Dare more AI, Germany!

By Olaf Groth, Tobias Straube  and Toni Kaatz-Dubberke

We are in the middle of a cognitive revolution. Germany must be more ambitious with its strategy for artificial intelligence and promote its implementation as a national priority. Otherwise the rules of this new age will be written – yet again – in Silicon Valley or Shenzhen.

Increasing computing power, breakthroughs in research and growing data pools: Artificial Intelligence (AI) is developing rapidly and increasingly automates cognitive processes. Decreasing costs for technology components, the almost ubiquitous availability of computing power through the cloud, open online courses for learning to develop AI and a rising number of open data initiatives allow everyone with internet access to participate in it and shape it. At least in theory. In practice, AI is being increasingly monopolised and economic outlooks show that the benefits of AI are unequally distributed across the globe: By 2030, 26 and 14.5 percent of AI powered GDP growth in China and the USA respectively. As the rapid progress in AI research and applications redefines the balance of economic and political power worldwide, countries across the world have been embracing AI with ambitious national strategies, in an attempt to catch up with the AI superpowers and positioning them at the forefront in this field.

The Obama administration was the first to lift AI to the status of a national priority in 2016 based on which the current administration has started to develop a comprehensive strategy. This triggered what some observers call an AI “arms race”at the global level. So far, the US holds the pole position: No other country in the world graduates more PhD candidates in AI and related fields every year than the USA, an estimated 3,000. In Germany the figure is not more than 170 yearly. The USA is also home to most AI startups globally, roughly 1400, compare to Germany’s 100. Similarly, almost three-quarters of all internationally enforceable AI patents are filed by US-based actors while German ones only contribute two percent so far. With recent advances in Quantum Computing, like the IBM’s launch of world’s first commercial quantum computer, the US companies appear to be cementing their leading position in cognitive computing. In turn, the fertile US ecosystem of excellent research institutions, innovative entrepreneurs, experienced investors and agile public actors is likely to keep attracting even more top talent, capital and intellectual property.

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About the Authors

Dr. Olaf Groth serves as Professor for Global Strategy, Innovation and Economics at HULT International Business School and program Director for Digital Futures at HULT-Ashridge Executive Education. He is Managing Director of advisory thinktank Cambrian Group, Visiting Scholar at UC Berkeley’s Roundtable for the International Economy, a member of the Global Expert Network at the World Economic Forum and co-author (with Dr. Mark Nitzberg) of the new book Solomon’s Code: Humanity in a World of Thinking Machines. Previously, Dr. Groth was an executive with hi-tech multinationals.

Tobias Straube is Principal at Cambrian Group and led with Olaf Groth the development of a study comparing national AI strategies for the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, and worked for eight years for the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), the Friedrich Naumann Foundation, and Bündnis 90/Die Grünen in Germany, Latin America, Africa, and Southeast Asia to develop and implement regional governance, higher education, and entrepreneurship initiatives. Straube lives in Frankfurt. This article reflects his personal opinion.

Toni Kaatz-Dubberke supported the comparative study on national AI strategies for the Konrad Adenauer Foundation as a Senior Analyst at Cambrian Group. For eight years, he has been active in international cooperation projects in Asia and Africa, at present for the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH in Germany. Since 2005, he also works as a freelance journalist. This article reflects his personal opinion.


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