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.
The Ministry of Digital and Economic Affairs and the Ministry for Transport, Innovation and Technology are therefore jointly planning a strategy for artificial intelligence. For Austria, it is important to actively use the global technological transformation process as an opportunity. Seven working groups will develop solutions on topics such as research and innovation, artificial intelligence in the public sector or society, ethics and the labour market. The considerations of the working groups will be based, among other things, on a paper of the Austrian Council on Robotics and Artificial Intelligence.
The concept of the Austrian Council on Robotics and Artificial Intelligence was first presented at the European Forum Alpbach 2017 by the Austrian Federal Ministry of Transport, Innovation and Technology and was constituted on 24 October 2017.
The Austrian Council on Robotics and Artificial Intelligence was set up as an advisory board to support the development and implementation of such a robotics and 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.
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.
The working title is “Artificial Intelligence Mission Austria 2030”. This is a strategy for the correct handling of robots and artificial intelligence. The declared aim of this project is, on the one hand, to exploit the great opportunities offered by digitisation and, on the other hand, to avert possible undesirable developments. The white paper from the Council on Robotics and Artificial Intelligence forms the basis for the strategy.
The following points are declared as principles for the development of a robotics and AI strategy:
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.