DIGITALISATION, AI & ETHICS – Initial ideas for the EASA expert group
Three shortcomings can be made out as major threats for a constructive debate:
• focusing debates on issues that take the current conditions – competitiveness-depending
emerging from and resulting in economic growth, measured by GDP
as ultimate socio-economic formation
• taking a regional perspective that is suitable to evoke a confrontational and/or competitive
perspective, overlooking the fact that D and AI are global issues that need a genuinely global
approach to be dealt with
• this requirement resulting from the often-forgotten question of the cui bono, or what for?
A major problem with many of the recent developments (not only) around D and AI is given by the
fact that the projects start from a concrete social, political, cultural, medical goal, however,
drifting at a more or less early stage away, following an inner dynamic, too often a technical
impetus. The most important question – what is the aim of developing and utilising D and AI – is
not asked or overwritten, the same is true when it comes to reflecting the societal effects.
Brought into a short formula, we may say that smart technologies, initially developed as tools to
facilitate action, allowing developing “fields of wisdom”, became independent – to such a degree
that smartness replaces wisdom and smart technologies/tools are themselves taken as “new
Following lengthy quote from Juergen Kaube’s Hegels Welt may stimulate a deeper reflection on
these issues, opening a view on the ambiguities.
The author states that metaphysics is henceforth a sub-field of morality, that all
ideas are assumptions, in Kant's language “postulates”, which must be made for
practical reasons so that reasonable action finally appears possible, and that the
first of these ideas is “naturally the idea of myself as an absolutely free being.
With the free self-aware being, a whole world emerges at the same time – out of
nothing – the only true and conceivable creation out of nothing.” The question is
therefore not what the world is like, but what it must be like for a moral being.
Here the author first addresses physics, which he hopes to inspire, because in its
current state it cannot give an answer to this question. The question is not what
an ideal state would be like, but whether there would be a state at all in an ideal
situation. There would not be, the fragment postulates, because “only what is the
object of freedom is called an idea. Thus the state should cease. Man is free when
he depends on nothing but himself, so God and immortality must not be sought
outside self-consciousness. For the author, however, beauty stands even higher
than truth and goodness; the highest act of reason, in which it grasps all ideas, is
an aesthetic one, “the philosophy of the spirit is an aesthetic philosophy”, and
This implies private property of the means of production
This applies by and large as well when it comes to considering the economic effects although the emp0loynent
effects are problematised – using this term is telling as it comes obviously to a conflict between the use and the
what is lacking in those who put everything in tabular form and registers is the
• The triumph of individualism and the related definition of freedom is in danger of turning into a
threat of isolationism and the requirement to put everything in tabular form and registers,
reducing rationality on a patchwork structure of combined individual matters and reducing living
on arbitrary decisions, reducing responsibilities on reflections guided by voluntarist orientations.
We can also say that it is overlooked that individualisation in its original form is a matter of
socialisation. This is not only a lack of the aesthetic – and we should add: ethical – sense; but it is
also in danger of undermining collective action. “Schroedinger’s cat”, the masterpiece of a
calculation by which its intellectual father wanted to prove the absurdity of the argument that we
can only measure things that are irreversible (see Thomas Goernitz: Quanten sind Anders;
Spektrum Akademischer Verlag: 140), becomes the reality of societal randomness: action and
behaviour are separated into individual acts, snapshots, disjoined from societal life and ways of
living – what counts is the number/result not why and how we did the calculation.
• As long as we aim on replacing orientations on any national performance by orienting on
European performance, we are on a wrong track, forgetting, that the “kernel of the brute” is not
about national and/or regional competitiveness but the global repositioning of human
beings/humanity in the natural order. Decisive is to understand this not least in terms of political
economy as change of the mode of production – and in this light challenges that can only be met if
they are approached globally: 1) still and again war and peace, 2) the so-called environmental
question, 3) the demographic question (i) migration as consequence of a centre-periphery of the
world order; (ii) in respect of the extension of the period of life during which people depend on
help/care (iii) the relation between employment (contribution paying) and non-employment
(consuming contributions), 4) the question of quality of development, coming to terms with the
multifold critique of the limits of GDP as instrument for measuring progress.
• All this is hugely important for the understanding of rights. Important is to closely link this to a
debate of related duties, suggesting that the common defining aspect is a matter of belonging,
reaching from the very local to the global, however, in all cases to be understood as matter of
concrete spaces of action. Part of such analytical debate must be a discussion of social rights also
German original: Was steht drin? Der Verfasser stellt fest, die Metaphysik sei künftig ein Untergebiet der Moral, alle
Ideen seien Annahmen, in Kants Sprache «Postulate», die aus praktischen Gründen gemacht werden müssen, damit
vernünftiges Handeln überhaupt möglich erscheint, und die erste dieser Ideen sei «natürlich die Vorstellung von mir
selbst als einem absolut freien Wesen. Mit dem freien selbstbewußten Wesen tritt zugleich eine ganze Welt – aus dem
Nichts hervor – die einzig wahre und gedenkbare Schöpfung aus dem Nichts.» Gefragt wird darum nicht, wie die Welt
beschaffen ist, sondern wie sie für ein moralisches Wesen beschaffen sein muss. Hier adressiert der Autor zunächst die
Physik, die er zu beflügeln hofft, weil sie in ihrem derzeitigen Zustand auf jene Frage keine Antwort geben kann.
Gefragt wird auch nicht, wie ein idealer Staat beschaffen wäre, sondern ob es in einer idealen Situation überhaupt
einen Staat gäbe. Gäbe es nicht, postuliert das Fragment, denn «[n]ur was Gegenstand der Freiheit ist, heißt Idee.»
Also soll der Staat aufhören. Frei ist der Mensch, wenn er von nichts als sich selbst abhängt, also dürfen auch Gott und
die Unsterblichkeit nicht außerhalb des Selbstbewusstseins gesucht werden. Höher aber noch als die Wahrheit und die
Güte steht für den Autor die Schönheit, der höchste Akt der Vernunft, in dem sie alle Ideen erfasse, sei ein ästhetischer,
«die Philosophie des Geistes ist eine ästhetische Philosophie», und was denen fehlt, die alles in Tabellenform und
Register bringen, ist der ästhetische Sinn.
on another occasion I explored this as tinderisation, in the meantime similar APPs could be taken as reference
including tools that reduce voting behaviour on calculability (the German “Wahlomat”) and economic programming
via the use of “nudges”.
in the light of sustainability, understood as rights of the social (see e.g. the work on social quality),
and the rights of society/the socio-economic system.
• Finally, it means to revisit the question of power, requiring (i) to look at the control of the
“technical” means and the inherent tension of technical control and political/property-based
control (see the telling example of Einstein’s involvement in developing the bomb and his later
taken distance) and (ii) to determine the power-relation between human beings and nature –
being part of it makes it increasingly problematic to speak of “subduing the earth” (as Genesis 1,28
and at least its early interpretation suggests).
In the light of these four fundamental questions of the meaning, limitations, and ambiguities of
technologies and processes that remain in the realms of human responsibility a valuable
contribution to the debate can be developed.