Algorithmic systems decide on people’s participation in society. Who gets a loan? Which job applications are sorted out? How are scarce university admissions distributed? Whether such automated decisions lead to more equal opportunities or increase social inequality is up to us. That’s why we must ensure that our interactions with algorithms follow an unambiguous benchmark: Machines must serve society.

Since 2017, the Bertelsmann Stiftung has been taking a close look at the consequences of algorithmic decision-making in society through its project “Ethics of Algorithms”. Our work aims to put the digital transformation at the service of society. The guiding principle should not be what is technically feasible, but what is best for society. To this end, we raise society’s awareness, structure discourses and develop solutions in three areas in particular:

  1. Encourage applications for the common good: Algorithmic innovations are driven almost exclusively by economic motives, while social perspectives are too often neglected. Therefore, we aim at uncovering and supporting tangible positive examples of algorithms used for common good purposes.
  2. Minimize risks through effective control: There are already numerous approaches that try to prevent the misuse of algorithmic systems and to avoid undesirable effects. We contribute our expertise to develop and spread concepts for practical implementation.
  3. Promote diversity in the digital space: The concentration of market power, data and talent among few economic actors is a danger to the common good. Therefore, we support initiatives and discourses that contribute to more diversity in technology development and that reflect our social diversity.

You can find out more information about our work on our blog.