Sep 19, 2018
There is no larger gap than the one between expert knowledge and broad public opinion concerning AI. While some immerse themselves in the ever new possibilities enthusiastically, the rest is painting out horror scenarios. When will the general public finally get the chance to become part of the digital optimism?
It’s Thursday, 9 o'clock. I am sitting in the lecture hall of the culture center ‘Kampnagel’, visiting the digitization fair ‘solutions.hamburg’ and I am listening to a very rousing opening speech held by the Senator for Culture and Media of the City of Hamburg. He talks about AI and automation and focuses on the topic of humanity. He mentions the fear many people have in the face of proceeding digitization and appeals imploringly for us to counter this fear with optimism and with passion for new challenges and change. He places the emotions at the centre of attention, emphasizes the relation to cultural aspects (interesting that in Hamburg the topic of digitization is attached to the department of the culture and media senator) and speaks about courage. All that happened in front of a specialist audience consisting of a few hundred IT experts and industrial partners.
3 days later. It’s Sunday, 8.15 pm. I am watching Germany’s most successful weekly crime-series 'Tatort'. And I notice that this week’s killer is a robot. I see dark visions, an annoyed, almost aggressive and choleric inspector prophesying doom regarding machines and the future of humanity. A robot kills. And on TV they clearly state that the legal means of prosecution are still lagging behind the new technologies. This message reaches a quarter of all TV viewers, more precisely 8.1 million people. No experts, but rather ‘John Doe’.
How will the courage and the necessary openness for a change, which the majority can not yet estimate, reach the public? What can experts do to lead AI away from a science-fiction image and towards a realistic consideration? How can they assist people recognizing Artificial Intelligence as a new industrial revolution and not as a black scenario hovering above us all?
In the case of the ‘Tatort’, the German tabloid ‘Bild’ had intervened: The very next day they published an interview with Philipp Thesen, professor of human-system interaction in industrial design at Darmstadt University, and had the murderer relativized. Unfortunately, they cut shorted this interview so significantly that the article rather stirred up fear even more...
But either way: One short article in the ‚Bild’ is not enough anyway. People are not just about manslaughter and the loss of their jobs, but it is the big unknown that threatens. We tend to be afraid of what we do not know. That means: Clarification is needed urgently! But how to get it?
If politics focuses on the professional audience and the media feasts at the horror, I think those are in demand who are already far ahead of the masses. Those who work daily with and for AI for years. Those who are immersed in the topic long ago. Those who develop, advise and regularly meet others who know even more. Those who are speakers on the subject themselves, those who are part of what's going on.
My own field is public relations, there are others at INDEED who are much more competent in the topic of AI. Hence I need your support, dear colleagues! You are the designers, engineers, innovation managers, business strategists and creative interaction technologists: what can we do to get people on board? How can we take away fear and develop confidence instead and therefore make digital innovation more 'human'? I am looking forward to your input and pioneering answers!