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[this article has been originally written By Olivier Duha, co-founders of Webhelp, and published in the french magazine “Les Echos“]
According to experts around the world, artificial intelligence is capable of solving the most complex challenges of our century. Fuelled by an unlimited access to data and a computing power of millions of billions of operations per second, the extraordinary benefits of this new form of intelligence is offered to us at a ground-breaking speed. The consensus that’s emerged: AI will make us smarter and stronger, it will give us a great capacity to forecast and anticipate, we will be faster and more accurate in our analyses. We will soon be able to unlock all the secrets of humanity.
At the start of 2020, 3 billion of the world’s citizens face home lockdown, fearing for the elderly and those at risk, devastated for lives lost, worried for those who are threatened by our economic instability and the loss of jobs and businesses.
In a time of global crisis entrepreneurs, leaders, and creators of progress must ask themselves; what have we done with new technology, in particular with the power of artificial intelligence, to avoid plunging into this dreadful crisis? In the end, is this not the true meaning of progress, protecting populations and securing them against all forms of crisis?
The progress and innovation within technology over the last quarter century surpasses anything we have previously experienced. Never has the pace of innovation, and especially the speed of execution, been so spectacular. However, we must seriously consider the benefit and interest of our innovations in order to qualify them as progress for humanity. If we focus on the current century, major advances have emerged: The Internet and its many derivatives, the smartphone and its many applications, and NBICs* globally. It’s these so-called “disruptive” innovations that make what we’ve experienced a true Technological Revolution.
However, billions of dollars have also been swallowed up in innovations that I would describe as “comfort innovations”. Music streaming, tweets, meal deliveries, most social networks, all examples of concepts that have not revolutionized our lifestyles. These innovations have brought ease of use, small comforts, new entertainment, and are part of a sense of continuous improvement in our daily lives.
There is a third type of innovation that we should mobilise a large part of our energy and investment resources into, “defence innovations”. These are innovations that protect and strengthen us, defending against crises that threaten us with economic chaos, sickness and death.
Where are these defence innovations, do we have what we need for the fight against Coronavirus? The conclusion is irrefutable: the century of the Technological Revolution has nothing to offer us for this battle.
What have we done to leverage the potential of artificial intelligence and its algorithms as powerful predictors of any outcome? Was it so difficult to predict the speed of diffusion of a virus in a world without borders and without restrictions on movement? Was it so difficult to predict the need for mass quantities of masks, screening tests and resuscitation equipment as the only viable response to the inevitable progression of the virus? Was it so difficult to foresee that, in the absence of measures to immediately isolate the first cases, governments would unwittingly trigger a major economic and financial crisis, a crisis unavoidable against containment measures? Should we not make the most of the remarkable computing power of our mega-processors to provide our governments with reliable and ultra-reactive predictive models? Predictive models that would enable reasoned action and not disorganized improvisation. In a way, wouldn’t it be more useful to program Deep Blue to beat Covid-19, rather than Kasparov!
Our states have failed. To govern is to plan. Never in our history have forecasting tools been so easy to program. Artificial intelligence can offer infinite solutions to help us govern better, but for that to happen we must know how to use it wisely.
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