Prof. Dr. Dr. Franz Josef Radermacher

Director, Research Institute for Application Oriented Knowledge Processing (FAW), Ulm

Opportunities and Risks of Innovations: The Example of Automatising Cognitive Processes

This talk discusses the importance of innovations in the current economical situation and in the context of concrete regulations of competitive mechanisms in world economy. With reference to the book "The divine engineer" by Jaques Neirynck an analysis will be given about the extent to which the current organization of world trade and the accelerated advances of technology through state-driven innovation races will advance opportunities in human life, and the extent to which risks, potential threads, and long-term requirements for stabilization will be increased, viewed from a global perspective. A distinction will be made between the requirements for behavior of single individuals and of organizations within the systems, as well as the existing specific responsibility by each of us to work on changing the constraints of today's life, within the framework of exactly these constraints.

The resulting questions, including ethical ones, will be studied in the context of a rather ambitious research area - namely the construction of intelligent robot systems. In this research area the question about the cognition of such systems has already arisen. From the view of a researcher big challenges are being posed, for instance in the integration of symbolic and neural mechanisms. On the horizon, the question of understanding or technically realizing first forms of "consciousness" and "freedom" in such systems becomes visible. This can influence our own view of human freedom.

The topic appears even more relevant in the realm of two interesting aspects: On one hand, interesting new markets are being created, such as translation systems, caretaking through robots, etc. On the other hand, one can no longer exclude the possible development of systems possessing a cognitve power akin to that of humans, or even beyond. This talk discusses the involved opportunities and risks, and in particular the topic of responsibility of systems complementing or interacting with the responsibility of individuals.

Translation of the German original of this abstract by Georg Dorffner. Blaim all possible misrepresentations of Prof. Radermacher's ideas to him.