Cette page regroupe l'ensemble des publications de Futuribles sur cette thématique (Vigie, revue, bibliographie, études, etc.)
The enormous contribution of Marcelin Berthelot to organic chemistry has somewhat overshadowed his important work in thermochemistry which inspired this article. When he obtained the first synthesis of organic molecules, he demolished for ever the idea of a mysterious "life force" that was thought to be inherent in all living organisms and indispensable to the formation of organic molecules. He thus established the overlap between biology and chemistry, a continuity which we observe very clearly today. Berthelot rarely philosophized about this major scientific work which raised chemistry from its position as a descriptive science and started to link it closely with biology and physics.
The extract reproduced here is taken from Science et philosophie, a collection of articles originally published in journals and newspapers. His attitude to the effects of the discovery of explosives on the course of history is naturally imbued with the prejudices of his time with regard to race and civilizations, most noticeable in the choice of vocabulary.
If, however, one is prepared to overlook Berthelot's politically incorrect phraseology (for example when he talks about "the supremacy of the knowledgeable and civilized races over the barbarians"), this text offers some fascinating parallels with today, in both geopolitics and science.
One just has to replace chemical explosives - though they are still relevant - with nuclear materials to recognize all the elements present in the current situation: use of technology to explore the laws of nature, the part played by scientists in making nations powerful, asymmetrical conflicts, political terrorism and even, in a historical perspective, Islamic fanaticism.
In 2004-2005, the French government decided to stimulate innovation in France by - among other measures - creating special clusters across the country which would promote synergies among firms, education and training, and research. Just over 60 clusters were chosen from among the applicants, in many diverse fields, ranging from aeronautics to information technologies, via biotechnologies, etc. Several of the clusters were specifically geared to the farming and food industry, such as the Fruit and Vegetables cluster at Avignon.
Michel Dodet, vice-president for international affairs of INRA (the French Institute for Agricultural Research), examines at the food sector, in particular the successful Dutch experience at Wageningen, the Netherlands' Food Valley. He first looks in detail at the origin of the Food Valley and the way it operates, then turns to the Avignon cluster, before highlighting the key factors behind the success of the Food Valley, which might be helpful in France. Finally, he discusses the limits of this experience, in particular the lack of a shared vision of the long term and the risk of emphasizing access merely to existing knowledge at the expense of investment in research (in the long run). Consequently what is needed is a judicious mix in the "ecosystem" of initial participants ready to share their strong points in order to improve their competitiveness along with the political will to intervene so as to organize and develop the resulting cluster.
The American women's magazine The Ladies' Home Journal took an interest in the future as early as 1900, when it printed an article by the journalist John Watkins Jr, which was translated into French and published in Futuribles in 1999 no. 239-240 under the title "The next 100 years (1900-2000)". Fifteen years later the same magazine published an article by the Chief Consulting Engineer of General Electric, Charles Steinmetz, who set out 18 ways that daily life is likely to be affected as a result of widespread access to electricity, which would be encouraged by a lasting reduction in its relative cost. Two years after that, Steinmetz had the opportunity to check with his fellow-countrymen whether it was true that being comfortable does not make soldiers less hardy when fighting.
The version of Steinmetz's text that we are using is the one reprinted by The Futurist in October 1974. It is followed by a translation of the comments by Joseph Martino that accompanied the reprint.
Every year, the American magazine Fortune publishes a list of the 500 leading firms in the United States based on their figures for turnover and profits. Michel Drancourt looks at the list published in April 2006 and analyses how the ranking has changed over recent years. In particular he draws attention to the major growth in the activities of American companies (reflected in a rise in profits once again of almost 15% in 2005) and the considerable changes among the leading firms (in the main, the most successful sectors are oil, insurance, pharmaceuticals and banking).
He also stresses some important shifts among the large American enterprises (in terms of newcomers, mergers, revivals, declines, etc.). Lastly, he draws some conclusions about the future of various major groups such as IBM, Exxon, Hewlett-Packard, etc., and emphasizes the key role of certain top executives.
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.
Jean Viard, who specializes in how people use their time and how this is changing, is publishing a new book in May 2006 on the impact of increasing leisure time on people's travel patterns, especially in a country like France (Éloge de la mobilité [In Praise of Mobility]. La Tour d'Aigues: éd. de l'Aube, 2006). Here he shares the essence of his findings with readers of Futuribles.
In particular, he shows how the time spent at work has fallen as a proportion of people's lives as a result of changes in the law, and, by the same token, how leisure time has increased, and increased all the more because life expectancy in France has also increased. Jean Viard argues that this rise in free time has led to new ways of spending time with major consequences for the way people move around, their relationships with each other and also with the country. These factors all contribute to a form of cultural revolution - a shift to a mobile and leisured society in which work has a very different place - and probably this will eventually require the definition of a new social contract.
The Strategies of Firms in the Global Economy. Review of the French Translation of Suzanne Berger's How We Compete
Suzanne Berger, a professor of political science at MIT, where she is head of the International Science and Technology Initiative, has recently published the results of a five-year study of 500 multinationals (in North America, Europe and Asia) carried out by her research team, looking at the ways that firms are adapting to the global economy (New York: Doubleday, 2005). Contrary to what one often hears, the opening up of the world economy is not leading to the creation of a single model of firm - far from it. It turns out that shifting production abroad simply in order to reduce wage costs is rarely a good move: as this study shows, success internationally is far more often a matter of using "classic" methods and building on national traditions and/or the culture of the parent firm.
Michel Drancourt reviews the French edition of the book (Made in monde. 500 multinationales face à la mondialisation. Paris: Le Seuil, 2006, 356 pp.). He presents the main conclusions, showing in essence that economic globalization can be an opportunity for those who know how to make good strategic use of it.
The victims of economic globalization are not confined to France: certain American firms, too, are suffering from global competition, having failed to find ways of adapting in order to survive. Among them, General Motors, a symbol of American manufacturing for almost a century, is currently going through a critical period. After being a world leader in vehicle manufacturing for decades, the company is having to cope with social costs that it cannot meet as well as a sharp fall in domestic demand for its products (which used to be its main source of earnings), the end of low oil prices, while at the same time it has not made adequate investments in research and innovation such as have allowed a rival like Toyota to gain a comfortable foothold in the sector.
This is a major challenge, as Michel Drancourt shows in this article, presenting the history of the firm and the various problems it must resolve. And if there is to be a favourable outcome, he argues, it can come only if General Motors is prepared to take real risks - for example, by investing heavily in innovation to prepare for the time when the oil has run out or radically changing its approach to the international market for vehicles.
In 2004 Wesleyan University Press published, in its series Early Classics of Science Fiction, a translation into English of Émile Souvestre's novel Le Monde tel qu'il sera, one of the forerunners of science fiction in France, originally published in 1846 (The World as It Shall Be. Middletown, Conn.: Wesleyan University Press, 2004, 249 pp.). Bernard Cazes wrote about Albert Robida's Twentieth Century when an English translation was produced by the same publisher in 2004, and shares with us here some extracts from this book, which is now very hard to find in French.
Intellectuals in the 1920s were much concerned to find new forms of economic, social and political organization capable of meeting the challenges of modern times and of giving practical expression to the pacifist attitudes which were widespread after the First World War. In this context, the idea of a union of the countries of Europe began to emerge: for those in favour, it had the double advantage of preventing any fresh conflict and of strengthening the nations of the Old World vis-à-vis the rising power of the United States and the Soviet Union. Thus the idea of a united Europe was fashionable in the 1920s, and the Revue des Vivants reflected this in 1929 by organizing a competition on the theme of "the United States of Europe", then publishing the best contributions.
Claude du Granrut offers us here a summary that reveals, as well as the visionary character of the writings chosen, how the issues dominating European unification have remained much the same down to the present day. This article is useful in both showing how much progress has been made but also highlighting the questions that still need to be resolved after more than 70 years.
In recent years the information and communication technologies have flooded Western households (personal computers, cell phones, the Internet, etc.), sometimes helping to blur the boundaries between professional and private life. Against this background, has teleworking (working at a distance, working while travelling or dividing time between home and office) increased in the industrialized countries?
Anne de Beer sets out the regulations governing teleworking in France, in Europe and in the United States, and presents the results of various surveys carried out in these areas that give an idea of how widespread the practice has become. Whereas in the United States 24.6% of those with jobs do some teleworking, this is true of only 13% of those working in the 15 (pre-enlargement) members of the European Union, with wide regional differences (the Netherlands and Scandinavian countries are far ahead of southern Europe). On the basis of these surveys the author shows what the benefits of teleworking are for employers and employees, and which factors are likely to promote or restrict its spread.
Quite apart from its potential economic and organizational advantages for firms, teleworking also relates to some social choices such as quality of life and job satisfaction for workers, as well as to more macroeconomic factors such as employees' productivity and environmental protection (energy savings and reduced traffic pollution).
Is the spread of information technologies, above all the Internet, an asset for businesses? If so, do they make the best use of the opportunities these technologies offer? How is the situation likely to change and therefore what new opportunities are likely to present themselves? Do firms in France know how to seize them and do the authorities know how to encourage them?
These are among the questions that Jean-Michel Yolin has tried to answer every year since 1997 in a report to the French Minister of Industry. Here Gérard Blanc shares the main conclusions of the report published at the end of 2005, presenting the current state of technology and the emerging trends, as well as showing that French firms have still not made the most of all the inherent opportunities.
This article was originally published in Futuribles in 1988. The author then issued a warning to readers about the serious risks connected with the ageing of the population of the United States. Mahoney emphasizes in particular the problems of financing health care expenditures that might arise, which might lead later to rationing care and raise the question of the right to life of very old sick people. He also stresses the possibility of serious intergenerational conflicts in the event that public spending were to become too heavily biased towards funding pensions and the health care needs of the elderly at the expense of the working population and their children. In this regard, the ability of elderly people to organize pressure groups and their greater propensity to vote relative to younger age-groups means that politicians tend to court them and listen closely to their demands; as their numbers rise, the imbalance favouring them at the expense of young people might increase significantly, according to Thomas Mahoney.
The article remains as interesting now as in 1988, to judge from the pattern of demographic change in the United States and its likely consequences (see also the article by Charles du Granrut on "Crunch time for the pension system in the United States?" in this issue, p. 21). It remains just as relevant, too, for the other industrialized countries experiencing an ageing population, in particular France and the "old" countries of Europe.
As we have already argued (Futuribles, n° 299, July-August 2004), whereas the standard of living of Europeans gradually caught up with that of the Americans in the three prosperous decades after the Second World War, the gap between them has widened again since then. What is the reason for the relative decline of Europe vis-à-vis the United States and for the varied showing from country to country within Europe? The experts disagree as to the underlying causes of these differences.
Because we are concerned with knowledge-based economies, the factors most often mentioned are the lower spending on R&D, the lags in innovation and rigidities in the labour markets of European countries, especially France. "Wrong!" say Philippe Durance, Michel Godet and Michel Martinez. Instead the explanations lie in the differences in demographic increase and the disparities in hours worked and, above all, in employment levels.
The authors' arguments come down to three factors. First, four-fifths of the difference between growth rates in the United States and Europe can be explained by the difference in rates of population increase, followed by the shorter hours worked by those in employment (an American works 25% longer hours than a French worker), and lastly the lower proportion of those in work in Europe, with significant differences among countries, for instance between Britain and France.
And here the authors proffer an argument that cannot fail to capture the attention of our readers: "Let's stop boasting about the apparent high productivity rate in France, which is largely a reflection in the statistics of the fact that the least productive workers are consigned to the scrapheap". In other words, "the hourly productivity rate is then an indicator of exclusion", and it would be better if everyone worked, so that overall activity rates rose, rather than practising discrimination in the name of maintaining productivity.
Faits : Les Européens vont effectuer 11,3% de leurs achats de voyages en ligne en 2006 (9,5 % en 2005), selon le Center for Regional and Tourism Research danois. Les Américains ont déjà en 2005 dépensé 65,4 milliards de dollars US pour réserver 30% de leurs titres de voyage en ligne (+25,5%/an) d’après PhoCusWright. L’influence d’Internet dépasse ces chiffres car beaucoup d’achats conclus par les voies traditionnelles sont préparés en ligne. Selon une ...
(29 more words)
La science, la technologie et l'innovation sont désormais au centre des efforts pour dynamiser la croissance économique et améliorer le bien-être social. Les pays de l'OCDE comme les économies non-membres engagent de vastes réformes pour accroître les investissements dans la science, la technologie et l'innovation, et renforcer la contribution que ceux-ci apportent aux économies nationales dans un contexte de mondialisation croissante. Quelle est la nature des réformes qu'ils ont introduites, et quels sont les principaux problèmes ...
(265 more words)
Cet ouvrage rassemble les textes des intervenants à la grande conférence annuelle de la World Future Society, qui s'est tenue en juillet 2006 à Toronto. Les textes sont regroupés en huit sections. La première, « International Futures », traite des défis mondiaux : émergence de la Chine et de l'Inde dans l'économie mondiale, avenir de la politique européenne de défense, scénarios sur le Brésil en 2020, montée du fondamentalisme religieux... « Leadership for the Future » insiste sur le rôle des dirigeants ...
(146 more words)
Place croissante de l'innovation, développement massif des technologies de l'information et de la communication, tertiarisation continue des pays développés, tels sont les trois phénomènes qui ont bouleversé l'économie mondiale depuis plus de 20 ans, valorisant ainsi l'économie de l'immatériel, facteur d'innovation et de croissance. La commission présidée par Maurice Lévy et Jean-Pierre Jouyet s'interroge sur les moyens de permettre à la France de surmonter ses faiblesses, notamment en termes de recherche, d'innovation ...
(93 more words)
Dans l'article introductif du numéro de GDI Impuls intitulé " Connaissance du futur ", Karin Frick et Stefan Kaiser font la synthèse d'une enquête envoyée à une vingtaine de prospectivistes dont Geoffrey Delcroix (Futuribles), Elisabetta Pasini (Future Concept Lab), Jonathan Said (Centre for Economics and Business Research) et Rohit Talwar (Global Future Forum). Comme le signalent les auteurs, on ne peut parler de " connaissance " à propos du futur, et l'article met en évidence les paradoxes auxquels est confrontée la ...
(330 more words)
Ce chapitre est extrait du Rapport Vigie 2016 de Futuribles International, qui propose un panorama structuré des connaissances et des incertitudes des experts que l'association a mobilisés pour explorer les évolutions des 15 à 35 prochaines années sur 11 thématiques.