Emmanuel Macron says there is a risk that AI talents will be like him, 'white males in their forties'

Emmanuel Macron says there is a risk that AI talents will be like him, 'white males in their forties'

  • Based on the report by Cédric Villani, Emmanuel Macron said that France will devote 1.5 billion euros to artificial intelligence (AI) by the end of the five-year period.
  • The Head of State wants to make France “a hub” for this technology, by opening data or facilitating experiments on the territory for autonomous vehicles.
  • But behind these announcements, Emmanuel Macron has focused on the diversity of AI talents that he believes are far too few, which would pose a risk to democracies.

Emmanuel Macron, who dreams of making France a champion in artificial intelligence (AI), has just announced on Thursday, March 29, 2018 that the country will devote 1.5 billion euros to this technology by the end of the five-year period. He was speaking at the close of the summit on “Artificial Intelligence at the service of humanity” at the Collège de France in Paris.

Beyond the economic announcements – which display France’s ambitions to get back into the race in a field dominated so far by the American and Chinese behemoths — Emmanuel Macron’s speech will be remembered for its willingness to focus on the societal stakes of AI and the risks induced, while this technology is increasingly deciding for us.

“An AI is nothing more than the project it serves, under the conditions defined by those who programmed it, based on the data provided to it,” he recalled.

Denouncing the risk of “the capture of radical innovations by a few”, the Head of State emphasized an essential but often evaded point: the diversity of talents that shape the AI of tomorrow.

He thus concretely regretted that the talents in artificial intelligence – “superstars” – look too much like him, “white males in their forties”:

“There is a hyper-concentration not only of the created value but also of (…) profound choices of society and perhaps even civilizations. We need to define ethical rules. It assumes that we don’t have too many similarities between these actors who are able to make these choices. It is not necessary that the actors of AI are not too like what I am in front of you: white males in their forties”, he said.

To solve this problem, Emmanuel Macron insisted on training that must allow new profiles to emerge – women and more broadly students and students from diversity. He warned headteachers and business leaders in front of him: “Be careful not to have a concentration of talent”:

“It is necessary, but I note that in this sector there are many, trained in American or European universities. So we need to mobilize more scientific training to seek more women, equality, social diversity”, he added.

Here are the main announcements of Emmanuel Macron on the national strategy on artificial intelligence:

  • Financing: 1.5 billion euros by the end of the mandate. The planned investments are financed in part by the 10 billion euro disruptive innovation fund and the skills investment plan.
  • Desired: creation of a “national program”, coordinated by the National Institute for Research in computer science and Automation (Inria); simplification of startup creation procedures for researchers, acceleration of procedures controlling scientific projects. A researcher will now be able to devote 50% of his time to a private company, compared to 20% today.
  • Startup: Envelope of 100 million euros for the start-up of startups, then 70 million euros in the following years in artificial intelligence and deep tech.
  • Autonomous vehicle: publication of a national strategy in April. Starting next year, level 4 experiments will be possible in France. In 2022, a regulatory framework will be put in place.
  • Data: Creation of a “Health Data Hub”, which will eventually include the opening of all data reimbursed by medicare, clinical data from hospitals and scientific data.
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