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A French Survival Guide For The Coming A.I. Revolution

Countries like France can either prepare, and make research into artificial intelligence a national priority, or allow themselves to become digital colonies.

An example of Artifical Intelligence in daily life at a hospital in China
An example of Artifical Intelligence in daily life at a hospital in China
David Barroux

-Analysis-

PARIS — Not so long ago, going on a business trip to Silicon Valley meant catching a glimpse into the future of tech. These days, though, the future taking shape in California goes far beyond computer and smartphone manufacturers, software, and chip specialists. What's being hatched in the American West is no less than the world of tomorrow.

Of course, major inventions like the PC or the cell phone have already disrupted our daily lives. But more often than not, technology has tended to progress in a closed circuit. The big names of the digital world, high on Moore's law, used to be content improving just their own products. Above all, progress meant better performance, not a paradigm shift.

AI is going to be at the center of our daily lives

But with the advent of the Internet in the second half of the 1990s, we've entered a different world. Tech no longer serves just tech. The digital revolution that's been set in motion is reshuffling all the cards: In transport, leisure, travel, production... The rules of the game have already changed and the digital industry is gradually working its way into all human activities. Tech used to be a world apart. Now it's something that ties our societies together.

With the accelerating rise of artificial intelligence, or AI for short, the second chapter of this digital revolution is now beginning. A report recently released by French mathematician, Fields Medal winner and now lawmaker Cédric Villani shows, AI isn't just going to be a gadget for geeks or a tool for R&D laboratories. It's a new language, a new form of intelligence that will gradually penetrate homes, offices, factories, schools or hospitals. AI is going to be at the center of our daily lives.

Cédric Villani, French mathematician, Fields Medal winner and now lawmaker Photo: Ecole polytechnique

At the dawn of this new world, France — which has largely missed the Internet revolution — has every reason to be concerned, because those who don't master the codes of artificial intelligence risk being reduced to digital colonies in the decades to come. The superpowers of tomorrow will be those that have put AI at the heart of all their strategies. The United States and China understand that well.

This revolution is still full of uncertainties. For the time being, AI raises more questions — about its rhythm, impact, etc. — than answers. Concern is therefore legitimate, but it must not lead to stagnation. People will have to innovate, take risks and choose their battles. France will not be able to do everything, but it has assets that it'll have to exploit by making research into AI a real national priority. It's a matter of sovereignty.

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Future

Injecting Feminism Into Science Is A Good Thing — For Science

Feminists have generated a set of tools to make science less biased and more robust. Why don’t more scientists use it?

As objective as any man

Anto Magzan/ZUMA
Rachel E. Gross

-Essay-

In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, a mystery played out across news headlines: Men, it seemed, were dying of infection at twice the rate of women. To explain this alarming disparity, researchers looked to innate biological differences between the sexes — for instance, protective levels of sex hormones, or distinct male-female immune responses. Some even went so far as to test the possibility of treating infected men with estrogen injections.

This focus on biological sex differences turned out to be woefully inadequate, as a group of Harvard-affiliated researchers pointed out earlier this year. By analyzing more than a year of sex-disaggregated COVID-19 data, they showed that the gender gap was more fully explained by social factors like mask-wearing and distancing behaviors (less common among men) and testing rates (higher among pregnant women and health workers, who were largely female).

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