Digital Mensch sein: Anthropologische und ethische Fragen neu gestellt

Techno-Gott

Die Digitalisierung stellt bekannte Denkmuster in Frage, wir nehmen den Umbruch wahr, ohne schon genau absehen zu können, wohin uns die Digitalisierung bringt. Dies gilt auch für die Religion und die Anthropologie. Was ist der Mensch? Wie müssen und können wir Menschen der digitalen Gesellschaft Gott denken? Vordenker im Silikon Valley sehen den Mensch nicht mehr als Geschöpf Gottes und Gott nicht mehr als Schöpfer, sondern der Mensch wird im Transhumanismus in der Verbindung mit Künstlicher Intelligenz selbst zu Gott.

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Volker Jung: „Digital Mensch bleiben“ – eine Rezension

Digital Mensch bleiben

Digital Mensch bleiben
Digital Mensch bleiben

Autonomes Fahren, Big Data, Cyborgs, Deep Learning – Volker Jung beherrscht das ABC der Digitalisierung und bleibt dabei nicht nur bei den ersten drei Buchstaben des Alphabets stehen.
Sein Buch „Digital Mensch bleiben“ gibt einen guten Überblick über die aktuellen ethischen und politischen Diskussionen zur Digitalisierung. Flüssig und gut lesbar – Fachbegriffe werden erklärt – erläutert der auf dem Buchrücken als EKD-Medienbischof titulierte hessen-nassauische Kirchenpräsident Volker Jung, welche Fragen die digitale Transformation für uns als Gesellschaft und als Einzelne bedeutet. „Volker Jung: „Digital Mensch bleiben“ – eine Rezension“ weiterlesen

Was sagt Augustinus zu Arbeit 4.0?

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“Die Diskussion um die Digitalisierung der Arbeitswelt wird überwiegend von der Wirtschaft dominiert. Die Kirchen müssen sich mehr einbringen und darauf achten, dass der Mensch im Mittelpunkt der Diskussion bleibt,”

so fasst der WDR mein heutiges Interview im Magazin Politikum zusammen. Zur Vorbereitung hatte ich mir einige Gedanken gemacht, welchen Beitrag Kirche und Theologie zum gesellschaftlichen Diskurs zur Digitalisierung in der Arbeitswelt leisten können.
Ich erlebe es, dass Digitalisierungsdebatten stark von der Wirtschaft getrieben werden, Digitalisierung verändert aber nicht nur das Wirtschaftsleben, sondern unsere Gesellschaft. Daher ist es wichtig, dass sich alle gesellschaftlichen Gruppen einbringen, also auch Gewerkschaften, Verbände, NGOs und auch die Kirchen.
Als Kirche können wir unser christliches Menschenbild einbringen, außerdem ist es spannend, unsere eigenen theologischen Traditionen neu bzw. wieder zu entdecken, manchmal gewinnen sie aufgrund der technischen Entwicklungen auf einmal noch eine weitere Bedeutung. „Was sagt Augustinus zu Arbeit 4.0?“ weiterlesen

Free Software? – It’s Anthropology, Stupid

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When I saw the call for papers, I submitted a proposal titled “The Anthropological Dimension of Free Software: a Philosophical Argument” as you can see in the announcement in the program.
Anthropology is the study of various aspects of humans within past and present societies. There are many cases one can make for Free Software but I believe if one is an advocate for or an opponent of Free Software ultimately depends on one’s idea of human beings – or anthroplogy.
I have to admit; sometimes I use Google and Google services.
We are having a family dinner in a nice restaurant, the food is marvelous, and I take out my cell phone and take a picture of the antipasti. When we are ready for dessert my phone vibrates, there is a notification from Google asking me to contribute my photo to the collection of the restaurant’s photos on Google maps and comment on the restaurant.
You all know what’s happened. Google knows my location, my photos are geo-tagged and uploaded to Google photos, Google uses this information to ask me for more information – and if I share my photo on Google maps and rate the restaurant, then I further contribute to Google’s world-wide knowledge. I will not focus on privacy issues but on the aspect of sharing. When asked, it is a reflex for many people to help. They freely give their information to Google without realizing that Google does not reciprocate by making this information available under a free license but controls who gets access to this information.

Sharing – in my opinion – is one of the most important aspects of the Internet economy. However, multinational companies ask for their users’ data and contributions to advance their own business interests, to improve their products or to enhance their services. However, they regard their users’ contribution as their property without any obligation to share these contributions under an open license.

Anthropologically speaking, there are some basic conditions of human behavior. One is to help when asked. Google – and other Internet companies – are using or abusing this anthropological pattern of human behavior to skim information and to cage it in and release it whenever it suits the company’s interest. Users are made unpaid collaborators who share freely but their sharing is not reciprocated. Google’s operating system Android is based on Linux, Free Software developed and maintained by a community, but Android is boxed in and packed in a way that it only develops the full user experience when tied to Google services.

A quick note about myself, I studied computer science and theology, so I approach the topic of Free Software also from a theological, i.e. anthropological and ethical perspective and not from an economic perspective.

When an organization – which also applies to a church – attempts to introduce free software, the focus quickly shifts to economic arguments that free software is better, is safer and more secure or cheaper and more efficient.
All of this may be true in general, but it is always difficult to prove this in an individual case when the transition to Free Software is planned. There are studies proving the superiority of Free Software and counter-studies prove the opposite. The case for or against Free Software is based on economic assumptions. I am not an economist, so I will focus on the ethical dimension of Free Software. When we discussed the IT strategy of our church, the Evangelical Church in the Rhineland, an organization with 2.9 million members in more than 700 parishes, the decision to migrate our IT infrastructure to systems which run Free Software was mostly based on economic reasons but I am happy that our synod also considered the ethical dimension of the decision.

One can – and must – also discuss the business case of Free Software. Which is the business model when it comes to the creation, distribution and maintenance of Free Software? Which are the services that are paid for? What does this mean for the programmers, developers and maintainers? How are free-lancers being paid when they yield the rights of their work to the community? How are volunteers being rewarded? Does the distributed structure of software development of Free Software lead to permanent workers being laid off in favor of free-lancers doing their jobs? What are the workers’ rights – these are questions that need to be addressed as well – as it was done in the ATTAC Summer Academy this year in Düsseldorf.
As a theologian, I have learned to look behind the curtain and analyze the anthropology and the worldview or ideology that lie behind certain social or economic decisions or processes.

“It’s the economy, stupid” is an American political catch phrase coined by Bill Clinton’s presidential campaign. When we talk about Free Software, it is not about the economy but about our worldview or our understanding of human beings which leads us take sides in favor of Free Software. I am not negating that decisions to use Free Software for certain projects are based on an economic analysis but it is important to me that the overall question regarding Free Software is based on our worldview and anthropology.
“It‘s anthropology, stupid” I might rephrase the catchphrase when applied to Free Software.

When we talk about free software, we implicitly have a certain idea of human beings in mind. Software is not a material good; it can be copied and shared without loss. When we pass software on to others it does not diminish or become less, so we can give it away it freely. Or we can attach conditions to it. Who do we share software with? And how do we share? Or do we refrain from sharing at all? If and how we share software also tells a lot about ourselves and who we are. Is egotism or altruism the basis of our being? What is our idea of a human person? Free Software is an interesting test-case. Of course, the same would also apply to Open Educational Resources (OER), Open Data, Open Access: The key question is: do we share and how do we share?
Please bear with me if the following points are just some thoughts which need to be elaborated further but for lack of space and time I have to be short.
The definition of Free Software as offered by the Free Software Foundation – is not only a technical description, besides the technical dimension there is also an anthropological dimension to it. Even if you are familiar with this definition, I will run through it and comment on some points.

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