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How We Are All Concerned by Artificial Intelligence

BLOG - 2 June 2020

In partnership with OpenClassrooms and Fondation Abeona, Institut Montaigne recently launched "Objectif IA": a free, online training course to learn everything about artificial intelligence in less than 6 hours.

With no prior knowledge required, this course aims to make at least 1% of the French population aware of the opportunities and the challenges of artificial intelligence.

Anne Bouverot, Chairperson of the Board of Directors of Technicolor and Chair of Fondation Abeona, explains why these future issues are so important and how they impact us all.

The coronavirus crisis, a boost towards a more digital society...

The Covid-19 pandemic and the lockdown from which we are only slowly emerging will have long-term effects, and will, more specifically, be a powerful boost towards a more digital society. Everyone of us has developed new habits, whether it is working remotely, distance-learning, online shopping, virtual meetups with friends, watching Netflix for countless hours, remotely blowing out birthday candles, video consultations, online yoga classes... And we will not give them all up entirely: we are going to adopt some of them.

... notably thanks to artificial intelligence

Before the coronavirus pandemic, artificial intelligence was being discussed a lot. Will it keep going? Even though artificial intelligence, often referred to as AI, is clearly not the sole factor, it still paves the way to a more digital life. Take, for example, the shopping recommendations on websites, the writing assistance tools that suggest complete sentences for emails, the way the Zoom software can cut out your face, allowing you to turn the background into a holiday picture or a picture of your real office... And better still: virtual aids to recognize signs of SARS-Cov-2 on lung X-rays, predictive models mapping the spread of the epidemic based on the number of close contacts between people and the contagion rate... all of these, to a varying degree, employ artificial intelligence techniques.

But what is artificial intelligence? Should we fear it?

It is not what is shown in science fiction movies or video games, nor is it just a technology able to distinguish between cats and dogs, or puppies and muffins; AI is increasingly being used in everyday life, often without awareness on our part.

But what is artificial intelligence? It is not what is shown in science fiction movies or video games

As with any new technology, there are of course associated risks – privacy threats, disinformation, inequalities, particularly between men and women, injustice, digital exclusion… As well as an obvious environmental impact, because of the computing power required. It is important to consider these risks, and moving forward, to take them into account.

Are we all concerned by the development of AI?

AI matters to all of us, we can all take part in the public debate and express our fears, hopes or questions. The development of artificial intelligence must be decided collectively, inclusively and democratically, not just by experts. There are many societal issues at stake, from the way YouTube recommends videos to the various monitoring techniques run by the state.

Naturally, this is a particularly interesting field for students to understand and study in-depth. There are many more job offers in the AI field than there are qualified professionals: AI offers great work opportunities and career prospects. Yet, this does not only apply to young people, because artificial intelligence is transforming many professions; whether you are a civil servant, working in a company, self-employed... a better understanding of artificial intelligence can provide new opportunities for one’s professional development.

How is France doing in comparison to other countries?

Artificial intelligence is becoming a major issue all over the world. The United States and China are investing impressive amounts of money in this field. Europe has decided to follow a more humane and respectful approach to privacy. France possesses excellent training and research teams in AI, and has been proactive in that matter, with Cédric Villani's report published in March 2018, as well as the Global Forum on AI for Humanity at the end of last year, during which the President called for 1% of the French population to be trained on artificial intelligence.

"Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood"

I like to quote this sentence from Marie Curie: "Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood". Of course, it is not a question of us all becoming experts in data science or deep learning. What I think is important, however, is that we take  some time to understand the field of artificial intelligence, what it covers, what it is and what it is not, what opportunities it offers, and the risks it entails.

Taking the free online training course "Objectif IA", created by OpenClassrooms and Institut Montaigne in partnership with Fondation Abeona, is a valuable investment of your time to better understand what artificial intelligence is.

 

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