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The discussion is open: the Charter of Digital Fundamental Rights of the EU

01.12.2016

Finally, the debate on the fundamental issues of digitalization can begin. For the first time, it's about the design of the digital future, which is anything but a purely technical or economic issue.

Encouraged by an initiative of the ZEIT Foundation, 27 citizens have created a European Charter of Digital Fundamental Rights in 14 months, which is presented today for the first time in full-page advertisements in ZEIT, Süddeutsche Zeitung, Welt, Tagesspiegel and other newspapers.

Advertisement on December 1, 2016Of course, in this first litter not everything is already perfect. But it is an excellent basis for the discussion, which everyone can now participate in. This is a good way to prevent digitalization from leading to immense distortions, which endanger our freedom, our democracy and the rule of law. For digitalization inevitably implies a fundamental upheaval of society, its economy, its production and functioning, its communication and its dealing with the earth and its resources. It was long overdue to shape this and build the framework for it.

In the US, the big corporations of IT and Artificial Intelligence have formed an ethics committee. This is also a good approach. With us, there is now the beginning of a debate, which is not limited to the companies, but invites everyone to participate. The PLM portal will accompany this debate. After all, Industrie 4.0, the Internet of Things, and all the IT systems used to digitalize industrial processes, are an integral part of digital change.

One article of the Charter that deserves our special attention as representatives of technique  and technology is certainly Article 8 on Artificial Intelligence. It reads like this:

(1) Ethical-normative decisions can only be made by human beings.
(2) The use and development of artificial intelligence in areas relevant to fundamental rights must be accompanied by society and regulated by the legislature.
(3) A natural or legal person must always be responsible for the actions of self-learning machines and the resulting consequences.
(4) In the case of infrastructures which are essential to the functioning of the society, state control and crisis precaution must be ensured.

Such agreements are essential if machine learning is to be of use to mankind. And the discussion that has just started is the best way to counter the fear of software and algorithms, which is particularly widespread in Europe and especially in Germany. The best way also to set the course in time with regard to Industrie 4.0, so that Germany remains a successful industry location and does not plunge into chaos with social unrest.

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