On 6th of February, ETH RETHINK hosted SwissCognitive’s 18th CognitiveTank. Besides focusing on practical AI-based use cases, we also put the spotlight on an actual topic, which this time was AI Knowledge Gap that we face between industry and education.


To dive into the theme, SwissCognitive Co-Founders, Dalith Steiger and Andy Fitze, started off the event with a welcome followed by a keynote speech from Prof. Dr. Gisbert Schneider, Director of RETHINK and Associate Vice President of ETH Global. Gisbert talked about the high importance of human intelligence in the era of AI that allows us to learn from experiences, deal with new situations, and solve problems – all of which machine intelligence is yet limited in doing. Gisbert also took us into the world of the RETHINK Lab, revealing their partnerships and activities with different organizations in the AI eco-system cross-industry.

The first use case of the day was given by Endress+Hauser Group Development Engineer, Rebecca Page. Rebecca showed us how demand forecasting in water networks work with the help of machine learning and recurrent neural network. Rebecca explained, before implementing such solutions, like continuous monitoring and optimization, data needs to be available in sufficient quality, which is not the case in many applications in the water industry. Therefore, this particular use case brought on stage was not only revealing current practices, but also future ideas of development to be able to bring this use case to the next level

Followed by Rebecca, we greeted on our stage Heinz Müller, Professor & Patent Expert at Swiss Federal Institute of Intellectual Property, presenting together with Valérie Hug and Michael Schlapbach, two students who won the ISTF 2019 challenge. 

Heinz explained, how EPO and UKIPO refuse AI-invented patent applications since the inventors were not human. He also dived into questions, such as how advanced AI really is, whether we need to change our IP system, and who will actually own IP when created by AI. Continuing, the two students also stressed the idea on how machines should not have the right to own intellectual property as inventors should be humans.  

Following this first session of the event, the audience could choose from a variety of workshops to attend. Michael Fischer, German and European Patent Attorney at Venner Shipley, spoke about legal protection for AI in Europe. Michael highlighted the importance to differentiate human inventions from AI inventions from patented perspective. He also explained the current existing laws that protect AI inventions. Alexander Büsser, Georgios Chaloulos, and Eric Slottke from IBM kicked-off a series of workshops taking place this year to investigate the main challenges of scaling AI in the enterprise and develop solutions together that participants can apply in their own organization. In the third workshop option, the audience could participate in a discussion of collaboration between the private sector and non-profits, and how the two together have the potential and power to develop technological solutions for the society around the globe. As part of a great interactive session, Leila Toplic from NetHope and Cyrill Glockner from Microsoft shared why it’s important to close the AI knowledge gap for nonprofits and how private sector and academic institutions can support nonprofits and AI for Good efforts. The fourth workshop option was facilitated by AdNovum Incubator with Hartmut Keil and Stéphane Mingot explaining the role of collaborative machine learning when we lack relevant data to train a machine learning model on its own. Hartmut and Stéphane shared with the audience which application the discussed approach is appropriate for, and what the technical, privacy and governance challenges are when it comes to collaborative machine learning.

After a networking break, the audience was given once more the option to choose between four sessions, this time AI-based use-cases. Pascal Bérard, CEO of Animatico, demonstrated how interactive and stylized characters underpinned with AI technology and voice control create a seamless way of interacting with digital devices. Pascal affirmed that the new tool has the power to revolutionize the customer experience. Maxime Gabella, Founder of MAGMA Learning, presented the result of a private-public partnership with EPFL where the development of the ARI app-enabled hundreds of students to improve their learning curve dramatically. Hongjie Liu, from Reexen, Schekeb Fateh from Miromico, and Andreas Hosang from Hosang Consulting spoke about using computing intelligence to optimize traffic monitoring demonstrating on a use case. Last but not least, Marcin Pietrzyk, Founder & CEO of Unit8, presented a business application of AI with the result of ROI. Marcin showed its benefits for both sides, organization and client.

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The final part of the event was kicked off by a keynote speech from Fabien Lopez, Head of AI Strategy at Deloitte, focusing on ‘Learning in the Age of AI’. Fabien spoke about the need for companies to adapt to the new technological era by upskilling current employees rather than hiring new ones. Based on the normal human behavior of fearing the new, he also emphasized the importance of helping people to understand new processes and technologies – which are not there with the aim to replace them but rather help them and augment them.

Andy Fitze, Co-Founder of SwissCognitive, gave an overview of the different perspectives of how AI was discussed during the World Economic Forum and the parallel sessions took place in Davos in January. Interestingly, many discussions are still based on fear, such as fear from a superintelligence, as well as on the over-hyped concept of AI. Only some discussions were driven by what is actually happening in the AI ecosystem. The AI stream of the TechPark Davos 2020, organized by SwissCognitive, brought over 20 global AI thought leaders and influencers on stage. Keynotes, interviews and panel discussion focused on how all things are sensing, connected, and intelligent, and how all that can be turned to humankind’s best advantage. No sci-fi, no terminators.   

Finally, the event stage accommodated a panel discussion on ‘Closing the AI Knowledge Gap – Perspectives from Industry & Education’ moderated by Gregory Turkawka, Teacher and Research Associate at Zurich University of Teacher Education PHZH and Mayor of the municipality Regensberg. The discussion was attended by Flavia Tomarchio, Science and Technology Manager of Schaffhausen Institute of Technology, Henrique Säuberli, Founder of Youth Intelligence Agency and Executive Consultant at IBM Research ThinkLab, Priska Burkard, Co-Founder of TechFace.ch and SKILLS FINDER, and Dietmar Treichel, Managing Director of Institute für Kommunikation & Führung Luzern. To be able to make the most of the data explode and developing technologies, industry and education need close collaboration. What we can do on personal level is, however, just as important. It is crucial that we are open for new ways of thinking and doing. To minimize our fear of the unknown, we need to understand cognitive technologies better. Sometimes we even need to learn to forget our old routines to be able to apply new & more effective processes. It is our responsibility to prepare our kids for the jobs that don’t exist today. They need to be taught to value their human qualities and build on them rather than fear robots curtailing them from their jobs one day.