Everyone knows, or thinks they know, that good news is not worth talking about. And there is no shortage of bad news, either nationally or internationally. So it is understandable that, drowned out by these floods of information and cataclysmic forecasts, people, and in particular the youngest, allow themselves to become resigned to the inevitable end of humanity, which is being prepared for us by the excesses of destructive capitalism and the madness of dictators who are prepared to do anything to remain in power.
However, the world and history are not reduced to this: there are, at this very moment, in research laboratories, associations, companies and universities, formidable discoveries, extraordinary successes, which are not talked about at all and which nothing is done to promote and generalise as quickly as possible.
For example, to take just a few news items from the last two weeks:
Two medical advances: two companies, one American and the other Japanese, have together developed a drug that significantly slows down (by 30%) the progress of Alzheimer’s disease in its early stages; and Indian scientists have developed a new vaccine against certain cervical tumours that is both highly effective and inexpensive.
Two social advances: in the United States, child poverty is decreasing after having risen sharply; and in Great Britain, the many companies that have experimented with the four-day week are making it more widespread, after having noted its positive effects on the quality of life of employees and the profitability of capital.
Two pieces of good environmental news: In Western Australia, a highly effective methane-removing algae has begun to be harvested; and two enzymes found in the saliva of certain worms have been found to be highly effective in destroying polyethylene, paving the way for a revolution in the fight against plastic waste pollution.
And these are just a few examples that have gone almost completely unnoticed.
If we are willing to take a step back and look at the state of the world, alongside the monsters occupying the forefront of the stage, which are reminiscent of the most medieval dimensions of humanity, and alongside the magnificent rebels who die every day so that democracy can prevail, there are also researchers, engineers, administrators and entrepreneurs who invent ways every day to ensure that we make free, fair and sustainable use of the formidable potential of knowledge.
If we glorified them more, if our education systems valued scientific studies much more, if we networked all the schools, colleges and universities in the world, so that all those who study and research work together on the same problems, we could win the many speed races in which humanity is engaged.
For example, we could imagine that, in all the high schools and universities of the world, we propose to the students of the scientific sections that they all work for a year on the same project, and that they share what they find. Simple and useful projects: how to eliminate textile waste? How to reuse waste water? How to clean the soil? How to organise reforestation efficiently? How to make prostheses for the disabled, or furniture for schools, or surgical instruments with 3D printers? How can we use the properties of a particular plant or insect from one of the most remote corners of the world to solve problems that are quite common elsewhere? And also: how to develop healthy agriculture? How can we give everyone the means to learn? How can we make known and generalise a teaching method that has proved to be effective?
Even if the world’s school systems are in a disastrous situation in general (and in France in particular), and the worst is yet to come, there have never been so many engineers on the planet, and even more student engineers. Never have there been so many researchers and doctoral students. Nor have there ever been so many ways of getting them to exchange, cooperate and work together on joint projects. In certain fields, in medicine in particular, this collective intelligence is beginning to exist, without anyone having thought of organising it. If we wanted to take care of it, we could, before being swept away by a tsunami of misfortunes, put in place a real deluge of good news.
Painting: Joseph Wright of Derby, Experiment on a Bird with an Air Pump, 1768