Never before has technology so rapidly permeated and changed our lives. Today, public discussion about these changes is mostly led in terms of buzzword trends – digitization, big data, artificial intelligence –, and their implications for individual areas of private, economic or political life –e.g. the impact of robotics on the labor market; or the impact of social media on political campaigns. Based on such analyses, policy debates usually focus on the question: How should society respond to this or that technology?
There is a shortcoming in this approach: IT talks about the response but takes the respondent as static. In this seminar, we want to take a different approach. We will focus on the effect of technological disruption on society itself. If the scope of technological disruption is potentially all-encompassing, what does that mean for our very conception of society, which is then supposed to respond to those technologies? How does technological disruption affect the constitutive principles of our liberal-democratic societies? How can we re-imagine those constitutive principles under conditions of far-reaching disruption? Which of those disruptions should we embrace, which should we guard against?
Put more simply: If everything changes – what should remain?
Admittedly, these are far-reaching questions. We are aware that our seminar will not be able to deliver every last answer to the questions above. Accordingly, the purpose of this seminar lies less on the answers, and more on the journey of thinking (see learning objectives).
For that purpose, we want to use a simple but powerful experimental method. In this modeling method, (1) we sketch out a number of central domains of society (e.g. the labor market, political parties and representation), (2) disrupt them, i.e. scratch some of their fundamental constitutive principles, and then (3) put those domains back together under radically different circumstances.
This experimental method helps our seminar group to think hard about what we really deem essential in the future life of our societies. Far too often, technological disruption is approached through the question: „How will we live in 30 years?“, as if technology was some inevitable force of nature. Instead, we want to shift to the question: „How do we want to live in 30 years?”
The seminar’s objective is to enrich current political debates about digitization, A.I. & co by identifying more clearly those core principles of liberal-democratic societies that we need to preserve, strengthen or re-imagine, as we tackle the oncoming waves of technological disruption. However, this should not remain just a theoretical class room debate, but the aspiration is to contribute to the political debate by sharing the results of the course with a broader audience (format tbd).
This course is for 1st year MPP students only.
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