Recherche, sciences, techniques
Cette page regroupe l'ensemble des publications de Futuribles sur cette thématique (Vigie, revue, bibliographie, études, etc.)
Les causes de la persistance d'un niveau de chômage élevé des travailleurs peu qualifiés en France ne sont plus celles qui prévalaient dans les années 1970 et 1980. Depuis les années 1990, en effet, l'instabilité de l'emploi des travailleurs peu qualifiés ne s'explique plus essentiellement par le déclin des industries manufacturières, ni par l'augmentation du coût relatif du travail peu qualifié. Dans le contexte de la mondialisation, le chômage élevé et l'insécurité professionnelle des ...
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Among the privileges granted by the Soviet regime to the nomenklatura, there was an institution that enjoyed the unreserved support of the state and immense prestige within society, prestige that was all the greater because it was in open rivalry with the United States and matched the Americans' achievements in many fields: the scientific establishment. The ideological rationale is well known: in the former Soviet Union, science was declared to be at once a capital asset of the nation, a public service and a productive force. Similarly, the translation of ideology into action provided a model of organisation and support: Marxism invoked social theory and practice in making the state the unquestioned patron of science and science the obedient servant of the state. In reality, the more that basic research contributed to the defence effort, which was allocated the bulk of the investment in R&D, the more power, prestige and privileges were given to researchers.
With the collapse of communism, this model of patronage and organisation was drastically shaken up: funding was brutally cut back; there was a swift and dramatic brain drain of scientists (nobody knows how many emigrated to countries suspected of terrorist activities); the prestige that science had enjoyed was eroded, in particular because scientists were associated in the public mind with the decision-makers who were responsible for the economic failures and technological disasters of the old regime, ranging from Chernobyl to environmental pollution.
After a decade of criticisms, attempts at drastic reforms that came to nothing, of enormous losses to be recouped as a result of the brain-drain within the country and abroad, there are growing signs of a revival of basic research in Russia. They give the impression that, thanks to gradual reforms and above all to support from private foundations and foreign governments, the scientific establishment is slowly being rebuilt. Loren Graham, an expert on the history of the Soviet Academies whose whole career has been spent in investigating the various stages, developments and problems of Soviet science since the revolution in 1917, reports on this revival, along with Irina Dezhina. We publish here extracts from the in-depth study of the first phases of this renaissance that he has made with his Russian collaborator: the attempts to adapt the system to make it more like the American model, the structural and financial problems related to running laboratories, the persistence of institutional failures (especially the lack of peer review and the separation of the universities from the network of Academies), the renewed investment in scientific education and military R&D under Vladimir Putin. A new generation of scientists is taking up the torch, while the old guard cannot hide its nostalgia for the lost Golden Age of Communist times.
This article looks at the aftermath of the attacks of 11 September 2001 and the anti-terrorist measures put in place by the Bush Administration in the United States. Above all, it is a warning about the dangers to academic freedom that these measures could cause: withholding of information, limited access for foreign students to American laboratories, embargo on the publication of the results of research that the Pentagon considers (rightly or wrongly) to be sensitive, etc. In the long run, the factors that have made the American research system so outstanding - its openness and its ability to absorb talented foreigners - could quite easily be undermined.
The new threats following the events of 11 September certainly give legitimacy to the secrecy imposed on "classified" research with regard to defence needs, but should such research now be conducted in university laboratories rather than in defence establishments and industrial laboratories linked to the Pentagon? Are the measures envisaged in the Patriot Act, recently adopted by Congress to deal with the challenges of terrorism, compatible with the principles and values of academic research?
Eugene B. Skolnikoff emphasizes that the situation now is far more delicate than during the Cold War (when the McCarthy witch-hunts deeply affected the conduct of research in the US): a clash is inevitable between, on the one side, freedom to undertake research, access to information, sharing of results and openness to the outside world, and on the other, the government's efforts to erect barriers around knowledge and to institute discriminatory measures against students on the basis of their nationality.
Promouvoir le partage de l'information, inciter les salariés à rester dans l'entreprise, conclure des partenariats pour acquérir des connaissances : les entreprises industrielles prennent de plus en plus conscience de la nécessité de gérer les savoirs individuels et collectifs. Plus elles sont grandes et situées dans des secteurs de haute technologie, plus elles mettent en place de telles politiques. La gestion des connaissances est un stimulant pour l'innovation, un facteur de productivité.
Quatre entreprises industrielles sur 10 ont innové entre 1998 et 2000, principalement en introduisant de nouveaux produits sur le marché. Les secteurs à la pointe de l'innovation sont les biens d'équipement électrique, la pharmacie, mais aussi la chimie, les équipements du foyer et l'automobile.
Le concept de « fossé numérique », digital divide en anglais, est né aux États-Unis en 1995 à la suite d'un rapport du département du Commerce face à l'augmentation des inégalités d'accès à Internet qui accompagnait le développement de celui-ci. Le CRÉDOC (Centre de recherche pour l'étude et l'observation des conditions de vie) s'est interrogé sur la situation française. Il a étudié l'évolution des disparités d'accès des particuliers à trois produits-phares symbolisant les technologies ...
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The lecture that Richard Feynman gave at Caltech on 29 December 1959, to the Annual Meeting of the American Geophysical Society, seems with hindsight to reflect a remarkably lucid and profound view of the future expressed with admirable simplicity.
The central theme is the opening up of a new field of scientific investigation that Feynman foresaw as likely to produce enormous but unpredictable results, just as had happened with low temperatures and high pressures. It shows evidence of what John Wheeler thought to be a rare quality among theoretical physicists with strong mathematical skills: an awareness of the physical world. Feynman mentions most of the routes taken today in developing micro and nanotechnologies as offering the possibility of the pleasure of discovery. The realism of his predictions is heightened because his vision that computers would be miniaturized and become vastly more powerful has now for the most part actually occurred; in a fascinating exposition, his discussion covers both the issues arising from the mastery of these new tools and the ways that technical know-how might be developed in order to acquire them. The end of the story, which he saw as far in the future because he made the analogy between the capacities of computers and the human brain, has indeed not yet been reached. Forty years ahead of his time he saw the shift towards manipulating individual atoms and to dimensions dominated by the behaviour of quanta (topics that did not frighten him) as leading to what has become one of the major avenues of contemporary research: the nanotechnologies.
Feynman's supremely intelligent and highly imaginative approach is nevertheless subjected to the constraint that he often referred to himself: respect for the forces of nature and consistency with what we know of them. The intellectual argument he engages in here obeys the rule of inventiveness constrained by the laws of physics: "I am not setting about inventing antigravity. I am telling you what could be done if the laws are as we think they are; we do not do it simply because we have not yet set about it."
Stated in 1965 by Gordon Moore, the "law" that bears his name predicts that the number of transistors available to build a silicon-based integrated circuit will double every 18 months, resulting in increased performance and decreased cost.
Since the first microprocessor was developed in 1970, both the density and the power of circuits have indeed been observed to increase in accordance with this law. But can this be expected to continue for ever? Is this truly a trend that is likely to be maintained in the long term without at some point encountering limits?
Jean-Paul Colin argues here that the advances in miniaturizing microprocessors cannot be maintained indefinitely in the same direction and at the same pace. First, for reasons relating to the physics of solids, beyond a certain level that is likely to be reached in 12 years' time, transistors no larger than two or three atoms of silicon will no longer be able to operate using the binary logic that is the basis for the way they function at present.
Furthermore, Colin argues that progress depends on a large range of factors besides the physical properties of silicon: in five or six years, it will reach limits imposed by the architecture of the systems, the complexity of the design, the preconditions necessary for mass production, and tests of quality and security which would take longer than the solar system has existed.
The most crucial limiting factor, Jean-Paul Colin stresses, will probably arise from the enormous investments required in order to overcome or push back these limits. Thus Colin concludes that the trend cannot be maintained and that the electrical components industry is likely to undergo considerable turbulence five or six years from now.
La fin des années 1990 a été profondément marquée par la diffusion des nouvelles technologies de l'information qui laissaient à penser que nous étions rentrés dans une nouvelle phase de croissance. La révolution annoncée était telle que s'est répandue l'idée d'une « nouvelle économie », où les modes traditionnels de valorisation des entreprises devenaient caducs. Le krach boursier, qui sévit depuis avril 2000, et l'éclatement de la bulle spéculative autour d'Internet, ont très nettement tempéré l ...
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Le logiciel Quest, basé sur la notion de développement durable, permet aux utilisateurs de créer des scénarios environnementaux, économiques et sociaux à l'échelle d'une région, en choisissant des politiques et en observant leurs répercussions. Élaboré par les chercheurs du Sustainable Development Research Institute, de l'Université de Colombie-Britannique, à partie de l'exemple du jeu vidéo très populaire SimCity, ce modèle est en cours de développement dans la région de Vancouver, dans la vallée du Langat (Malaisie), à ...
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Ce numéro d'Economia & Prospectiva est consacré à l'économie digitale en général et aux conséquences des nouvelles technologies de l'information sur l'économie portugaise en particulier. Les auteurs identifient les opportunités et les défis liés à cette révolution, et émettent des propositions pour que leur pays rattrape son retard dans ce domaine.
La montée en puissance de la Chine sur différents marchés mondiaux de produits, y compris à forte intensité technologique, ne saurait masquer le dualisme de son industrie. À côté de secteurs très compétitifs, intégrés dans les circuits internationaux d'échanges de haute technologie et dominés par des entreprises étrangères spécialisées dans les activités d'assemblage, subsistent les secteurs traditionnels d'exportation, dominés par des entreprises entièrement chinoises et qui prennent du retard. Les effets d'entraînement des industries extraverties sur ...
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Is France condemned to go the same way as the Ottoman Empire by being slow to use the Internet just as the Ottomans in their day opposed the spread of printing? This is basically the question put in this piece for the "Futures of yesteryear" section by our colleague André-Yves Portnoff.
Far from claiming to provide an exhaustive study of the causes of the Ottoman Empire's decline and from arguing that they were all cultural, the author stresses the role played by the rejection of printing -and therefore the spread of ideas- in the collapse of an empire that had been more advanced than Christian Europe.
This account is exemplary in simply demonstrating how a nation or a firm, at the height of its success, can suffer as a result of failing to be sufficiently aware of a major innovation. Moreover, he stresses the critical role of education, communication and, more generally, advances in knowledge and ideas in the development process.
Venu présenter son ouvrage sur la société de la connaissance, Jean-Pierre Corniou a commencé par énoncer plusieurs constats permettant de mieux appréhender les enjeux de cette société de la connaissance : 1. L'informatique est désormais omniprésente ; 2. elle est devenue indispensable ; 3. elle génère cependant encore des frustrations, liées, par exemple, à certaines promesses non tenues, à des défaillances opérationnelles, au coût d'équipement, ou encore au scepticisme sur la valeur qu'elle est à même de créer. Partant de ...
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Cet article, rédigé par des chercheurs de l'IPTS (Institut de prospective technologique), fait le point sur la situation et les perspectives d'évolution du monde des médias à l'heure d'Internet. Après avoir rappelé l'effervescence provoquée, dans le domaine du savoir et de l'information, par l'explosion du Web, les auteurs soulignent que les hypothèses initiales sur la croissance du marché et l'impact des technologies se sont révélées partiales et excessivement optimistes. Les technologies numériques ...
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Society is changing rapidly. These changes are the product of, among other things, the new information and communications technologies (NICTs). The impact of the NICTs is analysed here by François Ascher.
He says that the Internet is seen as opening up all kinds of new possibilities. While some argue that technical advances are not causing major social changes, he takes the opposite position: the vigour and speed of penetration of the NICTs are accompanied by radical changes in our social and cultural models.
The new modernity now emerging, which he labels 'the hypertext society' by analogy with the interactive links of the Internet, is based on the knowledge economy and is characterized by greater emphasis on individuals, rationalization and social differentiation. These 'multifaceted' individuals with multiple connections act in varying ways, and their new ways of thinking and acting create new social linkages, new forms of solidarity, and sometimes also problems.
Ascher goes on to argue that this on-going process of modernization, which emphasizes individual freedoms and aims to create a fairer and more open and peaceful society, requires an updating of the concepts of democracy, political programmes and government action. This new democracy (more complex and more procedural) will be most effective if it is truly 'comprehensive' and consultative, relying more on interactive than on traditional modes of governance. But will it be capable of inculcating tolerance, morality, justice and hospitality? Can it redefine notions of solidarity and responsibility, achieve lasting compromises, operate from the most local level to the most global level?
According to François Ascher, the new dynamics of local governance and the development of supranational policies and multinational organizations give cause for hope, provided that modern decision-makers feel that they can control what will happen in the future.
Dans cet article les auteurs rendent compte de leur expérience, qui a eu pour cadre des ateliers de construction de scénarios pour la région d'Izmir, en Turquie. Ils ont comparé les résultats de deux groupes de travail parallèles, l'un utilisant la méthode traditionnelle de brainstorming avec un animateur (en suivant les étapes classiques : identification des changements structurels et des problèmes actuels / imagination de scénarios souhaitables / identification des obstacles pour y arriver / identification des mesures pour les surmonter / imagination ...
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Dans cet article, Olivier Postel-Vinay, directeur de rédaction de La Recherche, montre les forces de changement qui sont à l'oeuvre concernant la R&D (recherche-développement) française. Elles sont au nombre de neuf : le déclin de la recherche militaire (dont le budget a été divisé par deux en 10 ans), la perte de poids des grands programmes civils (baisse d'un tiers en 20 ans), la chute de la part des contrats d'État dans le financement de la R&D (de ...
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Everyone knows what rapid progress is being made in genetics, about the hopes and fears that these advances create, and the unprecedented philosophical and ethical issues they raise. Given the weightiness of the issues related to these developments, a committee on bioethics has been set up within the Futuribles group in order to discuss these problems freely.
With a view to the forthcoming debate in the French parliament on possible changes to the 1994 law on bioethics and given the serious problems raised by the new project, some members of the bioethics committee drew up a manifesto which was published originally in the daily newspaper Le Monde on 18 January 2002, before the debate could be suspended and the issue put off indefinitely, probably until after the French elections are over.
We publish the manifesto here, which argues that human cloning must not become routine and the democratic debate about the issue must not be taken over by agencies whose independence is suspect.
The question discussed here is clear: is the consumption of drugs (basically cannabis and drugs made from it) and/or alcohol a key causal factor in criminal behavior?
After outlining the results of major research in the field, Gilles Ivaldi confirms that the surveys show that there is an undoubted link between the use of consciousness-altering drugs and criminal activity. But, taking the study a step further, he adds an important rider: the relationship between the use of psychedelic substances and delinquency is far from straightforward. For one thing, it is hard to distinguish cause and effect; for another, they are linked by a system of underlying covariables that are sociological, psychological and demographic. Consequently the use of drugs is part of a range of peer group activities, integral to the lifestyle of young people, related to how often they go out and the level of parental supervision.
Consumption of cannabis certainly appears to be a contributory factor, much more so than alcohol, but Ivaldi acknowledges that the two are often used together, though the trends are moving in opposite directions. He reckons that all these phenomena are associated above all with the socialization of young people and membership of antisocial peer groups with a deviant lifestyle.
French voters will be turning out on 21 April and 5 May for the two rounds of an election to choose a new President of the Republic. It is a key position in France since, even if the government, which is elected separately from the President, is responsible for deciding and implementing national policies, and even if the periods of "cohabitation" (with President and parliamentary majority from different parties) have brought some changes (our system is in effect a presidential one).
The campaign has not yet officially begun, nor have all the candidates officially announced they are standing, but there is no doubt that everyone is secretly preparing for the election. There is already, however, a sickening stink arising from various sordid scandals involving several of the contenders, and this does not bode well for the campaign (if it continues to be conducted in the same terms), there is a strong risk that there will not be a proper debate on the major issues affecting the French people in the medium and long term, let alone the policies that may be adopted.
The editorial committee of the journal Futuribles is deeply concerned that the questions that we feel to be critical for the future of the country might be sidestepped in this way. We have therefore decided this month to create a special section in which, without trying to be exhaustive, we examine the candidates' propositions with regard to the issues that we do not want to see dodged. The section therefore raises questions about security and defense policies, energy policy, the issue of sustainable development, policies on innovation, research and education, on employment and measures to cope with the challenges of an ageing population. It also addresses the problems of public services and tax reform, citizenship and types of management, without forgetting, naturally, to quiz the candidates on sleaze.
We are well aware that we can only scratch the surface of these topics. Other issues are just as important and should be on the agenda: what are their policies for health, housing, inequality, the fight against social exclusion and delinquency? What about policies for economic and social development, the environment, science and technology...? The list of major issues facing French society in the short, medium and long term is lengthy. And the state, even if it cannot cope with all of them and even if nobody expects it to produce miracle solutions, has a role to play in tackling them, including to undertake reform of itself and to allow the spirit of enterprise to flourish...
If it is agreed that the information and communications technologies (ICTs) generate structural change in the economy, can this new driving force for growth operate without harming the environment?
The authors of this article take as their starting point the hypothesis that the ICTs are good for the environment. The shift to intangible economic factors (an intelligence-based economy, with products just in time, just enough, just for you, substitution of information for physical capital, of services for goods) brings with it economic benefits and lower consumption of natural resources.
However, the ICTs are not always synonymous with environmental conservation. The rapid obsolescence of computers, the manufacture of semi-conductors or the illusory "paper-less office" soon become sources of pollution. The initial environmental benefits may then be offset by a boomerang effect: increasing energy use, growth of electronic waste, pollution...
After having shown that much research needs to be done to find support for the basic hypothesis, the authors highlight the consensus view among commentators as to the potentially beneficial effects of the NICT on improving environmental technologies. Captors, visualization technologies, computer-based interactive simulators and many other innovations and tools to help in decision-making have a key role to play in the sustainable management of the environment and natural resources.
Even though this article looks more to the past than to the future, it examines an issue that is more than ever in the news: democratic control over scientific and technical decisions, a question that is gaining in importance as these choices carry ever more serious consequences for the future of the planet.
The article is about the disposal of nuclear waste in the US and, more generally, the choices that may have been made and the secret experiments carried out, including for strategic reasons, alongside the transparency that, sooner or later, proves indispensable for public trust.
Jean-Jacques Salomon, who maintains a constant watch over these issues, bases his article on two books about past policies whose critics at the time were silenced: Eileen Welsome's The Plutonium Files: America's Secret Medical Experiments in the Cold War (New York: Delta, 2000), and Gayle Greene's The Woman Who Knew Too Much (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1999).
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.