Futuribles Journal n° 384

Entreprises, travail - Recherche, sciences, techniques - Société, modes de vie

Nanotechnologies between Fiction and Reality: How Reality and Visions of the Future fit together in the Field of Defence and Security


Starting out from reality and then projecting itself into futuristic universes, science fiction, in both literary and cinematic form, allows us to dream and to have fantasies or nightmares about what the future holds in store. In many works of science fiction, technologies and the perspectives for their application play a key role. The nanotechnologies, with miniaturization playing its part here, offer even greater possibilities for writers and directors to develop their visions of the future. At the same time, scientist, corporations, governments and military institutions are investing time, energy and substantial amounts of money in these nanotechnologies. They themselves are constructing visions of what they may enable us to do in the future, and trying to bring these to fruition.

How are these two types of representation related? This is the issue Bernard Kahane ponders in this article. Drawing on various emblematic novels and films, he begins by showing how science fiction depicts nanotechnologies, before outlining the scientific and technical logics that underlie them. Kahane then turns more precisely to the impact they might have in the field of security and defence (future conflicts, armaments, combatants etc.). Lastly, he studies the specific features of the future visions of, on the one hand, science fiction writers and filmmakers and, on the other, of the economic and social actors involved in the emergence of the nanotechnologies, together with their influence on each other. Unlike the writers, who operate merely at the level of narration, those engaged in nanotechnology research and production are, he argues, “narr-actors” who manipulate, combine and intermingle narration and action in pursuit of their ends.

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