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).
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
Auf der ECPR General Conference 2018 (#ECPRconf2018) in Hamburg präsentierte ich zusammen mit Anja Mihr das Papier “(Digital) Democracy beyond institutional borders – science fiction or virtual reality?” im Rahmen der von Thorsten Thiel organisierten Section “Digital Politics and Politics of the Digital”
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.
Im Juli nahm ich als Digitalexpertin an der Konferenz und am Programm “Digitalisation in Asia and Germany” der Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung in Singapur teil.
Im Konferenz-Panel “Artificial Intelligence and Ethics” sprach ich zu “AI in Germany – Between High Tech and German Angst”.
Das Programm umfasste Besuche bei Think Tanks und Start-up Hubs, Vertretern des Smart Nation and Digital Government Office und dem Ministry of Transport, dem Senior Minister of State beim Ministry of Transport & Ministry of Communications and Information, sowie bei Facebook beim Head of Public Policy ASEAN.
Auf der achten Ausgabe der Konferenz Popular Culture and World Politics (PCWP 8) präsentierte ich zum Thema “Killer Robots: How campaigners and science-fiction-movies show as the same dystopian future” im Panel “Visuality and Activism”. Programm und Präsentation
Abstract: The 2012 Human-Rights-Watch report “Losing Humanity – The Case against Killer Robots” argues that the future development of “killer robots” – fully autonomous weapon systems – will bare risks for humanitarian law and civilians in armed conflict. However, the growing debate is to large parts a “realistic” description of the plot of science-fiction-movies dealing with the topic. The report states that such weapons “could be developed within 20 to 30 years” which exactly corresponds to the time set of e.g. the movies “I, Robot” from 2004 taking place in 2035 and the new “Robocop” from 2014 taking place in 2028. Those movies deal with the potential future problems of artificial intelligence and autonomous weapons systems in question. Apparently, the ongoing “killer-robots”-debate on the international level and science-fictions-movies about this topic are part of the very same discourse on future dangers of such weapons which I call alluding to Jutta Weldes the “dystopia/science-fiction intertext”. The intertext engages in the devastating consequences of technological-scientific progress for our society, which has not occurred yet. Therefore, those movies should be taken seriously, since they help activists organized for example in the “Campaign to Stop Killer Robots” to normalize and naturalize a techno-phobic perspective being critical of technological progress and development. In the paper I will first make some theoretical and methodological points concerning IR and popular culture before secondly describing the ongoing debate on killer robots. Then, thirdly by coming to the science-fiction-movies I will shed light on the dystopia/science-fiction intertext in order to fourthly deconstruct the inherent technophobia of this discourse.
Auf der jährlichen stattfindenden Konferenz der British International Studies Association (BISA) präsentierte ich 2015 mein Papier “The construction of borders and the other
in modern science-fiction-movies as response to challenges of our real world” im Panel “Power, politics and popular culture: The interplay of identity and political practice in the popular imagination of security”. Programm
Abstract: The paper explores into the construction of boundaries, alterity and otherness in modern science‐fiction (sf) movies. 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 contemporary sf‐movies. Even though sf-topics are not bound to the contemporary environment, be it of historic, technical or ethical nature, however, they do relate to the present‐day world and transcend our well‐known problems. Therefore, sf provides a focused critical discourse about current social challenges under extreme conditions like future technological leaps, encounters with the alien other or the end of the world, and at the same time enables to play through future challenges that might really happen. Movies like “Equilibrium“ (2002), “Code 46” (2003), “Children of Men” (2006), “District 9” (2009), and “Cargo“ (2009) show that in freely constructed movie settings we are not only not able to escape from our border conflict, but quite the contrary, we also take them anywhere with us, even to an alternative presence or into the future, and construct new precarious situations of otherness. In this sense, my paper illustrates in detail how sf takes the political difficulties of our real world one step further.