Members of the academic advisory board of ACADEMIA SUPERIOR were also involved in the discussions. They particularly elaborated on the level of control over the new technologies, university education and the development of the EU.
Control over technology
The possibilities presented by today‘s technologies are overwhelming. However, using technologies that we do not understand is extremely dangerous. The basic knowledge of all these advances cannot be delegated to machines. We have to make sure that there are always people who can understand even complex technologies and algorithms and reproduce them if necessary.
Nevertheless, it is not quite clear how much control has to be exercised by humans and in which areas artificial intelligence makes better decisions. On the one hand, technology must be subject to human control. Otherwise we are placed in a dangerous position of dependence that can derail our society with the smallest system error. On the other hand, there are areas where machines are simply superior to humans: for example, in reaction time. Thus, it seems utterly irrational to allow man-made road accidents to occur, although they could be prevented by autonomous driving systems. And yet, the trust and the social acceptance for such systems are still lacking.
Learning to deal with information
In the light of the discussions about fake news and a lack of objectivity in the media, the question of truth has gained new popularity. There is no ”truth“ except for natural laws, because ultimately it always depends on the perspective. This is why it is so important to start early in education to teach children and young people how to deal with information. This has still not been developed enough in schools.
“Students are far too well-behaved.”
In the modern information age, it is now necessary to take active measures to avoid wasting away in the media bubble. There is an urgent need for action because the operators of social media do not have any incentives to dissolve information bubbles and often react far too late, even if social media are being misused. At the end of the day, they are business companies which pursue their own objectives, and these are not always consistent with social interests.
Plea for a better discussion culture
One of the worst symptoms of information bubbles is that there are no real debates anymore. If everyone is only supported in their own views, there are no points of friction with other opinions. There are no impulses to question your own position critically. This is a great loss for democracy. It also explains political subcultures such as the identitarian or religious fundamentalists.
Issues should not become a question of faith; you have to be able to exchange opinions on a matter-of-fact level without becoming aggressive. Such a culture of debate has to be actively lived and claimed. This is part of the nature of democracy.
Innovation needs space
Is chaos a necessary prerequisite for creativity and the creation of something new? Even the scientists are divided on this. On the one hand, a controlled environment and tranquility are essential in order to be able to focus entirely on research; on the other hand, there are indications that productivity arises from chaotic situations and external pressure. In any case, it is essential that the greatest possible space be created for creative and innovative thinking under certain conditions.
University is much too structured
The question of more or less control also affects the universities. In recent years, for example, there has clearly been a trend towards more regulations and fewer options for students. Making a smooth transition from the school system to universities is certainly desirable but it should not continue throughout the entire curriculum. The approach should be: more options but high performance requirements. In order to extend the students‘ horizons, a compulsory year abroad would also be desirable for all study programs.
Opportunities for Europe
Europe faces difficult times. There are many challenges to the European Union, which also calls for a new generation of political actors.
“Trump provokes us to think.”
If everyone only strives for the maximum of national freedoms, European policy is doomed to fail. Therefore, the other EU countries have to be more involved in what is going on in the Mediterranean because we are all concerned. The EU is a community based on cohesion. Perhaps not more but better cooperation between the European states is the key to turning the uncertainties of the global political situation into an opportunity for Europe.