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© HfG Karlsruhe

The research group KIM of the HfG Karlsruhe has received a confirmation by the Volkswagen Foundation for the funding of the initiative "Artificial Intelligence - Its Effects on the Society of Tomorrow".

In twelve months, the research group can now prepare its project with a budget of EUR 108,000. The funded project titled "How Do Intelligent Machines See the World? "Breaking the Black Box and Designing Tools for a Transparent AI" wants to break KI's construct of an incomprehensible and mysterious black box and explain its inner logic to the public. The HfG Karlsruhe as a place of theory and practice, where free research can be encouraged and new ways of thinking is possible, can give a special impetus.

"The current media hype about Artificial Intelligence (AI) is opposed to a proper understanding of AI," says Prof. Dr. med. Matteo Pasquinelli, who researches the forms and consequences of AI at the Karlsruhe University of Arts and Design. "Media coverage reinforces the already existing social image of AI as omnipotent or dystopian technology and too often superficially talks about the limitations and contradictions of AI, starting with machine learning being the correct term," he says.

The German government promotes the "digital transformation" under the keywords "Industry 4.0" or "High-tech industry" - production chains should organize themselves as far as possible and network people, machines, plants, logistics and products. While the business community is already working with AI, the humanities lack systematic research to truly understand the mathematical complexity and logical limitations of AI.

This was among other reasons for Prof. Dr. Pasquinelli the occasion 2017 to call to life the research group Artificial Intelligence and Media Philosophy (KIM) at the HfG Karlsruhe, which deconstructs KI from the philosophical, media-theoretical and artistic perspective as complex apparatus, explains inner functioning and new critical perspectives possible.

KIM is the first research group in the academic landscape of Baden-Württemberg and Germany that combines media theory, visual studies, and AI. In addition to KIM, the research network also involves the KIT Karlsruhe, the University of Potsdam and Leuphana University Lüneburg.

"We want to build an interdisciplinary research network to strengthen critical AI research and reflection on fundamental societal transformation by taking advantage of the experience and knowledge of the humanities and natural sciences," says Ariana Dongus who coordinates the research group with Pasquinelli. She has just come from the media theory seminar of Prof. Dr. Pasquinelli, in which students discussed the historical precursors of modern computers at the time of the industrial revolution in Victorian England. In order to realize the ambitious goal of a research network, the project group is cooperating in new constellations between computer science, mathematics and humanities to illuminate the "blind spots" of AI and to develop a well-founded critical theory about AI. "In fact, we need a lot of specialized knowledge to be able to work on complex questions, such as how AI modifies working conditions through automation or which new forms of knowledge generate statistical models," adds Prof. Dr. Pasquinelli.

The project objective is therefore also to develop cultural interfaces as "communication bridges" in order to establish a dialogue between society and AI applications, often based on opaque statistical calculations and not immune to errors and distortions. The results of the project's research groups will be presented next year at transmediale in Berlin as well as in a publication. The goal is to receive a multi-year grant from the Volkswagen Foundation after the preparatory phase in order to expand the research network and give (inter) national postdocs the opportunity to conduct research at the HfG Karlsruhe.