It has become clear in recent years that digitalisation is far from being a mere series of new gadgets; it has in fact triggered a societal transition that raises new questions about security, online discrimination and exclusion, influence and autonomy, and the power and responsibility of the companies that develop digital technology.
The difference between online and offline is fading. As a result, we increasingly live in a digital society – without knowing precisely what that means. Digital technologies are changing the way teachers teach, how doctors and patients talk to each other, what politicians debate, and how people share news. Behind the scenes, algorithms and artificial intelligence work in ways we often don’t even recognise. Our society is being utterly transformed.
The role of the Rathenau Instituut in discussing digitalisation
How do we ensure that society is able to steer its own course, come up with its own solutions, dare to ask questions and, where necessary, make demands on government and industry? How can digitalisation lead to an inclusive society? And how can it provide opportunities to address societal challenges in such areas as climate change, food safety, healthcare and public administration? These are the questions that we are considering in our ‘Digital society’ programme.
Dialogue on the effects of new technologies
Over the past several decades, the Rathenau Instituut has developed conceptual frameworks for discussing emerging technology in relation to what is important to us in Europe: our values and human rights, which we have seen enshrined worldwide even if they are interpreted locally in different ways. We have investigated the effects – both visible and less visible – on society as a whole, including power imbalances, control over technology, security and justice.
Over the next two years, we will engage with groups in society to learn what they need to make choices. It goes without saying that we inform politicians, shed light on these developments, and clarify which choices this requires of them. In addition to the national level, we concern ourselves with local politics. We also work with other institutes to inform the European Parliament and other international forums.