bayat & Shouraki 2013). Some of the advantages of memristors have been outlined as follows:
The advent of nanoscale memristor devices, which provide high-density multilevel memory, ultra-low static power consumption, and behavioural similarity to biological synapses, represents a major step towards emulating the incredible processing power of biological systems (Kudithipudi et al. 2014: 93).
Is the discovery of the memristor then effectively another major step towards the creation of artificial intelligence, towards the merger of humans and machines and the birth of the “cyborg”, an abbreviate for “cybernetic organism”, which constitutes yet another oxymoron (Siivonen 1996)? Only time will tell, but if machines are using logic more flexibly and perhaps more accurately than their creators, is it not time to rethink even the foundations of our thinking? In this regard, it was stated that we can already build machines or computers using paradoxes, which should call our attention to the following:
These paradoxes are thus far from mere games, and they reach much further than human language. The paradoxical tensions at which I have just hinted occupy much the same place: they are built into the foundation of the world. They are everywhere (Wagner 2009: 3).
If paradoxes and oxymora are indeed ubiquitous, like computing, and they are the result of human creative ingenuity, it may also be time, as John Dewey rightly recommended, for the realm of law and policymaking to consider the “infiltration into law of a more experimental and flexible logic” as a social as well as an intellectual need (Dewey 1924: 27).
Un paradoxe permanent de l’UNESCO réside dans le fait de vouloir rejoindre des objectifs culturels avec des instruments et des structures dans lesquels la politique n’est pas absente (Papini and Cortese 1974: 117).
Under normal circumstances it is hard to tell precisely what the future will look like and what the state of the diversity of cultural expressions around the world will be. However, in the past, ignorance about the future did not prevent writers and scientists, as nostalgic visionaries or magical realists, from delving into the world of imaginary creation and thereby, paradoxically, simultaneously imagining or glimpsing into, and shaping or creating, the future. The same kind of creativity, it is advocated here, should be envisaged and applied by lawyers and policymakers. Generally, this also means becoming familiar with essentially oxymoronic concepts, i.e. paradoxes and oxymora, as the key concepts of our time. This need to become familiar with them is because of the rising number of oxymora being coined to describe the fruits of scientific and technological progress and as such also posing new challenges to regulation through the law. Like computers, essentially oxymoronic concepts are ubiquitous, with their usage increasing in number. An example for their relevance in technology was provided by the memristor, which opens entirely new ways for computing, inter alia by transcending binary codes towards more fuzzy forms of logic. An example for their relevance in regulation is provided by culture itself, which was said to constitute a paradox, in the sense that culture cannot be regulated. What can be regulated, however, are the conditions in which “culture” may spontaneously sprout and grow.
Thus, if essentially oxymoronic concepts are the dominant paradigm of our present scientific and technological realm, why not proactively embrace them and, by means of more paradoxical forms of legal reasoning, introduce them to the world of law and policymaking? This means recognizing that technology is about not only what it helps us to perceive and achieve but also what it tells us about ourselves, about our destiny in a process called “evolution”.
Applying this understanding of technology to the realm of the diversity of cultural expressions and future role of UNESCO means that, if Jules Verne was able to prepare his mind for future technologies, the law and UNESCO should be in a position to accomplish the same. UNESCO, especially, holds a privileged role among international organizations in doing this, namely in preparing mindsets for a globalized and noticeably interconnected world in which interdependence reaches unprecedented levels. This role is also in line with UNESCO’s past and apparently forgotten legacy as the organization entrusted with “intellectual cooperation”. This is because UNESCO is the successor of the International Commission for Intellectual Cooperation (ICIC), which was created in 1921 by the League of Nations and four years later was transformed into the International Institute of Intellectual Cooperation (IICI) (Bonnet 1937: 467). At that time, intellectual cooperation was found to be a particularly useful tool for addressing the growing complexity in international affairs (Bonnet 1937: 457). Since then, undoubtedly, the complexity of “glocal”, or both local and global, affairs has only increased further. In view of the existing threats to the diversity of cultural expression and further threats to it in the future, which – in the age of the Anthropocene – already also pose a threat to the survival of humanity and the planet as a whole, UNESCO would be well advised to assume the role of a nostalgic visionary. For this role, UNESCO, because it is entrusted with the fields of education, science, and culture, is well prepared for fostering intellectual cooperation and, in particular, for working out the required cognitive methods for such intellectual cooperation to be efficient and meaningful. For instance, future initiatives by UNESCO in this area could range from paving the way for enhanced tools of perception in terms of an augmented reality based on broader cognitive modes of thinking to convoking a “conclave” consisting of the Directors General of all international organizations so as to confront successfully the growing complexity of global affairs by increasing the coherence of global law and policymaking without the unnecessary duplication of their respective activities.
Science has fallen into many errors – errors which have been fortunate and useful rather than otherwise, for they have been the steppingstones to truth (Verne 1905: 180).
Finally, it remains to reveal briefly where the god in the conclave suggested hiding the divine light from humanity. As a last clue, UNESCO’s mandate, enshrined in its Constitution, places the point of departure for its activities in the same place. Without further suspense, the heated discussion mentioned in the allegory ends with one member of the conclave suggesting: “Let us hide the stolen jewel of man’s divinity within himself, for there he will never look for it” (Bailey 1979: 107). By comparison, the UNESCO Constitution stipulates, in Recital 1 of its Preamble, as follows:
That since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defences of peace must be constructed (UNESCO 1945: Recital 1, Preamble).
This Recital reflects a kind of paradoxical thinking that can and also should be applied to cultural variety, which means that threats to cultural variety must be addressed at the level at which they originate. Hence, it is a journey to the centre of the mind that – to use Jules Verne’s metaphor of a journey to the centre of the Earth – should inspire the direction of our inquiries in law and policymaking in the future.
Special thanks are to Lilian Richieri Hanania and Anne-Thida Norodom for the organization of the conference on Cultural Diversity and Digital Technologies, held in Rouen (France) on 11 December 2015, which inspired the writing of this article. The author gratefully acknowledges the financial support provided by the University of Macau [MYRG2015-00222-FLL]. Equally, all the headings in this chapter are modified versions of various titles of books written by Jules Verne (1828-1905).
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- Mag. iur. (University of Graz), LL.M. (McGill), Ph.D. (EUI), Associate Professor at the Faculty of Law of the University of Macau↵