Yannick Rumpala est maître de conférences en science politique à l’université de Nice. Il s’intéresse depuis de nombreuses années aux apports de la science-fiction pour penser les questions environnementales. Il synthétise dans cet ouvrage le fruit de ses travaux sur le sujet, en illustrant ses analyses avec des références particulièrement diversifiées et fouillées d’œuvres de science-fiction classiques ou plus récentes. La science-fiction, explique-t-il, occupe une place unique et cruciale dans nos imaginaires : elle constitue « une mise en ...
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In its July-August 2016 issue (number 413), Futuribles launched a series on the relationship — and contributions — of science fiction to foresight studies, in order to determine whether, and to what extent, science fiction writers have influenced the collective imagination and foresight thinking. After examining these questions from a socio-political and environmental angle, the series continued in the January-February 2017 issue, which looked at relations between science, research and science fiction. We continue this thinking on scientific questions here, this time from the ethical and philosophical angle, with Gilbert Hottois looking into trans/post-humanism as treated in recent science fiction literature.
Hottois presents various novels featuring characters (cyborgs, superhumans etc.) improved or enhanced by IT, genetic engineering etc., either for therapeutic purposes or in the attempt to go beyond the human (transcendence of “singularity”). For each of the works chosen, he stresses the philosophical and ethical questions expressed by the protagonists or subjacent to the plot: what is a person or what is the role of science and techno-science with regard to human beings and human cultures? These are questions that will nag away at modern societies for years to come. Science fiction literature offers an original angle on these subjects and no doubt a perspective that complements more academic thinking on them.
Le Grand Paris n’est ici que le support d’un exercice que l’éditeur qualifie de « fiction prospective » et que l’auteur décrit comme « une expérimentation de recherche prospective hors cadre ». Son livre est ce qu’elle appelle un solution book : « Ils [sont] là pour ouvrir l’horizon, quel qu’en soit le scénario. Il [est] important que la pensée soit libre […] Par contre il [est] vivement conseillé de toujours installer les hypothèses dans leurs réalités écosystémiques… » Le scénario ...
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In its July-August 2016 issue (no. 413), Futuribles began an extended series on science fiction’s relations with, and contribution to, foresight studies, in order to discern whether and to what extent science-fiction writers have had an influence on the collective imagination and on foresight thinking. After examining these questions from the socio-political and environmental angles, we resume this series here, looking now at science and technology: how do science, technology and science fiction relate to one another?
In this article Thomas Michaud looks at the role of science fiction in research and innovation, particularly within public or private R&D centres. Drawing on the specific cases of the European Space Agency, the Nano Regions Alliance (NANORA), Orange Labs, and Intel and Microsoft, he shows how science fiction has fostered — and still fosters — certain forward-looking research projects, and also how it can be used to generate investment or inspire trust among the public to promote specific research or technology. Michaud emphasizes, lastly, how some companies encourage or sponsor science-fiction (SF) writers in order to develop an SF mind-set that chimes with their own long-term strategy and the innovations they are working on. So many interactions over which those engaged in foresight studies must cast a critical eye if they are to determine plausible lines of future development.
In issue 413 of July-August 2016, Futuribles launched an extended series on the contributions made by science fiction to foresight studies and the relations between the two, in order to discern whether, and to what extent, science-fiction writers have influenced foresight thinking and the collective imagination. After examining these questions from the socio-political and environmental angles, we are resuming this series with a look at science and technology: what have relations been like between science as a discipline and science fiction?
For example, Roland Lehoucq shows how science fiction has run alongside science, enabling what are at times pioneering ideas to be presented from an imaginary angle and to be spun out so that their possible impact on human societies can be explored. Science fiction also has the freedom to create technical or scientific innovations to meet the needs of a story line, innovations that may turn out to be totally fanciful or may actually become reality (or may, alternatively, have promise but fail in the end to materialize). Lastly, it plays its part in exploring reality and raising essential questions about technical or scientific developments that are ongoing or in the pipeline. In that sense, it represents a genuine arena of experimentation in — and exploration of — future possibilities and their consequences for humanity.
La prospective, comme le savent les lecteurs de Futuribles, entend être un instrument d’aide à la décision et à l’action ; elle nous invite à considérer l’avenir comme territoire à explorer mais aussi comme territoire à construire. Dans le premier cas, l’on parlera de prospective exploratoire, celle-ci se fondant sur la représentation que nous pouvons nous forger du présent et de ce qu’il recèle comme tendances lourdes et émergentes pour aller explorer le spectre des futurs ...
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In this Summer 2016 issue, Futuribles has launched an extended series on the relations between science fiction and foresight studies and, particularly, science fiction’s contribution to that discipline, in order to determine whether —and to what extent— science fiction authors have influenced the collective imaginary and our thinking about the future. This article by Corinne Gendron and René Audet is the third instalment in the first part of this series and covers the contributions of science fiction to the field of the environment.
As the authors begin by demonstrating, science fiction enables us to go beyond the usual theoretical frameworks and project ourselves into very different worlds wholly at variance with the present one. Regarding relations with the environment, it thus offers various representations of the possible lines of development of the man-nature relationship that attest to the complexity of that relationship but also reference possible ecological dangers and breakdowns. More concretely, Gendron and Audet go on to propose six variant scenarios of “post-ecological” society taken from modern science fiction: a ravaged nature, pockets of civilization, artificial worlds (in response to ecological disaster), terraforming/bioengineering, cyber-nature and a symbiosis inspired by the myth of Gaia. In conclusion, they highlight the crucial role of science fiction for foresight studies as a “laboratory of the future”, enabling the full scope of the human imagination to be mobilized and making it possible, in a sense, even to think and depict the impossible.
As Gérard Klein points out at the beginning of his article in this same issue on “The Invention of the Future”, Futuribles has decided to undertake an extended series on the relations between science fiction and foresight studies and, particularly, science fiction’s contribution to that discipline, in order to determine whether —and to what extent— science fiction authors have influenced the collective imaginary and our thinking about the future.
This article by Yannick Rumpala comes at these questions from a socio-political angle: what contributions has science fiction made to reflection on the future of societies and their organization? With this approach, he demonstrates, in the first instance, the extent to which works of science fiction enable possibilities to be explored, thus expanding the scope of what is feasible. He then analyses the way these works open up the “cone” of possibilities, mainly by creating worlds in which the parameters of our social organization can be varied, new ones introduced, and “the cards reshuffled”, including with respect to matters that affect the human species in its deepest nature. Lastly, he highlights a major contribution by science fiction authors to thinking on the future of our societies: the exploration of “lines of flight” that we may —or may not— choose to follow: as, for example, when they explore what the political order might look like “after the state” or when, at the socio-economic level, they visualize a post-work society. In this sense, science fiction lays before us a varied range of future possibilities, some plausible and others not (or not yet), some attractive and others repellent, but all decidedly capable of fuelling our thinking on the future.
As the main French journal devoted to foresight studies and to reflection on the future of the contemporary world, Futuribles has always been careful to distinguish foresight studies, based on more or less rigorous methods and on data, from other future-related works more akin to fiction. And yet, if only through its “Futures of Yesteryear” feature, it also makes room for thought and work of a more literary nature —utopian or science fiction writings— comparing these, in some cases —a certain time after their publication— with reality as it actually transpired. To take this exercise a stage further, we have decided to initiate an extended series on science fiction’s relations with —and contributions to— foresight studies, in order to determine whether —and to what extent— science fiction authors have influenced foresight thinking and the collective imaginary.
It is Gérard Klein, one of the most widely acknowledged French experts in the field of science fiction, who opens the first strand in this series with an article that aims to give a general overview of the contributions of science fiction to thinking on the future from roughly the 19th century onwards. In this “Invention of the Future”, Klein shows how many futuristic and science fiction works there have been, the wealth of themes covered, and the contribution made by these writings to works involving projection into a more or less near future, whether they be utopias, dystopias, counterfactual histories or instances of historical “foresight” properly so-called. He also stresses the difficulty and ambiguity involved in attempting to discern, within these old works of science fiction, projections of a future that will assume meaning only decades later (the realization of which the authors and their contemporaries could not, therefore, really anticipate). Even going so far, at the end of his article, as to venture a predictive study of science fiction, Klein offers a rich analysis of the works of science fiction, compared with the realities which actually ensued in various areas of life —areas which will be examined in more specific articles (on political, social, environmental, technical aspects etc.) later in this series.
« Dans quel type de futur voudriez-vous vivre ? Quelles seraient les caractéristiques et les conséquences de ce choix ? » Voici comment se présente Tomorrow Project, une initiative de la Society for Science and the Public, une organisation à but non lucratif basée à Washington et dont l’objectif est de promouvoir la science par l’éducation et la publication d’écrits. Le rôle des Tomorrow Projects est de récompenser les meilleures nouvelles de science-fiction décrivant et explorant les futurs possibles, afin que ...
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International exhibitions, which began in the mid-19th century as events at which the industrial achievements of the world’s nations could be displayed, provided a technological and industrial shop-window for the companies and countries that took part in them, thus attesting to the progress of the developed societies. It was on the occasion of a visit to the New York World’s Fair in 1964 that the famous science fiction writer Isaac Asimov decided to jump forward half a century and imagine what might be on show at the 2014 equivalent.
In that article, published in 1964, Asimov showed astonishing foresight, whether it be about modes of transport, telecommunications, automation, demographic growth or the in-built limitations of our planet. And if at times Asimov was wrong (he thought, for example, that human beings would by now have built under the ground and beneath the oceans), re-reading this piece in the very year when its predictions are set reveals the powers of anticipation he possessed. To undertake a similar exercise today and attempt to forecast technological developments in 2064 would undoubtedly be a risky enterprise —mainly on account of the marked acceleration in the pace of technological advance.
Lors d’un colloque organisé en décembre, le CAS a invité plusieurs experts à réfléchir sur la manière dont la prospective sur les questions environnementales, technologiques ou sociales peut s’inspirer du regard que les auteurs de science-fiction portent sur nos sociétés. Deux sujets, révélateurs d’enrichissement mutuel, ont fait l’objet de deux tables rondes : l’avenir des capacités physiques et cognitives de l’homme, et l’avenir de notre planète. La science-fiction peut éclairer les prospectivistes sur l ...
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La science-fiction et la prospective ont plus de points de commun qu’on ne le pense, selon cet ouvrage, rédigé par un spécialiste des relations entre science-fiction et innovation. Ces deux disciplines permettent en effet souvent d’imaginer et de décrire ce que pourrait être l’avenir (de manière certes plus caricaturale pour la science-fiction), et d’anticiper des ruptures dans des évolutions majeures. Les œuvres de science-fiction servent à exprimer des peurs sociales, souvent de manière caricaturale : épidémies, catastrophe ...
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As Barack Obama, the forty-fourth - and also the first non-white - president of the United States of America, prepares to take over, Herbert Gans's book Imagining America in 2033: How the Country Put Itself Together After Bush (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2008) seems perfectly timed.
Bernard Cazes and Julien Damon have read this exercise in political fiction for Futuribles and, in their review, present the broad outlines of an America transformed by a Democratic wave that has swept away the legacy of the Republic era and, in particular, the policies of George W. Bush. It is, then, in a resolutely multipolar world and a relatively calm geopolitical climate that the United States is seen operating in 2033, having rejoined the battle against climate change and substantially strengthened its welfare state to the greater joy of the American citizenry. Though probably utopian, this is nonetheless an innovative book and could, in some respects, inspire the next occupants of the White House.
The last few decades have been marked by breathtaking technological progress that raised great hopes but also generated certain fears for the future of the human race. Futuribles has regularly provided a forum for debate about such issues, ranging from cloning to technology convergence or transhumanism.
In this article, Geoffrey Delcroix looks at one aspect of the interactions between science and society: the ideas and theories about the posthuman world that have been developed over the last century, based on Rémi Sussan's book, Les Utopies posthumaines. Contre-culture, cyberculture, culture du chaos (Posthuman Utopias. Counter-culture, Cyber-culture, Chaos-culture, Sophia-Antipolis: Omniscience, 2005, 288 pp., website www.omniscience.fr). He offers an overview of the history of posthuman scenarios, from the pioneers of New Age to cyberpunks or chaos-culture via the neurochemical revolution, showing that the human imagination knows few limits when it comes to increasing our chances of immortality.
This article presents the uchronia imagined by Philip Roth in his recent novel, The Plot against America (London: Jonathan Cape, 2004, 391 pp), a look back at the years 1940-1942 in the United States, drawing on a mixture of his own experience and various real events of the time. What would have happened if Charles Lindbergh had run for President in 1940 and had won against Roosevelt? Would the United States have played the same role in the Second World War?
Isaac Asimov (1920-1992) is held to be one of the most prolific science fiction writers of his generation. He was born in Russia, exiled to the United States with his family at the age of three, and took American citizenship in 1928. He wrote his first stories (unpublished) at the age of 11 while continuing to study, gaining his doctorate in chemistry in 1948.
His first story (Marooned off Vesta) was published in the magazine Amazing in 1939. There followed over a hundred stories, enriched by Asimov's wide scientific learning, and they made him one of the greatest science fiction writers of the 20th century. His best known work is probably the Foundation cycle. The Robots series is the other cornerstone of his oeuvre, in which Asimov explores all sorts of relationships between men and machines, foreseeing most of the developments in electronics that have occurred to date - but not, however, the miniaturization of computers.
The short story reprinted here belongs to that series. It comes from the collection entitled Robot Dreams and deals with the problems that a human being can face when obliged to rely on the decisions of a machine he has himself created and that has been fed with data produced by other humans. A recurring theme in futures studies - "Garbage In, Garbage Out" - underlies Henderson's remarks about the central computer: "Then just a big machine. No better than the information fed into it."
For many people, the name of Jerome K. Jerome (1859-1927) merely conjures up his comic masterpiece, Three Men in a Boat (1889). In summing up the writer's career, P. van Tieghem states quite rightly in the Dictionnaire des littératures that "he showed a great gift for describing the amusing side of life". But, just as before 1914 another English comic writer, P.G. Wodehouse, was parodying German spy stories with which the British enjoyed frightening themselves, Jerome had the unusual idea of parodying the (not very) amusing aspects of the utopian novels of his own time, and at the same time he managed to anticipate with disturbing foresight the underlying theme of a literary genre that did not then exist: the dystopia or negative utopia.
According to the Encyclopédie de l'utopie et de la science-fiction by Pierre Versins, this strange parody that Professor Beauchamp brings to our attention was translated into French in 1934 in a Belgian literary review (under the title "The New Utopia, or the World in the Year 3000"), then in 1938 was published in a little book entitled Ah! le beau rêve... (Oh What a Beautiful Dream!) but it has not been possible to trace them.