Helping with Artificial Intelligence?


For the fourth time already, “ZusammenHelfen in Oberösterreich” (HelpingTogether in Upper Austria) – the contact point around the topic “Together for Fugitives” – organized a conference at the Ars Electronica Festival 2019 for all committed, interested and affected people in the field of flight and integration. In keeping with the motto “Day of Encouragement,” new perspectives were presented, current developments were discussed, and challenges and successful projects were examined in greater detail.

We raffled off a workshop on Artificial Intelligence at the Ars Electronica Center among all conference participants that now took place in November. After a guided tour through the new exhibition “Understanding Artificial Intelligence“, during which a basic understanding of this technological phenomenon was first developed, the tour continued in the “Machine Learning Studio“, where there was a practical insight into how machines learn. In a subsequent round of discussions, the participants themselves had their say and discussed the advantages and disadvantages of the latest developments in artificial intelligence.

We spoke with Melanie Jungwirth and Nicole Sonnleitner, the two organizers of the ZusammenHelfen conference, about their visit to the Ars Electronica Center and their work at “ZusammenHelfen in Oberösterreich.


Was the topic of Artificial Intelligence already a topic for you before the workshop at the Ars Electronica Center?

Nicole Sonnleitner: Basically, we always receive news from the Ars Electronica Center at the festival itself, via newsletter or other channels. This means, of course, that the topic of Artificial Intelligence comes across us every now and then. But it hasn’t really been a real topic for our work until now. At least not in terms of the idea of robots or something like that. Of course we already use search engines on the internet!

Melanie Jungwirth: During my visit I personally learned – also in a somehow reassuring way – that artificial intelligence is far from being as developed as you might imagine in your worst horror scenarios. So that we and our jobs are all replaced by Artificial Intelligence.

On the other hand, the possibilities of Artificial Intelligence are incredibly diverse and helpful. What I liked most was the station where you could rate comments from the standard forum so that you can help an Artificial Intelligence to do this sometime on its own. And this is where the greatest insight comes to bear, which one somehow knows anyway, but likes to forget: humans create artificial intelligence.

What was the highlight of this afternoon at the Ars Electronica Center?

Melanie Jungwirth: Definitely the dilemma discussion in the group about whether artificial intelligence should be used permanently in a socially sensitive area – the health sector – to support diagnoses. It was insanely enriching how socially and respectfully this discussion took place.

Nicole Sonnleitner: In addition, it was very valuable for us to exchange ideas and spend time with volunteers, affected persons and full-time volunteers outside our subject area!

Can you imagine that Artificial Intelligence could also be used in the context of refugees?

Melanie Jungwirth: For example, there are tools in law that help to analyze files and precedents. In this respect, procedures could perhaps be processed more quickly here. But I am not sure whether I would welcome something like that.

Nicole Sonnleitner: The human component in particular is enormously important in the area of refugees and should never be forgotten.

Melanie Jungwirth: To put it somewhat casually: Perhaps you should demand more of the social and emotional intelligence of people before you start using artificial intelligence.

Do you look positively or negatively towards such a future?

Nicole Sonnleitner: Most inventions and new tools have advantages and disadvantages. And change is permanent. In this respect, we simply hope for a positive, social and valuable use of artificial intelligence. The development itself is unstoppable.

If you could develop an AI yourself, what should it be able to do at best with regard to your work?

Melanie Jungwirth: Hmm, best would be to generate more time ;) No, with us the human contact is very important and therefore I can imagine using AI only for things like administrative activities. But of course it could be a relief.

Would you also like to book a workshop at the Ars Electronica Center within the framework of your company? More information can be found here:

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