Vienna Manifesto on Digital Humanism

Sept. 22, 2020
5:00 – 6:00 PM
(17:00) CEST
Lecture Series
Barbara J. Grosz (Harvard, USA):
“An AI and Computer Science Dilemma: Could I? Should I?”

Computing technologies have become pervasive in daily life. Predominant uses of them involve communities rather than isolated individuals, and they operate across diverse cultures and populations. Systems designed to serve one purpose may have unintended harmful consequences. To create systems that are “society-compatible”, designers and developers of innovative technologies need to recognize and address the ethical considerations that should constrain their design. For students to learn to think not only about what technology they could create, but also whether they should create that technology, computer science curricula must expand to include ethical reasoning about the societal value and impact of these technologies. This talk will describe Harvard’s Embedded EthiCS program, a novel approach to integrating ethics into computer science education that incorporates ethical reasoning throughout courses in the standard computer science curriculum. It changes existing courses rather than requiring wholly new courses. The talk will describe the goals of Embedded EthiCS, the way the program works, lessons learned and challenges to sustainable implementations of such a program across different types of academic institutions. This approach was motivated by my experiences teaching the course “Intelligent Systems: Design and Ethical Challenges”, which I will describe briefly first.


Moderator: Erich Prem (eutema & TU Wien, Austria)
Oct. 06, 2020
5:00 – 6:00 PM
(17:00) CEST
Lecture Series
Paul Timmers, Ciaran Martin, Margot Dor, and Georg Serentschy
“Digital Sovereignty – Navigating Between Scylla and Charybdis”

This panel debate will have a hard and critical look at the sense and nonsense of digital sovereignty.

We will debunk some of the terminology that is being thrown around in debates on digital sovereignty, analyse the good, the bad, and the ugly of geopolitical technology battles between the USA and China and provide specific look insight into two harbingers of the emerging perceptions of sovereignty in cyberspace: global telecommunications and global standardization.

We invite the audience to be part of the debate to increase with the panel our understanding how Europe can best navigate the good, the bad and the ugly of geopolitics and the digital world.

Prof Paul Timmers will set the scene by a critical reflection where we are in the debate on ‘digital sovereignty’ and consequences for EU policy development. Paul Timmers is at the European University Cyprus, Research Associate at Oxford University, Senior Advisor at EPC, former Director European Commission, and leading thinker on strategic autonomy and digital sovereignty.

Subsequently, we will engage in a panel and audience discussion where three leading cybersecurity personalities will put forward their response to the scene setter:

Prof Ciaran Martin, Oxford University, former head UK NCSC (National Cyber Security Centre), a world top person in cybersecurity, recent interview by the Financial Times on east-west split over the internet.

Dr Margot Dor, Strategy Director of ETSI a European Standards Organization, driver of the Carl Bildt Report on Strategic Standardisation for Europe in the Digital Era

Dr Georg Serentschy, advisor on telecoms and IT, senior advisor SquirePattonBoggs, Board of Directors International Telecommunications Society, former Head of BEREC (European Telecoms Regulators).


Moderator: t.b.a.


Digital Humanism

Corona shows that our IT systems keep the system running. But at the same time IT is changing our our society. We are in the midst of the digital transformation, with computer science and its artifacts as a major driver. We experienced the metamorphosis from the stand-alone computer to the global operating system of our world, a journey leading to yet another industrial revolution: digitizing everything and automating work and thinking.

This digital and global operating system integrates, links, and permeates everything: work, leisure, politics, the personal, the professional, and the private. It influences or even shapes actions on a technical, economic, military and political level.

Whereas digitalization is opening unprecedented opportunities, it also raising serious concerns: the monopolization of the Web, the rise of extremism orchestrated by social media, the formation of filter bubbles, the loss of privacy, the spread of digital surveillance, automated decision making, and the potential loss of jobs due to automation. This is also expressed by Tim Berners-Lee (The Guardian, 16 November 2017) with his

“The system is failing”

We are at a crossroads for our future, and the issue is which direction to take, or in positive terms, how to put the human at the center and how to combine technological with social innovation in a democratic process.

This is the context of our Digital Humanism initiative. We argue for a Digital Humanism that analyzes, and, most importantly, influences the complex interplay of technology and humankind, for a better society and life, fully respecting universal human rights. We must shape technologies in accordance with human values and needs. Ourtask is not only torein in the downsides, but also to encourage human-centered innovation.

Such an approach starts from several key points:

  • IT forms a critical building block for our society; it facilitates and drives change, but it also needs rules and guidance.
  • To understand, to reflect, and to influence this development, we need a multi and interdisciplinary approach, looking at the individual and the society.
  • It is a global international issue.
  • The approach needs to be scientific, in the tradition of the enlightenment – and fact based in the best sense.
  • People are the central focus. Technology is for people and not the other way round. We need to put “humankind” at the center of our work.

The challenge of building a just and democratic society with humans at the center of technological progress needs to be addressed. The Digital Humanism initiative is supported by a growing group of internationally renowned experts. They are engaged in a series of (on- and offline) events, pointing towards a positive future!

SOCIALICON