11/29/2021 by Preligens
Paul Hermelin, Capgemini’s CEO answers our 3 questions following the release of his book "La science en procès" (Science on Trial)
We are living in a time of general questioning of everything that appears to be "the elites". Faced with a world that is experienced as dysfunctional and increasingly unequal, many people are looking for a single, hidden cause that would somehow explain what seems wrong to them. Hence the rise of conspiracy theory. And this leads to questioning the very principles of the experimental approach. In the name of the debate, we heard almost equally from the 'reassurance' doctors who told us that Covid was just a nasty flu and from the medicine that we will call official but which includes 95% of specialists.
The technological society is not without responsibility in the attacks on the environment or in the industrial changes that affect people's lives; the mistrust of nuclear power is based on a few facts and many perceptions, and other fears have taken over - GMOs, which have nutritional potential for deficient populations in particular. But I believe that these fears should force us to ask even more of science and not to engage in magical incantations.
Today's challenges lead me to bet even more on science and technology, even if they have enabled development, which is not unrelated to the environmental crisis. We must therefore look for ways to better master these incomparable tools of emancipation that are science and technology. In terms of education, information and regulation.
What seems to be central to me is to better understand the world and to do this we need to gather all the data we have. And, with a better understanding of this data, we need to better exploit it to better understand what is happening. This is the power of artificial intelligence and, as such, it is indeed one of the essential levers for action. At the same time, the words intelligence combined with artificial raise fears. The old fear that the products of human intelligence will escape them. The myth of the Golem is back in force. The power of these so-called neural networks must therefore be explained and explained again. The concrete applications must be shown: thanks to AI, we are also fighting cancer and adapting the treatment of patients more effectively!
But we must not underestimate other infinitely promising fields of research. Biology is undoubtedly the first, with the resources of molecular engineering - and I am thinking of these new vaccines - and the exploitation of the genome in therapeutics. There are so many other use possible.
We must resist the naïve temptation to imagine setting up a sort of licence to lead, with prior verification of the scientific and technical knowledge of candidate leaders. I believe that, above all, we need to invest much more in education. In order to make the understanding of the challenges of the modern world the first thing that young citizens learn when they leave compulsory education.
Not by imposing a doctrine or a religion on them, but by cultivating in them the ability to ask questions and then to seek answers. This must be done by all means, written, audiovisual and social networks. Faced with more demanding citizens, politicians will have little choice: they too will have to inform themselves, understand and build their promises on the world as it is. And when faced with a problem or a crisis, as is the case with any scientific approach, one must start by trying to understand its nature, imagine solutions, test them and finally deploy the best one that has been found. Without forgetting to consider the possible - and sometimes negative - consequences of these actions and then correct them. This is at the very heart of the experimental approach that has fuelled our scientific adventure for three centuries.