Video interview with Dorothee Bär, Minister of State for Digital Affairs in the Federal Chancellery.
Welcome, Mrs. Bär! You recently said that there should be a rubber stamp that says “AI – Made in Germany.” Why “Made in Germany?” Germany does not produce any computers.
Dorothee Bär: We had a very exciting AI summit in the Federal Chancellery – and we discovered that Germany is a world leader when it comes to fundamental research. We really are ahead of the game. For example, just look at the ongoing development of autonomous driving in our country. This is where AI also plays a key role because it enables motor vehicles to be operated without human drivers behind the wheel.
In the near future I think that people will prefer to ride in automobiles equipped with AI ‘Made in Germany’ or ‘Made in Europe” rather than in cars having AI from China or the USA.
The Internet is global. Can AI be limited by a national or regional identity?
Dorothee Bär: That is not the real question. The important thing is to know who is behind the development, what values are inherent in the solutions – we are a country that has an AI strategy which is complemented by a data ethics commission. You will not find that everywhere. In addition to business and economic factors, we also place a strong emphasis on values. And that’s where we are far ahead of others on the global stage.
Deutsche Telekom recently issued ethical guidelines for AI. What are the possible risks involved with AI?
Dorothee Bär: Let me break this down into several examples. During the last legislative period, we established a data ethics commission with a focus on autonomous driving. And, of course, there are a number of basic principles that just about everyone would automatically accept. For example, that preventing personal injury has a higher priority than preventing material damages in a specific instance. Or that all human lives are of equal importance under the law. Thus – and I mean this only by way of example – if an autonomous automobile is confronted with the horrible choice of running over one person or five people, it could be programmed to always choose the lesser evil, so to speak. But this makes no sense because our principles tell us that human lives – be it one or five – are inviolable and equal under law. Or just imagine a potential scenario where a young person or a senior citizen would be the accident victim. Would the younger person be spared rather than the older one? Or vice versa? This is why ethics, morals and values play such an important role.
How can we ensure that positive potential is adequately utilized?
Dorothee Bär: You simply have to show people again and again how much comfort and convenience they have in their personal lives. Every single day. And despite what we hear and see in the daily news, our lives have improved considerably over many centuries, and this is an ongoing phenomenon.
Our job is to make people aware of this. AI can be one good example, but there are many more.
Of course, communicating this message is a tough job – today it is much easier to constantly spread cultural pessimism. For some reason most of us in Germany don’t always look at the bright side of things. This is something we must work on and change.
Looking toward the future, what will a normal day be like in the year 2050?
Dorothee Bär: You will be able to sleep a little longer because there will be no morning traffic jams, and you won’t have to look for a parking space – everybody will be in a good mood. Your breakfast will be prepared and served automatically, and eventually we won’t need cars or flying taxis because each of us will be beamed from one place to another.
What kinds of AI applications would you personally like to see?
Dorothee Bär: For me the most exciting AI applications will be in the field of medicine. That’s where so much can be done to really help people. Especially those suffering from chronic illnesses. We already have some very impressive applications, but in 2050 things will be even better.