May 24, 2019
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Who's afraid of AI?

 The humanoid robot Sophia, a creation of Hanson Robotics, during a presentation at Techfestival Bright day 2018 in Vijfhuizen, The Netherlands, Nov. 25, 2018. EPA-EFE/FILE/ROBIN UTRECHT

The humanoid robot Sophia, a creation of Hanson Robotics, during a presentation at Techfestival Bright day 2018 in Vijfhuizen, The Netherlands, Nov. 25, 2018. EPA-EFE/FILE/ROBIN UTRECHT

Paris, Mar 5 (efe-epa).- Humanity's Industrial Revolution-era fear that machines will one day take over has taken on a new lease of life with the advent of Artificial Intelligence, which is expected to drastically alter our society in the near future, a renowned expert in the field told EFE in an exclusive interview published Tuesday.

This fear is unfounded, according to French mathematician, lawmaker and AI expert, Cédric Villani, who said the trick was to avoid using the technology as a mirror for society's ills.

"We are often afraid of replacing man with the machine, when the real danger lies with the human, with the risk that, when we reproduce mankind in the machine, we are left with the same vices," said the mathematician, who in 2017 became a member of parliament for President Emmanuel Macron's party, La République En Marche.

"AI is not our adversary," he added in an interview with EFE.

For that reason, Villani continued, states must act as a counterweight to powerful corporations, which are the only organizations with sufficient resources to stockpile data and analyze it for the creations of algorithms necessary for AI.

Villani, who in 2010 won the prestigious Fields Medal, which is widely regarded as the Nobel Prize of the mathematics world, brushed aside the fears haunting the industry, attributing them to the publics' scant knowledge on the sector.

"The danger now is not that machines become conscious, that they start to do things there were not programmed to do," he said. "The danger is that they can be used maliciously," he added.

Villani attended a global conference organized by Unesco, the United Nation's education, cultural and scientific agency, on the future of AI.

Many of the experts speaking at the event in Paris warned against letting AI fall exclusively into the hands of major corporations.

The 45-year-old highlighted the example of social media usage, which he said, beyond being a communication platform, was also able to project

the insults, the hate, the attacks that were once restricted to the street.

Another way of staving off the malicious use of AI is to grant the technology rights, both legal and ethical, said Audrey Azoulay, France's former culture minister and now director-general of Unesco.

She said it was important to use the technology for the common good of society.

Villani, a specialist in partial differential equations and mathematical physics, is a professor at the University of Lyon.

by Luis Miguel Pascual

lmpg/jt/hh

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