Nonetheless, the hypothesis of another future remains on the table; it is even so painstakingly obvious that it is discouraging not to see Europe making it a central political issue. While its representatives are quick to claim their attachment to European humanism, they are too often unable to formulate what this may mean for Europe in the 21st century. Thus, the disenchantment with Europe has also arisen from its inability to propose a political project that inspires and binds European citizens together.
The digital revolution represents an unprecedented opportunity to create a different Europe, where technologies would be used for and by citizens and help tackle this century’s most pressing social and environmental challenges. A Europe, too, where institutions and businesses would not abuse the potential of technologies but rather, develop them in the spirit of respecting a common good. This can only be achieved through a bold articulation between regulation and public institutions – largely to be rethought – on the one hand, and innovators on the other.
Europe facing its limits
For Europe, this pas de deux has proved particularly difficult to implement: the absence of a real "federal" budget integrating military and research issues considerably limits the opportunities for long-term investment. At the same time, GDPR is proving, over time, to be limited in its capacity to allow citizens to re-appropriate themselves their data. On this subject, see the study by François Godement for Institut Montaigne, Digital Privacy: How Can We Win the Battle?. Above all, it is proving to be a battle course for small and medium-sized enterprises with weak legal capacities. However, the key to our future lies in unleashing the potential of innovators; a liberation that is all the more complex to manage as it should be carried out in a framework that avoids the shortcomings seen in other parts of the world.
Europe has also become a prisoner of the financial compliance rules it imposes on Member States and the financial system. But in times of historical accelerations, investment is a necessity in order not to get out of it – a fact already well understood by the Americans and the Chinese. As Emmanuel Macron recently expressed it, one may wonder whether our financial orthodoxy will not ultimately result in participating in the financing of US deficits. The cost of running French public institutions is also a barrier that will necessarily have to be overcome.
Will the 2020 decade be dystopian or utopian as far as technology is concerned? For the time being, it is difficult to bet on a utopian reversal, but as the late Michel Serres observed, "the hallmark of history is to be made up of more rupture than continuity".