Investing in AI as a prerequisite for the survival of European civilisation – the 4th Warsaw Debates has just ended

 

Industrial revolution 4.0, Artificial Intelligence, autonomous vehicles, the impact of new technologies on the labour market, geopolitics, as well as GDPR dominated the topics discussed during this year’s edition of the Warsaw Debates. The largest Polish-French economic forum was attended by representatives of leading enterprises from France and Poland, as well as the highest Polish authorities, including Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki. The event was organized by the French-Polish Chamber of Commerce.

A very important meeting

Apart from Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, this year’s edition of the event was attended by, among others, Marek Zagórski, Minister of Digitisation, Pierre Lévy, Ambassador of the French Republic to Poland, Adam Hamryszczak, Undersecretary of State at the Ministry of Investment and Development, Luc Ferry, world-famous philosopher, former Minister of Education of France, Stéphane Richard, President of the Board of Orange Group, Arnaud Ribault, DS Brand Marketing Director (PSA Group), Hervé Guillou, President of Naval Group (former DCNS), Olivier Durix, CEO of Bouygues Immobilier Polska and Jean-François Fallacher, President of the Management Board of Orange Polska SA, who is also President of the French-Polish Chamber of Commerce. The Polish companies were represented by Prof. Dr. Janusz Filipiak, President of the Management Board of Comarch SA, Paweł Surówka, President of the Management Board of PZU SA and Sławomir Golonka, Director of Strategy of the Kaczmarski Group.

“The Warsaw Debates are a unique event during which company heads, politicians and experts meet to discuss issues of key importance to society. This year, following the tradition of debate initiated by the Entretiens de Royaumont, we have addressed the development of robotics and artificial intelligence. These are fundamental challenges for both countries and we must get prepared and act together to face them. Poland is and has always been very important for France, and France for Poland. I am also convinced that for our countries, as well as for Europe as a whole, cooperation has never been more important and desirable than it is now. I am all the more glad that the Warsaw Debates are not only a place of exciting discussions, but also contribute to strengthen the relations between our countries,” said Jean-François Fallacher, President of the French-Polish Chamber of Commerce.

Artificial Intelligence is the steam engine of the 21st century

Stéphane Richard, President of the Orange Group, who opened the Warsaw Meetings, said that 2007 was a breakthrough in the field of Artificial Intelligence development, but that it was from 2017 on that “Artificial Intelligence gathered momentum”. Richard pointed out that intelligent homes and autonomous vehicles are not a thing of the future, but of the present. This will enable people to focus more and more on creative activities, leaving simple activities to machines. All the experts also had no doubt that the Industrial Revolution 4.0 was already under way and that Artificial Intelligence was a breakthrough comparable to the steam engine. Sławomir Golonka, Director of Strategy at the Kaczmarski Group, said that currently in the world over USD 30 billion were spent on AI, and in a few years’ time the figure will exceed USD 200 billion. In his opinion, companies which will use AI will be able to count on a significant increase in employment and also on an increase in sales by 30-40%.

Luc Ferry, a respected French philosopher, pointed out that in his opinion AI allows non-professionals to win with professionals. As an example, he gave companies from the so-called sharing economy, known all over the world, which thanks to an application are able to successfully compete against global corporations with huge capital and know-how. Similarly, in the medical care sector, there are already machines that can detect cancer cells with far greater efficiency than humans. Therefore, according to Ferry, autonomous cars are only an announcement of the changes and benefits coming in the near future.

But … responsibility first

“Every great opportunity is also a great risk”, said Sławomir Golonka about AI. According to the expert, the on-going “new industrial revolution” must be approached in a broader perspective and with caution. If the dynamic development of new technologies brings undeniable benefits, it also brings with it threats which, according to the expert, require maintaining responsibility at several levels – state policy, business activity and at the individual level. Previously, Stéphane Richard noted that the same people who devote themselves to the development of AI also warn of the risks associated with it.

Father Maciej Zięba reminded us that man has always compared himself to the most complicated machines of a given period, but we must not forget that “man is something more than man”. According to Father Zięba, it is not possible to create an AI that 100% reproduces the human mind and its full potential. Therefore, in his opinion, a certain amount of scepticism should be maintained and, apart from looking exclusively at the benefits of development, we should not forget about the problems that may come with it, such as new social inequalities or dehumanisation.

Robots will force us to be flexible

The impact of new technologies on the labour market was an important topic discussed during the Warsaw Debates. Stanisław Łobejko, PhD, of the Warsaw School of Economics, pointed out that modernity requires fundamental changes in the educational system, so that young people focus more on learning to think and develop the ability to solve problems, rather than on remembering data, because in this aspect they will never defeat the machine. Finland and Singapore were examples of countries to follow. Viviane Chaine-Riberio, President of Talentia Software and Syntec, pointed out that AI will not only require flexibility to adapt one’s skills, but will also increasingly force geographical mobility.

In his speech, Luc Ferry stated that the progressive robotisation and development of artificial intelligence will not lead to the so-called end of work, but will force significant transformations. In his opinion, some of the professions, such as lawyers and some medical specialists (such as radiologists), will be forgotten, but there will be a need for other professions, often new or even unknown yet. Ferry also noted that machines could never replace man in a job that required “a coherent combination of brain, heart and hand potential”. Stéphane Richard expressed a similar opinion on the labour market transformations, additionally drawing attention to the spectre of new social inequalities that will emerge as Artificial Intelligence develops. In his opinion, AI is not only a benefit, but also a huge challenge for countries, businesses and the education system.

Critically on GDPR

Forum participants also often referred to the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), implemented in May. Despite the understanding of the general idea behind this important legal act – the protection of personal data of citizens – the panellists in their vast majority criticized the final content of the regulations. Prof. Filipiak, the President of Comarch’s Management Board, pointed out that GPRD restricts the development of companies and at the same time does not fulfil its basic purpose – according to the professor, the regulation still does not provide protection against global tycoons and their access to personal data of EU citizens. As a result, it is counterproductive. Viviane Chaine-Riberio, who pointed out that the new regulation places a heavy burden on businesses, particularly SMEs, agreed. Moreover, Sławomir Golonka stated that the GDPR has been introduced too late, that it was too bureaucratic in form, and that in the case of Poland it was not adapted to reality. During the discussion, it was also often pointed out that Europe’s largest competitors – the US and China – do not apply such restrictions, which puts the Old Continent at a disadvantage.

Cooperate or disappear

In his speech, Luc Ferry repeatedly pointed out the need to unite Europe in the AI area. In his view, the lack of a common policy could be detrimental to the EU, as the EU’s largest competitors, the US and China, are already at a much more advanced stage of development of this technology. Without a gigantic investment of hundreds of billions of euros, Ferry believes that Europe will become a colonial area in the future. “It is a question of the survival of European civilization” concluded Ferry.

Polish-French cooperation as a motor for responsible development

During his speech, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki repeatedly stressed the importance of long-lasting and positive Polish-French relations. The Prime Minister expressed his conviction that in the face of great global challenges, cooperation in Europe, also in the context of defence or of building technological advantage, is a necessity. In this respect, according to the Prime Minister, both countries want to cooperate and are doing it in the era of industrial revolution 4.0. Mateusz Morawiecki emphasized that cooperation in this area “was at the heart of the strategy for responsible development”. The Prime Minister also expressed his position on Poland’s aspirations to transform its economy towards clean technologies and energy, hoping that together with France, we will achieve a lot in this as well as in other areas.

 

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