Forschungsgipfel: How Science, Politics and Companies Can Jointly Shape a Smart Future with AI

Artificial intelligence (AI) is currently one of the most discussed technologies and has the potential to significantly change every aspect of our lives — we certainly all agree on that.

However, in practice AI still has a niche existence, at least in Germany — only 22 percent of companies use AI applications so far. In many cases, this is probably due to the complexity of the technology and the lack of data and resources, especially in small and medium-sized businesses. At the same time, however, this figure also means that only one out of four companies is actively involved in the process and the debate around artificial intelligence. This is not only a waste of potential for the organizations themselves, but also a problem for us as a society, since currently, a few people shape the future of many.

Photo by Jelleke Vanooteghem on Unsplash

That is why I am glad to be part of Forschungsgipfel 2019. The event starts today in Berlin with more than 400 high-ranking thought-leaders from science, politics and companies — and me! We’ll discuss, amongst others, the social level of AI, its importance and effects on society and the German innovation system. In order to get Artificial Intelligence out of the niche and into reality, to harness the technological potential for society, we need to talk about the basics first. In my opinion, there are three pillars that form the fundament for a use of AI that benefits all of us:

1. Science x Economy: a smart future with AI as a joint effort

When it comes to basic research, we are quite well positioned in Germany with institutions such as the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology or the German Research Institute for Artificial Intelligence. In recent years, new chairs for machine learning, computer vision and robotics have been established from Munich to Bremen. Prof. Sami Haddadin from the Technical University of Munich just received a Leibniz Prize for his work on robotics and AI — he is one of the few selected scientists who focusses on digital technologies and won the “German Nobel Prize”.

Even though that is a very positive development, there is still a lack of reliable AI business models and concrete solutions. It may be because of our perfectionist minds or some other questionable reason, but we fail to transfer scientific research into practice. Instead of joining forces, we seem to work on our own. I am convinced that is the societal duty of scientists and companies to work together closely — as economic players, we should use scientific methods and concepts and transform them into meaningful use cases. Research cooperations such as the Tübingen Cyber Valley with partners like Amazon, Bosch and Porsche are a step in the right direction.

2. Setting the stage: knowlege is key to shaping the future

At the moment, we’re not even seeing the top of the iceberg called AI — our progress with this technology will develop over many years, even centuries. That’s why we need to broaden our scope: our future with AI is not only dependent on short-term actions. It rather is a long-term project that will also be tackled by the generations to come. Therefore, we need political stakeholders to create a resilient and forward-looking framework that enables our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren to master our future with Artificial Intelligence. As in so many cases, education is key here, too — whether old or young, everyone needs to gain a deep understanding of the technology that is not governed by fear or half knowledge.

Photo by Natalya Letunova on Unsplash

3. The societal mindset: possibilities instead of problems

This might be the basis for the first two pillars: It is on us to foster a spirit that embraces AI, that focuses on the chances and possibilities. Of course, we need to discuss how to ethically use the technology, how we can involve all parts of society in the shaping process and how we can all benefit from AI. But for this discussion, it is important to have in mind that Artificial Intelligence can help solving major societal, global problems. It carries enormous potential and we’re the first generation to leverage it. That is a huge task, but an even bigger gift. So, let’s spread the spirit of innovation!

Collaboration instead of coexistence — for an intelligent future

My thoughts in a nutshell: Innovations cannot be created in the ivory tower but are always a result of connecting science and practice, different disciplines and points of view — collaboration instead of coexistence. For this reason, the aim of the Porsche Digital Lab is to bring together cross-functional and diverse teams, to work together with external partners such as start-ups or organisations like Code University in Berlin. It is the first university with a computer science focus to promote young, digital talents that we certainly need in the AI world of tomorrow.

If we bring together as many different perspectives as possible, we’ll be able to create a bright future with AI — a future, in which the technology will support us, complement our human strengths and weaknesses. I believe in collaboration — between man and machine and, of course, between different organisations and institutions. That is why I feel honored to be able to participate in events like Forschungsgipfel 2019. I am very much looking forward to it. If you’d like to know more about the discussion there, follow #FoGipf19 or my Twitter account.

Forschungsgipfel 2018, Photo: David Ausserhofer