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!