"Globalization is humanity's biggest mistake"
Eudald Carbonell (Ribes de Freser, 1953) is one of the most prestigious archaeologists with international projection. Co-director of the Atapuerca Project, which earned him the prestigious Prince of Asturias Award in 1997, he has held the chair of Prehistory at the Rovira i Virgili University since 1999 and is a researcher at the Catalan Institute of Human Paleoecology and Social Evolution (IPHES). The conversation takes place through Teams –Eudald is in Burgos these days– and he connects punctually, with his typical brown hat and without avoiding any topic.
When did you realize you wanted to be an explorer and archaeologist?
The biggest mistake of my life started before I was five years old. Back then I was collecting fossils around my grandfather's house, in Santa Maria de Besora, and when I was four and a half years old I set up my first collection of fossils.
The biggest mistake of your life? He regrets?
Yes, my whole life has been a mistake, but since I am not a believer, I cannot repent. It has been a life of much suffering and responsibility. There is 90% brown and 10% enjoyment.
You will also have lived great moments. What does it feel like to be aware that you have made a great discovery?
There is a scientific feeling of having found something important and the personal feeling of knowing that you are dealing with something exceptional. I feel proud for having contributed to socializing knowledge.
What is the finding that has made you happiest?
The most important may be that of this year, a fossil of the jaw of the oldest human that has been found in Europe. It is from a million and a half years ago and has a face very similar to mine.
And after so many important discoveries, so many awards and such a hard life, what drives you to continue?
Despite everything, one maintains the illusion and has been trained to do it well and help implement science and knowledge in the country. And then there is the return in the form of satisfaction that one receives for the number of people he has trained and how they have trained me.
What is the use of knowing our ancestors?
It is the big question. It helps you to know what a human being is, to study ourselves, to know the past and project the future. Knowing what happened explains the process by which we are here. In short, I investigate to know what I am as a human being.
And what does it mean to be human?
The answer to this is not yet finished, we are not yet human. Humans are social and technological organisms. Being human implies sociability, cooperativism, empathy with all beings on the planet.
Well, we're not doing well. We continue to solve problems with blows, with wars...
There are things in which we have neither evolved nor regressed. We are primates in a state of humanization, our brain has not been opened. Trying to solve problems with a war is an animal mechanism.
Wars, pandemics, climate change... Are we headed for collapse?
Yes, we are already collapsing, a long time ago. If we look at the war in Ukraine and its consequences, we see that the non-exit of grain and cereal can cause the death of 500 million people in Africa. 500 million people! If this is not the collapse, then God come and see it.
We went through a very tough global pandemic and we all hoped that we would come out of that experience better. Has it been like this?
Absolutely. The pandemic has made us much worse as a species, it has been the last warning that the species is heading towards collapse. After a first stage in which we saw some solidarity, we have become more selfish. Here we saw how each autonomy took measures without understanding that it was a universal problem, and that it deserved a global and orderly response.
What is wrong?
Humanity is not well socialized, something is wrong. We are little evolved primates, hierarchical and governed by leaders. This is not OK.
Is leadership bad?
If we had evolved, leaders would not be needed. Leaderships are the worst of humanity, especially if, as is happening now, they are incompetent. We must be able to create self-knowledge and self-organization, break with hierarchies and achieve more horizontal cooperation and organization systems.
Can technological advances be a solution? There is already talk of inserting chips into people. Will this change us as a species?
I am delighted with that, it would be great to have a chip implanted and have all the wisdom and memory in my brain. It's a beast jump. At the end of the 21st century there will be four or five human species, some with technological and genetic modifications, with prostheses, and other conservationists who will not have allowed themselves to be modified. There will be a great diversity coexisting.
And so much diversity is positive?
Diversity is fantastic. I always say that I would like to live in the bar Star Wars. Diversity is fundamental, it must be maintained and increased. If we eliminate it, we standardize our species. That is what is happening with globalization, which is the worst mistake of the human species.
«When I was four years old I was collecting fossils in the surroundings of my grandfather's house and I set up my first collection of fossils»
Is globalization our biggest mistake?
Yes, from the evolutionary point of view, globalization is the biggest mistake in human history because it tends to standardize the system instead of maintaining diversity. In the event of a crisis, as there is no diversity, there are no alternatives, which leads to the collapse of the system. This is the point where we are now.
But it also has positive aspects. He has contributed to the spread of knowledge.
The extension of knowledge can be done in other ways. We are controlled by the thought imposed by a series of people that is multiplied by economic interests. Diversity is not allowed, everything that is different collides and generates conflict. This is proof that humanization is still to be done.
You have always been an ideologically committed man. Haven't you been tempted by the field of politics?
Yes, and in fact I got involved from a young age, always on the left, from an anti-Francoist perspective. I went to an Opus school where they wouldn't let us speak Catalan, and I've already fought against it. I am a communist and I had responsibilities in the PSUC. I was about to be a deputy; I missed 500 votes. I have tried to contribute to an improvement of society from science with great intensity.
And how do you see the conflict in Catalonia?
At one time I was a federalist, but now I am a sovereignist, I believe that Catalonia deserves to have its own State. But I am at the same time anti-nationalist, because I understand that nationalisms are not good. I believe in diversity, in that we can all live together being different, but this principle is disappearing and being replaced by a single thought. That is an error.
“Diversity is fantastic. That's why I always say that I would have liked to live in the bar from 'Star Wars'»
You have participated in explorations and excavations all over the world: Europe, Africa, America... How do you combine all this time away from home with your family?
I am 69 years old and my son is 12. Guess why? I have postponed everything for the profession. I got married with a discipline that absorbed me and I had no time to think about the family. Now, if you ask me what is the most important thing to me, I will tell you, without hesitation, that my son.
Well, now he's about to retire.
Yes, it is time, the teams need to be renewed.
And what are you going to dedicate yourself to, what plans do you have?
To live. I am happy because I will be able to work 24 hours but without responsibility. And it is that responsibility is the hardest thing in life, that is why it is so important to have it. I will devote myself to writing, to thinking, to developing a social theory of human evolution. When you are older thinking is more important than knowledge.
In other words, it will continue to be linked to archaeology. What interests you outside of this discipline?
Outside of archaeology, I am interested in the human being, society and the natural environment, the human being in his environment. I have other hobbies, I like mycology and gastronomy, and I am lucky to be friends with great chefs. Also reading and being with my family, who we have already mentioned have seen little of me.
«If I were born again I would not dedicate myself to archeology or drunk on wine. And if my son has that idea, I will try to get it out of his head »
What would you choose to be if you came back to live with everything you know? Would he repeat as an archaeologist?
If I were born again now, I wouldn't dedicate myself to archeology or drunk on wine. What's more, I'll do whatever it takes to take the idea away from my son, if he ever has it.
How do you see the future? Do you have faith in humanity?
The truth is that I do not see that we are going towards a happier future, in part because we are not moving towards a greater acceptance of diversity. I fear that if we do not develop a more collective, cooperative consciousness, we will collapse as a species.
"Leaderships are the worst. We must break with hierarchies and achieve more horizontal organization systems»
To finish, a curiosity. His image is inextricably linked to that of the pith helmet, that typical explorer's hat. When did you start wearing it and why?
Hahaha. Yes, well, one day I thought that after twenty years working as an archaeologist I already had enough of an archaeologist's face to wear a pith helmet. Also, if you're bald and you're on a dig in Africa, you either wear your pith helmet or you die. There are also other reasons, such as the fact that it was the helmet used by the Vietnamese who fought against the imperialism of France and the United States. And as a tribute to Professor Bosch Gimpera, also a regular user of this garment.