Symposium in New York City: Critical Stances towards AI

As part of the jubilee year W\100, the symposium “Critical Stances towards AI: For a Critical and Self-Determined Approach to Digital Technology” will take place in September. Alumni of the Institutions can register until June 18th.

Joseph Weizenbaum, the namesake of our institute, would have turned 100 this year. On this very occasion we are traveling to his Country of adoption to honor his memory by discussing themes with which he was deeply engaged and thus promote the transatlantic discourse on Weizenbaum and his work. The symposium is hosted by the Weizenbaum Institute, Freie Universität Berlin, Deutsches Haus at NYU and Technische Universität Berlin.

Over two days, researchers from the Weizenbaum Institute and from different North American Institutions intend to address questions concerning the role of humans in AI, the role algorithmic platforms play for information in digital societies as well as an analysis of hypergiants in the internet ecosystem. Together with the audience, we will debate the issue of AI development and usage from both social and environmental perspectives.

The symposium brings together alumni of the universities and non-university research institutions involved in the Weizenbaum Institute: Technische Universität Berlin (TU Berlin), Freie Universität Berlin (FU Berlin), Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin (HU Berlin), Universität der Künste Berlin (UdK), Universität Potsdam (UP), as well as the Fraunhofer Institute for Open Communication Systems (FOKUS) and the Berlin Social Science Center (WZB).

We are looking forward to welcoming you at the symposium!

Places are limited, so registration is required until 18 June 2023 via

Should you have any questions, please contact alumni[at]


Thursday, September 28, 2023

12.00 - 12.30  Arrival and Registration
12.30 - 13.00 Welcome and Introduction Weizenbaum Institute

13.00 - 14.30






Panel 1: Algorithmic platforms and information quality

Topic: This panel approaches the role algorithmic platforms like social media and messenger services have for the spread of verified and unverified information in digital societies.


Mona Sloane, New York University

Jeff Allen, Integrity Institute

Jakob Ohme, Weizenbaum Institute
14.30 - 15.00 Coffee break

15.00 - 16.30





Panel 2: Platforms, Ecosystems, and Our Digital Future – Regulatory Policies for the Digital Economy

Topic: In this session, we explore the complex terrain of policy challenges that arise as we navigate our way towards a digital future. By adopting an economic viewpoint, we delve into the roles of hypergiant corporations, their platforms, and ecosystems within the digital economy. We engage in a comprehensive discussion about their effects on competition and innovation, while considering the pertinent implications for regulatory policy measures and the efforts taken in the US and the EU.


Volker Stocker, Weizenbaum Institute

William H. Lehr, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
16.30 - 17.00 Coffee Break

17.00 - 18.30

Keynote: Sarah Sharma, University of Toronto
Q&A with Sarah Sharma
18.30 - 19.00 Transfer to Restaurant
19.00 - 23.00 Conference Dinner

Friday, September 29, 2023

08.30 - 09.00 Arrival and Registration
09.00 - 10.00

Panel 3: Joseph Weizenbaum: Past and Present of Critical Thinking on AI

Topic: In the year that Joseph Weizenbaum would have turned 100, a number of scholars have joined forces to examine his professional life as a scientist and public intellectual, his work, and his intellectual environments. Christian Strippel and Magnus Rust will provide insights into the archival work and present initial findings, loose ends, and open questions of that research. Since then, the development and proliferation of artificial neural network algorithms has multiplied many times, and has become embedded in a wide range of technologies. Hannah Fitsch and Alexandra Keiner will re-examine Weizenbaum's Critique of Instrumental Reason and highlight what kind of decisions can be made by AI and what epistemological premises are embedded in them.


Christian Strippel, Weizenbaum Institute

Magnus Rust, University of Basel

Hannah Fitsch, TU Berlin

Alexandra Keiner, Weizenbaum Institute

10.00 - 11.30





Panel 4: The labor that fuels AI

Topic: This conversation will explore the crucial role of human workers in the AI industry. We will delve into the labor-intensive tasks involved in producing data, training models, verifying algorithmic outputs, and also shed light on a lesser-known aspect: the need for human workers to impersonate AI systems. 


Milagros Miceli, Weizenbaum Institute

Julian Posada, Yale University

11.30 - 12.00 Coffee break

12.00 - 13.30






Panel 5: "Certainly no computer can be made to confront genuine human problems in human terms" (J. Weizenbaum, Computer Power and Human Reason: From Judgment to Calculation, 1976)
Topic: When Joseph Weizenbaum wrote these words, probably his focus was not primarily on human-made ecological problems rather he thought of the impact new technologies have on individuals and societies. In recent years, however, resource consumption and reckless human behavior toward the environment have become equally significant drivers of the societal discourse in the digitalization context. In this panel, we critically reflect on the issue of AI development and usage from both social and environmental perspectives. Also, we intend to devote a forward-looking discussion to sensitization of individuals and societies and formulate competency requirements for empowering a self-determined and sustainable behavior of designers and users. This step indeed is critical to the creation of a mutual and prospering coexistence.


André Ullrich and Gergana Vladova, Weizenbaum Institute

Dave Rejeski, Environmental Law Institute

Caroline Woolard, Open Collective

13.30 - 15.00 Wrap-up, Farewell, and Lunch

15.00 - 18.00

City tour: Jewish life in New York, with focus on the German-Jewish emigration to the USA in the years 1933-1945


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