The digitalization of large spheres of human life is progressing at a rapid pace. It entails not only technical and economic but also social change. IT infrastructures make our modern society work. Networked information and communication technologies enable intelligent power grids, new medical infrastructures, new forms of industrial logistics and production, and rapid changes in the world of work. Behind this are algorithms and huge amounts of data, which bear great potential, but also social challenges, such as adequate regulation.
The scope and dynamics of digital transformation is reflected in many ITAS projects, for example, on the governance of and by algorithms, ethical questions of learning systems, progressive automation, Industry 4.0, and the impact of digitalization on the labor market. Of particular importance is the question of how to deal responsibly with the developments of digitalization and, specifically, applications of artificial intelligence.
Technical advances in robotics, sensor technology, and digital processes are fundamentally changing the world of work. The digital transformation affects all qualification levels. At the same time, new business areas are emerging, for digital corporations, but also for start-ups. Besides the change in industrial production, ITAS is increasingly investigating changes in the service sector. For example, the EU project Crowdwork 21 focuses on the phenomenon of platform work, where work tasks are distributed over the network.
Governance and algorithms
Be it in questions of the allocation of loans, jobs, or study places, the assessment of legal penalties, or even the identification of terrorists. More and more often, computer systems “have a say” in decisions that significantly influence the possibilities of free personal development. ITAS investigates the risks of discrimination by algorithms and, in the GOAL project, deals with structures and design options for the governance of algorithms, especially with regard to risks to fundamental rights and other social values.
Another research focus at ITAS is on learning systems. Here, researchers are investigating the central question of social trust in learning systems. Prevailing discourses and expectations, such as the idea of a self-aware artificial intelligence that surpasses human beings, are also subject of research. In order to better understand the narrative of the “awakening AI”, ITAS analyses existing discourses, brings together actors across disciplines, and feeds the results into the public debate.
AI in agriculture
Digitalization and the use of AI in agriculture and the bioeconomy is also an object of research at ITAS, for example, in the DESIRA project. Here, researchers use interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary formats to make social perspectives and knowledge available for technology development and science policy.