Mankind's Vital Spirit Propels It towards New Fields of Development
Where does technological progress stand today, and in what ways will it be able, over the next ten years, to resolve the crisis we are experiencing? In the past five years it has accelerated rapidly in the fields of biotechnology and electronics. The new spheres seem limitless, and include time, space and organic matter.
1. Biotechnologies should succeed in reducing famine, disease and overpopulation.
Tomorrow, the combined use of biochemistry, microbiology and genetic engineering will open the way to industrial micro-organism production, and will transform entire economic sectors. The latter will include not only the chemistry and pharmaceutical sectors, but food and energy as well.
The food sector will derive the greatest benefits from biological discoveries in the medium term. Their application will increase yields considerably, and will save on fertilizers, which are costly to produce in terms of energy. Thanks to these technologies, a new agrofood industry is in the making, which will revolutionize all facets of agricultural production.
New microbiological techniques will allow for protein savings in agriculture. This development, which will allow proteins to be used primarily for human consumption, will furnish new hope for an assured food supply in the Third World.
2. Electronics is multiplying productive and creative capacities.
Micro-electronics, new composite materials and optical fibres will radically transform such established industries as telecommunications, transport and the mechanical industry, while creating new ones, such as robotics and office automation.
This is already a reality: in ten years, the capacity of integrated electronic circuits has increased a hundredfold, while their cost has dropped a thousandfold. This trend will continue to progress rapidly. The development of bulk storage and the use of laser videodiscs improve data processing performance, reduce production costs and create new consumer goods. Products which were non-existent in 1975 are now available to an increasing number of users (personal computers, videotape recorders, videodiscs) and their market will be ten times larger in 1990.
Industrial robotization has begun to be used in our countries. Thousands of highly sophisticated robots are in use throughout the world. They increase productivity in many operational sectors, including the automobile, electrical, electronics and nuclear industries. Before the end of this decade, robot inventory will increase ten- to twelvefold, and they will perform increasingly complex tasks, thus changing labor organization, and restating the employment question in radically different terms.
3. Energy technologies will develop rapidly over the next twenty years.
Technologies such as bioenergy, geothermal and solar energy, will contribute substantially to resources already in use. Nuclear energy, carefully controlled, will modify the operations of several key sectors in our economies, and progress made in the field of chemistry will alter techniques of exploration, extraction, transport, storage and use of hydrocarbons.
4. Lastly, new spheres are opening up to our intelligence.
I shall limit myself to only a few examples here:
-- Oceanographic exploration will allow us to discover and extract deposits of heretofore unknown natural resources, energy and minerals.
-- Space exploration will multiply our means of communication. In ten years' time, several hundred satellites will permit a complete earth observation system to be established and advanced communications systems to be developed.
-- These new communication technologies will usher in a new form of civilization. The proliferation and interdependence of electronic information systems will influence our everyday lives, ways of communicating and value systems. In ten years, tens of millions of personal computers will be in use. Videotape recorders, videocameras and cable television will become familiar household objects. With "electronic banking" permitting long-distance transactions to be carried out, the everyday activities and traditional behavior patterns of the consumer will be modified.
Communication is already becoming worldwide. The same television series, political and sports events, are viewed in hundreds of countries.
The modern orientation of the traditional means of knowledge and information dissemination is already precipitately changing inter-personal relations, as well as those between different social groups, nations and regions of the world.
How will these changes, among many others, transform the challenges facing us?
The technological revolution, by increasing our control over matter, time and space, shapes the evolution of our economics, life-styles, thought patterns and systems of reference.
It will have a positive or dangerous effect on unemployment, inflation and growth, according to the way in which it is managed.
Without further delay, and in the interests of democracy and peace, we must draw on the immense resources of knowledge.
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