Curiosity is necessary for true intelligence

The artificial intelligence revolution

The spoken word is valid.

Dear Mr. Bahlsen,
Dear Minister Greg Clark,
Dear colleagues from the German Bundestag,
Dear Ms. Espinel,
Dear Mr. Stroh,
Ladies and gentlemen!

“Unfortunately, I don't know.” When a voice assistant has spat out this answer for the fifth time in a row, one has doubts about the capabilities of artificial intelligence. But then suddenly there is a humorous answer and you can feel the enormous potential right in your living room.

In the film “HER” (by Spike Jonze from 2013) it even goes so far that a man falls in love with just such a voice because the artificially intelligent woman in his operating system reciprocates his feelings. Sure, this is fiction, but it has captivated millions of people because it no longer seems completely impossible. It raises elementary questions that are also being dealt with in the current debates:

What if the lines between man and machine become blurred? Can artificial intelligence get out of hand? Who is then responsible? Who makes the decisions?

Driven by their curiosity, people have been pursuing the idea of ​​connecting people and machines with one another for decades. And thus to completely redesign life.

The first robots were developed as early as the 1950s and 1960s. At least since “Deep Blue” was the first computer to be able to defeat world champion Garry Kasparov in chess in 1997, one thing has been clear: Artificial intelligence - everyone just calls it “AI” - can compete with the human brain. But AI is far from being superior to humans. It is a valuable helper and we want to use it as such.

So if you raise the question in this forum whether artificial intelligence is a “revolution” of our century, my answer is: For me it is an “evolution”.

Where do we stand today with artificial intelligence? Self-driving cars have already been invented, intelligent algorithms provide us with advertising tailored precisely to our needs, and they can also evaluate MRI images of patients. It's not everyday life yet, but the possibilities are already there.

I would be happy if artificial intelligence saves us humans time-consuming work in the future: whether in the household, at work or in the factory. So that there is more time for more important things in the future. It's good for people and the economy.

But we certainly don't want to put everything that is possible into practice. It is important to weigh up opportunities and risks. We have to discuss it openly and honestly.

And in the end we have to set a legal and ethical framework. We take our design standards very seriously at this point. We are closely accompanying the development of such a revolutionary technology. Because the influence on our society is great and we have to assert our values.

However, we also want to be economically successful with this advanced technology. For this we need strong companies. Because we will only prevail with our ideas if strong companies in Germany are also able to set the tone internationally.

According to our coalition agreement, we will make Germany one of the world's leading locations for research into AI.

We are working intensively on a national master plan for artificial intelligence, which we will present in autumn. Together with France we will drive this project forward in Europe and interlink national strategies with the master plan of the European Commission. Because it's about more than the competitiveness of our economy. And since Sunday about more than European cohesion!

AI challenges us as a society as a whole. This technology is capable of changing the way we learn, how we work, and even our entire life. More fundamentally than the lightbulb or the car ever could. But there is a great opportunity therein! Provided that science and industry work together transparently and responsibly. Because the final decision always has to be made by the person. This applies to the use of drones as well as to the treatment of diseases.
We can and must shape the most important innovation topic of the next few years in such a way that people can trust that they will continue to be the ones who make the decisions.

I am confident of that. Because in Industry 4.0, too, it has been possible to successfully tackle the digital change in industry and the world of work together. Because the federal government, business and research have worked well together.

Germany is now a role model for many other countries. The world is looking at us. We also have this claim when it comes to artificial intelligence.

What we are currently experiencing is a real race for the technological development of artificial intelligence. Companies like Google, Facebook, Alibaba, automakers, banks, insurance companies and venture capitalists are already investing large sums of money.
This goes far beyond what Industry 4.0 began a few years ago. The changes affect all sectors of our economy.

If we want Germany to be among the best in the world when it comes to artificial intelligence, then we must also strengthen our technological sovereignty. At the invitation of our Chancellor Angela Merkel, some ministerial colleagues and I exchanged ideas with around 40 experts from science and industry. Because strategic skill is required here. German or European competitiveness is no longer a sure-fire success - even if it still feels that way at the moment thanks to well-filled order books. We stand between the USA and China.

Silicon Valley invests. Money does not matter. And China offers money and short decision-making paths.

We have to be braver. Entrepreneurship means investing in "uncharted territory", taking risks. Our family businesses in particular know this very well. Because they want to hand over a flourishing company to the next generation. And we will only succeed in doing this if we accept technological developments together. There are many start-ups that are already wonderfully showing what is possible.

But you need the established economy with your investment power in order to develop. Business angels are in demand today more than ever.

Germany has been involved in artificial intelligence for a long time. We have a decent starting point that we can now build on.

The German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI) is the world's largest institute in this field. A solid success story that began 30 years ago (1988). Around 900 experts are researching the topic of artificial intelligence at different locations (Saarbrücken, Kaiserslautern, Berlin, etc.). Around 80 start-ups have emerged from the DFKI. So the beginning has been made.

Now we have to show that together we - science, business and politics - are able to accept the challenge. With the research institutes of the Fraunhofer Society, the Max Planck Society and the Helmholtz Association, Germany has an efficient science and research landscape in the field of AI that is closely linked to industry.

A networking basis has been created with the learning systems platform. We have to start here.

The competition from the USA and China is strong in transfers. That is why it will be more crucial than ever in the future that we ourselves develop marketable products more quickly from our good research results. So far, unfortunately, we have too often left the creation of value from our good ideas to others. This is not a trivial challenge.

Because that requires not only a targeted concept but also a change in social mentality. In addition to the thinkers, we have to become the land of inventors again! A land of tinkerers and hobbyists!

That's why I have the following concerns:

First, we have to reach a new level of technology. Artificial intelligence has the potential to change the way we live together. We want the bright minds who live and work in our country to network, as the saying goes. We are creating a national research consortium for this purpose. The practical application is to be researched in four competence centers for machine learning together with the big data competence centers and the DFKI. And then they have to bring their products to market as well.

From scientist to entrepreneur - a mixture of Daniel Düsentrieb and Dagobert Duck, so to speak.

  • "Smart data economy". Data is the fuel of the future. We therefore specifically support research and development activities in order to make data intelligently, efficiently and securely usable.

Dealing with our data is a special kind of challenge. We all see great opportunities, for example for health research, if we collect data on disease and treatment processes and evaluate them using artificial intelligence. But most of us don't want everyone to see our individual medical records. We want to determine our own data. It is important to find a good solution here.

Businesses face similar problems. You could gain new information from data with the help of artificial intelligence. Improved products and, above all, new services - such as cooperative robots or predictive maintenance systems - are possible. Knowing in advance when a machine will break down creates new efficiencies. But this is also a sensitive issue for many companies.

Because especially in the economic area, sensitive control over one's own data is necessary.

The Industrial Data Space creates a protected environment for data exchange. We are thus setting standards in the self-determined handling of data in the digital world. We have thus created a secure data room for various industries across national borders.

Third: We need specialists who can develop learning systems. But we also need people who can deal with AI-based systems in everyday work. A race for this real intelligence is in full swing, internationally and directly into the universities and research institutions. We know that we have to do something in Germany to train young people and keep them in the country.

Such a rapidly changing world needs a close connection between theory and practice. As in Industry 4.0, vocational and academic training are equally important here. Our dual training system is an anchor of stability in a world that is developing as quickly as we are currently experiencing. The dual study program is currently experiencing a boost in attractiveness because it is so practical.

Every young person should go his own way with joy. Because only those who enjoy going to work in the morning will be real performers in this society. Vocational training is back at the top of our agenda. We want to reposition you - structurally, financially, but also in terms of equipment. We want to get the highly qualified school leavers back into our dual system.

We therefore not only need excellent universities; we also need top vocational schools. After all, it is not theory but practice that determines the success of our country in international competition.

My fourth concern is the promotion of medium-sized companies: Many innovations “Made in Germany” are based on the incremental improvements that are made in medium-sized companies - this is one of Germany's strengths.

However, we have noticed that medium-sized companies are currently less and less involved in innovation - be it because the order books are full, or because they lack the courage to invest. But that's the same as when a Formula One driver says: I can't refuel at the moment, I have to race.

Artificial intelligence now needs all of our commitment. Now is the time to get new ideas, new applications and new business models going!

That is why Peter Altmaier and I will do everything we can to convince our finance minister that we now need tax research subsidies.

Last but not least, one more point: We have to lead a social discourse on how to deal with artificial intelligence. This is the only way to ensure that innovative developments also gain trust in society. The human is the center of attention. The final decisions are always to be made by the people. Any technology is just a means to an end to make all of our lives a little better.

With the “Learning Systems” network, we bring together experts from business, science and society to discuss the economic benefits and the responsible use of artificial intelligence in everyday life. We shape Germany. That is our claim in a challenging time. We set ethical and regulatory standards.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Artificial intelligence is relieving people of more and more routine tasks, but we also recognize that people have characteristics that are difficult to replace: their thirst for knowledge, their courage to innovate and their curiosity. So it stays that way: it depends on us humans. We steer the direction of artificially intelligent systems.

We shape the digital transformation with responsibility and a sense of proportion. What I can do about it - gladly. At the service of this society.