„Robotics and AI technologies must be aligned with human needs.”

Why does Austria need a Council on Robotics and Artificial Intelligence?

The use of robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) in various areas of our lives will lead to fundamental changes in society. As robotics and AI increasingly influence and change our lives, Austria has to establish itself as a “player” in this field. Robotics and AI systems offer numerous opportunities but also ethical dangers for Austria as a business location.

With its AI strategy, the European Commission gave the starting signal for the so-called Coordinated Plan, within the framework of which the EU Member States are called upon to develop and implement a national AI strategy.

This ultimately resulted in the constitution of the Austrian Council on Robotics and Artificial Intelligence, which was presented for the first time at the European Forum Alpbach 2017 by the Austrian Federal Ministry for Transport, Innovation and Technology.

What is the purpose of the Austrian Council on Robotics and Artificial Intelligence?

The Austrian Council on Robotics and Artificial Intelligence was set up as an advisory board to support the development and implementation of such an AI strategy. It deals with the potentials, challenges, risks and impacts of the use of robots and AI systems. Its aim is to – if necessary also proactively – formulate statements and recommendations for action for Austrian politics as concretely and close to everyday life as possible.

What is the White Paper of the Austrian Council on Robotics and Artificial Intelligence about?

The white paper entitled “Shaping the Future of Austria with Robotics and Artificial Intelligence” is based on the technical status quo of robotics and artificial intelligence known in the constitutional period and defines the priority fields of action and framework conditions for Austria from the Council’s point of view.

What potentials do robotics and artificial intelligence offer?

The use of robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) in various areas of our lives will lead to fundamental changes in our society. These new technologies have the potential to contribute to solving the great challenges of our time, with a wide range of applications: For example, dangerous, monotonous, unhealthy or strenuous activities can be performed by robotic systems, AI can contribute to better and earlier diagnosis and treatment of diseases and robots can support the autonomy and quality of life of elderly and/or care-dependent people. Robotics and AI can help to secure the international competitiveness of our companies and thus create and maintain jobs in the long term.

What are the challenges posed by the use of robotics and artificial intelligence?

The new technologies will not only bring about changes and new demands in the work environment, they will also raise ethical, legal and social questions to be discussed and solved by Austrian decision-makers from all sectors of society.

Why is an interdisciplinary discussion important?

The complexity of the questions and challenges for society arising from the use of robotics and AI requires a highly interdisciplinary debate. Experts from various disciplines have therefore been appointed as members of the council – from robotics and automation, AI, machine learning, computer science, law, social sciences and economics to psychology and philosophy of technology. Due to the expected far-reaching changes in the economy and the working world, representatives of the Chamber for Workers and Employees and the Federation of Austrian Industries are also represented in the Council for Robotics and AI.

What influence does Artificial Intelligence have on the labour market?

Just like the steam engine did in the past, robots and AIs are revolutionizing our society today. More and more, they are taking over activities that were previously performed by humans. But in addition to the less ethically problematic use of robots in industry, AI is also increasingly penetrating sensitive areas.

There is the complementarity approach, which assumes that robots are not intended to replace humans, but to relieve or supplement them. They can increasingly perform tasks that are too strenuous, too dangerous or too repetitive for humans. This should enable people to concentrate on what they like to do or do better than machines. Yes, repetitive jobs will be lost. But new work profiles will also emerge.

In addition to ensuring the physical safety of employees, the interaction between humans and robots should be as intuitive as possible. The question is: How should assistance systems be designed so that they support people in their work without challenging them too much or too little?

What skills must the new generation of robots undoubtedly have?

Robots should be equipped in such a way that they are safe, predictable and easy for humans to operate. This also means that they need to be taught social skills and should have excellent communication skills. Humans and machines will cooperate closely in the future, robots will penetrate a wide range of work areas. We are at a point where major change is on the horizon.