COMPAREX

Smart World
How AI will Change the Way We Live

Adventureland: Evolution of a Smart World

  • Henning Uhle
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Smart Cities, Smart Worlds

The American singer Ella Fitzgerald invited us all to "dream a little dream". Just a quick glance shows that we are already well on the way. The world is becoming smart, so Leipzig is as well. The Leipzig Ideas Conference was an invitation for everyone attending to float their wackiest ideas. We need to embark on the adventure, because the world will not wait for us.

Smart City – tomorrow is already today. An Ideas Conference on New Mobility was held at the Kunstkraftwerk creative factory in Leipzig. The pivotal question running through the whole event will accompany us as we set off into the Adventureland of Smart Cities, namely "How do we want to live (together) in future?" As Bob Dylan wrote "Trust yourself to find the path when there is none." And the discussions lived up to this maxim, because, to adapt the words of Leonard Cohen, "Everybody knows" that digitization is coming – and with it the smart cities. We can spend endless time discussing the pros and cons or would be better advised to shape the future ourselves and take action. The mountain of topics that need to be addressed is incredibly diverse.

E-mobility for tenants and smart driving

The demographic trends sweeping society clearly indicate that the average age is rising. It will therefore become a Herculean task to create affordable housing. This was among the major topics at the conference. There are plenty of projects in which Leipzig housing cooperatives and others have teamed up to investigate issues like photovoltaics, smart homes, the balancing of grid fluctuation and e-charging stations. Invoicing is one of the trickiest challenges in this regard. This is because of the particular German system: A landlord who adds power consumption at the charging stations to the utility bills will automatically become an electricity provider. So how can this Gordian knot be untied?

Autonomous driving was another of the topics addressed at the conference. It will be made possible by equipping the vehicles with Artificial Intelligence. But what is AI anyway? There are two approaches underlying the term:

  1. Simulation of human behavior: But can a machine behave like a human being? It can, provided there is enough available information. The Turing test, developed by Alan Turing in 1950, can be used to test a machine's ability to exhibit intelligent behavior equivalent to that of a human and therefore determine whether this is the case. What prompts behavior is irrelevant in this regard.
  2. Simulation of human reasoning: The focus here is on the comprehensibility of decisions. Essentially it requires 'independent thought'. Can autonomous vehicles do that reliably? And how will we deal with it? Although it will take some time before the systems are sufficiently mature, it is highly advisable to start considering these issues already.

The digital paradox: Do we know what others know about us?

Technical accomplishments like smart homes and cities all depend on user data. Will humans therefore become transparent? What about the frequently cited data economy in an age of Wi-Fi, smart homes, customer cards & co.? I was pleased to note that an ideas conference organized to discuss bold adventures like smart cities also found time to ask some critical questions. After all, whatever the potential benefits may be, the question remains valid: Can I influence who receives data about me and what happens to it then? Permeating every aspect of these issues is the big question: How do we improve quality of life, without selling our souls?

The shop window is too small

An ideas conference lasting just a few days is not enough to cover all the ground in this expansive field. Important questions remain hanging in the air: Who will build this Adventureland? Google, Facebook, Amazon and Alibaba? Or do we want German companies to play a bigger role? What about smart cities, created by local government in the interests of its citizens? And do we want to remain in control over who receives the data and for what purpose? Answering these questions will require a new entrepreneurial spirit and policies that provide all the support that is needed. Ultimately the Adventureland will be greener and more sustainable than anything we have ever imagined. We need to be bold enough to think way outside the box.

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