There was no need to annoy Jean-Philippe Desbiolles, Vice-Président Global Cognitive, AI & Data Leader for Financial Services at IBM. Hearing too much nonsense about Artificial Intelligence, he armed himself with a frank and direct pen to write his truths on the topic, in a book entitled “AI will be what you make of it” (L’IA sera ce que tu en feras). Lovers of tongue-in-cheek interviews and shock formulas, these next few lines are for you.


Hi Jean-Philippe, so why did you write this book… now? 

I’d had enough!

For too long, pitches on Artificial Intelligence have been either completely alarmist either blessed-yes. They prevent from a real adoption and development of AI. Above all, they take away our sense of responsibility. After more than 10 years of experience in this domain, where I had the chance to carry out projects in the US, Asia and Europe, it was time to share this experience; so that everyone could have their own path. Finally, AI is a major and radical change that no one can ignore. It is therefore essential that we take this subject in hand. Basically, stop thinking, just do it! Only the ones who are doing it are able to really understand the breaths of what is possible and what is not.

Through this book I wanted to put forward ten golden rules (one by chapter), as much pragmatic than very operational. The book deliberately puts the human-being at the heart of the transformation, because they are everything.


An extract from your book that best represents yourself? 

I take part in many conferences, both at a university level and professional level (INSEAD, Columbia University, Technion Connected World, CES Unveiled, …). Every people who read this book and know me will be able to tell you that every page, every word, it is me.


Here is an extract from the book that will allow them to understand who they are dealing with:

“Humans: both answer & solution?

My belief is that we are both the problem and… the solution. We are the key.

  • We are the problem. Even if we put in place standards, tools, methodologies, the weakest element remains the human being. If we are not inclusive and do not ensure fair diversity of the group of individuals who are at the beginning of AI training processes and who then, ensure that AI systems learn and improve; we will – by design – continue to create biases. If a system is trained and supervised with the help of a “homogeneous group” it will reflect this and take ownership of their biases. We need to ensure that this group of people reflect diversity in a broad sense of the word: beliefs, race, gender, …
  • But we also are the solution. The real issue for AI on this subject is vigilance. It must be collective and inclusive. It must reflect the diversity of the men and women working on the subject. There is still a long way to go; a lot of work remains to be done. Until this point is reached, we may have developed the best tools and standards, but we will continue to generate bias in AI systems by definition.


Technology alone cannot be the answer. Even if we did significant progress in the past years to create open systems able to detect, assess and mitigate biases; the real answer is a combination of humans and machines.


The trends that are just emerging and that you believe in the most?

We have to stop talking about trends. The subject of Artificial Intelligence has been placed in the General-purpose Technologies (GPTs) classification. This classification recognizes technologies that have a systemic impact, affecting an entire economy at the global level. For example, steam, electricity or the Internet are among them.

AI is a technology that changes everything for everyone: it will be able to influence our decision-making process at every stage and in any sector.

This is a human revolution, not just a trend. It’s structural, it’s a long cycle. It’s a trap to think that only the high-intellectual professions will be affected. In the United States, for example, I met a chef who used Watson (IBM’s artificial intelligence, editor’s note) to create new, innovative recipes. But it should be pointed out right away that the chef had spent a lot of time training the machine. Because I would also like to shatter another myth: AI is not magic, it is very time-consuming and requires intense collaboration between men, women and machine, particularly in the learning process and system supervision.


In more than 20 years of practice I have never seen such a pervasive topic. AI is similar to a wave, don’t try to stop it, only option is to surf it. The major challenges are adoption and appropriation. These are the keys to success, and it is necessary to understand its codes and implications. So let’s stop talking about trends and focus on the application of AI in all business processes! Because, yes, we are going to live in an augmented world. Shouldn’t the initials AI stand for Augmented Intelligence?


If you had to give one piece of advice to a reader of this article, what would it be?


  • Firstly, do not only be obsessed with data but think learning process. The challenge of AI is to teach a system something in a given context and purpose. This learning is conducted by men and women who therefore operate a transfer of knowledge, know-how and interpersonal skills to a so-called “intelligent” system. It is about Data AND Learning.
  • Secondly, do not think only in terms of algorithms, statistics and mathematics, but also in terms of cognitive sciences. AI is an eminently human subject. It covers cognitive dimensions through 6 senses: language, voice, vision, complex reasoning, knowledge management and empathy. It means that you need more than ever to develop a large spectrum of skills within your teams. Multidisciplinary is a must.
  • Finally, let’s not make it only a technological topic. It is a subject where the priority is change management, in order to ensure the adoption and appropriation of the systems that we make available to users. We are facing a new collaboration that requires new skills, new behaviors. We have to keep our free will. In this perspective we have to develop the right balance between hard and soft skills (horizontal thinking, critical thinking, collaborative spirit,…)

So stop reading this article and do it! Stop believing in Harry Potter, AI is not magic. There is a real work of men and women to train and supervise these systems: no more big speeches, time for action! In doing so, we take ownership of the subject of AI and understand its scope and limitations.

In a nutshell, what are the next topics that you will be passionate about?

We are at a stage where the complexity of the environment forces us to rethink how we create. The sequential world is behind us: we entered an endless world. This will force us to completely redesign the way we forecast the future. As such, I am currently working with an American expert in the field of Science Fiction. We are currently working on how to combine creation, science fiction and technology to glimpse the future, by combining human capabilities and artificial intelligence. This has never been done before, so let’s make it happen!


Many thanks, Jean-Philippe Desbiolles


Thank you Bertrand