Industry 4.0

The Internet of Things and its role in our lives

by Phillip F and Fox Ruben

Strolling through the technical department of my local shopping-center I noticed how supposedly „smart“ all devices became. Starting off with common devices like smartphones, smartwatches, but also smart vacuum cleaners and even smart fridges. It seems as if a new era a „smart era“ is developing. However as I did a little research I found out that it’s not solely the devices that are defining this „era“ but the technological concept behind it. It’s called the „Internet of Things“ (IoT). Watching this new technology rapidly spreading in to all aspects of our lives I started wondering what potential future benefits it might provide and what challenges and risks we might face.

When the internet became available for everybody it transformed our lives. The internet changed the world by connecting different people from different places. From now on they could exchange information and communicate with another from all around the globe. The internet content was created, as Benson Hougland, the vice president at Opto 22, said, „by people, for people, about people“. That’s why it’s named the „Internet of People“. In contrast to that this new emerging internet will also connect „things“.

But how is this going to work?

The explanation is quite simple. We humans extract information from our environment via our five senses: hearing, smell, taste, sight and touch. Transferring this on to the IoT means that we give devices the ability to sense their environment and give them a network to communicate with each another.

A great example for an IoT device is the smartphone: It has a microphone to „hear“ us, a camera with which it can „see“, an accelerometer to detect our movement and GPS to determine our location. Smartphones are also equipped with infrared sensors to find out how close the phone is to our face when calling to disable the touchscreen to avoid any interruption by unintended connection with our skin.

Another widely spread gadget is the smartwatch or fitness tracker/bracelet that monitors the wearers heart rate, his sleep and documents how many steps he has taken. Smart fridges with cameras observing the inventory or thermostats that observe room temperature and air humidity are gaining popularity. There are smart coffee makers and smart front door locks that are controlled with an app on a persons smartphone. Even a new term the „Smart Home“ came into existence which defines a home equipped with lighting, heating and other electronic devices that are connected and remotely controlled by a smartphone or a computer. What all smart devices have in common is that they are either connected with another or as in most cases with a central controlling device referred to as the „anchor device“.

Knowing all this, how could a normal day look like in a „smart persons“ life?

For this thought experiment we take a look at the fictional life of Andy:

When it’s time for Andy to get up his smartphone remotely opens the blinds to let the morning sun fill the room before the alarm goes off. When Andy turns off the alarm a cascade of events is set in motion. The thermostat regulates the room temperature to the degree that Andy is comfortable with and the shower water is also preheated so he does not need to worry about being shocked by a splash of freezing cold water. After going for a morning run his smart watch tells him that he successfully exceeded his goal and his vital signs are normal. Back home the smart coffeemaker notices his presence and starts brewing a hot cup of coffee. After showering he enjoys his hot coffee while his smart home assistant informs him about todays weather. When he drives to work in his car he barely experiences any traffic jams since his cars navigation system works hand in hand with the smart city’s traffic surveillance system. His car, connected with parking lot sensors in the smart city, also guides him to next free parking lot. On his way to work his smart fridge sends him a message telling him that he’s close to running out of butter so he can stop by his local supermarket after work on his way back home. He’s also informed that the mailman brought new mail and that his wife arrived home safe and sound.

But imagine a different scenario in which something doesn’t run as smooth as shown above: On his morning run Andy’s chest starts to hurt, his heart rate is increasing over the extent that his smart bracelet sensing this sends a message to Andy’s phone telling him that he might be in danger.

Unfortunately Andy is having a heart attack but his smartphone immediately contacts the hospital, sending all his vital information gathered by the smart watch and his GPS position so that an ambulance can pick him up and rescue him immediately. Andy makes it out alive because he has just been saved in time.

However it’s not only the technic geek Andy who benefits from the internet of things but also big companies like Google, Samsung and Amazon that bet a lot of money on this new development. It’s speculated that the number of connected IoT devices will surpass the current mark of 25 billion devices by more than 50 billion in 2025 according to the Statistia-Research-Department. The IoT opened up a new market and a lot of entrepreneurs are already inventing devices and trying to secure their position on a global level.

In the industrial field it initiated the so called fourth industrial revolution better known as the „Industry 4.0“. In the Industry 4.0 an intelligent and independent factory is created, known as a smart factory. It includes intelligent machines and robots. In the smart factory autonomous network machines control the manufacturing processes based on a real time data analysis. This leads to three major advantages compared to the older industrial systems.

The first one is the highly increased flexibility.

Making tailor made products in industrial mass production possible. The new digital and intelligent value chains, created in the smart factory, enables it to react quicker and target-oriented on individual customer requests or market developments.

The predictive maintenance is the second big improvement.

Abrasion and problems are recognized before leading to downtime of production. The system perceives maintenance and repair needs before a possible downtime. With the use of data science and machine learning the system will either request a repair or will order a new component.

Last but not least there is a decrease in production costs.

The networked smart factory makes it possible to optimize the whole value chain. Real time data analysis helps making the production more energy and resource efficient.

In conclusion there are multiple benefits from the IoT:

It saves us time.

Since smart devices can take over simple tasks for us we can plan our time more efficiently, focus on more important things and enjoy our free time. A short reminder from the fridge spares us from an extra trip to the supermarket.

It saves costs and our environment.

By optimizing our energy usage for example by turning off the lights for us or preventing the house from unnecessary heating or cooling. And by organizing the traffic in a smart city we burn less fuel and harm our environment less.

It increases the quality of our life.

By taking over small tasks our life gets more luxurious and enjoyable. Medical treatments could be way faster, cheaper and more effective since time is being saved.

It delivers us more information more easily.

We can monitor our devices and remotely access them which means we have more control over our belongings and our time. It can possibly save our life since it’s able to recognize symptoms at an early stage and take action when we can’t.

It’s not as easy nor flawless as it might seem and there are a few challenges that have to be tackled first. Some of which are listed down below:

1. A minor one is the compatibility with each another since all devices should be able to connect and interact. The solution is quite simple: the industry will have to find some kind of standard which all brands will agree to.

2. Another challenge that is harder to overcome is complexity. We don’t want to focus on how hard these devices might be to set up since they are going to be optimized and will be user-friendly but will happen if one device fails? Depending on which device fails it might effect only this one or in the worst case all other devices as well. There must be some kind of easy backup plan otherwise all benefits are invalid.

3. The Industry 4.0 as part of IoT bares a very different and important challenge. What is going to happen with all the former employed personnel that will no longer be needed? Although the IoT gives job opportunities in different areas, job losses in others will be a possible consequence.

4. The in my opinion by far hardest challenge to overcome is the handling and security of backed-up data. On one hand critics fear that all of those systems could be used by the government to spy on its citizens. They fear that it could end in a society of total surveillance as pictured in the novel „1984“ by George Orwell. On the other hand they criticize how vulnerable the user is. For instance that a hacker could get a users private data if it was not well protected. There have been cases in the past where hackers got access to a users anchor device by hacking into less secure smart devices. The other way around, when hackers do gain access to a users anchor device they could not only monitor and remotely control all other devices but also commit crimes with them. It also happened that hackers stole data by hacking into big cloud providers that should secure their data but the end users have not been informed about it because companies didn’t have to. Since all smart devices can collect so much information a thief could know when a person is not at home and rob their house. Not only the misuse of our data by criminals is a problem but also by data collecting companies. A great example for this is the social media platform Facebook which not only did not take data-safety too serious but also gave data to Cambridge Analytical. In a lot of cases the consumer doesn’t know who is selling, buying or stealing their data.

As a conclusion:

The Internet of Things bares a lot of opportunities and improvements. It will be a common and unnoticeable part in our everyday life in the future since it’s highly available and cheap. Although there are some challenges and risks the possible future developments like saving time, money and the environment have to be taken into consideration. Efforts will have to be made to find solutions for the challenges so we no longer limit its full potential. Of course the benefits mentioned are just a small selection from a big variety of opportunities that the IoT enables us to improve the quality of our life.

Thank you for taking your time reading our blog.

We would be truly happy if you would comment your thoughts and opinion on that topic down below.

Sources:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_AlcRoqS65E
https://fossbytes.com/which-smartphone-sensors-how-work/
https://www.ibm.com/smarterplanet/us/en/
https://www.iotforall.com/iot-devices-by-2020/
https://www.iotforall.com/iot-devices-by-2020/
https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/advantages-disadvantages-internet-things-iot-tommy-quek
https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smart_City
https://www.tagesspiegel.de/politik/datenmissbrauch-durch-cambridge-analytica-facebook-skandal-betrifft-bis-zu-310-000-nutzer-aus-deutschland/21142852.html
https://sonepar-innovationlab.com/smarte-objekte-im-alltag/
https://www.bcg.com/de-de/capabilities/operations/embracing-industry-4.0-rediscovering-growth.aspx
https://www.forbes.com/sites/bernardmarr/2018/09/02/what-is-industry-4-0-heres-a-super-easy-explanation-for-anyone/#5cd0e6899788
https://www.bmwi.de/Redaktion/DE/Dossier/industrie-40.html
https://bdi.eu/artikel/news/was-ist-industrie-4-0/
https://cdn.pixabay.com/photo/2015/05/25/05/27/network-782707_960_720.png

Surgical Robots


Surgical Robots – the new heroes in medicine?

by Violetta and Noemi

What do you think of when you hear the word surgery? You probably imagine one or two doctors and a few nurses standing around a person in anesthesia, doing surgery. But since 2000, many surgeries do not look like that anymore. That is the time when robotic surgery became more and more common.

Now, you are probably wondering: What exactly are these medical robots used for and how do they work?

They are used in the medical science and are supposed to support the surgeon. This blog is about a specific type of medical robotics, the surgical robots. Robots like these can perform many surgeries, including Kidney transplants, Hip replacement and many more. They were invented in 1990 and the first robotic surgery found place in Germany in 1998.

The da Vinci Surgical System was one of the first inventions in this area.

This is how it works:

A very small 3D camera and dime-sized surgical instruments are placed inside the patient through tiny incisions. Throughout the surgery, the surgeon sits at a special console. The camera gives a 360-degree view of the operative field. The da Vinci System translates he surgeon ́s hand movements in real time, so the robotic system can put it into action by using its precise instruments.

A new robot-assisted surgical device is the eye-sensing technology, which tracks the surgeon ́s pupils. It is astonishing and a little bit scary to imagine a surgeon performing a surgery only by using his eyes. Zooming in or out is also possible by moving toward or away from the console screen. Due to these new technologies, surgeries have become easier for the physician and the patient.

The use of robotics in medicine seems to be a great achievement for the medical industry. But is this new technology as progressive and effective as we once envisioned?

Most of the respondents of our survey would prefer to have a surgery which contains robotic technology. The main reason for that decision was that they consider robot-assisted surgery to be less risky that an open surgery. Nevertheless, a quarter of the surveyed were of the opinion that the use of robotics in medicine would open up new risks.

“Robot-assisted surgeries – the future is here.”

it said in the news after the first da Vinci robots were on the market. It is quite evident that this technology has an enormous potential since robotics makes it possible for physicians to work more precise and delicate.

There is a huge amount of marketing, which promises the patients to have less blood loss, a faster recovery, smaller scars and of course less risks. The company Intuitive Surgical presents the surgical robot as a big step to a better health system.

“Surgical robots are rather an expensive and ineffective technology than a revolution in medicine.”

Unfortunately, this technology costs the health system hundreds of millions of dollars. For the patients, it costs ten times as much as a traditional open surgery. Furthermore, there are many clinical costs since the physicians need to be trained in using the new tools etc. Therefore, there are many criticisms about the technology not making such a big difference in spite of the high price point. Moreover, there is criticism that the company is exploiting its monopoly position because some of the tools have a limited usage number.

“It is a fancier way of doing what we have always been able to do.” (Dr. John Sarta, medical director)

Years of studies show that the promises of the great marketing were not completely fulfilled. Notably, there are illnesses, where an open surgery would be more effective and comfortable than the use of robot-assistants. Besides, there are plenty of injuries and even death cases caused by the surgical robots. This shows that the use of robotics in medicine opens up new risks, since there is the danger that the system crashes during the surgery or the robots are programmed incorrectly.

Nevertheless, there are many cases, where the use of medical robots is necessary since it has many advantages in contrast to other less pricy possibilities. It makes complicate surgeries easier for the surgeon and results in greater success.

Illnesses are able to impact on a person`s life in probably the worst way one can think of since they can inflict pain and limit someone in many ways. It is a very optimistic and utopian way of thinking that in the future, medicine would be advanced enough to prohibit any kinds of diseases.

There might be criticism which say that this a stupid utopian vision which leads to nothing since it can be very annoying and even risky to develop new technologies, it always takes a time until a new invention is as perfect as everyone wants it to be. Nevertheless, it is not appropriate to let medicine stay on the old traditional level since medical advances are desired by humanity.

We are of the opinion that it cannot be wrong to have the high aim to improve the medical possibilities for the sake to make the would healthier in the future.

As long as surgical robotics is evolving, there might be difficulties people need to face, like for example the high price point.

However, surgical robotics already is improving our health system and has cured many illnesses more efficiently than it would be done in the past.

To sum it up, robotic-assisted surgeries might not be perfect yet, but this technology is upgradable and has a great perspective in improving the health system of humanity.

Political fragmentation


Political fragmentation – How dangerous is the increasing political radicalisation?

by Greta, Marina and Theresa

Our future – utopia or dystopia? Our politics – fragmented or united? Is our society on the verge of complete radicalisation? To answer these questions, we looked at the current trends in Western Europe.

Let us start by defining our terms. The Cambridge Dictionary defines political radicalisation as “the action or process of making someone become more radical in their political or religious beliefs”. Extremism is an even more negatively tainted term – it is especially used in the context of illegal or violent actions.

As adolescents we are exceptionally interested in our own generation: How do we and our fellow students, who are to shape the future, think, feel and act? Our survey among KFG students furnished these facts:

Firstly, nearly a third of the respondents would not be open to taking part in a serious discussion with a radical. Will our political future be shaped by a general refusal to communicate? Secondly, half of our interviewees agree with our thesis; they have got the feeling that the number of extreme opinions in our generation are rising. Thirdly, the majority of our informants do sometimes feel personally affronted whilst taking part in political discussions. Thus, their political position becomes a part of their personal identity. What kind of influence will this have on our future?

The European Parliamentary election 2019

To substantiate these opinions with factual data we considered the last European Parliamentary elections. In the course of the analysis one can quickly come to the conclusion that the centre right European People’s Party and the centre-left Socialists and Democrats have lost their majority while the right-winged Nationalists and Populists gained votes.

The current political developments in Germany

In how far can we say that the european swing to the extremes is mirrored in Germany? First of all, we analyzed the last two elections of the German Federal Parliament (Bundestag). The left-wing party “DIE LINKE” has gained only 0.6 percent from 2013 to 2017, while the “Alternative für Deutschland”, a right-wing nationalist party, has exploded in numbers: from 4.7 percent in 2013 to 12.6 percent four years later. Meanwhile, the centre Socialists and Democrats have both lost votes.

    2017 2013
CDU Christlich Demokratische Union Deutschlands 26,8 % 34,1 %
SPD Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands 20,5 % 25,7 %
AfD Alternative für Deutschland 12,6 % 4,7 %
FDP Freie Demokratische Partei 10,7 % 4,8 %
DIE LINKE DIE LINKE 9,2 % 8,6 %
GRÜNE BÜNDNIS 90/GRÜNE 8,9 % 8,4 %
CSU Christlich-Soziale Union in Bayern e.V 6,2 % 7,4 %

On an even smaller scale, let us have a look at the federal state of Thüringen. This “Land” has always known a strong left-wing electorate. Still, in 2004, the the centre-right democratic party “CDU” was leading the polls with 43 percent of the votes in 2004. The left-wing “PDS” was the runner-up with 26.1 percent. Fifteen years later, the electorate seems torn between political extremes. One the one hand, “DIE LINKE”, a political inheritor of the “PDS”, now owns 31 percent of the votes. One the other hand, a newly founded right-wing party, the “AfD”, won 31.4 percent. The erstwhile dominant parties (“CDU” and “SPD”), which traditionally cover the middle-ground of the political spectrum, are bleeding dry.

Thüringen seems like a rather extreme example. However, the same trend, albeit in a more moderate fashion is also visible in the other “Länder”, for example in Bavaria. Here, we can see that the “CDU” has lost approximately one third of their votes between 2003 and 2018, the “SPD” half of their votes. The “AfD” won 10.2 percent. While the traditional People´s Parties lose ground, the political fringe parties gain votes, albeit not as spectacularly as in Thüringen.

Up- and downsides of the political fragmentation

Does the current political radicalisation have an effect on us and our society?

A key concept of the German Constitution is the idea of representative democracy. In contrast to the U.S.A. and Great-Britain, where a majority voting system is applicable, Germany decided on a system of proportional representation. The advantage: National politics are not dominated by two big factions, but by a multitude of smaller parties that form alliances. In this way, almost any voter will find a party tailored to his interests and opinions. He will feel represented and valued. Communication and compromise are key in this political system.

However, this system can only work, if politicians and their parties are open to compromise. If not, the fragmentation of the German Parliament can make political decision-making very complicated, if not entirely impossible. This is obviously very bad for our country.

If the political fragmentation gives rise to extremism, this can endanger our whole society and the individuals within. Discussion is good and so is the voicing of different opinions. However, we need to stay civil and – even more importantly – well informed. Many Germans seem to lack political education. They voice opinions without a real understanding of the topic discussed. If they are corrected or opposed, they feel personally offended. They no longer make a difference between a person and his opinion. Objectivity is lost to the detriment of political discussion and the search for practical solutions to relevant problems. People feel affronted all the time instead of working together in the interest of our nation.

Possible reasons for the current trend of political radicalisation

We found several explanations for this dangerous trend:

1. Digitalisation and Globalisation

The fragmentation or even liquidation of traditional milieus, groups or institutions leaves concerned individuals in unexpected and poorly prepared situations. They have to be capable of flexibility and quick adaptation – both qualities that highly depend on the right personal attitude and appropriate available resources.

If this adaptation is made impossible, however, the aggrieved parties become so-called losers of the modernization: They feel deprived when comparing their new situation with the old one. This is how the wish to return to status quo ante evolves alongside a strong feeling of personal victimization. In most cases, the society and politicians or the political system are blamed. In Germany, many people from Eastern Germany felt this way after the German Reunion. Many of them had difficulties adapting to the new economic and social system and blamed others for their chagrin.

2. Loosing trust in political parties and their protagonists 

People today are increasingly losing trust in the traditional political parties and their protagonists. They are considered sleazy and self-interested by a growing part of the populace. As a result, many individuals turn to newly founded populist parties in the (probably unfounded) expectation that these newcomers are more honest.

3. Social Media

A major reason for the losing of trust in the political parties is the increasing presence and influence of social media. Twenty years ago, people got their information from newspapers and the radio. The people who worked for these news outlets were in the main educated professionals. Nowadays, many people get their news from social media. Here, anybody can voice their opinion. Extremists and conspiracy theorists abound and find their following. 

4. The need for approval and significance

People want to be recognised and valued. This fundamental human drive may motivate certain insecure individuals to join groups with totalitarian or extremist attitudes, that make them feel important, respected or feared.

What to do in order to prevent political radicalisation

Political radicalisation is a symptom of the above-mentioned problems. In order to tackle it, we need to tackle the underlying issues. We could take measures against poverty or ethnical conflicts, help underprivileged families and disenfranchised adolescents and try to implement extensive political education. These measures will not only help prevent radicalisation, but improve living conditions, wellbeing and societal cohesion in general. Naturally, a complete prevention of radicalisation is extremely difficult.

Conclusion – our opinion

In order to find an answer to the main question of whether our future society will be utopian or dystopian, we have looked at the last elections in Germany. It is noteworthy that especially the radical parties have been able to immensely enlarge their electorates in the last couple of years. This trend has also been confirmed by our survey. Most of our respondents have got the feeling that our modern society is shaped by a growing number of individuals with extreme political views.

Having different opinions is not a bad thing as such. The free exchange of ideas can lead to good outcomes and is a basic element of a functioning democracy. However, we need to always be open-minded and respectful towards each-other in our discussions. Democracy is mostly about compromise: We have to find common ground for as many people as possible to live peacefully in our country. In order to discuss political, economic or social problems in a sensible fashion, people need to be reasonably well informed. Sadly, many citizens do not seem to make the effort.

In a nutshell: Our future will be a dystopia, if we leave the political arena to the radicals. Our generation can still turn this trend around. We need to inform ourselves and get engaged in politics. Communication is key!

Sources:

https://www.tagesspiegel.de/politik/die-thueringen-wahl-in-zahlen-afd-gewinnt-die-wahl-bei-allen-altersgruppen-unter-60/25160270.html

https://wahl.tagesschau.de/wahlen/2014-09-14-LT-DE-TH/index-content.shtml

https://wahl.tagesschau.de/wahlen/2009-08-30-LT-DE-TH/index-content.shtml

https://wahl.tagesschau.de/wahlen/2004-06-13-LT-DE-TH/index-content.shtml

https://wahl.tagesschau.de/wahlen/2018-10-14-LT-DE-BY/index-content.shtml

https://wahl.tagesschau.de/wahlen/2013-09-15-LT-DE-BY/index-content.shtml

https://wahl.tagesschau.de/wahlen/2008-09-28-LT-DE-BY/index-content.shtm

https://wahl.tagesschau.de/wahlen/2003-09-21-LT-DE-BY/index-content.shtml

https://www.bundeswahlleiter.de/info/presse/mitteilungen/bundestagswahl-2017/34_17_endgueltiges_ergebnis.html

https://www.bundeswahlleiter.de/bundestagswahlen/2013/ergebnisse.html

http://www.bpb.de/apuz/164918/radikalisierung-deradikalisierung-und-extremismus?p=all

https://www.tagesschau.de/multimedia/video/ts24/schwerpunkt/video-544627.html

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-48417191

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-48417191

https://www.praeventionstag.de/dokumentation/download.cms?id=2792

Genetic engineering

by Jasmin and Lena

Genetic engineering- huge invention or big nightmare?

Genetic engineering could be seen by parents as a big present they got, but otherwise it could be abused as a modification of babies. Genetic modification must not be used only for humans. It’s also possible to use it for animals and food.

What is genetic engineering? How does it work?

It means the manipulation or cultivation of organs or organisms. There are two different ways. The first works for humans as well as for plants. Stem cells get extracted (humans stem cells are in the spinal cord) and are grown as an organ or organisms. Another way to create a designer baby or to mend disabilities is to manipulate an artificially fertilised egg cell.

What are the different research areas?

Genetic engineering is used for more efficient food production including manipulated plants not to mention animals. The medicine is also able to use it for humans. Here you can create a designer baby or deal with disorders.

Why do scientific and business communities do the research of genetic engineering?

Scientific communities try to help eliminating hundreds of diseases, pain and anxiety. With doing this they want to bring human happiness and productivity. Scientists see much potential in this topic. Waiting thousands of years for beneficial mutations is needless, if you can start by your own. It is worthwhile as soon as you can minimise human suffering, because every human has the right to be born free of preventable diseases. Scientific business thinks that everybody could make choices for themselves. It’s true that polygenic interventions are more difficult than single gene interventions, but it became much safer than people think.  Being powerless to change something is not the goal of these businesses. Improved human conditions are the main point. With genetic engineering a fair world could be created where everybody has the same level.

Is genetic engineering a good invention?

First of all there are positive and negative arguments for and against genetic engineering. Even if genetic engineering was highly researched a lot of people are afraid of allergic reactions. We are never absolutely sure that there will be no unintended selection or transfer of genes. So abuse is still a big topic. Scientists often work with antibiotics which gives antibiotic resistance as a result. By cloning plants like corn a lot of biodiversity could be lost and there could develop invasive plants which are stronger or more resistant as not manipulated plants. This could lead to economic problems and the research also needs electricity and materials which strengths the climate change. Even if the research is only reduced at plants there is an ethical discussion.

On the other hand we suffer under overpopulation and hunger which could be minimised by more efficient food production. Nutrient-rich food would be healthier and the plants would have a bigger chance to survive because of a higher resistance against rotting and animals. The doping of genes could also be used for animals. The meat production could be made more efficient. Healthy food makes healthy humans. So our animals have to be healthy which is more possible by using genetic engineering. The growth of animals and plants could also be made faster which would increase the efficiency and the profit.

Should Designer Babies be legalised?

The research for designer Babies is highly developed. Therefor it’s possible to find out if an embryo is ill or not. Moreover medicine is not able to heal babies with disorders by using artificially fertilised egg cells and their manipulation. This would be great to minimise disorders for babies and guarantee them a bright future. But what is really designable and where are the borders? By genetic engineering it would be possible to decide which skin-colour, hair-colour, height, intelligence or which sex the baby should have. Indeed that goes much too far because otherwise there would be super-humans. Definitely it would be good to minimise the risk of diabetes and cancer and there would also be a higher life expectation for them. But  the results of our survey that people are mostly against genetic engineering because of an ethical dilemma. They wish for all the parents out there that their babies are healthy and would allow genetic engineering for minimising disorders or to cure them. In contrast to this wish they are mostly against designer babies for a good reason. The technology is not high enough developed which means higher risks while pregnancy for mother and child. Furthermore by creating super babies other humans would be second class and unequal. Because of high costs the research would only be affordable for really rich people which would divide the society even more. Anyway if this technology would be used for more generations the gene pole would be less diverse which could lead to disorders in the following generations and children’s growing and development could be harmed. In a nutshell the research of genetic engineering  should go on. Nevertheless creating designer babies would be unethical and should be really forbidden. It only should be used for helping minimising disorders.

Utopia or Dystopia?

Genetic Engineering is split into different kinds which partly fits to a utopian world like the manipulation of plants. Here the efficiency could be increased and fewer people would have to go hungry to bed. But on the other hand genetic engineering participated on humans can also be utopian. While only perfect humans seem to be utopian the consequences could be humans second class who are not as perfect as all the others. So perfection can also lead to imperfection. Moreover the abuse of the manipulation of genes could lead to unhappy people with diseases or disabilities. But everyone has to decide for themselves if they would want to live in such a different world or not.

Sources:

https://biologywise.com/genetic-engineering-in-food

https://www.yourgenome.org/facts/what-is-genetic-engineering

Quantum computers and the internet

by Philipp and Lukas

Today most of the processes in a city are computer-controlled. Mobile phones, security devices like cameras and traffic lights, everywhere has technological progress come to. How would the human world look like, if all of this progress wasn´t safe anymore? Could humanity manage the jump to a new era, in which the quantum computer covers our daily life, without many crashes?

Google and many other companies (Atos, Atom computing, Intel, Huawei, IBM Q, d wave) research quantum computer since many years. Quantum computers are processors with a huge amount of computing power. That comes, since these processors use quantum states called super positions, which is a physical phenomenon, in which single particles can take on several states of zero or one at once. Whereas normal computers use bits, in which only one of two states can be chosen, a quantum computer doesn´t have to choose the physical state, so that the count of chosen states raises exponentially with the number of Quantum bits, the tiny units, each of which can take on two states. With every new Q-Bit the quantum computer doubles its computing power, so that quantum computers are already extremely faster than normal computers. As an example, a problem, which can be solved by a super computer in about 10,000 years, is easily solved by a quantum computer in less than 200 seconds. The biggest most serious quantum computers have about fifty Q-Bits, which is enough to solve those problems. Furthermore, quantum computers use the quantum entanglement, a phenomenon, used to bring information from one Q-Bit to another in less time than light needs. This technology is used to simplify the computing operations.

Seeing the development of quantum computers nowadays, the question comes up, if the human infrastructure could survive an upgrade to quantum computers that could happen soon. With normal computers in infrastructure, daily life and institutions like the hospital the cryptography would be in danger. What happens, if quantum computers are released, whereas humanity isn´t prepared? Can´t the quantum computers crack our cryptography in less than 200 seconds, too? Well yes, that looks like a real big deal for hackers. Having a quantum computer in a world of normal computers is like being a seeing person in a blind society. If this new radical change could revolutionize the humanity, everybody would have to fear a big brother society. Firstly, an authoritarian state could use this technology to survey the whole society and the official as well as the private lives. The quantum computer could precisely be used to search for the right people in official places or even recognize human feelings, so that an authoritarian regime would get much more easily to regime-critics. Secondly private persons with enough computer science skill could get force and influence over the whole world, if they use infrastructural weaknesses. The one person with a quantum computer would need not more than five minutes, in most cases, to get access to almost everything. With today´s cryptography there would be a high chance, that a device would get hacked. A hacker could at first try to get access to a big company comparable to google, after that send an official email with a virus in it to every single google account, while he is hacking some institutions like hospitals or schools, connected to other schools. After he has access to many official institutions and at least some, maybe many google accounts, that are hacked, as some people opened the Email, he has access to at least half of the world.

Obviously, it is not the way to go and right now there aren´t quantum computers on the market, however with quantum computers upcoming soon, there has to be a new way of encryption. One idea would be a difficult way about quantum particles that would be transported from one person to the other, called quantum encryption. This way one could exchange the encryption key at least, so that hackers can´t get inside a computer on that point. However, that wouldn´t be enough, the encryption key needs to be much longer and the encryption algorithm still more complex.  At least the key length has to be doubled to ensure the connection being safe. But if the humanity wants to exclude such a horrifying scenario, there must be research on cryptography as well.

Talking about the possible risks of quantum computers, it´s easy to see one side of them. However, there are very many areas in research, industries and all day’s life, which quantum computers can sweeten. For example, quantum computers can be used to improve artificial intelligence (AI), which itself can be used in many other areas like i.e. medicine like recognition of cancer cells, digital assistants or even computer enemies in video games. Furthermore, quantum computer can do many things in one step, so that every long-time algorithm is easier to solve as it is for a normal computer, like that these quantum computers could compute realistic physical simulations of special situations, in most of the cases the universe, biological or chemical simulations, as well as compute more digits of pi, which wouldn´t bring as much progress, as the before mentioned could bring. Even though the computing power is much higher than the one of the normal computers, one has to keep in mind, that quantum computers double their computing power, every time, a quantum bit is added. That means for appliance-areas, that not only a quantum computer itself could be upgraded with just some Q-Bits to higher its computing capacity, but one day two quantum computers might get connected, as their computing power raises exponentially and offers a way to solve still more complex problems. This technology doesn´t seem to have borders, after which problems can´t be solved.

Also, in all day’s life there could be tiny differences. On the one hand our voice assistants will learn much quicker and evolve, so that they will get more popular. On the other hand, navigation will get revolutionized: Today one big problem in navigation is, that it needs about years to proof that a way from one point to another is the shortest. Navigation systems can approximate the fastest way from A to B, but they can´t think about every single way. Quantum computer can, they need just seconds for such problems, since they can use their quantum states, in which they don´t need to decide between two ways. They can go every way to the target at once.

The Quantum computer is a very interesting topic, because they are such a big progress and it won´t need much time, until the first personal quantum computers come up. Quantum computers are a very strange thing, because nobody knows their borders and nobody can think like they do. Even if there are many positive effects and quantum computer can help the society; nobody knows, if they will save the world, destroy the world or both, as quantum computer could even be used by hackers to analyze infrastructure or data to improve their attacks. The only way to prevent an attack is still being attentively.

Autonomous Machines


AUTONOMOUS MACHINES – CHANCE OR DANGER?

by Kathi, Caro, Sophie and Lea

You may know it from futuristic science fiction shows: Since many years filmmakers and film fans from all over the world have been fascinated by involving futuristic machines, like the android „Data“ from „Star Trek“, the garbage disposal robot „Wall-E“ from the equally named Disney movie or the self-driving car in „Total Recall“, in movies. But are autonomous systems and machines like we know it from those movies actually a thing? Or are they nothing more but the fantasy of science fiction fans?

Of course there are limits to what´s possible for science nowadays. But many machines that work autonomously are reality today!

But what is an „Autonomous machine“ after all?

The definition of „Cambridge Dictionary“ sais that „an autonomous machine or system is able to operate without being controlled dyrectly by humans“. So it´s all about machines that don´t need a human to controll them, that are independent and able to make their own decisions.

One can imagine that the opinions on such inventions are controversial. On the one hand there are people who celebrate every new invention as one step towards a great and developed future. But on the other hand there are plenty of people who see dangers in machines that aren´t controlled anymore and who want to maintain the possibility for humans to take control.

This could be seen quite clear in the survey we did. We asked random people from different age and gender about their opinion about autonomous systems: Many people said that they could definetly imagine using those, and most people were aware oft he benifits that autonomous machines could have in various areas of our daily life. But the one thing, that almost everyone said was, that they could imagine autonomous systems being a part of their daily life, as long as they had the power to take control.

In the following paragraphs we will inform you about three sections, in which autonmous systems are already used, or seem have a great future.       

Autonomous vehicles – the mobility of our future?

Since the 1990s car engineers and technicians have been working on driver assistance systems. In the next decade, the car industry will most likely change more drastically than it has over the past 30 years. Today we are standing at the entrance to a new era – of highly automated driving. Now you may ask yourself what autonomous driving exactly means. A self-driving car is an independent vehicle that is capable of sensing its environment, moving safely and targeted in real traffic with little or no human input. Autonomous vehicles combine a variety of sensors to perceive their surroundings. In addition to cameras, these passive systems also include laser, ultrasonic, radar and lidar sensors for distance measurement and for processing further information from the vehicle´s surroundings. Advanced systems interpret sensory information to identify appropriate navigation paths, as well as obstacles and relevant signage. What are the advantages and disadvantages of driverless cars?

On the one hand, there are economic benefits. Once autonomous cars are fully integrated within our transport systems, experts project that the economic benefits to society will be significant. Accidents can cost a country billions per year, so even a little decrease in the amount of crashes will save millions of dollars each year. Then there are social benefits as well since many lives will be saved. Most of the road fatalities are caused by human errors such as speeding, driving under the influence of substances and distractions occurring within and outside the vehicle. By removing manual driving controls from humans, autonomous vehicles should erase all fatalities involving human error. Moreover, many people who have restricted mobility as a result of age or disability have new possibilities. With fully automated cars, drivers’ licenses or tests are no longer needed. This means that people who have been considered a risk in the past traffic will receive access to driving tecnology without putting themselves or others in danger. Furthermore, we would have quicker commute times with autonomous cars being able to sense other cars around them and communicate with them. In addition, automatic braking functions will not only prevent crashes but will also allow driverless cars to travel at consistent distances from one another. Consequently, speed limits will also be increased as the probability of vehicles crashing will be greatly reduced.

On the other hand, criminal hacking, computer crashes or glitches can occur. Like all computer systems, autonomous cars would be programmed to run in a certain way, but with all the automated systems there is always a risk of the computer being hacked or crashing due to a glitch or error. No system is infallible and if a hacker was able to get into the car’s software, they could potentially reprogram the car to do any number of things. Moreover, sometimes there are no good choices for a driver to make. For instance, if a person suddenly walked out into the road right in front of the car, this would leave no time for the car to apply the brakes before a collision happened. The driver might then have the choice of either hitting the person or swerving the car off to the side into a concrete barrier. The difficult question of which actions a driverless car should be programmed to do in this instance is one that leaves everyone feeling divided. Besides, there are some people that are dreading the takeover of autonomous vehicles. This includes those that make their living operating transport vehicles, like taxi or truck drivers. Replacing human controlled driving will see these people in need of new employment.

In my view, in light of the projections for the positive impact autonomous cars will have on the environment, economies and personal safety, it may take some time before we see the expected benefits of the technology, but I am very sure they will reach us and also outweigh the potential risks. Autonomous driving will be part of everyday life for many vehicle users in 10 to 15 years as automobile companies have presented corresponding prototypes already, some of them several years ago.

Still, the legal framework for autonomous driving is complex and yet unsettled. This also applies to the algorithmically controlled driving strategy in case of accidents. How do you feel about this topic? Let me know in the comments!

Autonomous machines in medicine

Another sector, in which autonomous systems might have an important role in the future is medicine.

In hospitals nurses are miracle workers, but they are also overworked and chronically short on time. Robotic experts believe that an autonomous robot could be a solution and could soon be a part of hospitals and care homes. They could take a patient’s pulse, scan vital signs or set injections.               

In addition, assistent systems can be used in surgeries. Surgeons are supported by computer-based systems to prevent nerves or blood vessels from being destroyed. This use of machines makes doctors work more effectively and increases the patient safety.

In the future, operations will no longer be performed openly but only minimal invasive with robot-controlled systems.

During the surgery the doctor sits a few meters away from the patient and controls the operation with a controller like in a computer game. It seems like you’re sitting inside of the patient –  what seems unbelievable.

Thereby the autonomous machines offer great potential for our society and revolutionise the practise of medicine. But is this the beginning of a robot apocalypse and can these robots make us immortal?

One one hand it is important that we do not have to be dependent of the assistent systems. They are supposed to be a support for the doctors and can relieve difficulties, where you have to work accurately. Moreover the autonomous machines are not that advanced that they could take over the full part of surgeons. The robots make the handling of surgeries easier and could reduce the death rate due to the precision of the autonomous machines.

Although the systems are safe and confidential, the biggest barrier is that people do not trust the modern techniques, which was also shown by the surveys we did. They feel scared and insecure, because they have the fear that humans will lose the control over the autonomous machines. Doctors and caretakers still need the upper hand over the machines, because technique must not surpass human abilities and human power.

Particularly people in care homes need interpersonal contact and need to communicate with other people, because they would feel lonely when just machines take care of them. They need the proximity of other people and must be helped when they are in need. Therefore caretakers should not be replaced by robots.

When autonomous machines take over the job of caretakers and nurses, they would lose their job and be unemployed. On the other hand there is a shortage of caretakers so the use of robots would be a good reason to support and relief them. For example they could serve meal or sterilise surgical instruments.

However, the medical technique and machines are important and irreplaceable in our today´s society and for our future. For example they simplify the operation of the removal of cancer or they can diagnose diseases by using certain algorithms.

Moreover they can take over heavy physical operations and duties, which has a great potential for our future and could make our life easier.

Maybe in the future we will only be operated by robots or body parts will be replaced by robot technology? We will see.

Unmanned weapons Systems: Out of control or a guarantee for peace ?

In the course of the technological development, unmanned weapon Systems such as drones an autonomous fight u-boats become more and more reality in todays national/international politics and wars.

Although, according to our surveys, most people are rather skeptical if one can trust these new weapon systems, big nations like USA and russia are already fostering the progress in autonomous weapon systems and are in the middle of their testing phase before actually using their technologies in wars. For instance, in 2018 the USA already had an autonomous fight boat called ,,Sea Hunter”, wich is able to carry on rides for months and to sink enemy boats independently with integrated weapon systems. And the USA is not the only nation, who is taking advantage in the new weapon technologies; Israel is using autonomous missile defense systems and russia is in possession of autonomous armors and guns wich can independently identify the target and shoot the shot. So it is evident that the trend of unmanned weapon systems is a global affair and irreversible!

Therefore the global question arises if unmanned weapon systems are saving more lifes or whether it makes it easy to instigate global wars that will demand far more innocent victims.

One can readidly say that autonomous weapon systems are remarkably reducing the danger the soldiers are put in everyday. A drone is not only distinctly faster in the decision making process and easier to operate than, as an example, a fighter plane.

In a dogfight, a drone could react and fight a target faster than a human pilot. They combine reconnaissance and weaponry optimally and can thus perform precise fast air attacks. Furthermore, a drone is overall much cheaper for the state to use because it does not have to be designed to protect the pilot and it offers a sinking risk for the civilian population to become victims of an attack due to the system’s precision.

Although, unmanned weapon systems seem to create a safer environment not only for soldiers but also for the unconcerned civillian population, it is still undisputed that these autonomous systems push the slow humans out of the decision cycle and act more and more independently. So before giving unmanned weapon systems a fixed place in wars, one should overthink this decision because it can be dangerous to award kill decisions to algorithms and machines who can independently act.

Through autonomous weapon systems the person who is responsible dissociates emotionally from the process of deciding to kill someone to the process of actually killing these people. If the person commanding these drones does not see through his/her own eyes what war and killing someone is like, it is easier for this commanding person to cross the moral frontier of killing people. For these people the targets are only coordinates. Therefore, from an ethical point of view, we should continue to burden the soldiers, who are actually at the spot. Moreover, due to the physical distance from the weapon, it is possible for global players to participate in national crises.

In conclusion one can say that there certanly are great chances that autonomous systems will – in various areas – play an important role in the coming years, and that there will be benefits for many people. But, no matter in which area, there are difficulties and dangers, that necessarily have to be discussed and overcome, before autonomous systems can be a secure and reliable assistance for us.

Furthermore, we have to make sure, that we as humans will always have the power and superior role towards machines, and that, no matter how much technic and science improves, we keep in mind that machines exist to make our lifes easier. As soon as we feel like we are overruled by the seemingly endless power and energy of a machine we have to remind ourselves that we are the ones who should have the power. Because afterall the machines serve us – not the other way round.

Artificial Intelligence


Did Trump really just say that?

by Aaaaaaaaaaaaron, Konstantin, Hans and Yannick

Artificial intelligence (AI) can be categorized into normal AI, machine learning and deep learning where machine learning is still a part of AI and deep learning is also a part of machine learning.

Any program is a form of artificial intelligence when it enables the computer to mimic human intelligence by using if-then rules, decision trees but also machine learning and deep learning. Machine learning is a subset of AI that includes abstruse statistical techniques that enable the machines to improve at tasks with experience. Deep learning on the other hand is a subset of machine learning composed of algorithms that permit the computer to train itself to perform tasks by exposing multi-layered neural networks to vast amounts of data. You can see deep learning as a rocket engine where the fuel is the huge amount of data fed to the algorithm. Deep learning can get more abstract than machine learning but it also needs more data.

The artificial neural networks (ANN) that the algorithms of deep learning are based on are inspired by actual biological neural networks. Artificial neural networks consist of many layers of artificial neurons with connections like synapses between them to process the data. They earn the ability to be self-learning by adding or deleting new artificial neurons and synapses to manage different tasks. Artificial neurons can also be weighted differently and thresholds for neurons can be added like in real life. Deep learning is used for image processing, pattern and speech recognition, autonomous vehicles, deep learning robots like housekeeping robots, early warning systems, etc. Deep learning is also used to create deepfakes. Deepfakes are videos where the original face of a person has been replaced with someone else. If you give the AI enough pictures of the person you want to make a deepfake of it will be able to calculate how that person would look like while smiling, being angry or while saying certain things. The technology that powers deepfakes, known as Generative Adversarial Networks, was only invented in 2014. GANs are made up of two rival computer networks. A synthesiser creates content, which the detector or discriminator compares to images of the real thing. If the discriminator detects an artefact (distortion in the created image) the synthesiser will start over again. Through hundreds of thousands of cycles of trial and error, the two systems can create immensely lifelike videos. With this you can make celebrities or politicians say anything you want them to say or place their face on anyone else’s body.

Sometimes this can be useful when someone is trying to create a funny harmless video where you can easily determine if it is faked. It can also be used in movies to make them look more realistic and save the editors some time because the AI will edit the movie for them. But this technology does more harm than good. Through deepfakes it has become very easy to create realistic faked videos. Anyone with enough data and enough computing power can, without the consent of the person that appears in the video, create hoaxes that lead to misinformation of the society and humiliation of those in the video. Today 93 Million Selfies are taken everyday so it is not that hard to collect enough data and GPUs (graphic cards) that make the calculations for the AI are becoming faster and cheaper year by year. Apps to create deepfakes like “FakeApp” have also already been released making the technology even more accessible for the private person. Another big problem is that 96% of deepfakes are used for pornography. Not only are celebrities faces edited onto the bodies of “pornstars” but there are is also a lot of fake revenge porn. This is a crime and also a form of identity theft violating the privacy of the affected, their human dignity and their basic human rights while possibly destroying their reputation. Once those fake videos are uploaded on the internet it is almost impossible to remove them again and it is also not easy to find out who the video was made of. When it became easier to edit photos through photoshop etc. people stopped considering that the image they are seeing is real but videos were still regarded as real. This credibility is now lost because of deepfakes. But this can be also seen in a positive way. The first deepfakes were not created by big companies but by individuals. If someone was able to create this technology in their bedroom throwing together a bunch of existing tools, someone with a bigger budget must have pulled it off a long time ago. There is no doubt large organizations with massive resources haven’t explored these techniques. Who knows, maybe we’ve seen some of their work, on the news, without knowing it. So thank deepfakes for making us realize once again that we can’t take everything we see for granted. Right know there is a “war” going on between programmers improving the AI to make deepfakes harder to detect and other companies developing AI to detect and debunk deepfakes. Large corporations such as Facebook and Microsoft have taken initiatives to detect and remove deepfake videos. The two companies announced earlier this year that they will be collaborating with top universities across the U.S. to create a large database of fake videos for research. If enough companies work together the “war” can be won and the credibility of videos will come back to some extend. Synthetic videos produced for purposes such as parody or education would need to be watermarked and the rest would be filtered out in the best possible way. As long as the “war” continues, attention must also be paid to audio deepfakes as those are on the rise at the moment. Nevertheless, you should not demonize AI or deep learning because of deepfakes being a bad thing in general, since AI can still make our lives easier and shape the future in a positive way if we make them reliable enough.

Sources

https://www.kdnuggets.com/2016/10/artificial-intelligence-deep-learning-neural-networks-explained.html

https://blogs.nvidia.com/blog/2016/07/29/whats-difference-artificial-intelligence-machine-learning-deep-learning-ai/

https://towardsdatascience.com/notes-on-artificial-intelligence-ai-machine-learning-ml-and-deep-learning-dl-for-56e51a2071c2

https://www.cnbc.com/2019/10/14/what-is-deepfake-and-how-it-might-be-dangerous.html

https://bernardmarr.com/default.asp?contentID=1927

https://www.forbes.com/sites/bernardmarr/2016/12/06/what-is-the-difference-between-artificial-intelligence-and-machine-learning/

https://www.geeksforgeeks.org/difference-between-machine-learning-and-artificial-intelligence/

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