by Hans J. Schmolke
It’s not about the question of whether intelligent machines are entering our everyday lives and our daily lives. This is done long ago. We’re talking about what role we want to give them in our daily lives. It’s all about the distance. We will not succeed in keeping our personal environment free from invisible robots, nor can that be the target. The key question is, who has the right to this data? From the company’s point of view, the answer is clear: the owner of the robot gets the data. From the consumer’s point of view, this is exactly what needs to be prevented. In discussions, companies that sell ‘intelligent’ washing machines see themselves to be far from misusing data and insisting on their moral and their ‘pure’ business interests. But the question is more about a future when our household is overrun by a network of externally controlled sensors and devices. Let’s assume that no manufacturer or platform is interested in the other in the house. But whoever is interested in the interrelation between them has a good chance of intimacy. Artificial intelligence has to keep a certain distance to our lives, otherwise it will be very difficult to create the conditions for a long-term exploitation success. Distance to the individual is a question that determines the long-term success of many technologies in which investments are made today. The individual is at the center of economic activity. He/she is the subject who decides. He/she has the right (and the task) to develop and live out talents and interests. But wherever machine intelligence moves into a personal sphere, the way is short to make the customer not the user, but the object of intelligence. Realistically, technical development tends to take this direction. Intelligent machines are designed to make the customer accountable in his behavior. Although this does not often succeed, the trend is still unbroken. On the other hand, where the individual is surrounded by an increasingly dense network of sensors, the feeling of living in a straitjacket grows. That makes people, and with them the customers, rebel. History shows that any society that relied on the principle of making the citizen an object and a mass out of individuals, had only a short life span. By contrast, ‘short life’ is a bad word when it comes to feeding a new industry with investment capital. A lasting and self-sustaining development can only be guaranteed with customers and users who are able to make this development effective for their own interests and to develop themselves as consumers with the help of this new technology. Are users encouraged by Digital Intelligence, empowered to better develop their own lives, to take initiative and to move? Or will digital intelligence crush, watch, guard, constrict individuals? Will the technique turn against the individuals, or give them new opportunities to grow beyond existing limits? This is the long-term success criterion for any ‘smart’ technology. This question is therefore also one of the maturity of investments that are made today: roaring fire with or without sustainability?
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