The recent history of artificial intelligence is characterised by exponential growth of technological innovation capacity driven by the rapid increase in processing power, large amounts of data, and affordable data storage. In a very short time, AI systems have pervaded daily applications and products: AI is now to be found in millions of households worldwide (the first household robot was introduced in 2001) and technologies based, for example, on speech recognition, have long since reached the mass market. AI technologies are also increasingly changing the working world.
These rapid technological developments have to be shaped politically and in society as a whole. The recent development history of artificial intelligence is also an example of how politics and administration can recognise the impact of new technologies, organise the exchange of knowledge and ideas, and cooperate in open common processes. A good example of this is the Federal Government’s AI strategy, which was developed in a cross-departmental manner; it was adopted in November 2018. Many other countries, the EU and the OECD have also developed guidelines, principles or strategies for dealing with AI.
AI guidelines as a starting point
In April 2018 the European Commission published an initial document “Agenda for the Promotion of Artificial Intelligence in Europe” with impetus for the encouragement and future design of AI in Europe. At the same time, the High-Level Expert Group on AI body was created which reflects the ethical dimension of AI within a strategically graduated process (publication of the AI Ethics Guidelines in April 2019) and formulates specific recommendations for action (publication of the “AI Policy and Investment Recommendations” in June 2019). In addition to the socio-economic changes and legal frameworks that extend into the working world, the European Union's initiative aims in particular to activate private and public investment and the interconnectedness of European cutting-edge research.
In May 2019 the OECD also published ethical principles on artificial intelligence, which were developed by an international group of experts with the participation of 20 governments. The OECD has suggested the development of measured variables for the evaluation of AI research, development and introduction as well as the creation of an evidence base as relevant next steps. Following the founding of the OECD Policy Observatory (launched in February 2019), a new support organisation will be set up at international level for this purpose.
The AI Observatory as the next step
In Germany, the study commission “Artificial Intelligence – Social Responsibility and Economic, Social and Environmental Potential” has since September 2018 been dealing with the impact of the increasing use of artificial intelligence (AI). The commission made up of equal numbers of experts and members of parliament contributes with its work to the interconnectedness of science and politics and discusses topics such as AI and data protection, sustainability and consequences for business, research and work.
The Data Ethics Commission’s report published in October 2019 also points in a new direction with proposals on such topics as algorithm supervision, pluralism and the future role of large digital platforms.
Building on this knowledge and in line with the goals of the AI strategy, the establishment of the AI Observatory in the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs now marks the start of a new phase: the various threads of knowledge, acquired nationally and internationally, about the challenges and importance of artificial intelligence will be absorbed with new methods within the ministry. The goal now is to transfer this knowledge to specific areas of action in order to realise development and use of AI that is responsible and for the common good.