‘Shifting AI Controversies’ Conference

Datum: 29. January 2024 – 30. January 2024

Time: 09:00

Street: Reichpietschufer 50

Location: Berlin Social Science Center (WZB)

On behalf of the international research project Shaping 21st Century AI, the Alexander von Humboldt Institute for Internet and Society (HIIG) and the ZeMKI, University of Bremen, in cooperation with the research group “Politics of Digitalization” at the Berlin Social Science Center (WZB), invite to an international conference on the topic of AI controversies. The conference was held in English.

Controversies about AI abound, especially since ChatGPT took over the Internet by storm, becoming the most popular applications in the Web’s history within only a few months. The current excitement about the perils and prospects of general purpose AI applications like ChatGPT is only the most recent wave of public interest in the long history of “artificial intelligence” (AI). With its metaphysical imaginaries of human-machine symbiosis, anthropomorphic robots and machine thinking, arguably oversized scientific claims and technological developments in this field have always raised concerns. What the current debate makes much more visible than previous attention cycles, though, is that contemporary AI companies and scientists dominate not only the discourse promoting AI’s prospects but also that on AI’s perils. From engineers at OpenAI to research pioneer Geoffrey Hinton, technologists and industry-based scientists increasingly articulate warnings that AI might cause serious and fundamental damage to societies. With this move, the already dominant players are now also occupying the space of public critique, yielding the risk that activism, social science, critical journalism and the arts are pushed even further  to the margins of public and expert debates. Are we currently having the public controversies on AI that we should have, or is AI panic derailing us from actual and relevant concerns? How do we get to the controversies that we need and to the exploration and articulation of society-centered AI?

The conference will hold keynotes, panels and interventions from scholars, civil society and practitioners on the topic of AI controversies.


Monday, 29 January 2024

9.00 – 9.30am  Registration & coffee
9.30 – 9.45am  Welcome note & introduction
9.45 – 11.00am  Keynote panel  Where do we stand? Patterns of thinking and talking about AI• Louise Amoore (Durham University)
• Christian Pentzold (University of Leipzig)
• Sally Wyatt (Maastricht University)
11.00am – 12.00pm  Concurrent panels  Labour and AI  AI and education
12.00 – 1.30pm  Lunch break
1.30 – 3.00pm  Concurrent Panels  Imaginaries of AI  Public participation and art in the age of AI
3.00 – 3.30pm  Coffee break
3.30 – 5.00pm  Plenary panel  Shaping AI: controversies and closure in media, policy, research

Tuesday, 30 January 2024

8.30 – 9.00am  Registration & coffee
9.00 – 10.30am  Concurrent Panels  AI in media and news  AI and regulation
10.30 – 11.00am  Coffee break
11.00am – 12.45pm  Concurrent panels  Social science perspectives on AI and large language models  Human-AI relations
12.45 – 2.00pm  Lunch break
2.00 – 3.30pm  Concurrent Panels  Political economy and democracy  AI controversies on ground truths and fakes
3.30 – 4.00pm  Coffee break
4.00 – 5.30pm  Closing plenary panel  Where do we go from here?  Future trajectories of AI controversies and developments• Alison Powell (London School of Economics)
• Marek Tuszynski (Tactical Tech)
• Gloria González Fuster (Vrije Universiteit Brussel)
5.30pm  Conference closing


The conference is organised as a closing event of the project Shaping 21st Century AI, which is a multinational collaboration of partners in Germany, France, UK and Canada that examines the global trajectories of public discourse on artificial intelligence. The project is funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG, Germany), the Agence nationale de la Recherche (ANR, France), the Economic and Social Research Council of UK Research and Innovation (ESRC, the UK) and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC, Canada) in the Open Research Area (ORA) scheme.


If you have any questions, you can contact the conference organisers via shifting-ai@hiig.de.