Friday Inspiration #18

Friday Inspiration is a selection of the latest innovative ideas we would like to share with our community every week.

Artificial Intelligence has been the hot topic in French ecosystem these past few days. The recurrent concern about machines taking over the world, the introduction of AI education programs and the transition towards a more digitalized society have been among the raised issues.

In January 2017, French mathematician and Deputy Cédric Villani published a report drawing the EU and French tech landscapes, and the future strategy to adopt AI in the private and public sectors. Written in consultation with EU experts and the French people, the established objectives were to define the coming actions to develop AI in companies and institutions, foster R&D in AI, and educate people about the digital transition.

Cédric advocates for a new way of seeing AI. In an article of, he stresses that “behind AI, there are humans in charge.” He sees AI as a way to ease people’s life, by conducting repetitive tasks and allowing humans to focus and develop their unique capabilities such as empathy, creativity, intellectual innovation. The mathematician insisted that “the collaboration between human beings and AI is more efficient than humans or AI separately.”

In the meantime, State Secretary of Digital Affairs Mounir Mahjoubi plans to develop programs to assist French startups and companies in their journey toward digitalization, in key sectors like health, public transports or energy. In a recent interview, he declared that “AI will be a key factor in the transformation of 100% of the economy.”

Mr. Mahjoubi also wants the digital transition to change the unbalanced gender representation in the entrepreneurial ecosystem. In France, less than one out ten CEOs are women. Similarly, the ecosystem is often depicted as a closed bubble, which lacks talents coming from low-income backgrounds. Thus, the State secretary sees in the digital transition an opportunity to create a more diverse and inclusive entrepreneurial landscape.

To facilitate this objective, he plans to invest in EdTech to give students the digital tools for tomorrow’s job markets. In addition to integrating AI culture and training in school programs, Mr. Mahjoubi also reminded us of the Tech Diversity program which helps entrepreneurs from disadvantaged areas launch their startups.

Private actors are also investing the French digital education, for instance, l’Ecole 42 present in Paris and the Silicon Valley. This week, Microsoft announced the opening of an AI school in France.

The quality training given by French education is demonstrated through the successful career paths of Françoise Soulié-Fogelman, mathematician and IT expert based in Tianjin, China, or Yann LeCun, former head of AI at Facebook. Read about French AI experts promoting France around the world.

For those interested, former Vice President, Watson Core Technology (IBM) and now the new head of Facebook AI,  Jérôme Pesenti gave a talk on “Building an artificial intelligence at scale” at the third edition of La French Touch Conference New York in 2016.

Have an inspiring weekend! 😊

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