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“We need something like the economic miracle in the AI sector”

Sascha Lobo made a passionate appeal during his keynote speech at the “bidt Konferenz 2023”, emphasizing the crucial need for Europe to avoid paralysis when it comes to AI. As an author, podcaster, and internet entrepreneur, Lobo shared his insights on how we can reduce fears and embrace the AI transformation. We had the opportunity to speak with him and discuss possible solutions to achieve this goal.

Sascha Lobo at bidt Konferenz 2023 at Gasteig HP8, Munich
© Klaus D. Wolf

Which aspects of life will be positively influenced by AI in the next 10 to 15 years?

Sascha Lobo: I believe that most have positive influences on them. The big question is: how can we limit the negative effects and amplify the positive ones? When it comes to generative AI, the biggest changes will likely be in education, certain services, work processes within companies, and text and content creation. This includes everything from company presentations to quarterly financial reports to simple visual works and some films. Everyday utility content will see a strong impact, which I consider to be mostly positive. Although some people may have less work to do, productivity will increase in other areas, where it has been stagnant for some time. Additionally, communication will become more specific, scalable, precise, and effective.

© Klaus D. Wolf

How can we make it possible for everyone to learn more about AI and educate themselves further, including children, senior citizens, and less educated people? How can we ensure that they are not left out?

Sascha Lobo: It’s quite unfortunate, but the reality is that we face a significant shortcoming here. We seem to be doing fine in terms of teaching and making AI accessible to those who are highly educated and already familiar with the technology. However, we have a major issue when it comes to those who don’t prioritise digital education on a daily basis. Essentially, to prevent the negative social impacts of AI from worsening, I strongly believe that we need to develop new educational concepts and training programs. This is also a way to tackle the shortage of skilled workers in Germany. Upskilling is critical not only professionally but also in our everyday lives. It calls for fresh and innovative approaches, and while I can’t say for certain if it will be a new AI adult education centre, professional courses, or further training, I do know that it’s necessary for the vast majority of workers in Germany.

© Klaus D. Wolf

How can we in Germany turn the negative attitude towards AI into a positive one? How can we take away people’s fear?

Sascha Lobo: That’s an important and excellent question. Unfortunately, we need a lot of perseverance when it comes to artificial intelligence. We face powerful opponents across the globe with different interests and motivations. Some reject it outright and view it as the end of the world, while others see it as an opportunity to gain an advantage over Europe.

I think constant communication, education, and openly discussing fears instead of ignoring them are all essential tasks. We must create a positive narrative of progress, just like Germany did in the 1950s and early 1960s. Somewhere between data protection and “diesel engines are cool,” Germany lost that narrative. I believe this positive narrative of progress should come “from below”. By “from below,” I mean that it should not be created by politics or corporations. Whether a medium-sized company, an entrepreneur with a small start-up, a group of students, or a scientist with a brilliant idea, anyone can create this narrative. Ultimately, it could be a simple PR story that brings it to life. We need something similar to the economic miracle in the AI sector. If we have that, everything will fall into place without anyone having to do anything.

That sounded like the word for Sunday, very nice. Thank you very much.

Sascha Lobo: With pleasure.

Sascha Lobo is an author, podcaster and internet entrepreneur and has written several books about the digitalisation of the economy and society. He has been writing a weekly column for “Spiegel Online” since 2011. Together with Christoph Kappes, he runs Fortschrittsfabrik, a project and consulting company for digital transformation.

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