Children of the digital era are accustomed to receiving information really fast. They like to parallel process and multi-task. Philosopher Michel Serres describes them as no longer having the same heads. Is it a generational question? In any case educators cannot ignore the new thinking patterns. Our schools must take them into account, not only in adapting teaching methods but also in inventing a new role in a Society that consumes knowledge instantly.
Knowledge is becoming increasingly important in our economies and Society at large, to the extent that a new expression has been coined to baptize this new development phase: the knowledge-based economy. Characterized by the growing contribution of production, dissemination and uses made of knowledge (intangible or immaterial capital) to the competitiveness of enterprises and nations, the knowledge-based economy calls for future citizens and workers to be taught a renewed set of skills, differing partly from those developed during the industrial era.
The Internet has revolutionized our access to knowledge. Why should education not be affected? Institutions are evolving, but the arrival of new technologies and practices such as MOOCs have only had a limited impact thus far. Yet it is now apparent that we stand at the dawn of major changes. It is not just the new tools that will change matters but an in-depth evolution of Society and our economies.
In 2005, the web digitized a new and unexpected field: social relationships. By organizing our social life, the Web 2.0 and social networks have transformed our lives. At the dawn of 2015, digital technologies are about to enter another new and awaited field: our relationship with ourselves. This unlikely encounter between technology and psychology forebodes a radical transformation of our everyday life, a third phase of the digital revolution.
Achieving an energy transition is obviously necessary in the long run, but the situation is much more confusing in the short and mid-term perspectives. Between technological breakthroughs and geopolitical changes, evolutions are difficult to predict. The energy transition has begun and will continue. But if we wish to draw up an overall picture, it is the ambiguities and uncertainties that prevail.
We bathe in a controlled digital reality where a multitude of information flows converge. Processing these data has become a sensitive issue inasmuch as they relate to our private sphere, to our intimacy. Personal control is only partly effective since almost nobody knows how to implement it seriously. This is why experts have been discussing the opportunity of Big Data governance. How can we proceed? Alongside the institutional answers based on the emergence of control authorities, one possible path forward could be via ethical data mining.
The irreversible momentum of MOOCs is penetrating all levels of China's education system, providing students with unprecedented freedom to select courses and access the best educational recourses at home and abroad. Some institutions have taken the lead, but the question is not just one of strategy for universities. In a nation where education reform is imperative, it is MOOCs that are forcing the Chinese education system to move.
The question addresses Europe, as well as emerging countries: how can we ever hope to have an influence on Internet governance if there is no strong, industrial power operating in the digital field?
The energy mix can be defined as the distribution of primary energy sources consumed to produce various types of energy used in a given country. For different reasons, running from availability of the resources to policies enacted in the fight against global warming, national energy mixes will necessarily evolve over the coming decades. However, the natural inertia of history and the political and economic costs make the changes difficult. What are the most promising routes to transition?
Robots are machines capable of endlessly repeating the same operation, without fatigue or making mistakes. With such qualities, they are now quietly moving into many areas of our socio-economic world, replacing human operators deemed less reliable and more expensive. Medicine, especially surgery, is a prime demand field for robots. The latter can carry out very precise operations, in a cluttered environment, reducing the risks for both the surgeon and the patient.
Following suit to the Guggenheim Museum, a number of Western cultural institutions have launched a series of spectacular offshoring operations, exporting their trademarks and their specific know-how. Playing somewhere between influence diplomacy and cultural marketing, museums and universities in the Western world are trying their luck in the new Paradises of the Middle East or Asia. What are the expected benefits and what are their strategies?
The sudden and widespread advent of Massive Online Open Courses took universities by surprise and could potentially bring in-depth changes in the Higher Education scene. Still, major questions remain unsolved, such as: what business models are adapted to the new educational actors? Have the major American platforms already won the day, or is there still room for outsiders?
A short distribution channel is defined either by direct sale from producer to consumer or by the indirect sale, provided that there is only one intermediary. Long confined to activist circles, this alternative model is now moving out of the margins. What are its prospects? Can it prove a game changer?
Artificial intelligence (AI) and expert systems are less trendy in 2014 than they were back in 1974 but since that time they have never ceased developing and the processing power of today's computers opens ever wider prospects. In the same way that robots have changed factories, the rapid advent of expert systems has changed numerous skilled office workers' jobs. Some have been transformed, others destroyed. What is at stake is the very existence of our middle-classes, the core of modern economies. But the final word here is not written on the wall yet, inasmuch as the concept of expertise is also changing very rapidly.
The precautionary principle is frequently cited in major international statements. However, implementing it still stirs up a lot of debate: is it feasible, is it advisable? Today with hindsight, controversy and experience have enabled us to better frame a somewhat abstract idea that is still seeking its path forward. Two countries only, France and Ecuador have appended the principle to their respective Constitutions and in the former we see some emblematic examples of difficulties to be overcome in enforcing the Principle.
Asia and key emerging countries have embarked in an impressive movement of infrastructure urbanization and modernization. And while these major projects mobilize international expertise, they are however quite different from those conducted in Europe or the United States. The decision-making processes are not the same, and today's architects and planners are putting an emphasis on the very experience of space, which varies considerably from one culture to another.
In emerging economies, the question is now being raised: will a parallel development of middle class and car driving paralyze the megacities? Advanced countries are already experimenting new solutions. How can we banish the spectre of urban immobility?
The arrival of MOOCs both fascinates and scares our Higher Education actors. Is it a game changer? Institutions may be challenged, but to-day the most significant difference seems to concern the teaching experience. Five pionniers share their experience.
The advent of intelligent transportation systems creates opportunities for many players, from the Internet giants to the pioneers of the sharing economy... including smart public authorities. But who will invest? How to share costs and profits? And who will own the data?
Modern economies really need high level research scientists, but there are difficulties when it comes to proposing job openings to the PhDs. We have reached a point now where question has become: what is the real value attached to a doctoral degree, both for Society as a whole and for those who register for demanding studies at this level? Might we be faced with a glut of PhDs? The issue is on the table and when we reframe it, it opens up a new prospective.