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Deep Dive #1: Artificial Intelligence in Berlin

Man is a highly intelligent being, but his intelligence has its limits. You know this about yourself: you can only remember a certain amount of information. At an event with a hundred participants, after ten names and twenty or thirty faces it’s over. It's a similar situation when learning a foreign language: no matter how hard-working and motivated someone is, there comes a time when you just don't want to learn new vocabulary.

This is where machines come into play. Computers handle an enormous amount of data, which they process in nanoseconds and prepare for users. And so it is hardly surprising that they can do some things better than humans: faster, more reliably and with a lower error rate. The research field of weak artificial intelligence, or AI for short, deals with the question of the extent to which technical devices can supple-ment and improve human cognitive abilities.

In contrast to this is strong AI, which is able to make intelligent decisions on its own, to apply them generally and to optimize itself. This fires the discussion that it could at some point be superior to humans in all aspects. Such systems do not yet exist and there is currently no visible development path to such systems.

Computers can already play chess, drive cars, write newspaper articles or recognize faces. Critics often complain that this costs many jobs. This is not wrong. Berlin start-up investor Fabian Westerheide compares this development to a tsunami, but sees it positively and with many opportunities: "If I can't avert it, I'd rather design it."

Ideally, jobs are not cut but realigned. This way, an employee has more time for customers if less time is spent on paperwork. On the other hand, new jobs are also created, especially in the development of intelligent systems.

Germany as a business location is becoming smarter and smarter and there-fore more attractive

NMost companies dealing with AI are still located in the USA and Asia. But Germany is also dealing with the topic more intensively. In July 2018, the German government described the first steps towards making Germany the world's leading location for AI.

In addition, a Commission of Enquiry of the Bundestag was formed, to which 19 members of the Bundestag belong. Its task is to formulate recommendations for the handling of AI. Results are to be published in Autumn 2020.

Not entirely unimportant for Berlin, since according to Westerheide more than half of all German start-ups are based in Berlin, which corresponds to roughly fifty companies.

However, Prof. Dr. Christoph Igel, spokesman of the Berlin-based German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI), warns against overly optimistic estimates with regard to the figures. „Not every company claiming to have AI in its product or service portfolio has developed or even researched it itself. Many companies, especially spin-offs and start-ups, use AI services provided by third parties on the Internet and use them to refine their offerings. Both variants differ fundamentally where AI is con¬cerned.“ How many start-ups in Berlin actively develop AI applications or use them to refine products can hardly be quantified. ”I am not aware of any statistics on this. In the thirty-year history of the DFKI, more than 80 start-ups have been spun off which have developed AI - albeit in relation to the whole of Germany."

The study "Artificial Intelligence in Berlin and Brandenburg”, carried out on behalf of the Senate Department for Economics, Energy and Public Enterprises, will provide an answer to this question. The study will be presented by Nicolas Zimmer, Chairman of the Board of the Technologie Stiftung Berlin, on September 6th at the event „Künstliche Intelligenz – Perspektiven und Potenziale“, organized by log.in.berlin. The contents are on the one hand the development at the location but also insights into the number of companies, turnover and jobs in the field of artificial intelligence.

Berlin's attractiveness lies first and foremost in the city itself

According to Igel, Berlin's attractiveness is mainly due to the city's living and working conditions. The Berlin science and research landscape is also a positive factor. For example, research on AI is carried out at the FU, TU and HU. Investors often praise the comparatively low rents, the high availability of highly qualified, multilingual staff and the proximity to politics, trade associations and other technology companies. No wonder that Facebook, Google, Apple and Soundcloud are all represented in Berlin. According to Westerheide, Berlin is the fourth most attractive location for AI start-ups worldwide, after Silicon Valley, London and Paris. This is where there is the strongest start-up culture, investors and multipliers. "It's a network that stimulates itself." However, Igel says that in order to keep up internationally, students in Germany need to be supported more strongly and earlier in the MINT subjects - just like in China. In addition, as in the USA, they need to be taught entrepreneurial thinking from an early age.

AI best practice examples "made in Berlin“

Berlin's AI start-ups are located in the most diverse areas: finance, health, travel, entertainment and many more. One of the best known is Leverton and even counts Deutsche Bank among its clients. The company has developed software which automatically reads contracts and displays key data important for bank employees in a matter of seconds. It also translates contracts written in foreign languages into German. This saves a lot of time when contracts are hundreds of pages long.

Erleichterung für Diabetiker durch smarte Software

XBird wants to warn diabetics in time about hypoglycaemia. The app records all move-ments and even registers the frequency of food intake through arm movements. Diabetics no longer have to keep records themselves, and the results can be sent directly to a doctor. The start-up wants to save one million lives by 2020 in this way, it confidently writes on its website.

Solvemate helps to solve annoying computer problems of businessmen by asking the user so many questions about his problem until a cause and thus a solution becomes apparent. An exasperated call from his father, who had been struggling with com-puter problems, gave the founder his business idea, he reports.

Parlamind is attractive for online shops which deal with customer enquiries. The founder says: "Only 40 per cent of customer enquiries are so individual that they require human empathy and creativity. The rest could be done by machines, relieving employees of monotonous tasks. Tracking systems from other providers, such as courier services, are also used.

AI is highly praised and is a controversial issue - a topic that will become even more important in the near future. The president of the industry association Bitkom, Achim Berg, even emphasizes that artificial intelligence will herald a new zero hour in the global economy. The first companies are already in the starting blocks in Berlin. The government's recent decision to make Germany the world's leading location for AI all the more raises expectations with regard to measures to implement this goal.

With the "Deep Dive" series Projekt Zukunft regularly gives an insight into current technologies in the digital, media and creative industries and provides information about actors, trends and applications from Berlin.