“Humankind’s biggest advantage is critical thinking.”
26.04.2023 Are robots poised to take over our jobs? And if so, what will our role be? What can humans do better than machines? Sarah Dégallier Rochat, Head of the Strategic Thematic Field of Humane Digital Transformation at BFH, talks in an interview about possible fears and opportunities presented by artificial intelligence.
Where can machines support humans? And where do machines need us? These are two of the key questions in the field of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and robotics. “AI can make a selection from a huge amount of data, but the decision-making must remain in the hands of the human being,” Sarah Dégallier Rochat, Head of the Strategic Thematic Area of Humane Digital Transformation at BFH, explains. “This produces collaboration with genuine added value. We call this approach Augmented Intelligence, as opposed to what was previously termed Artificial Intelligence.”
Preventing a two-class society
Teaming up with three other BFH researchers, the professor has written a position paper on ethical issues surrounding Artificial Intelligence and robotics. “We want to draw the community’s attention to the most pressing issues we’re facing at the moment. A lot of articles focus on robots replacing people and there being no jobs in a few years. We believe that the new technologies are not yet able to replace people and that this will remain the case in the near future,” Sarah Dégallier Rochat explains in an interview with spirit, the magazine of the technical disciplines at Bern University of Applied Sciences.
We are already confronted with AI and robotics in numerous situations today – e.g. when using household appliances or doing internet research. There are also more and more areas of work in which machines are partially replacing humans or drastically changing their work. She sees the risk of a two-class society forming: “Some people can understand and control the new technologies. The others are at their mercy and have to perform repetitive, low-paid work.”
Humans give meaning to data
In order to prevent this kind of two-class society in the future, it is imperative to pursue a human-centred approach in all technological development. “This means that people’s needs and limitations, but also their strengths, are always taken into account. This is important not only for ethical reasons, but also because the potential of new technologies can only be fully exploited if humans and machines complement each other in a meaningful way,” Sarah Dégallier Rochat emphasises. It is not fundamentally a bad idea to use an algorithm to process a large amount of data, but the decision-making authority must remain in the hands of the human being. “Humankind’s biggest advantage is critical thinking. AI can process a large amount of information very quickly – but is unable to assign it meaning.”