Éric Salobir, National Digital Council: “AI must be at the service of a social project with the human being at the center” – ToulÉco

Eric Salobir, why the National Digital Council [1] did he go to Toulouse last week?

For several months, we have undertaken to tour the territories to take stock of research activities in France in the field of artificial intelligence (AI). In Toulouse, there is one of the three French hubs dedicated to AI. We conducted hearings within by Aniti [2] and Laas-CNRS [3]

At the moment, we are particularly interested in human-computer interactions in the world of work. Within the Laas laboratory, we wanted to see how the robots intended to interact in open environments with other collaborators were programmed.

Can robotics be a source of unrest in the world of work?

Robotics can create discomfort and friction. For example, a robot that avoids employees having to make a certain number of trips, that seems positive. But we can see that it was for them a moment of discussion with colleagues, and of a break between two activities. We cannot put the man in a situation of maximum efficiency eight hours a day. The brain doesn’t work that way. In the world of work, there is the temptation to privilege the machine at the expense of man, unpredictable and subject to human contingencies (going to the toilet, resting, etc.).

What vision does the National Digital Council defend in relation to the place of the machine?

We want to favor schemes in which the robot will give power to the human collaborator rather than other modes of operation, which are those, for example, of certain large American platforms, in which it is rather the man who is a machine appendage.

All our work, within the National Digital Council, is guided by a certain vision of technology which must be at the service of a social project with the human being at the center. Man should not be seen only as a source of profit, especially through the use of this data

What will your exchanges in Toulouse be used for? What do you remember from your visit?

These meetings will enrich our recommendations, the reports that we write, as well as the exchanges with the members of the various administrations to put in place new public policies.

A real interdisciplinarity is beginning to emerge in the Toulouse metropolis, despite the difficulties in the world of research to stimulate cross-research dynamics. In the region, aeronautics is also a good base for the development of robotics, because having to think about an environment as complex as an aircraft assembly line makes it possible to develop powerful tools and protocols.

Overall, things are progressing but it is still difficult for some researchers, far from the use phase, to feel concerned by the ethical consequences of robotics and AI. The robot must learn to predict the human to interact well with him, that his behavior is socially acceptable. But the human must also get to know the robot and not expect everything from it.

Upcoming meetings across France?

Yes. Our approach will be extended and amplified from this summer. We are going to organize meetings across France that will go beyond the experts. We want to hear from citizens, especially young people, on these issues. We will return to Occitania in particular. We must go further than our Parisian and institutional environment.

Interview by Matthias Hardoy

On the photo: The members of the National Digital Council in hearing within Aniti. Credit: National Digital Council.


[1] Sixteen members appointed by the Prime Minister and four parliamentarians.

[2] Artificial and natural intelligence Toulouse institute.

[3] Systems Analysis and Architecture Laboratory.

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Éric Salobir, National Digital Council: “AI must be at the service of a social project with the human being at the center” – ToulÉco

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