Recherche, sciences, techniques
Cette page regroupe l'ensemble des publications de Futuribles sur cette thématique (Vigie, revue, bibliographie, études, etc.)
En 2005, l'institut Pew avait publié la première partie d'une étude globale sur Internet, focalisée sur l'avenir à 10 ans d'Internet et les innovations techniques (The Future of the Internet: in a Survey, Technology Experts Evaluate Where the Network is Headed in the Next Ten Years. Washington D.C. : PEW, 2005). Dans la deuxième partie de l'étude, l'institut a interrogé 742 « experts » (plus exactement, des leaders, activistes, constructeurs et commentateurs d'Internet, catégories il ...
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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 ...
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La technique connaît une évolution toujours plus rapide et plus complexe, phénomène connu et constaté mais rarement appréhendé à sa juste mesure. André Lebeau nous propose un avis réfléchi sur ce sujet, privilégiant une étude sur le long terme, au niveau local comme global. Il convient de mettre en perspective la durée du phénomène : le temps nous séparant des premiers éclats de silex est peu de chose rapporté à l’âge de la Terre. Il faut aussi constater l’accélération ...
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Dans le foisonnement d’initiatives de Google, la plus significative est sans doute sa réponse fin septembre à l’appel d’offres de San Francisco qui souhaite offrir à ses 700 000 habitants un service gratuit d’Internet sans fil : Google veut devenir opérateur de communications mobiles et fixes. Il faut rapprocher cela de l’apparemment injustifiable rachat de Skype par e-Bay, mais aussi de ceux de plusieurs spécialistes de la téléphonie sur Internet (VoIP) par Microsoft et Yahoo ! au ...
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On 21 December 2001, the General Assembly of the United Nations passed a resolution to hold a two-stage World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS). The first meeting was held in Geneva from 10 to 12 December 2003; the second is scheduled to take place in Tunis next 16 to 18 November. The holding of the Summit confirms the increasing importance in our societies of the information and communications technologies. The meeting also aims to make these technologies a factor for growth in all countries.
Jean-François Soupizet, who has been working on the information society at the European Commission for many years, describes here the aims and issues of the Summit. First he evaluates the outcome of the first phase (Geneva 2003): after recalling the problems in the negotiations and the divisions that became apparent, he presents the Declaration of Principles agreed at Geneva and the Plan of Action adopted at the same time; he also sets out the issues carried over until the second phase (financing the efforts to close the digital divide plus governance of the Internet).
He then goes on to present the issues to be discussed in Tunis, namely: how to consolidate the gains, translate the principles into actions, resolve the problem of financing efforts to overcome the digital divide and improve the governance of the Internet (i.e. control of the development and use of the network). Whatever the outcome of the second phase, further international discussions will take place and will build on the Summit's deliberations on the information society.
Futuribles regularly publishes articles about the relationship between science and society, and has already given coverage on several occasions to questions of bioethics. This time we are publishing an article on the scientific experiments conducted on "chimeras" (animals that have been mixed with living components from other species, such as human beings), especially in connection with stem-cell research.
Jamie Shreeve is a scientific journalist and writer who is much involved in the debates on bioethics in the United States, and whose last book about the "Genome War" caused a considerable stir when it appeared in 2004. In it he set out the main economic, scientific and social issues arising from genetic research, following from a study that he made behind the scenes at Celera Genomics, the firm set up by Craig Venter in order to sequence the whole of the human genome. He also highlighted the risks associated with allowing the results of such research to be taken up by the private sector and the sometimes overblown egos of those involved.
In this article he stresses the uneasiness about the experiments in which human cells are introduced into animals at an early stage in their development. While describing the value of these manipulations for medical research, he also shows how ambiguous they are and how they infringe the taboo against mixing different species. Finally, he presents the point of view of the main American experts on bioethics who have examined these issues in an attempt to establish what is and is not acceptable.
This short story was published in English under the title "In the Year 2889" in February 1889 in the American magazine The Forum (vol. VI, n° 6). It seems to have been commissioned by the magazine's editor, Lorettus Sutton Metcalf, and has often been attributed to Jules Verne's son, Michel, who in 1910 published it in the collection Hier et demain (Yesterday and Tomorrow), with illustrations by Georges Roux (reproduced here). Nevertheless, according to Gaston Compère, some of the translation was definitely the work of Jules Verne himself, who read it to the Amiens Academy on 18 January 1891.
The story appears to have been strongly influenced by Le Vingtième Siècle (The Twentieth Century) by Albert Robida, published in 1882. Jules Verne, however, preferred the terms "tétéphote" or "phono-téléphote" to "téléphonoscope" used by Robida. The word "téléphote" had been popularized in France as early as 1882 by Count Théodore du Moncel (1821-1884), an authority on electricity and telecommunications, in his article "Le téléphote" in Le Microphone, le radiophone et le phonographe (Paris: Librairie Hachette, Bibliothèque des merveilles, 1882, pp. 289-319). There is a brief mention of the "téléphote" by Jules Verne in his novel Le Château des Carpathes (1892).
Besides imagining the video-link well before its time, the short story contains extremely far-sighted remarks on the power of the media, modern transport, space travel, the increase in life-expectancy and even the need for a policy of one-child families in China!
Following on from the special coverage of the situation in Europe as it reaches the halfway point for the Lisbon agenda, André-Yves Portnoff stresses here the EU's increasing failure to keep up with the intelligence revolution. While the very ambitious Lisbon targets were certainly praiseworthy - in particular in wanting to make Europe the world's most dynamic knowledge-based society by 2010 - it is clear that the resources have not been forthcoming to achieve those aims.
For several decades now, according to A.-Y. Portnoff, the Europeans have lagged behind in the key sectors driving the economy, above all informatics and telecommunications. Having failed to make a genuine effort to foster innovation, combined with a clearly defined vision of the future based on the values of its citizens and backed by a strong political will, Europe will continue to dig its own economic grave. The crucial steps, in the author's view, would be to reduce the level of technocratic interference both from Brussels and in some member states (including France), to foster synergies and put more emphasis on human resources, in order to allow small and medium-sized firms to be more creative - since the large ones have shown that they have run out of steam.
If Europe fails to take action along these lines and to establish a proper strategy, it is at risk of falling even further behind vis-à-vis the intelligence revolution and of missing out on future innovations in information and communications technologies. Yet these are the sectors that are now the key to the future.
Futuribles has devoted much space in the last year to the problems of research, and in particular its organization. In a recent article (n° 306, March 2005), Catherine Paradeise and Jean-Claude Thoenig argued that it is essential to consult everyone involved in the research system and to explain to them, step by step if necessary, the need for changes in the hopes that the reform might then be carried through, with particular reference to France.
We continue the debate on this question with an article describing the Japanese experience of reforming their research system. Michel Israël shows how the Japanese radically overhauled their system by means of several five-year plans. Above all, he highlights the current major reform of the national universities which affects their method of hiring to research posts; partnerships between universities, industry and government; the creation of centres of excellence, etc. Key words here are competition, autonomy, releasing creativity and more flexible management. He also describes how this reform, which aims to restore Japan as a leader in research internationally, has been welcomed and implemented by the main players involved. The reform may not yet be completed, but it is well under way; it remains to be seen what its impact will be on Japan's performance in research in the next few years.
In reviewing Cerveau, sexe et pouvoir (Brain, Sex and Power. Paris: Belin, 2005), Julie Bouchard re-examines the misguided notion that human behaviour is basically the result of genetic factors, an idea that has kept popping up since the 19th century. She shares the view put forward by the book's authors that there is no universal law dictating the way individuals behave, for the purely scientific reason that the human brain is so supple and so variable that it is impossible to establish immutable rules. Experience - and therefore culture - is far more important than nature in shaping different types of behaviour, in particular the differences between men and women.
Julie Bouchard goes on to warn against certain misguided attempts at the present time, especially in the field of neurobiology, to "improve" the human race thanks to technological progress. It will require strong convictions, such as those held by the authors of this book, to prevent such notions from spreading.
For about two years now, the market in digital cameras has been enjoying a massive boom, especially in Europe, the United States and Japan. The sales over the Christmas and New Year period at the end of 2004 confirm the trend as the increasing technical improvements to digital cameras mean that consumers are turning away from the old-fashioned models. The figures vary depending on the source: sales around the world rose by between 30% and 40% in 2004, and could well continue to rise at least until 2009.
This enthusiasm for digital cameras - a good example if ever there was one of consumers being convinced at once by a technical innovation - has led to major changes in the sector, as most manufacturers have had to adapt to the rapid disappearance of film cameras (now used only by some professional photographers and surviving, for the general public, only in the range of disposable cameras) and alter their industrial strategies. Pierre Bonnaure describes here the extent of these upheavals and their consequences.
Do the information technologies (IT) have any real value for our societies and, above all, for businesses? This is the basic question raised by Nicholas Carr in a recent book with a play on words in the title: Does IT Matter? (Boston: Harvard Business School Press, 2004). Gérard Blanc, a specialist in this area, has read the book for Futuribles. His review is highly critical, arguing that by seeking to minimize certain aspects of the way IT is used, Carr overlooks the fact that, without it, most of the things we do all the time today could not be done as fast or on the same scale, hence depriving people of many advantages that we now take for granted.
A lively debate has been going on simultaneously in France for several years on several topics:
- "the decline of France", the decline of manufacturing and the fact that the economy is falling behind that of other industrialized countries, especially the United States and the rapidly growing developing nations in Asia;
- the ups and downs of research in France and, worse still, the country's poor showing with regard to technological development and innovation.
Futuribles has made a major contribution to this debate, including publishing numerous articles criticizing the lack of a satisfactory policy to foster research and innovation, and putting forward various proposals for improving the situation.
The French government, as is now standard practice, has announced that it will soon present to parliament (though this keeps being postponed) a draft bill about research and innovation; the preliminary proposals, insofar as they are yet known, appear to rely heavily on the creation of a "national research agency".
At the same time, the French President has asked Jean-Louis Beffa, the highly respected CEO of the firm Saint-Gobain, to draw up a report published on 15 January 2005 entitled Pour une nouvelle politique industrielle (Towards a New Industrial Strategy).
The preliminary proposals and, more particularly, the Beffa Report, are examined here by André-Yves Portnoff, who criticizes yet again this typically French gambit of not only piling on even more laws and regulations, but now creating more and more quangos, relying exclusively on major public programmes to be run by large (often state-owned) firms and geared to supplying the public sector. Past experience has shown that this approach, except in certain specific sectors, has had limited success. It would be much better to foster innovation of all kinds by smaller firms that are more in touch with the market.
Following the protests from the French research community in Spring 2004, on several occasions between June and December 2004 Futuribles provided coverage of the debate about ways of reforming the French research system. This article by Catherine Paradeise and Jean-Claude Thoenig continues the debate, this time proposing a pragmatic approach that would make it easier to implement reform.
Indeed, quite apart from the many proposals for changing and overhauling the way that public research is organized, the key question is how reforms could actually be put into practice and, in particular, how those working in the public research sector could be persuaded to see the reforms as being in their own interest. The authors, who are specialists in the sociology of organizations, therefore examine here this aspect of how reforms of the system are implemented and the feasibility of the approaches so far envisaged.
Their analysis is based on the conviction that such a fundamental reform cannot occur without the participation of everyone involved and it must come from the bottom up, gradually and in small, unconnected steps, rather than via a global, institutional approach. The important thing is to "put an end to a majestic, all-encompassing vision of the reform", by increasing the number of intermediate levels likely to trigger organizational changes. Strategic guidance by the public authorities should therefore consist of fostering and capitalizing on the incremental improvements and then, in the medium term, regulating them so as to make them the source of more general change in the long run.
In other words, a key criterion for the success of reforms should be their feasibility. The authors offer here an analysis applied to the various proposals made for the organization of research. Their strong wish is that the management and guidance of the reforms by public authorities should for once avoid being as feeble as they tend to be in France, no matter which field is concerned.
En guise d’introduction, Hugues de Jouvenel a rappelé que nous étions à la veille de l’entrée en vigueur du protocole de Kyoto (il est entré en application le mercredi 16 février 2005 dans les 127 pays du monde l’ayant ratifié). L’expertise de Pierre Radanne, a-t-il souligné, s’avère donc tout à fait bienvenue pour nous en éclairer les enjeux.
Ensemble des techniques et des connaissances liées à l'utilisation du vivant dans les processus de production, les biotechnologies recouvrent un large champ d'investigation qui va de la santé (biotechnologie rouge) à l'agriculture (biotechnologie verte) en passant par la chimie de transformation des ressources renouvelables (biotechnologie blanche). Le récent rapport de Jean-Yves Le Déaut, député de Meurthe-et-Moselle et vice-président de l'OPECST (Office parlementaire d'évaluation des choix scientifiques et technologiques), a fait le point sur " la place ...
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The authors begin by defining what is meant by "digital divide", distinguishing technological (basically quantitative) considerations from a socio-economic approach (taking account of qualitative aspects, such as the ability to use technologies, as well as quantitative ones), which is the one they prefer. They then present a typology of users (and non-users) of the Internet, showing the inequalities linked to social class, geography, age, etc.
As the authors emphasize, it is essential to narrow this divide if the European Union in future is to achieve its aim of becoming "the most competitive knowledge-based economy in the world"; this must be done in order to prevent a widening of the gap between the older and newer members of the EU, and more generally between densely populated regions and isolated areas; and it is an important consideration given an ageing population, as older people tend to be less computer-literate. Moreover, it is all too clear that simply having the infrastructures for access to the mass of information available via the Internet is not enough; people must also be able to sort out this information, then understand and assimilate it. In other words, for a truly knowledge-based society to develop there needs to be a genuine effort to educate the public.
Lastly, the article proposes a series of policy measures geared to narrowing the divide, starting by installing the necessary digital infrastructures across the whole of Europe and providing universal broadband access to the Internet, just like access to the telephone in the past.
Les pouvoirs publics devraient exploiter la technologie spatiale pour mieux surveiller l'environnement, lutter contre les embouteillages et répondre plus efficacement aux catastrophes, selon ce rapport de l'OCDE. Space 2030: Tackling Society's Challenges analyse les opportunités et les enjeux de la technologie spatiale et formule des recommandations sur les moyens de concrétiser le potentiel de l'espace. Ce rapport explore le rôle possible de la technologie spatiale dans cinq grands domaines : l'environnement, l'utilisation des ressources naturelles ...
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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.