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Prof Marc Mézard Delivers the 2020 Hubert Curien Memorial Lecture, “Artificial Intelligence: Success, Limits, Myths and Threats”


On Friday, 21st of February, The Cyprus Institute organized the 2020 Hubert Curien Memorial Lecture entitled “Artificial Intelligence: Success, Limits, Myths and Threats”. The speaker was world-renowned theoretical physicist Prof Marc Mézard, Director of École Normale Supérieure in Paris. The National Chief Scientist for Research and Innovation of the Republic of Cyprus, Mr. Kyriacos Kokkinos, addressed the event.

The public talk was held at The Cyprus Institute’s premises in Athalassa and was organized within the context of the Hubert Curien Memorial Lecture Series. The event was attended by state and civic officials, ambassadors, members of the Board of Trustees of The Cyprus Institute, and distinguished personalities from the scientific and business world.

In his talk, Prof Marc Mézard, noted that artificial Intelligence is about to have a dramatic impact on many sectors of human activity. “In the last ten years, thanks to the development of machine learning in “deep networks”, we have experienced spectacular breakthroughs in diverse applications such as automatic interpretation of images, speech recognition, consumer profiling, or Go and chess playing”.

Additionally, Prof. Mézard said that nowadays algorithms are competing with the best professionals at analysing skin cancer symptoms or detecting specific anomalies in radiology; and much more is to come. “Artificial intelligence will solve very specific problems with a simple measure of performance, transform many jobs, and it is expected that more economic activity will be created that destroyed”. On the other hand, he mentioned that worrisome perspectives are frequently raised, from massive job destruction to autonomous decision making “warrior” robots.

Prof. Marc Mézard’s lecture explored how “deep networks” are programmed to learn from data by themselves. This lecture allowed the broad public to understand their limits, to question whether their achievements have anything to do with “intelligence”, and to reflect on the foundations of scientific intelligence. “Deep networks are smart, although, they have no reasoning, no representation of the world, no consciousness, no attention, no possibility to apply knowledge in different context, or to combine it with other information. In conclusion, we are still very far from the goal of reaching General Artificial Intelligence”, he stated.

Finally, he noted that in the future, we will have an impressive progress of Artificial Intelligence, machine learning, and deep networks based on the ability to detect subtle patterns in massive amounts of data with major technological breakthroughs. “Artificial Intelligence is an extremely fast global revolution, with a significant impact on a large number of human activities, and transforming many jobs”.

Prof. Marc Mézard is a theoretical physicist. He received a PhD from École Normale Supérieure in Paris, did a post-doc in Rome, and became the head of statistical physics group in Paris-Sud University. Since 2012 he is the Director of École Normale Supérieure. His main field of research is statistical physics and its use in various branches of science – biology, economics and finance, information theory, computer science, statistics and signal processing. In recent years, his research has focused on information processing in neural networks. He has received the Lars Onsager prize of the American Physical Society, the Humboldt Gay-Lussac prize, the silver medal of CNRS, and the Ampere prize of the French Academy of Sciences. He is a member of the European Academy of Sciences.

The Cyprus Institute founded the Hubert Curien Memorial Lectures Series, in honor of the late Prof Hubert Curien (1924-2005), a Trustee of the Cyprus Research and Educational Foundation (CREF), and founding Chair of its International Council. Prof Hubert Curien, a physicist, is regarded as one of the most influential scientists and science policy makers of the 20th century. After an involvement in the French resistance at the end of World War II, Hubert Curien graduated from the École Normale Supérieure.

His scientific work was devoted to crystallography and he became an Assistant Professor at Paris University at the age of 27 and Professor five years later. He worked at CNRS as the Head of Physical Sciences Division and soon after as Director General. He served as Minister for Research (in several governments under the presidency of F. Mitterrand), but he never stopped teaching during all those years. He assumed a number of leading positions within European Science: President of the European Science Foundation, President of the European Space Agency, President of the Academia Europaea, President of CERN Council, as well as in France, where he had been President of Académié des Sciences de France and in numerous science boards. He was highly respected for his devotion to science, his openness and his generosity to people. His contribution in the planning and realization of The Cyprus Institute was pivotal and profound.

Prof. Mézard 2020 Hubert Curien Memorial Lecture presentation can be found here.