France is AI
Several months ago, I wrote that France should not be ashamed of its delay in terms of artificial intelligence. But i was mistaken. Today after 4 months of intensive research on the French ecosystem, I insist that France should be proud of its lead in terms of AI.
I make the distinction here between research and the rest. In my opinion, the “delay” stated in many articles comes from the rest. The remainder is mainly driven by the ecosystem infrastructure set up by governments and private entities (financing and investment), by startups (industrialization of products and internationalization) and by each of us (risk culture). This country has a lead in terms of AI because an AI product originates from an idea and an expertise. That is why the biggest startups are for the most part spinoffs of R & D centers. The other countries have realized that this is also why there are more foreign R & D centers (at the corporate level) in France than local centers. France is ahead. France has a pool of talent and academic excellence that must be capitalized. That is why I repeat that France is ahead rather than behind. I nuance Balzac’s saying that a man is strong when he admits his weaknesses. I think, on the contrary, that a man is strong, when he confesses his strength and knows his weaknesses.
But a country with so many Fields (12/55) medals, so many researchers, a training at the forefront, some of the most talented engineers in the world, etc. must break down and learn to industrialize the ideas that come out of its labs. To do this, public funds must obviously be increased, but above all, end-user thinking and use case when the research objectives are set. Steve Jobs said in an interview in 1997: “You’ve got to start with the customer experience and work backwards to the technology”. We have to adapt our thinking. Think pivot rather than fail. Think of risk rather than comfort.
It is true that as long as there are questions in our heads about the ethical issues of AI, the protection of our private data, questions about the responsibility of autonomous machines, fears about the robotization of our trades and above all that there will be clear regulations of the public power, we will take three steps backwards for each step forward. I am not saying that these questions should not be studied, but simply that they should be answered and no longer evaded. If we continue with the policy of burying one’s head in the sand, we will become what we fear. An intelligent but “artificial” France, an intelligent but ephemeral France. Because globalization is not waiting for anyone. Today, your everyday objects, applications, smartphones, tablets and computers come in large part from American suppliers. Whether you like it or not, this revolution is there. So let’s take the lead of the pack.
Let’s change our mentality. A few days ago, Emmanuel Macron stipulated at the inauguration of Station F that “Entrepreneur is the new France”. Entrepreneur is not a craft, it is a state of mind. So let’s not just be the inventors of ideas, but let’s also be producers, distributors and investors: let’s be the AI entrepreneurs.