Recherche, sciences, techniques
Cette page regroupe l'ensemble des publications de Futuribles sur cette thématique (Vigie, revue, bibliographie, études, etc.)
In issue 380 of Futuribles in December 2011, Antonin Pottier analysed in detail the workings of what is today termed “climate scepticism” – namely the propensity of certain individuals to contest the reality of climate change on the basis of pseudo-scientific arguments. He emphasized particularly that what fuels the debate on climate change is, largely, the degree of uncertainty inherent in the consequences to be anticipated from observation of the facts, not the description of the facts itself. In his view, the main aim of climate sceptics is to block the political measures for combating climate change. However, since they do not admit to this political posture, they choose instead to deny the scientific reality.
This month, Futuribles complements this socio-psychological analysis of climate-sceptical discourse with an – in this case, wholly scientific – analysis of what we know (or do not know) about climate change on our planet. Pierre Morel gives a detailed account of the state of our knowledge in the climate field and what we are able to predict in the medium/long-term. After reminding us of the influence of atmospheric meteorological processes on the climate, he specifies the extent of global warming observed since 1850 and the main origin of that warming, as revealed by the current state of knowledge: the increase in the concentration of greenhouse gases. He then describes the changes in meteorological regimes (showing also the limits of climate simulation models), the modifications of hydrological regimes, and also the prospects for rises in sea levels. He also specifies the mechanisms that may potentially amplify all these phenomena and the climate disasters that might ensue. Lastly, he shows what are the scientific data that cannot be disregarded, the consequences of which are now inescapable (melting of the ice-caps, rises in sea level etc.), the only remaining uncertainty in this connection being the date at which these things will happen. “In this perspective,” Morel concludes, “the continuation of our model of civilization comes at the cost of a fundamental revision of the current paradigm of economic and demographic growth.”
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.
The vulnerability of developed societies is not a new notion and has been very clearly set out by, among others, Ulrich Beck. It does, however, acquire new meaning with the increasing extension and interconnection of real and virtual networks. For example, electrical and digital networks play a part today in the operation of almost all other critical infrastructures and systems. This underlines their importance and the issue that protecting them represents in most countries. As Pierre Bonnaure shows here, the Internet is subject to frequent attacks and cyberthreats are increasing, emanating as they do from “hackers” with very varied objectives, whose actions may have major consequences.
Outlining the risks of a cyberwar, Bonnaure shows the strategic character of the battle against cyberthreats and the way people are beginning to face up to them in most of the countries affected by the phenomenon. It is highly improbable that any country will be able to forearm itself totally against cyberthreats and the system risks that ensue from them, but the ability to identify them and fight them when they do become reality is, most certainly, a significant strategic asset.
Le développement des tests génétiques permet de comprendre de manière toujours plus précise mais probabiliste les déterminants d’une maladie et la variabilité des réponses aux traitements chez les patients. Ce domaine de la génétique appelé pharmacogénétique est un enjeu important pour la médecine et les systèmes de santé, puisqu’il permettra à terme d’adapter les traitements à chaque patient : on passe du paradigme d’un « médicament à large utilisation quelles que soient les conditions » au « bon principe actif ...
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En 2012, les agriculteurs algériens seront au courant des dernières nouveautés concernant leur secteur d’activité grâce à une initiative publique d’envoi systématique de SMS . En Afrique, où le développement d’Internet demeure limité, les usages du téléphone portable se sont largement diversifiés. Toutefois, l’arrivée des smartphones sur le marché africain pourrait bouleverser les pratiques actuelles.
Le potentiel de la télémédecine suscite depuis quelques années de nombreux espoirs et tout autant de promesses. En effet, le vieillissement de la population ainsi que les progrès médicaux entraînent des besoins toujours plus importants en soins de santé, mais la capacité des ménages et de la Sécurité sociale à les couvrir n’est pas assurée. La télémédecine pourrait permettre de limiter le coût des soins, en remplaçant par exemple la consultation par une téléconsultation (en visioconférence), en favorisant la ...
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Le e-commerce se démocratise rapidement en France et dans de nombreux pays. Le commerce en ligne est notamment stimulé par de nouveaux services, tels que les plates-formes d’achats groupés, qui permettent aux internautes de bénéficier de réductions importantes sur certains biens et services. Mais le modèle économique des entreprises d’achats groupés est encore précaire.
Moins souvent évoqué que le risque nucléaire, le risque chimique est fortement redouté par les Français. Il se présente notamment sous deux formes : le risque impliqué dans la consommation de produits chimiques et le risque industriel lié aux installations chimiques et aux déchets qu’elles produisent. Les inquiétudes sont fortes sur ces deux aspects du risque chimique, et en particulier en ce qui concerne le risque de nature industriel : la catastrophe d’AZF, entre autres, semble avoir durablement marqué les ...
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Genetically modified organisms (GMOs), which are a source of great distrust so far as French citizens are concerned, are also at the heart of important controversies in the scientific world. This special issue which Futuribles is devoting to the GM question attests to this, through articles that are at times highly positive and favourable to the development of GMOs. These are counterbalanced here by Jacques Testart and Frédéric Prat calling for greater caution in the manipulation of living material.
Reminding us what GMOs are, and of the scientific hopes that many have vested in them, Testart and Prat show how the scientific controversies are far from being settled and how slow the promises of the GMO advocates have been in coming to fruition. They criticize the tendency to regard the genome as a Meccano set that can be manipulated without any impact on plant and animal life. In their view, matters are quite different. By manipulating genes, by promoting genetic mutations without controlling the risks of their spreading to other plants or even jumping barriers between (plant and animal) species, some scientists are playing “sorcerer’s apprentice” and hiding behind (pseudo-)scientific arguments that may well, in the longer term, not be at all progressive. It is essential, argue Testart and Prat, to show caution in this area – particularly as alternatives exist to take agricultural research forward – and to fall in with a democratic approach based on giving the public complete and transparent information.
The debate that has been going on for several years, particularly in France, on the wisdom of introducing and developing genetically modified organisms (GMOs) has polarized opinion among the various stakeholders, producing great distrust within the public on the topic and often helping to cloud the issues within the field. This is one of the reasons why Futuribles decided to devote almost all of this March issue to GMOs, hoping thereby to cast light on the ins and outs of this question for its readers by providing very diverse points of view on – among other things – the economic, scientific, regulatory, sociological aspects of the question.
Before going into detail on this enormous range of questions, Cécile Désaunay offers a brief insight into what GMOs are, the state of research into them and the prospects they might open up in the medium-to-long term. After reminding us of the definition of GMOs and the upsurge of research in this area, she outlines the main existing applications and the lines of research that have found most favour with industry (in its aim, largely, of reducing both production costs and the use of pollutants), agriculture, the food sector and medicine. She emphasizes the risks inherent in this biotechnology so far as the environment and human or animal health are concerned, before stressing the obstacles the sector faces and the questions raised by the concentration of research among a handful of big companies. Working from this base and judging in accordance with their own priorities and values, any reader will be able, by referring to the very informative articles in this issue, to appraise the costs/benefits/risks of the large-scale use of GMOs.
Ce numéro de la revue Futuribles est intégralement consacré aux organismes génétiquement modifiés (OGM) et plus spécifiquement aux plantes génétiquement modifiées (PGM), à leurs vertus et dangers, réels et présumés, à l’exposé des points de vue et arguments de leurs partisans comme de leurs adversaires. Pourquoi avoir choisi de consacrer un numéro entier à cette question ? Parce que le développement et l’usage des OGM soulèvent des questions cruciales mais que le débat est trop souvent éludé ou excessivement ...
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Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are at the heart of important controversies in the scientific world. But the stakes go far beyond that, as is demonstrated here by Pierre-Benoit Joly. Questions of a more political nature arise, such as what vision of the world one wishes to see prevail in the future, both in the agricultural realm and in the much wider matter of the sustainable development of the planet.
Recalling, first, how regimes of innovation in the plant world have evolved over time, Joly stresses that we have moved from traditional skills and practices to an initial regime of innovation based on state agronomists and seed companies, which has itself evolved towards a “molecular, private, globalized” regime of innovation heavily encouraged by the granting, in the 1980s, of permission to patent living organisms. This has led to agricultural markets becoming tied up to a large extent by a number of major companies and to research being focussed on a small number of species and on GMOs. However, this commitment to GMOs has given rise to much criticism, involving the leaders of the “biotech oligopoly” in a crisis of legitimacy. Hence the efforts made by these parties over several years to legitimate their enthusiasm for GMOs both economically and politically.
It is to this “techno-political” work of legitimation that Pierre-Benoit Joly turns in the second part of his article. Thanks to the privatization of innovation and the globalization of activities, the big biotech multinationals are gradually winning acceptance for their view of the world, by way, among other things, of co-production of the regulation of the risks inherent in innovations (the emergence of a “soft law” lowering the level of mandatory constraint by states) and by intensive lobbying within public institutions and the establishment of “epistemic communities” (networks aimed at bending international law in their direction). Joly shows, lastly, how these players – and particularly Monsanto, which he studies more specifically here – are privatizing the notion of sustainable development in agriculture (by way of ethical charters, for example), so as to make their activities essential to its attainment. This is an “enlistment” operation that is very well described here, though it can still be countered when its workings are properly understood.
In this issue of Futuribles devoted to genetically modified organisms (GMOs), Pierre Feillet offers an analysis of the main advantages of GMOs when it comes to achieving a sustainable food supply for everyone on the planet. Without concealing a number of aspects that remain controversial, Feillet begins by reminding us of the historical process that made it possible, through multiple forms of innovation in agricultural practice and research, to reach the point where plants and animals can be genetically modified. He then outlines the extent, location and nature of GM crops throughout the world (10% of cultivated land), before detailing another highly controversial issue in this area: the presence, within the food chain, of products from animals fed on genetically modified crops. He also recalls the important role played by micro-GMOs in the food industry.
After this overview, Feillet gets down to detail on the contentious issue that is GMPs (genetically modified plants) through three key lines of questioning. Are GMPs dangerous to health? Are there environmental risks involved in growing them? Who profits by them? Lastly, he offers some perspectives for the future of GMOs, taking the view that biologists will continue to optimize and diversify the genetic inheritance of GMOs with the aim of improving the human food supply in the long term and convincing those who are still reluctant to use them (including the French) of their value.
Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are undeniably one of those subjects that do not provoke remotely the same reactions in North America as in Europe. Whereas the growing of GM crops is highly developed in the USA and arouses little or no controversy within American public opinion, this is an area in which Europeans are very cautious and even genuinely distrustful. As Daniel Boy shows in this article, drawing on Eurobarometer surveys of European citizens carried out over 15 years or so, there has never been a majority in the EU in favour of the development of GMOs for food production and, between 1996 and 2010, the proportion of those reluctant to see such a development actually increased. Above and beyond this general finding of a clear, sustained opposition among Europeans to GMOs in food, Boy shows the disparities that exist between the various European countries and presents reasons that may account for these differences.
Boy goes on to study the structure of European opinion in this field by sex, age and socio-professional category of the respondents, by their degree of “socialization” to science and their level of informedness. He also notes the importance of the level of knowledge of – and familiarization with – science in the attitude towards genetically modified foodstuffs. Lastly, Boy compares the attitudes of Europeans to GM foods with attitudes around animal cloning and the nanotechnologies, showing the great specificity of GMOs, which have been very distinctly and probably lastingly rejected (like animal cloning), thus blocking the development of this technological innovation in Europe. He nonetheless stresses that attitudes towards other innovations (such as nanotechnologies) in no way point towards similar failures in the future.
David Sawaya, a specialist in plant biotechnology, writes here on the broad developmental trends we are likely to see in this sector up to the year 2030. He begins by recalling the general trends in world agriculture, beginning with the rise in demand for agricultural products that is linked to demographic growth, to the rise in average incomes and to the development of products, such as biofuels, derived from agricultural sources. He sees two possible options for responding to this: to increase the area of cultivable land – though the scope for manœuvre in this area is decreasing – or to increase yields, particularly thanks to advances in the plant biotechnologies, both transgenic and non-transgenic.
After reminding us of the situation regarding GM crops worldwide, David Sawaya presents the prospects for the development of GM crops in light of the existing data. He also points out the changes there have been in the characteristics most sought after within plant biotechnology, showing that the first-generation characteristics (resistance to pests and herbicides) are tending to give way to second-generation characteristics that are more agronomic in character (resistance to various kinds of stress, better yields). He stresses the greater role of developing countries in terms of GM production – and also in research into plant biotechnology, which might increase in the future. Lastly, he clarifies the importance of non-transgenic biotechnologies in the improvement of plant species.
Despite factors likely to slow the development of plant biotechnology – the concentration of the enterprises in the sector around multinationals focussed on large-scale crops to the detriment of small seed companies that are likely to develop innovations in less widespread species, and a highly sceptical public opinion – he takes the view that by 2030, if not indeed by 2015 in the case of the most widely cultivated species, there will be very few plants intended for commercial growing that have not been subjected to some form of biotechnological intervention.
In this special issue of Futuribles devoted to genetically modified organisms, Marcel Kuntz and Agnès Ricroch offer a review of the situation regarding biotechnological plants and their socio-economic prospects. After reminding us of the agricultural (and food) challenges our planet will face by the middle of the century, they outline the possible contributions of transgenics to overcoming them (resistance to various kinds of stress, improvement of yields, nutritional contributions), particularly in the developing countries. They go on to stress the advantages of transgenics in the fields of industry (agrofuels) and pharmaceuticals (biosynthesis of proteins and enzymes for therapeutic purposes).
Kuntz and Ricroch then come to a more political strand of argument: the political and regulatory constraints on the development of GMOs in Europe (and, in particular, France). They criticize, for example, the destructions carried out by certain anti-GM movements, and over-cautiousness in the political decisions and regulation that eventually led to the enduring sidelining of French and European players in the plant biotechnology sector. This situation is, in their view, highly damaging and synonymous with scientific and technical defeat. And the means for overcoming it, such as gaining the confidence of public opinion in the field through better information and publicity campaigns directed more at the benefits inherent in the technologies than the risks, have hardly been successful.
Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) have been an object of major controversy. For a large section of French public opinion, they have become the focal point of opposition to the manipulation of living material and of the rejection of a certain agricultural model. Yet, from the research standpoint, GMOs can represent one effective means of gaining knowledge of animal or plant life and the study of its interactions with the environment. In this field, as with many technological innovations, the emergence of controversies between science and society highlights the importance of involving the greatest possible number of citizens in decisions and the need to improve the participatory processes by which they can contribute to them. The experiment in which Anne Moneyron, Olivier Lemaire and Jean E. Masson were involved, as part of the process of setting up a GM grapevine rootstock field trial, attests to the rich results that may emerge from the participative construction of a project of this kind.
In order to carry out this trial while remaining responsive to the reactions of society, the general management of INRA, the French National Institute for Agricultural Research, set up a Local Monitoring Committee following the recommendations of an interactive technological assessment. This Monitoring Committee involved most of the stakeholders (actors from the world of vine growing and the agricultural trade unions, conservation and consumer organizations, teachers, state representatives in the fields of agricultural development and food safety, and independent vine growers) who, over eight years of work and in a context where the technology was rejected to the maximum degree because of what it symbolized, collectively designed their own format of science-society debate. The research/action programme that has ensued has enabled the initial project to be re-thought and more research to be produced, because it has been based on a more complex set of questions that accords a legitimate role to all the actors. Proof if it were needed that a science-society dialogue is possible, even on such a controversial subject as GMOs.
As can be seen in most of the articles in this special issue of Futuribles on genetically modified organisms (GMOs), there is a marked difference in approach between Europe and the USA with regard to GMOs. What does this difference consist in? What is its origin? Is it set to last? In this article, Bernard Chevassus-au-Louis examines the ins and outs of this “transatlantic divorce”.
He outlines various factors, for example, that may explain the difference in the perception and use of GM plants between the American continent and Europe, focusing mainly on the contrast between the USA and France. He begins by analysing attitudes towards the highly intensive agricultural model that has developed in the two countries since the war, as well as towards the companies involved in supplying seed. He then describes the modes of intellectual protection of plant material established in the 20th century, stressing particularly the divergence between the use and non-use of patents. Lastly, drawing on a distinction between expert and lay assessments of risk, he studies the attitude of citizens towards such risk analyses. Here again, he demonstrates a European specificity, linked, among other things, to the many health scares that studded the latter years of the 20th century and effectively led to the citizenry becoming sceptical of expert assessments. Bernard Chevassus-au-Louis concludes by musing on how these divergences may develop and on the appropriateness of continuing to apply health and environmental risk assessments only to GMOs.
Et si les risques liés à la neutralité d’Internet n’étaient pas ceux que l’on croit ? Existe-t-il aujourd’hui un Internet universel, ou plutôt autant d’Internet qu’il y a d’internautes ? Les comportements des internautes, mais aussi des plus gros acteurs du Web, entraînent en effet une individualisation croissante du Net, qui pourrait se révéler dangereuse pour la circulation de l’information.
L’université RWTH d’Aix-la-Chapelle (Allemagne) a conçu un think-tank technologique (Zeitgeist, qui signifie « air du temps ») pour les PME (petites et moyennes entreprises) en organisant la collaboration de 80 d’entre elles. Le projet a été financé par les entreprises participantes.
Pour imaginer ce que pourrait être le monde dans 100 ans, la BBC a demandé aux internautes de se livrer à un exercice de prospective : certaines prédictions ont ensuite été sélectionnées et décortiquées par deux prospectivistes (Ian Pearson et Patrick Tucker) selon leur degré de probabilité. Ainsi, il serait hautement probable que, dans 100 ans, nous puissions nous brancher sur ordinateur pour faire fonctionner notre cerveau plus vite : selon Ian Pearson, à l’horizon 2075, les habitants des pays développés ...
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Over almost 10 years now, the economic growth of China and a number of other emergent countries that are heavy consumers of raw materials has led to a spectacular rise in the demand for minerals and, particularly, for metals. If we add to this the needs of the developed countries for various “small metals” in great demand in the high-tech industries, we are entitled to wonder about the state of stocks of mineral raw materials in the world and the production capacities that exist to satisfy this growing demand.
In this article Jacques Varet offers an overall assessment of global mineral resources. He begins by recalling the growth of demand and the limits that exist in terms of production and environmental impact, stressing, as he does so, the various geological and economic notions relating to these mineral resources and their reserves. He goes on to highlight the diversity of this demand (its origins, intensity and enduring nature) and the corresponding supply, particularly where so-called “critical” resources are concerned. He then turns to the question of whether that demand can be sustainably met (this involves two case studies, on copper and rare earths) and points up the crucial role of China with regard to many strategic ores. In his view, future prospects where mineral resources are concerned are not so much characterized by the physical limits on these resources as by the failings of public – national or multilateral – policies in this field: lack of investment in human resources, concentration of research on some resources to the detriment of others, absence of a European medium/long-term vision with regard to supply etc. If we add in the fact that human knowledge in the field of geology is very fragmented and very rarely shared, it is a fair bet that the mineral resources are present on our planet in sufficient quantities. Admittedly, demand will not weaken and the resources concerned are for the moment very unequally distributed, but if the companies and states concerned commit investment commensurate with the needs and with the strategic character of this sector, the requisite supply should follow.
Dans la série des serious games, après les jeux vidéo éducatifs et ceux au service des entreprises , un nouveau genre se développe : les jeux vidéo pour la science. Ces jeux en ligne utilisent l’intelligence collective pour tenter de résoudre des questions scientifiques sur lesquelles la recherche bute actuellement. Cette note présente le jeu FoldIt qui a permis récemment une avancée importante dans la connaissance du fonctionnement du virus du sida.
Ce Rapport Vigie est l’édition 2012 du rapport annuel du système Vigie. Ce dispositif de l’association Futuribles International a pour ambition de fournir à ses membres des analyses prospectives qui éclairent le champ des futurs possibles dans 15 domaines. Le Rapport Vigie 2010 proposait un panorama de tendances lourdes et d’incertitudes majeures pour chacun de ces domaines à l’horizon 2020-2030. Il nous est apparu utile de reprendre ce rapport, de le réexaminer, de l’actualiser et ...
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PARTIE 1 : GRANDES AVANCÉES SCIENTIFIQUES ET TECHNIQUES Tendance 1. Vers une approche systémique et synthétique du vivant Tendance 2. Quand les biotechnologies prennent la relève Tendance 3. Les promesses des nanotechnologies Tendance 4. Vers un système de santé à distance et personnalisé Tendance 5. La lente émergence de la fusion thermonucléaire Tendance 6. L’invasion des robots PARTIE 2 : TECHNOLOGIES DE L’INFORMATION ET DE LA COMMUNICATION Tendance 1. Croissance des puissances informatiques disponibles Tendance 2. Réticulation croissante de la ...
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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.