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Gilles Babinet, Vice-President of the Conseil National du Numérique

Learning Inspiration 🌈 #46

Gilles Babinet is a serial entrepreneur and digital champion for France at the European Union. Gilles is also Vice-President of the Conseil National du Numérique, an advisory commission working with the French Government on digital matters. Gilles has an atypical profile. He dropped out of school at fifteen and graduated with the French Baccalauréat diploma at twenty using self-study. Gilles founded his first company at twenty-two years old. Since then, he created nine companies, including Musiwave, which sold for €139 million. Gilles is also the author of Big Data, Penser L’homme et le Monde Autrement, L’ère Numérique, and Un Nouvel Âge de L’humanité

Gilles Babinet, Vice-President of the Conseil National du Numérique

Who is your biggest inspiration? 

  • Edward Snowden: For me, he’s the digital Christ of the twenty-first century, who sacrificed himself for a cause that seemed right to him.
  • Marie Ekland: In France, she is a primary source of inspiration. She was the short-lived president of the National Digital Council. She has already set up an investment fund called Daphni and a second called 2050. Marie is consistent and impressive.
  • Alexandre Grothendieck: a mathematician exiled in Europe with plenty of work that can be transposed into the digital world
  • Claude Shannon: an American mathematician, electrical engineer, and cryptographer known as “the inventor of information theory.” 

What are your learning routines? 🧠

I am not a good example because I learn very slowly. I learned very, very late that persistence is a way of learning. Something doesn’t work the first time, but when you persist, it ends up working. I learned it when I was forty. But I think you can learn this lesson much earlier.

I am a bit of a mess when it comes to the learning process. I learned English quite late. To learn it, I have to do everything in English: live, communicate, and eat. I think I would have learned faster if I had been more structured.

I think doing meditation helps to learn because it clears the mind. I started in 2006. I never get bored when I meditate. If I’m bored, it means I’ve lost track of my practice. It’s an exercise in absolute presence so one cannot get bored. To get started, I  recommend abdominal breathing and body scanning once or twice in the first five minutes to see if there is tension. Then in the first ten minutes, look at your thoughts and finally, pass a ball of energy through your whole body.

What are your favorite books, and why? 📚  

Le Monde D’hier by Stéphane Zweig. It was an interesting historical perspective: Germany’s collapse in this period and the incredible evolution of customs. It talks about the emergence of metropolises, and the advent of enlightenment ideas that passed into the 20th century and cross the whole of the 19th century to become a reality. This is the book that I have gifted the most, and I have read it myself two or three times.

Sandworm by Andy Greenberg: An amazing book

The Code: Silicon Valley and the Remaking of America by Margaret O’Mara: the history of Silicon Valley 

What are your favorite podcasts, and why? 🎧

Freakonomics is fantastic. The author, Stephen J. Dubner. People jump at the opportunity to be on his podcast.

Recommended episode: “Is it Too Late for General Motors to Go Electric?” Interview of Mary Barra, the C.E.O. of General Motors

What is your favorite article, and why?

My primary sources of articles are Wired, New York Times, Les Échos, Le Monde, and the MIT Technology Review. I recommend this article: “A 25-Year-Old Bet Comes Due: Has Tech Destroyed Society?” Will technology have destroyed the world in twenty-five years? This is the bet made by two people that opposed this subject in 1995.

What would you say to the 18 or 25-year-old version of yourself?

Start meditation. I do regret not having learned to speak English earlier and not having gone to engineering school because it is the sciences that have been the most useful. But, meditation is the thing I would tell myself to start right away!

What is the biggest challenge you had to overcome this year, and how did you do that?

I launched a MOOC and a book, which have been my biggest challenges this year.

If you were to stay alone on an island and only be allowed to bring one item, what would it be? 🏝

A Kobo e-reader and a Swiss Army knife

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Romain from Clind

Romain is currently in Master 2 at Sup de Pub Paris. He is an organiser of electronic music events also passionate about human relationships, sports, UX/UI design and digital brand strategy.

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