Social BRIDGES 3: A glance into the future


The third Social BRIDGES e-conference on April 21 – 23, 2021, hosted by the Institute of Psychology at the Universität der Bundeswehr München, gathered renowned experts from 12 countries representing fields of research ranging from informatics and robotics to neurosciences and philosophy to discuss the near future of human-AI cooperation. This interdisciplinary scientific community focused on the growing scope of AI’s involvement in diverse aspects of everyday life and both the opportunities that emerge from its development but also risks and potential dangers of these technologies while highlighting common stereotypes, popular fears and misconceptions related to machine learning.

The international and interdisciplinary forum with the topic “The near-future of AI: How will humans and AI interact in 5 years?” was organized thanks to efforts of Prof. Merle Fairhurst supported by her team at the Institute of Psychology and Dr. Maximilian Moll from the Institute of Theoretical Informatics, Mathematics and Operations Research at the Universität der Bundeswehr München, in collaboration with Prof. Ophelia Deroy and her team from Chair in Philosophy of Mind at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München. True to the principles of open and free worldwide access that the e-conference series Social BRIDGES stands for, this event’s talks were broadcasted live on YouTube and archived on the conference’s website.

When humans and machines learn from each other

One of the main topics of discussion was the issue of trust between humans and robots, addressed in the opening keynote by Dr. Philipp Kellmeyer, Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg. An important factor in building up this trust, aside from anthropomorphic features of robots, is the fact that the development of AI’s memory structure is influenced by the knowledge in the field of neuroscience, and in particular, by human brain research. Trust in machines was also explored in the keynote talk by Prof. Iyad Rahwan, Max Planck institute for Human Development, centring on the role of human expectations in critical situations as well as on the importance of addressing the possibility of such critical situations during decision-making on the use of machines, such as establishing public policies on autonomous vehicles.

The variety of talk topics was in itself an impressive statement about the rapid expanse of algorithm use in more and more areas of our lives: from the now well-known innovation of robot taxis, studied by Dr. Jurgis Karpus, or AI agents that we are still getting used to, like digital personal assistants analysed by Dr. Silvia Milano, to fields of expertise traditionally reserved for humans, such as professional soccer training, highlighted by Dr. Radu Uszkai, or wine recommendations, researched by Dr. Pantelis Analytis. An important thing to keep in mind, though, is the fact that human-machine communication and cooperation are anything but a one-way street; an artificial agent capable of learning would also learn from the way humans treat it, and, in return, influence the people that interact with it. Possibilities of putting this influencing potential to good use were presented in the keynote talk by Prof. Katie Winkle, KTH Royal Institute of Technology Stockholm with an example of social robots functioning as caregivers, of information providers that can be programmed to stimulate questioning and deconstructing of gender stereotypes in the people with whom they communicate.


Social BRIDGES Day 3 keynote talk. Dr. Maximilian Moll, Prof. Gregory M. Reichberg

Overcoming fears with knowledge and responsibility: Who is afraid of killer robots?

Applications of AI-based technologies in the military domain were covered in the keynote talk by Prof. Gregory M. Reichberg, PRIO - Peace Research Institute Oslo, focusing in particular on moral issues that are to be considered during the establishment of international law regulations for their use. The main sources of risk here are possibilities of technical errors as well as the human influence factor: “As a powerful tool, AI can be intentionally misused for wrongful ends, whether by deliberate misdirection or by malicious interference”, Prof. Reichberg stated. Therefore, the use of autonomous weapon systems requires rational evaluation of risks and opportunities as well as thorough ethical reflections beyond stereotypical thinking. Speaking of stereotypes: in his keynote talk Prof. Michael Winikoff, Victoria University Wellington, stressed the crucial importance of popular science communication on topics of artificial intelligence and robotics, contrasting widespread myths and common misconceptions about AI potential and possibilities – including the “killer robot apocalypse” classic – with facts on actual functions and aims of the AI as well on its current perspectives and state of development.

“It was an excellent conference!”, speaker and participant Dr. Sebastian Krügel representing TU München and TH Ingolstadt concluded looking back at three days of Social BRIDGES, “As an experimental economist, I have been to several "wanna-be" interdisciplinary conferences and yours was truly one bringing different fields together!”


The Social BRIDGES 3 team: Prof. Merle Fairhurst, Dr. Maximilian Moll, Prof. Ophelia Deroy, Louis Longin, Dr. Jurgis Karpus, Dr. Olga Lantukhova

You are welcome to explore the findings of the past conferences on the YouTube channel and on the website of Social BRIDGES.

Conference summary in German language (by Olga Lantukhova) on the central news page of the Universität der Bundeswehr München and on the news page of the Institute for Psychology, Universität der Bundeswehr München


Text summary by Olga Lantukhova

Images: Gerd Altmann/Pixabay;  Institut für Psychologie, Universität der Bundeswehr München