3.00 FYI France: Enewsletter and archive

by Jack Kessler, kessler@well.sf.ca.us

Jan 15, 1997 issue. This file presents an archive copy of the issue of the FYI France enewsletter, ISSN 1071-5916, which was distributed via email on January 15, 1997.
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Versions of the following have appeared online regularly, since 1992, as a feature of the FYI France enewsletter, ISSN 1071-5916, which is distributed for free via email every month except August. Enewsletter subscriptions may be obtained via email request to: kessler@well.sf.ca.us .

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From kessler@well.sf.ca.us Jan 15 1997

FYI France: Jacques Lévy, Directeur, Ecole des Mines de Paris

FYI France for January, 1997: this issue contains --

1) FYI France Online Service update -- http://www.fyifrance.com

2) "Towards a New Global Technology Order for a Global Society?", by Jacques Lévy, Directeur, Ecole des Mines de Paris and Président, Conférence des Grandes Ecoles

XXX

1) FYI France Online Service update -- http://www.fyifrance.com

On January 1 the FYI France Online Service began its subscriptions, so that now you need a password to reach most of the content files. No password is needed, though, for the index and home pages; and during the month of January both "File 5 Book - Dealers in France" and "File 9 Internet Training & Consulting" are free - of - charge. Since Dec 15, additions have included:

1.00 Print Libraries in France 2 entries revised
2.00 Digital Libraries in France 2 new entries
3.00 E-Newsletter and Archive issues of Dec 15, Dec 18
4.00 Publishers in France 21 new entries & 5 updated
5.00 Book - Dealers in France 9 new entries & 2 revised
6.00 Calendar 6 new entries
8.00 la Francophonie 1 new entry
9.00 Internet Training & Consulting 1 new entry

Venez nous visiter!

XXX

2) "Towards a New Global Technology Order for a Global Society?", by Jacques Lévy, Directeur, Ecole des Mines de Paris and Président, La Conférence des Grandes Ecoles

M. Jacques Lévy -- who has contributed the piece which appears in this issue of FYI France, occupies a unique position in France, and in higher education generally.

He is the Director of the Ecole des Mines de Paris, and, as such, is one of the pre - eminent educators of France; and by virtue of the great influence of the grandes écoles in that country he has far greater direct effect on national policy - makers, and on policy itself, than most other educators anywhere might hope to have.

M. Lévy is, in addition, the President of the Conférence des Grandes Ecoles, an organization which coordinates and promotes the cooperative activities of all the over 100 "Grandes Ecoles" now in operation in France. He is becoming a spokesperson for the aspirations of higher education internationally, through the increasingly - international role played by the Conférence des Grandes Ecoles, and the increasingly - international cooperation which characterizes basic and applied research, industrial development, and teaching. He discusses all of these things, in the context of the May Sophia Antipolis Symposium , in his article which follows:

"Towards a New Global Technology Order for a Global Society?"

by Jacques Lévy, Directeur, Ecole des Mines de Paris

and Président, Conférence des Grandes Ecoles

[translated by Jack Kessler]

* Introduction

The foundering of the Soviet Empire has completely overturned the conventional wisdoms of economics and politics. The possibility of yet another such historical rupture never can be excluded. But we can go beyond just saying that these things are unpredictable by definition. It is possible to hope that the mechanisms of international regulation and negotiation, however imperfect they might be, will succeed in controlling things if the need arises. And some predictions may be made, by reasoning from the current situation.

One can observe the growth of two antagonistic forms of logic. On one hand, modern technologies go together well with the general political trend toward encouraging mobility and accelerating exchanges of work and ideas. Barriers everywhere are coming down, progressively. Business firms, therefore, are more free to put strategies of alliance and networks into place, strategies which appreciably improve the firms' efficiency.

But, through this, competition -- the irreplaceable motor of progress -- is exacerbated. The consequences, which are devastating for employment as they are for the environment, place governments in situations which become more and more delicate. For it is up to government to manage social peace at the local level: the good government of democratic institutions, but now subject to the effects of global constraints which are out of government's control.

It therefore would be reasonable to have, to help with these questions, a form of cooperation which -- from the authority of regulations accepted by all -- would provide a "preventive medicine" capable of anticipating and avoiding crises. As Schumpeter said, the brakes of a car are there to allow it to go faster.

In strategic affairs, the Gulf War has shown us clearly the profound duality of modern warfare. On the one hand there is a multiplication of local conflicts and terrorist actions, which frustrates the policing power of conventional armaments: the massacres in Rwanda were done with knives.

But, on the other hand, priority has returned to strategic information, and to the capacity for massive and very rapid intervention, using ultra - sophisticated techniques which are more and more difficult to implement and more and more costly.

At the heart of all of these questions is found technological innovation, that is to say science, research and development.

Among the actors which are most involved are institutions of higher learning. They have the responsibility of training the leaders of the future, and they provide a special place for reflection, and for the production of new knowledge and understanding. But financial constraints, which become heavier every day, now involve them as well in this dialectic of cooperation - competition.

In the arena of actions for international cooperation, the Conférence des Grandes Ecoles decided, with its partners, notably the Americans, that the organization of an assembly on this subject would be productive: one at which academics would participate, but also industrialists, politicians, philosophers and, of course, students.

The Conférence therefore organized a Symposium dedicated to these issues, at Sophia Antipolis, at the Agora France Télécom, with the assistance of the University of California at Berkeley (UCB) , the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.I.T.) , and the Conference of European Schools for Advanced Engineering Education and Research (CESAER) . The Confe'rence received, for this work, the support of the European Commission (DG XII), of industrialists, and of the French government. 155 participants attended the meetings, including 76 from France, 28 Americans, 47 Europeans (non - French, and including Central Europeans), and 4 Canadians.

Among those who attended were eminent personalities such as the Chancellor and the Vice - Chancellor of UCB, the Vice - President of MIT, and the President of CESAER, as well as a Counselor of the President of the European Commission, a Nobel Prize - winner in Physics, a former Ministre de la Recherche of France, the Secretary - General of the Club of Rome, and others.

* The Principal Themes

The organizers launched workshops bearing upon four precise subjects which have global implications:

  1. Business in the Context of the Globalization of Markets,
  2. "Megascience", or Fundamental Research,
  3. The "Autoroutes de l'Information" / the Information Superhighways,
  4. Biotechnology and the Environment.

1) Business in the Context of the Globalization of Markets

Business strategy consists of searching for alliances which will be beneficial in the competitive arenas in which businesses are involved. But the basic endeavor remains competition, in a general context in which barriers in the market economy are becoming more and more transparent. The expression "competitive partnership" has been used: its ambiguity demonstrates the complexity of the situation well.

The determining role increasingly played by government regulations was emphasized. In this regard, local regulations concerning investments, notably, can perceptibly and permanently influence business decisions, and affect the operation of competition.

2) "Megascience", or Fundamental Research

If there is one area in which one might expect to find productive cooperation under way, it would be in Fundamental Research involving large instruments, or "Megascience". The construction of large telescopes and of more and more powerful particle accelerators necessarily must be occasions for collective work, giving rise to publications in common which are accessible to all. This in fact is what has happened in a certain number of cases.

But the situation is not so simple, and the contributor is becoming more and more interested in the return on his investments, not only because he is human but also in his capacity as a citizen: the competition among nations is perhaps more discreet than it has been in the past, but it still is present.

3) The "Autoroutes de l'Information" / the Information Superhighways

The development of "Information Superhighways" supposes, apparently, that they will be made available to an increasing number of people, and will contain more and more information: they will be a tool of collaboration insofar as they permit easier communication, thanks to electronic mail -- and they also are, perhaps most importantly, accelerators of competition. "We have to bring our trademark into your bookmark".

As part of this development, the press, whose very purpose is the furnishing of information, has been shaken to its foundations. But it is not alone! What is becoming of copyright, of the rights of authors, of the notion itself of authorship?

4) Biotechnology and the Environment

Finally, the environment also is an area which benefits from a global approach. The particular case of biotechnology is interesting, for a living thing is capable of spreading out of control. Cooperation is necessary, but must be undertaken in advance, and in any case well before a crisis develops: the example of the "mad cow disease" is, in this regard, very illuminating.

* Conclusions

Several conclusions are suggested.

First, and even in an arena which was composed primarily of academics, everyone became aware of the depth of the ideological split which exists between the Americans and the Europeans (even if in practice things are more complex).

For the Americans, competition is the engine of progress: it is competition which must have the advantage -- and, therefore, the free play of the laws of the market must be favored as much as possible. It is felt that the other problems, although serious, will find their solutions at some other time.

This is not the approach of the Europeans, who wish to be able to control -- in a more precise manner, and through actions which are collective -- the changes, which are so ominous and so often shocking from a moral point of view, which derive from an unrestrained liberalism.

Without forgetting the serious and notorious setbacks of American society, one cannot help but be impressed by its dynamism and its rebound capacity, both of which enable it to surmount great obstacles. As one example, the restructuring of the military establishment after the end of the Cold War -- which so troubles France still, in 1996 -- is nearly completed in the US, and the US armaments industry, after a short difficult period, now is more competitive than ever.

Then too, it was observed that all of this relies on the development of science and technological innovation. Now there are movements under way in many countries -- including the U.S.A -- which are hostile toward science and technology, considering them to be agents of the destruction of nature. Will these movements become significant enough to restrain the development? This is unlikely, but it is an hypothesis which should not be ignored.

Otherwise, two absences were noted. The first, that of Asia and in particular Japan, concerned that of one of the grand actors of the global economy. Its views, however, doubtless would be very close to those of the Americans, whose model exerts a very real fascination in this region.

On the other hand it was noted that all of our discussions concerned only the actors in the global economy, an economy controlled 90% by the members of the G7. This excludes about 3/4 of the planet, and this gulf is widening. This is morally unacceptable, so can this situation continue? It is a question for which a response must be found soon: history shows no reason for us to be very optimistic here.

And regarding education, on what path do we set our students? One of the speakers remarked that the question of direction, a primordial one, now is posed in a manner which is more and more complex: we are like navigators who have only outdated maps.

Polyvalence -- that is to say an openness to multiple technologies, and to cultural variety -- can help us to progress: it is in this spirit that teaching ought to be organized and, in this regard, Europe possesses a certain advantage. In the final analysis the cooperation - competition dialectic may only be managed by a humanistic approach, a middle path between the exaltation of the individual, which can lead to cynicism, and that of the collectivity, which can lead to totalitarianism.

XXX

More information about the Confe'rence des Grandes Ecoles Symposium, which was held in May of 1996 in Sophia Antipolis, France, may be found online at the address,

http://sunsite.berkeley.edu/IS3/

XXX

FYI France (sm)(tm) e - newsletter        ISSN 1071 - 5916

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