Chair of Bioinformatics

    Artificial intelligence

     "AI enables technical systems to perceive their environment, to deal with what they perceive, and to solve problems in order to achieve a specific goal." according to an article (1) on artificial intelligence published on the site of the European Parliament. Most people do not realize how often they encounter what is called artificial intelligence. Many well-known platforms such as YouTube and Google use artificially intelligent programs to analyze every activity of the user on their platform, create a profile and display search results and suggestions tailored to this profile, with the main goal of getting the user to spend as much time as possible on their platform. An algorithm that, for example, can identify a user's favorite band based on their activity on the web is called weak AI. Strong AI, on the other hand, is a computer program that thinks beyond the task for which it was originally created and has the same intellectual abilities as a human or even surpasses them. This would be achieved, for example, if the favorite band recognition algorithm would suddenly also suggest which outfit would fit best to the music scene of your favorite band. The development of strong AI seems to be the fear issue for many people when it comes to artificial intelligence. However, it is much less the prospect of the development of human-like robots trying to destroy us that makes the issue of AI one of the greatest systemic risks of our timeWhile the development of strong AI is still out of reach, weak AI's that take everyday tasks and decisions away from us are already firmly integrated into the daily lives of many people. While we can always decide whether or not to accept a search result or suggestion offered to us by an AI on the Internet, there is no guarantee that we will still be able to influence the driving behavior of an AI when we are automatically strapped into a car without a steering wheel. Questions about the extent to which we want to hand over decision-making power to how programmed algorithms and machines and whether we agree with all possible consequences are questions we should answer before creating such machines. A chance to answer these questions afterwards and to make changes in this respect is not certain.

    Approaches for more AI security

    The fundamental goal for safe use of artificial intelligence is that ultimately humans remain in control of the technology, not a few, but ideally every single individual. Without establishing multi-layered control instances, it is very likely that a few people will take over control of the AI technology and thus control many people, or that the AI technology will end up controlling us itself. This outcome is logically predictable once it is understood how powerful artificial intelligence already is today and is likely to become in the future due to the steady increase in systemic complexity.

    Already, many AI technologies are undermining our right of individual self-development by controlling what information we have access to on the Internet, how and when, what makes them highly manipulative. "At stake here are nothing less than our most important constitutionally guaranteed rights," as accurately described in an article on "Das Digitale Manifest" published in "Spektrum" (1).

    One conceivable approach to greater AI security, could consist of multi-layered human control over the technology. Society, politics, and research could be the three main entities.

    Control at the societal level

    First of all, there is a need for general education about the influence, scope and consequences of currently deployed and potentially future deployed AIs. This would be significantly advanced by supporting factual-rational discourses on the topic. This can be achieved on a societal level through people taking the initiative to inform themselves about the topic of AI and then start a discourse. This can be done at any level, whether it is in the family, with friends, in educational institutions, in the company, or as a societal survey. Through education and through following discourses, society can make demands to the government and to research, which they think are important for a safe way of dealing with artificial intelligence. Those who want to contribute even more to this goal can also think about aligning their careers accordingly. A good guiding concept is offered by the book "80,000 hours" by William MacAskill and the corresponding website (2).

    Control at political level

    The state should establish legal framework conditions for the production and use of artificial intelligence that do not make maximum profit their primary goal, but rather human safety. These should be decided in consultation with society, research and the ethics committee, constantly reviewed and adjusted if necessary. A logical approach to such a framework would be, for example, to decide that permission from the government is required for the production and use of AI systems, as well as for conducting research projects on this topic. In addition, it could be established that in order to promote the transparent use of AI, it must be labeled. Furthermore, the state could ensure greater security by prioritizing the allocation of research funds for projects that deal with the analysis and prevention of risks associated with AI development. A general strict control of political activities as well as of research projects on the topic of AI by the ethics commission is recommended.

    Control by research

    In order to support society, research should make general information on the topic of AI, on the current research results and the current use of AI accessible to all people. Collecting, simplifying and also translating the information is important for this goal. More research should be conducted on the topic of AI safety, in which important legal framework conditions can be developed, which then can be passed on to politics. Another important task is to research the ability of artificially intelligent systems to suffer, which should be carried out under the supervision of the ethics committee and in compliance with defined ethical framework conditions. International research collaborations can reduce the risk of a technological arms race.