Which human skills are needed to work with artificial intelligence?

Can robots and writers make a good partnership? Have the humanities been definitively written off as obsolete? As for robotization, where does the true threat lie? We take a closer look..

In the context of certain technologies which are advancing at the speed of light, one question should be on everyone's lips: what types of people will companies need most – techies or good all-rounders?

In autumn 2016, Google was actively seeking whizzes to work with... data, you might guess. You'd be wrong, as the web giant was looking for wordsmiths. But this is not an anecdote or recruitment error: the company has ambitions to beat Amazon's Alexa at its own game by giving its Google Home virtual assistant a more rounded personality – envisaging a home automation device with a sense of conversation, humour and good timing.

Artists using their talents for conversational artificial intelligence

 Ensuring robots possess a minimum of human social skills: this is the task awaiting the new class of recruits to technological firms, sought for their experience of writing fiction, film dialogue, plays, etc. But to what end? The idea is to compensate for the assistant's gloomy metallic appearance, make it likeable, and extend the assistant/customer relationship beyond the first interaction. It is worth noting that once the initial novelty period has worn off, users generally only turn to their assistant to find out about the weather or order a pizza. The same challenge has been set for the writers, poets and playwrights at Microsoft whose role is to make its virtual home assistant Cortana answer back better.

Humanists on board to ensure ethical principles 

 Humanities qualifications could be a goldmine in the world of technology. According to billionaire businessman Mark Cuban, young workers can regard them as effective protection against the loss of jobs to robotization. There are two reasons for the resurgence of these study disciplines, seen as outdated not that long ago.

The first of these is that as the algorithms used by the police, the justice system and government begin to encroach upon decision-making and become a part of our lives, ethical questions and challenges for our society are also emerging that could potentially lead to serious prejudices which we are not even aware of. A new role is appearing with a view to controlling the risk of abuse: that of practical philosophy consultant for large enterprises who prefer to assign the dilemmas posed to specialists in the humanities. The question has also given rise to research topics. An investigation carried out in conjunction with philosophers, logicians, sociologists and anthropologists led to a set of preliminary ethical rules designed to govern the conduct of autonomous agents. Finally, algorithms are beginning to be audited in order to ensure that artificial intelligence is being used for the public good.

The second reason is that while robots may be acknowledged as infallible in the execution of particular tasks which are repetitive, administrative or physical, they are quite clearly not renowned for their human qualities, ability to communicate or their empathy. To design elegant solutions that customers consider useful and to optimise user experience, employees will need to use diplomacy and creativity, skills demonstrated by many humanities graduates in addition to their level of versatility.

Ultra-specialised or all-round achievers?

It would be hasty to conclude that the world of technology primarily requires those with technical skills. Because this false truism hides a trap, as well as a threat. There is the threat to the role of the programmer: open source and the ease with which almost anyone can pick up lines of code have significantly lowered access barriers to finding employment in the field of data exploitation. And there is a trap in that it is illusory to believe that the expertise of techies will always be prioritised over the agility of all-rounders, who often show greater willingness to adapt and learn. These qualities are becoming essential, for the rapid speed of technological progress is taking the idea of sustainable, highly-specialised functions back to the realm of fantasy. Humanity, as well as a passion for complex thought and creativity, mean non-specialists have other gifts to contribute...

Source: l’Atelier, BNP Paribas


Digital transformation: your action plan

33% of IT decision-makers don't have a clearly defined strategy for digital transformation, a survey reveals. Why is this and how can this situation be rectified effectively?

In the fast-moving consumer goods market, technology is now radically reshaping competitive dynamics in the marketplace, for both consumers and distributors. This has irrevocably changed how people buy things. In the results of its "Fast-Moving Consumer Goods" survey, Progress reveals the current paradox: digital transformation is crucial, but implementation is slower than desired.

"60% [of IT decision-makers] admit that their organization is still largely in denial about the need to transform digitally."

Where exactly does the problem lie?

More than half of IT decision-makers see this process as something daunting that will take a long time. 66% feel that their marketing and IT teams are not in alignment to deliver on the project. 64% find it difficult to keep up with the ever-changing digital landscape. When it comes down to it, two departments clash on the distribution of tasks and budgets: IT versus Marketing. The good news? 96% of companies have plans to act within the year.

The key elements of your action plan

1. Begin with an inventory

Achieving digital transformation involves customer satisfaction, the ability to alter the focus of the business and rollout of a flexible platform, but you shouldn't throw out the baby with the bathwater. The transformation should be initiated after taking stock of the company's assets, in the form of an inventory.

Then you should visualize possibilities for change to consider the future of your business, no longer as a traditional firm, but as an ambitious digital hub.

2. Inspiration to think big

The founders of Google say that they have always sought to reject a traditional management approach by adopting two basic principles, which apply perfectly to digital transformation: focus on satisfying users and hire "smart creatives". This can be achieved through the LEAN method.

3. The will and the time

The company has to recognize that digital change is permanent in order to be relevant. It requires the creation of new experiences and the definition of new paradigms that can overthrow traditional models but are ultimately beneficial: 41% of CIOs notice an increase in market share post-transformation, with 37% of employees becoming more motivated as a corollary.

4. The vision and the tools

In order to improve and optimize the customer experience, you have to work on the speed, responsiveness, security and standardization of distribution channels. Mobile devices are widely favoured (62% according to the survey) for analytics, data connectivity, e-commerce, content and the Cloud.

A full copy of the report can be downloaded for free from the publisher's website.

Source: Progress



Big data: six questions to ask yourself before getting started

Big data is a new class of assets that companies must embrace, develop, protect and make work for them during their transformation into a digital enterprise. We have put together some points to help guide your strategy.

Is there a course in big data?

Most universities around the world have come to understand the importance of big data. More and more, they are using analysis, both in research and to improve the lives of students on campus and help guide them; however, there is little in terms of training on this topic. Nevertheless, some establishments have recently started to offer their own diplomas and programmes to train the next generation of data scientists.

Do I need to provide training for my staff?

Yes. However, it's difficult to send your IT teams back to the school room in order to train or bring them up to speed. Nevertheless, various training courses have been organised around the country by specialist service providers. A two-day training course already teaches its students about the specific issues surrounding big data and the potential technical solutions.

Do I need to hire a data scientist?

Not necessarily. Some figures: last year, there were 4.4 million jobs in this sector, of which only 40% were filled. Not everyone has the budget for a data scientist. You can instead call on an independent consultant to pave the way and get your company up and running with big data.

What main techniques are required?

Techniques such as machine learning and data mining are essential for those working with big data. They help you tackle tasks that are difficult or even impossible to complete using more classic algorithms. The art of Data Visualisation enables you to communicate discoveries from data analysis.

What keyword should I take away?

Hadoop! In the same way as Microsoft Office is known for productivity and Apache is synonymous with the internet, apps are the key in the world of Big Data. Hadoop should be the cornerstone of your strategy. Without such expertise, it is impossible to master big data. This open-source software framework is designed for distributed data storage. It is highly scalable and resistant to failures. Its role is to process and analyse new and old data silos to extract significant knowledge from them that can be used in a company's strategy. Your experts will have to become familiar with its components: ‘Spark’, ‘Hive’, ‘Pig’, ‘MapReduce’ and ‘HBase’.

Is big data relevant for SMEs?

Certainly, in particular for marketing: big data enables companies to sort data in order to gain a clear profile of its customers. Segmentation can be used to optimise campaigns. Analysis also allows you to  really observe how customers behave. SMEs don't have the same budget as a large group, and so they must primarily focus on data which is both crucial and can be exploited to reap the greatest reward: creating a stronger link with their customers.



Blockchain, innovatie in de beveiliging van online transacties

La blockchain est une solution digitale d’échange sécurisée entre partenaires. Décryptage d’un mécanisme ingénieux, sans intermédiaires, appelé à stocker 10 % du PIB mondial d’ici 2027.

Qu'est-ce que la blockchain ? Définition et explications

A l’origine, la blockchain est l’infrastructure informatique sur laquelle repose le bitcoin, monnaie alternative apparue en 2009 et générée par un algorithme. La blockchain sert à valider l’identité des utilisateurs, à sécuriser les échanges mais aussi à les rendre transparents. En adhérant au système, chacun peut télécharger sur son ordinateur l’historique de toutes les opérations et les éléments les concernant comme un livre de compte partagé et consultable à tout moment. Il n’y a donc pas d’organisme central, pas d’autorité régulatrice, ni d’intermédiaire ; et ainsi aucun coût afférent. D’où l’intérêt, pour de petites et moyennes entreprises, de se saisir de ce dispositif. 

Concrètement, l’échange entre deux parties sur une blockchain est chiffré et entre dans ce que l’on appelle un bloc. Un identifiant formé d’une suite de chiffres et de lettres lui est attribué. Une partie est générée aléatoirement, une autre doit respecter certaines contraintes (débuter par un certain nombre de 0, par exemple). Ce sont les ordinateurs connectés à la blockchain qui mettent leur puissance de calcul au service de cette tâche, et non un serveur central. Quand l’un d’eux trouve la bonne combinaison, l’opération est définitivement validée. Un lien technique est créé avec le bloc validé précédemment puis avec celui qui le sera juste après, créant ainsi une « chaîne de blocs » (blockchain) interdépendants. Falsifier un bloc est quasiment impossible  car cela impliquerait de falsifier toute la chaîne et serait visible par toutes les parties prenantes impliquées.

Une technologie prometteuse… et quelques inconnues

Malgré sa courte histoire, la blockchain a connu quelques déboires. Comme le piratage du fonds d’investissement « The DAO » en juin 2016 ou le vol de bitcoins sur les plateformes d’échange « Bitfinex » ou « Mt. Gox » suite à des failles informatiques. Et cela sans que l’origine de la faute ne soit toujours claire : un défaut de la blockchain elle-même ou des services mis en place autour ? Et c’est bien l’un des problèmes : cet environnement technologique récent est encore nébuleux. Les projets sont pour l’heure de type proof of concept, par définition expérimentaux et n’offrent que peu de recul.

La gouvernance décentralisée, faite de communautés d’utilisateurs et de développeurs, pose aussi question. Comment procéder à des évolutions techniques acceptables par tous ? Qui tranche, qui décide ? D’autant que des interrogations se posent déjà : la blockchain, qui pèse actuellement plus de 90 Mo et qui continue de grossir, peut-elle rester maniable ? La taille des blocs, limitée à 1 Mo, empêche par ailleurs de réaliser plus de 7 transactions par seconde. De quoi freiner l’appropriation de la technologie.

La blockchain en entreprise : zoom sur une transformation digitale

Toujours est-il qu’un rapport du Forum Economique Mondial de septembre 2015 prévoit un plein déploiement de la blockchain autour de 2027.

Pour les entreprises, l’absence d’intermédiaire - intrinsèque à la blockchain - a plusieurs intérêts : elle élimine certains coûts et simplifie et accélère les procédures (pas de traitements « papier » ni d’opérations manuelles). Elle renforce la sécurité puisque seules les parties contractantes ont accès aux données stockées. Un avantage non négligeable à l’ère du Big data où la moindre donnée échangée peut être captée et analysée par des tiers.

 (Source : Newsletter BNP Paribas Entreprises)



Cyberveiligheid professioneel aanpakken

Valt er in uw onderneming weinig te rapen voor hackers? Bent u daar zeker van? De vraag is niet óf er een cyberaanval komt, maar wanneer die er komt. Dan kunt u maar beter voorbereid zijn.

80 procent van de ondernemingen wordt besmet door malware en 60 procent door crimeware. Dat blijkt uit de studie Unknown threat die KPMG België in 2015 uitvoerde in samenwerking met CEGEKA België, Samsung België, de Antwerp Management School en de Universiteit van Antwerpen. De digitale transformatie van de economie zal het aantal cyberaanvallen waarschijnlijk nog doen toenemen.
U hebt wellicht geen idee waar het hackers allemaal om te doen is. Zowat elk excuus is goed voor een cyberaanval, waarbij kleine noch grote ondernemingen worden gespaard.
Zo zijn er de zogenaamde hacktivisten (bijvoorbeeld Anonymous) die ideologisch geïnspireerd zijn, staatsgesponsorde hackers die jacht maken op intellectuele eigendom en misdaadorganisaties die uit zijn op de codes van uw kredietkaarten of die u losgeld aftroggelen in ruil voor de herstelling van uw door ransomware gegijzelde systeem. Maar nog geniepiger en gevaarlijker zijn volgens KPMG de 'insiders': zij ondermijnen de onderneming van binnenuit en sturen de controlesystemen aan, wat hun macht nog groter maakt.
Het risico is dus gigantisch. Dat blijkt ook uit het initiatief van de Europese overheid, die de ondernemingen vanaf 2018 zal verplichten om een beveiligings- en transparantiebeleid te voeren. Het gaat om de 'Algemene Verordening Gegevensbescherming'.

Wat heeft een hacker bij mij te zoeken?

Ja, zelfs uw onderneming heeft een hacker mogelijk lucratieve digitale activa te bieden. Stel u maar eens voor dat een hacker elementen van intellectuele eigendom, bedrijfsprocessen, vertrouwelijke informatie over uw leveranciers en klanten of persoonsgegevens buitmaakt en er munt uit slaat op het internet. Zou u het goedvinden dat uw lopende transacties openbaar worden gemaakt? Natuurlijk niet.

Het beste verweer?

Cyberveiligheid is vooral een kwestie van anticiperen. Je niet voorbereiden wordt als een nalatigheid beschouwd en vormt vanaf 2018 een inbreuk op de Europese regelgeving. Dat betekent dat de gehackte onderneming 72 uur tijd heeft om te melden of er persoonlijke of gevoelige gegevens in het spel zijn. Wat ons volgens KPMG dus zal dwingen om de aanval sneller, efficiënter en gestructureerder aan te pakken.

Hier volgen enkele strategische best practices tegen cyberaanvallen om alvast inspiratie op te doen:

  1. Een gestructureerd antwoord in de vorm van een gedisciplineerde en snelle afhandeling:
    • Binnen 48 uur na de aanval moeten maatregelen worden getroffen om de bron van de aanval vast te stellen, dus de zwakke plek in uw veiligheidssystemen waarlangs de hackers bij u wisten binnen te dringen.
    • Er moet verslag worden uitgebracht aan de directie, met een overzicht van de competenties die nodig zijn voor het vereiste actieplan. Voorzichtigheidshalve moet dat plan vooraf worden opgesteld, bijvoorbeeld door een contract te sluiten met een derde.
  2. Een proactief preventieplan om incidenten en de gevolgen ervan te beperken:
    • De eventuele gevolgen van een aanval vaststellen en beheren, rekening houdend met de complexiteit ervan.
    • Investeren in gegevensbeveiliging.
    • Permanente bewaking organiseren om alle eventuele signalen van cybercriminaliteit op te sporen.
    • Een ogenblikkelijke oplossing voor het incident organiseren.
    • Een crisisplan uitwerken: dit omvat het organiseren van een intern onderzoek, het wettelijke onderzoek dat bedrijfsextern wordt uitgevoerd, eventueel een specifieke verzekeringspolis, de communicatie aan de klanten en het nemen van preventieve maatregelen.
  3. Een goede communicatie binnen de onderneming:
  • Een crisisplan opstellen dat strookt met de bedrijfsstrategie.
  • Alle medewerkers op de hoogte brengen van het toe te passen globale actieplan na de aanval.
  • Duidelijk communiceren over ieders rol in het crisisplan.
  • Cyberveiligheid opnemen in de besluitvormingsprocessen van de onderneming en daar alle metiers bij betrekken.

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