“More dangerous than the atomic bomb”? AI could help us in many areas of everyday life

Guest article by Gordon Repinski: “More dangerous than the atomic bomb”? AI could help us in many areas of everyday life

Thursday, 07/28/2022, 12:05 p.m

Artificial intelligence (AI) is no longer limited to chatbots, it plays an important role in practically all areas of Industry 4.0. Skills shortage, traffic, epi- and pandemics: How AI can help us with the challenges of our time.

Hardly any other development is so radically divided into black and white as the achievements of artificial intelligence. It is “more dangerous than the atomic bomb,” says Tesla boss Elon Musk. And yet it exudes a special fascination with progress, not only on Musk, but also on the rest of the world.

Google’s parent company Alphabet recently fired the computer scientist Blake Lemoine because, after weeks of intensive intellectual examination of an AI program, he came to the conclusion that his model LaMDA (Language Model for Dialog Applications) shows signs of consciousness, yes, feelings, and thus it must also be dealt with sensitively.

The group fought back, referred to the complex programming – and announced the separation from Lemoine. Feelings or algorithms, vision or danger, the extremes are closer together with every development step.

And AI is no longer limited to chatbots, it plays an important role in practically all areas of Industry 4.0. It carries risks, forms the basis for dystopias, but it also helps us to cope with the challenges of today. And in a convincing way, as a closer look at the individual branches of the application shows.

Exciting, but no time right now?

1. AI advances medicine

It is estimated that around 10,000 new virus variants are discovered every week – far too many to analyze them manually quickly enough. In the past, therefore, new viruses were usually only recognized and classified after they had spread internationally.

What this means is shown by past epidemics and pandemics – above all, of course, the corona pandemic. In order to reduce the impact of major health crises, the German biotech company Biontech and its British partner InstaDeep have developed an AI-based early warning system for corona viruses.

Biontech boss Uğur Şahin explains how the system works: “With the new calculation methods, we can analyze the sequence information of the spike protein and classify new variants according to their predicted immune escape and ACE2 binding score.”

According to Biontech, the system is able to identify the high-risk variants of the Sars-CoV-2 virus two months earlier than conventional methods. The omicron variant was even recognized within a day.

The effect is immense: work can be carried out earlier on adapted drugs and vaccines and the health authorities and politicians have more time to prepare. Only through the new technology do we have a chance against the pandemic – and can we think about normalizing the situation. Surf tip: You can find all the news about the corona pandemic in the FOCUS Online news ticker

2. AI helps break down language barriers

Using artificial neural networks, computers translate text from one language into another within seconds. This is no longer done word by word, the program understands complex sentence structures, idioms, synonyms and even slang.

One of the last hurdles of this art, the translation of demanding literature including fine nuances, could soon be overcome as well. So far, artificial intelligence has not understood the context, cultural differences or even historical classifications.

Prof. Mohit Iyyer conducts research at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. He says: “French-English can be translated comparatively well. But Japanese-English is notoriously bad, and anything with literary sensibilities is hopeless.”

Because: “The usual AI translators are often far too literal, as they are trained on news articles and transcribed parliamentary procedures.” He wants to train his artificial intelligence with the help of selected books and hire people to make corrections in order to then further promote the program.

The hope: Remove cultural barriers and enable the wide world to share in the cultural heritage of their international partners. There are over 7000 languages ​​in the world – even the Bible is only available in around 700 languages. Artificial intelligence can help.

3. AI ensures safe road traffic

The breakthrough of autonomously driving cars on the roads is a long time coming. The problem of Tesla & Co: security. A team at the TU Munich wants to help with the help of artificial intelligence: they analyze situations in which the driver of a semi-autonomous vehicle had to intervene.

Either because the car asked him to do it, or because the system had simply reached its limits. The AI ​​learns in the background: Sensors and cameras record the surroundings, the condition of the vehicle and the position of the steering wheel, the condition of the road, weather, visibility and even the speed at the time the driver took over the steering wheel.

On the next trip, the program can warn the driver in advance if a similar dangerous situation should occur again. Together with BMW, the team evaluated around 2,500 dangerous situations and came to a promising result: with an accuracy of 85 percent, the AI ​​was able to predict whether there was a danger – up to seven seconds before the situation.

Equipped with the necessary sensors, every vehicle could collect data on dangerous traffic situations and make the AI ​​usable for other situations. The Federal Statistical Office counted 2,562 traffic fatalities last year. The technology could potentially save lives.

4. AI can reduce the skills shortage

The shortage of skilled workers has become a central challenge in Germany, just a look at the chaos at the airports shows: In many sectors, the structurally required staff can no longer be found.

Smiths Detection is developing a solution for security checks using AI-based object recognition. Cabin baggage screening devices can detect an ever-expanding list of dangerous goods and contraband and be trained through machine learning techniques to continuously improve performance.

Tedious unpacking of heavy equipment such as laptops or sorting out liquids will then be a thing of the past. Explosives controls also no longer have to be carried out manually. The technology promises high efficiency, lower costs and a stress-free journey. The new devices have been in use at Tokyo Airport since April.

5. AI helps in climate change

In 2021, the USA alone had to accept losses from forest fires and similar disasters amounting to 145 billion US dollars. Due to climate change, extreme weather events, such as those we observed with the flood in the Ahr valley, are threatening to become more frequent.

The Californian company One Concern is now promising a remedy. It uses artificial intelligence to be able to better assess damage caused by natural events – at least that way people can prepare for the consequences of climate change.

By creating a digital twin—a digital replica of an analog object, in this case a building—the risk of disaster and a home’s vulnerability to damage are simulated. The effects on the surrounding transport links can also be analyzed comprehensively.

The idea: the resilience of communities can be predicted and possible risks can be mitigated in a targeted manner. One Concern uses its AI to provide information about where flood barriers or the foundations of buildings should be improved.

Conclusion: As in many areas, black and white are not the only tones in which artificial intelligence should be spoken of. The technology harbors opportunities and dangers – like much that has brought progress in human history. The following applies here in particular: Only what we make of it lies in our own hands.

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