What About the People?

Will the robots prevail soon and become a threat? For some people, the establishment of robots and smart systems in many areas of our everyday life is a risk. Others see them as helpers. Anyway – artificial intelligence is considered as the “key technology” of the future.

Are robots threatening our workplaces? Photo: YIPPIEHEY/Jacob Eisinger/kombinatrotweis

Are robots threatening our workplaces? Photo: YIPPIEHEY/Jacob Eisinger/kombinatrotweis

Will Machines Make Humans Redundant?

Despite the euphoria surrounding such triumphs, there are many concerned questions regarding robots and artificial intelligence. Predominantly, whether machines will threaten our jobs. “There will always be enough work,” states DFKI Speaker Reinhard Karger: “Surprisingly, there has never been a net loss of jobs. There were once many carriage drivers, and then there were far more people that built cars.” Christoph Peylo, Director of the Bosch Center for Artificial Intelligence (BCAI) in Renningen is also positive about the consequences of increasing automation: “I generally don’t buy into the idea of an omnipotent AI that infiltrates all areas of our lives. It will make many aspects of our lives easier, such as intelligent cars making finding a parking space easier, or adapting the temperature automatically to our preferences.”

“Success in creating AI could be the biggest event in the history of our civilization. But it could also be the last.”

Stephen Hawking, renowned physicist. Photo: Bruno Vincent/Getty Images

Stephen Hawking, renowned physicist. Photo: Bruno Vincent/Getty Images

Currently, artificial intelligence is more of a helpful assistant to make everyday life a little easier. Digital voice assistants integrated into computers, smartphones, networked speakers and even cars are gaining increasing popularity, the most prominent being Siri, Alexa, Cortana and Google Assistant.

In 2016, approximately 6.5 million devices with integrated digital voice assistants were sold. In 2017, that number had rocketed to 24.5 million devices. Reinhard Karger of the DFKI is certain that their relevance will grow: “Smart systems will become more useful in future, and adopt a more interesting dialog behavior.”

AI developments are taking on increasingly important roles in the entertainment industry too. Simulated opponents in computer games are increasingly based on AI algorithms. Dave Ranyard – former CEO of Sony London – expects that virtual worlds will become an important interface with AI systems. Florian Strieg, a research associate at the Fraunhofer Institut for Manufacturing Engineering and Automation (IPA), endorses this: “Players can interact with virtual characters in simulated worlds in a much more versatile manner, if they feature advanced AI.” This development makes gaming, fun and pastimes another important field of application for artificial intelligence.

Original equipment manufacturers such as Bosch rely on self-learning algorithms for autonomous driving too. Photo: Bosch

Original equipment manufacturers such as Bosch rely on self-learning algorithms for autonomous driving too. Photo: Bosch

Automated Driving also Benefits from Artificial Intelligence

Dr. Petra Grimm is a Professor at the Stuttgart Media University, and is involved in the research project “Cooperative Driver–Vehicle Interaction,” instigated by the German Federal Ministry for Education and Research. “In the development of intelligent driving systems, privacy and data protection are key topics,” she reports. “According to draft legislation, responsibility will remain that of the driver. They must maintain awareness.” It is not yet entirely clear how this requisite awareness is to be defined. Dr. Grimm expects a gradual development, which will assist in clearing up such questions as this that remain open: “Autonomous driving will probably be limited to defined test areas initially, such as the act of parking or on certain stretches of freeway,” the professor predicts. This will help build trust in new, AI-based technologies.

Lawmakers of different countries have already recognized the challenges that these developments will bring about, and even implemented some legislation: With the draft automated driving legislation passed in June 2017, Germany consolidated its role as a pioneer in defining the requisite legal frameworks. Several US states have also already adapted their traffic laws to cater for highly and fully-automated driving.

“AI is a fundamental risk to the existence of human civilization, in a way that car accidents, airplane crashes, faulty drugs, or bad food were not.”

Elon Musk, founder of Tesla and SpaceX. Photo: Taylor Hill/Getty Images

Elon Musk, founder of Tesla and SpaceX. Photo: Taylor Hill/Getty Images

How Will This Develop?

Former German Federal Traffic Minister Alexander Dobrindt (CSU), who was a driving force behind the German legislation, forecasts autonomous vehicles to be the biggest mobility revolution since the invention of the automobile. President of the IT industry association Bitkom, Achim Berg also identifies AI as a “key technology, the importance of which we cannot overestimate.”

It is clear, then, that AI systems and robots will support us in more and more areas of life, and even relieve us entirely of our duties in some. In certain, heavily limited task areas, machines are approaching human level abilities and even exceeding them. This will lead to the loss of certain jobs. But new jobs will be created in their place. It is not just our lifestyle, but also our self-perception that will change because of AI systems.

There is still no answer to Alan Turing’s famous question, whether machines can think. “There is no law of nature that precludes the genesis of a machine’s consciousness, but also no current process with which the existence of a machine’s consciousness could be proven. One can therefore not maintain that there are no conscious machines, or that they will never exist. My personal conviction is that consciousness constitutes the single biggest difference between man and machine, and that this will remain the case,” explains DFKI Spokesman Karger. Turing’s question will, therefore, only be answered in the future. And maybe, just maybe, the not too distant one at that.

AI in Numbers

Photos: Spearheart0/Vecteezy, freepik.com Photos: Spearheart0/Vecteezy, freepik.com Photos: Spearheart0/Vecteezy, freepik.com Photos: Spearheart0/Vecteezy, freepik.com Photos: Spearheart0/Vecteezy, freepik.com

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