On 2015, December 8th, Mardis de l'ESSEC invited Damien Viel (E97), managing director for Twitter France, Didier Rappaport, founder of Happn and Dailymotion, and Dominique Cardon, a sociologist at Orange Labs, at the Mazars France offices to talk about digital transition and big data. Report by student Axel Ropars.
There are many misconceptions and fears about big data. However Damien Viel proved to be a strong supporter of the technology: he claimed that "big data improves people's lives" and listed the benefits it brought to healthcare, communications, research, and town planning - not to mention its profitability. Dominique Cardon drew a more nuanced picture, reminding there is "a black market for private data". Damien Viel stressed the fact that big data itself was not the problem there and that it all rather came down to corporate governance issues. He went on insisting that companies should protect their customers in the same way as their financial interests - even though Twitter does grant access to their huge database to corporate clients…
From ethics to practice
How do you process so much data? According to Didier Rappaport, the problem is to transform big data in smart data, and in a very short time. Dominique Cardon agreed: "the new digital black gold" lies less in the data itself than in the algorithms that can process it. Artificial Intelligence, which is already able to mimic human thought like HAL, should focus on prediction and use statistics; because IT systems can't create anything from scratch, they only compute and replicate processes.
Time to adapt
The three guests insisted that education was a priority to face all those challenges. As Dominique Cardon said: "Everybody should learn to code, even a little, so as not to be intimidated by machines and their designers". Damien Viel agreed: "I can't code, and it bothers me". He reckoned code should be taught as early as in primary school. Axelle Lemaire, Minister for Digital Affairs, couldn't agree more!
Saving private life
Unfortunately, the big issue of privacy remained unanswered. A sign of the times? This is what Dominique Cardon calls "the paradox of privacy" in his research work: everybody cares, but nobody does anything. Maybe the biggest challenge facing digital transformation is to fight this "citizen apathy", which Tocqueville already feared much in his time.