With artificial intelligence, the Macron camp wants to replay the divide between populists and progressives

With artificial intelligence, the Macron camp wants to replay the divide between populists and progressives

2023-10-02 05:30:04
Emmanuel Macron at the VivaTech show, in Paris, June 14, 2023. YOAN VALAT / AFP

Philippe Aghion has it in mind 2001: A Space Odyssey, the Stanley Kubrick film, and this moment when the Hal 9000 computer takes control of the spaceship. But at the start of the 2023 school year, the economist is little into science fiction. Since September 19, he has co-chaired the committee of experts on artificial intelligence (AI), launched by Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne, whose mission is to present within six months “concrete proposals” to adapt the “national strategy” from France.

While this interministerial committee is responsible for exploring the potential effects of this new technology, as fascinating as it is frightening, on employment, inequalities and happiness at work, the professor at the Collège de France approaches his subject with a « optimism churchillien », he said.

Aware of the dangers of AI, the former Harvard professor imagines, in six months, above all showing the extent of the benefits of this technology and reducing its anxiety-provoking potential. “We are less afraid of something when we know it better”, he explains to Mondeensuring not to have heard Jordan Bardella speak on the subject in the spring.

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The keen interest of the president of the National Rally (RN) in AI, which the 28-year-old young man presents as “the most dizzying challenge of our century”however, disconcerted the government. “Man will have in his hands in the knowledge economy the power of the gods: to colonize the cosmos, to carry out embryonic selection, to regulate genetics. France must regulate and innovate,” Marine Le Pen’s protégé argued on BFM-TV on April 2.

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“Preparing the working classes”

Until now, Macronie was alone, or almost, in having taken up this subject politically. In 2017, Emmanuel Macron, champion of the “start-up nation”, commissioned mathematician Cédric Villani for a report on this technology likely to cause a shock comparable to the invention of printing or the Internet. At the time, France, like Europe, was overtaken by the digital giants. It is non-existent on social networks. Absent from the smartphone market and search engines. We must run behind the Californian “geeks” and the Chinese brains to quickly bring about the emergence on French soil of champions of artificial intelligence with a lot of public money: 1.5 billion euros are put on the table.

Six years later, the arrival of ChatGPT, software capable of supporting an online conversation with dazzling possibilities, propelled AI into the public space, bringing with it its share of theories on the overtaking of the machine by man . The call for a « pause » in the development of AI, signed in March by billionaire Elon Musk and hundreds of experts, pointing “major risks for humanity”, fuel these fears.

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