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SAP CEO Bill McDermott at CMS reception in Davos

"Artificial Intelligence does not replace the human"

Frankfurt, 19 January 2017. At an event of CMS, one of the top international law firms, in conjunction with Germany’s leading weekly newspaper DIE ZEIT, SAP CEO Bill McDermott and other leading experts spoke about the future of Artificial Intelligence.

Bill McDermott commented on the influence of artificial intelligence on the modern working world: “There are benefits to AI, because I don’t think it replaces the human in most cases. I think it gives nuance to the experience and the decision making process.”

However, the CEO of SAP went on to say that in an environment where manual jobs in particular are going away “we have to retool and reskill those people”. Especially important is “reskilling and educating people that have been affected by the digital divide and that don’t see a positive future”, said McDermott. “I can’t stress enough, we can’t leave people behind.” In order to achieve this, the private sector and the public sector providing the necessary infrastructure would have to work together, according to McDermott.

In conversation with Uwe Jean Heuser, DIE ZEIT’s Economic and Business Editor, Bill McDermott also commented on the criticism of HANA, the in-memory database management system developed by SAP: “HANA is not too expensive. The way you partition the data makes a big difference. Most companies are interested in what the sales are today, this week, this month (…), but probably they’re not interested in every analysis going back ten years. You can partition things into cold data and hot data.” Also “HANA kills hardware”, said the SAP CEO. According to him “there are huge improvements and that implies less hardware, less complexity, more speed.”

In a panel discussion, technology law expert and CMS partner Markus Häuser, said, “We, as a society, don’t know how to deal with thinking machines yet. We are in the early stages of discussion in the legal community. We will however need to develop a new legal framework that governs the creation of AI and the interaction between humans and robots. For example, the more intelligent robots become, the more they will be capable of building their own personality. So, will they need to be protected by having rights of their own?” 

David Kenny, Senior Vice President of IBM Watson & IBM Cloud, Florian Leibert, CEO and Founder of Mesosphere, and Jürgen Schmidhuber, Scientific Director at the Swiss Research Institute for Artificial Intelligence (IDSIA), participated in the discussion.

Cornelius Brandi, Executive Chairman of CMS, added, “AI promises a number of benefits for businesses and society as a whole but we need to be fully aware of potential risks and as a society we need to address essential issues such as ethics, privacy and, in general, the regulation of the interaction between man and machine.”

The event was held on the occasion of the World Economic Forum in Davos. CMS in cooperation with DIE ZEIT invited leading representatives from the worlds of business and politics to a roundtable discussion and reception.

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Press release - SAP CEO Bill McDermott at CMS reception in Davos
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