Stéphane Roche is an engineer, geographer, professor of geomatics and research vice-dean at the Faculty of Forestry, Geography and Geomatics at Université Laval.
Could you describe your passion for geomatics?
Very early, I liked maps, globes, navigational instruments (sextants, astronomical glasses ...). It is this attraction, I believe, that quite naturally led me to geomatics. Geomatics is the science of measurement and analysis of geospatial data, but also of their visualization. It is basically the science of the spatiotemporal frame of reference. The human is a resolutely spatial animal and the understanding of the dynamics and modes of spatial organization of human societies raises issues that fascinate me, and that geomatics certainly helps us to approach by articulating the geographical concerns and the technological innovation.
What is your biggest professional pride?
We university professors do a job that is often so disembodied that it is difficult to measure its concrete achievements. At the same time, we have the privilege of accompanying students in the final stages before their professional life. Also, my greatest pride is my contribution, more or less significant depending on the case, to the success of masters and doctoral students that I had the pleasure of mentoring. One of my last doctoral students, for example, had the primary goal of embracing a university career; to see him today, to hold a post of lecturer at the French University is a great pride I believe that with artificial intelligence our material spaces of life and mobility will be recomposed.
What is your vision for the future of artificial intelligence?
A new multidimensional world could be offered to us, thanks, among other things, to what could be described as informational thickening of spaces and geographical places. The possibility to access more than the materiality of objects and places offers us (Augmented Reality), but also to see reconfiguring (personalizing) the physical places (part of their components at least) according to the presence of this or that person (as do the spaces of the Web today.
If I try to remain optimistic, I see in AI not only the possibility of removing humanity from the most ungrateful and enslaving tasks; but also, to solve a set of issues and problems of environmental, education, health and security of populations, characteristics of Anthropocene human societies. Indeed, this increased capacity for analysis and intelligence (in the etymological sense of the term) of the complex problems offered by AI, could mean for humanity, the possibility of rethinking its modes of organization, for more social justice and space. I finally imagine AI as a way to unlock the secrets of our own intelligence. Yet, as Noam Chomsky asserts, the history of humanity demonstrates that there is no example of an organization or human community that has not sought to seize the opportunity of an innovation to attempt to sock his influence and his power. The signs are already there that suggest that the AI could also (above all?) Represent an extraordinary means of control and enslavement of the human being, just at a time when the control exercised by the major Western religions is constantly to crumble. Avoiding that AI does not help to artificialize human (emotional) intelligence is certainly one of the major challenges of the next decade.