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Bosch AI Future Compass: 60 percent of Germans would welcome greater use of artificial intelligence in industrial settings

Clear majority: AI must always be kept under human control

A clear majority of Germans (60 percent) would like to see AI used more in industry, in sectors such as automaking or aircraft-building. In addition, more than two-thirds of Germans would welcome the use of AI to diagnose machine faults and in high-tech areas such as space exploration.

These are some of the findings of the Bosch AI Future Compass, a survey that polled 1,000 Germans aged 18 and over about their attitude to artificial intelligence.

“Germany and Europe have what it takes to be world leaders in industrial AI,” said Dr. Michael Bolle, board of management member and Bosch CDO/CTO, at today’s digital presentation of the Bosch AI Future Compass. More specifically, he added, they have unique specialist and domain knowledge that allows them to use AI in areas such as quality control, energy efficiency, and improving manufacturing efficiency. In this respect, the relatively high level of acceptance for industrial AI revealed in the survey is encouraging: “For the future of Germany and Europe as an industrial location, it is enormously important to have the backing of the general public and of key institutions.”

Trust is essential: need for a clear ethical framework

The acceptance of AI use in other areas of application, such as nursing or investment advice, is significantly lower, at 40 percent and 31 percent respectively. And when it comes to making legal decisions or shortlisting candidates for vacancies, Germans are far more willing to trust a human being than a machine. Across all areas, 53 percent of Germans view the use of AI positively, while 36 percent are more negative.

“AI applications will only win the day if customers and users trust them.”

Dr. Michael Bolle, board of management member and Bosch CDO/CTO

This calls for clear, ethically sound guidelines – not only in Germany, but also at the European level. He added that Bosch already set itself a clear ethical framework at the beginning of this year, when it introduced a code of ethics for AI: “We have made it absolutely clear that AI must serve people, not the other way around. AI must always be kept under human control.”

For two-thirds of the survey participants, it is essential that artificial intelligence be used only in the service of the common good. Similarly, around two-thirds would like to see decisions on legal and ethical standards for the use of AI made multilaterally (38 percent see the need for global action, 27 percent for European action), while only 35 percent advocate a national strategy. Fully 85 percent of the respondents are adamant that people must have the final say wherever artificial intelligence is used.

Users must be able to understand AI decisions

According to the Bosch AI Future Compass, a majority of Germans (53 percent) think that artificial intelligence is vital for remaining competitive internationally. And 42 percent of those surveyed believe that artificial intelligence offers a better way of solving major problems such as disease or climate change.

Irrespective of their fundamental attitude toward AI, respondents largely agree on the opportunities and risks. The benefits most frequently mentioned include “efficiency,” “progress,” and “better (work) results,” while terms such as “surveillance,” “lack of compassion,” and “lack of data privacy” top the list of negatives.

“The Bosch AI Future Compass shows that we need to talk even more about artificial intelligence,” Bolle said, adding: “Customers and users must be able to understand the basis on which an AI makes certain decisions.” This is a discussion that needs to be conducted throughout society, he said, not just in business circles.

Bosch CDO/CTO Bolle: “Objective debate about opportunities and risks”

The Bosch AI Future Compass shows that more knowledge about AI leads to more willingness to accept it. Accordingly, those respondents who consider themselves tech-savvy and feel they have a sound knowledge of the field rate artificial intelligence as fundamentally positive in 81 percent of cases. But among those who consider themselves less technologically minded and state that they know little about AI, the acceptance rate is only 27 percent.

“Any debate about the opportunities and risks of AI, in whatever form, has to be open and objective,” Bolle said. To make this debate constructive and unprejudiced, people have to be given a better idea of how artificial intelligence works. “AI must be included in the school curriculum,” he said, “at least as a voluntary additional subject.”

Bosch is also taking the initiative: over the next two years, the company will make 20,000 associates ready for AI. By 2025, moreover, the aim is for all Bosch products to either contain AI or have been developed or manufactured with it. “This is not about using AI for its own sake, but instead about further increasing the quality and benefits of our solutions for customers and users,” Bolle said.

The Bosch AI Future Compass was prepared by the market researchers Gesellschaft für Innovative Marktforschung mbH (GIM).


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