"artificial intelligence"

Geopolitics
Anna Akage

The Stakes Of A Ukrainian-Russian Drone Arms Race

A recent unmanned attack could heighten tensions in the conflict zone and have broader geopolitical consequences.

Last week Vladimir Putin complained that even without accepting Kyiv into its ranks, NATO could place missiles in Ukraine near Russia's borders. Russian media was quick to help prove Putin's point, writing about Washington's current military aid to Kyiv, Ukraine's talks with London on obtaining British Brimstone missiles and Turkish drones in Donbas, which has been a disputed site of conflict since 2014.

Just days later, the Ukrainian military for the first time used the Turkish Bayraktar TB-2 drone in Donbas. The incident Tuesday could seriously change the situation in the conflict zone and have consequences for both Russian-Ukrainian and Russian-Turkish relations.

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Future
David Larousserie and Alexandre Piquard

AI, Translation And The Holy Grail Of "Natural Language"

Important digital innovations have been put into practice in the areas of translation, subtitling and text-to-image.

PARIS — When asked about advances in language management through artificial intelligence, Douglas Eck suggests pressing the "subtitle" button on Meet, the video conferencing service used for the interview, because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The words of this American engineer, who had come to Paris to work at Google's French headquarters, were then displayed in writing, live and without error, under the window where we see him, headset on. This innovation, unthinkable until recently, is also available for most videos om YouTube, the Google subsidiary. Or on the dictaphone of its latest phones, which offers to automatically transcribe all audio recordings.

These new possibilities are just one example of the progress made in recent years in natural language processing by digital companies, especially giants such as Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon (GAFA). Some of these innovations are already being put into practice. Others are in the research stage, showcased at annual developer conferences, such as Google I/O (which took place May 18-20) and Facebook F8 (June 2).

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In The News
Meike Eijsberg, Bertrand Hauger and Anne-Sophie Goninet

Taliban End Game, Texas Protects Abortion Clinics, El Salvador’s Legal Bitcoin

Welcome to Tuesday, where the Taliban end game is playing out in Panjshir valley, the U.S. Justice Department vows to protect abortion clinics in Texas and El Salvador becomes the world's first country to authorize the use of bitcoin as legal currency. French daily Le Monde also looks at how artificial intelligence could make the dream of automatic live translation come true.


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THE CONVERSATION
Dan Feldman and Nir Eisikovits

Artificial Intelligence Could Steal Our Jobs — And Our Souls

Technological progressions have always changed how we behave. But AI has much more far-reaching potential to change the very meaning of what it is to be a human.

The history of humans' use of technology has always been a history of coevolution. Philosophers from Rousseau to Heidegger to Carl Schmitt have argued that technology is never a neutral tool for achieving human ends. Technological innovations – from the most rudimentary to the most sophisticated – reshape people as they use these innovations to control their environment. Artificial intelligence is a new and powerful tool, and it, too, is altering humanity.

Writing and, later, the printing press made it possible to carefully record history and easily disseminate knowledge, but it eliminated centuries-old traditions of oral storytelling. Ubiquitous digital and phone cameras have changed how people experience and perceive events. Widely available GPS systems have meant that drivers rarely get lost, but a reliance on them has also atrophied their native capacity to orient themselves.

AI is no different. While the term AI conjures up anxieties about killer robots, unemployment or a massive surveillance state, there are other, deeper implications. As AI increasingly shapes the human experience, how does this change what it means to be human? Central to the problem is a person's capacity to make choices, particularly judgments that have moral implications.

Taking over our lives?

AI is being used for wide and rapidly expanding purposes. It is being used to predict which television shows or movies individuals will want to watch based on past preferences and to make decisions about who can borrow money based on past performance and other proxies for the likelihood of repayment. It's being used to detect fraudulent commercial transactions and identify malignant tumors. It's being used for hiring and firing decisions in large chain stores and public school districts. And it's being used in law enforcement – from assessing the chances of recidivism, to police force allocation, to the facial identification of criminal suspects.

Algorithms trained on biased data build biased models and perpetuate existing prejudices.

Many of these applications present relatively obvious risks. If the algorithms used for loan approval, facial recognition and hiring are trained on biased data, thereby building biased models, they tend to perpetuate existing prejudices and inequalities. But researchers believe that cleaned-up data and more rigorous modeling would reduce and potentially eliminate algorithmic bias. It's even possible that AI could make predictions that are fairer and less biased than those made by humans.

Where algorithmic bias is a technical issue that can be solved, at least in theory, the question of how AI alters the abilities that define human beings is more fundamental. We have been studying this question for the last few years as part of the Artificial Intelligence and Experience project at UMass Boston's Applied Ethics Center.

Losing the ability to choose

Aristotle argued that the capacity for making practical judgments depends on regularly making them – on habit and practice. We see the emergence of machines as substitute judges in a variety of workaday contexts as a potential threat to people learning how to effectively exercise judgment themselves.

AI conjures up anxieties about killer robots and a massive surveillance state, but there are other, deeper implications — Photo: Cottonbro

In the workplace, managers routinely make decisions about whom to hire or fire, which loan to approve and where to send police officers, to name a few. These are areas where algorithmic prescription is replacing human judgment, and so people who might have had the chance to develop practical judgment in these areas no longer will.

Recommendation engines, which are increasingly prevalent intermediaries in people's consumption of culture, may serve to constrain choice and minimize serendipity. By presenting consumers with algorithmically curated choices of what to watch, read, stream and visit next, companies are replacing human taste with machine taste. In one sense, this is helpful. After all, the machines can survey a wider range of choices than any individual is likely to have the time or energy to do on her own.

At the same time, though, this curation is optimizing for what people are likely to prefer based on what they've preferred in the past. We think there is some risk that people's options will be constrained by their pasts in a new and unanticipated way - a generalization of the "echo chamber" people are already seeing in social media.

The advent of potent predictive technologies seems likely to affect basic political institutions.

The advent of potent predictive technologies seems likely to affect basic political institutions, too. The idea of human rights, for example, is grounded in the insight that human beings are majestic, unpredictable, self-governing agents whose freedoms must be guaranteed by the state. If humanity – or at least its decision-making – becomes more predictable, will political institutions continue to protect human rights in the same way?

Utterly predictable

As machine learning algorithms, a common form of "narrow" or "weak" AI, improve and as they train on more extensive data sets, larger parts of everyday life are likely to become utterly predictable. The predictions are going to get better and better, and they will ultimately make common experiences more efficient and more pleasant.

Algorithms could soon – if they don't already – have a better idea about which show you'd like to watch next and which job candidate you should hire than you do. One day, humans may even find a way machines can make these decisions without some of the biases that humans typically display.

But to the extent that unpredictability is part of how people understand themselves and part of what people like about themselves, humanity is in the process of losing something significant. As they become more and more predictable, the creatures inhabiting the increasingly AI-mediated world will become less and less like us.

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CLARIN
Gabriela Samela

VR For HR: Virtual Reality As A Tangible Tool For Human Resources

Latin American firms are joining others around the world testing Virtual and Augmented Reality solutions in personnel recruitment and training.

BUENOS AIRES — The image of someone wearing a virtual reality (VR) headset immediately makes you think they're playing games. Yet immersive simulation is now being used to recreate a work environment where present or future employees can learn, practice and train for work.

While simulation technology is used more frequently for operations or the security sector, in Argentina some firms are using it to manage human resources: in selection processes and in staff inductions and training.

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Future
Emmanuel Grasland

How China Flipped From Tech Copycat To Tech Leader

Long perceived as a country chasing Western tech, China's business and technological innovations are now influencing the rest of the world. Still lagging on some fronts, the future is now up for grabs.

BEIJING — China's tech tycoons have fallen out of favor: Jack Ma (Alibaba), Colin Huang (Pinduoduo), Richard Liu (Tencent) and Zhang Yiming (ByteDance) have all been pressured by Beijing to leave their jobs or step back from a public role. Their time may be coming to an end, but the legacy remains exceptional. Under their reign, China has become a veritable window to the global future of technology.

TikTok is the perfect example. Launched in 2016, the video messaging app has been downloaded over two billion times worldwide. It has passed the 100-million active user mark in the United States. Thanks to TikTok's success, ByteDance, its parent company, has reached an exceptional level of influence on the internet.

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Society
Maximilian Kalkhof

Party Lines: Why China Prefers Virtual Stars For Show Business Fame

Hologram idols are the new stars of the entertainment industry in China, performing in live concerts and in front of audiences of millions. It's not just tech companies that are happy about the boom, the leadership in Beijing is too for more political reasons.

BEIJING — Luo Tianyi celebrated her breakthrough at the Spring Festival Gala. The show is broadcast every year on state television at the beginning of the Chinese New Year. With approximately 700 million viewers, it is not only the TV program with the largest audience worldwide, it is also one of the most influential shows in Chinese culture.

What's special about Luo Tianyi is that she's not human. The singer is a hologram, an avatar. And the first virtual idol to make it into the Spring Festival Gala.

Luo can look back on a glittering career. She was born out of a cooperation between a Chinese and a Japanese company, and in 2012 she was introduced to the public. In the years that followed, she rose to stardom.

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Geopolitics
Yann Verdo

Saving Languages From Extinction, With The Help Of AI

The world's linguistic heritage is facing a crisis just as serious as that of biodiversity. A French project is trying to save what exists in the Pangloss collection, powered by new tools of Artificial Intelligence.

PARIS — Let's begin with a little quiz: Across the earth, there are 7 continents and 197 countries. How many languages are spoken?

The answer is around 7,000, but if this number surprises you, it's because you suffer from the distorted perspective that half of the 7.8 billion inhabitants of the planet express themselves or communicate through only about 20 of them (Arabic, English, Spanish, French, Hindi, Mandarin, Portuguese...), while the other 97% of these 7,000 languages have a total number of speakers that does not exceed 4% of the population.

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Future
Hannah Steinkopf-Frank

Pizza Makers To Patient Care: 5 Cool New Robots Conquering The World

Robotics has become standard in much of industrial production, but AI also means robots are able to accomplish more and more complicated tasks. Here are some living examples around the world.

"The robots are coming..." has been an ominous science fiction trope dating back decades. Now, depending where you look, the robots have arrived. With the multiplication of artificial intelligence capabilities, there are real-life fears that robotics will make our jobs irrelevant. A recent report the International Federation of Robotics found that in China, a record 943,000 industrial robots are now operating in the country's factories.

But in fact, it goes well beyond the traditional assembly lines: advances in robotic technology are creating devices capable of accomplishing increasingly complicated tasks, serving as sous chefs, healthcare aids, and even entertainment. Here's a global look at the robots you may soon see staring back at you:

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Future
Carl-Johan Karlsson

How Facebook's Metaverse Could Undermine Europe's Tech Industry

Mark Zuckerberg boasted that his U.S. tech giant will begin a hiring spree in Europe to build his massive "Metaverse." Touted as an opportunity for Europe, the plans could poach precious tech talent from European tech companies.

PARIS — Facebook's decision to recruit 10,000 people across the European Union might be branded as a vote of confidence in the strength of Europe's tech industry. But some European companies, which are already struggling to fill highly-skilled roles such as software developers and data scientists, are worried that the tech giant might make it even harder to find the workers that power their businesses.

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Rue Amelot
Genevieve Mansfield

Manga Mon Amour: On French Passion For Japanese Anime

The visiting American writer pieces together how the French culture of comics (bandes dessinées) mixes with their deepening love of Japanese anime'.

PARIS — When I was in sixth grade, Cartoon Network aired episodes of the TV show Code Lyoko almost every day around 3 p.m. I was a loyal fan — watching practically every day when I got home from school.

In the show, a group of teenagers wage virtual battle against a virus-like artificial intelligence force that threatens to wreak havoc on the physical world. If I had to categorize it, I would place it loosely into the "anime-influenced Western animated series" box. Uninformed as I was, I had simply assumed the show was a real Japanese anime, when in actuality it was a French animated television series. Fast forward a decade: I had just moved to the Paris region and begun work as a middle school English teacher. About halfway through the day, it was time for free reading. As I told my students to take out their reading materials, I was struck as, one by one, virtually all pulled out the same thing: Manga.

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Society
Hannah Steinkopf-Frank

The Digital Technology That’s Killing Languages Can Save Them Too

As the world gets more homogenized and closely connected, geographic-specific languages risk vanishing — with one-third of languages having fewer than 1,000 speakers left. But tech can help.

Languages disappearing is not only a linguistic casualty — it is also the loss of a culture, history and people. Luckily, some of the same technologies blamed for killing languages can be used to preserve and spread those threatened around the world. Examples from Eastern Europe to Peru highlight the potential of digital tools, as well as the continued significance of more rudimental techniques to pass a language down from one generation to the next:

Google recently released the app Woolaroo, which has the goal of revitalizing some of the most threatened languages through artificial intelligence. Take a photo of an object and Woolaroo will tell you what its name is in 10 languages including Louisiana Creole, Nawat (spoken in El Salvador) and Calabrian Greek.

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