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The interplay between digitalization and society


Initiative seminar at the Chalmers University of Gothenburg

There is no longer a corner of society that is not covered by digitalization. Virtual and real worlds merge. In Gothenburg, an initiative seminar in March 2017 highlighted the twofold challenge we are faced by this development: Software development must take its societal impact much more into account. And society must re-define itself under the conditions of digitalization.

Opening by Ivica CrnkovicIvica Crnkovic (all photos Chalmers), professor of software engineering at the Chalmers University, Sweden, had invited to Gothenburg to discuss "digitalization - opportunities and challenges". About 30 speakers had a high level talk for two days. In addition to many insights into the latest state of technology, there was the realization that the impact of digitalization on society as a whole requires the whole society to deal with it, not just the specialists. But they must be more aware of the impact of their work.

"What is the human project for our digital future?" Asked Luciano Floridi from the University of Oxford and the Alan Turing Institute in Cambridge, UK. And while software specialists in various fields described the digital part of the answer, others, from the fields of information technology as well as from industry and politics, tried to formulate the questions that society as a whole must address.

Manfred BroyManfred Broy, emeritus professor of computer science at the Technical University of Munich, drew the great edge of computer science in the last 50 years. From a special science for the chosen one the software penetrated into the nursery. The most expensive company in the world does not produce anything except software: "Google does not hire an employee, who cannot develop software code, regardless for which job." At the same time, Broy warned: "Some people believe that there will be no security, especially no secure and reliably functioning software, in the future."

Anders YnnemanIn many lectures, astounding new insights and possibilities were presented. For example, the "visual revolution", which Anders Ynnerman from the Norrköping Visualization Center and Linköping University showed. So-called volume rendering now enables the interactive exploration of approximately 5,500 years old mummies in museums by processing thousands of two-dimensional CT slices parallel on graphics processing units (GPUs). (On this topic, he published an article in Communications of the ACM in December 2016: "Interactive Visualization of 3D Scanned Mummies at Public Venues")

Ulrich SendlerIn the final presentation "Automated society - an oxymoron", technology analyst and writer Ulrich Sendler placed digitalization in the context of the industrial revolution. Just as two hundred years ago democracy and social legislation had to be created in order to dominate the social upheaval through industrialization, we must now consider how schools and universities should look like in the digital age. Ethics commissions, for example like the one, set up for autonomous driving in Bavaria in October 2016, are often needed. And the tearing down of the boundaries between social, scientific and company-internal disciplines is essential for the networking which is now required.

All lectures are available as videos via the homepage of Chalmers University.

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