Catching up in AI
Toby Walsh is an Australian, one of the world’s leading authorities on Artificial Intelligence (AI), and until recently was a guest professor in Berlin. He is a keynote speaker at the Industrial Pioneers Summit at Hannover Messe on 22 April 2020.10 Nov 2019
It was late in the evening when we managed to get hold of him in his department at the University of New South Wales in Sydney. Toby Walsh is in demand. However, he seemed preoccupied with one quandary: "How can we beat the Germans at robot football?", he joked. He was clearly disappointed that Australia had failed again, only progressing as far as the semifinal. Walsh soon returned to his main topic, commenting: "There will come a time when robots can even beat humans at football." AI will surpass humans?
This idea reflects the prediction that by 2062 AI might conceivably reach the same level as human intelligence. Walsh finds this prospect disturbing. He has often commented on the need to set some restrictions on how AI is used and favours a human-crafted rule based system developed in the interest of humans.
Walsh is convinced that Level 5 driverless cars are not far off. "This is something systems can be taught, but do we want to leave it to the systems?" Walsh maintains that machine learning and rules belong together. "But perhaps at some point in the future we will have systems that are superior to our rule based approach." Currently the machine directive impedes the realization of this visionary concept.
How can industry benefit? "We can already do a lot with AI". With respect to humanoid robots the public is more optimistic than Walsh and his colleagues. "AI is al-ready helping doctors and problems in turbines can be identified a lot faster. That’s great, so for me it’s not problematic that humanoid systems are still quite a long way off. We can look forward to some fantastic applications in various areas of industry." Which some-how brought us back to football.
"Germany is robot football champion, but this know-how is not transferred to industrial applications. Others are much faster. Germany is always the favourite in football, robotic or human, but other countries, including Australia, are on their heels." He laughs before making a more serious remark: "Germany must do something about this trend, but how long will it take? Why the inadequate funding? The Chinese company Alibaba alone invested 15 billion in AI, compared to Germany’s five billion." He fails to mention the investment made by Germany’s many SMEs which augments government money. Nonetheless, he is right about the need for more state funding.
The Australian has a more positive view: "Europe is the world’s largest market. Something you often forget. Okay, it is fragmented and has less data, but Europe has the potential to be the front runner in multilingual AI." Another point: Trust. "Place people at the centre, make them the focus, develop Trustworthy AI, unlike China. For many years it was not possible to control digital territory. But this changed with the EU General Data Protection regulations, which helped to re-instill confidence. "Trustworthy AI made in Europe is a trend that some of the US tech giants have acknowledged."
"A buyer does not have to be an engineer or expert in waste water technology to purchase a washing machine. It is assumed that the machine is safe due to product standards and quality control. It is not necessary to know how the machine works, it is enough to know what it can do. Likewise with AI. We need certification so people trust the technology and feel confident that the machine will harm no-one or do anything that it should not be doing."
Is that all? "No. Europe needs to catch up with the platforms. There is not enough experience with large data volumes."
Toby Walsh is a keynote speaker at the Industrial Pioneers Summit at Hannover Messe. The Summit takes place on 22 April 2020 during the trade fair. The core theme is AI in industry.
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