yannick lejeune

Yannick Lejeune

  • "What will the digital revolution do for us?"


IT engineer, writer and journalist Yannick Lejeune decodes the radical changes coming via the third industrial revolution.

What does the digital revolution have in store for us?

Given the speed of technological progress you'd have to be a genius to see even five years into the future. Nonetheless, some major fundamental trends are becoming apparent, such as using web-connected computers everywhere and all the time in our daily lives. We already do with smartphones and the development of connected devices is going to increase that. As a result we'll be generating a continuous flow of data – how many calories I burned by using the stairs, how many bottles of milk I need for myfridge – that we ourselves can con­sult but others too might be able to.


So we're going to become "quantifiable data"?
Absolutely, but the question is, what are we going to do with this data? It could enable us to develop products that correspond precisely to what users want – think Netflix's House of Cards series based on an analysis of its subscribers' behaviour, which among other things revealed their partiality for actor Kevin Spacey and political thrillers! Or being able to calculate the probability of someone suffering from a certain disease by analysing their genome, as some ex-Google engineers are doing. But there's a real danger of misuse. For example, analysing childhood behaviour as a means of attempting to predict adult criminality, as some politicians were once suggesting.


Managing all that information will require extremely powerful systems.
Such huge amounts require an intelligence superior to our human one, what we call artificial intell­igence. This field of research is developing fast and already producing interesting results, the latest being Google's prototype for analysing what a photo shows. Remember that when you post a photo on Facebook the system recognises faces quite easily because its algorithms are much more advanced than those of national security services! But Google's prototype goes further: by cross-referencing and compiling information it can interpret what it sees: "Those are two hockey players fighting for a puck on an ice rink." The capacity to perceive the world and interpret its minutest details is one of the things that artificial intelligence has been lacking.


Talking about artificial intelligence immediately makes us think of robots.
We're beginning to make robots capable of pretty advanced physical interactions, such as delicate touch enabling them to grasp a fragile object with­out breaking it. It's good to think that the world's greatest surgeons can operate anywhere on earth from a distance. But there are questions posed too. Should we allow old people to be looked after by robots, as is already happening in some countries? What exactly is developing intelligent devices able to make autonomous decisions going to do for us? Save us time so we achieve a more human way of life? Or increase performance so life becomes even harder for individuals?


So what is this mega-connected daily living really going to be like?
In reality, the least expandable element today is time. There's never been so much music, so many websites, TV series etc. Our brains are increasingly overloaded. Only the essentials, the things that go beyond a simple service, will hold their own. Facebook, for example, has become an indispensable window onto the world for many users. But does the same apply to connected bathroom scales? I don't know. I bought one of the first; every morn­ing it tells me I should lose weight, and I tell myself it's right. But that's as far as it goes!


Who is Yannick Lejeune?

He is director of internet strategy for a large chain of private colleges of higher education. He has edited two books for publishers FYP: Big, fast & open data. Décrire, décrypter et prédire le monde : l'avènement des données and TIC 2025, les grandes mutations. Additionally he is a collection editor for the Delcourt comic publishing house.


Par Alexandre Benoist