Recherche, sciences, techniques
Cette page regroupe l'ensemble des publications de Futuribles sur cette thématique (Vigie, revue, bibliographie, études, etc.)
As has already been mentioned in Futuribles, the possible disappearance of the Y chromosome in the - admittedly distant - future constitutes a genuine threat to the survival of the human race. If this chromosome which carries maleness (women have only X chromosomes) is unable to regenerate by mixing with its own kind, it could indeed disintegrate, with the immediate result that men would cease to exist and so too would women - unless new techniques of assisted reproduction meant that males were no longer required.
This topic has been the subject of a great deal of research, especially by geneticists. It is a central theme of a book by one of these, which has recently been translated into French (La Malédiction d'Adam, original title Adam's Curse. London: Bantam Press, 2003). Jacques Testart, an expert on these matters, reviews the book, reminding us along the way that "the movements in the world cannot all be reduced to struggles between molecules".
The West bears considerable responsibility for the theoretical justifications for racism, which was presented for centuries by so-called "savants" as a scientific truth that could be used to justify all manner of injustices: colonialism, slavery, apartheid, genocide. Nowadays, it is the view of most scholars that there is no scientific basis for racism. Nevertheless, many scientific writings - or ones claiming to be - still show traces of racial prejudice. In Penser le racisme (Paris: Calmann-Lévy, 2004), Michel Girod has re-examined the full range of scientific writing in an attempt to understand the relationship of scientists to racism, and then to draw up an exhaustive inventory of theories and statements on the subject. André-Yves Portnoff has read the book for Futuribles and gives an outline of its main themes here.
As we announced last June, Futuribles is continuing the discussion on the future of research in France started by Jean-Jacques Salomon (no. 298). As well as the essay by François Ailleret, elsewhere in this issue, we are publishing this well-documented article by Pierre Papon, who surveys the current state of the French system of R&D and proposes a variety of ways to reform it.
He starts with some historical background, backed up with figures and international comparisons, describing the creation of the French R&D system and its vigour between the 1950s and the 1980s. He goes on to argue that - having failed to take account of the major changes in the international economic and scientific context- this system is doomed to fall behind if it is not overhauled. According to Pierre Papon, what is needed in particular is an awareness of the many different levels of decision-making (regional, national, European) and the creation of more relevant linkages, including cross-disciplinary ones.
Among the various reform options he discusses, the author stresses three points: the need to strengthen the ability of research to respond rapidly to scientific advances; to make it easier for the various bodies involved in research (universities, businesses, research centres) to co-operate with each other and foster the sharing of knowledge; and to devolve responsibilities for research policy more efficiently among the various geographical tiers of decision-making. Nevertheless, he concludes that we are no longer living in 1956, when a meeting in Caen marked the beginning of an ambitious French national policy in this field: the reforms outlined here can be implemented only very gradually, and they need first of all to be started...
At the end of 2003 and during 2004 there has been widespread and strongly expressed concern on the part of researchers in France, emphasizing the serious risks of falling behind other countries if the whole system of research is not overhauled. Some months before matters came to a head, the French government asked the Economic and Social Council (Conseil économique et social) to produce a report on French public research and the role of business. The report was published in December 2003. François Ailleret, former head of EDF (Électricité de France) and the "rapporteur" for this evaluation, summarizes its main conclusions.
He stresses above all the relative inefficiency of French public research and the country's low level of privately funded research; he warns that, compared with other countries, research employment is poorly managed and he highlights the potential risks attached to a shortage of research workers or of projects that are not geared to future needs. More generally, he emphasizes the inadequate value placed on research, which is linked above all to the lack of collaboration between universities and firms.
François Ailleret goes on to summarize the Council's main recommendations as to ways of improving this situation. Besides a serious future-oriented assessment of the aims and means of research in France, it recommends a complete overhaul of the key institutions in the system, stepping up public funding for research combined with the creation of private foundations and the encouragement of greater collaboration between universities and businesses; but also greater flexibility in managing human resources, incentives to more job mobility both within individual careers and within Europe, support for innovative business start-ups, etc. Only by doing so will France have any hope of maintaining its international position in the years ahead.
La recherche française traverse-t-elle une crise ? Quelles sont ses perspectives à moyen et à long terme ? Quels sont les enjeux de la recherche française par rapport à l’espace européen en gestation ? Pour répondre à ces questions essentielles, l’Association nationale de la recherche technique (ANRT) a lancé l’opération Futuris, un vaste exercice de prospective sur l’avenir du système français de recherche et d’innovation (SFRI).
In the future, when nanotechnologies, biotechnologies, information technologies and the cognitive sciences converge, we shall not only have biological computers, but "humanity could well achieve something like a single brain", capable of both the best and the worst.
No, this is not an exercise in science fiction. Jean-Pierre Dupuy argues convincingly here that already nanotechnologies in the areas of information and communication are being developed, with the prospect of a new "molecular electronics" whose power and consequences could be "phenomenal".
He goes on to explain how, thanks to nanobiotechnologies, the dream is coming to pass of rivalling Nature, and making what Eric Drexler has called "engines of creation". He then shows how, thanks to the cognitive sciences, everything (the universe, nature, life, the spirit) could be reduced to (or transcended by) a "network of formal neurones".
Those promoting this technoscience are "many, powerful and influential" and potentially highly dangerous, according to Jean-Pierre Dupuy. Driven by "a demiurgic plan to manufacture life by technical means", they constitute a grave threat which must be dealt with urgently.
Fondé à San Francisco en 1987, le Global Business Network (GBN) est un centre de réflexion dont l'ambition est de définir l'impact des évolutions socio-économiques sur le monde des affaires et sur nos sociétés baignées de technologie. Sa publication thématique, Deeper News, se penche sur le formidable développement des médias indépendants (des circuits traditionnels), grâce à l'explosion des possibilités d'expression qu'offre Internet. Le premier constat est l'énorme bond technologique de ces dernières années, qui ...
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Although the standard of living of Europeans gradually caught up with that of the Americans in the three decades after World War II, it would appear that the trend has dipped since the 1980s. Economic growth in Europe has stagnated, whereas growth has continued in the United States, despite events such as the bursting of the high-tech bubble, and September 11th. Is the decline of Europe compared with the United States unavoidable? What are the reasons for it?
Alain Villemeur describes the different paths taken by the two major Western blocs. He disentangles the reasons normally given to explain the poor results achieved in Europe (inflation, high interest rates, less flexible markets, industrial decline...) and challenges their validity in the light of the remarkable counter-example provided by the Netherlands.
In his view, the key to economic recovery in Europe lies in the investment countries are prepared to make in innovation and knowledge, and the way that innovations are achieved and implemented. What matters most now is to give priority to innovations in products (which means investing in research aimed at developing new products and services) rather than in processes (i.e. attempting to improve or copy innovations in existing products). It is a European country, Sweden, that provides the model for this approach.
For Alain Villemeur, the only means of reversing the economic decline of Europe over the last 20 years lies in combining strong support for research and development and innovation (on the Swedish model) with close control of wage costs (as in the Netherlands), and ensuring that this strategy applies also to the new members of the European Union.
Jean-Jacques Salomon energetically castigates the contempt for scientific research in France; he criticizes the lack of resources and the dangers that this will incur in the medium and long term. But he goes further and proposes a proper plan to give a new impetus to research, development and innovation, emphasizing that it is not enough to allocate more money - the whole structure of research needs fundamental reform, as indeed does the French model of education.
Those in government care little for research, he argues, even though it has become ever more important in planning for the future.
First, research needs a genuine injection of money, and Jean-Jacques Salomon proposes ways in which the necessary funding could be achieved. But it is also essential to tackle the institutional and structural problems that beset a system that is in large part badly designed for today's needs.
The author distinguishes two complementary types of research (i.e. basic and applied), and shows that it is essential to overhaul the organization and the manner of funding and managing research. He argues forcefully in favour of a "national science foundation" and, incidentally, for a closer integration of research and the universities.
In this vein, he would like to see a thorough transformation of the French education system, with a clearer separation of vocational training - which needs to be upgraded - from higher education and research, which should be encouraged... Scattered through his text are recommendations that are particularly welcome in this long troubled period for the French system of research and innovation, and he starts a debate that will be continued in future issues of Futuribles.
Pierre Bonnaure pursues an investigation published in Futuribles of the role played by information and communications technologies in economic growth. He shares here his view of the impact of regulation in this sector and stresses, in particular, the importance in economic warfare of how norms are defined; he argues that, through lack of political judgement, the French - and sometimes the Europeans - have often made bad decisions about regulations which have then handicapped them vis-à-vis their main competitors (the United States and Japan).
Le XXe siècle a vu une urbanisation foudroyante et massive se développer dans toutes les régions du monde, le XXIe verra probablement la continuation de cette tendance : en 2003, selon les Nations unies, 48 % de la population vivaient en ville, cette proportion devrait atteindre 61 % en 2030. Les mutations de la ville ont été l'objet d'une rencontre internationale de prospective organisée au Sénat en février 2004. Ce dossier en résume quelques interventions. Sébastien Marot aborde d'abord le ...
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Au terme d'une enquête dans les laboratoires, la rédaction de Science & Vie a sélectionné les 10 pistes qui promettent de changer nos existences. Les nanoparticules à tête chercheuse et activables à distance pourraient permettre d'atteindre et de traiter les cellules malades sans se diffuser dans tout l'organisme, évitant ainsi les effets secondaires des traitements classiques. Les premières applications devraient voir le jour d'ici 2010. Les bioplastiques à base de végétaux, voire de bactéries, biodégradables, sont ...
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Since the European Council in Lisbon in March 2000, the European Union gave itself the target of becoming "the most dynamic and competitive knowledge-based economy in the world" by the year 2010. A target which, according to the official line, would involve bringing the European research effort to 3% of the gross domestic product (GDP) by this time. Why this figure of 3% of the GDP? Part of the response lies in an extract from the 1964 work from the Plan, Considerations for 1985 (Paris: La documentation Française), which is reproduced in this issue. From 1964, the strategists for the French Plan estimated that in two decades' time, 3% of the gross domestic product should be devoted to research, in order to put France in a favourable position among international competitors and to make it a genuine rival for the United States -which was already showing this investment rate in the research carried out in 1964! They also insisted on the necessity of increasing research performance in France, notably with the help of an appropriate recruitment policy and the creation of "suitable reception facilities" which would incidentally provide researchers with the means to work efficiently.
Ce numéro spécial de l'IPTS Report s'intéresse à la communication en temps de crise qui touche les domaines des sciences et de la technologie. Pour gérer une crise spécifique et afin de mieux réagir au risque en général, les citoyens doivent pouvoir s'en remettre à une information honnête et opportune, centrée sur les questions qui les préoccupent et issue de sources crédibles. Or la confiance en ces renseignements influence la plupart des aspects de la communication du ...
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Ce rapport, réalisé par l'ambassade de France aux États-Unis, dresse le portrait des tendances et des perspectives liées aux technologies développées dans la région californienne de la Silicon Valley. Cette vallée, composée d'un tissu serré de compétences de haut niveau, possède de nombreux centres de recherche à l'origine d'une activité économique intense. La région est aussi célèbre pour avoir été le berceau d'un nombre considérable de technologies, en particulier dans le secteur des sciences et ...
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The phenomenon labelled "Moore's law" is well known: over the last 30 years the density of microprocessors per integrated circuit, i.e. the number of transistors integrated on the same silicon chip, has doubled every 18 months.
Readers of Futuribles will perhaps recall, however, the article we published in September 2002 (n° 278), in which Jean-Paul Colin already argued that this pace of progress could not be maintained indefinitely. He returns to the topic here, stressing that this amazing miniaturization of transistors gave rise to many desirable but also undesirable effects.
According to Colin, other factors influence the overall performance of an integrated circuit and of the system which uses it, such as its architecture and the power lost by a microprocessor in the form of heat. First, this power loss is doubling every 36 months: such an increase will eventually become a major problem. Secondly, improvements in the architecture of microprocessors -a factor whose importance is rapidly increasing as systems become more complex- is not keeping pace with this growing complexity.
Colin insists that these two factors are likely to be decisive in future in determining whether or not Moore's law continues to operate. It is virtually certain, moreover, that Intel, having failed either to make the investment or to acquire the necessary expertise in this regard, will see its position challenged by new competitors (including IBM, American start-ups and Asian firms) which will perhaps play a much more important role hereinafter.
Although at the end of 2003 the member states of the European Union were unable to reach agreement on a draft Constitution which would provide them with a full political framework, there are other areas -often thought to have greater strategic implications- where they are making rapid progress together. Space, in particular, is one such area, as illustrated by the Galileo programme to create a satellite-linked positioning and guidance system.
André Lebeau, a scientific adviser to Futuribles, presents here the ins and outs of the Galileo programme, which has as one of its main aims to develop a competitor for the American Global Positioning System (GPS), the only efficient satellite-linked guidance system currently available. After outlining the story of how the GPS was created and the numerous military, civil and industrial matters associated with it, Lebeau describes how the Europeans have organized this "counter-attack". He highlights the implications of this initiative for greater co-operation in Europe, because of the political and defence issues involved, if for nothing else.
L'e-santé, définissable comme l'utilisation des technologies de la société de l'information dans le secteur de la santé, devient l'une des grandes priorités des programmes sanitaires de l'Union européenne : du dossier médical informatisé à la télémédecine, en passant par la géolocalisation (utile notamment pour les aveugles ou les missions de premiers secours), l'évolution du système de soins sera radicale. C'est donc logiquement que l'IPTS (Institute for Prospective Technological Studies) a choisi l'e-santé ...
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Cet avis, produit par le Conseil de la science et de la technologie (CST) du Québec, répond à un mandat ministériel visant à vérifier l'existence de pénuries de travailleurs hautement qualifiés en sciences naturelles, en génie et en sciences de la santé. Après avoir examiné le concept de ressources humaines consacrées à la science et à la technologie (RHST), de même que les mesures qui lui sont associées, les auteurs analysent les principales tendances qui ont influé sur le ...
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Pour l'Office parlementaire d'évaluation des choix scientifiques et technologiques, les technologies de l'information et de la communication ont un rôle important à jouer dans le dénouement de la crise du système français de soins. En conséquence, ce rapport fait le point sur leurs apports potentiels et sur les obstacles à leur développement. La télémédecine revêt aujourd'hui plusieurs réalités : surveillance, assistance médicale, consultation et même chirurgie peuvent être pratiquées à distance. On notera surtout que la télésurveillance ...
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Le XXIe siècle sera peut-être celui de la biologie moléculaire, selon les auteurs de ce livre, pour qui cette science changera probablement la manière dont les êtres humains considèrent le monde qui les entourent et se voient eux-mêmes, et « bouleversera la vie et la conscience humaine au moins aussi profondément que la révolution industrielle ». Selon eux, il n'est pas irréaliste de prévoir que l'espérance de vie (qui plafonne autour de 80 ans dans les pays les plus avancés ...
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Le secteur de l'édition et des médias est significatif pour l'Europe en termes d'emploi et de marché. Une des difficultés majeures pour explorer son futur est celle d'avoir une définition commune. Alors que certaines études incluent médias et édition dans un même secteur, d'autres se concentrent sur des sous-secteurs comme l'édition de livres, les médias en ligne et l'édition de revues. Les différences de définition ont influencé la recherche prospective, comme le montre ...
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La révolution numérique constitue-t-elle une troisième révolution industrielle ? Nous fait-elle basculer dans la société de l'information ? Quelles politiques pour lutter contre la fracture numérique ? Quelle gouvernance mondiale de l'Internet ? Telles sont les questions que Nicolas Curien et Pierre-Alain Muet abordent dans leur rapport, élaboré dans le cadre de la préparation du Sommet mondial sur la société de l'information, organisé par l'ONU (Organisation des Nations unies) et l'UIT (Union internationale des télécommunications), qui se tient à ...
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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.