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As automation technologies such as machine learning and robotics play an increasingly great role in everyday life, their potential effect on the workplace has, unsurprisingly, become a major focus of research and public concern. The discussion tends toward a Manichean guessing game: which jobs will or won’t be replaced by machines?

Artificial intelligence: the fear is from the unknown

Science and Technology May 12th, 2016, QIN Zengchang / Director, Intelligent Computing and Machine Learning Lab, Beihang University

Artificial intelligence (AI) research has gained major headways over the past few decades. Relevant technologies have grown from being just lab myths to mass market products. Some computing technologies are sophisticated enough to replace human minds and solve real world problems. Regardless of the professional systems widely adopted in areas such as national defence, finance and medicine, search engines, social networks and apps on smart phones are the real vehicles that have allowed the public to feel the massive power of AI. Whether it is for academy or industry, AI talents detected that this renaissance would bring a different historic meaning to the technology. With Google, Baidu and other tech giants joining the ranks, the public has given different interpretations of AI from their own perspectives, with some of them being off track. Which stage has AI technology reached? Is the arrival of machine intelligence a blessing or a curse?

Why AlphaGo is not AI

Science and Technology March 29th, 2016, Jean-Christophe Baillie / Founder and President, Novaquark

Culture is the essential catalyst of intelligence and an AI without the capability to interact culturally would be nothing more than an academic curiosity. However, culture can not be hand coded into a machine; it must be the result of a learning process.

Since her departure from JP Morgan Chase to become CEO of Digital Asset Holdings, Blythe Masters, the renowned economist and market operator, initiated a speaking tour dedicated to blockchains. During the Exponential Finance Conference held on June 2nd 2015, she declared that “financial blockchain applications will be measured in the trillions.” Since this sensational announcement, specialized firms have been receiving many calls that all revolve around the same issue: “How will the blockchain technology help us take the ascendancy in our industry?” Today, there is a real curiosity, but above all, a need for education on the subject of Bitcoin and Ethereum protocols, as well as “blockchain technology.”

All around the world, construction methods have begun an accelerated shift towards increased innovation and efficiency, whether in building design, the implementation of constructive solutions, or the distribution and placement of building materials. One dimension of this revolution is the energy efficiency of buildings. Insulation solutions, in particular, are undergoing an unprecedented wave of innovation.

Carbon capture and storage: what’s up?

Science and Technology November 7th, 2015, François Giger / Chairman, Club Mines Energie

The COP21 provides an opportunity to review the development of carbon capture and storage (CCS). The International Energy Agency expects this technology to contribute to the global effort to reduce CO2 emissions by 15-20%, in line with the Copenhagen target to keep global warming below 2° C by 2100. In its 2014 World Energy Outlook report, the Agency presents a 2° C scenario where, in 2040, global emissions would be reduced from 46 GT, including 21 Gt from the electricity sector (business as usual), to 20 Gt, including 4 Gt from the electricity sector. Combining the use of coal with global climate objectives requires the implementation within the next 25 years of an industry with a size comparable to that of the oil industry. Expectations, hopes and obstacles are briefly presented before we examine the three phases of the complete chain of capture, transport and storage of CO2. Finally, we will offer an outlook regarding the measures that need to be undertaken.

The development of renewable energy since the early 2000s should continue and intensify in the coming years, changing significantly the electricity mix of the future while reducing the associated environmental impacts. It is therefore crucial to study the environmental impact of the different production sectors.

Four scenarios of China’s R&I landscape in 2025

Science and Technology October 8th, 2015, Stavros Mantzanakis / Director, Phemonoe Lab, CEO, Emetris Consulting

What are the main factors that will affect the Research & Innovation Environment in China until 2025? A recently released report, China 2025: Research and Innovation Landscape, identifies 16 factors that could drive various evolution scenarios.

Mathematics of chaos

Science and Technology September 11th, 2015, Claire Chavaudret / Lecturer and Researcher, Laboratoire J. A. Dieudonné, Nice Sophia-Antipolis University

In many areas, decision-making is affected by the difficulty in producing reliable forecasts. The behavior of financial markets, consumers or weather phenomena, the evolution of an ecosystem or the movement of certain celestial bodies provide some examples of unpredictable events that have an impact on human activity. Some developments of mathematics can help reduce this unpredictability or, at the very least, analyze it from a strategic point of view. The theory of probability plays such a role but so do fluid mechanics in the study of turbulence, or dynamic systems in the study of so-called chaotic phenomena, which belong to a specific class of unpredictable phenomena.

Articles analyzing why there's no Chinese innovation are all over the place. Meanwhile, the situation is changing at a rapid pace. How do Chinese entrepreneurs move from imitators to innovators? To better understand these issues, our Chinese edition invited a number of pioneers and observers at the front-line of domestic and international innovations.

Energy transition Series – Which future for hydrogen and fuel cells?

Science and Technology March 23rd, 2015, Hélène Pierre / Market Manager City and Territories, Research and Technology Department, GDF-SUEZ ; Treasurer, French Association for Hydrogen and Fuel Cell

Storing electricity? Some old solutions to this old problem are gaining momentum nowadays, thanks to recent improvements. Among these solutions, using electricity to obtain hydrogen and reconverting it later into energy or heat via fuel cells. The advantages are numerous: the possibility to store the excess production of electricity generated by renewable energy sources, to mix the hydrogen with natural gas (methane), to power electric vehicles… But there are as many challenges ahead if we want hydrogen to be a significant part of the future energy mix. Actions are under way. Let us discover them!

Education Series – 5 – Should we all learn to code?

Science and Technology March 17th, 2015, Serge Abiteboul / Senior Researcher, INRIA, Professor, ENS Cachan, Member of the French Academy of Sciences

The question first arose in the 1980s, with the advent of the personal computer: were we all going to have to learn to program? The development of the software industry seemed to have given one definitive, and negative, answer to this question. Yet it is coming back, with a vengeance. Why exactly should we take it seriously this time around?

During the 20th century Governments and public agencies such as NASA played a major role in the innovation chain. The Internet itself was born through public programs, just as GPS and many other game-changing technologies. But in recent years, questions arose over the efficiency of public efforts, challenged by smart, dynamic, powerful corporations such as Google, on the one hand, or bottom-up and open source models, on the other hand. Are Governments out of the game?

Rising energy consumption round the world, rarefaction of fossil energy sources, climate change, the necessary reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions… The development of new and renewable energy sectors, emitting few or zero GHGs has become primordial. Faced with this inevitable energy transition phase, nuclear fusion could be justified, provided we can prove its feasibility, thereby enabling a move to industrial fusion power production. This is the challenge assigned to the ITER international research facility.

2025: how would a Digital Earth deal with Ebola?

Science and Technology February 2nd, 2015, Dan Abelow / Inventor, technology consultant and author

It's 2025, a Digital Earth where continuous connections are everywhere, yet it's a planet where infectious disease outbreaks can erupt anywhere and spread worldwide in days. To provide a strategic health care firewall against medical crises and bio-terror, the Centers for Disease Control have matured digitally into a global, real-time e-CDC. New medical threats are identified, responded to and contained 24 x 365. As a real-time partner of health services around the world, the e-CDC's digital presence is everywhere. In this continuously connected future, it uses the best specialists to deliver the best medical protection everywhere, instantly, all the time.

Our foodstuffs in the future may be full of surprises. The challenges are high, human imagination is boundless. Numerous emerging innovations can be noted. Some are still in the labs, others are seeking to gain a foothold in the marketplaces.

Nano-sciences and nano-technologies are opening up hitherto unmapped paths to our bodies and health. But nano-medicine does not avoid the heated debates associated to this new scale. Risk assessment cannot be limited to a cost-benefit analysis. So, where do we go from here?

Robots will soon be able to read texts for us, engage in conversations, clean our windows, deliver packets and parcels, prepare our pill-boxes and even help us get back on our feet should we fall, or have difficulty just getting up. We had them first in the military sector, then carrying out industrial chores, now we see a new generation coming, prepared to do household chores, maintenance work, leisure activities or engage in educational activities. Whether they be macro-, or nano-, humanoid or dronoid, these robots are about to become our future companions. So, where do we stand today?

Long-term prospects and short-term contracts: physics research at a crossroad

Science and Technology September 1st, 2014, Serge Haroche / Professor, Collège de France, Nobel Prize laureate in physics, 2012

Today's researchers are enduring a tough period compared to other scientists throughout history. Due to funding and institutional constraints, they have to work on short-term contracts serving commercial interests and must make promises that they can hardly live up to. One example involves quantum computers. Scientists should devote themselves to basic research crucial to tackling long-term world issues, says Nobel Prize Serge Haroche. This does not prevent him from advocating a strong sense of humanity among scientists. He supports an ideal education and research system combining science and humanity that stokes people's curiosity and enthusiasm for science, while at the same time cultivating an atmosphere encouraging imagination and innovation.

A new golden dawn for corporate maths?

Science and Technology May 13th, 2014, Jean-Pierre Bourguignon / President of the European Research Council

Mathematical skills have become strategic for the business world and the most advanced companies hire high level scientists who tackle the underlying, fundamental, theoretical questions. However, this increasingly vital role of the boffins dedicated maths specialists often brings with it new demands and unforeseen responsibilities.

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