“Technology is for people and not the other way round”*. GSIS supports the Vienna Manifesto on Digital Humanism

The Institute for a Global Sustainable Information Society signed the Vienna Manifesto on Digital Humanism (see screen shot of the website banner above).

Hannes Werthner, Dean of the Faculty of Informatics at the Vienna University of Technology (TU Wien), convened in April 2019 a workshop on Digital Humanism at the end of which a manifesto was proposed. It was finalised in May after online discussion.

Among the undersigners is Julian Nida-Rümelin who is famous for the popular science book Digitaler Humanismus – Eine Ethik für das Zeitalter der Künstlichen Intelligenz which he wrote together with Nathalie Weidenfeld. Nida-Rümelin is Professor for Philosophy and Political Theory at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München and was Staatsminister before. Weidenfeld is a film scholar with expertise in Science Fiction movies, in particular, on AI. For that book both were awarded the Bruno Kreisky Prize by the Karl-Renner-Institut.

The book deserves the prize despite negative criticism, e.g., in the German edition of the American Scientist, Spektrum der Wissenschaft. It is often hard for engineering and (natural) scientists as well as mathematicians to accept that their world picture is mechanistic and needs an overhaul.

That’s exactly why that Manifesto is so outstanding. It is written (not only, but intentionally) by and for engineering and (natural) scientists and mathematicians. Though “we experience the co-evolution of technology and humankind“, it concludes: “We must shape technologies in accordance with human values and needs, instead of allowing technologies to shape humans.” If you take this conclusion seriously, you are forced to deny that technology is a push-factor by itself. It is rather pushed by short-sighted interests of collective actors that have economic and political power. Interests of humanity at all need to get a voice to shift the power balance and allow for participative designing of techno-social systems.

The Manifesto converges with the aspirations and endeavours of our Institute. Thus, we invite you to sign too.

Fo more information on our activities in the field see, e.g., our respective contributions to the IS4SI Summit 2019 in Berkeley, the project of an edited volume, and our respective workshop at the IS4SI Summit 2017 in Gothenburg (see the link to the programme and the abstracts there).

*Hannes Werthner, Report on the Workshop on Digital Humanism

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