Malika Favre: Artist who put Saudi women in the driver’s seat 

Updated 24 June 2018

Malika Favre: Artist who put Saudi women in the driver’s seat 

  • In September 2017, King Salman issued a decree declaring an end to the decades-long ban from June 2018
  • Some three million women in Saudi Arabia could receive licences and actively begin driving by 2020

French artist Malika Favre has created iconic covers for “The New Yorker” magazine, with animations that have gone viral online. So she was the natural choice for Arab News to illustrate our souvenir edition commemorating the day when women are allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia.
As Faisal J. Abbas, editor in chief of Arab News, explained: “Our website and newspaper — which today features a striking cover illustration by artist Malika Favre — will provide comprehensive coverage of both the immediate impact and wide-reaching, long-term social benefits of this move.”
From her base in London, Favre explained why the idea immediately appealed. “For me, it’s exactly the kind of subject that I want to work with and tackle today. I’ve been increasingly involved with women’s issues over the past few years, with The New Yorker as well.
“These stepping stones are extremely important, and they should be celebrated. It’s also something that as a woman I feel very strongly about.”
What made our global creative director, Simon Khalil, think that the in-demand artist would take his assignment on? “As a champion of women for years through her unique creative style, Malika Favre was the obvious choice,” he said. “Her illustration brilliantly captures the significance of this moment on the day Saudi Arabia changed forever.” 
For the illustration, called “Start Your Engines,” Favre began with the idea of “something quite subtle, not aggressive, something celebratory,” coming up with an image of a “beautiful, Arabic woman” that tells a story within a story. 
“So, basically, I had this idea of looking at the car from the point of view of the woman who is driving, and so maybe the first thing you see is a woman with a headscarf and quite a colorful image, but then on the second layer you see what’s happening and you see that she is driving the car,” Favre said. 
The image of her hands on the wheel, and that iconic Gulf vehicle, a white SUV, are reflected in her sunglasses. These are animated online. “I really like the idea of this woman being on the road, because I think symbolically it’s about going forward,” she said. “That is also a positive element, to create a positive image of what this historic moment will change.” 
The topic also resonated with Favre because her mother, while she was born in France, is Algerian. “For her, she always wanted to have the same rights as everyone else. She was a big advocate for that. She raised me in that way as well. So for her it’s also an important cover on a personal level.” 
When asked about her favorite assignments, Favre referenced “Operating Theatre” for The New Yorker’s “Health, Medicine & the Body” issue last year. 
“It was an extremely important project because it went totally viral.” 
In her illustration, female surgeons are arranged in a circle looking down, as if the viewer is on the operating table. In the animation, the image is viewed as if through a blinking eyelid. Women surgeons around the world started re-enacting Favre’s cover, sharing more than 5,000 photos, with the hashtags #NYerORCoverChallenge and #ILookLikeASurgeon. 
“For me, it was a very important moment,” Favre said. “It reached out to an audience that wasn’t design-focused. It was something very profound that spoke to these women, and they took it as a very strong statement of let’s celebrate women surgeons.” 
Does Favre think the women of Saudi Arabia are up for such an assignment? “I think it definitely has the potential to do that as well,” she said. Challenge accepted. 

• Download our free #SaudiWomenCanDrive mobile phone background designed by renowned artist Malika Favre:

Google CEO calls for regulation of artificial intelligence

Updated 20 January 2020

Google CEO calls for regulation of artificial intelligence

  • Sundar Pichai’s comments come as lawmakers and governments seriously consider putting limits on how artificial intelligence is used
  • Pichai’s comments suggest the company may be hoping to head off a broad-based crackdown by the EU on the technology

LONDON: Google’s chief executive called Monday for a balanced approach to regulating artificial intelligence, telling a European audience that the technology brings benefits but also “negative consequences.”

Sundar Pichai’s comments come as lawmakers and governments seriously consider putting limits on how artificial intelligence is used.

“There is no question in my mind that artificial intelligence needs to be regulated. The question is how best to approach this,” Pichai said, according to a transcript of his speech at a Brussel-based think tank.

He noted that there’s an important role for governments to play and that as the European Union and the US start drawing up their own approaches to regulation, “international alignment” of any eventual rules will be critical. He did not provide specific proposals.

Pichai spoke on the same day he was scheduled to meet the EU’s powerful competition regulator, Margrethe Vestager.

Vestager has in previous years hit the Silicon Valley giant with multibillion-dollar fines for allegedly abusing its market dominance to choke off competition. After being reappointed for a second term last autumn with expanded powers over digital technology policies, Vestager has now set her sights on artificial intelligence, and is drawing up rules on its ethical use.

Pichai’s comments suggest the company may be hoping to head off a broad-based crackdown by the EU on the technology. Vestager and the EU have been the among the more aggressive regulators of big tech firms, an approach US authorities have picked up with investigations into the dominance of companies like Google, Facebook and Amazon.

“Sensible regulation must also take a proportionate approach, balancing potential harms with social opportunities,” he said, adding that it could incorporate existing standards like Europe’s tough General Data Protection Regulation rather than starting from scratch.

While it promises big benefits, he raised concerns about potential downsides of artificial intelligence, citing as one example its role in facial recognition technology, which can be used to find missing people but also for “nefarious reasons” which he didn’t specify.

In 2018, Google pledged not to use AI in applications related to weapons, surveillance that violates international norms, or that works in ways that go against human rights.