“There needs to be a paradigm shift of technological innovation in public policy and discourse”

Grandstand. For a decade, we have been experiencing major technological changes (artificial intelligence, big data, blockchain, etc.). Their scale and their effects on our economies and our societies promise to be comparable to the emergence of computing in the 1970s, or even to that of electricity at the turn of the 20th century.and century. But they raise many questions about their impact on our lives.

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Discourses and policies on these innovations value them above all as economic phenomena which must be taken advantage of in terms of growth: they improve the competitiveness of companies and create new possibilities for activity. These innovations are seen as being the result of research and development activities carried out within private or public centres, following a process involving successively basic research and applied research, then development and marketing activities, carried out more or less independently of each other.

But this conception of innovation, which can be described as “closed”, is anachronistic: for at least two decades, open innovation practices have been developing, involving multiple actors (industrialists, users and customers, groups of citizens and associations, public authorities, etc.).

Motivations other than market

Moreover, valuing innovations in this way amounts to favoring their economic dimension alone and, worse, to denying their real impact on our societies for at least two reasons. First, it eludes the consequences of innovations on social and societal levels, and on the functioning of our democratic institutions. Consequences which generally only appear much later, like social networks, which have become privileged channels of misinformation.

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This representation of technological innovations also assumes that their acceptance by consumers and beneficiaries is self-evident. The latter are then reduced to an economic function of consuming innovative products and services, without being involved in the design process. This has the effect of shrouding new technologies in mystery and undermining their public acceptability, as illustrated by the fact that the vaccination campaign carried out to overcome the crisis due to Covid-19 has faced much resistance among the population. .

These findings call for a paradigm shift of technological innovation in policies and public discourse. It is becoming, in particular, necessary to think about innovation with regard, on the one hand, to its potential impact on the lives of men and women, and, on the other hand, to its ability to further promote their integration into the design and distribution processes. This is how socially useful innovations can emerge from partnerships between multiple actors, often driven by needs and motivations other than commercial ones, which was the case, in particular, of respirators “DIY” by doctors and engineers from diving masks, during the first weeks of the Covid-19 crisis.

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“There needs to be a paradigm shift of technological innovation in public policy and discourse”

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