For some time now, artificial intelligence (AI) has been receiving unprecedented attention. Why is this? Because it is making a genuine leap forward as a combined result of four factors: the rapid advance in communications that sends all forms of expression hurtling across the planet at the speed of light, computer processing power (now measured in quadrillions of operations per second), the explosion of available data and the progress of machine learning. Hence, as André-Yves Portnoff and Jean-François Soupizet assert, a whole new ecosystem is emerging.
What might the applications of AI be? There are already countless possible uses, ranging from the milking of goats, banking services, autonomous vehicles, digital marketing and smart cities to health and sabotage… Some experts who subscribe to the “technological singularity” theory even believe that AI could take over the planet, an assertion staunchly contested here by our authors who do, however, stress how much the division of roles between men and machines needs to be rethought, as does the relationship between them. They also point out, incidentally, that the spread of AI within businesses hasn’t gone as far as all that, since that would imply profound changes in forms of organization and management — in short, a cultural revolution, and culture does not move at the same pace as technological advance! Turning to the question of the players involved, they stress the conflict between the new entrants (the American and Chinese Internet giants) and traditional companies, together with states whose sovereignty is seriously impaired as a result; but these latter may discover that AI affords them the means to restore their power, for better or for worse, in years to come.
Drawing in this article on a foresight analysis carried out for the members of the Futuribles International association, André-Yves Portnoff and Jean-François Soupizet venture to outline a number of possible futures. These are not scenarios properly so-called, but contrasting models. They include the “privatized digital panopticon”, characterized by the supremacy of the digital giants; the “statized digital panopticon”, which would see the Chinese regime and the IT giants coming together in their own shared interest; the “enlightened long-termist” model; and that of “digital criminalities”. In doing so, the authors show once again how technologies are double-edged and how it is important that we — and particularly we Europeans — take responsibility when choices are being made that will undoubtedly shape the future for many years to come.