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June-August 2017

Are ethical questions holding back AI in France?

In late January this year, the French government announced it would start putting together a strategy for artificial intelligence (AI). For a country with an abundance of mathematicians and scientists highly skilled in many of the fundamental techniques underlying AI, this seemed a little late in coming. The country’s relatively slow adoption is partly the result of public confusion, and partly due to the way the French have approached the ethical debate around AI. French psychiatrist and member of l’Académie des Technologies, Serge Tisson thinks it would help if the general public had a more accurate understanding of what AI is. Tisseron, who authored a book on the subject, Le jour où mon robot m’aimera – vers l’empathie artificielle, said: “People think right away that AI systems are as powerful as the human mind. We talk about artificial empathy, neural networks, and autonomous machines – all references to human traits. This tendency towards anthropomorphism misleads the general public. And now the European parliament is even...

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