Digital Transformation: Business and Ethics as Usual?

Positive outcome of the 7th Autumn Academy: 19 participants from 13 universities, 14 impulses from academia and practice and an engaged dialog with Prof. Wolfgang Huber about humans, gods and machines.

Does digitalization create new ethical questions? Or does it only exacerbate familiar problems with new urgency? And above all: How should we face up to the ethical conflicts emerging from digitalization ? These questions were the focus of the "7th Wittenberg Autumn Academy," which was attended by 19 students and doctoral candidates from various departments at 13 universities throughout Germany.

Prof. Dr. Andreas Suchanek, HHL Leipzig, and Prof. Dr. Ingo Pies, MLU Halle-Wittenberg, introduced their respective approaches to business and corporate ethics. Dr. Martin von Broock presented the work of the WCGE and showed the role that questions around the ethics of digitalization play at the center. With different emphases, Dr. Nikolai Horn, iRights.Lab / Intiative 21, PD. Dr. Jörg Noller, University of Konstanz, and Dr. des. Sabine Wiesmüller, Bodensee Innovationscluster, described what they saw as the central ethical issues in the field of digitization and outlined different theoretical or practice-oriented approaches to solving them. Dr. Alexander Reese gave an insight into his work as an artificial intelligence ethicist at Google, USA. Emma van den Terrell, PhD student at the doctoral program “Ethics and Responsible Leadership in Business,” showed how she uses an app to research ensuring human rights in international supply chains. Dr. Michael Walter, WCGE, discussed with participants how digitization and the use of smart meters can help address the energy and climate crisis. Manon Filler, also a doctoral student of the WCGE program, presented the student network for business & corporate ethics sneep.

A special highlight of the week was the hybrid evening event "Border Transgressings in Digitalization." Here, Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Huber, retired bishop and WCGE Board of Trustees member, presented insights into his new book "Menschen, Götter und Maschinen: Eine Ethik der Digitalisierung" (C.H. Beck) and discussed together with the students and guests how to shape digitalization on the individual, corporate and societal level in a way that preserves the autonomy and dignity of the individual.

As the final feedback from the participants shows, they particularly appreciated the practical content of the academy week and the transfer of theoretical impulses to concrete examples. They also emphasized how valuable it is to be able to discuss central ethical issues of digitization in an interdisciplinary setting for a whole week. We would like to thank all the speakers for their impulses  and especially the Heinz und Heide Dürr Stiftung for their generous support.