Technology Outlook 2017

The Technology Outlook has established itself as an annual symposium of the Swiss Informatics Society. It traditionally takes up socially relevant topics of digitization in the context of the megatrends virtualization, personalization, automation, big data, etc. and discusses their long-term, positive and negative effects on society and the world we live in “from a higher vantage point”, so to speak. High-profile, international speakers from the academic world will present sometimes astonishing results from the context of their research in generally understandable terms and will take questions from the moderator and the audience as part of a round table. This year’s focus topics include Big Data and its uses, human-machine interaction, power of algorithms, digital democracy, cyber profiling, and software security. Stay informed about digital developments from an appointed expert source and don’t miss out on attending Technology Outlook at ETH Zurich’s prestigious Auditorium Maximum.

Location: Auditorium Maximum of ETH Zurich
Date: September 11, 2017
Time: 9:30 – 17:30
Cost: SI members free of charge; non-members 80 sFr.



Moderation, Priska Altorfer

09:30 – 10:00 Registration

10:00 – 10:50 David Gugerli, ETH Zurich, Collegium Helveticum, Zurich
“Digital Society”

10:50 – 11:40 Ursula Münch, Academy for Political Education, Tutzing
“Disruptive democracy? The significance of digitalization for politics and society”

11:40 – 12:30 Kevin Koidl, Trinity College, Dublin.
“Know Thyself. Are we aware of our digital self?”

12:30 – 14:00 Stehlunch & Visionstag MeetUp.

14:00 – 14:50 Michael Hampe, ETH, Zurich.
“Machines as Metaphors for the Human Being.”

14:50 – 15:40 Matthias Spielkamp, AlgorithmWatch, Berlin.
“Death by Tesla? Why we need a different discussion about algorithms.”

15:40 – 16:30 Bernhard Hämmerli, University of Applied Sciences, Lucerne.
“Program development and security: a contradiction?”

16:30 – 17:30 Round table discussion with all speakers on “Homo Digitalis”.
Moderation, Harald Atmanspacher

Download Program



Digital Society, David Gugerli

This article explores the question of how the emergence of a digital society can be explained. The starting point is the observation that “digital society” as a form of social self-description only began to spread in the mid-1980s, that is, almost four decades after digital computers were also used outside the military-academic complex. The framework for these reflections is an article recently written by David Gugerli and Daniela Zetti for the New Historical Dictionary of Switzerland.

Disruption of democracy? The significance of digitalization for politics and society, Ursula Münch

While digitization is expanding opportunities for political participation, at the same time it is negatively impacting guarantees of democracy that we have previously considered important. What appears to be a change in mere forms of communication is having a drastic impact on democracy. As a result of these changes, the distance between the people and politicians is widening, the appearances of populists are becoming more effective, and trust in politics is shrinking. At the same time, the distorting effect of digital forms of communication diminishes the prospect of bringing conflicting interests into balance and to a common denominator and conflict to an amicable resolution. In this way, a key advantage of the democratic political process is lost. In addition to considering various dangers that digitalization can pose to democracy, the lecture will address the question of where to start so that digital disruption does not disrupt democracy. How sensible is it to focus on combating “fake news”, and what contribution can and must the various educational institutions make?

My, Myself and I – The Future of Social Media in a Constantly Changing and Hyperconnected Society’, Dr. Kevin Koidl.

The lecture is dedicated to current and future issues related to social media, social media ethics & privacy, as well as other topics such as fake news and cyber bullying. However, the focus is on the tension between perceived and real online behavior, which should motivate users on the one hand to better understand the context and on the other hand to consciously control their digital footprint. The different types of footprints and profiles will be discussed based on ongoing research in the context of the social media data awareness campaign and the “bigfoot” research project. This is intended to promote understanding of the differences between what people think they are doing online and what they are really doing. However, the overall goal of the talk is to promote the competence of the “digital citizen” in the use of social media, especially in terms of evaluating the data being injected and its implications.

Machines as Metaphors for the Human Being, Michael Hampe, ETH, Zurich.

Humans have been describing themselves for many hundreds of years using comparisons with machines. If one follows the metaphrology of the philosopher of culture and technology Hans Blumenberg, a metaphorical undercurrent underlies the development of the concept of man here. Three of the most prominent examples in this context are the clock, the steam engine, and the computer. Comparisons of man with these machines highlight different aspects about man: regulated movement, control of energy levels, and processing of information. All of these aspects are relevant to an understanding of man as a living and thinking being. However, there is no criterion for the nobilization of one of these aspects as the essential characteristic of man, especially not there, where machines themselves realize these characteristics, possibly even in a more perfect form than man, without that these machines would therefore have to be sorted under the class of man. Thus one can argue with Alan Turing for the fact that a machine which passes the Turing test thinks in the literal sense. However, one would not therefore call it a human being. Machine metaphors for knowing humans as generic beings are therefore helpful, but not likely to fix a nature of humans that would be independent of any particular scientific and metaphorical perspective.

Program development and security: a contradiction?, Dr. Bernhard Hämmerli

Cyber security, information security and IT security are on everyone’s lips today. Every day we read about new successful attacks, sometimes even devastating ones. The situation is worrying and the losses are high: In 2014 Bitcom calculated a loss due to cyber incidents of 1.6% of the gross domestic product for Germany. The pain threshold is already strained. In our colleges and universities we successfully teach how programs should be developed, how they should be made efficient and how they should be formulated elegantly. The art of software engineering, how to systematically develop programs step by step from requirements, is also a subject of teaching, as is Software Project Management. We are good at generating functionalities, but unfortunately, internationally as well as in Switzerland, secure programming and the writing of security requirement specifications are not included in the teaching. Secure programming was recognized as a topic by Microsoft in 2001 in the famous mail from Bill Gates: He stopped all development activities for 2 months and trained the whole company in writing secure programs. Individual companies have also started programs in this regard in Switzerland, but the universities have not. The second area, writing Security Requirement Specifications is also in trouble: unfortunately almost no topic. The consequence of both omissions are vulnerabilities of many software systems in use in the economy today. The ethical question of whether technology may be trained without simultaneously including the security aspects is raised and controversially debated.

Death by Tesla? Why we need a different discussion about algorithms, Matthias Spielkamp.

When algorithms decide, it is neutral, value-free and better than when humans do it. Some say. Algorithms are evil, uncontrollable and will one day make us their slaves. Say the others. Both are nonsense. What is true is that, in order for us to enjoy the positive effects of “algorithmic” technologies, traceability, accountability, and effective sanction mechanisms must ensure that personal freedoms are not restricted and that decisions are not made that are inconsistent with our notions of dignity, justice, and autonomy. How can we achieve this?



David Gugerli, ETH Zurich, Collegium Helveticum, Zurich

David Gugerli, born in 1961, has been full professor of the history of technology at ETH Zurich since 2001. After studying history and literature, he received his doctorate in history in 1987, habilitated at the University of Zurich in 1995, and was appointed assistant professor at ETH Zurich in 1997. He was a guest at the Maison des Sciences de l’Homme in Paris (1988 and 1991), Visiting Fellow at Stanford University (1992), Investigador visitante at the Colegio de México (1989-1993), Fellow at the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin (1993/94), Fellow at the International Research Center for Cultural Studies in Vienna (1994), and Professor at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (1996). 2006 Guest of the Rector of the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin; 2008/09 Senior Fellow of the Zukunftskolleg of the University of Konstanz. In 2014/15, he was a Senior Fellow at the Digital Cultures Research Lab at Leuphana University Lüneburg. He is currently a Fellow at the Collegium Helveticum and a member of the Turing Center at ETH.

Prof. Dr. Ursula Münch, Director of the Academy for Political Education in Tutzing

Prof. Dr. Ursula Münch has been director of the Academy for Political Education in Tutzing (Bavaria) since November 2011. She completed her academic training as a political scientist at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität in Munich; research and teaching stays took place at New York University as well as at the University of Minnesota. She also received her doctorate and habilitation from LMU Munich. Her research interests include federalism and party research, policy field analyses (asylum and immigration policy, education policy, family policy, internal security, network policy), and issues of social integration. Münch is, among other things, a member of the German Science Council, the University Council of the Ludwig-Maximilians-University of Munich, as well as the University Advisory Board of the School of Politics (TUM), the Research Center RISK (Risk, Infrastructure, Security and Conflict) at the University of the Federal Armed Forces, and the Munich Centre for Internet Research, located at the Bavarian Academy of Sciences and Humanities. Ursula Münch is married, has two school-age children and lives in Munich.

Dr. Kevin Koidl, Computer Science Department of Trinity College 

Dr. Kevin Koidl is a research associate in the Computer Science Department of Trinity College and the ADAPT Research Center. His research areas include privacy, personalization, social media intelligence, and artificial intelligence. He is the founder of TCD spin-out Wripl Technologies, a cognitive content and smart analytics company and co-founder of a global short-form literature translation and publishing platform, as well as the initiator of, an online data campaign for privacy awareness

Michael Hamp, professor of philosophy at ETH Zurich.

Michael Hampe, full professor of philosophy at ETH Zurich. Studied philosophy, biology and literature in Heidelberg and Cambridge. Fields of research: Pragmatism, history of philosophy in the early modern period (especially Spinoza and Hobbes), philosophy of technology. Last book publication: The Doctrines of Philosophy. A Critique, Berlin 2014

Matthias Spielkamp, AlgorithmWatch, Berlin.

Matthias Spielkamp is co-founder of AlgorithmWatch and founding member and editor of (Grimme Online Award). He has held teaching positions at various German universities and was an expert witness for the German parliament on artificial intelligence and robotics, intelligence control, online journalism, and copyright. He is currently a Bucerius Fellow of the ZEIT Foundation; in 2015/16, he was a Fellow of the Mercator Foundation and a visiting scholar at the Alexander von Humboldt Institute for Internet and Society (HIIG). Spielkamp is a member of the board of Reporters Without Borders Germany and the advisory board of the Whistleblower Network. In the steering committee of the German Internet Governance Forum (IGF-D), he is co-chair for the science and civil society groups. Books: Digital Politics. Eine Einführung (ed. 2017) Guidebook Internet Governance (ed. 2016), Groundbreaking Journalism (ed. 2014); Arbeit 2.0, 2009 (with V. Djordjevic et al.); Urheberrecht im Alltag, 2008 (with V. Djordjevic et al.); Schreiben fürs Web, 2003 (with M. Wieland). MA Philosophy (FU Berlin), MA Journalism (Univ. of Colorado, Boulder)

Prof. Dr. Bernhard Hämmerli

Prof. Dr. Bernhard Hämmerli is an internationally active professor and manager with many years of leadership and development experience at colleges and universities, in business and associations. He is a recognized expert in ICT networking, security, critical infrastructure and energy issues. He teaches at the Norwegian University for Science and Technology NTNU and at the Hochschule Informatik in Luzern in the areas of networking and security. He is director of the CISCO Academy Central Switzerland and the Swiss CISO Summit.  He is Chair of the Steering Committee of the CRITIS Conference Series, the scientific conference in Critical Infrastructure. In 2013-2017, he was President of the Cyber-Security Theme Platform of the Swiss Academy of Engineering Sciences and was awarded the Outstanding Achievement Award for his services in 2017. He also heads Acris GmbH, a security and critical infrastructure company. He is also Editor in Chief of the European Newsletter for Critical Infrastructures (ECN) and co-editor of the journal for data protection and information security DIGMA.

Harald Atmanspacher, Moderation

Harald Atmanspacher has been a member of the executive board of the Collegium Helveticum Zurich since 2013. He studied physics in Göttingen, Zurich and Munich, received his PhD in Munich in 1985 and habilitated in theoretical physics at the University of Potsdam in 1995. After his PhD, he worked at the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics in Garching until 1998 and was then head of the theory group at the Institute for Frontier Areas of Psychology Freiburg until 2013. He has taught at the Universities of Heidelberg, Munich, Freiburg, UT Austin, ETH Zurich, Thessaloniki, and at various summer schools of the German National Academic Foundation. His research appointments include the Santa Fe Institute, UT Austin, University of Indiana at Bloomington, and Purdue University. He is a member of the Turing Center Zurich, teaches complex systems theory at Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, and is a board member of the Center for Contextuality Across Disciplines at Purdue University. He has been editor of the interdisciplinary journal Mind and Matter since 2003 and president of the Society for Mind-Matter Research since 2012.


Priska Altorfer, Moderation

Priska Altorfer has been working as a consultant in the field of security, governance, risk & compliance for more than 15 years. In her function as CEO, she is involved in the development of innovative software products in the compliance area. In the area of innovation, she focuses on the possibilities of new business models brought about by digitalization. She is Managing Partner of wikima4 AG in Zug, a leading international software company for Governance Risk and Compliance.  Priska Altorfer is a board member of the Swiss Informatics Society, department: Industry4.0, ethics, public relations and leadership team member of the professional group donna informatica. She leads the AK2 IT Governance of SwissICT, and is a lecturer for Compliance at the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts in the Business Informatics program. Priska Altorfer is the author of various specialist publications, including the study on SAP Security, Digital Transformation in Industry and Society. Priska Altorfer recently won the Golden Speaker Award at the International Speaker Slam in Germany on the topic of “Digital Gold”.