Robots, artificial intelligence and humans
Munich, 15 November 2023
Robots can liberate humans from difficult, monotonous and dangerous tasks: in labs and factories – catchword Industrie 4.0 – as well as in geriatric and patient care. Thanks to the possibilities of artificial intelligence, the interaction between humans and robots is now changing dramatically once again. After all, robots are now also able to take decisions. At acatech am Dienstag on 7 November, in cooperation with vhs.wissen live, acatech member Michael Decker, Professor of Technology Assessment at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), responded to the societal and ethical questions posed by the use of such technologies.
In his short welcoming speech addressed to the roughly 1,000 virtual guests, acatech President Jan Wörner mentioned people’s hopes and worries when it comes to the topic of AI, particularly ChatGPT in this case. Using the example of historical photos which have been retouched on the one hand, and the fake Hitler Diaries that triggered a media scandal in Germany in the 1980s on the other hand, he illustrated that people managed to spread false information even in the pre-digital age. In conclusion, according to Jan Wörner, one shall not forget that ChatGTP is also used by humans.
In his talk, Michael Decker from the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) then touched on the topic of robotics from the perspective of technology assessment. Ultimately, consequences must always be considered from various perspectives. He described this in a vivid manner, taking as an example the expansion of a train station in southern Germany: with the expansion, commuters would benefit from the desired consequence, namely that of getting to work faster. For the residents living near the train station, however, the undesired consequence would be noise pollution due to the construction work and loss of green space, Michael Decker explained at the beginning of his talk.
Recording of the lecture by Michael Decker (in German)
Duration: 45 minutes 44 seconds
How and where can robots replace humans?
Robots can learn and gain further cognitive skills, and are increasingly interacting with each other and with humans more intensively. When it comes to simple tasks like vacuuming or loading and unloading the dishwasher, robots can replace humans. In the area of care, too, they can take over some tasks. However, they cannot completely replace caregivers, as the interaction with humans obviously requires empathy, feelings and emotions – this is something robots cannot (yet) offer, said Michael Decker. In contrast, in the area of diagnostics – in other words the identification and exclusion of illnesses, particularly based on image material – AI is on par with doctors, but with which consequences? Do doctors now have to justify themselves whenever they come to a different assessment than the recommendation of an AI tool?
Also in terms of autonomous driving, AI supports the driver and today can – under certain circumstances – even completely take over the driving. The question of liability, however, has not yet been clarified: is the driver responsible in the event of an accident? Or the manufacturer, who has provided the AI and programmed it? Approaches for dealing with this and other concrete consequences of AI and robot applications from the perspective of technology assessment are explained by Michael Decker in the recording of the event, which will soon be released here.