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Technical innovation, an “economy of promise”

The review of reviews. The political and media discourse is crossed by words of innovation and technological progress. An alpha and omega at the same time of the efforts of the private and public actors, and solutions to bring to “our problems” whatever they are. The historians, sociologists and political scientists gathered in this edition of the journal of sociology are working to decipher this “economy of the promise”, contemporary avatar of the religious paradises and the social utopias of the previous centuries, without sparing the speech of anti mistrust -technician who grows in parallel with the permanent affirmation of the both desirable and inevitable character of “new technologies” – 5G, autonomous car, gene therapy …

This “economy of promise” is first expressed through its rhetoric and its well-oiled dramaturgy of “technical conferences” which are the feast of the evenings and social networks of Silicon Valley, where start-upers come to feast on their pitch them business angels from which they are trying to extract money. Because the promise must contain, like the pastis of Marius, a third of scientific prowess, a third of dream of human progress for good (“For the good”), and a large third of exponential profitability. At least theoretical because the strength of the economy of innovations is to resist all the crashes, bankruptcies and failures of mirobolants business models.

Any problem posed by technique is resolved by the promise … of a new technique

The authors thus study the play of the various actors of this economy by showing the importance of the public authorities in the legitimization and the valorization of the technical discourse, just as important as that of investors wandering from promise to promise to place immense liquidities in poor placement. These inventors have become all the more experts in ad hoc rhetoric as they see the public budgets of their laboratories dwindling like pain. They are in contact with a whole world of intermediaries, lawyers, consultants, analysts and think tanks, grafted onto the arteries of financial flows, public and private.

The authors underline, in the detour of their articles, the real characteristics of innovative technologies: their extreme vulnerability in the face of natural disasters and human malevolence; their fundamental ambivalence in the simultaneous production of positive or negative effects; and, above all, as the philosopher Jacques Ellul already observed in … 1954, the increasing empowerment of technical progress. The latter obeys its own logics and the interests of its actors without neither political power nor society being able to question its role and control, since any problem posed by technique is settled by the promise … of a new technique . In a world where the enchanted discourse of technique is increasingly moving away from a reality “Limits, side effects, breakdowns and accidents (…) the question of political deliberation around technical choices can no longer be avoided. ”, conclude the authors.

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