Mercator Lecture for AI in the Human Context

Prof. Dr. Walther Ch. Zimmerli


Since Chat GPT we are witnessing another global AI hype. In his public Mercator-lecture Swiss philosopher Walther Ch. Zimmerli, at present Mercator Visiting Professor for Artificial Intelligence in the Human Context at the Center for Science and Thought (CST), tries to unveil the hidden mechanism behind the undeniable success-stories of AI by reconstructing its history of recurring hype-cycles beginning with what he calls the„Dartmouth Conspiracy“ and Turing’s „rehabilitation of deception“. The underlying suggestive power of the idea of AI, however,must be attributed to its mythical character as is demonstrated both by contrasting the Gartner hype-cycle theory with the philosophy of myth (Blumenberg), and by semiotically explaining it in terms of analogies and metaphors as well as contrasting it with the Singularity- and the Posthumanism-Myth (Kurzweil).

Monday, 15.04.2024,                   16:15 - 17:45

University of Bonn, Hauptgebäude: Festsaal


Prof. Dr. Walther Ch. Zimmerli

Visiting Professor at CST: January - April 2024

Walther Ch. Zimmerli is a philosopher and Honorary Professor of Mind and Technology at the Humboldt University in Berlin.

He studied philosophy, German, English, and various other subjects at the Universities of Göttingen and Zurich, where he received his doctorate in 1971 and habilitated in philosophy in 1978. Between 1978 and 1999, Zimmerli held philosophy chairs at TU Braunschweig, the University of Bamberg (shared with Erlangen-Nuremberg), and the University of Marburg. From 2002 to 2007 he was a member of the top management of Volkswagen AG and founding President of AutoUni as well as a member of the management of Volkswagen Coaching GmbH. From 2007 to 2013, he was President of the Brandenburg University of Technology Cottbus. Zimmerli received the Humboldt South Africa Research Award and an honorary doctorate from the University of Stellenbosch. He held honorary roles at TU Braunschweig and served as Friedrich Stiftungsprofessor at HU Berlin (2013-2016). Zimmerli also had various fellowships: EURIAS Senior Fellow at Collegium Helveticum (2017/18), Visiting Fellow at IWM Vienna (2019), and Fellow at the Digital Society Initiative, University of Zurich (2020-2022). In 2022, he became an External Senior Fellow at FRIAS in Freiburg. During his stay at the Center for Science and Thought (CST) Prof. Zimmerli will continue working on his philosophy of digitalization with a special focus on „Artificial Intelligence - Hype or Myth?“

His most recent pertinent publications include:

-2021a, Künstliche Intelligenz und postanaloges Menschsein. Entstehung, Entwicklung und Wirkung eines realen Mythos, in: A. Strasser/W. Sohst/R Stapelfeldt/K. Stepec (eds.), Künstliche Intelligenz- Die grosse Verheissung, Xenomoi: Berlin, 193-219.

2021b, Analog oder digital? Philosophieren nach dem Ende der Philosophie, in: U. Hauck-Thum/J. Noller (eds.), Was ist Digitalität? Digitalitätsforschung vol. 1, Metzler: Stuttgart, 9-33.

2020, Deus Malignus - The Digital Rehabilitation of Deception, in: B.P. Goecke/A. Rosenthal-von der Pütten (eds.), Artificial Intelligence. Reflections in Philosophy, Theology, and the Social Sciences, Brill Mentis: Paderborn, 15-35.

Eine Wissenschaftlerin und ein Wissenschaftler arbeiten hinter einer Glasfassade und mischen Chemikalien mit Großgeräten.
© Walther Ch. Zimmerli

Desirable Digitalisation: Rethinking AI for Just and Sustainable Futures

This conference is organized as part of the ‘Desirable Digitalization: Rethinking AI for Just and Sustainable Futures’ research project, a collaboration between the Universities of Bonn and Cambridge, funded by Stiftung Mercator. The goal of the project is to explore how AI (artificial intelligence) and other digital technologies are influenced by concepts of the human and how they can be designed to be responsible, socially just and ecologically sustainable.

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Christiane Schäfer

Universität Bonn, Center for Science and Thought, Institut für Philosophie, Konrad-Zuse-Platz 1-3

53227 Bonn

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