by Jack Kessler, email@example.com
3.00 FYI France: Enewsletter and archive
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From: Jack Kessler
Subject: the Grandes Ecoles, on the Future (part 1 of 3) (15 Nov 93) November 15, 1993 FYI France: the Grandes Ecoles, on the Future (part 1 of 3) by: Jack Kessler firstname.lastname@example.org A bulletin: those of you interested in the Bibliothe`que de France, including the many who have asked to see "proceedings" from last year's UC Berkeley conference, might be happy to learn that the conference papers at last appeared, in September, in a special issue ("Future Libraries") of the periodical _representations_ (Berkeley: UC Press, Spring 1993, ISSN 0734-6018, US$ 7.50). The volume is well-edited and very usefully introduced by Howard Bloch and Carla Hesse of UCB, organizers of the original conference. It includes an elegant essay by Geoffrey Nunberg, intriguing pieces by Roger Chartier and others who attended the conference, and additional interesting contributions on the topic from other writers. Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie appears as well, talking about "My Everydays" in his role as administrateur of the BN, a role quite possibly to be expanded shortly to include administration of the BdF. Well worth reading, for a well-rounded, thoughtful consideration of a topic which has generated too much hysteria in France as elsewhere. *** FYI France: the Grandes Ecoles, on the Future (part 1 of 3) "International Symposium II", held November 8-10 at the University of California at Berkeley, was convened by UC Berkeley, MIT, and the French Confe'rence des Grandes Ecoles. The stated topic was "The Culture of Engineering in a Rapidly Changing World / L'inge'nieur et sa culture dans un monde en mutation". But what emerged was a range of global issues which far exceeded the original broad aims of the conference's designers. The French and the Americans, and representatives from 18 other countries, plunged into debates, from the outset, about the future of engineering education, the future of education in general, the social meaning of high technology, and the future of society. It was quite a conference. In the brave new world of networked information, the Americans' greatest competitors are the French. This is not the world of computers or networks or simply hi-tech, but of hi-tech applications, the new pre-occupation which has taken over the hi-tech industry and topic, as hardware and software have become cheaper, more standardized, and boring. There are other players in networked information, but few as advanced as are the French, and none so far with the potential of becoming as fierce competitors of the US as the French possess. So this gathering of engineering leaders from France and the US touched upon some timely themes. This is to be a report, then, on a remarkable gathering of exceptional people at a special time. The French and the US have become world leaders in networked information just at the time when networked information is preparing to "go public" -- in the US and outside France, at least, as the French Minitel has had "public" users for some time -- and other professions, like librarians, might take comfort from discovering that even the engineers are worried about it. The First Day: French Questions and American Answers UC Berkeley Chancellor Chang-Lin Tien, an accomplished scientist himself, opened the conference with his habitual energy and enthusiasm, nevertheless warning the audience not only that "everything which happens in science affects what we do in the world", but also that, "everything which we do in the world affects what we do in science". Since the formation of the group sponsoring the conference, nearly a decade ago, there have been great changes, he said: the end of the Cold War, the information revolution, and the recent global economic weakness among them. One problem of particular concern to him is the recent massive increase in the world's refugees: 18 million people, with an additional 24 million inside their own countries, or more than the combined populations of Scandinavia, the Netherlands and Belgium, Tien said -- he himself had been a refugee, he told us, and he had known the difficulties which these people face. "There is a new diversity in our society," Tien said, "of ethnicity, language, and culture." Of the conference, he observed, "The bridge across the Atlantic is firm. Let us forge a bridge across the Pacific Ocean as well." He appealed for open discussions which might help the world with these problems, then ended on the more local note, "Go Bears!" Jacques Levy, Director of the Ecole des Mines and current President of the Confe'rence des Grandes Ecoles, began the French contribution by outlining the history of the symposium itself, and observing that there has been a great increase in the student population over the decade since the effort began. Bernard Sutter, former Director of Enseignement Supe'rieur des Te'le'communications, noted a broadening in the concerns of engineers during the same time: the first symposium had focussed on "Competitions and Partnerships", he noted, while this second one was focussing on "Culture". Pierre Lafitte, former director of the Ecole des Mines, Honorary President of the Confe'rence des Grandes Ecoles, and now a French Senator, then gave an eloquent and animated address, appealing to the audience to "remember the illiterate as well as the higher level" in the population, during their deliberations. There is a political role in the engineer's task, Lafitte urged: there are issues of technocracy and meritocracy which must be considered. He mentioned St. Simon. He appeared to be appealing for a new model of an "engineer engage'": there is a role for the scientist in debates over the ethics of science for example, he suggested, if only to balance the roles now played there by lawyers and other professionals. Senator Lafitte called for a reconsideration of the ideal of the "honne^te homme": the ideal of broad cultural exposure which ruled engineering education in the Enlightenment but which, he feels, recently has been rejected. A nineteenth century alliance between industrialization and the "Romantic Rebellion", Lafitte said, divorced general culture from engineering, creating a gap which now must be closed. Art, poetry and philosophy are connected with science, he asserted. They are necessary now to engineering education, moreover, because engineering now is, like other professions, becoming more of a service industry: it no longer is just "hardware" and "software" -- the arts, music, and politics are becoming an engineering necessity, and future engineers will have to know about foreign languages and foreign cultures. "If engineers don't want to become isolated, they must become the humanists of the Third Millenium," Senator Lafitte declared. Other Europeans appeared to agree, with the French Senator, that engineering education should be broadened. Manfredo Macioti, Scientific Counselor to DGXIII of the European Communities, observed that the European engineer has coped with many efforts to better-integrate Europe since the second World War, but still faces challenges: 1) technology must be brought to market, 2) globalism must become a factor in engineering, 3) engineering must take better account of problems like unemployment and the environment, and 4) Eastern Europe must be addressed on the engineering agenda. Professor Andre' Grelon, of the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, observed that engineers have an advantage in having a common professional faith in the rational development of society. Armand Hatchuel of the Ecole des Mines urged, though, that engineers become both scientists and managers: modern technologies are open, he pointed out -- they have become answers in search of questions, requiring people skilled in both science and management to deal with the questions as well as with the answers. A questioner from the audience deplored the fact that culture somehow has evolved into a defense system against technology, wishing that the trend might be reversed. Another mentioned a recent study of the percentages of research-oriented firms which had scientists on their boards: 70% in Japan, 50% in Europe, and only 20% in the US. The French and European preoccupation, on this first day, was with engineering, its education, and its role. The faith, and interest, in rationality -- in the ability to affect events by making changes -- perseveres, at least in France and Europe. One telling observation made from the audience in the morning session was that a problem with French engineering education is that it does not just select, or even educate, only for engineering: the great French engineering schools long have served as training grounds for the country's ruling elite -- if the schools' role is to manage the filtering of the French elite, does this not greatly increase the need for broadening the educational approach, the questioner wondered. The Americans had other concerns, though, which began to come out that afternoon. A sort of "American rejoinder" was offered, in a session chaired by UC Berkeley's Provost for Research, Joseph Cerny. James McGroddy, Director of Research of IBM's Thomas J. Watson Research Center, offered some lessons from his firm's recent bitter experiences. "Customers value large aggregates," he warned, to wry but sympathetic smiles in the audience, "not components". A firm's "ability to develop intellectual capital" is its paramount skill, he feels. He worried about the universities: he observed that in a modern world of great change only a few institutions profess pride in tracing their origins to the 14th century, and that among these are "a couple of religions, and a couple of universities". He warned that we must never "become trapped by that which we know", that we "should learn things which we don't 'need' to know". Charles Vest, President of MIT, recalled Yale's Bart Giamatti once musing that being a modern university president was using a 13th century position to run a billion-dollar modern corporation. Much can be and is being done nevertheless, Vest said. The challenges of what he calls "Post-Modern Engineering" are to introduce notions of human intervention into the engineering mindset. The boundary between science and engineering must be blurred, Vest said, as must be that between engineering and the humanities and social sciences. There must be a new combination of precision with creativity. He described the "MIT-Japan" program, and a new MIT project to train "leaders for tomorrow", in partnership with corporations. Roger Werne, Associate Director for Engineering and Technology Transfer for Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, then tackled defence conversion, and the whole problem of defining, narrowly, a "new role for national labs" and, broadly, a new role for scientific research. The old motivator -- the Cold War -- is gone, he pointed out, and we now have found that there is, "more confusion in victory than in defeat". Our economic problems, and increased foreign competition are showing, moreover, that "government must support US industry, not just regulate it", Werne asserted. To help the private sector, there must be 1) spinoff technology, 2) cooperative research, and 3) breakthrough R&D: this last being the role of the national labs, said Werne. "Breakthrough" research and development is needed wherever industry faces a "Grand Challenge", Werne believes: the problem of the automobile and the environment, for example, or that of taking the "NOX and SOX" pollutants out of diesel engines, or developments such as "soft" x-rays, parallel processing algorithms, the human genome, or micro-surgery advances -- all of these are valid national lab concerns, he feels, if only because their solution often is necessary to carry out some already-stated government policy. That they are, in addition, problems too large and too risky for private corporate research makes the need for national lab involvement doubly urgent, Werne said. Professor Langdon Winner of RPI, a political scientist, then began the raising of some of the sleeping questions, which was to continue from then on throughout the conference. "What of the new relation between science and technology and the citizen?", he asked. In the past, we have focused on economics, Winner believes, but there has been a lack of focus on the social and cultural effects of science and engineering: we have looked at the economic pump, he says, but now we must examine a cultural loom. The Interstate Highway System, for example, Winner continued, so often used now as a metaphor for networked information developments, had bad side-effects on society which must be studied. The Clinton administration wants us to consider "infrastructure", but we also must examine the weakening of American democracy and bureaucracy now being exploited, Winner said, by "a certain Texas billionaire". "Can citizens be included in new ways?", Winner wonders: might the information revolution become, in this respect, as significant as was the American Revolution? The National Information Infrastructure project represents, to Winner, a chance to redefine the fundamental distinction in America between "public and private things". Winner proposed, to this audience of engineers, that for every dollar given to new "R&D", five cents might be given to the consideration of the social and cultural consequences of that R&D: a consideration which might include "town meetings" of ordinary citizens. The planning of technology must be democratized, he declared, observing that engineers normally "don't communicate well with the public". This is a time, Winner observed, in which communication with the public is becoming critical. "Hierarchies are flattening, organizations are becoming 'lean'", says Winner: in regular corporate and other institutional reorganizations, which are becoming known as "Operation Fresh Meat", anyone who cannot communicate well is in trouble, he said. Much though there was unease in the audience at Winner's remarks, there was even more at hearing both Vest and Werne describing the newly increased involvement of MIT and Livermore with private industry. Engineering always has been at the frontier between "pure" and "applied" science, one attendee observed, and the position never has been comfortable. (Next: end of The First Day, and The Second Day -- Networking Nuts and Bolts.) *** FYI France: the Grandes Ecoles, on the Future (part 2 of 3) The first day of "International Symposium II" -- the joint conference of the University of California at Berkeley, MIT, and the French Confe'rence des Grandes Ecoles, held November 8-10 at Berkeley -- defined French and American positions which were relatively far apart, on engineering, education, and a few aspects of a general approach to life. These differences, particularly as regards information networking, became a little more obvious on the conference's second day, in a Workshop entitled, "Information Technology and Management", organized by Franc,ois Bar of the Berkeley Roundtable on the International Economy. First, though, the conclusion of The First Day's afternoon sessions, which was venturing into dangerous areas such as "the frontier between 'pure' and 'applied science'", and whether even engineers, like everyone else, now must redefine their discipline in light of the strides made by networked information? A question was posed worrying that the "shorter time horizons" which previously plagued and now are of great concern to IBM and the rest of industry will be transferred to the universities, to the extent that university- industry partnerships are expanded. Vest of MIT cautioned that he is well aware of this risk, and that his institution always will reserve a place for purely "academic" interests in research. It was suggested that a recovery from the current global economic recession might do much to alleviate the pressures felt by universities to move toward private industry. A questioner from Weyerhauser Corporation described the "continuing education" program which that firm has mounted internally. Winner brought up, acidly, the spectres of "tele-conferencing" and "just-in-time-training" being substituted for his own field, education. What is needed, he said, is a "lean and swift problem-solver". Vest reminded the audience that there still is a need for a "diversity of institutions", that while his mandate at MIT might be to draw closer to industry, that did not mean that all institutions must do so: the basic question, he feels, is "how to continue fundamental research while doing industry research?" The conference then shifted to a panel discussion, which tried to tie together the European and American views. Jacques Bodelle, of Elf-Aquitaine, a long- time US resident, observed that in the US one "practices" engineering, while in France one "studies" engineering. Culture and education are somewhat at odds in the US, Bodelle feels, where the narrower focus produces "training" for what might be a broader cultural exposure. Bodelle praised, however, the US injection of entrepreneurship into engineering education, and pointed out the great strength in US continuing education, supported strongly by the corporations. Richard Atkinson, UC San Diego Chancellor and a former National Science Foundation director, then took a strong swipe at recent belittling characterizations of fundamental research as being merely "curiousity-driven". We are in for a "major sea change" in academia, he declared, for which his own campus has prepared by promoting a "Graduate School in International Relations and Pacific Studies". Dominique De Werra, Vice President of the Swiss Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne, then reminded the conference that the true educational mission was "to produce leaders rather than trailers", and that the terms "crisis" and "chance" are equated in Chinese. Daniel Gourisse, Director of the Ecole Centrale de Paris observed that, in these times, international thinking would act as an accelerator, and national thinking as a brake, and urged that engineers be encouraged to work for double degrees. Patrick Holmes, former Dean of London's Imperial College suggested, further, that a first engineering degree be considered not professional but merely preliminary, that marketing of products must become a concern of engineers, and that institutions themselves might even begin to divide into either research or teaching functions. Charles Shank, Director of the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory, almost defensively asserted that the new reality is that all research needs partnerships to pursue complex problems. "Facilities must be leveraged", he said, "to produce economic results"; there is an effort now, "to make science pay". Nevertheless, he reminded the audience, ten years ago "cooperation" would have been in high-energy physics, while today the largest US DOE programs concern the environment. Shank joined Atkinson in condemning a recent characterization of basic research as "curiosity-driven", which makes science, he said, appear to be merely "self-indulgent". The Second Day: Networking Nuts and Bolts Andres Albanese, of Berkeley's International Computer Science Institute, suggested, in the Workshop on Information Technology and Management, that information technology might be viewed generally as a system, for connecting information users with information providers, consisting of three layers: 1) delivery, 2) service, and 3) the information itself. For this purpose, he suggested further, a) local area networks, b) metropolitan area networks, and c) wide area networks have been designed. Too little attention has been given to the intermediate-size metropolitan networks he feels: a point which became important in subsequent Workshop discussion. Domenico Ferrari, a professor at Berkeley in computer science, then ably took on the job of summarizing the current state of network engineering, outlining efforts to handle high speeds and multiple types of traffic, with high utilization and low costs. He described current trends as representing a fundamental shift "from text to digitized multimedia", and guided the Workshop through the latest alphabet soup of acronyms: "FDDI", "HIPPI", "DQDB", "SMDS", and the latest engineering-solution-to-all-problems, "ATM". Ferrari interestingly cautioned that all the current enthusiasts for networked multimedia may face a quality-threshold problem: consumers are used to congestion-free transmission in television, and won't stand the many little interruptions which thus far still plague output on the packet networks, he said. It was then the job of Larry Landweber, of the University of Wisconsin, to put flesh on the bones. He produced the standard Internet "stun" statistics, of which he is an acknowledged master -- "10 to 20 million users", "2 million host computers, of which 30% now are outside the US", "10 to 20 terabytes of data transferred per month", "10 to 15% growth per month" -- and some useful little, sketchy, graphs which help identify the roles of things like the Internet and NREN and HPCC and "gigabit testbed programs" amid all the talk of the "NII / National Information Infrastructure". Commercialization currently is the great challenge, Landweber acknowledged: everyone knows that it's coming, rapidly, and no one yet is quite sure how to handle it, in terms of data flows or in other respects. There now are five high-speed, high-capacity "gigabit testbeds" scattered around the United States, to test the newest techniques, named "CASA", and "BLANCA" -- someone liked the Bogart film, Landweber explained -- and "NECTAR", "AURORA", and "VISTANET". The problems which they are addressing include what he called the "Monday Nite Football problem": network links get lost on Monday nights in the US, prompting someone to suggest that Monday Nite Football tv programs' popularity might somehow be crowding into capacity. Congestion control, and problems of bursty traffic -- networked information "packets" which "burst" in groups upon weak links in the network -- are current concerns. Ideas as radical as "distributed virtual shared memory" -- in which computer memory shared among different points, as in a "parallel-processing" super-computer, now might be shared out among remote locations via the networks -- even are being looked at. Speeds are moving higher: the Aurora testbed, for example, now is working at 1.2 gigabits per second, and soon will move to 2.4. The Federal government is devoting money to the research, Landweber said, but private corporations like AT&T are spending much more. The networks' most remarkable feature is interoperability, he said; among their most difficult current problems is that of providing for accounting and billing in what until now has been a non- profit academic test. Claude Gueguen, Director of Eurecom at France's Sophia Antipolis -- a technopolis now called, he says, "Te'le'com Valley" -- carefully bowed out of trying to match Landweber's statistics with their European equivalents. His field, he said, was not giant networks so much as their applications. He mentioned that there are "gigabit testbeds" in Europe, and experimentation is being done with ATM, but the problem which interests him is more "how to define good services", how to make the "transfer from techonology to services. He described a "tele-teaching experiment" which he is conducting over the BETEL / Broadband Exchange over Trans-European Links testbed, in which professors located in Lausanne, Switzerland instruct students located at Eurocom's school in the south of France. The project is to be demonstrated to the European Community in December. William Johnston, of Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory, then spoke of network applications designed "to achieve complete location independence from the laboratory": video-conferencing, imagebase manipulation, "visual servoing" which will allow image processing at a less-than-pixel level. He spoke of the "great demand for reference librarians in the health care community", and predicted a "re-centralization of certain classes of service", resulting from information networking, such as regional data centers, digital record storage facilities, and centralized computing and communications facilities. Johnston doesn't see national structures such as that so far envisaged for the NII / National Information Infrastructure as being imminent; rather, he predicts the earlier formation of local and regional network units -- the MAN / Metropolitan Area Networks referred to by Albanese -- which then may become linked for national communications purposes. Professor Mel Horwitch of the Theseus Institute in France then presented "butterfly models" which showed the extensions, via R&D electronic and non- electronic "networks", which large companies have built to try to stay up with changes in network technology. He asserts, interestingly, that there will be "a resuscitation of 'general management'", resulting from the well-known recent flattening of corporate hierarchies, due both to recession and the influence of automation and telecommunications. Annalee Saxenian of UC Berkeley then suggested that local regions, like Silicon Valley, have much to do with modern technological development: lending more support to Albanese's initial point about the importance of mid-level networks. John King of UC Irvine cautioned, in his interesting presentation, that "academic communities are among the strangest on earth", so that one "can't draw generalizations from academic experience", in situations like, for example, the academic-testbed Internet. Other Workshop speakers made additional points about the technology. But the Workshop star by far was Richard Solomon of MIT, who threw a chart up on the screen showing "Optimists" at the top and "Cynics" at the bottom and "Paranoids" on the right and "Polyannas" on the left, saying that this was his model of the current networking world. No one asked him whether it was his model of the entire world, although several French attendees did ask nearby Americans what a "Polyanna" was. Solomon spoke of a "Cambrian explosion" of technology, which made some biologists in the audience look around nervously. He stabbed at hi-tech firms which "gain market share by encouraging theft": no one knew precisely whom he meant, although there were guesses. He described a California school district which now is entirely wired and computer-and-networking equipped, thanks to parents who came in to do wiring on weekends: we must do "new things new ways", he warned -- to kids who have had a chance at the networks, he said, "television is boring". Solomon speaks at a high-bps, no-flow-control rate, which lost many but impressed all in the audience. John Gage of Sun Microsystems concluded the workshop with what has become his standard warning against encroaching, unanticipated problems of the technology. Portable telephones are snooping devices, he asserted, and recounted the story of his congressional committee appearance at which he tapped in to a nearby telephone conversation using one, just to show the Congressmembers that it could be done. Gage predicts a "massive de- capitalization of the telecommunications industry", shortly, a theme echoed in many corridor conversations throughout the conference: the technology is getting too omni-present, and too inexpensive, people say -- unless a firm gets out of technology and into service it will be left with no profit. The Conference workshops were held simultaneously, so I could attend only one. The other two covered the topics, "New Products (Design, Materials, and Production Technology)", and "'Living World' Engineering in Science, Technology & Society: A Shrinking Globe: Less is More". The Americans must have been in their element in the other two as they were in the one I attended, though. Workshops are practical places, and well-suited for showing off the latest practical developments: the American advances have been stunning, and European Workshop attendees were suitably stunned. Even in the workshops, though, and even among the Americans, there was a rising need for generalization which kept breaking in. MIT's Solomon expressed it well: his presentation kept referring to social issues -- "paranoids" versus "polyannas", the community-effort hard-wiring of that elementary school -- social problems and political choices clearly lurk beneath, or beyond, the dazzling technological tricks. (Next: On the Third Day... : the Engineers, and some Nobel laureates, on the Future.) * FYI France: the Grandes Ecoles, on the Future (part 3 of 3) By the third day of "International Symposium II" -- the joint conference of the University of California at Berkeley, MIT, and the French Confe'rence des Grandes Ecoles, held November 8-10 at Berkeley -- the French and American interests, which had begun relatively far apart, were even more divided. A day of technology wizardry by the Americans had driven home, to several attendees, the separation between French concerns for over-arching views and American interests in fixing their networking bugs. Strong undercurrents had appeared on both sides, the French wishing to understand more about the Americans' innovations, and the Americans genuinely yearning for a little more of the general social thinking which seemed to interest the French, but no synthesis yet had emerged. This challenge was met directly and handsomely by the conference on the third day. On the Third Day... : the Engineers, and some Nobel laureates, on the Future. The final day's session was held in the very pretty meeting room of the university's Alumni house, with an elegant view of tall trees through its large windows. Attempts were made to summarize the findings of the conference. Several speakers referred to changes which have occurred such as the end of the Cold War, the rise of the Far East, the failure of some of the more grand global economic designs, and the rise of nationalism and fundamentalism: all of these, people said, are factors which affect all of us, in engineering and in society in general, on both sides of the Atlantic. The increased rate in knowledge evolution was offered as an example of change: ideas which 50 years ago took fifteen years to bring to fruition now are realized in three. One by-product of this advance speed of R&D has been to render the paper medium out of date, if only because it is too slow. Science and engineering, a speaker warned, would do well to focus on new choices of representation media, and generally to become more aware than they have been of the problem of representation of their ideas. New orientations were called for in science and engineering education: toward environmentalism and the "human" studies -- the humanities, and the social sciences -- and for reorientation of the other studies so that they might have a better appreciation of science and engineering. UC Berkeley Chancellor Tien asserted that, "if engineers are to be part of a global village, they must become concerned with more than technology alone... we must promote dialog about our shared concerns, more engineers must become politicians, and university Chancellors". He announced that a third Symposium conference would be held in late May, 1996, in Paris. Chancellor Tien reiterated a point which he'd heard made in the Tuesday workshop which he himself had attended, that, "in the past we produced for the boss, today we produce for the customer, but tomorrow we must produce for humanity"; and he closed his final talk with the exhortation, "Go Bears!" Jean-Pierre Chevillot, President of the French Conseil Supe'rieur de la Recherche et de la Technologie, then warned, however, that, "what may be provocative in Europe may not be in the US". He agreed that there has been a general scenario of change in R&D, from old models of individual research which prevailed up until the second World War, to teamwork and cooperative laboratory work, to the networks which are emerging now. Research progress no longer is linear, he suggested: it has become a matter of tying together fragmented efforts, at least in Europe. "Pre-competitive" R&D, which was government-supported and gave industry great advantages in the past, will be a handicap in the future, Chevillot warned: increasingly, industry is avoiding submitting strategic questions to cooperative R&D efforts. He suggested that the next R&D model would be "competitive partnership", with active roles for private corporation similar to those being discussed by the Americans. He warned that one, "can't have free market competition in a closed global system", that, "progress needs competition, but it also needs competitors who can't be destroyed". Aimed no doubt at the Americans, this comment raised some American eyebrows. Nobel laureate Charles Townes then warned that the picture of the lone scientist is misleading: science always has had its cooperative research component, he said, pointing to the many successful efforts which grew out of cooperative research during the second World War as an example. He fears, he says, current tendencies toward "monolithism" -- always doing things only in a big way -- as these, in his experience, tend to be inefficient and poorly planned. Townes also encouraged new ideas: "I know of no remarkable new idea which was not opposed, at least initially, by the scientific community." Michel Lavalou, President of the Universite' Technologie de Compie`gne, echoed the calls of others for inter-disciplinarity, team-working, and a background in the humanities, in engineering and in the sciences in general. New connections must be made, he agreed, to draw together teaching and research and entrepreneurs. He cautioned, however, that there would not be one solution: "the engineer is not a clone", he said. Lavalou seemed troubled, about the paradigm of the "global village": he asked a very interesting question, one which has not appeared too often yet in the general blather about information networking -- the problem, he suggested, is not whether there will be a "global village", but "will the global village be peaceful?" The Symposium's final panel, chaired by UC Berkeley's Vice Chancellor, John Heilbron, then took up the problems which had been bothering the non- engineers in the audience, head-on. Stanford's Rene' Girard is a multi-faceted humanities scholar who has written on just about every subject except those addressed by the disciplines represented in the Symposium's audience. His assigned task, he told us, was to be the "provocateur", a word which in the original French does not carry the sinister overtone which it has when used in English, but which nevertheless conveys the general idea, in both cases, of stirring things up. He is profoundly worried, Girard says, about a streak of anti-humanistic and anti-scientific nihilism which he sees rising at Stanford, on American university campuses, and in the world generally. "Our meritocratic criteria are breaking down," Girard asserted, "power now resides in middle administration, which has become devoted to single-issue lobbies". "There is a failure of courage, now, of faculty and of senior administration", he says. "Many feel that this is only a problem for the humanities and the social sciences, but it is a problem also for science," he warned. The problem is worsened, in the US, when, "sophisticated nihilism joins hands with American anti-intellectualism". These problems can't be blamed on diversity and multi-culturalism, which have their own problems but which generally are healthy trends, Girard claimed. Although we have different cultures within our "global village", he reminded us that "twentieth century wars were fought for the same, not different, desires." The true difficulty, he insists, is that there is a "deficit of meaning in our society". "All beginners are radicals," he declared, no doubt thinking of his Stanford students, "but today they can only follow failed revolutions." "There is a real emptiness at the heart of our society," he said, "the spiritual equivalent of the ozone hole". His problem as a teacher, Girard went on, is that in this "crisis of purpose", "we do not know what human life is about, but our youth would like to know. We need something better than, 'the maximum consumerism possible in a sustainable life'". He appealed to the audience: "A university needs universality -- scientists must become involved in this." Heilbron, Vice Chancellor of the neighboring and rival university, offered an initial smiling rejoinder to Girard's remarks, saying, "Thank you for a delicious description of the situation at Stanford." But he and the panel then took up Girard's points very seriously, as reflecting concerns which they -- the French and Americans and others alike -- all share. Bengt Stymme, professor at the Stockholm School of Economics, worried that the "breakdown of our common enemy" might have plunged us into a vacuum. Judson King, UC Berkeley's Provost for Professional Schools and Colleges, called for a "need to teach a way of thinking, not just facts". "Engineering does need a broader educational approach," he said. He observed that of all the professional schools which he supervises, "only engineering is credited at an undergraduate level". "Perhaps engineers also should have a liberal arts background," King suggested. He made a personal proposal that engineering therefore become a graduate degree program only, with the master's becoming the first professional degree, to encourage recruitment of liberal arts undergraduates into engineering. Le'vy of the Ecole des Mines agreed with Girard's presentation of the problem, observing that while J.S.Bach had had an easy answer to his own quest for purpose in his creativity -- the glory of God -- modern society was having a harder time of it. He warned, however, that one of the goals of the French Revolution was to disconnect personal opinion from national instruction. He challenged Girard: "our schools are not giving education, they are giving tools", Levy said, "we should organize opportunities for our students for personal reflection", but we "don't want to end up with uniform education". Girard responded defensively, saying that nevertheless "the Great Books must be taught". He advocates no uniformity, he protested, but he feels that values must find their role again in education. His views were echoed by a French student on the panel, who observed that, although he felt that Girard's views characterized the US situation better than they did the European, nevertheless there was a lack of purpose in society perceived by students generally now, with a rising conviction that "rationality is no longer a panacea". Nobel laureate and accomplished teacher Donald Glaser then offered his almost judicially-considered views. He first observed that he's been teaching the "theory of chaos" a bit, and that he could understand his French colleagues' discomfort with ideas which so throughly contrast with the traditions of Lagrange and Laplace. It is a discomfort shared outside of France, Glaser said: "our cultural life now is subject to a rate of change which we haven't seen before". Still, he insisted, "the ivory tower must preserve its independence." Glaser inveighed against recent characterizations of "curiousity"-based research, as did so many others at this conference. We need both short-run applied research and long-run basic research, he said, "we can't starve the babies to feed the teenagers -- we need them both." Universities, furthermore, somehow must be insulated from all the economic hysteria. The trouble, Glaser suggested, not entirely tongue-in-cheek, is that there are too many lawyers: "our Congress is all lawyers", he observed, maybe it's time to "teach science to the lawyers". Chairperson Heilbron had a rejoinder for Glaser: don't teach science to the lawyers, he cautioned, that way "lawyers might become still more dangerous." Girard then took the microphone again to express agreement with some of the scientists' comments. The trouble was not with the ideal of reason, he believes, which remains a healthy aspiration, but with the wisdom which must accompany rationality: our "level of wisdom has collapsed", Girard feels. Chaos theory, after all, is an attempt to improve on rationality, he said, not a nihilism. But then, in a scene out of C.P. Snow's _Two Cultures_, though, he rejected a suggestion, made from the audience, that his liberal arts undergraduates therefore be taught more science: "the students need the Great Books", he almost pleaded -- "Shakespeare, and Plato, Goethe... " The confrontation had become baffling. Outside, through the large windows and beneath the tall trees, a Berkeley "crazy", complete with long hair and beard and fingernails, dish-towel turban and tattered "saffron" robes, performed a slow an elaborate t'ai chi chu'an shadow-dance, indifferent to the fact that the world's engineers were trying to decide his fate and that of the world, just beyond the windows. A Conclusion: the French and the Americans -- the Atlantic is a friendly but very wide pond. Senator Laffitte rose again: "We need a dream," he declared. Heilbron agreed, and then pointed out to the scientists, "We have been using the words 'vision', 'mystery', 'mythology', 'purpose' -- these are not engineering terms." Glaser mentioned that he himself had enjoyed teaching a special undergraduate course at UC Berkeley entitled, "Molecular Biology for Poets and Artists". Then Glaser became very serious. There are many problems besides those of engineering, he warned us to remember: in the US, "our children have single parents or both parents are working...we have a high murder rate...'rehabilitation'? we don't even have 'habilitation'!" Glaser's personal conclusion is that, "we must make our schools and our families work better": to do this, scientists first "must act as citizens". The French came to this conference looking for high-level visions: for a "dream", as their Senator said. They came most immediately concerned about the future of their technology education. The Americans, by contrast, came looking for relatively low-level problem-solutions. Their technological juggernaut is running away with them, at least in the networked information field, and they feel they need traffic management-style help in getting it back under control. Professor Heilbron observed that, after three days, he felt a sense of urgency from the Americans not shared by the Europeans; the Europeans, on the other hand, seemed to him more contemplative and perhaps more prudent than the Americans. His impression was shared by several who attended. I myself think that yet another interesting contribution of the conference was that, by the end of the three days, the French had gotten some of what the Americans had sought, and the Americans were benefiting from some of what the French had been seeking. I heard begrudging praise for the French ability to think generally and conceptually, from American engineers who are frustrated with the social and political and cultural problems which suddenly have reared up around their previously merely technical "Internet". I also heard more predictable expressions of amazement and some envy, from French participants suffering their first exposures to the latest improvements to the almost-incredible Internet. Perhaps that's the best measure of a successful international conference: it's too much to ask for the French to become Americans, or for the Americans to become French, but if it's enough to ask that each walk away from the event at least mumbling a bit about what was heard there of the other's approach, this event was highly successful -- each side, if it didn't find its own answers, at least heard some of the other side's questions, firsthand. If some French scientist, somewhere in the "Hexagon", now will push even harder for the formulation of a properly-French, high-level, guiding "dream" for the development of Minitel, as a result what she saw at Berkeley of the latest Internet testbed work; or if an American researcher will pause, for a moment longer then he formerly might have due to a discussion he had with a French counterpart at Berkeley, to consider the health and environmental and even policy implications of some giant distributed processing project on which he's working, the Symposium will have been well worth while. ISSN 1071 - 5916 end XXX FYI France (sm)(tm) e - newsletter ISSN 1071 - 5916 * | FYI France (sm)(tm) is a monthly electronic newsletter, | published since 1992 as a small - scale, personal, | experiment, in the creation of large - scale | "information overload", by Jack Kessler. 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