The Digital Humanism Initiative

The Digital Humanism Initiative is an international collaboration seeking to build a community of scholars, policy makers, and industrial players who are focused on ensuring that technology development remain centered on human interests.

News

February 21, 2023 5:00 – 6:00 PM (17:00) CET Lecture Series “Abstracted power and responsibility”

Technology often serves as a lever to extend and amplify our power. It is increasingly possible in the 21st century to make decisions that have profound impacts on people thousands of miles away from us. As it extends our reach geographically and culturally, this long arm of technology can also distance us perceptually from impacts of our decisions and make the consequences easier to ignore. We call the outcome of this phenomenon ‘abstracted power,’ and identify it as an important obstacle to overcome as we promote social responsibility in engineering education. Our work is with computer science students, but abstracted power could apply to any engineering field and indeed may find traction beyond those disciplinary boundaries. In this interactive talk I will introduce the concept of abstracted power and the highlights of a paper my colleagues Rodrigo Ferreira and Moshe Vardi and I recently published on the subject. Next I will describe how I have used this concept in my computer science ethics classes and share some students’ observations of this phenomenon in the ‘real world.’ I will then invite members of the audience to share their thoughts on this concept in the context of their own disciplines. Finally I will talk about ways to un-abstract power and make computer scientists and others feel a greater sense of personal responsibility for the consequences of their actions.

Speaker: Tina Peterson (University of Texas, Austin) Moderator: Carlo Ghezzi (Politecnico di Milano, Italy)
March 7, 2023 5:00 – 6:00 PM (17:00) CET Lecture Series “Seize the Means of Computation”

The tech giants claim that they have to lock down their devices to defend you, but they keep failing to do so. The most science fictional question isn’t what a technology *does*, it’s who it does it *for* and *to*. A free and fair future starts with technology that is under its users’ control. We need a new Luddite movement, one that seizes control of the machines that try to seize control of *us*.

Speaker: Cory Doctorow (craphound.com) Moderator: Allison Stanger (Middlebury College, USA)
March 09, 2023 5:00 – 6:00 PM (17:00) CET Lecture Series “TBA”

TBA

Speaker: Gary Marcus (http://garymarcus.com/) Moderator: TBA (TBA)
Digital Humanism in Vienna.
Brochure “Digital Humanism in Vienna” by the City of Vienna.
Perspectives on Digital Humanism
Our book “Perspectives on Digital Humanism” is now available at dighum.ec.tuwien.ac.at/perspectives-on-digital-humanism
New Center for Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning (CAIML)
Opening (December 2, 2021) of the new TU Wien Center for Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning with a keynote by Turing Award winner Leslie Valiant.

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Seminar Series on Digital Humanism

A roughly bi-weekly seminar offers presentations and panels from worldwide thought leaders. It is typically held on Tuesday afternoons at 17:00 CET.

Schedule YouTube Channel

The Vienna Manifesto on Digital Humanism

The Vienna Manifesto on Digital Humanism is a position statement signed by over 1000 leaders worldwide that lays out the motivation and goals for the Digital Humanism Initiative.  

Sign the Manifesto

Digital Humanism

The Corona-Crisis shows that IT keeps the system running. But at the same time IT is changing 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. Our task is not only to rein 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!

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Contact us: dighum[at]ec.tuwien.ac.at