France wants to become an artificial intelligence hub

Emmanuel Macron and his government are launching a big initiative around artificial intelligence today. They want to turn France into one of the leading countries when it comes to artificial intelligence.

“[Artificial intelligence] is a technological, economical, social and obviously ethical revolution,” Macron said in a speech. “This revolution won’t happen in 50 or 60 years, it’s happening right now. There are new opportunities and we can choose to follow some innovations or not.”

Some of the best mathematics and engineering schools are in France, and some of the best data scientists and AI researchers come from France. Many of them now work in California or London for Facebook, Deepmind, etc. And the French government wants to capitalize on that soft power to make an AI push.

And yet, how do you attract engineers and scientists? France’s answer is quite complicated because the government doesn’t want to inject a ton of public money and call it a day. It’s all about creating an AI ecosystem with strong pillars.

France’s AI strategy

First, many private companies have opened or plan to open AI research centers in France. Facebook and Google already work with hundreds of researchers in Paris. Today, Samsung, Fujitsu, DeepMind, IBM and Microsoft all announced plans to open offices in France to focus on AI research.

This represents tens of millions of dollars in investments and hundreds of employees. “Everybody is saying that Silicon Valley is overflowing right now,” a source close to the French President told me. That’s why big tech companies need to find talent outside of the U.S.

Foreign companies creating hundreds of jobs isn’t going to foster public research and European tech giants though — these companies are just tapping the smartest brains they can find. That’s why the French government wants to make it easier to work on fundamental research papers when you work for a private company.

The INRIA is going to create a national AI research program with four or five partners. The goal is quite simple — Macron said that there should be twice as many people studying and researching AI projects in France. Researchers will also be able to access and use some cloud computing capacities for their work.

It’s also going to get easier if you want to create a startup based on your research work or if you want to work for a private company during your PhD.

Second, France is going to set some new boundaries when it comes to data. French administrations are going to share new data sets so that anyone can build AI services using those data sets.

When it comes to health data, it looks like France wants to avoid another NHS/DeepMind scandal. While multiple French governments have worked on some kind of health data hub, Macron announced that this time it’s going to happen for real. The INDS is going to make sure that services and public institutions respect your privacy and grant authorizations on a case-by-case basis.

Third, when it comes to regulation, companies will be able to experiment in multiple industries. And it starts with autonomous vehicles. Companies will be able to test level 4 self-driving cars in 2019.

Overall, France is going to invest $1.85 billion (€1.5 billion) in AI projects, from public research to startup investments. Last year, Macron announced that there would be a new $11.2 billion (€10 billion) public fund managed by Bpifrance. Macron said today that AI startups should be the first priority of this new fund.

Making AI as neutral as possible

Arguably, the most interesting part of Macron’s speech was about the moral impact of artificial intelligence. As algorithms become more prominent, there’s a risk that they become black boxes that decide for you.

The French administration already has to share all its algorithms and data that they use following Axelle Lemaire’s law. But that’s still not the case for some touchy subjects. Macron said it’s still a work in progress.

Research projects or companies financed with public money will also have to share everything — this could impact public infrastructure companies for instance.

But it’s more complicated when you’re talking about private companies. Macron said GDPR was a step in the right direction. And now, he wants to go further.

He doesn’t have any practical suggestion for now, but he said that there should be an international certification authority. For instance, this authority could make sure that there’s no bias in training data sets. I don’t think Facebook or Google would enjoy this new regulation.

Finally, you introduce a bias if your staff is not diverse enough. That’s why schools and universities should make sure that they train a diverse group of people.

Not the first AI push

As Next INpact pointed out, there have been multiple reports on artificial intelligence over the past few years — FranceIA, the CNIL, the OPECST and the European Economic and Social Committee all wrote their own recommendations when it comes to AI policies.

Today, Fields medal winner and parliament member Cédric Villani shared a new report on artificial intelligence. It’s always an interesting read, and it was the inspiration for Macron’s speech today.

According to a source close to the French President, multiple ministers now have to focus on artificial intelligence for their own industries.

Today’s report feels more like a starting point than a conclusion. The French President thinks that AI is something important but not urgent. Now, it’s all about convincing the rest of the government to put aside all the urgent tasks for a minute and look at what’s important.

Read more: https://techcrunch.com/2018/03/29/france-wants-to-become-an-artificial-intelligence-hub/

Macron awards US scientists grants to move to France in defiance of Trump

Frances president awards millions of euros to 18 American scientists to relocate in effort to counter Donald Trump on the climate change front

Eighteen climate scientists from the US and elsewhere have hit the jackpot as Frances president, Emmanuel Macron, awarded them millions of euros in grants to relocate to France for the rest of Donald Trumps presidential term.

The Make Our Planet Great Again grants a nod to Trumps Make America Great Again campaign slogan are part of Macrons efforts to counter Trump on the climate change front. Macron announced a contest for the projects in June, hours after Trump declared he would withdraw the US from the Paris climate accord.

More than 5,000 people from about 100 countries expressed interest in the grants. Most of the applicants and 13 of the 18 winners were US-based researchers.

Macrons appeal gave me such a psychological boost, to have that kind of support, to have the head of state saying I value what you do, said winner Camille Parmesan, of the University of Texas at Austin. She will be working at an experimental ecology station in the Pyrenees on how human-made climate change is affecting wildlife.

In an interview with the Associated Press, Parmesan described funding challenges for climate science in the US and a feeling that you are having to hide what you do.

Trump has expressed skepticism about global warming and said the Paris accord would hurt US business by requiring a reduction in climate-damaging emissions.

We will be there to replace US financing of climate research, Macron told the winners in Paris on Monday.

If we want to prepare for the changes of tomorrow, we need science, he said, promising to put in place a global climate change monitoring system among other climate innovations.

The research of the winning recipients focuses on pollution, hurricanes and clouds. A new round of the competition will be launched next year, alongside Germany. About 50 projects will be chosen overall, and funded with 60m ($70m) from the state and French research institutes.

Initially aimed at American researchers, the research grants were expanded to other non-French climate scientists, according to organizers. Candidates need to be known for working on climate issues, have completed a thesis and propose a project that would take between three to five years.

The time frame would cover Trumps current presidential term.

Some French researchers have complained that Macron is showering money on foreign scientists at a time when they have been pleading for more support for domestic higher education.

Macron unveiled the first winners at a startup incubator in Paris called Station F, where Microsoft and smaller tech companies announced projects to finance activities aimed at reducing emissions.

Mondays event is a prelude to a bigger climate summit Tuesday aimed at giving new impetus to the Paris accord and finding new funding to help governments and businesses meet its goals.

More than 50 world leaders are expected in Paris for the One Planet Summit, co-hosted by the UN and the World Bank. Trump was not invited.

Other attendees include Arnold Schwarzenegger, who took a spin on a Parisian electric bike Monday to call attention to health problems caused by pollution.

The Hollywood star and former California governor argued that Trumps rejection of the Paris climate accord doesnt matter, because companies, scientists and other governments can pick up the slack to reduce global emissions.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/dec/11/macron-awards-grants-to-us-scientists-to-move-to-france-in-defiance-of-trump

Austrians Lean Toward Nationalist Government Led by a Millennial

Austrians profiting from the fastest economic growth in six years look likely to ditch their current coalition in favor of a new government backed by anti-immigration nationalists and headed by the world’s youngest leader.

Polls suggest that Austria’s 31-year-old Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz will lead his conservative People’s Party to victory in Sunday’s election. That could set the stage for a coalition with Heinz-Christian Strache’s populist Freedom Party, unwinding a decade of Social Democratic-led administrations that revived the economy but struggled with issues over immigration and welfare.

“People are worried about the future and that is the currency that matters in this election,” said Christoph Hofinger, head of the SORA polling institute in Vienna. “The debate is revolving around the issue of fairness, and a lot is also linked to migration.”

After a surge of support for populist candidates in elections this year in the Netherlands, France and Germany, Austria looks like it will go one further and elect an anti-immigration alliance.

Chancellor Christian Kern, 51, a former business executive plucked from the national railroad by the Social Democrats in May 2016, has been dogged by sloppy campaign management. Despite overseeing faster growth in the export-oriented economy, Kern has struggled to connect with voters.

His No. 1 goal is achieving full employment, since “modernizing the country with investment in education, security, health care and pensions” depends on it, Kern said late Thursday in the campaign’s final debate.

While those themes have resonated in previous campaigns, they’re not what Austrians are most concerned about now, according to Hofinger. Voters are instead gravitating toward promises by both the People’s Party and Freedom to limit the number of immigrants Austria receives and force newcomers to adapt local customs more quickly, he said.

The swell of anxiety over immigration to Austria began building 2015, when almost 70,000 mostly-Muslim refugees sought asylum from war-torn countries such as Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq. Schools and hospitals in the nation of 8.7 million struggled to accommodate the newcomers, and disagreements over whether it was fair to give immigrants generous welfare support dominate the media.

Read Why Austria May Elect the World’s Youngest Leader: QuickTake Q&A

Compared with 10 years ago, more Austrians say they feel like they’re not being heard and are in search of law-and-order leadership, a SORA institute study showed. More than two-fifths of voters declared their desire for a “strongman” leader, according to the research, periodically commissioned by the federal government to gauge public attitudes and consciousness about the country’s Nazi history.

Step forward Kurz, the foreign minister who’s distanced himself from the People’s Party’s leadership and forged similar views with Freedom’s Strache on immigration. Both men want to restrict immigrant access to Austria’s social-security system and impose tighter policing on the country’s borders. The Freedom Party came within 30,000 votes of winning the presidency, a mostly ceremonial post, in a run-off vote last year.

“Austria deserves someone who is ready to take on real responsibility for the population,” Strache said in a parliamentary speech this week, in which he chided Kern for letting thousands of refugees enter Austria, transported on the national railroad he ran before becoming chancellor.

    Read more: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-10-14/austrians-lean-toward-nationalist-government-led-by-a-millennial