AI creates excitement and worry at digital festival in Berlin

It is one of the largest festivals of its kind in Europe.

Since 2007, Re:publica has been held annually in the German capital Berlin.

Around 25,000 people are expected to attend this year’s event to discuss all aspects of the digitalisation of the world.

“Re:publica is Europe’s largest digital conference on the digital society,” says Re:publica co-founder Markus Beckendahl.

“Over the next three days, we can expect 1,800 speakers in over 800 different sessions, bringing to the stage the most diverse debates and issues of an evolving digital society, and reflecting on the kind of society we want to live in together.”

This year’s theme is “Who cares?” A play on words with a serious message.

Organizers want to people to start thinking about questions like: who will take care of the elderly in the future? Who cares that society works?

And above all these concerns and questions there is one main theme – artificial intelligence (AI).

“The artificial intelligence revolution is here. Many tools enrich our lives,” says Beckendahl.

“But AI is also currently leading to a concentration of power in fewer and fewer hands or companies. And we need to find ways to democratise AI.”

Organisations from all over the world are represented at the festival, including Digital Innovation in Pandemic Control (DIPC).

The organisation is trying to apply the lessons learned during the pandemic to health issues around the world.

Monica Amponsah is the project coordinator in Ghana.

“How can we ethically ensure that all the opportunities that AI has to offer help improve the health of people around the world,” she asks.

The year 2024 has been dubbed the “super election year”, with elections in the EU, the US, India, South Africa, the UK and many other countries.

There is great concern that AI will be used to spread disinformation and undermine the democratic process.

Matthias Heider is a disinformation researcher at the Institute for Democracy and Society (IDZ) in Jena, Germany.

“Especially when it comes to disinformation, especially in election years, you can of course always see attempts to undermine democratic processes and stir up more hatred,” he says.

“But AI can also have a positive effect here. We can simply help moderators on communities and platforms to identify hate quickly and take swift action against it, which can also help those affected.”

The Re:publica digital festival opened on 27 May and runs until 29 May.

Additional sources • AP