Recherche, sciences, techniques
Cette page regroupe l'ensemble des publications de Futuribles sur cette thématique (Vigie, revue, bibliographie, études, etc.)
The major advances in research into the basis of life, especially over the last two decades, threatens to lead - as discoveries and/or inventions are made and, as a result, patents are taken out - to a process of private acquisition and hence commercialisation of the world's gene stock.
Pierre-Benoit Joly and Bertrand Hervieu first outline the dangers inherent in these developments and then go on to discuss the various "innovation regimes", in particular how we have shifted from agricultural research shaped mainly by public bodies and the farming community to genome -soon to be post-genome- research dominated by multinational firms, that incite moves to strengthen intellectual property considerations.
Rather than making the argument one of public versus private control, the authors favour seeking a third way. They begin by analysing the reasons behind patent laws (whose purpose is to encourage research while fostering the spread of innovations), while at the same time they emphasize the problems in practice, especially where life-forms are involved, and the benefits and drawbacks that may arise when patent laws are applied too rigidly.
They then show that other ways of protecting inventions exist which make it possible to share financial resources and genetic material (as has happened in the case of cattle). With these precedents in mind - for which they also sketch the advantages and disadvantages- they make a plea for a European model based on sharing resources, with references to successful initiatives of this kind in both the United States and Europe.
At the request of the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Institute for Research into Development (IRD) brought together a panel experts to investigate what is really happening as regards the growing tendency of bright people to move from South to North (usually first in order to study) and then to form networks. How do these diasporas organize themselves? Does this offset the loss of skills triggered by their departure from their countries of origin and does it make sense to encourage the formation of these networks, for example through appropriate public policies? The responses to these varied questions, as well as others, are presented in a report entitled Diasporas scientifiques (Paris: IRD Éditions, 2003). Rémi Barré, one of the contributors, presents the main conclusions.
The defeat of the chess champion Garry Kasparov by the IBM Deep Blue computer in 1997 has often been described as the defeat of man by a machine. Thierry Libaert has already analysed this event for Futuribles (n° 228, February 1998, pp. 5-15), putting the significance of this victory into perspective. Since then two return matches between man and machine have been played (in 2002 and 2003) and ended in stalemate; Thierry Libaert therefore pursues his reactions to the topic a little further.
He first discusses the distinctive features of these encounters between human beings and machines, and emphasizes that the exponential increase in the calculating power of computers will inevitably lead in the long term to the machine outclassing human beings in this kind of game of strategy. Yet this does not mean the end of the game of chess. On the contrary, he argues, these developments could stimulate human chess players to find a new approach to the game.
He concludes his piece by drawing an analogy between human thought processes and computer calculation, suggesting that the design and technical improvements to chess computers might help in understanding how the human brain works, and that ultimately this might be expressed algebraically.
Following their experience as members of the CST (Council for Science and Technology) in Quebec, Alain Bergeron and Hélène Tremblay present here an interesting example of an advisory body being integrated into the process of public decision-making in science and technology. After recounting the origins of the CST and outlining its aims and approach, the authors describe how this truly independent advisory body makes a contribution to all kinds of current debates in science and technology. They stress in particular the qualities that have led successive governments to rely on its advice: the diversity of its membership and their independence (they are appointed in an individual capacity), the use of outside expertise and the support of an extremely competent permanent secretariat.
The authors show how the CST has been able to influence and improve science policy in Quebec. They give an account of the Council's current concerns, one key issue being the relationship between science and society.
Pour célébrer le centième anniversaire de sa création, Le Moniteur propose à ses lecteurs de porter un regard vers l'avenir. Les grands enjeux pour la construction à l'horizon 2020 ont été identifiés dans le domaine de l'habitat (des logements plus nombreux pour des familles atomisées), des infrastructures, de l'architecture (nouveaux matériaux et nouvelles technologies), ou encore de l'aménagement du territoire (impact de la décentralisation, arrivée des néoruraux). Les mutations à l'œuvre concernant les lieux ...
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In the midst of the "war against terrorism" launched by the US government, the editor of Foreign Policy rightly reminds us that there are other "wars", not waged by one state against another; these are sometimes even more destructive and governments have great difficulty in gaining the upper hand. These wars are made much worse by certain new features of globalisation and, according to Moisés Naím, they are likely to be long-lasting and to become even more serious if governments do not realize that these problems call for major strategic reforms.
The wars in question are against drug-trafficking, the illegal arms trade, breaches of intellectual property, trafficking of human beings and money-laundering.
These problems have no regard for geography or sovereignty, and they bring governments into conflict with networks based solely on market forces. In many ways, Naím argues, these struggles are structuring the world as much as the tensions between nation-states did in the past. In addition, they raise questions about the dominant ideas and institutions of nation-states and they highlight the damaging side-effects of untrammelled market forces.
Despite the regrettable disappearance of the French Observatoire géopolitique des drogues (OGD, commission monitoring the international drugs trade) in April 2000, the researchers and correspondents are continuing their major and valuable work (in particular through the Association géopolitique des drogues and the Observatoire géopolitique de la criminalité internationale). Alain Labrousse, a former director of OGD, provides proof of this in an article surveying recent trends in areas such as the manufacture of drugs, the destinations of income derived from the drugs trade, the collusion between drug-trafficking and local conflicts, as well as the efforts to control the supply networks and the producing countries. Despite recent major programmes to tackle the drugs trade, Labrousse notes that the ambitious aims of the various UN agencies are still far from being achieved.
This is the third time that Labrousse has written on this subject for Futuribles. Almost ten years ago, he concluded that "proof of real political will means, when the requirements of the war on drugs conflict with economic, political and geo-strategic interests, being able to make the former prevail over the latter. Yet nearly always and everywhere the opposite is what happens." Again today, his article confirms the fragile nature of policies to tackle drugs, and he stresses the constant pitfalls of instrumentalising them -so that sometimes "the pretext of combating drugs is used in countries that are not involved in the drugs trade or even are making praiseworthy efforts to deal with it".
We are on the eve of a global crisis as regards infectious diseases, a World Health Organization (WHO) report said in 1996. Indeed, many analysts stressed the danger of humanitarian disasters caused by a virus which could not be brought rapidly under control and, thanks to the effects of globalisation, might spread throughout the world.
Let us therefore be vigilant, says André-Yves Portnoff. He emphasizes here above all the dramatic impact of censorship and corruption in the outbreak of SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome ) in China, blocking the adoption of the urgent preventive measures needed.
He goes on to argue that if China does not make radical progress, and does not open up to freedom of information and communication in public health matters, the country will remain an enormous region from which new epidemics can spread and threaten the whole of humanity.
Sous les effets conjugués du déclin démographique, d'une population vieillissante, d'une forte concentration de cette même population dans quelques aires urbaines et d'une succession de crises économiques et financières, la société japonaise pourrait bien connaître de profondes mutations. Ce dossier a pour objectif d'en appréhender les évolutions en prenant comme angle d'analyse la ville et trois dynamiques sous-jacentes qui rendent compte de ces changements : l'évolution démographique, la modification du rapport entre collectivités locales et ...
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Contrairement aux croyances des économistes néoclassiques, la valeur d'une entreprise (d'un territoire ou, plus généralement, d'une organisation) ne peut s'apprécier exclusivement à l'aune des éléments comptables classiques qui, au mieux, ne nous renseignent que sur le passé, nullement sur leur potentiel de création de valeur. Et ceci est d'autant plus vrai que nous entrons dans une économie au sein de laquelle les principaux facteurs de richesse sont de nature immatérielle. Le problème toutefois est ...
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This three-volume set, The Future of Small Telescopes in the New Millennium details the essential roles that small telescopes should play in 21st century science and how their future productivity can be maximized. Over 70 experts from all corners of the international astronomical community have created a definitive reference on the present and future of "big science with small telescopes". Despite highly publicized closures of telescopes smaller than 4-m in aperture at national facilities and their omission from national science ...
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Les auteurs rendent comptent dans cet article des conclusions d'un programme de recherche financé par plusieurs grandes compagnies américaines. Selon eux, la plupart des entreprises ne savent pas manager les knowledge workers de manière efficace. Elles pourraient améliorer leur productivité et leur flexibilité en réduisant dans le même temps leurs coûts fixes de 30 % Le changement de nature du travail (de plus en plus intellectuel), la diversité croissante de la population active (plus féminine, plus âgée), les attentes de ...
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The dramatic accident that recently destroyed the Columbia space shuttle inevitably revives the debate about the wisdom of manned space exploration.
After recalling that "nothing great is achieved unless the resources of intelligence are combined with those of courage", André Lebeau reminds us of the aim of manned space flights: the exploration by human beings of the solar system, planets and asteroids where human life may be possible.
He describes the means required, in particular for space travel, with their strengths and weaknesses.
Les nouvelles technologies bureautiques et industrielles brouillent les frontières entre les métiers. Les traits caractéristiques de l'organisation du travail des cadres se diffusent au sein des autres groupes socioprofessionnels, conjointement au développement des technologies de l'information et de la communication (TIC) et des machines automatiques. Cela conduit à une homogénéisation du rapport au travail, qui passe par plus d'autonomie, plus de communication, plus de réunions, plus de tâches indirectes. Néanmoins, ce phénomène s'accompagne de clivages forts ...
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Le magazine Wired a fêté en avril 2003 son 10e anniversaire. Pour l'occasion, un dossier spécial a rassemblé des articles qui tentent d'anticiper les innovations probables dans différents domaines pour les 10 ans à venir. Peter Schwartz et Doug Randall, du Global Business Network, expliquent comment, selon eux, " l'hydrogène peut sauver l'Amérique ". L'indépendance énergétique de ce pays doit devenir " une priorité nationale " et engager des efforts de financement massifs, comparables à ceux qui ont été ...
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Traditionnellement, la contribution de la science à la politique (processus science / décision politique) peut être considérée comme un continuum qui commence par la prestation de conseils scientifiques et aboutit à la décision politique. Dans ce modèle, les scientifiques sont fortement impliqués dans la première étape (fournir des avis), tandis que leur influence et leur participation diminuent lorsqu'on arrive à la conception et à l'application des politiques. En même temps, l'impact d'autres facteurs, notamment d'ordre social ...
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The term "huge mess", applied to science in France, well sums up some experts on public research's view. On that matter, Rémi Barré has chosen to take as his starting point Olivier Postel-Vinay's book, which is very typical of this point of view.
Postel-Vinay first examines the problems facing French research (inertia, lack of either accountability or transparency, etc.), which is conducted via an old-fashioned, rigid, centralized state system unable to adapt to a changing world. He then goes on to show the poor results achieved by French science and technology, despite strong forces for change.
According to Postel-Vinay, the source of the problems of French public research lies in the inappropriate way in which the whole system is organized. He therefore proposes that the issue of the universities and their relationship with research institutions must be tackled, arguing for an action plan aimed at moving away from the traditional French approach towards the standard Anglo-Saxon one.
According to Rémi Barré, thinking that we should first integrate the "grandes écoles" and the research bodies into the universities is illusory: those are major changes, which are impossible to carry out in the short and middle run. We'd better try to strengthen the virtues of the French model -the researchers'independence, the ability to attract highly skilled people and to build on accumulated research work over the long term -in the frame of a deep decentralisation of the responsibilities.
Such reforms will only come about through concerted action, involving everyone concerned and creating an impetus to reinvent and update the existing model, which won't be possible without a real forward-looking policy for the national research system.
According to Rémi Barré, the question is not whether one model is preferable to another, but to set in motion the dynamics of change which will make France a country with strong science and industrial innovation within an increasingly competitive European context.
La contribution des nouvelles technologies de l'information et de la communication (NTIC) à la croissance française a fortement augmenté au cours de la deuxième moitié des années 1990. Le retard qui demeure par rapport aux États-Unis n'apparaît pas préjudiciable aux progrès de la productivité globale des facteurs. Ceux-ci, particulièrement importants dans les secteurs producteurs des nouvelles technologies, diffusent aussi dans les autres secteurs. Mais, contrairement à ce qu'on pourrait attendre, ce ne sont pas les activités qui ...
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La structure de l'emploi par niveaux d'éducation a beaucoup changé en quelques années, la demande de personnel hautement qualifié ayant explosé. Certains y voient le rôle du progrès technique, et particulièrement de l'arrivée des technologies de l'information et de la communication (NTIC). Cet article examine la pertinence de cette corrélation, en se basant sur des données correspondant à 56 secteurs de l'industrie américaine remontant aux années 1960. L'auteur estime que les NTIC sont responsables ...
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Engineering is no longer content with reducing physical effort or the life sciences with curing our bodies and increasing health. Together they are setting out to create copies of human beings and societies, to produce intelligent machines and, quite soon, human clones, copies of individuals or even perfect beings.
What is there, in that case, that is specifically human, that distinguishes us now from machines with artificial intelligence and that might in future distinguish human beings from the clones whose production seems unavoidable?
Victor Scardigli makes a sharp distinction between computer science and biotechnology, even though he notes that both are driven by irresistible forces, albeit at different speeds. He stresses the progress achieved in the field of artificial intelligence while at the same time emphasizing that the results can never be on a par with human intelligence, basically for three reasons: the extreme non-logical complexity of the human mind, intentionality, and the cultural and symbolic dimensions.
Scardigli is clearly far more worried about the advances in biotechnology, especially those that are already making it possible to produce clones of animals and that will undoubtedly lead to human cloning. Even though he insists that human beings cannot be reduced to - and therefore cannot be imitated by - thinking machines or a collection of specific genes, even though he acknowledges that individuals shape their identity through their own experiences which would differ from those of a clone, Victor Scardigli urges us to greater vigilance with regard to the progress of these technosciences, while stressing those features that, in his view, will remain peculiarly human.
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.