Ever since Adam and Eve ate from the tree of knowledge, it has been clear that knowledge has an ethical dimension. “Knowledge is power,” wrote Francis Bacon. But what is knowledge in the first place? Are our digital systems actually able to know? Or are they just able to make assumptions based on AI and Big Data that are then transformed into knowledge by selected individuals?
Sarah Spiekermann’s lecture explores these central questions of our knowledge society while at the same time highlighting measures we can take – both in technological and social terms – to achieve a little more transparency and data quality as well as practical knowledge-building. The aim is to actually make our society more knowledgeable and to prevent it from being inadvertently thrown into a collective loss of knowledge.
Sarah Spiekermann deals with questions of values, data protection and ethics in the context of digitalisation. She has been chair of the Institute for Information Systems and Society at the Vienna University of Economics and Business since 2009. She is author of several books, including “Digitale Ethik – ein Wertesystem für das 21. Jahrhundert” (2019) and the textbook “Ethical IT Innovation.”
Since 2016 she has co-led the development of the first ethical standard for IT design to be published in 2020 by the IEEE (the world’s largest organization of engineers).
Sarah Spiekermann regularly works as an expert and advisor to companies and governmental institutions, including the EU Commission and the OECD.
We should see with humility that we are still at the very beginning of a true knowledge society. Progress needs wisdom and courage - machines lack both.