Time capsule: not to be opened before Philosophy Day 2062!

Time Capsule: Not to be opened before Philosophy Day 2062!

© UNESCO/Isabelle Simon

“It’s you who will come and open these, not us,” Director-General Irina Bokova told an excited group of primary school children from the Paris region, during the “burial” today of the “UNESCO capsule for Future Generations”. The event was one of the highlights of 10th World Philosophy Day celebrations at the Organization’s Headquarters.

The two metal cylinders are not to be opened before the same date in 2062.  They contain some 280 messages received from young people around the world, many of them expressing fear and fascination over technological developments, questions on the place of money in societies of the future, food, environmental concerns and values such as peace and equality.

They also contain various objects symbolizing today’s communication tools. These include a mobile telephone, photos, videos and a USB key with a song written and sung by children from the Andre Malraux and Jean Vassal de Crépy-en-Valois schools (France), two of the five that took part in the event.

This year’s Philosophy Day is celebrated under the theme of “Future Generations”.

“Philosophy, in UNESCO’s vision, is not just an academic discipline,” said the Director-General. “It’s a way of life.”

This year’s theme, she added was meant to highlight the philosophical aspect of sustainable development, which demands “that we act with the interests of future generations in mind”. 

“Our dialogue with future generations can only be an imaginary one,” she said, “ but this is what gives it such creative and even revolutionary power […] Thinking about future generations allows us to innovate, invent, and sometimes find solutions for the present.”

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Each year, World Philosophy Day is a unique opportunity to bring the international community together and encourage thought-provoking discussions on contemporary issues. As the defenses of peace must be constructed in people’s minds, it is our duty to work to strengthen those minds through critical thought and mutual understanding.

The time capsule is a powerful reminder that intergenerational solidarity is key to lasting peace. Just as the United Nations was founded on the premise to “save succeeding generations from the scourge of war,” we all have the moral obligation to endeavor, every day, to hand on a better world for the future. The needs of future generations cannot be victim to expediency and current interests. Today’s problems -- including poverty, technological and material underdevelopment, unemployment, exclusion, discrimination and threats to the environment -- must be solved in the interests of both present and future.

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UNESCO’s Declaration on the Responsibilities of the Present Generations Towards Future Generations proclaims that “future as well as present generations enjoy full freedom of choice as to their political, economic and social systems and are able to preserve their cultural and religious diversity”. At a time when the very existence of humankind and its environment are threatened, we must “bequeath future generations an Earth which will not one day be irreversibly damaged by human activity”. Present generations should strive for sustainable development and preserve living conditions, particularly the quality and integrity of the environment. Scientific and technological progress should not in any way impair or compromise the preservation of the human and other species. Education is an important instrument in fostering peace, justice, understanding, tolerance and equality for the benefit of present and future generations.

In a letter to future generations, the Nobel Prize Winner for Medicine/Physiology Rita Levi-Montalcini writes: “The antidote to the all too common tendency to be preoccupied with ourselves is to develop, from the earliest age… the habit of being interested in everything around us… This attitude will not only prevent you from becoming self-absorbed, but will be of tremendous help to you at every stage of your life.” Indeed, it is not enough to think that the future concerns us only as individuals. Let’s build our common future and rejoice in humanity’s shared destiny.

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