Author Archives: isabellahermann

Science-Fiction auf der ISA Toronto

Auf der ISA General Conference in Toronto (#ISA2019) vom 27. bis 30. März 2019 präsentierte ich mein Papier “Utopia or Dystopia? Is technological development science-fiction?”


By the end of 2010 a series of anti-government protests against non-democratic, non-liberal regimes started from Tunisia and spread to other countries including Libya, Egypt and Syria. Social media was identified as the driving force behind those protests called the “Arab spring” (Howard 2011). Thus, generally, the progress of the digital age in information communication technologies (ICT) was praised to topple regimes, increase transparency and allow those who have been marginalized, discriminated and excluded before to be part of an inclusive democratic process. Technology was seen as the chance to enable liberal democratic principles and human rights to come to the fore as a universal identity and value.

However, all technological progress which can be used to strengthen democratic values can equally be used to counter them. Soon disillusionment set in – in the Western the same as in the Arab world. Not only that the regimes reacted by shutting down certain websites, social forums or the internet completely. Around the globe new technology including digitalization, the internet, platforms and AI enable filter bubbles, echo chambers and manipulative voter targeting in social media thus endangering the very core concepts of democracies (Thiel 2018). New technologies provide states and corporations with tools for social profiling, scoring and digital surveillance, and facilitate a “global surveillance bureaucracy” (Castells 2018).

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UK, AI and Ethics

Am 20. Februar 2019 moderierte ich die Tea Time Discussion – UK Industrial Strategy’s Sector Deal on AI and Ethics organisiert vom Britischen Konsulat in München und dem britischen Science&Innovation Network (SIN) bei IBM Watson IoT, Highlight Towers in München, mit:

  • Prof. Christoph Lütge: TUM Chair of Business Ethics and Global Governance, Member of the EU-Expert Commission “AI4 People”
  • Prof. Charles Raab: Alan Turing Fellow and University of Edinburgh
  • Dr. Tim Christiansen: Bavarian Ministry for Digital Affairs
  • Edward Teather: Office for Artificial Intelligence
  • Philipp Hartmann: appliedAI Initiative – UnternehmerTUM

Meine Fragen an das Panel rund um Ethik und KI beschäftigen sich mit staatlichem Regulierungsbedarf in Großbritannien, Deutschland und Europa, mit der Selbstregulierung von internationalen Unternehmen durch die Aufstellung interner KI-Prinzipien, und mit der Notwendigkeit von Diversität und ethischer Bildung unter den Programmiererteams.

Warum künstliche Intelligenz keine Science-Fiction ist

Auf der Konferenz “Ist die Zukunft demokratisch? – Demokratie, Sicherheit, Technologie” des Netzwerkes “Women in International Security” (WIIS) in der Bayerischen Landesvertretung am 15. November 2018 erklärte ich, warum künstliche Intelligenz keine Science-Fiction ist.


Auf der Konferenz feierten 200 Gäste aus Politik, Wissenschaft, Wirtschaft, internationalen Organisationen, Kultur und Medien das 15-jährige Jubiläum von WIIS.

Wie kommt Ethik in die Maschine?

Wenn die Menschen es klug anstellen, hilft Künstliche Intelligenz nicht nur in wirtschaftlichen Prozessen, sondern verbessert auch das gesellschaftliche Miteinander.

Mein Debattenbeitrag für Tagesspiegel Causa fragt, ob Maschinen nicht die besseren Menschen sein könnten.


Terminator won’t save us


New technologies like AI open up a lot of chances but also bear many risks. Couldn’t we just learn how to deal with this from science-fiction films having already played through the major issues of AI? Unfortunately not. Rather than give advice, science-fiction distracts from the currently relevant ethical and legal challenges of AI and the socio-political implications.

Mein kompletter Beitrag im Blog des Humboldt-Instituts für Internet und Gesellschaft (HIIG) hier.

Science-Fiction als Boundary Management

Ende Oktober 2018 wurde mein Beitrag “Boundaries and Otherness in Science-Fiction: We Cannot Escape the Human Condition” in Text Matters, Volume 8, Number 8, 2018 veröffentlicht. Unten der Abstrakt, den ganzen Artikel gibt es Open Access hier.

Abstract: The article explores the construction of boundaries, alterity and otherness in modern science-fiction (SF) films. Boundaries, understood as real state borders, territoriality and sovereignty, as well as the construction of the other beyond an imagined border and delimited space, have a significant meaning in the dystopian settings of SF. Even though SF topics are not bound to the contemporary environment, be it of a historical, technical or ethical nature, they do relate to the present-day world and transcend our well-known problems. Therefore, SF offers a pronounced discourse about current social challenges under extreme conditions such as future technological leaps, encounters with the alien other or the end of the world. At the same time the genre enables us to play through future challenges that might really happen. Films like Equilibrium (2002), Code 46 (2003), Children of Men (2006) and District 9 (2009) show that in freely constructed cinematic settings we are not only unable to escape from our border conflicts, but quite the contrary, we take them everywhere with us, even to an alternative present or into the future, where new precarious situations of otherness are constructed.

Interview zu den Herausforderungen von Künstlicher Intelligenz

In der Ausgabe Nr. 40-41 vom 01.10.2018 von Das Parlament gab ich zum Start der Enquete-Kommission „Künstliche Intelligenz – Gesellschaftliche Verantwortung und wirtschaftliche Potenziale“ des Deutschen Bundestages ein Interview zu den politischen und gesellschaftlichen Herausforderungen von künstlicher Intelligenz. Hier geht’s zum pdf (Hermann, Das Parlament, Ausgabe 40-41) und hier zum Link auf der Website.




Science-Fiction auf der EISA-PEC in Prag

Auf der EISA Pan-European Conference on International Relations  (#EISAPEC18) im September 2018 in Prag präsentierte ich zwei Papiere:

  • zum einen eine aktualisierte Version von“Killer Robots”: How Campaigners and Science-Fiction-Films show as a Dystopian Future in der Section “Technological Change and the Shape of an IR to Come” von Laura Horn und Nicholas Kiersy



  • zum anderen Leaving Earth Behind –
    Apocalypse and Escapism in Science-Fiction-Films
    in der Section “Anthropocene Politics: International Relations after the end of the World” von David Chandler und Delf Rothe

Digital Democracy bei der ECPR in Hamburg

Auf der ECPR General Conference 2018 (#ECPRconf2018) in Hamburg präsentierte ich zusammen mit Anja Mihr  das Papier(Digital) Democracy beyond institutional bordersscience fiction or virtual reality?” im Rahmen der von Thorsten Thiel organisierten Section “Digital Politics and Politics of the Digital”

Unsere Conclusion:

Democratic principles apply offline and online, in SF as well as in the real world. But the means, in particular by ICT and AI, change our perspective of how these principles are realized. Robots, avatars and other programmed ‘subjects’ are the results of human programmers (thus far!) and therefore even in SF not better or worse than humans. However, the challenge is the pace and the dimensions in which people will exercise good governance principles and fulfill human rights. The way we inform ourselves, provide data, analyse it and draw conclusions is often beyond our (human) understanding because technology accelerates the pace in which we take decision and conduct policy making.

However, “science-fiction” understood as a desired fictional development of new tech leading to a better future by strengthening government principles is a utopian wish. If we take a look on the actual science-fiction-genre, there is no digital democracy with good governance principles, yet, with very few examples as Astro Boy or even Arrival show. New tech in most cases leads to the abolition of the Western model of liberal democracy and thus leads into dystopia and thus extends our fears that in this new cyber world we lose control over what we hold most dear namely peace, justice, solidarity, freedom and equality. However, if we let go of the liberal democratic conception, the genre might indeed show us ways to overcome the precarious human condition with technology. Nonetheless, in the end those fundamental changes could pave the way for the biggest dystopias like in Matrix, Transcendence, Neuromancer or Die Tyrannei des Schmetterlings.