Upon concluding a year of an intriguing workshops series concerned with new technological developments the BCSSS joins a movement supporting a new digital humanism. The center became an official supporter of the Vienna Manifesto on Digital Humanism. The manifesto is a reaction to the challenges and threats that arise with increasing digitalization of society, especially regarding privacy, monopolization of the web, the self-reinforcement and radicalization of existing opinions as well as the creation of filter bubbles.
These concerns were also raised in the workshop series that was spearheaded by BCSSS vice president Felix Tretter in 2019. Representatives from fields as diverse as the medical sector, health care management, psychology, complexity, private data-science corporations, public administration, political science and nonprofit data-science initiatives came together to discuss the potential and the hazards regarding Big Data, Health Related ICT (HICT), Digital Health Technology Assessment (DHTA) and Human Digitalization in Health Affairs (HDIHA) as well as ethical and juridical aspects.
The manifesto calls for more deliberation and action regarding technical trends as well as the disruptions that they cause in society. As machines increasingly gain abilities that surpass human performance, it is critical to more consciously shape the assumptions that are programmed into algorithms and software. Human values and needs must remain at the center and digital technologies should enhance, not engross democracy and inclusion. The manifesto is offered in several languages so that it may be spread and discussed far beyond Austria. It was created as an international effort by scientists that reaches from places like Naples, Italy to Boulder, Colorado. The manifesto is supported by technical universities and humanities departments alike.
The BCSSS is set to continue its work in this regard in 2020 with Felix Tretter’s plans for an expert meeting that ponders a new idea of man, a ‘homo digitalis’. The idea of finding ‘a new conception of man’ was already shared by Ludwig and Maria Magdalena von Bertalanffy (short BERTA), which is also the theme for the art meets science exhibition by BCSSS board member Jeanette Müller and BCSSS member Paul Divjak.