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Viewing Algorithms as Emerging Institutions

A conversation with Virgilio Almeida

April 10, 2:00 PM - 3:00 PM

In the presentation, we introduce an innovative idea: algorithms can be seen as emerging institutions in modern societies. They function as rule sets shaping norms and environments for both humans and machines. As a result, algorithms impact individual behaviors and have broader societal effects. We illustrate this concept by examining examples of algorithms used in public security, government platforms, and recommendation systems across different domains. Our conclusion emphasizes the need to democratize algorithms, similar to how other complex institutions have been democratised in the past, to mitigate the risks they present to contemporary societies.

Virgilio Almeida is a  Professor Emeritus of Computer Science at the Federal University of Minas Gerais (UFMG). He is also  Faculty Associate at the Berkman Klein Center at Harvard University.  He held visiting positions in several universities and research labs, such as Harvard University (School of Engineering and Applied Sciences), New York University, Boston University, Santa Fe Institute, HP Labs. Virgilio served as the chairman of NETmundial, the Global Multistakeholder Conference on the Future of Internet Governance, held in São Paulo in 2014.  He is co-author of five books covering topics such as web technologies, e-commerce, performance modeling, and capacity planning, published by Prentice Hall. He is also the author of "Governance for the Digital World," published by Palgrave MacMillan, and his most recent book is "Algorithmic Institutionalism: The Changing Rules of Social and Political Life," published by Oxford University Press. Almeida . His current research interests revolve around social computing, governance of algorithms, the social impact of AI, and modeling and analysis of large-scale distributed systems.

The biggest cited risks of AI are that it will ruin our society, take our jobs, increase inequality, or in the extreme, cause the extinction of humans. On the other hand, it is also being predicted that AI-augmented human intelligence can solve our most pressing problems in medicine, technology, climate change, and interplanetary travel, and unleash a new era of scientific breakthroughs and artistic creativity.

The stakes are high, risks are real but there is also a lot of promise! Through a series of discussions within the panel, we will attempt to distill the current state and progress of AI in various areas and how each of us can have a voice in the direction of the most beneficial outcomes. We are looking forward to the discussion with Nandini Shah, Christoph Lütge & Yasmin Al-Douri. The event will be moderated by Rajesh Sharma.

This event will be held both online and in person and will have an interactive format that will allow each participant to give feedback and opinion on future guidelines proposed by civil 20.

Please register through Eventbrite.

Brown Bag Lunch Presentation (13:00 - 14:00): Professor Wachter will be presenting her paper, “The Theory of Artificial Immutability: Protecting Algorithmic Groups under Anti-Discrimination Law” at the TUM Think Tank from 13:00 - 14:00. In her presentation, Professor Wachter will discuss the rise in the use of artificial intelligence for making pivotal decisions, such as the success of a job application or of a university admission. In order to support these decisions, AI often categorizes individuals into groups that have not been previously used by humans. These algorithmic groups are not covered by non-discrimination law, which is an important aspect that needs to be covered, as decisions based on these types of groupings can be harmful. This protection will be challenging as the European Court of Justice has historically been reluctant to extend the law to cover new groups.  She will present her argument on why algorithmic groups should be protected by non-discrimination law and will show how this could be achieved.

Evening Panel (17:30 - 19:00): Professor Wachter will also take part in a panel discussion with members of our Generative AI Task Force; including Professor Enkelejda Kasneci, Professor Urs Gasser, and other members. They will be discussing the current standings and the future of Generative AI. This event will also be hosted in the TUM Think Tank from 17:30 – 19:00 with a small reception afterward.

The problem of criminal content on the Internet, such as punishable forms of hate speech or child pornography, is increasing. On October 27, 2022, the Digital Services Act was published and most of its provisions will come into force on February 17, 2024. This means that the federal legislature will have to act in 2023 and tackle the adjustments to national law required as a result of the Digital Services Act providing answers as to how these problems can be effectively combated.

Svea Windwehr (Google Germany), Anna Wegscheider (HateAid) and Teresa Ott (Hate Speech Officer at the Attorney General’s Office) will debate the challenges for legislators, law enforcement and social platforms. The panel discussion will be moderated by State Minister of Justice Georg Eisenreich together with Urs Gasser from the TU Munich and Munich School pf Politics and Public Policy.

Following the panel discussion, there will be a standing reception with snacks to round off the evening with lively discussions.

The innovative use of data promises many benefits for research, business and society. In 2021, the German federal government adopted its data strategy aiming for the greater and more responsible use of data. The related plans for a data institute will help to better exploit the economic and social potential of data, while also keeping an eye on the challenges and negative sides.

This leads to many questions about the release of data, the required infrastructure, and privacy concerns. What can the realization of these plans look like? Are there best-practice examples we can follow? What challenges do we face in implementing these strategies, and What added value do we see for science and society in increasing data sharing and use?

We want to discuss these and more questions with our guests from academia and politics: Amélie Heldt (Digital Policy Officer at the Federal Chancellery), Benjamin Adjei (Member of the Bavarian State Parliament and Digital Policy Spokesperson for Bündnis 90 / Die Grünen), and Andreas Peichl (Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, Ifo Institute & Member of the Founding Commission of the Data Institute). Moritz Hennemann (University of Passau) will kick-off the event by contextualizing the discussion in current debates on the national and European level.

The panel discussion will be moderated by Noha Lea Halim (TU Munich).

Artificial intelligence, social media, the Internet of Things – the 2010s was the decade of the motto “move fast and break things”. As societies struggle to grapple with the outcomes of pursuits fueled by this mantra, there is a call for increased input from ethicists and other experts concerned with the human aspect of technology.

We are delighted to have Stephanie Hare with us for a discussion on her latest book Technology is Not Neutral: A Short Guide to Technology Ethics. Is technology neutral? What does responsible tech mean? How can we build a culture of tech-ethics? We invite you to join our open discussion about the impact of technology on society and how we can create more responsible and ethical technologies.

Stephanie Hare is a tech-ethicist focusing on the intersection of technology, politics, and history. She regularly contributes to the BBC, Financial Times, The Guardian/Observer, The Washington Post, Harvard Business Review, and WIRED. Previously, she has worked at Accenture, Palantir, and Oxford Analytica while holding the Alistair Home Visiting Fellowship at St Antony’s College, Oxford. Stephanie holds a PhD and MSc from the London School of Economics and Political Science and a BA from the University of Urbana-Champaign.

The event is jointly organized by the TUM Think Tank and the Responsible Technology Hub as part of its series “What is Responsible Technology” which aims to explore topics related to responsible research and innovation across a wide spectrum of future technologies.

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