Recherche, sciences, techniques
Cette page regroupe l'ensemble des publications de Futuribles sur cette thématique (Vigie, revue, bibliographie, études, etc.)
D'ici à 2025, le continent africain pourrait éviter 43 millions de nouveaux cas de sida si des investissements significatifs, notamment grâce à l'aide extérieure, sont réalisés dans les domaines de la santé, de la formation, du social et des infrastructures, selon l'ONUSIDA. L'agence onusienne a présenté trois scénarios possibles sur la manière dont l'épidémie du sida en Afrique pourrait évoluer au cours des 20 prochaines années, sur la base des décisions politiques prises aujourd'hui ...
(541 more words)
Global warming and the risks of a shortage of fossil fuels are two of the important issues that modern societies as well as the whole planet must face in the course of the 21st century. In addition to the efforts required with regard to private energy consumption, transport and techniques of industrial production, one sector that still has a considerable potential for improving its ability to conserve energy is housing.
As three professionals working in this sector (for the Centre for Science and Technology in Building) explain in this article, many techniques already exist and further progress could also be made both to improve overall energy savings and to increase the capacities for housing units to produce their own energy from renewable sources.
Various technical solutions have been proposed by specialists in energy conservation, such as using specialized equipment (solar panels, double glazing, better insulation, etc.) and the development of "positive energy buildings". These show that the potential of the housing sector has been relatively neglected as a source of energy savings, especially in France (Germany and Switzerland are much further ahead in this area). The authors therefore make some proposals for ways of encouraging the public authorities to create incentives for people to choose an "intelligent" approach to energy saving in their homes.
Readers of Futuribles are kept abreast of the current debates about the policy (or lack of it) with regard to research and development in France, in part because of the amount of space we have devoted to this matter in the journal.
We publish here the point of view of an eminent researcher, Pierre Piganiol, who was the first head of the Délégation générale à la recherche scientifique et technique (DGRST) which, following the famous meeting in Caen (1956), was the first body to implement the R&D policy of the Gaullist era - which it did, moreover, in magisterial fashion.
Pierre Piganiol expresses his amazement that the alarm calls about the inadequacy of French research efforts have not apparently been either heard or understood. He then reminds us of the ultimate purpose of research (and the various types of research) and the major role that the state should play in co-ordinating efforts, not only with regard to the research that it finances but also to privately funded research.
He stresses that this role of orchestrating research means putting considerable effort into foresight in order to make choices, as far as possible, in the light of the country's future needs. He says here, pithily, what others in the debate put more pompously in terms of the tensions between technology push and social needs (or bottom-up approach).
Finally, Pierre Piganiol offers some judicious thoughts as to the ways that this research policy might ideally be conducted.
Those who have worked with him will not be surprised that he lays so much emphasis on the need to make a "reasoned analysis of the present state of knowledge and research", of what he calls the "scientific climate" (conjoncture scientifique). It is indeed strange that, despite his best efforts, nothing of the sort has ever been implemented...
Pierre Piganiol emphasizes, in his own article in this issue, the importance of foresight studies in drawing up an R&D policy which, of necessity, looks to the long term. In response to this need and to the need to give a new stimulus (but what?) to French research policy the French association for technical research (Association nationale de la recherche technique, ANRT) has launched a future-oriented study of the French system of research and innovation.
Jacques Lesourne, chairman of the steering committee of the "Futuris" project, offers his view of the French system of research and innovation, then shows how the arrangements made in France after the Second World War are now having to face the need for reform, if only because of the radically different context in which we find ourselves and the challenges of the next few years.
After a brief sketch of how this vast exercise in foresight is being organized, drawing on a very large number of experts, and the various methods used (in particular scenario-building), he summarizes the main lessons to be learned from it. Above all he stresses the need to step up substantially the investment in R&D in France (with a look at the roles that public authorities and business should play in this) as well as the need for in-depth reform of the way that research is organized if it is to become more productive.
Lastly, and given that the French government has announced that it proposes to introduce legislation about the direction and programming of research, he makes some recommendations, based on the work of Futuris, directed at the drafters of the new law, whose contents are eagerly awaited.
Il existe une littérature importante sur les évolutions en matière de modes de vie, mais peu d'études prospectives traitent la question de la sexualité et de ses futurs possibles, comme le fait remarquer l'auteur de cet article, qui tente de relever ce défi. Dans cet objectif, il a relevé plusieurs tendances susceptibles d'affecter la vie sexuelle, comme le déclin de l'influence de la religion (particulièrement chez les jeunes), le vieillissement de la population et le fait ...
(315 more words)
Trente ans après sa parution, Le Macroscope reste le livre fondateur de l’analyse systémique en France. Selon son auteur, elle facilite la compréhension et l’étude de l’infiniment complexe, comme le microscope l’étude de l’infiniment petit et le télescope celle de l’infiniment grand. Il s’agit du premier ouvrage de vulgarisation de cette nouvelle méthode de réflexion. Afin de mettre en avant les intérêts de l’analyse systémique, Joël de Rosnay s’est attaché dans ...
(70 more words)
Il semble désormais admis par la théorie économique que le progrès technique est un facteur essentiel de croissance au niveau national mais aussi international. Mais la perception de l’apport scientifique et technique au progrès de l’humanité a été remise en cause, depuis la première bombe atomique, par une succession de crises (accidents, pollutions accidentelles ou non anticipées, trou dans la couche d’ozone, effet de serre…). De façon quelque peu caricaturale, deux perceptions s’affrontent sur la relation ...
(68 more words)
Il y a deux manières d'appréhender l'évolution à moyen et à long terme des économies française et européenne : l'une à l'aune des indicateurs économiques classiques (l'évolution du PIB, de la productivité, de la spécialisation productive, des forces et faiblesses respectives des différentes économies...) ; l'autre au travers des transformations structurelles qui caractérisent les économies modernes et de la capacité de nos propres économies à "prendre le virage" nécessaire pour relever le défi de la compétitivité ...
(-1 more words)
Cet article présente quatre scénarios sur les facteurs d'influence du progrès scientifique et technique et de leurs modes de régulation dans les deux prochaines décennies. Élaborés dans le cadre d'un programme de recherche du Millennium Project, qui a associé plus d'une centaine de participants de tous les pays, ces scénarios ont été construits en considérant des alternatives sur quatre dimensions : - le mode de régulation gouvernementale, - la vitesse d'apparition des innovations scientifiques et techniques, - l'acceptation sociale ...
(519 more words)
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.
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...
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 ...
(363 more words)
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.
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).
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.
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 ...
(178 more words)
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 ...
(293 more words)
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 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.