Abandon all hope, Germany? Thoughts on our German Attitude.

Abandon hope all ye who enter here.
Dante Aligheri, Divine Comedy

Namaste! I recently talked about Deep Learning in Germany. Let me continue…

USA and China are AI goliaths. They are way ahead of good old Germany. They have the manpower. They have the money. They have it all. Is this a reason to throw in the towel? Germany is definitely not leading… Is all hope long lost for Germany? I say: Not, yet! Just change our German Attitude!

The following text might be provocative to a certain degree to certain people. Although my words are definitely not made to hurt individuals, they are definitely intended to challenge. Keep this in mind while reading. Everything is fine. And if you feel offended by my words be sure: You are doing a great job with what you are doing! And I honor that!

In the following I will touch a couple of issues. Possible directions for optimization, some people might say. In my opinion this is definitely not a exhausting list. There is definitely more to write about. These are „just“ some issues that I face regularly.

Less powerpoint, more doing!

As some of you might know, I come from the consulting business. Very evil spirits say that consultants get paid for telling people what to do instead of doing things. This is true to a certain extend. Indeed, the main business is gathering knowledge and distributing it amongst the customers. This is a valid and righteous profession. But! There is a huge potential that is untapped.

There is a scourge in the business. A ghost that haunts the industry. There are a lot of people whose potential gets drained by one thing: Powerpoint. I do not mean that keynote-tool per-se. I mean the whole package. Can you imagine how much time is wasted creating fancy powerpoint slides? Can you also imagine how much time is wasted watching Powerpoint presentations? Did anyone ever count how many people per day suffer death by Powerpoint every day?

I do a lots of traveling. Yes, traveling with Deutsche Bahn is traveling with German consultants. Recently, I sat next to two specimen. Their conversation was very energetic an passionate. The topic was very simple and yet very important to both: There is one slide in the slide-deck that looks perfect. But only in editing-mode! In presenting-mode one of the beautiful fonts gets replaced by some stupid standard typeface.

You see where I am getting at? If you would do less Powerpoint you would free a huge potential. And I really mean „less“. I do not suggest to drop Powerpoint entirely… And ask yourself the question: Did you really get a degree from an institution of higher learning, only to spent a lot of your potential on fancy slides?

No need for a Data Science study program at our German universities!

There is a huge need for Data Scientists and Artificial Intelligence experts. True. Thus, it would definitely make sense to establish study programs at out German universities, would it not? That is the thing… Did you know that almost all successful experts in Data Science come from different fields? Did you know they changed towards Data Science and Artificial Intelligence at some point in their life?

It is a German approach: Whenever there is a certain skill needed on the workforce-market, let us create a study program. Unfortunately, it takes years to establish such a course. And it takes a couple of more years to get the first young people with the new bachelor’s degrees. And I am not talking masters yet. From design to the first alumnis it is a five years‘ minimum. That is quite something.

Be more productive and less busy!

I read a book about Deep Work a couple of weeks ago. The bottom-line is simple: Work deteriorated from productive to busy. What does that mean? Right, the idea is simple: Every time you write an email – response or not, it does not matter – you raise the probability to receive more emails. This can keep you busy for a while, even an entire working day. And another thing… Many meetings.

„Many meetings“ is a chapter of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. The first chapter of the second book in The Fellowship of the Ring, to be more precise. There is a council meeting that follows… Steering committee, anyone? The questions is what to do with the One Ring, since it is now known that it is dangerous. A rather lengthy and quite heated discussion of many people trying hard to find a solution to a rather simple problem, follows as an attempt to find an answer. Or even worse: A plan.

I often sat in one of those many meetings. Often the main problem was reduced to one of its subproblems. What about logistics? Yes, let us take the One Ring to Mordor by ship. Ah no, there is no river leading to Mordor! What about taking the giant eagles? No way, company policy dictates not to involve giant eagles! I think you understand.

Adapt or face disruption!

The situation in Germany is very basic. There is a wave of disruptive technologies flooding the industry. Only one of them is Artificial Intelligence. Those technologies are challenging. And to some extent they are even threatening the existence of companies.

Another anecdote. In the past I worked for a rather big company. Of course, its core-business was definitely not IT. This company is a perfect example. An example for what? For how rigid structures and processes absolutely inhibit progress. Back in those days (not many years ago) if you wanted a web-application server – you always NEED a web application server – you had to fill out a couple of forms, send some money to the responsible department and wait three months for your web application server to arrive. Out in the real world, Amazon Web Services was already available. You could get one and the same server hosted by AWS up and running in less than two hours. But this was forbidden. Rigid structures and processes.

As you can imagine, such rigid structures and processes definitely do one thing: They render your entire company absolutely inflexible. Inflexible as a log. And what will happen to inflexible companies? They get disrupted by younger and smaller and more agile companies that are flexible. Companies that are courageous and smart enough to make use of such great tool like Amazon Web Services.

Face the truth: Artificial Intelligence is as old as your granny.

Artificial Intelligence is something that many people talk about extensively today. Why? Today, modern technology is powerful enough for the greatest use-cases. This was definitely not the case for the decades before. Deep Learning – the training and application of Deep Artificial Neural Networks – is one of the most prominent technologies. Did you know that Artificial Neural Networks are almost 80 years old? Yes, your eyes are true. In 1943 McCullouch and Pitts published „artificial neurons“ that were Turing-complete. AI research itself kicked off at a Dartmouth workshop 1956. That was around the time, when my parents were born.

So treating Artificial Intelligence as a new thing is kinda not exactly right. Of course there is a need to do more research in that field. But not the groundbreaking research. Let me give you an example… A very, very successful approach to data center optimization used a five-layer fully connected Artificial Neural Network. The architecture is from the 1940s and the training algorithm is from the 1980s. The only thing that changes was the availability of data, software and hardware.

I want to make explicit: Today should be more the time of application then the time of discussion and research. I read articles and papers about Artificial Intelligence on a daily basis. I know that there is a plethora of successful-uses cases available. They are available for experts to be applied to their customer’s data and problems.

More courage and optimism!

IT-education at school is bad. Replacing diplomas with bachelor’s and master’s degrees ruined higher learning. The government neither supports Artificial Intelligence nor understands it. There is too many skilled experts missing. We have no chance of even reaching half the level that USA and China reads… You should know the score by now.

Why whining?

There is still time to do the good work with Artificial Intelligence and be successful. Especially in Germany. There is no need to be leading. Why should you be leading? Today you can apply so many things. So many use-cases were successful and crave to be applied by you. Is there any reason to not getting to work? Right now? I guess there is none! Let us begin with changing our German Attitude!

Stay in touch.

I hope you liked the article. Why not stay in touch? You will find me at LinkedIn, XING and Facebook. Please add me if you like and feel free to like, comment and share my humble contributions to the world of AI. Thank you!

If you want to become a part of my mission of spreading Artificial Intelligence globally, feel free to become one of my Patrons. Become a Patron!

A quick about me. I am a computer scientist with a love for art, music and yoga. I am a Artificial Intelligence expert with a focus on Deep Learning. As a freelancer I offer training, mentoring and prototyping. If you are interested in working with me, let me know. My email-address is tristan@ai-guru.de - I am looking forward to talking to you!

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