Aisen Etcheverry Escudero, minister responsible for AI

Is artificial intelligence (AI) meant to be designed, developed and regulated only by the countries of the North, led by the United States? It is, among other things, against this idea that UNESCO organized, at the beginning of February, in Slovenia, a global forum on the ethics of artificial intelligence. The “global south” was well represented there, from Mexico to Vietnam via Gabon, Turkey and even the Sultanate of Oman.

A woman with a pleasant face had crossed the Atlantic to represent Chile: Aisen Etcheverry Escudero. Close to the young progressive president elected two years ago, Gabriel Boric, this 44-year-old woman was last year entrusted with Chile's Ministry of Science and Technology, Knowledge and Innovation. Without a very large portfolio, it contains key issues: starting with lithium, which is used in the manufacture of batteries and of which Chile is the second largest producer in the world, in the very arid Atacama desert.

Aisen Etcheverry's other hot topic is artificial intelligence. In October 2023, the capital Santiago hosted the first summit in Latin America and the Caribbean dedicated to this issue, in collaboration with UNESCO, of which Chile seems to be a privileged ally on this issue. It was the first time that the thirty nations of this subcontinent came together to try to jointly create a common strategy for artificial intelligence, even if this field is much less developed there than in the United States, China or Europe. On this occasion, a regional council on artificial intelligence was established: for the first year, Chile presided.


“My main concern is that artificial intelligence is inclusive, that it takes into account different cultures”, Aisen Etcheverry immediately explains. We meet her at the Kranj conference center (Slovenia), between two round tables “AI serves the planet” And “Artificial intelligence as a tool for judicial bodies”. In a field where “ethicalwashing” is in full swing, promising, not without emphasis, more and more innovations “with respect to people”this ex-lawyer's speech stands out because of its specific aspect.

“In Chile we have Spanish, but also indigenous languagess, she recalls. However, those who speak them often have neither a phone nor a computer: so their data is absent from the Internet. » As algorithmic models are trained on large volumes of data taken from the web, we see where it goes: “My idea is not that these populations start using AI, but at least that they are taken into account in its production. Otherwise, these tools will never be representative. »

But for Aisen Etcheverry, who has worked for the state for about fifteen years after leaving law, technology must support public policies. She likes to cite the example of Chile's social assistance agency: it has been equipped with an algorithmic model that makes it possible to predict which people are least likely to claim the benefits they are entitled to. The French equivalent of this service, CAF, instead uses algorithms to identify potential fraudsters.

AI applied to astronomy

Chile also intends to develop artificial intelligence at the service of the environment: there are ongoing research projects on artificial intelligence applied to the knowledge of the ocean (this thin country has 4,000 kilometers of coastline) or even to astronomy (Chile is one of the main places to observe the planet).

These two projects are carried out by the National Institute for Research in Digital Sciences and Technologies (Inria Chile), Inria's first and only center outside France, which has existed since 2012. After his visit to Slovenia, Aisen Etcheverry spoke “elsewhere stopped in Paris as part of the collaboration between these two institutes, and more broadly of a Franco-Chilean partnership project on artificial intelligence.

Aisen Etcheverry is valued for her listening skills “the right person to organize a fruitful dialogue” on artificial intelligence in Latin America, according to the co-executive director of the NGO Derechos Digitales, Juan Carlos Lara. This expert on digital human rights, however, notes some “tensions” between this coordinating role that Chile plays and its technological ambitions in Latin America.


His compass: the taste for permanent change

“Unlike my predecessors in the Ministry of Science and Technology, I do not come from the scientific world but from the legal world. I found myself working at tech companies like Oracle Corporation and Amazon, and that's where I fell in love with the industry. Because whether in science or technology, there are always new questions and knowledge to gain. It's always changing, so we're always learning! For me it's exciting: my work changes every day. Every month I have to deal with a new topic, learn something new, meet scientists… It's tiring, because it requires a lot of study, but it's very stimulating. »

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