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Berlin to go, english edition, 01/2019

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TITLE Prof. Dr.

TITLE Prof. Dr. Klaus-Robert Müller Prof. Dr. Volker Markl Merkel organized a gathering of AI experts to which Müller and Markl were also invited. The core of the meeting focused on developing a national strategy that would bundle the potential advantages of digitalization. This factor is a key priority for the two Berlin-based scientists, because their location will only be able to flourish if it receives support from both the federal and state levels of government: “We already have the expertise in Berlin, but it must be secured for the long-term in a sustainable way,” notes Markl. He argues that the most important thing is that groups of specialists have time and space for open-ended cooperation, alongside steady and simultaneous funding, an attractive research environment and opportunities to foster young companies. “Most people take wwhat they know and extrapolate that. But that’s not how innovation works! It cannot be planned,” underscores Müller. On the contrary, in the case of broad and ongoing work, sometimes the only thing you can hope for is something unexpected to happen; something that causes “the whole world to look different.” As Müller says, “This is basically our core business.” At this point, it’s quite clear that there is tremendous big-data potential waiting to be discovered and canalized with the help of data-based research from Berlin. It’s also quite clear that this will involve a certain race with the competition. The United States and China have indeed taken the lead in the industry. However, in the past several years, Germany – and especially Berlin – has set out on a veritable sprint. “I believe we’re doing pretty well,” says Markl modestly with regard to his own performance. Like Müller, he also emphasizes the growing climate of innovation with new companies and more capital. Markl also points out that the infrastructure for founding companies has grown significantly. This is a sector that ends up re-inspiring itself over time, as first-generation role models, mentors and business angels pass on their knowledge and industry contacts to the next group of young innovators. Markl also emphasizes the work being done by Berlin’s universities to educate students in the field of big data, which provides students not only with a scientific basis but also with the necessary business acumen. In turn, this is great for recruiting: “There are three times as many fantastic people out there than jobs,” reports Müller. This is a true luxury considering the high market demand. Still, both funding and personnel resources are ultimately finite, he admits, a little tongue in cheek: “I myself want to be able to slow down at some point, become a wise old professor and tend to my roses.” Although the image of this “teacher of machines” in his rose garden is meant, again, more as a symbol, it nevertheless corresponds to the analogy mentioned above. Indeed, roses also need water to grow and unfold their full splendor. Photos: © Phil Dera, © Christian Kielmann 18

TITLE OUCH, ADA! How an app could change healthcare Text: Lukas Breitenbach Ada is an AI-based health platform designed to help people better understand their health and determine the most appropriate next steps toward the right treatment. Ada must be a pretty smart app, right? It’s time for two self-experiments. I must have made a wrong move. At a recent press conference in – of all places – Berlin’s Senate Department for Health, I suddenly felt a massive pain traveling from my neck down to my back. It was getting worse by the minute, until the point where I could no longer turn my head. It’ll get better, I say to myself. But it didn’t get better. Was it time to go to the doctor? For the first time ever, I turn to Ada. On the app’s homepage, it says that a symptom analyses is carried out using Ada every three seconds. Ada was founded in 2011 by doctors, scientists and software developers and launched worldwide in 2016. “Ada already speaks English, German, Spanish, and Portuguese and is learning more languages to reach even more people,” the developers write. According to them, Ada draws on a knowledge base that comprises billions of symptom combinations and thousands of diseases. After determining my symptoms, Ada offers me five possible causes (in the following order): 1) musculoskeletal neck pain, 2) degenerative disease of the cervical vertebrae, 3) acute cervical radicular pain, 4) craniomandibular dysfunction and 5) neck muscle tension. Wow, maybe I really should go to the doctor? A craniomandibular dysfunction is not something to be trifled with – I think. Ada certainly doesn’t do away with a trip to the doctor. Indeed, that’s not her goal: “Ada helps people recognize the next steps to take in a safe and secure way, that is, to find the appropriate treatment and to manage their health. Ada is a personalized, AI-supported health helper – with a human touch.” No doubt also with a hypochondriac touch … Last weekend, I tested Ada again. After a recent visit to a personal trainer, I woke up with unbelievably sore muscles. This time, Ada was sure: The pain in my thighs could only come from a “serious stiffness in the lower extremities.” Or from a “pulled muscle or a torn muscle fiber of the quadriceps.” If the trainer asks how I’m doing, I’ll say it was a torn muscle fiber … 19

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