1st Japanese-German-French DWIH symposium on Artificial Intelligence

© DWIH Tokyo

On November 21-22, 2018 the German Centre for Research and Innovation Tokyo (DWIH Tokyo) conducted the ‘Artificial Intelligence-International Research and Applications: 1st Japanese-German-French Symposium’. With a remarkable lineup of 63 distinguished speakers and over 300 participants from all three countries the symposium provided a forum for vibrant discussions on one of the most important topics of our time.

“Artificial Intelligence” is a broad topic as it concerns almost every public and private sector and academic discipline. Hence, the DWIH symposium’s goal to facilitate not only interdisciplinary but also international exchange on AI was ambitious. However, it soon became clear, that Germany, France and Japan hold high potential for an intensified exchange on AI for several reasons – Prof. Margret Wintermantel (president of the German Academic Exchange service) took up three such reasons, when she welcomed the audience on behalf of the main organizer, the German Centre for Research and Innovation Tokyo (DWIH Tokyo): Germany, France and Japan all feature excellent resources, share similar value systems and have a long tradition of collaboration. German Ambassador Dr. Hans Carl von Werthern and French Ambassador Laurent Pic emphasized the need for trilateral exchange on AI in regard to the impact AI will have on our societies. National AI strategies of Japan, France and Germany to set the political framework for the discussions, top-ranking representatives of each country introduced the cornerstones of their national AI strategy. Japanese Minster of State for Science and Technology Policy, Mr. Takuya Hirai, emphasized that a central goal of the Japanese AI strategy is to prepare Japanese society for the changes which the advances in technology are about to bring.

The Japanese strategy envisions a “Human-centric AI society” composed of values such as dignity, diversity and sustainability. The French strategy was presented by world-renowned mathematician Cédric Villani, who directed the task force to compose a report on which the French AI is premised. Prof. Dr. Villani indicated that in the fierce global AI race we are facing today, competition concentrates not only on big databases and computer power, but also on people who are capable of contributing to AI research. He pointed out that the transnational sharing of data and competence is one of the strategy’s central guidelines and stressed the importance of common values: “You will only share data with partners that you trust”. The brand-new German AI strategy was presented by Dr. Herbert Zeisel from the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), who put special emphasis on the necessity to create attractive working conditions for promising AI researchers. The acceptance of AI by society is another important topic addressed by the German AI strategy: “This involves making the technology controllable and protecting personal data”, Zeisel said.

AI & HI: co-operation, co-evolution, co-existence?

One question which came up repeatedly at the symposium was about the relationship between humans and machines and how it will evolve in the future.

The great potential of AI for humankind was addressed in the keynote speech by Prof. Dr. Wolfram Burgard (University of Freiburg), who illuminated how AI could help to solve existential problems of many people all around the world – ranging from famine to limited access to medical care.

Prof. Dr. Andreas Dengel from the German Research Centre for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI) stated in his keynote speech that self-learning machines could be used as “intelligence amplifiers – complementing our own senses, helping us to understand, to memorize, to act”.

Prof. Dr. Junichi Tsujii from the Artificial Intelligence Research Centre (AIRC) put the “co-evolution” of AI and Human Intelligence (HI) into perspective. With self-moving robots programmed not to interfere with humans, the AIRC is now focusing its research activities on the “co-existence” of AI and humans – the next step will be “co-evolution”, through which AI and HI create a model of the real world together.

Dr. Joseph Reger, Chief Technology Officer (CTO) at Fujitsu EMEIA, on the other hand expressed doubts, if the “co-operation” of HI and AI will hold up for the coming decades. In a visionary talk on one of many possible futures of AI, he pointed out that in 80 years there might not be a clear distinction between HI and AI – “they will be one and the same”, with AI being subject to the same laws and civil rights as humans.

From Ethics to Connected Industries – concentrated discussions in break-out sessions

There is no doubt the AI will bring tremendous changes to almost every sector of society – and in some it already has. During the symposium, participants could attend sessions on nine different focus topics.

In the plenary session on “New Working Environment with AI” speakers presented AI-based technologies, e.g., for optimized recruitment of human resources or improvement of employee’s productivity. The session’s consensus was that AI could indeed improve our working environments, though deeper interdisciplinary exchange with social scientists and especially cognitive scientists is needed.

In the session on “Ethical and Legal Aspects of AI”, over 100 participants discussed questions like how AI will affect human dignity or how data biases widen social gaps. Participants stressed the necessity of international principles regarding AI.

Another session highlighted changes and challenges AI applications are about to bring in the field of “Learning and Education”. It became clear that these developments can greatly benefit from a disciplinary approach and the perspective of social scientists.

The possibilities and risks of “Smart cities” were discussed in the third session. The speakers pointed out how AI could improve safety and help to reduce energy costs as well as traffic congestion. Major challenges in these fields concerned the protection of people’s privacy and the education of people about AI.

The first day of the symposium was closed by a session on “AI Shooting Stars”, in which founders and researches presented their AI start-ups in short pitches.

On the second day of the symposium, key actors from Germany, Japan and France gave input on new advances in precision medicine and cancer treatment in the session on “AI Applications in Health Care”. The participants emphasized that the quality and sizes of medical data bases represent one of the major challenges to be overcome to tap the full potential of AI technologies.

In the session on “AI Applications in Mobility and Autonomous Driving”, experts from all three countries discussed the future of self-driving cars and traffic regulations. The overarching theme was the challenges of introducing AI technology into reality – focusing on autonomous, self-driving cars and other vehicles – by overcoming current security, data collection, trust, and infrastructural challenges.

Another session concerned “AI Applications in Security, Safety, and Communication”. The discussion was shaped by two different approaches: AI to defend and AI to attack. The participants also raised ethical questions e.g., on data biases and responsibilities for machine failure.

How engineering facilities can profit from data sharing and still protect their privacy was discussed in the session on “AI Applications in Connected Industries”. As data sharing between companies is a delicate problem already, participants were not optimistic about the realization of international data pools in this field, but also looked into methods of machine learning with small amounts of data.

A human-based approach – joint statement

What unites Germany, Japan and France when it comes to Artificial Intelligence? In the last session of the symposium, Prof. Dr. Yuichiro Anzai (Japan Society for the Promotion of Science) looked back on the topics that came up during the two days – many of them relating back to broader issues like the future of democracy or the future of truth and ethics. He emphasized that international exchange and collaboration will be important to address these challenges.

The demand for further exchange was also expressed by many of the participants – and put to record in a joint statement on intensified collaboration in AI. The statement emphasizes to take a “human-centered approach” to AI and its applications. Even if the international discourse on the many questions concerning AI has just begun, the symposium participants from Germany, France and Japan agreed on the following common goal: “The ultimate aim of Artificial Intelligence is to serve people and contribute to the improvement of the quality of life for the individual as well as for society as a whole.”

You can find the following documentation material here:

Joint Statement

  • joint statement of the German, Japanese and French participants on intensified collaboration in AI

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