Erdmann, L. et al.Digitization and the common good – Transformation narratives between planetary boundaries and artificial intelligence

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Lorenz Erdmann, Kerstin Cuhls, Philine Warnke, Thomas Potthast, Leonie Bossert, Cordula Brand & Stefanie Saghri

Release date:
March 2022

Federal Environmental Agency (UBA), texts | 29/2022

In the project 'Orientation towards the common good in the age of digitalization', Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research (ISI) and the Ethics Center of the University of Tübingen (IZEW) analyzed and developed anthropological and ethical concepts with a focus on Artificial Intelligence (AI). Based on this, new entry points into narratives for social transformations were created. Ten fields of application for AI, which bring about fundamental changes in human-technology-environment relations, were identified and described. The differentiation between empirically observable developments and speculative visions was at the center of this analysis. Ethical analyses were carried out for two topics: Affective Computing and Autonomous Systems to access spaces not at humans’ disposition so far. Ethically relevant points to consider are

(1) AI-based manipulation and deception of emotions,
(2) participation and equity of access, including the role of private companies,
(3) Extended Reality as better learning versus alienation through depersonalization and disembodiment,
(4) privacy of personal data,
(5) naturalness versus artificiality, and authenticity regarding emotions,
(6) Autonomous Systems as part of the frontier ideology of a benefit-oriented technification of nature versus demands for (partial) unavailability of spaces,
(7) purely symptom-oriented techno-fix approaches versus sufficiency promotion through AI,
(8) modification of responsibility relations through AI,
(9) dual use or strong military involvement and interests in AI research.

Points of contact for the ethical findings are the arenas of education for sustainable development and sustainable behavior, the normative dimension of indisposable spaces in the Anthropocene, and governance of technology development. Storyboards were used to provide an entry point for new narratives that should also encourage environmentally-concerned people and journalists to engage with normative questions of AI. The final report concludes with the formulation of current research needs.

Link to publication