This week we had the honor to interview Luc Julia, Chief Scientific Officer at Renault Group, a leading automaker. Luc has worked for many years in the Silicon Valley for companies such as Apple, Siri, Samsung, and HP.
?Show Notes: Through this interview, we touched on his role at Renault, the future of AI, and the different types of AI. We also talked about enterpreneurship and his advice for young entrepreneurs.
?Best Quotes: Here’s some of the key discussion points and best quotes from our conversation with Luc:
- On his role at Renault: “It’s a brand new role at Renault for me because I just joined a few weeks ago and the role of a scientific officer actually is very new there. The idea is to bring some of the science, some of the technologies that I had the chance to look at and to work with in the Silicon Valley, to a group like Renault. Renault is a very old group. It’s a 120-year old company and it does cars very well, but maybe it doesn’t do the technology very well. Right? So there is still a lot of work to do there”.
- On Renault’s ability to compete with Tesla: “We have some technology companies in the Silicon Valley like Tesla or Lucid that are going into cars. So maybe we should take some ideas from them and bring them back to the car companies, the old car companies. (..) They have been in operation for years and years and all of them have trouble bringing those new technologies, and they look to be surpassed by companies like Tesla. I don’t believe that they are surpassed and so that’s why I’m going there to show that they have actually capabilities to do as well as Tesla, and even maybe better”.
- On the difference between the US and Europe in terms of innovation: “There is a big difference that I see. This is a control difference. For example, in France you cannot fail. I mean, in the sense that if you fail, you are basically marked for life and you are a loser. In Silicon Valley, you need to fail, you have to fail. If you don’t fail, it’s kind of suspect. Right? So in the Silicon Valley, you try and try and try again, and after a while, you succeed, and you try again and you succeed, or not, and you try again. And failure is part of the culture. Failure is part of the learning phase. In France, or in Europe, but in France in particular, if you fail, you are portrayed right away as a loser, and you are not given the chance to start again, and do something new and to rebound”.
- On the state of AI and his belief that a generic AI does not exist, but instead there are different types of AIs: “ I always say that because I was kind of fed up in the past let’s say 10 years that everybody was putting AI in their business plan. Everybody was talking about AI all the time. AI, AI, AI. And so the reality is that there is not just one AI. There is not this generic, general AI. This one will never exist. There are multiple AIs. There are a lot of different AIs. The AI that people are talking about is the AI in Hollywood which is science fiction. I am talking about the Terminator AI or the AI from the movie Her. This AI will never exist. We need to be realistic about it. And my problem about this generic AI is that if we continue to ask for it and to say that it’s going to happen, we are going to be disappointed because it will never happen. And so we need to be very careful. We need to see what are those different AIs, those multi AIs that are doing incredible things, but are very specialized in their own ways. And these are those AIs that we need to continue to cultivate and to talk about and we need to stop talking about this generic AI that will never exist”.
- On the state of digital assistants like Siri, Alexa: “Voice is the best way to convey information. So we are going to have those assistants that we can communicate with, with voice, and we are going to have more and more dialogues and conversations. The reality is that most of those assistants that we are seeing today, they are not conversational. We are still far from having a conversation with the digital assistant. Right? It’s really about just command and control. So we’re going to see more and more of those assistants which will enable conversations and which are going to help us in very specific domains to get whatever we need to get from the very domain that we are talking about”.
- On the limitations of the current digital assistants: “Today it is perceived that we see a big adoption of digital assistants like Siri. Siri got introduced 10 years ago. We saw a massive adoption. In the first two years we had 300 million people using it, not every day, not 10 minutes a day, but 300 million people who were actually exposed to that. And we saw, surprisingly frankly, with the Amazon Echo, that Alexa became more and more popular and a lot of people were using it. There are millions of Alexa users in the States. So that’s very interesting to see that, but as you said, it’s very limited”.
- On the future of digital assistants: “We are going to have assistants that are going to be much more conversational and much easier to talk to and they are going to, as you said, talk to us. They will be able to ask the right question at the right time in order to disambiguate whatever we are talking about. The adoption is going to raise because it means that it’s going to be really something useful and we are going to see more and more the value of those things. So the technology has to progress in order to see that we can really have something that is going to be useful and much more useful than the ones that we have today”.
- On where AI can impact the medical field: “There are three domains that are seeing a lot of very interesting emerging technologies like AI. For me the first domain is the good for humanity which is the medical domain. We saw already AI bringing a lot of good things like medical imagery and that are able to find cancer in a radio image through AI. Something like that is very, very important obviously. And we are going to see more and more of that, not only because the machine can learn much more on the images and they are going to see millions and millions of different cancers and they are going to be much better than the human because it’s a tool in this very domain. But we’re also seeing some very interesting developments in the DNA field. We just discovered what is our DNA basically. And what is the DNA? It’s basically statistics. And what is AI? AI is mathematics. AI is statistics. So it’s going to be an interesting match there to be done between AI and DNA in order to find a new possible medication, a new possible very early detection of diseases, and stuff like that. So, I think the medical field is going to be incredible”.
- On how AI can impact the world of transportation: “The second field that I’m very excited about is transportation. This is why I’m doing what I’m doing. I really believe that because of the aging population, we are going to have more and more people that are going to have difficulties to go from point A to point B. So we are going to see a lot of new kind of cars that are going to be more and more autonomous. I don’t believe in autonomous car, level five. This is the full autonomy. But I believe in autonomous cars, level four, that are going to prevent 90% of the accidents and that are going to help people to go from those point A to point B very easily. So we’re going to see very interesting technologies that are going to be based on perception, based on a lot of different things that are going to allow the cars to navigate in the complex world more and more”.
- On the impact of AI inside the home: “The next one that I’m very excited about and that I have been excited about for the past 20 something years is about technologies like AI in the home. People have been talking about smart homes for years and years ever since I was a kid. And it never really materalized. It is something that still doesn’t exist today. But in my home for instance, it exists because I have been building my smart home since 1999. So for the past 22 years, I collected a bunch of devices. And I really believe now that those devices can work together as assistants. But it’s not the same kind of assistants that we were talking about earlier, but they are going to be more like hardware assistants that are going to work together in order to do something that is going to help me to achieve some of my goals”.
- On the timeline before we see this true concept of a smart home with AI at the core: “It’s definitely not going to happen within a year (..) One of the issues related to it is what we’re calling “standards”. There’s no standardization in the smart home today such as lighting systems or Google Nest. They cannot really talk to each other. But in the past two years, we have been talking more and more something that they call Matter now. It’s basically a standard between Apple, Google, and all the big guys that are getting together to try to do a standard. I don’t believe in standards myself. I think that it’s going to be very, very difficult and I don’t have a good example of a standard that is actually working (..) I really believe that it’s going to happen though. And again, not within one year, but I think that in five years there will be more and more people with houses like mine. (..) I would imagine that most of the houses in the next five years are going to have 10, 20 devices that are going to perform some actions that are going to enable us to save time.”
- On his advice for young entrepreneurs: “So first of all, you need to define what is the business that you are interested in. Then yoi have to be good at whatever you are doing, and you have to have a good vision. So here I’m going to talk specifically to the people who want to focus on AI. Because as I said at the beginning, I’m kind of fed up with all the people who are saying that they are doing AI, but not doing really AI. But for people who are really doing some AI interesting stuff, I mean, the very first thing that you need to be, you need to be good at math. (..) Start to be very good at math, stats, this is what AI is about as I said earlier (..) you cannot be challenged by somebody else that is going to do a little bit about it. You also need to know your subject very well. And then there is the business side of it. I would say the excitement of this thing. Be excited about this stuff. If you don’t believe in it, nobody else is going to believe you. (..) It’s something that you need to have guts for. You need to be excited all the time about the things that you are presenting. But don’t get me wrong there. You won’t succeed all the time and this is the lesson from the Silicon Valley to Europe, is that you need to understand that you are going to fail at one point. And that’s okay”.
- On the importance to pivoting: “I did four, five companies since the year 2000. We did pivot. Pivoting is a big, big thing. So what is Pivoting all about? Pivoting is understanding the market (..) You need just to pivot correctly in order to go to a place where you think that this is going to be the right one and that you are going to be as excited on this particular one as with this new pivot than where you were excited for the very first one. And it’s not rare to pivot one, two, three, four times in the course of a company, because this is what it is all about. But if you have to pivot 10 times, maybe it’s too much and then it might be time to stop and to declare the failure, and to do something else”.