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Emmanuel Macron Talks About France's AI Strategy

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France will spend 1.5 billion ($1.85 billion) over five years to support artificial intelligence research.

"If I manage to build trust with my citizens for AI, Im done. If I fail building trust with one of them, thats a failure," says French president Emmanuel Macron.

Credit: Laura Stevens

On Thursday, Emmanuel Macron, the president of France, gave a speech laying out a new national strategy for artificial intelligence (AI) in his country. The French government will spend €1.5 billion ($1.85 billion) over five years to support research in the field, encourage startups, and collect data that can be used, and shared, by engineers. The goal is to start catching up to the US and China and to make sure the smartest minds in AI—hello Yann LeCun—choose Paris over Palo Alto.

Directly after his talk, he gave an exclusive and extensive interview, entirely in English, to WIRED Editor-in-Chief Nicholas Thompson about the topic and why he has come to care so passionately about it.

Nicholas Thompson: First off, thank you for letting me speak with you. It was refreshing to see a national leader talk about an issue like this in such depth and complexity. To get started, let me ask you an easy one. You and your team spoke to hundreds of people while preparing for this. What was the example of how AI works that struck you the most and that made you think, 'Ok, this is going to be really, really important'?

Emmanuel Macron: Probably in healthcare—where you have this personalized and preventive medicine and treatment. We had some innovations that I saw several times in medicine to predict, via better analysis, the diseases you may have in the future and prevent them or better treat you. A few years ago, I went to CES. I was very impressed by some of these companies. I had with me some French companies, but I discovered U.S., Israeli and other companies operating in the same field. Innovation that artificial intelligence brings into healthcare systems can totally change things: with new ways to treat people, to prevent various diseases, and a way—not to replace the doctors—but to reduce the potential risk.

The second field is probably mobility: we have some great French companies and also a lot of U.S. companies performing in this sector. Autonomous driving impresses me a lot. I think these two sectors, I would say, healthcare and mobility, really struck me as promising. It's impossible when you are looking at these companies, not to say, "Wow, something is changing drastically," and what you thought was for the next decade, is in fact now. There is a huge acceleration.


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