Machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) are the future field par excellence – that’s Simon Hegelich, who teaches Political Data Science at the Technical University in Munich. Soon, growth and power will be determined by machine-driven superpowers. German companies urgently need to catch up – and everyone can contribute to that. How, explains the university professor in an interview with LEAD.
LEAD: Mr. Hegelich, you have been taking the first professorship in Political Data Science since March 2016 at the School of Political Science at the Technical University in Munich. What does politics have to do with data?
Simon Hegelich: Modern methods in the field of data science also play a greater role in the field of political science. With Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence, political phenomena can be explained. Of course, both areas are interesting as a separate area for politics. To understand and rate companies like Facebook and Google.
What’s on your agenda right now?
Hegelich: My current project is the evaluation of the question of whether platforms like Facebook are actually suitable for a political discourse. Since there is mostly private communication, which is very emotional, this is not exactly clear. My other project is concerned with how to understand texts with machine learning. It succeeds very well to extract information from a text. The computer understands even irony because it captures more and more the correlation of individual words. Algorithms analyze the order of the words.
Visions of AI researchers often sound like distant science fiction. How do you rate these predictions from the superpowers spreading into the solar system? How can I judge such statements as a non-AI person?
Hegelich: In general, I assume that these visions become reality – the question is only when. If humanity wants to survive as a species, one must eventually go beyond planet Earth. That machines are superior to humans in thinking is also plausible. It’s going to be faster than you think, but it’s going to look very different from what we imagine today. That an AI mutates into a kind of omnipotent all-knowing being is, of course, nonsense. That we can build computers and simulate human thinking, we will definitely experience.
That is, fear of loss of control is unfounded?
Hegelich: I think that visions dealing with the controlled extermination of humanity by superpowers are unlikely. It is more conceivable that a political power of artificial intelligence will seize and use it for its own purposes.
Computers are more efficient than humans – but what about feelings and consciences?
Hegelich: Feelings can be simulated as well as thinking. This can be programmed, but not that a computer really has feelings.
How will man and machine work together in the future – what is your personal ideal scenario?
Hegelich: The thesis of Stanford Professor Andrew Ng states that AI is the new electricity. KI appears in every production area and changes the process. This not only includes routine activities, but also extends to creative activities. It will also fundamentally change our work: we have powerful tools to do new things with. Many activities are being replaced.
Hegelich: For me as a professor, for example, there are some areas of teaching. Questions from students can be answered by an AI just as well as by me. The question then is whether fewer professors are recruited or if we have more time to spend on new things. But there are also new jobs that are less interesting. Such as, where people are busy to work for the AI. Label large amounts of data that the computer can learn from.
Back to your scenario that political powers use AI for their purposes. How is Germany doing in the face of the AI greats of Facebook and Google from the US?
Hegelich: Of course, it has meanwhile come to the Federal Government that there is a lot to catch up in the field. The centers for the development of artificial intelligence are not yet in Germany. We have excellent research in the field, but economic exploitation leaves much to be desired.
What advice do you have to companies and individuals to contribute to the development?
Hegelich: AI is an exciting field with great growth potential. This applies to companies and AI start-ups as well as employees – even if they have not worked in this area before. My tip: If you want to have a good job in the future, then work on machine learning. Incidentally, you do not have to develop the algorithms yourself – there will also be a lot of jobs that you care about understanding AI models.
You did not study AI, either. How did you acquire the knowledge?
Hegelich: The development is going so fast that we are all amateurs in this field. I recommend Coursera online deep learning courses and books like “An Introduction to Statistical Learning”. An incredibly good book that I recommend in my lectures.
#MyMarketingRobot: Artificial Intelligence vs. Human emotion is also the topic of this year’s W & V Marketing Convention. Here you will find more information and opportunities to participate.