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“I like to look elsewhere than at obvious places to find a solution”

How do new ideas arise? At a time when artificial intelligence is interfering in an increasing number of processes, human intelligences are asked to be even more surprising. Scientific laboratories are asked to find (and publish) “breakthrough innovations” justifying the budgets allocated to them. We asked twelve scientists, of all generations and from various disciplines, to share their personal experiences of creativity.

Natalya Kosmyna. L'OREAL FRANCE

Testimony. “I have been coding since the age of 7, I am very curious and, since I have a computer, I always wonder what it would be like if I tried this… or even that… I like to look elsewhere than obvious places to find a solution.

Scientists in Minnesota had managed to develop an algorithm to control a drone in thought in 2011, but it took several months to learn the algorithm for the system to be 99% reliable. The following year, during my thesis, to imagine a faster algorithm, I did not look for a classic IT solution in the field of drones, AI or the human-machine interface. I thought about speed, I looked at real-time processes, like Google Translate, and actually went to places where the others hadn't.

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Then I reversed some classic steps in the algorithm and said there was no golden rule, and it worked. On the other hand, the publication in a scientific journal of my first paper (which I signed with the one who would become my thesis supervisor) was complicated. Of course, there are necessary checks, but I could see that, for some older scientists, it is not easy to accept very new proposals, different from their own approaches. I still published my first paper at 22 when I was still in master.

In postdoc, at MIT, I appreciate the spirit of collaboration that is really encouraged. If you don't collaborate with others, it's weird. The operation is very horizontal, very multidisciplinary, which changes the general state of mind in France, very vertical with reserved areas and square meadows.

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On a daily basis, to find moments conducive to creativity, I completely disconnect from all digital objects, emails, alerts, social networks, between four and six hours a day. I also like to go for a walk in some places with little traffic. I always have a small notebook to write down my ideas, even at night by my bed.

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