Oct 18, 2018
As written in my recent article 'The 2 worlds of digitization and AI’, I would love to change the widespread fear into optimism. So I seeked my colleagues’ ideas on how to achieve this. As always, I could rely on Stefanie, who was the first to write down her thoughts. Her approach: a new Age of Enlightenment.
"First of all we should note that this fear is completely normal. Looking back to the implementation of earlier new techniques, it feels familiar: in the beginning film screenings were a curiosity and the first photographs were suspected to capture human being’s soul. (Editor's note: This belief is still widespread in cultures without our standard of technology. The camera of a tourist at the wrong place is not less frightening than the unrealistic ideas about AI is to the uninformed population of industrial countries.)
In the early days of industrialization, the first format wars began: Edison and Westinghouse fought desperate battles for the better power system with sometimes abstruse episodes and demonstrations to convince humanity. Today we face the same mechanism, fear and fascination when dealing with robots like Sophia or language assistants like Alexa and Siri.
Somewhere between Muppet Show and Terminator Panic we become familiar with parts of Artificial Intelligence. What I find exciting is that we already trust the Google image recognition, our brake assistants or the fraud detection of our credit card without reacting with doomsday panic. (Editor's Note: Perhaps because we completely repress the thought that this already is Artificial Intelligence…)
I believe that the majority of our population already has got the same magical relationship to algorithms, machine learning or robotics as they have to the power from the socket. Almost none knows how it gets there exactly or which requirements are needed. But we all have learned to use it and to take advantage of it instead of continuing to live by candlelight. Of course, this is primarily pragmatism, but this pragmatism often mates with optimism. Usually the fear only comes up when we do not see any benefit for us or when we are afraid of getting cheated. Then we feel like the weavers after development of steam engines, like the chandlers after discovery of electric light or like horses after the invention of the car.
In my opinion, we will only then generate more optimism when we will demonstrate the practical benefits of AI and proactively state weak points. Instead of scaremongering via horror scenarios as in the ‘Tatort’ Andrea mentioned we must enlighten. We have to find equivalents to explanations like "Do not pick the toaster with a fork, otherwise you will get an electric shock" for the topics of Artificial Intelligence. And that enlightenment will only work through discussions and conversations.
Through conversations of professionals with their families, of interested people with bystanders, of institutions with citizens. In concrete terms this can be a lecture at the college for example, as the colleagues and I hold them sometimes. Heiko, for example, recently talked about 'AC/DC' during a dialogue at Münster University of Applied Sciences and answered the students’ questions afterwards.
Even our fireside chats (recently accorded to the title 'A Toast to the Art of Artificial Intelligence') reach some people, who are not that deep into the topic and then take a new or an expanded perspective. Such as Sven-Olaf of crowdmedia.
Works like the following are perfect for further enlightenment, too, as they are accessible to even more people and also a great opportunity to convert challenging content to comprehensible one: http://www.r2d3.us/visual-intro-to-machine-learning-part-1/ Visualization is very important in order to take away fear and to prevent consolidation of wrong ideas.
All this is not that different to any change management process: once the problem is known, you can work on understanding and solutions. And then you can take the necessary measures. Maybe it will not run properly,
but ¯ \ (ツ) _ / "
Well, pragmatism is one option to face the challenges. And it's what I appreciate about Stefanie, who usually racks her brain about how to drive Indeed itself even further.
The next answer will be exciting, too, because it comes from Minjoo Cho in her capacity as esthete and creative wonder of technology at Indeed (to be published soon).