TU Wien Informatics

20 Years

Public Lecture Series on Digital Humanism

  • 2019-10-28
  • Public Lecture
  • Social Responsibility

Following a workshop and the Vienna Manifesto on Digital Humanism, we invite you to a public lecture series on this critical and urgent topic.

Following the successful Workshop on Digital Humanism and the subsequent presentation of the Vienna Manifesto on Digital Humansim in April and June, respectively, we organise the lecture Digital Humanism. By Digital Humanism, we refer to an approach that describes, analyzes, and, most importantly, influences the complex interplay of information technology and humankind, for a better society and life.


Susan J. Winter: “Cui bono? A Sociotechnical View of Smart Cities”

Susan J. Winter is Associate Dean for Research and Co-Director of the Center for Advanced Study of Communities and Information, College of Information Studies, University of Maryland Technologies that were a fantasy decades ago, such as AI and mobile devices, are now integral to the way we live, work, and interact with our environment. This has brought remarkable new capabilities to all sectors of the economy and fueled calls for the transformation of urban living through Smart Cities. The professionals who are develop and deploy these technologies are held to ethical standards to contribute to society and human well-being, but many Smart Cities efforts fail to benefit those residents who are most in need. A sociotechnical view of cities clarifies the ethical dilemmas created by smart cities, identifies challenges that must be overcome, and illuminates a path toward ensuring that everyone benefits.

Gerfried Stocker: “Humanizing Technology Through Arts”

Gerfried Stocker is the Artistic Director of Ars Electronica, Linz/Austria Where are we and how did we get here? What kind of digital society do we want? How can we get there? And how can we make good on the biggest mistake of the last forty years: How can we wrest control of our futures from a handful of corporations that make billions in profits. It’s time for us to resign our roles as mere consumers and data-generating machines. We must take responsibility for our futures. Europe is set to play a key role in this process. How should Europe respond to the “data capitalism” of the IT monopolists and the “data totalitarianism” of authoritarian regimes? Or, in other words: Is it possible to create a digital society that fosters competition and generates value while also reflecting European values? With the success of new services increasingly depending on the credibility of their providers and the trust placed in them by users, there is good reason to believe that this vision could be made reality. In light of this, a large number of EU projects and initiatives have embraced the goal of expanding the roles of art, creativity, and education in the development of technology in order to develop new concepts and alternative options for action. Gerfried Stocker will talk about such projects which have been also shown at this year´s Ars Electronica Festival in Linz.

Edward A Lee: “The Coevolution of Humans and Machines”

Edward A. Lee is Professor at the University of California at Berkeley, Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences Department, and member of our International Advisory Board Are humans defining technology, or is technology defining humans? Richard Dawkins famously said that a chicken is an egg’s way of making another egg. Is a human a computer’s way of making another computer? Certainly, digital technology has changed the way we interact with one another, the way we work, and even the way we think. The machines serve as intellectual prostheses, helping us with arithmetic, spelling, and remembering (while also subtly manipulating our thoughts, directing us to click on ads or vote a certain way). Should the software systems that have taken over so much of our lives be viewed as living beings, defined by bits rather than DNA? In this talk, Edward Ashford Lee presents the case for considering digital beings to be living, then offers counterarguments. What we humans do with our minds is more than computation, and what digital systems do—be teleported at the speed of light, backed up, and restored—may never be possible for humans. To believe that we are simply computations, he argues, is a “dataist” faith and scientifically indefensible. Digital beings depend on humans—and humans depend on digital beings. More likely than a planetary wipe-out of humanity is an ongoing, symbiotic coevolution of culture and technology.

Julian Nida-Rümelin: “Digitaler Humanismus”

Julian Nida-Rümelin is Professor at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich/Germany, Chair of Philosophy and Political Theory, former German State Minister for Culture Möglicherweise wird man in einer fernen Zukunft auf die Menschheitsgeschichte zurückblicken und von drei großen disruptiven technologischen Innovationen sprechen. Der Übergang von der Jäger- und Sammlerkultur zur sesshaften Agrarkultur mit Ackerbau und Viehzucht in der Jungsteinzeit, der Übergang zum Maschinenzeitalter auf der Grundlage fossiler Energieträger im 19. Jahrhundert und schließlich die digitale Revolution des 21. Jahnhunderts: die Nutzung künstlicher Intelligenz. Sollte dies einmal so sein, dann stehen wir heute erst am Anfang einer technologischen Revolution, ähnlich wie Europa in den ersten Jahrzehnten des 19 Jahrhunderts. Und so wie damals sind die technologischen Erneuerungen auch heute von apokalyptischen Ängsten, aber auch euphorischen Erwartungen begleitet. Der digitalen Humanismus setzt hier einen Kontrapunkt. Er setzt sich von den Apokalyptikern ab, weil er der menschlichen Vernunft vertraut und es setzt sich von den Euphorikern ab, weil er die Grenzen digitaler Technik achtet. Der digitale Humanismus transformiert den Menschen nicht in eine Maschine und interpretiert Maschinen nicht als Menschen. Er plädiert für eine instrumentelle Haltung gegenüber der Digitalisierung. Der digitale Humanismus ist nicht defensiv, er möchte den technischen Fortschritt im Zeitalter der Künstlichen Intelligenz nicht bremsen, sondern fördern, er spricht sich für eine Beschleunigung des menschlichen Fortschritts unter Einsatz der digitalen Möglichkeiten aus, um unser Leben reichhaltiger, effizienter und nachhaltiger zu machen. Er träumt jedoch nicht von einer ganz neuen, menschlichen Existenzform, wie die Transhumanisten, ist aber optimistisch, was die menschliche Gestaltungskraft der digitalen Potentiale angeht.


This lecture series is supported by the Vienna Science and Technology Fund (WWTF).


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