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Dear Readers,

This issue of TRANSFER magazine highlights the potential and interrelationship between human beings and “machine intelligence” in the world we will live in one day. This topic marks the conclusion of a series of special features, this year revolving around the overarching campaign motto of “delivering benefit … for the challenges of the economy and ecology.”

There can be no question that it is crucial to examine current and upcoming developments in the field of artificial intelligence (AI) – first and foremost in terms of their usefulness – and technological feasibility studies should gradually give rise to applications that add value. After all, what’s the point of having a solution if it doesn’t match a problem? This development, described in German as “solutionism,” appears to be evolving into a challenge for digital transformation. This is not a trivial issue either, because many applications only exist at the moment simply because they’re possible from a technological standpoint. Using an extremely apt analogy to describe this conflict, American architect and designer Richard Saul Wurman explains that having more schools does not automatically result in having smarter kids. It’s a poignant example that could serve as a useful maxim for many inventions of the digital economy, so that highly powerful technology – which AI can be – is applied with intelligence and consideration.

In addition to researching what is feasible, AI development also requires science that takes a holistic view of socio-technical issues – to consider the measurable benefits solutions bring to people and their environment. It’s important to move away from a sense of fascination focusing exclusively on technology and water down the exaggerated fiction and fears. So we should focus on why we need artificial intelligence and, more importantly, what for? Also, we should concentrate on how we can coexist with AI and use it to improve the world we will live in tomorrow.

Compared to the leading centers of AI on the American Pacific Coast and in Asia, research that focuses on areas with a bearing on socio-technical topics should be seen as an opportunity – especially in Europe. With this almost unique concentration of successful scientific institutions and the multi-layered cultural influences of countries engaged in close cooperation, the standards of digital development can reach a higher level – and in some respects a more profitable level.

Last but not least, in addition to transcultural exchange, it is of utmost importance to engage in interdisciplinary exchange. This will be the only way to forge the links that are required between different fields of research – and thus, in the future, also enshrine human values within digital innovation processes. The Steinbeis Network offers a number of potential ways to achieve this – let’s use this potential together.

With kind regards,
Prof. Erich Schöls


Prof. Erich Schöls (author)

Professor Erich Schöls was the founder of Design and Systems, the Steinbeis Research Center in Würzburg, which he continues to head up today. He is the dean of the Faculty of Visual Design at the University of Applied Sciences in Würzburg, where he is also in charge of the digital media major. In 2019, Erich Schöls and his colleagues received the Steinbeis Foundation Transfer Award, the Löhn Award, for his project called Kyana – Predictive Maintenance Using Digital Twins.