Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence or AI refers to technologies designed to replicate human cognitive processes. At the outset of the discipline, the idea was to give robots their own intelligence. In reality, artificial intelligence is primarily based on mathematics. Algorithms and computer programs enable machines to simulate human intelligence in order to resolve problems and learn new skills.

In its infancy during the 1960s, artificial intelligence is now increasingly present in our everyday lives and the number of areas of application has risen sharply in recent years.

A few examples of artificial intelligence applications

Research is continually developing new prospects for artificial intelligence. Already used in algorithmic finance, medical diagnosis, industry and the self-driving car market, artificial intelligence uses the data provided to it and gradually improves how this is processed. For the time being, the idea therefore isn't so much to replace humans as to optimise the use of existing databases.

Nevertheless, the big IT companies are increasingly investing in the use of these learning machines, which are becoming more and more independent thanks to the artificial neurons they contain. Companies like Apple, Google and Microsoft predict that these intelligent machines will be omnipresent alongside human beings in the coming years.

Aside from the work of researchers and scientists, the most obvious practical applications today in our daily lives are probably the smart voice assistants integrated into our smartphones, computers and home speakers. The companies that sell them (Google, Amazon, Samsung, Microsoft, etc.) utilise voice recognition and the analysis of users' personal data to provide pocket virtual assistants that can perform online tasks on demand, offer personalised services and interact with the Internet of Things in the home. Although virtual, Siri, Alexa and Cortana are very much the first artificially intelligent home robots to interact with humans on a daily basis.

Although this might seem like science fiction, robots have already been part of our lives for some time without us even realising it. Just think of the Google search engine's image recognition algorithm, social media platforms that display content based on algorithms measuring interaction with ads or quite simply your antispam software, which gets better and better at recognising unwelcome emails thanks to its learning capability. On the internet, artificial intelligence is one of the technologies that has already become firmly rooted. Discover all our products

The ethical problems posed by artificial intelligence

Like any advance in scientific research, the development of artificial intelligence has been accompanied by concerns among the human population.

The idea of a machine that has a human-like brain and a similar or even superior learning capability is not without its problems. Although it might seem like a utopia now, researchers believe that over time a kind of robot conscience could develop that would put them on an even footing with humans. Once they're independent and aware, wouldn't artificially intelligent machines be beyond control? This is a theory that has been fuelling the imagination of science fiction authors for some time.
Aside from these concerns, which scientists believe are unfounded due to the complexity of replicating the functioning of the synapses in the human brain and human thought, real questions have been raised about ethical and security issues.
  • Human beings replaced by machines in the workplace
Of all the threats posed by the development of artificial intelligence, the replacement of humans by machines in the workplace is the biggest. It's true that many tasks currently performed by humans will be able to be automated, meaning that human labour could well be replaced by a computer or machines with artificial intelligence.

However, the fact remains that robotisation and the development of artificial intelligence will in fact create jobs. What's more, in France, researchers from the OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development) maintain that just 9% of the French workforce is actually affected by the risk of being replaced by an AI machine. Given that artificial intelligence could also enable major productivity gains and improve many people's working conditions, the benefits of these new technologies for French workers are significant relative to the risk they pose to jobs.
  • Artificial intelligence, data and privacy
Because artificial intelligence relies almost entirely on the processing of users' personal data, the issue of protecting personal data and privacy is therefore key. Although data collection is currently regulated by laws designed to protect the privacy of individuals, the risk of hacking or loss of control needs to be taken into account, and there is no guarantee that machine processing of data will be ethical.

That's why the European Union and the French parliamentary office for evaluating scientific and technological choices (OPECST) have already begun working on robotics law: legislation that would regulate the rights and duties of artificially intelligent machines and define their potential legal liability. Such laws would also provide better protection for personal data and privacy, as well as intellectual property.
  • The risks of algorithms
Lastly, because artificial intelligence relies on data, the quality of this data needs to be taken into account. Machine learning can be distorted if the content provided isn't reliable, and the relevance of the analysis can vary depending on the data taken into account by the algorithm. Proof of this is the "psychopathic" artificial intelligence created by a team of researchers at MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), which was trained using violent images. This experiment clearly shows the importance of implementing tools to verify and check the information that a machine processes, regardless of how intelligent it is.

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