Andreas Klug, Bitkom © Bitkom

08 May 2019

"It's time we stopped considering humans and machines as rivals."

What is the importance of artificial intelligence "Made in Germany" or "Made in Berlin"? Is enough being done not to lose the connection to the USA and China? What can a future look like in which man and machine coexist? Andreas Klug is one person who is occupied with such questions. The acknowledged expert for digital change is head of the "Artificial Intelligence" working group in the ICT industry asso­ciation Bitkom and is CMO of ITyX AG, which has developed intelligent automation in service and back office for well-known companies.

As chairman of the AI working group in the Bitkom digital association and as a member of the ITyX board, you gain outstanding insights into the interface between research and business. What is the composition of the working group and what are its goals?

The Bitkom working group "Artificial Intelligence" is full of prominent figures. In addi­tion to the large providers, consultants and integrators, above all users from various industries come together here. As a rule, these are the people responsible for digiti­sation, big data and new business models from medium-sized to large companies. They contribute their knowledge about AI. And we moderate this intensive dialogue between users and providers: it is all about success stories, user experiences, practi­cal tips and current developments in business, society and politics.

The topic of artificial intelligence is occupying the entire job market. You are active in a working group with experts from over 100 companies and start-ups, and an exchange of experience and knowledge takes place. Which sectors of the economy are particularly in the focus of AI efforts?

Let's be honest: there is no industry which is not affected by digital change or will not be affected in the near future. It starts with digital assistants at our computer work­stations, who support us in handling office and administrative processes, and extends to the use of AI for the smart mobility of our citizens or more precise diag­nostics in the healthcare sector. Manufacturing and industry are at the heart of the German economy, and the use of AI is also advancing rapidly here. It is not for noth­ing that the leading trade fair in this sector, the Hannover Fair, is starting this year taking as its theme "Integrate Industry - Industrial Intelligence".

A trend reversal is becoming apparent: AI is being discussed more intensively in public and has recently also reached the debates of the Federal Govern­ment. Are we on the right track?

The clear answer to this is Yes. It's time we stopped considering people and machines as rivals. For a long time it has no longer been a question of WHETHER we create intelligent machines to support us. Rather, it is HOW we create an envi­ronment in which we can realize optimum man-machine cooperation. Particularly in the political arena, we are seeing some "starting signals". The AI Commission of Enquiry has been meeting since September 2018. The Data Ethics Commission has started its work. The Federal Government has presented its AI strategy. As a digital association in Berlin, we are involved in all activities. The "High-Level Expert Group on AI" also provides advice at EU level. It will present its ethics guidelines at the beginning of April.

Almost one third of all German companies dealing with AI are based in Berlin. What makes the capital such an important location, and what distinguishes Berlin from other centres in the field of AI - both nationally and internationally?

Berlin has a unique ecosystem - in both economic and socio-cultural terms. Leading companies have positioned incubators and accelerators in Berlin to network the best of the old and new economies and create synergy effects. As a citizen of Cologne, I have to acknowledge that Berlin has a high density of (tech) start-ups. We don't find that in any other German city.

How do you see the willingness to innovate and invest in artificial intelligence in Germany?

Despite the investment hotspots of China and the USA, it is premature to write off Germany as regards technology. I trust in the successful DNA of German SMEs. The three billion euro of funding announced by the German government for AI until 2025 sound like a large amount. Compared with private investments in China and the USA, however, this does not seem particularly ambitious. Because the Chinese economy also invests three billion - but every month. The venture capital scene in Germany as regards AI could also be better shaped. But I am quite optimistic that our initiatives will be successful. Germany will be able to give major impetus with regard to AI.

It is well known that public discourse fluctuates between fear and anticipation. How do you see the opportunities, potential and risks?

Fear is not a good trailblazer. We must work together to ensure that the public is better aware of the potential of AI for increasing productivity and improving our living conditions. An objectively balanced discussion of the potential risks of using AI is also necessary. This also requires improved knowledge of the basic mechanisms of AI across the population. This is a major task for society as a whole which we must face up to.

Thank you for the interview.