But what progress do we want?


The industrial world is on trial. Farm of a thousand cows, unacceptable to hundreds of activists some of whom are appearing today for dismantling the milking parlour. Sivens Dam, whose opponents are in mourning after the death of one of them, Rémi Fraisse, victim of clashes with the police on Sunday 26 October. Like the occupants of the Notre Dame des Landes site, these voices challenge our development model with a central question: is progress in gigantism and automation?

It is in the agricultural world, which is inextricably linked to the land, that the questioning of industrialization is increasingly being expressed. The "above-ground" principle of technical deployment - which does not depend on land or people - is showing its limits, leaving behind lifeless soil, polluted water and disused (unpopulated) horizons. And the economic imperative is tied to it, closing off the alternatives. Thus Manuel Valls acknowledges that the economic logic of mass distribution is undermining any attempt to move to agro-ecology. At last week's International Food Show (SIAL), he warned: "There is currently a risk of a lose-lose spiral. Losing for agricultural producers and the agri-food industry; losing for retailers; and losing in the long term for consumers, if the economic fabric is torn apart. This risk is that of fuelling the deflationary trend that threatens economic activity..

These tensions are not being addressed and risk undermining our society. For there is a striking lack of steering of technical choices, the inability of politicians to set the conditions for a lasting dialogue on options (failure of debates on nanotechnologies, nuclear power, synthetic biology, etc.) and the bitter polarization of stakeholders. As current events show...

Man is not perfect, Proudhon said in his Philosophy of progress, it is perfectible. Faced with this observation, two options present themselves to us today: to rely on technosciences to improve human performance (transhumanist option) or to think of human progress as work on oneself (humanist or spiritual option). The German philosopher, Peter Sloterdijk, said nothing different in his book Rules for a human park published in 2000. On November 21 and 22, the first will meet to Transvision 2014 in Paris, the second will be in Lille for this year's Church Social Weeks entitled Man and technosciences. Illustration ©Enki Bilal/Musée des Arts et Métiers

At the request of Social Weeks, the daily newspaper La Croix and France Télévisions, the CREDOC (Centre de recherche pour l'étude et l'observation des conditions de vie) surveyed the 2,019 French people on what they expect from technical progress. The results were recently published under the title Technosciences: improvement or perversion of humanity? (See results opposite).

We can see that the relationship with the technosciences is clever. For the harmful consequences of the industrial or automated universe are amplified by its systemic nature. Some point to the depletion of resources and advocate moving to the Low tech like Philippe Bihouix. Others point to environmental damage and climate risks, such as Jean Baptiste Fressoz (The joyous apocalypse, Threshold 2012). One also thinks of Stephano Liberti, who denounces land grabbing in a context of widespread corruption (Low hand on the ground, Rue de l'échiquier, 2013). Finally, the speculative technique based on algorithms that short-circuit any trust work is probably one of the most disastrous tools. 

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On the other hand, prophets announcing powerful reconfigurations are also on the rise. One thinks of Jeremy Rifkin and his Third Industrial Revolution (or the new society of zero marginal cost) or to Pierre Giorgioni, who pressed for a A dazzling transition (Bayard editions, 2014)through the Internet and networks.

While the Global Forum was being held in Lille, supported by Philippe Vasseur and the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region (which relied on Rifkin's advice to establish its roadmap for its energy transition), Libération published on 21 October 2014 a forum entitled "... the energy transition of the French economy".Rifkin's third revolution will not take place... ». Signed by Dominique Bourg, Hervé Kempf and the networks of TECHNOlogos and the Momentum Institutethe pamphlet reveals a shift in past debates. These circles, which were able to confront each other barely five years ago on the theme of degrowth, agree to raise a common questioning loud and clear: where does tech-science take us? According to the authors, the idea of networks capable of solving our energy and resource depletion problems is a "new technical utopia" that claims to "reconcile the irreconcilable". Rifkin's technological dream works because, thanks to him, "it is no longer necessary to think about the impasses in our path, about our real needs, we just have to rely on big companies, experts and entrepreneurs. high-tech of all kinds that will offer us the technical solutions to get out of the impasse," the authors say.

The place of the cleavage is designated as follows: can we continue to rely on technical solutions, or should the social contract with the technosciences be radically revised? Would not the reign of the expert who replaces the politician in deciding orientations be the blatant translation of the disease of our world?

As we can see, the most successful systems today are open, pluralistic, alive... We speak of "ecosystems", which implies integrating randomness, emerging actors, commentators... The creativity of Brazilians, Indians (the frugal innovation of Ravi Rajavi), or the serendipity (this opportunistic posture that takes care of the conditions of creation but without a project) of Californians testifies to this.

Our future needs modest, undogmatic postures. As early as 1991, the philosopher Paul Ricoeur warned: "No one has the overarching knowledge to unify the field of fundamental convictions. Plurality is the condition for the exercise of all discourses on man, whether technical or practical, scientific, aesthetic, moral, spiritual, etc., and for the exercise of the right to freedom of expression.[1] ". It is therefore the interaction between the logics of one and the other and even the chance of controversies that can change the world, as advocated by the Philippe DuranceHe is President of the Institute of Desirable Futures and Professor of the "Prospective and Sustainable Development" chair at the CNAM "La controverse", which he considers to be "an art of changing the world". 

Hannah Arendt drew a distinction within technology between tools that "serve the hand" and machines that "require the worker to serve them".

Perhaps it was this intuition that guided Sebastiao Salgado in his work on The hand of man that thee documentary by Wim Wenders invites us to rediscover... Perhaps we need to think together to find ways to "keep the hand".

In this spirit, the town hall of 2e arrondissement in Paris proposes an itinerary entitled You can change your lifewith its People's University of which Up' Magazine is a partner.

"The leaders continue to believe that legality is enough. But the legitimacy that consists in building a project democratically is essential." said Dominique Bourg on France Cuture this Wednesday, October 29.

Poll: French people want technical solutions especially for their health

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Rather, the report shows that the French are keen on new technical possibilities. 62% say they are particularly interested in developments in science and technology (compared with 53% in Europe). The distance from religion observed in France and the cult of the body present in many Western countries probably also underlie the idea that the body can be constantly improved and biological limits continually exceeded. In fact the younger generations are more inclined to apprehend the body as a tool that can be improved (72%) than the seniors (50%). Therefore, the French expect a lot from medicine, whose progress should, in their opinion, improve the physical and mental capacities of healthy people (58%) and not be limited to treating (58%). Almost one person in two even thinks that medicine should help "push back the limits of death" and 38% that these advances should fight against the signs of ageing.

91% of the French also see advantages to geolocation for elderly people who are disoriented or suffer from Alzheimer's disease. But opinion is less receptive when it comes to young people: 63% of people are opposed to tracking teenagers by a chip that would be fixed in clothing or shoes. Moreover, 76 % of the French would refuse the installation of a microscopic sensor under their skin, even if this system allows monitoring their state of health and communicating information in real time to a medical centre capable of alerting in case of abnormality.

While medical applications are favoured, there is more reticence about other applications surveyed (data storage, privacy, nanotechnologies...). 79% of the French believe that the companies hosting the servers do not guarantee an infallible protection of users' privacy. 65% find it embarrassing that these data can be consulted by police intelligence services, and 90% that they can be used for commercial purposes. The mistrust towards Internet actors is great: Only 16% of French people trust Internet companies to protect their data, whereas they are reassured when dealing with health institutions (86%).

The pollsters also asked respondents what they thought about nanotechnology. Only 40% of them have ever heard of these techniques. This lack of knowledge implies that the population is relatively divided: 48% expressed concern about applications in the drug sector, while the proportion reaches 68% when it comes to food.


Dorothy Browaeys, Deputy Editor-in-Chief UP' Magazine   

[1] P. Ricoeur, Afterword to Time of Responsibility, Reading 1. Around politics. Seuil, 1991. 




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