L’autopsie de notre société que Michel Pinton propose à ses lecteurs est inspirée par la triple expérience de son parcours politique. Secrétaire général de l’UDF (Union pour la démocratie française) et proche du président Giscard d’Estaing, député au Parlement européen, puis maire de sa commune d’origine dans la Creuse, il a pratiqué et observé notre société libérale avancée à trois échelles : nationale, au cœur du pouvoir ; européenne, entre Strasbourg et Bruxelles ; et enfin locale en tant ...
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Who was it who wrote that, “Nobody has one exclusive sphere of activity but each can become accomplished in any branch he wishes”? And that “society regulates the general production and thus makes it possible for me to do one thing today and another tomorrow, to hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, criticise after dinner”? The answer is Karl Marx, the bicentenary of whose birth we celebrate this year, and an author whose imposing body of work offered such an apt description of the struggles that needed pursuing, without however, as Patrice Cailleba highlights, providing many pointers to what a desirable society would look like. And who criticized the socialists of his day for their “fantastic pictures of future society”, condemning these as utopian, if not indeed reactionary.
Karl Marx is a worthy subject for a “Future of Yesteryear” article, as Cailleba’s analysis demonstrates here. Basing himself on Marx’s post-1845 writings, he presents, in summary form, some particularly striking aspects of Marx’s thought with regard to the system of production (in particular, the abolition of private property and its replacement by collective ownership) and his recommendation that, once a sufficient level of production had been achieved, the fruits of that production should be distributed equitably (“from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs”). Our readers will undoubtedly be struck by the aptness and topicality of some of the measures he advocated.
Voici un numéro qui vous invite à prendre de la hauteur sur des sujets d’actualité, trop souvent traités à chaud sans vision prospective suffisante. Nous n’y traitons ni du record de capitalisation boursière d’Apple ni de la guerre commerciale mondiale, mais principalement de trois grands sujets déterminants pour l’avenir : l’intelligence artificielle, les espoirs et les craintes qu’elle peut susciter ; l’implication des entreprises dans la fabrique du bien commun ; et la montée des populismes ...
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For some time now, artificial intelligence (AI) has been receiving unprecedented attention. Why is this? Because it is making a genuine leap forward as a combined result of four factors: the rapid advance in communications that sends all forms of expression hurtling across the planet at the speed of light, computer processing power (now measured in quadrillions of operations per second), the explosion of available data and the progress of machine learning. Hence, as André-Yves Portnoff and Jean-François Soupizet assert, a whole new ecosystem is emerging.
What might the applications of AI be? There are already countless possible uses, ranging from the milking of goats, banking services, autonomous vehicles, digital marketing and smart cities to health and sabotage… Some experts who subscribe to the “technological singularity” theory even believe that AI could take over the planet, an assertion staunchly contested here by our authors who do, however, stress how much the division of roles between men and machines needs to be rethought, as does the relationship between them. They also point out, incidentally, that the spread of AI within businesses hasn’t gone as far as all that, since that would imply profound changes in forms of organization and management — in short, a cultural revolution, and culture does not move at the same pace as technological advance! Turning to the question of the players involved, they stress the conflict between the new entrants (the American and Chinese Internet giants) and traditional companies, together with states whose sovereignty is seriously impaired as a result; but these latter may discover that AI affords them the means to restore their power, for better or for worse, in years to come.
Drawing in this article on a foresight analysis carried out for the members of the Futuribles International association, André-Yves Portnoff and Jean-François Soupizet venture to outline a number of possible futures. These are not scenarios properly so-called, but contrasting models. They include the “privatized digital panopticon”, characterized by the supremacy of the digital giants; the “statized digital panopticon”, which would see the Chinese regime and the IT giants coming together in their own shared interest; the “enlightened long-termist” model; and that of “digital criminalities”. In doing so, the authors show once again how technologies are double-edged and how it is important that we — and particularly we Europeans — take responsibility when choices are being made that will undoubtedly shape the future for many years to come.
Dès l’aube du XIXe siècle, les États ont multiplié les dispositifs de contrôle économique et social, tandis que se développaient les outils de la statistique. La confluence des deux courants allait permettre de renforcer le pouvoir centralisateur et de repérer, dans la société, des régularités remarquables, permettant de mieux comprendre et gérer les phénomènes sociaux. À cette symbiose, on peut attribuer des succès (Pablo Jensen cite l’État-providence et la planification française des Trente Glorieuses), mais aussi des abominations ...
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À la lecture attentive de l’ouvrage d’André Maïsseu, un amoncellement de faits historiques incontestables, d’idées originales et de concepts économiques parfois iconoclastes s’entrechoquent, à la fois au sein même de l’ouvrage et au-delà, mettant ainsi en cause l’académiquement correct et le politiquement sucré, pour tenter de ressusciter la démocratie. Depuis les deux guerres mondiales qui ont secoué le monde, l’Europe doute d’elle-même. Sa difficulté à assumer son héritage bimillénaire est la manifestation ...
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Pour explorer de façon prospective l’impact potentiel de l’IA (intelligence artificielle), il est utile d’examiner les principales caractéristiques des révolutions d’origine technique. Premier constat : il faut libérer nos esprits du schéma linéaire selon lequel une découverte scientifique génère nécessairement des techniques nouvelles qui, elles-mêmes, conduisent à des innovations, applications bouleversant parfois la société. Ce paradigme est aussi répandu que faux. Les choses ne se passent pratiquement jamais ainsi. L’usage d’une technique précède généralement son ...
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Kenneth Arrow est décédé au début de l’année 2017, laissant derrière lui un héritage théorique transdisciplinaire et fondateur qui est repris par nos auteurs : sciences économiques et politiques, théorie des organisations ou encore recherche opérationnelle. Joseph Stiglitz et Bruce Greenwald reviennent en particulier sur la formidable intuition de son article de 1962 dédié à l’apprentissage par la pratique (learning by doing) , qui allait inspirer nombre de travaux théoriques et empiriques relatifs à l’« endogénéisation » de la croissance ...
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Il y a cinq ans, Michel Serres publiait, aux mêmes éditions du Pommier, Petite Poucette, un bref ouvrage de réflexion sur les possibilités incroyables offertes aux nouvelles générations par les évolutions, notamment technologiques, en cours. Il pointait en particulier les mutations politiques, sociales et cognitives qui ne manqueraient pas d’accompagner cette révolution technologique et incitait les jeunes à en tirer de réelles opportunités. Fin août 2017, il propose une forme de suite à Petite Poucette en s’insurgeant, dans ...
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Le long ouvrage de Serge Audier a pour objectif d’interroger le rapport « complexe et difficile » entretenu par cette « nébuleuse » hétérogène qu’a été la gauche avec les problèmes environnementaux. Si l’actualité de cette problématique laisse espérer une « nouvelle alliance » entre écologie et socialisme, à travers des mouvements comme le coopérativisme, la lutte en faveur des « communs », etc., les contours de celle-ci sont cependant vagues encore. Pour contribuer à ce projet, le livre revient d’abord sur les concepts ...
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The month of May 2017 was marked by a cyber-attack of international dimensions that affected companies and public organizations, demonstrating how vulnerable our contemporaries are to the current technical system. The relationship between human beings and technology is a structuring element of our civilization and has been so for centuries, if not millennia. Nonetheless, the staggering progress we have seen in science and technology since the mid-20th century, as well as the broadening of the scope of technology to communications, human relations and even the human body itself, has raised a wide range of questions. Hence the importance of the long-term analysis of the relations between society and technology offered here by Thierry Gaudin: what does the past tell us about those relations and the way technical culture is developed and disseminated? What have the engines of technical progress been, what are they today, and what do they reveal about our human organizational structures? How are we to envision the future evolution of technical progress, which depends more now on IT multinationals than it does on states, and whose major driver is the manipulation of minds? In this context, are we irremediably condemned just to go along with the evolution of the technical system, or can society still find positive, progressive solutions for a system that is disrupting both economic exchange and human relations?
Le système de surveillance des citoyens chinois et la constitution de dossiers sur chacun d’entre eux se sont encore perfectionnés ces dernières années, avec la mise en place d’un « système de crédit social », lancé par le bureau général du comité central du Parti communiste chinois (PCC) et celui du Conseil des affaires d’État, qui ambitionne de donner, d’ici 2020, une note et des points à chaque citoyen chinois, en fonction de sa situation financière et sociale ...
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Les débats sur la radicalisation devraient tenir compte des avertissements qu’Edgar Morin dispense dans ses articles et son livre Penser global. Il met en garde contre les limites de la répression policière et des « dispositifs législatifs contraignant les libertés » qui, dans de « mauvaises » mains, autoriseraient « le pire arbitraire  ». Il faut des mesures de fond, et « éduquer à la paix pour résister à l’esprit de guerre ». Pour cela, enseignons que « la connaissance est sujette à l’incertitude et ...
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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.
Dans son roman de jeunesse, Jules Verne décrit un Paris au XXe siècle dominé par les financiers et les ingénieurs, dans lequel la valeur de chacun est déterminée par l’argent qu’il détient . C’est dans ce cadre que Michel Dufrenoy, orphelin sans fortune, est recueilli par un oncle puissant, mais il se montre rétif aux codes et aux usages de cette société. Lui, lauréat d’un prix de poésie alors que les livres ont disparu à l ...
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La devise de l’Académie des technologies est « Pour un progrès raisonné choisi, partagé ». C’est cette devise que citent deux rapports récents issus de cette institution. Le premier s’intitule Quelques réflexions sur la question de l’appropriation des technologies. Les principaux messages contenus dans ce rapport sont les suivants. Il existe deux dynamiques de l’innovation technologique. La première met en scène des pionniers comme Thomas Edison ou Steve Jobs, qui changent le monde grâce à une invention ...
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Nos sociétés complexes sont-elles encore gouvernables, et si oui à quelles conditions ? Jusqu’où avons-nous encore la possibilité collective de maîtriser le monde aujourd’hui ? Qu’en est-il de la capacité des systèmes politiques, et en particulier des États, à orienter le changement social ? Comment les sociétés modernes se pensent-elles et agissent-elles sur elles-mêmes ? Telles sont les questions, larges et ambitieuses, auxquelles Pierre Muller (directeur de recherche honoraire au Centre national de la recherche scientifique) tente de répondre dans cet ...
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With talk of transhumanism and the enhancement of human capacities, ours is an age which seems increasingly to countenance the surpassing or even the total overriding of the limits of the human species, for better or for worse. In a closely related spirit, Jacques Testart tells us, eugenic tendencies are back, though not in this case as a consequence of authoritarian acts or policies but as a result of the headway made by the idea that we could, thanks to medical advance, eventually eliminate all risk of pathology or “abnormality” in new-born children. It is this surreptitious slide towards a new eugenics, which he describes as “soft, consensual and democratic”, that Jacques Testart describes in this article. He shows how, thanks to the advances made in pre-implantation diagnosis, combined with progress in the fields of cell biology and computing, ways are being developed to sort and select embryos which are the most perfect possible by currently prevailing social standards.
However as Testart, himself a pioneer in medically assisted procreation (he enabled the birth of the first “test tube baby” to occur in France in 1982), these substantial advances, which he describes in the course of his article, are not sufficient to guarantee the birth of perfect individuals and remain fallible. Moreover, they raise serious ethical questions about the delineation of what is considered “normal”, particularly in a society that tends towards cut-throat competition, and about the form of social organization to which the practice of a new eugenics of this kind might lead.
In L’Engrenage de la technique, L’Enfermement planétaire and Les Horizons terrestres, André Lebeau sounded the alarm: the human species has reached the limits, both physical and economic, of its ecological niche. For the first time in its history it faces a challenge in which its survival is at stake. There are too many human beings and, as it wastes resources and thoughtlessly pollutes the planet, humanity is hurtling irreversibly towards a final catastrophe. It has no means of escaping from the planet on which it developed, while its resources in terms of energy, raw materials, food production, drinking water and living space are subject to tensions that cannot increase indefinitely without collective behaviour suffering radical breakdowns or profound transformations.
Neither technology nor an economics founded on the myth of eternal growth can provide solutions, since they are precisely the source of the problem. If a neo-liberalism which sees the market as the supreme saviour is making that problem worse, sustainable development is no better placed to halt the fateful mechanism, since it is blind to the creation of disequilibria now implied in any form of development. The Earth may perhaps feed more people, but it cannot ensure everyone of a share of resources comparable to that of a European today, nor (even less) of an American. In other words, some people’s standard of living is now inseparable from the poverty of others.
Is it still possible to modify collective behaviour? This is the question André Lebeau confronted in the unfinished work whose foreword we present below. Without ever formulating a prognosis regarding the outcome, he doubted that it was, since evolution had programmed man to divide into groups, conquer territories and dominate his neighbours, not to control the relationship with a finite environment, to cooperate and to share. Whereas answers can only be collective, all our political and economic structures run counter to this –including in the democracies, where the short-term is the ultimate matrix of decision-making. The two main dangers threatening society with break-up and civilizational decay are blindness and inertia. Even supposing that we were aware of the problem, our social organization does not really allow us to confront it. Thus, for example, in order to preserve social peace, politicians are proposing to give fresh stimulus to the economic growth, even though they are perfectly aware that such a model is no longer viable.
In this March-April 2013 issue, which Futuribles is devoting very largely to the social and political impact of religions, Franck Frégosi studies the place of Islam in European societies. After a short account of the history of the presence of the Muslim religion in Europe (from Arabic settlement in Spain in the Middle Ages to the Ottoman Empire and the migrations which followed the end of colonialism), Frégosi presents the various faces of Islam in Europe, which involves ethnic divides ensuing from the different regions of origin of European Muslims, a generation gap between the Islam practised by the younger generations and that of their elders, and ideological rifts.
He then explores the three avenues of Islam’s current expression in Europe and the prospects for these: a minority Islam which favours a certain orthodoxy; a relatively radical, standardized Islam laying claim to universal applicability; and a trend towards secularization. Frégosi also stresses the limited character of the economic integration of Muslims in Europe and the difficulties they encounter in the area of employment –in France, for example, given the recurrent concern that manifestations of religion should be excluded from the public sphere and calls for the same to apply in the arena of private business. In his view, these various elements suggest that European Islam is in a mature phase, a phase of adaptation to the prevailing tradition of secularism in Western Europe.
In this March-April 2013 issue, which Futuribles is devoting very largely to the social and political impact of religions, François Mabille provides a conspectus of the recent development of religions worldwide and presents a number of possible future scenarios for several of them. He begins by reminding us which are the numerically dominant religions (Christianity, Islam, Hinduism etc.), how they are distributed geographically and how that distribution has changed over a period of almost a century. He stresses, in passing, the difficulties inherent in statistical assessments of this kind, in which the data may be incomplete or biased, or mask more subtle developments.
Mabille goes on to analyse four major trends that have manifested themselves in the worldwide spread of religious influence: the return of religion to the political agenda, the broadening of the spectrum of religious movements, the increasing political role of religious diasporas, and the vitality of both Islam and Christianity. These are four developments which complicate the potential process of secularization. Lastly, Mabille turns a spotlight on the futures of Catholicism (“from crisis to decline?”), of Islam (“secularism, fundamentalism or liberalism?”) and of Buddhism with a Western slant.
Ce numéro de mars-avril de Futuribles est beaucoup plus volumineux que d’ordinaire. Espérons que son épaisseur ne nuira pas à l’attention qu’il mérite de la part de nos lecteurs. Ce choix est dicté par l’importance particulière des deux sujets qui y sont traités : celui de la solidarité entre les générations, et celui de l’impact social et politique des religions. Le premier thème s’impose en raison de la crise majeure du système français de protection ...
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In this March-April 2013 issue, which Futuribles is devoting very largely to the social and political impact of religions, Jean-Paul Burdy and Jean Marcou analyse the role played by Islam and Islamists in the “Arab Springs” of the last two years and the role they are playing today in the ongoing political transitions. They first remind us that the Arab revolutions were unleashed by protest movements that were primarily social and political, and that Islamists (generally well established within the lower strata of the countries concerned) joined in with these after the event. Burdy and Marcou then show how the Islamists, following the example of the Muslim Brotherhood, took advantage of these uprisings to gain power (in Tunisia and Egypt in particular). However, they also show the extent to which the Islamists’ ideological line merely played into a social and political body that had actually long been dominated by Shari’a law. They outline, too, the various divergences in this regard between the various Arab countries concerned in the “Arab Springs” and the reference models on which they drew etc. In particular, they study the denominational issues (Shiite/Sunni rivalries) that have emerged in states like Bahrain or Syria and the way these have been made use of by certain players, while nonetheless disputing the “simplistic interpretation” that sees a “Shiite arc” emerging over against a “Sunni bloc” within the Arab world, when the positions and actions of states are in many cases motivated very classically by Realpolitik.
Lastly, Burdy and Marcou warn against what are sometimes rather over-hasty readings of current developments, recalling how important the part played by political, economic and social processes has been and pointing out how difficult it will be, in this context, for the Islamist parties which have gained power (democratically) to reconcile their ideological imperatives with the aspirations of their fellow citizens.
Regular readers of Futuribles are very familiar with Pierre Papon, a member of the editorial board and a regular contributor to the journal on scientific questions in the broad sense of the term. 2012 has been a productive year for Papon so far as publications are concerned. In addition to some short books on energy aimed at a young audience, he has just published a work of great quality on future prospects in the sciences and technologies, entitled Bref récit du futur. Prospective 2050, science et société [Brief Narrative of the Future. Foresight 2050, Science and Society] (Paris: Albin Michel, 2012).
Michel André has read the book for Futuribles and presents it for us here in broad outline. He particularly stresses Papon’s redoubtable ability to sum up the current state of knowledge and technology in a language that is accessible; to show what “breakthrough fronts” are identifiable today in many fields (physics, medicine, imagining etc.) and what we are able to deduce from them about possible scientific and technological developments over the next few decades; and, lastly, to bring out the way society carries forward –or retards– scientific research and its translation into innovation. A brilliant piece of work and a magisterial lesson in foresight studies.
When one practices, or is interested in, foresight studies, it is helpful to have a good understanding of the past and, more generally, a clear vision of the way societies have developed over a long period. It is not, however, easy to decipher the historical process and it may appear difficult to add anything whatever to what has already been written by Hegel, Marx and many others on universal history. That is, however, what a Russian orientalist, Igor Diakonoff, has attempted in a book which appeared in Russia in 1994 and was translated into English five years later as The Paths of History (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999).
Bernard Cazes has read this highly original work with great interest. Alongside an account of the atypical career of its Russian author, he presents Diakonoff’s re-reading of history here, driven as it is by the desire to establish whether certain non-material (in Marx’s sense) aspects, present in certain civilizations, were not found elsewhere. Diakonoff proposes a break-down of universal history into eight phases, the originality of this lying largely in the transition mechanism from one phase to another. This is based mainly on psycho-sociological (changes of values, for example) and technological factors (particularly in the field of armaments). Lastly, Cazes highlights the author’s comments on the finitude of our planet and his warning against the risks of extinction facing the human species in the relatively short term if nothing is done to check the course of history seen in its current, eighth, “post-capitalist” phase.