To date it has primarily been the business world tapping into the potential of artificial intelligence (AI). For the worlds of politics and civil society, however, the benefits of AI often remain abstract. In fact, the technology at times even seems to pose a threat. The increasing dominance of major technology firms, bots that influence opinions on social media – these phenomena make people cautious.
With these factors in mind, it is more important than ever to engage with AI in a critical and constructive manner. Fostering a lively political discussion with the European public about such important topics that will come to define our future is one of the key aims of the cultural programme of Germany's Presidency of the Council of the EU.
We can lay the foundations for a society better able to build upon the positive potential of AI and minimise its negative impacts. To do so, we should continue working on an open and critical internet culture, as was the case when the digital transformation began in Europe in the mid-1990s. In other words: we need a debate on internet democracy inspired by the Enlightenment.
Using a broad range of formats, the project “Generation A=Algorithm” wants to work with branches of the Goethe-Institut all across Europe in order to inspire this work and move the debate forward: how will artificial intelligence change the world, above all in the fields of ethics, work, creativity and climate change? And how can Europeans responsibly influence this process?
During Couch Lessons, experts meet to discuss the aforementioned questions on the virtual sofa. In the first sessions in June and July, the focus was on AI and health, AI and climate change, AI and ethics, and AI and the future of work. In the second round, starting on 16 September, the series will be continued with debates on AI and peace, as well as AI and language.
Robots on tour
Two small, light-grey robots have been touring Europe since June. The humanoid robots are visiting branches of the Goethe-Institut in various corners of Europe. At each branch, a team of artists, together with coding professionals, teach them new functions. They will then move along to their next station along the way.
One robot is currently in Milan, the other in Ljubljana. Rome, Prague and Bremen are to follow. At a festival in autumn 2021, they will present their newly programmed functions.
What do 18-30-year-olds in Europe expect from AI? What are their fears and hopes? How do they use AI? The online survey WE & AI, developed together with the Weizenbaum Institute for the Networked Society, wants to find out in September 2020.
In autumn, further events associated with “Generation A=Algorithm” are planned: climate hackathons will focus on strategies to counter climate change using AI; during the AI Residents programme beginning in October 2020, visual artists will engage with the topic of AI and art; in November an online ideathon will explore how algorithms can strengthen the European idea. At a “Generation A” Festival to be held in autumn 2021, the results of the individual formats will be presented in a manifesto.
Generation A=Algorithm receives expert support from the European A(i)lliance, a Europe-wide network of experts in the field of AI, media-skills initiatives, art institutions and civil society organisations.
Generation A=Algorithm is a Goethe-Institut project supported by special funding from the Federal Foreign Office for Germany’s Presidency of the Council of the EU in 2020.