Intelligence… a vast subject that could once again be that of a test of philosophy

Intelligence is traditionally associated with the capacity for reasoning and reflection of an individual, opposed to the instinct which for him, is assimilated to a kind of reflex and would therefore be the opposite of an elaborate thought. Equipped with intelligence, we are therefore all potentially able to solve a number of problems and adapt to an environment.

We commonly talk about practical, emotional intelligence, or other variations.

A number of diverse and multisectoral techniques have been developed to enable machines to mimic real intelligence. By extension, we are now talking about artificial intelligence (AI) which is increasingly in competition with our brains, affecting all professions, even the most complex.

Behind AI, there is a kind of “programmed wisdom” which consists in predicting what will happen in the future from elements drawn from the study of the past to which specific algorithms have been applied to make it possible to create mathematical statistical models.

Born in 1950, this concept is now implemented in an ever-growing number of application areas.

Google, Microsoft, Apple, IBM, Facebook: the IT world deals with the problems of AI by applying it to specific areas.

For example, AI is present in smartphone cameras, making facial recognition possible both for the user of a phone and on a larger scale to identify people in an airport.

It is also found in the military field (drone decision-making), in the finance sector (risk assessment for example) in medicine (establishment of certain diagnoses) in transport (traffic management), in robotics or in video games and industries… and the spectrum keeps expanding.

Where is Europe in all of this? In this race, which is probably one of the most important of the moment, we can only note – and regret – a delay that will be difficult to bridge in terms of the number of financings, acquisition of AI companies and expenses. of R&D.

The UK’s departure from the European Union risks widening the gap even further. Because the facts are there: the USA undoubtedly remain in the lead with GAFAM, Twitter, Netflix, followed by China (the internet company Baidu, the electronics company Xiaomi, Alibaba which generates higher revenues than Amazon.)

… And the possibilities for use are growing exponentially in unexpected areas.

An algorithm is currently being tested in Togo as part of a pilot project to detect the most vulnerable people and send them money directly to their mobile phones. *

It is the American University of Berkeley (USA again and again …) which developed this intelligent tool using satellite and cellular data to first detect the poorest areas and identify the most deprived people by analyzing their data provided by telecommunications companies.

Then the GiveDirectly organization takes over and sends them money.

A word from this organization which has been making direct donations for more than 10 years and has given more than 280 million dollars to 635,000 people on the African continent.

Associated with Google since last year, she notably created Delphi, a virtual map that detects areas requiring increased aid after a natural disaster: this allows both GiveDirectly and NGOs to better target the granting of aid.

The researchers who created this algorithm proceeded in stages, first interviewing a panel of 15,000 citizens from poor regions of Togo about their situation and associated the information thus collected with data from mobile phones: the AI ​​was thus able to find formulas itself without the tool having been informed in advance of what to look for.

Identified beneficiaries then receive a notification to register via their mobile phone and receive a payment to be withdrawn in a local store, in this case $ 15 for women, 13 for men, once a month for 5 months in order to to cover their basic needs.

An audit team follows up to verify receipt, assess experience and update any fraud.

Privacy concerns have been reduced by data encryption, although it must be recognized that the main pitfall is that not everyone has a phone.

We can only welcome the initiative of this new AI functionality and the method employed by Givedirectly and the University of Berkeley in this singular period of health crisis.

This “contactless” project is in tune with the times and could be an effective method to curb the growing misery linked to this pandemic if it were to become more democratic.

The mathematician Alan Turing originated the notion of AI in the 1950s.

The test then developed – which was named after him – aimed at making a blind subject interact with another human being and a machine. If the subject was not able to tell the difference, then the machine was considered “intelligent”.

Should we be moved today by the fact that computers are asking us humans to prove that we are not robots? !!

* Subject covered in the program Tout un monde / France Culture – January 2021