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LA RAZON
La Razon is a conservative daily newspaper based in Madrid with local editions in many other Spanish cities, including Barcelona or Seville.
photo of destroyed buildings
Geopolitics
Ofer Laszewicki*

Syria, The Laboratory For Putin's Brutality In Ukraine

Putin is increasing his attacks on Ukrainian civilians and may be preparing to use chemical weapons. But these horrific tactics are not new — they were perfected by the Russian army during a brutal war in Syria.

As he walked the apocalyptic streets of Kharkiv last week, BBC correspondent Quentin Sommerville cited what he called the "Russian attack playbook." Indeed, the shattered city in northeastern Ukraine evokes the destruction of the Syrian city of Aleppo.

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The scenes are strikingly similar: at the local hospital, aware that they could be the next target, medical workers pile injured children and women into the corridors. The beds by the windows would be deadly in the event of an attack.

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Photo of Russian President Vladimir Putin whispering in Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban during a meeting in Budapest
Russia
Taylin Aroche

Viktor Orbán, Putin's Trojan Horse In Europe

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán is trying to keep the EU and NATO happy without upsetting Vladimir Putin. The war in Ukraine has upped the stakes in Hungary, where tense elections are just a few weeks away.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has been engaging in political contortionism in recent weeks to keep his country in the sphere of the EU and NATO without provoking Vladimir Putin. Less than a month before the elections in which Orbán and his Fidesz party will try to keep a majority against a unified opposition, the Hungarian leader maintains his camaraderie with Putin in the midst of the war that is ravaging Ukraine.

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Budapest yesterday authorized the parking and passage of the alliance’s forces through its territory but prohibited the transport of lethal weapons and equipment to Ukraine.

In an extensive official statement, Orbán made it clear between the lines that he does not want to be an enemy of Russia and Putin. “We have to look at this conflict not with American, French or German eyes, we have to look at it with Hungarian eyes. And from the Hungarian point-of-view, the most important thing in this conflict is the peace and security of the Hungarians. To do this, we must stay out of the war." In reference to his administration's denial of arms transit, he declared: "Against those who use these weapons, we will be their enemies."

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Where Witch Hunts Are Not A Metaphor — And Women Are Still Getting Killed
Society
Laure Gautherin

Where Witch Hunts Are Not A Metaphor — And Women Are Still Getting Killed

Catalonia has recently pardoned up to 1,000 people, mostly women, who were accused of "witchcraft" as late as the eighteenth century. But as some countries atone for their past, "witch hunts" are still common in other parts of the world.

The Catalan Parliament has recently passed a resolution to apologize for the centuries-long witch hunt that took place in the region over 400 years ago, clearing the name of some 1,000 innocents — mostly women — condemned for witchcraft. Catalonia was one of the most active regions in Europe for witch hunting. Europe’s oldest law against the crime of witchcraft was passed in Lleida, a city in the north-west of Spain, back in 1424. Witch hunts lasted in the region up to the eighteenth century.

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Photo of hands carrying a crystal ball in front of an escalator
Work In Progress
Rozena Crossman

Work → In Progress: The Working World In 2022

Will the Great Resignation of the past year lead to a Great Reskilling the next...?

Like the year before, 2021 was filled with Zoom meetings, travel bans, shaky economics and supply chain disruptions. At the same time, it was a singular year, defined by strikes, international labor shortages and vaccine mandates in many workplaces. As Q4 comes to an end, things are ramping up, and the work challenges of 2022 are becoming very clear.

All over the world, unemployment is high — and so is the lack of available labor. What will see a bigger increase, inflation or salary bumps? Will the Great Resignation lead to a Great Reskilling? What we do know is that white-collar workers are shifting from overtime to flexible schedules, from cogs in the wheel to drivers in the front seat, from struggling independent contractors to employees with full benefits.

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Photo of two girls wearing Catalan and Spanish flags in Barcelona, Spain
Society
Laure Gautherin

A Kindergarten Student Reignites Spain’s Eternal Battle Over Languages

Language is an ultra sensitive subject in Spain , especially in Catalonia, where a schoolboy and his family found themselves at the center of online hate campaign and a constitutional storm.

In Spain, language is politics.

Historical and regional differences and claims of autonomy are often expressed through demands about what language to use. Yet the latest public battle was sparked by a simple request by a kindergarten student in Canet de Mar, in Catalonia, a region that has long fought for the preeminence of the Catalan language. Instead, this time, the five-year-old schoolboy in question (and his family) had asked to have more lessons that are taught in Spanish, which set off many others similar requests for more bilingualism throughout the region around the city of Barcelona.

The debate has unleashed both solidarity and strong opposition directed at the family, reports Spanish daily La Rázon. Catalan, spoken by about nine million people, has been the region’s official language since the Catalan parliament passed a law in 1983. This came after the language had been banned for four decades under the dictatorship of Francisco Franco.

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Ruins in Belchite
food / travel
Paco Rodríguez

Town Annihilated In Spanish Civil War Now A Paranormal Attraction

Ghosts from Spain's murderous 1930s civil war are said to roam the ruins of Belchite. A growing number of tourists are intrigued and can book a special visit to the town.

BELCHITE – Between August 24 and September 6, 1937, during the Spanish Civil War, the town of Belchite in northeastern Spain became a strategic objective for the forces of the Republican government, before their assault on the nearby city of Zaragoza. Belchite seemed a simple target, but its capture took longer than expected. More than 5,000 people died in 14 days of intense fighting, and the town was decimated, with almost half the town's 3,100 residents dying in the struggle.

The war annihilated centuries of village history. The town was never rebuilt, though a Pueblo Nuevo (or new town) was built by the old one. The streets remained deserted. Stray dogs were the only ones to venture into the weed-covered, pockmarked ruins. A sign written on one wall reads, "Old town, historic ruins." Graffitis scrawled on the doors of the Church of San Martín recall better times: "Old town of Belchite, youngsters no longer stroll your streets. The sound of the jotas our parents sang is gone."

Belchite became an open-air museum of the horror of the civil war of 1936-39, which left 300,000 dead and wounds that have yet to heal or, for some today, must remain exposed.

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Women at a migrant reception center in Lampedusa, Italy
Geopolitics
Alfonso Masoliver

Immigrants Don't Drive Up Crime: Here Are The Facts

Crunch the numbers, or just look around...and we see that immigrants, wherever they may come from, are not a disproportionate cause of crime or cultural degradation across Europe.

Standing outside Hamburg's Arts and Crafts Museum, I observe a little the traffic and bustle of this historic German port, home to two million people. I notice to my right two German women sitting on the grass in the Carl Legien Platz, gaunt but eager as they prepare themselves a syringe full of some drug. To the left, sitting on the museum's steps, is an African man, wearing a pretty checked shirt and white cap. He wipes his face in despair, trying to decipher a manual for a gadget or contraption.

Once they have had their injection, the women recline to enjoy the buzz, until two policemen arrive. They dryly nod at the African and ask the women for their ID. I observed with fascination and must say, no travel journalist should omit to record these little bits of reality. They are as informative to readers as sight-seeing recommendations or dining tips.

Now, where do migrants come from?

The origin story of the current migration situation depends on which historical period you start with. In the first centuries after Christ, most migration in Europe was inside the Roman Empire, with some arrivals from beyond its frontiers. In other words, you wouldn't have found many Chinese shopkeepers in that European Union.

It was habitual then for legionaries — after 25 years of mandatory soldiering — to be given a plot of farming land, but with one condition: They had to move to a zone other than their birthplace. A soldier born in Gaul would likely be given land in Italy or the Iberian peninsula (Hispania). The fall of the Western Empire in the 5th century meant more migration. Germanic hordes moved south and settled where they pleased, while the Muslim conquest of Spain in the 8th century opened the peninsula to numerous Arabs, Moors and Jews.

Today, the answer is not as simple. A globalized world provides as many options for entering your chosen country as there are transport facilities. Official figures give us an overview of the migratory panorama. The European Commission's figures for 2019 cited the non-EU nationalities given the most residency permits were from Ukraine, Morocco and India, with Ukrainians far ahead of the rest. But the top nationalities in terms of asylum applications that year were quite different: Syrians, Afghans, Venezuelans, Colombians, Iraqis, Pakistanis — clearly people from failed states or countries at war.

In 2019, illegal entries into Europe were at their lowest number of the previous seven years

These refugees (for that is what they are), are also mostly illegal migrants. The prize in this dismal category goes to the Syrians, who constituted 17.3% of those who entered Europe illegally, though the vast majority were from Islamic states. Yet in 2019, the 125,100 illegal entries into Europe were at the lowest number in seven years, while 491,000 non-EU nationals were thrown out of the EU.

European Commission figures from 2020 indicate that 37 million EU residents, or 8.2% of its population, were born outside the block. Worldwide, the five countries with the most foreign-born residents are Australia, Switzerland, Canada, Norway and the United States, respectively. They are not Sweden, Spain, France or Germany, as you might think, given the rise of nationalist movements there. Only 10% — or about three million — of the world's refugee population is currently in the EU. Most settle in neighboring states like Turkey. In 2020, the EU registered around 93,700 asylum applications, of which some 49,500 were ultimately accepted.

Does immigration affect crime?

Comparing crime rates from 2012 to 2020 in the five countries with the most foreign-born residents (Australia, Switzerland, Canada, Norway and the U.S.), does not necessarily yield a rise in crime rates clearly and proportionately attributable to immigration. Australia's crime rate of 41.36 in 2012 stood at 40.36 in 2020. The United States' crime rate rose from 47.2 to 64.93, but Norway's fell from 35.43 to 19.07.

The four EU countries with the most foreign-born residents are Germany, France, Italy and Spain. In those same years, Germany's crime rate rose from 21.02 to 34.81, France's rose slightly from 44.76 to 46.79, and Italy's fell from 56.67 to 44.26. Spain's rate also fell.

Denmark, the EU country with the strictest migration policy, has much higher rates of drug use.

The U.S. has so many problems — including the 390 million firearms circulating among 330 million Americans — that blaming migrants for criminality is at best, simplistic. Nor can crime be linked to particular groups, like Muslims, or to regions. Qatar and the United Arab Emirates had the lowest crime rates in 2020 (and numerous migrants), while the Global Peace Index placed several African states like Tanzania, Ghana and Zambia above France as peaceful nations. The idea that migrants export the violence of their home countries is also, debatable.

If we consider drugs instead to be an important cause of crime in European countries, we should know that Denmark, the EU country with the strictest migration policy, has much higher rates of cocaine, MDMA (ecstasy) and amphetamine use, and related deaths, than Spain and Italy. The Netherlands likewise has disturbing ties to drug trafficking in the EU, and is not among the top 40 countries in the world in terms of immigrants. These considerations might even help explain why I found the German girls taking drugs and the African man engrossed in a manual.

A sign in Madrid that says: Refugees Welcome

A building bearing a "refugees welcome" banner in Madrid, Spain

- MariaTeneva

Does immigration crush cultures?

We're likely all familiar with the idea of immigration as a cultural bulldozer. In Hispania, the romanization process (fueled by the legionaries-turned-farmers), meant the systematic eradication of its Celtic and Iberian cultures. After the empire, the northern barbarians descended to set the Roman villas on fire, the Arabs made southern Spain Islamic practically throughout the Middle Ages, and later, the Bourbons brought us their homeland's French fashions and quirks.

Today, can we say immigration crushes cultures? We could, but as an answer, it would be problematic and raise more questions. Where does the 'destructive' migration come from? Do we need individuals to provoke this destruction?

In 1970 there was no McDonald's in Europe. Today it has 6,000 outlets across the continent. In countries like Sweden and France, we find the chilling rate of 22 and 21 McDonald's restaurants per million inhabitants. Every one of them means people will not be eating in a traditional eatery. I must confess now, I lied. I am not in Hamburg. I was in Hamburg last week. Now I'm in Sundsvall, Sweden, and have been looking for days for a place serving a traditional Sami (reindeer) dish. All I can find, though, are Starbucks-style coffee shops, fast-food joints and Asian street food!

Just as a game, you might stroll through your neighborhood one day with the vision of an inveterate racist, looking for the destroyers of culture. If you live in a city, you will find so many it is frightening: foreign clothes shops, Asian and Italian restaurants, youth busy feeding Chinese data banks on their phones, Instagram photo ops. You'll see all this before you find a mosque or a falafel shop. Meanwhile, nations, even the smallest ones with migrant rates like big cities, firmly hold onto their cultural traits.

Is there even a European lifestyle for which we should be concerned?

Might we say that immigration's biggest harm to our culture is in the arrival of ideas, products and lifestyles alien to our own, rather than the presence of foreigners? Can we see at least that the criminal, homophobic and sexist Muslims are really a tiny part of the bigger numbers and percentages? Can we make sense of the contrast between the blond girls dazed in the park and migrants working like mad to make it their new homes?

Indeed, regardless of the Muslim threat to the European lifestyle, is there even a European lifestyle for which we should be concerned? Has it not been devoured by the "Western" lifestyle?

Perhaps, and I am speculating here, the problem is not outside but in ourselves. While we are in decline, mired in excuses, protests, drink, drugs and digital fantasies, migrants are crossing deserts and oceans, and showing the kind of unstinting, mind-boggling valor we have lost in Europe. It is possible, though I would assert nothing. The figures are suggestive enough.

*This article was translated from Spanish with the permission of the author.

A doctor in Madrid
Spain
Jorge Alcalde

Covidization Of Healthcare Leaves Other Diseases Untreated

'Covidization' of healthcare systems worldwide has led to rising mortality rates in pathologies like cancer, and more births in the Third World.

MADRID — COVID-19 is killing people even without the virus.

Spain's Lung Cancer Group, a research body, believes lung cancer will have killed 1,300 people more in the country in 2020 than predictive models had anticipated before the pandemic struck. Between January and April this year, lockdowns and diverted healthcare resources meant 30% fewer initial oncology consultations than during those months in 2019.

This is just one of the many pathologies with significantly worse data for what many are calling a "covidization" of healthcare. It means that a near-exclusive focus on the coronavirus is impeding treatments, diagnoses and research in many other illnesses.

Covidization is a term coined by Madhukar Pai, a tuberculosis researcher at Montreal's McGill University to describe the pandemic's distorting effect on resource allocation, prioritization and media attention in fighting other pathologies. Data appear to have confirmed his opinion. Since April this year, the European Commission has devoted 137 million euros to research on the coronavirus, or twice all the monies spent in 2018 on tuberculosis, malaria and AIDS. Many researchers have felt the impact of changed priorities first-hand.

In a debate organized by the National Center for Oncological Research, Doctor Luis Paz-Ares, head of Medical Oncology at the 12 October University Hospital in Madrid, said that for months, hospital research has been devoted almost entirely to the coronavirus. "We have had to delay clinical trials, and at certain times the number of diagnoses dropped by as much as half," he said. "We must recover the lost ground."

The Spanish Anti-Cancer Society has gauged just how much ground was lost, revealing in a recent webinar that new cancer diagnoses have fallen by 20-25%, 36.5% of treatments had to be interrupted, 44% of surgeries were canceled or delayed, and 17% of radiotherapy treatments interrupted.

The medical review The Lancet has published a report in June on the impact of this diversion of resources to cancer survival rates in the United Kingdom. For the first time in recent history, cancer patients saw a drop in their chances of being cured, based on data for 32,583 patients with breast, colon, esophagus and lung tumors.

Five-year mortality from breast cancer is estimated to have increased by 7-9%, 15% for colon cancer, 5% for lung cancer and 6% for esophagus. The study concludes that this significant rise in expected cancer deaths for the pandemic can be rectified with ambitious mitigation policies.

AIDS is another illness affected by this change of paradigm. The Lancet"s latest editorial made it clear: the pandemic has strained healthcare systems the world over, and in regions where AIDS is most prevalent, it is causing important interruptions in diagnosis and treatment. This could raise HIV mortality rates by 10% over five years.

A "day against breast cancer" event in Malaga, Spain — Photo: Lorenzo Carnero/ZUMA

The HIV Modelling Consortium estimates that sub-Saharan Africa will see 296,000 more deaths from AIDS in 2021 than previously expected. UNAIDS believes in turn that a six-month interruption for six months in HIV mother-to-child transmission prevention programs can mean a 40% rise in child infection rates in the poorest countries.

Yet UNAIDS mitigated its pessimistic prognoses in recent weeks, stating that novel transport and distribution systems for therapies and medical attention may cut HIV transmission and mortality rates early in 2021.

It's the biggest impact on life expectancy since the 1918 pandemic and World War II.

The pandemic has also had an impact on assisted fertility treatments in Spain. The state of emergency decree on March 14, 2020 paralyzed the activities of all fertility centers, where only treatments already begun could be completed. Embryo transfers and new patients were blocked until centers were reopened a month later.

Joaquín Rueda, professor of cell biology at the Miguel Hernández University in Elche says the country expects "between 4,000 and 8,000 fewer births from assisted reproduction than last year."

In July, Science magazine published a projection of the effects of the pandemic on life expectancy and birth rates. In parts of northern Italy worst hit by the virus, life expectancy is expected to fall between 1.1 and 2.5 years in women, and around 3.5 years in men. This is the biggest impact on life expectancy in those regions since the 1918 pandemic and World War II.

The evolution of birth rates differs however in line with the wealth of countries. As Professor Rueda explains, countries with higher living standards have seen accelerated changes in the work-domestic life balance during the pandemic, reduced family incomes and economic uncertainty, and the aforementioned paralysis in fertility treatments. These will lead to a net fall in birth rates next year. In poorer countries however, reduced access to contraception are already yielding more births. Thus, says Rueda: "the big demographic gap between the rich world and the poor world will grow due to the pandemic."

Manel de Aguas and his connected 'fins'
LA RAZON
Laure Gautherin

A Human Mutation: Pandemic Trials, Trans Species Visions

Seeing Manel de Aguas can prompt a range of reactions. The connected artificial "fins' implanted in his skull might look silly to some, inspiring to others, or just very disturbing. "I don't feel 100% human," the 27-year-old Catalan told the La Razón daily last week.

On his Instagram page, de Aguas describes himself as a Trans Species Artist. Those fins protruding from his head help him "feel" the weather, and as such are for him both aesthetic and prosthetic. They are as much a part of what he claims as a genuine cyborg identity as they are part of his creative image and business model. Is this a kind of 21st-century circus act? A role model for all those who have ever felt deeply connected to other species on the planet? Or are we witnessing a walking preview of the hybrid future of the human race?

That's the future of "transhumanism," predicted by more and more respected thinkers, including renowned author Yuval Harari (Sapiens, Homos Deus), where advances in biotechnology, genetics and artificial intelligence may reorder what we consider to be human.

The reality is that the human species will become immortal.

Building machine and scientific technology into our bodies is of course nothing new, though until now it's been the almost exclusive purview of the medical sector for those seeking to fix or replace something that has somehow been lost, broken or deficient. We're crossing another boundary when we fuse tech and flesh for less purely practical reasons: whether its de Aguas' apparent attempt to better connect to nature (or boost his Instagram following) — or for more nefarious ends.

"The reality is that the human species will become immortal. In 100 or 500 or 1,000 years, it doesn't matter," Laurent Alexandre, a leading French medical technologist, told Le Figaro. "The real question is at what price. The Faustian pact with technology is heavy with consequences."

Most recently, the rising interest in transhumanism has also sparked a growing number of conspiracy theories triggered by 5G technology and COVID-19 vaccines, with claims that we will soon carry, unwillingly, electronic chips in our bodies and brains.

But of course, the current pandemic is warning not only about the risks of human advancement but also about our weaknesses in the face of nature. While transhumanism opens the door to the physical enhancement of our very selves — and the rapid development of COVID-19 vaccines is a testament to our technological prowess — we are still in the dark about how the virus may have been first transmitted from other species. The human condition, it seems, is still very much driven by our mortality.

El Pibe de Oro on the world's front pages
CLARIN
Bertrand Hauger

Adios Maradona: 22 World Front Pages On The Death Of Soccer God

El Pibe de Oro, Barrilete, El Dios, Cósmico, D10S, Dieguito, El 10, El Diez ...

The quantity of nicknames is just one more sign that fútbol legend Diego Armando Maradona was in a category of his own. His death Wednesday from a heart attack at the age of 60 was a bonafide global event.

Here are the front pages of 22 newspapers dedicated to the passing of the soccer legend: from dailies in his native Buenos Aires to the cities of his beloved club teams, Naples, Italy and Barcelona, Spain, but also California, France, India and beyond celebrated arguably the greatest artist that the beautiful game has ever seen.

ARGENTINA

Cronica, a daily newspaper in Maradona

Cronica

Clarin

La Nacion

Pagina/12

Portada de La Prensa (Argentina)

La Prensa

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A health worker performing a PCR test in Madrid
Spain

COVID-19 And Gender: More Women Face Long-Term Symptoms

A new study in Spain found that middle-aged women are by far the most likely demographic to be suffering long-term effects of coronavirus.

"I have to come up with 50 different ways of saying that I am not better..."

Anna Kemp, 50, is one of many "long-haulers," those people across the world who have survived COVID-19 but are still suffering from its symptoms, months later. But the art festival director is also noteworthy because she fits the profile of those most likely to struggle with overcoming the effects of the virus. According to a new Spanish study, middle-aged women are particularly vulnerable to be long-haulers.

Tracking lingering symptoms: As reported in Madrid-based La Razón, the first results of an ongoing survey by the Spanish Society of General Practitioners and Family (SEMG) and autonomous groups of patients, aims to try to better understand more long-term COVID outcomes and ultimately tackle the issue of temporary or lasting effects.

Shedding some light: The survey adds new findings after research in other countries, such as in the UK with the "PHOSP-COVID study", or in the US where patients are actively organizing online.

Middle-aged women are particularly vulnerable to be long-haulers — Photo: Angel Perez/ZUMA

Gender Bias: The research (out of a first batch of 892 respondents) has revealed that 80.5% of those who still have COVID-19 symptoms are women with an average age of 44.

• While age has been the most crucial factor in vulnerability to the virus, researchers have been tracking other factors, including gender, since the novel coronavirus first appeared earlier this year. And men appeared to be more vulnerable.

• By late April, a tally of 35 countries showed that 33 had higher ratios of male deaths compared to female deaths from COVID-19, reported the data-based news site FiveThirtyEight.

• The Spanish study is the first time a study about long-haulers distinguishes sexes and researchers haven't yet reached conclusions why middle-aged women appear more vulnerable over time.

Long-term, short-term: As many know by now, the most cited immediate symptoms of the virus are mild fever, general fatigue, shortness of breath, chest pain, loss or diminution of smell and taste.

• The new study shows, over time, this same range of symptoms persist among long-haulers, in varying degrees.

• There are also wide discrepancies in the severity and duration of suffering. On average, respondents have been feeling bad for 127 days (about four months), but it goes up to 300 days for some.

• Some 50% of the respondents rated the intensity of the disability at seven out of ten.

Our conscience, reconverted into AI?
Germany
Antonio Fernández Vicente

Making Sense Of The Movement Toward Digital Immortality

With the advancement of AI technology, certain aspects of our individual being may survive beyond the grave. Will we live forever, in other words, just as some artists already do?

-Essay-

MADRIDThe Three Ages of Man and Death, by the 16th century German painter Hans Baldung, is a portrait of the ravages of aging. In it, a female skeleton holds an hourglass to indicate our inexorable fate, while above, to the right of the figures, a cross points toward the heavens as our only possible hope after death.

The painting, housed in Madrid's Prado museum, is a good reminder that religion was where we long turned for consolation concerning fatality. But today, technology may be usurping that space. And by 2030, it may perpetuate our lives artificially.

This is what the artificial intelligence (AI) pioneer and futurist Ray Kurzweil terms "singularity," a concept that is depicted in science fiction as either simulation of human conduct or replication of people who have died.

The Three Ages of Man and Death by Hans Baldung — Wikipedia

The computerization of all our digital data would effectively come to constitute a decoupling of what we are — our identity — from biological chains. In this digital transcendence, our consciousness would outlive our body or rather "inhabit" or survive in a machine.

An embryonic version of all this is the Eternime project, a startup founded by MIT fellow Marius Ursache that saves people's stories, thoughts and memories forever, and allows them to create avatars that can interact with others, or even themselves, through their digital fingerprints.

An episode of the science fiction series Black Mirror, entitled Be Right Back, depicted immortality in those terms. Depending on the data available on a person, the algorithm can create and relive predictable behaviors. Patterns identified through data analyses would allow construction of intelligence systems superior to the Turing Test. People might even be replicated.

In some ways this form of transcendence is the same one poet and philosopher Miguel de Unamuno attributed to writing. The writer leaves his or her imprint for posterity, and his readers will encounter a part of the departed writer. "In my absence, this will be a memento of what I was," he wrote. Or it can be a painting, like Salvador Dalí"s The Knight of Death.

The computerization of all our digital data would effectively come to constitute a decoupling of what we are — our identity — from biological chains.

The novelty with digital perpetuation is that our bequest will not be static, like a picture, photograph or lines written in a memoir. It will be our conscience, reconverted into AI, able to interact and learn over time and adapt to new situations, through what is termed machine learning and deep learning.

All technology purports to be the solution to a problem, and death is certainly a problem. But it's also one of our fundamental taboos, the unmentionable. It constitutes a break with our idyllic view of life, especially in a time when happiness seems to have become a moral (and commercial) obligation. Death, therefore, must be removed from this model life plan.

El cavaller de la mort — Photo: Fundació Gala - Salvador Dalí

The cultural historian Philippe Ariès duly warned that from a familiar conception of death, we have moved toward an inability to accept the fact that we are finite. We have moved from death as an inevitable and quotidian part of our lives, and an experience to be lived like any other, to death as a curse. It must be systematically hidden from our view because it reminds us in spite of our efforts, that we are limited beings.

We fear death to the point of leaving the dying in solitude, as the sociologist Norbert Elias pointed out in his last years of his life. The dreams of transhumanist perfection and prolonged existence after our biological death thus clash with the notion of a limit. It is the limit that defines us and distinguishes us from others.

But would life without limits make sense? Is conscience stretched through computation not a simulation rather than an authentic prolongation of our being? Again, fiction helps us understand it.

All technology purports to be the solution to a problem, and death is certainly a problem.

The Argentine author Jorge Luis Borges observed in his short story The Immortal that in winning eternal life, the race of tired immortals comes to see the infinite value of all that is limited, and the irredeemable nature of a single life. Humans, he wrote, merit pity for their "ghostly" condition and their inevitable disappearance, "like the face of every dream."

Mario de Andrade, the Brazilian writer, offered his own take on the mortality question. "We have two lives," he wrote in his poem My Soul is in a Hurry. "And the second one begins when you realize you have but one..."

What if that life were eternal? For Borges, Baldung, Unamuno, Dalí and Andrade — thanks to their immortal writings and paintings — it already is.