Can Machines Save the World?

The Digital Humanism Fellowship Conference
Conferences and Workshops

When it comes to the impact of machines, robots, and Artificial Intelligence, commentators easily adopt a doom-and-gloom perspective. This conference asked, rather provocatively, Can Machines Save the World? In doing so, it did not intend to downplay the enormous dangers inherent in digital technology (this has already been pointed out many times by the Digital Humanism Initiative).

By taking a historic perspective on the “first period of digitalization”, this approach rather allowed us to trace similar fears connected to the advent of new technologies throughout human history. Technologies such as AI may have (and already have) a beneficiary effect on human life, be it in specific sectors such as manufacturing or health care, or on society in general. This potential to be both savior or enemy in our human endeavors can be seen, for example, in the fight against global warming (see the last section of the conference).

We talked about

  • Humans and machines (mostly machines),
  • their impact on economy and politics,
  • and on the environment.

Recordings of the conference are available here:

Day 1:
Day 2:


Thursday, November 16, 2023

9:00-10:30 Opening Session

  • Welcome addresses by:
    Heinz Fischer, Former President of Austria and President of the IWM Board of Trustees
    Gerti Kappel, Dean Faculty of Informatics, TU Wien
  • Lecture:
    Joseph Sifakis (Verimag Lab): “AI: Where We Are, Where We Are Going?”
    Chair: Hannes Werthner (IWM & TU Wien)


Coffee Break

11:00-12:30 Humans and Machines 1

Helga Nowotny (Former President of the European Research Council): “AI as an Agent of Change”
Thomas Haigh (University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee): “AI – The History of a Brand”
Chair: Ludger Hagedorn (IWM)


Lunch Break

14:00-15:30 Humans and Machines 2

Edward A. Lee (University of California at Berkeley): “Rational Machines?”
Thomas Bugnyar (University of Vienna): “Evolution and Intelligence”
Chair: Stefan Woltran (TU Wien)


Coffee Break

16:00-17:30 Panel: “The First Century of AI”

Thomas Haigh (University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee)
Edward A. Lee (University of California at Berkeley)
Joseph Sifakis (Verimag Lab)
Allison Stanger (Middlebury College)
Chair: Michael Wiesmüller (Federal Ministry for Climate Action)

Friday, November 17, 2023

9:00-10:30 Platforms and (Anti)trust

Cristiano Codagnone (University of Milan): “Online platform: power, regulation, and the transatlantic relationship”
Stavros Makris (University of Glasgow): “Competition Law, Policy and Regulation in the Digital Era: A Political Economy Approach
Chair: Julia Neidhardt (TU Wien)


Coffee Break

11:00-12:30 AI and Democracy

George Metakides (Digital Enlightenment Forum): “Democracy in the Digital Age”
Allison Stanger (Middlebury College): "The Governance of AI in Global Perspective"
Chair: Anita Eichinger (Vienna City Library)


Lunch Break

14:00-15:30 AI and Environment

Felix Creutzig (TU Berlin): “Computing for Sustainability”
Ivona Brandic (TU Wien): “Sustainable Computing”
Chair: Erich Prem (University of Vienna)


Coffee Break

16:00-17:30 Panel: “Digital Humanism – An Agenda for the Future”

Gerti Kappel (TU Wien)
George Metakides (Digital Enlightenment Forum)
Helga Nowotny (Former President of the European Research Council)
Christoph Thun-Hohenstein (Federal Ministry for European and International Affairs)
Chair: Hannes Werthner (IWM & TU Wien)