Artificial intelligence in the business world

Artificial intelligence is one of the major topics of our age, with research and work being conducted above all in North America. One of the pioneers in Europe is Christian Thurau with his start-up Twenty Billion Neurons, which he founded in Berlin in 2015 with three friends from his university days. Together they are teaching machines how to learn independently on the basis of gigantic data sets – “deep learning” is the name given to this principle and it is already to be found in Siri and in self-driving cars. Artificial intelligence will also be indispensable for industry.

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In conversation with the expert

An interview with Christian Thurau, CEO Twenty Billion Neurons

Our path from science to the business world
Our four founders have all conducted research on artificial intelligence, two of them held professorships, but at some time we reached a point when we said: “OK. The technology is now mature and there is considerable demand in the business world and we have the necessary know-how – it is only logical that we found a company and make artificial intelligence marketable.” And thus Twenty Billion Neurons came into being.

Machines are to perceive the world in the same manner as humans
One of the biggest challenges in the field of artificial intelligence is teaching machines the cognitive perception which we humans develop during our childhood. If we want to explain to a machine what a dog’s face looks like, for example, then we can propose a rule such as: fur, two eyes and two ears, but this is also true of many other animals. We need very many rules, therefore, to explain more complex situations. And it has proved to be the case that this functions better if we show a machine a very large number of examples of a dog and allow it to learn for itself. So that machines can also master complex tasks, we use gigantic data sets of video material to convey this knowledge worldwide.

We are already surrounded by artificial intelligence
We can already see many applications with artificial intelligence in our everyday life. Some of the apps on our smartphones already use it – for example Siri with speech recognition or the various services from Google. In industry we are also seeing the first concrete applications, but nevertheless when it comes to industrial automation we are still very much in the early stages; a lot will happen here in the next five years and companies will be able to drastically increase their productivity through the use of artificial intelligence. However, the fear that machines could replace people entirely is, in my opinion, science fiction. Although there will be more and more domains in which machines are more capable than humans, we can do all these things simultaneously and, at the same time, also have social competence and intuitive access to creativity.