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TedxParis: Scientism versus humanism, how far can innovation push the limit?

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What does the future hold? "2012 - 2030, line of sight" was the theme of the remarkable 2012 Tedx Paris conference cycle, masterfully organised by Michel Lévy Provençal, with seventeen top-level speakers. "Ligne de mire" being a particularly well-chosen title, in the form of a war metaphor, it foreshadowed a battle between scientism and humanism, remarkably summed up at the end of the presentation by the blogger/comedian Vinvin. Will it be the same outside the Olympia stage, on the ground that leads us to 2030, and from which we are barely 18 years old ! It may be forgetting "how complicated and unpredictable is the mechanics of life". Kurt Vonnegut, if he had not died, should have been invited too.

[note: invited as a representative of Orange and a partner of Tedx, this is nonetheless a personal and unofficial report - the original version of this post was written for live.orange.com]

Tedx Paris took up residence at the Olympia in October 2012. 

"Everything must have a purpose? "asked God.

"Certainly," said man.

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"Then I leave it to you to think of one for all this," said God.

And He went away. »

- Kurt Vonnegut, Cat's Cradle. "

Imagining the future isn't easy. Many have tried, few have succeeded. But there are outstanding examples of men and women who have imagined impossible things and that humans have managed to achieve anyway: Jules Verne and his Nautilus prefigured submarines, Hergé invented lunar exploration when it was impossible and seems to have been copied by NASA a little more than ten years later...

The self-prophetic nature of innovation

It is these dreams come true that ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet described when he predicted a manned trip to Mars as early as 2035. I won't be there. Phew! Three years of canned travel is not for me. Basically, he explained to us that we didn't know how to get there today, but that we would eventually find solutions.

This was also announced by Ariel Fuchs, self-proclaimed "meridian" (and not earthy), who launched with the French architect Jacques Rougerieoceanographer Jacques Piccard and astronaut Jean-Loup Chrétien. a project called Sea Orbiter, a 50 m vertical vessel, 29 of which will be under water, which will "drift on the ocean" in order to set up an underwater research station; this will allow "the discovery of new species and technological advances in the fields of pharmacology, health, food, mineral resources" etc. etc. It is "20,000 leagues under the sea" that has become a reality.

This iterative and self-prophetic character of research and innovation was confirmed by a remarkable Franco-Japanese presenter residing in the Netherlands: César Harada. Driven by the desire to clean up the oceans, he and his teams are designing revolutionary boats whose technical improvements could go far beyond his initial project. These "soft" boats, which resist the most unfavourable winds and avoid later obstacles, could also make you seasick...

The dark side of the force: live to be a thousand years old! ?

However, this self-prophetic side can sometimes give way to another worldview, quite different from these presentations by enthusiastic engineers. It is when this vision of a future changes the living, and aims at "immortality". This is the feeling I had listening to many of the scientists present at this Tedx Paris, including Fabrice Chrétien, a researcher at the Pasteur Institute, a stem cell specialist, and Laurent Alexandre, a surgeon. Of course, like everyone else, I hope that everyone's health will improve, especially that of people suffering from diseases that are now incurable. But where is the limit? Certainly, cancer is a calamity, no one is safe, me like you, but where does life end and how can death disappear?

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The two scientists engaged in a scientific outburst that described a world where there are no more limits: "My personal conviction is that some of you (speaking to the audience) will live to be 1000 years old! "said Laurent Alexandre. I felt a shiver of horror running through the room ... And why not 2000 years?

Without forgetting the delirium of bionic men described by Fabrice Chrétien, where cells repair themselves and where "pieces of men" are made. Scary, even if I don't understand everything. Who, moreover, will be entitled to these "special treatments"? The rich, the dictators?

This description of a world in which science, technologized to the extreme, becomes a means of pushing back all limits, sends shivers down my spine. "It's the myth of the Tower of Babel," castigated Miguel Benasayag, an Argentinean philosopher, ex-opponent to the military regime and a "Guevarist". Without sharing his revolutionary ideas, nor his admiration for this idol, he put his feet back on the ground, reminding us that it was the limit that created freedom: "If everything is possible, nothing is real," he added!

For me, the lesson of this afternoon spent dreaming about the future is this: dreams of love, with Yann Dall'aglio, who places tenderness as the future of man and the couple; dreams of urban farms by Augustin Rosenthiel, improbable but oh so poetic; dreams of justice and humanity by Céline Bardet ("we all have a seed of humanity", speaking of a torturer from the Bosnian war); dreams of love, courage and pedagogy of Lydie Laurent, mother of an autistic child who managed to make him speak and to send him to school despite a severe handicap (moving sequence when the child took the stage); and finally dreams of optimism of Anjuli Pandit, this young Indian girl conquering the world who encourages us to do the same.

Icarus burning his wings ...

More than ever, the future will be played out between these two trends, humanist and scientist, where man will either be subjected to an all-powerful technique, where doctors "will no longer even touch their patients" or, he will be able to heal and progress through human beings.

You've understood which side I'm on, Icarus by flying too close to the sun saw his wax wings melt! Thanks to TedX for reminding us of this lesson from antiquity.

(Article written by Yann Gourvennec /  http://visionary.wordpress.com)

 {Jacuzzi on}

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