The terms artificial intelligence, machine learning and deep learning are often used interchangeably, which does injustice to the development in the field. AI is already over 60 years old. Initially, it usually meant machine learning (experience learning from examples) and expert systems (formal processing of expert knowledge). “Neural networks” try to model the function of the human brain and can be used without prior abstraction or rules, e.g. they recognize complex patterns. One problem is their “black box” behavior: The results are not always replicable. “Deep Learning” is a new form of neural network that, thanks to much improved algorithms (and more powerful computers) achieves results that are currently not met by other methods.


Making artificial intelligence comprehensible

One of the key points for the acceptance and responsible use of AI is to understand, grasp, and, to a certain extent, predict but of course also trust machine decisions. The accuracy of algorithms increases with the amount of data – the more data, the more precise the result. No human being is able to gather as much information in the brain as a computer. That’s why, in the long term, computers will win in evaluating large amounts of information.

The question is what part artificial intelligence will play in people’s lives. On the one hand, many tasks will be taken away from humans, such as the control of machines, the compilation of findings in medicine, the independent management of bank accounts, etc. On the other hand, data analysis enables extensive monitoring and precise knowledge of the individual. This might lead to a reduction of people’s freedom of will.

Privacy is a recent phenomenon

Privacy is an important development of the last centuries. Today’s notions of privacy developed along with humanism, liberalism, individualism and the bourgeoisie. The importance of privacy is linked to the value of a person’s autonomy and personality and, to a great extent, determines being human. People should therefore fight for the value of privacy and not give it up recklessly. Without privacy we are much more easily manipulated and remotely controlled. To guarantee the freedom and independence of human beings in the concept of the free will is not a reliable way, according to the latest findings of brain research.

Ultimately, it will be the decisive question whether mankind succeeds in using the new digital methods and instruments for its own positive development, or whether humans will evolve into hybrid man-machine beings.


Social robots as a chance and a challenge

Even though we say social robots have no emotions, they can simulate emotions, and people will perceive them as emotions in robots. If someone pretends friendliness, you also accept it. It is in fact more about the sensation on the part of humans than about robots. The development of social robots will be very important due to the large increase of older people in the highly developed countries. These robots can make a very positive contribution to nursing and communication. However, when social robots are used in areas where they are taking away the job opportunities from working people, it becomes more problematic. The economic overvaluation of robots would degrade man in his humanity. We have to prevent that.

Digital technologies are changing people

Humans are for the most part analogous beings. Our learning processes in the social as well as the intellectual realm are analogous, as is our communication, for example, with language or handwriting. According to some experts, the dominant use of digital techniques in all our areas of life leads to a change in and, in most cases, to a reduction of creativity, empathy and our most basic human qualities. But these are precisely the characteristics that lead to innovation and make technological progress possible in the first place. Finding the right combination here becomes challenging and is also a question of strategy.

China has a long-term strategy

In the competition for digital progress among world regions, China is catching up. The big difference between Europe and China has always been that China has long-term strategies. That’s a big advantage in technological development. Maybe this is something we can learn in the sense of the “Predictive Futures”: What future position do we want to take in the world on these topics and how can we achieve that? Europe should define this question for itself.

Questions for the future

With regard to the important challenges that humanity faces, AI could make a decisive contribution to the solution. Will it be possible, for example with the help of artificial intelligence, to understand the climate even better and thus take the necessary measures to maintain a liveable ecosystem on earth? Can AI help us solve more global issues, such as the distribution of water and food without war and through negotiation?

The potential expected of AI is great; whether it will be fulfilled is still open to question. This leaves us with a strong demand for further research and insight.