Humans and Machines

The digital revolution is changing human interaction in almost all areas of society. Particularly in connection with advances in artificial intelligence and with the interplay of information technology and biotechnology, these developments also fundamentally challenge the human self-image and self-understanding.

In the 19th legislative period, the German Bundestag set up two Study Commissions to investigate the opportunities and challenges associated with these processes – one on artificial intelligence and one on vocational training in the digital age. In October 2020, the President of the German Bundestag asked the German Ethics Council to draw up a multidisciplinary Opinion on the ethical questions of the relationship between man and machine. The aim is to provide a more fundamental embedding of the political and social discourse.

In its working group “Humans and Machines”, the German Ethics Council responds to this request and deals for instance with the following questions:

  • What are ethically significant differences between humans and machines considering their respective material and functional characteristics?
  • What similarities, approaches and interfaces between man and machine can be observed or expected, and how do these affect our self-image?
  • What are the social, cultural and historical foundations of the relationship between humans and machines, and what values, norms and social visions lie behind them?
  • What role do different concepts of intelligence, reason, autonomy and responsibility play for the development but also for the evaluation of (partially) autonomous systems?

Answers to these and other fundamental questions are related to selected fields of application, including medicine, communication, education and democracy.