Foreword
Forms of Citizen Knowledge

For a long time, technology has served as a reference point in order to legitimize the notion of progress. Now, it is often seen as a deterrent. Technophiles and technophobes thus confront each other around the meaning to be given to technology in a sometimes dubious battle.

Rather than imposing on technology a symmetrically inverse role as a sign of history or a sign of despair, it would undoubtedly be more beneficial for everyone to understand that technology does not exist in itself, that it is a political choice and deserves to be collectively reflected upon. In this case, while exploring the mysteries of mechanics, and consequently of scientific and technical knowledge, through the analysis of numerical simulation, the objective of Jean-François Sigrist, engineer and industrial researcher, is this: to rectify the mysteries created around the contributions of cutting-edge technological dynamics to contemporary research and to remind us that citizens have a certain power – that of the power of words that express choices – over scientists, experts and decision-makers.

It is indeed with a mixture of cynicism and disbelief that many often react to statements about algorithms, for example, focusing media attention. Some talk about them in order to dominate the “ignorant”, others argue against seizing this mode of knowledge and conceptual construction by claiming its abstraction from the lived world and the last would like to push the “backward” to become “intelligent” by teaching them what they should know, based on this too ordinary sharing of the organization of the social world.

It is clear that these three modes of approaching a hierarchical relationship between knowledge (scientific and technological) and people are based on the same presupposition: on the one hand there are “those who know” and on the other hand “the ignorant”. From the first to the second, the darkness of routine and superstition is invoked, which legitimizes their dominant position and their relationship with rulers.

Jean-François Sigrist’s first concern is not to affirm doctrinally the validity of contemporary scientific and technological knowledge and approaches. Nor does he seek to maintain a classificatory pedagogical model, exposing only raw knowledge to those willing to learn. He encourages those who are ready to embark on the adventure to seek to understand what this knowledge means, taking into account the context in which it is advanced and the fictions with which they are confronted: cinema, drawing, painting, photography, etc. By facilitating the encounter with the uses of scientific and technological knowledge – objects used daily, simulation for industrial applications – within the culture of time, he interrupts the automatism of the social machine of knowledge that constantly divides the world between those who are “informed” or “cultivated” and those who are “behind”.

In this respect, the spirit of this book is entirely woven from the relationships between the description of the mathematical and physical world as understood by knowledge and techniques and the deciphering of the specific cultural meanings that can be attributed to them. These meanings then refer less to games of optimism or pessimism or to functions of accompanying the educational order, or even to catastrophist speeches or a cautious morality of the slightest evil, than to the double exercise of the effort of scientific culture and the taking of political sides, to the benefit of all of society.

Christian RUBY
Philosopher

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