With its „Ethics of Algorithms“ project, the Bertelsmann Stiftung is taking a close look at the consequences of algorithmic decision-making in society with the goal of ensuring that these systems are used to serve society. We aim to help inform and advance algorithmic systems that facilitate greater social inclusion. This involves committing to what is best for a society rather than what’s technically possible – so that machine-informed decisions can best serve humankind.
The project focuses on three areas:
- Awareness-raising: Here, the project aims to inform the public of the opportunities, risks and, above all, the relevance of algorithmic processes. This kind of awareness is fundamental for building a consensus on social inclusion as an overriding objective and cultivating the willingness to test and scale relevant solutions.
- Structure the debate: Here, the project will provide input to foster a fact-based, solutions-driven national discussion. What needs to be done and how can these things be achieved? Action-oriented analysis help us structure change.
- Develop solutions: Here, the project will test promising approaches to be applied at the intersection of technology and society.
Our understanding of social inclusion involves ensuring individuals and organizations alike equal access to processes of political decision-making and consensus-building as well as providing fair opportunities of access to participating in social, cultural and economic development. This is primarily about being able to participate in democratic processes (political inclusion) but also about being able to participate in the achievements and gains made in a society that include everything from” (our translation of the original German text here: Beirat Integration 2013).
Inclusion in this sense envisions the need for everyone to have a minimum of material resources in order to participate in and contribute to society. Ensuring social an d political inclusion thus involves providing “equal footing in the access to basic social goods” (Meyer 2016). Aspects of this are, for example, included in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural rights (Bundesgesetzblatt 1966). Making this kind of equal-opportunity inclusion possible requires that a society invest in areas that promote the development of individual capabilities (Bertelsmann Stiftung 2016: page 70). It is therefore the shared responsibility of governments and communities alike to be vigilant in ensuring that every individual in society can indeed take advantage of the available opportunities.