In this fast-paced environment where technology is an irreplaceable attribute to our modern-day societies, questions about the flows of data we exchange via multiple devices that we own, the electronic residue we leave behind while browsing the internet and the final destination of this data often remain unanswered. At the same time, new applications of data can make a great contribution to human flourishing, but, to realise these benefits, societies must navigate significant choices and dilemmas.
The pan-European ALLEA-Royal Society conference “Flourishing in a data-enabled society” delved into these conundrums during a two-day event held in Buckinghamshire (UK) on 1-2 November 2018. Experts explored major opportunities and challenges that come with new uses of data, and discussed the potential trade-offs that stem from such use across various sectors: in society, from academics to governments, from civil society actors to tech industry. In a set of keynotes, panel discussions and breakout sessions experts from ALLEA Member Academies representing a variety of academic backgrounds and stakeholders from a multitude of sectors convened for an interactive and multidisciplinary conference at Chicheley Hall, the Royal Society’s residential conference centre.
From fearing new uses of data to data-enabled human flourishing?
A close-up view revealed that not only has this topic gained in relevance over the past few years; it has transformed the ways users perceive technology as large parts of the society increasingly fear the human autonomy be put at risk. Flourishing as such was addressed during the conference from a number of angles while experts from the field of ethics, law and public policy argued that living a good digital life should be viewed at the centre of discussions around the topic of data use.
In his introductory speech, ALLEA President Antonio Loprieno underlined the omnipresence of data in the daily lives of citizens: “Data raises questions like privacy, accountability, legal and ethical aspects. But the core question is certainly how we, humans, can share and use data without the fear of facing a risk. How can data be collected, processed and managed for human good?”
“Data raises questions like privacy, accountability, legal and ethical aspects. But the core question is certainly how we, humans, can share and use data without the fear of facing a risk. How can data be collected, processed and managed for human good?” – Antonio Loprieno, ALLEA President
The conference marked the beginning of an interdisciplinary debate across Europe that is timely, relevant and applicable to the digital era. Outcomes of the conference will be released in a discussion paper that will seek to inspire and shape the discourse around a data-enabled Europe. This initiative is the result of a Royal Society-led proposal first presented in the context of ALLEA’s 2017 General Assembly in Budapest.
To learn more on the topic, read ALLEA’s interview with Prof Richard Catlow, Royal Society Foreign Secretary and Vice-President, and Chair of the Organising Scientific Committee of the “Flourishing in a data-enabled society” project.