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High-performance computing on issues of the future: The German Climate Computing Centre

If we want to keep climate change within tolerable limits and foresee the changes we will face, then we must make climate as calculable as possible. Climate research has therefore become increasingly significant in recent decades, for policy makers as well public discourse. How do scientists arrive at the results that we perceive as scenarios, forecasts and warnings? Part of the answer is: on the basis of simulations, for which mathematical climate models have to be combined with large amounts of data. In Germany, researchers have had access to the German Climate Computing Centre (DKRZ) in Hamburg since the late 1980s – a high-performance computing centre that is maintained by the public sector specifically for the purpose of climate research and which, in addition to computing time on optimised supercomputers, also offers broad support and services for its users. What exactly happens at DKRZ and how does it differ from other high-performance computing centres? What contribution does it make – to science in Germany and in international cooperation? Could modern technologies such as quantum computers or machine learning help us to understand the climate better and more quickly in the future? And: What does the climate impact of climate computing look like?

Prof. Thomas Ludwig is a computer scientist and heads the German Climate Computing Centre (DKRZ). As a scientist, he also researches and teaches at the University of Hamburg. In this episode of Digitalgespräch, the expert for scientific computing presents the mission of this special computing centre. In the process, Ludwig also explains how high-performance computing has developed since the 1990s and how the interaction between scientific modelling and the possibilities offered by state-of-the-art supercomputers leads to breakthroughs in climate research. With hosts Marlene Görger and Petra Gehring, Ludwig discusses what concrete benefits the results of climate research and data collected in the process can bring to other scientific communities and the public, whether research infrastructure receives too little attention – and why it’s not such a big deal if incorrect weather forecasts become a little more incorrect through machine learning.

Episode 23 of Digitalgespräch, feat. Thomas Ludwig of the German Climate Computing Centre, 14 June 2022
Further informationen:

Link to the Website of the German Climate Computing Centre: https://dkrz.de/en

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The podcast is in German. At the moment there is no English version or transcript available.

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Open source for the public sector: The example of Schleswig-Holstein

Our information society has developed into dependencies that are really quite unacceptable: A few digital corporations dictate prices and terms of business, because no one can avoid using their software any more. We also have to rely blindly on the integrity of international supply chains. So we are far from being in control of the functionality and functioning of our digital infrastructures. Moreover, the systems we use often do not meet European requirements, e.g. in terms of data protection and fundamental rights. At the very least, a reasonable, i.e. controllable, digitality requires that the functioning of our technology remains comprehensible and is also designed to be legally compliant. A keyword that comes up again and again is becoming relevant for the public sector as well: Open Source.

The computer scientist Marit Hansen is the data protection commissioner of the state of Schleswig-Holstein – the first German federal state that has undertaken to convert the entire public administration, schools and authorities completely to open source. In this episode of Digitalgespräch, the expert explains how this strategy came about, how such a plan is put into practice, how to motivate politicians, employees and IT experts to pull together, and also how cooperation is developing within the federal government and Europe. Hansen discusses with hosts Marlene Görger and Petra Gehring what role open source plays for the long-term goal of digital sovereignty, why not only the software but also the hardware must be “open”, what the state’s IT competence looks like – and why, despite all the failures, there is something good to be gained from the slowness in the digitisation of German administration.

Episode 22 of Digitalgespräch, feat. Marit Hansen, data protection commissioner of the state of Schleswig-Holstein, 24 May 2022
Further informationen:

Link to press release “Digitalisierung in Schleswig-Holstein – Chancen durch Open Source” (18 June 2018): https://www.datenschutzzentrum.de/artikel/1245-Digitalisierung-in-Schleswig-Holstein-Chancen-durch-Open-Source.html

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The podcast is in German. At the moment there is no English version or transcript available.

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From data protection to data sovereignty: informational self-determination in the digital society

Although the fundamental right to informational self-determination in our democracy is still valid: the rules and demands of data protection are at least controversial. It is not only that consistent data protection can hardly be guaranteed in practice. It systematically fails because of non-transparent business models or the carelessness of consumers who thoughtlessly share their data and data traces. Moreover, the question increasingly arises whether data protection does not restrict citizens’ interest in actively using their personal data for their own and society’s benefit. If the alternative is only “protect” or “give away”, we cannot impose conditions on the use of our data. Nor can we invest it purposefully, let it work in a controlled way, as it were. Examples from medical research are obvious, for example when patients want to “donate” data in their own interest. And even beyond health issues, individuals are hindered or even prevented from participating in the potentials of big data. Collective interests can also hardly be linked to data sharing. Thus, new concepts of data sovereignty question classical data protection: instead of the idea of protecting and shielding, the motive of a responsible, productive and creative use of the data that we generate in our daily lives should come into play.

Prof. Dr. Steffen Augsberg teaches and researches at Justus Liebig University in Giessen and is a member of the German Ethics Council. The specialist on questions about the ethical implications of our constitutional rights is also a proven expert on the idea of data sovereignty. In this episode of “Digitalgespräch”, he explains the concepts concerned and how data protection and data sovereignty are related to the right to informational self-determination. With hosts Marlene Görger and Petra Gehring, he discusses where the development of data sovereignty as a new guiding paradigm could go, which questions arise about practical implementation, security and trust, and why data protection still remains an option – just not the only one.

Episode 21 of Digitalgespräch, feat. Steffen Augsberg of Justus Liebig University Giessen, 3 May 2022
Further informationen:

Link to the statement of the German Ethics Council on Big Data and Health: https://www.ethikrat.org/en/publications/publication-details/?tx_wwt3shop_detail%5Bproduct%5D=4&tx_wwt3shop_detail%5Baction%5D=index&tx_wwt3shop_detail%5Bcontroller%5D=Products&cHash=7bb9aadb656b877f9dbd49a61e39df2f

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The podcast is in German. At the moment there is no English version or transcript available.

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From cartoons to Instagram: “perfect pictures” impact children’s self and body image

Instagram is the realm of perfect images. Adults who access social media at a later stage in life, as well as younger people who grow up with it, know that those pictures have little to do with the analogue reality behind these idealised worlds. Nevertheless, elaborately staged and digitally edited images with which influencers reach young and very young people in particular have an impact. Often, insecurities arise in viewers which are fed by discrepancies: between one’s own appearance and that of professionally good-looking models, between real bodies and their idealised images, between the diffuse feeling of having to be perfect while experiencing failure. Of course, such moments do not only arise in the digital world. But they accumulate and intensify where the preoccupation with perfection intensifies – and a large part of the image platform Instagram has developed into a veritable stage of flawlessness. For girls and young women in particular, Instagram therefore poses risks to their self-esteem: despite all the efforts towards modernity and emancipation, appearance still seems to play a defining role for them.

Media scientist and media educator Maya Götz heads the International Central Institute for Youth and Educational Television (IZI) at Bayerischer Rundfunk. In this episode of Digitalgespräch, the expert explains how boys and girls deal with media as well as media content, where the social environment sets the course for such differences to develop between sexes and genders and what role children’s first smartphones play. With hosts Marlene Görger and Petra Gehring, Götz discusses where the influence of social media on the development of body images begins to be harmful, why girls still have narrower scope for their individuality than boys and how this inequality might be reinforced by social media. trust plays in this.

Episode 20 of Digitalgespräch, feat. Maya Götz of International Central Institute for Youth and Educational Television (IZI) of Bayerischer Rundfunk, 12 April 2022
Further informationen:

Link to the study on the self-presentation of female influencers on Instagram: https://www.br-online.de/jugend/izi/deutsch/publikation/televizion/32_2019_1/Goetz-Die_Selbstinszenierung_von_Influencerinnen.pdf

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The podcast is in German. At the moment there is no English version or transcript available.

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AI in conflict: international norms for lethal autonomous weapon systems

Automation, especially with the help of Artificial Intelligence, should make all kinds of processes faster, more efficient and more precise. The aim is to bypass humans as a limiting factor and create competitive advantages. In the military, this takes on a directly existential dimension: for some years now, artificial intelligence systems have increasingly become part of military equipment and machinery. They can support, prepare or even independently carry out combat operations. In the military, this takes on a directly existential dimension: for some years now, artificial intelligence systems have increasingly become part of military equipment and machinery. Although corresponding negotiations were initiated at UN level in 2013, it has not even been decided among the states involved whether regulation will even be sought. The process is to be continued in Geneva at the beginning of March 2022, but even before Russia’s attack on Ukraine on 24 February 2022, observers saw little chance of a productive process – the supposed advantage that militaries see in LAWS is too great for them to want to commit to renouncing it.

One of the observers of the negotiations within the framework of the UN Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW) is Anja Dahlmann, head of Berlin Office of the Institute for Peace Research and Security Policy at the University of Hamburg and member of the International Panel on the Regulation of Autonomous Weapons (iPRAW). In this episode of Digitalgespräch, the political scientist explains the significance and status of the negotiations and outlines the positions taken by various states. She describes which weapons systems are at stake, how and by whom they are being developed and what we know about their progress. With hosts Marlene Görger and Petra Gehring, Dahlmann discusses what regulatory attempts are aiming at and why they are being pushed forward despite all resistance. The interview was recorded on 17 February 2022, one week before Russia’s attack on Ukraine.

Episode 18 of Digitalgespräch, feat. Anja Dahlmann of Institute for Peace Research and Security Policy, 1 March 2022
Further informationen:

Link to Anja Dahlmann’s profile on the website of the Institute for Peace Research and Security Policy of Universität Hamburg: https://ifsh.de/en/staff/dahlmann

Link to Campaign to Stop Killer Robots : https://www.stopkillerrobots.org/

Link to iPRAW : https://www.ipraw.org/

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The podcast is in German. At the moment there is no English version or transcript available.

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What is Gaia-X?

One hears the name “Gaia-X” more and more often. A new infrastructure is supposed to mediate in the conflict between data protection and growing demands for effective data use. But Gaia-X is also a word of hope in terms of industrial policy: innovative concepts for data sovereignty are to give rise to data products that are in harmony with European values and laws. Europe aims at finding independent, democratic forms of digitality. But how can this be done? In any case, given the market dominance of mainly non-European corporations that currently define the rules and standards of digitality, realising this vision will require an enormous joint effort. In fact, Gaia-X is already on its way and making great strides. However, details are still scarcely known outside expert circles. Therefore, the infrastructure on which the European data ecosystem is to be built is the topic of this episode of Digitalgespräch.

Boris Otto is Professor of Industrial Information Management at TU Dortmund University and Managing Director of the Fraunhofer ISST. In the context of the Gaia-X project he has held various central roles and thus has played a significant part in shaping the developments. In this episode of Digitalgespräch the expert and insider explains exactly what Gaia-X actually is about, which drivers, interests and conditions determine the design and how the progress – and ultimately the success – of the project will be measured. Together with ZEVEDI hosts Marlene Görger and Petra Gehring, Otto discusses the effects Gaia-X can have for companies as well as private individuals and which hurdles will still have to be overcome.

Episode 17 of Digitalgespräch, feat. Boris Otto of Technische Universität Dortmund and Fraunhofer Institute for Software and Systems Engineering ISST, 8 February 2022
Further informationen:

Gaia-X website: https://www.gaia-x.eu/

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The podcast is in German. At the moment there is no English version or transcript available.

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Cookies, AirTags, metadata: Where does tracking lead?

We are potentially tracked wherever we use software. Whether we are surfing the internet or jogging with a smart watch on, we are aware of the fact that data about us and our behaviour are collected and processed for a variaty of purposes. Some of these are indeed intended to benefit us, for example when it comes to monitoring our health or when personalised services are supposed to make our lives more comfortable. Often, however, there are simply financial interests of third parties in the background: companies which make money from our data traces, criminal activities – or in the worst case surveillance measures of authoritarian governments. However: The full potential of increasingly elaborate tracking techniques unfolds only in the progressive networking and interconnectedness of our IT systems. This applies to the supposed benefits just as much as to the risks of misuse.

Matthias Hollick teaches and researches computer science at TU Darmstadt where he heads the Secure Mobile Networking department. In this episode of the ZEVEDI-Podcast “Digitalgespräch”, the expert explains which technologies are already being used today to collect and analyse data about us, which actors are behind those activities and what purposes they pursue. He discusses with hosts Marlene Görger and Petra Gehring the dynamics of the development of potential surveillance technologies, the tension between the benefits and risks of the tracking infrastructures that surround us, where and how regulations might make sense, and what perspectives this opens up for liberal, democratic societies.

Episode 16 of Digitalgespräch, feat. Matthias Hollick of Technische Universität Darmstadt, 25 January 2022
Further informationen:

Link to the website of Matthias Hollick’s department Secure Mobile Networks:
https://www.seemoo.tu-darmstadt.de/

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The podcast is in German. At the moment there is no English version or transcript available.

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Counting with physics: quantum computers in reality

There are limits to the performance of even the most modern supercomputers, which science and technology will probably overcome with the help of quantum physics: With comparatively few quantum bits or qubits, it will then be possible to perform computing operations that the most powerful classical high-performance computers would not be able to cope with. This promises solutions for a number of practical problems in various fields of life and knowledge, likely releasing an enormous potential for development. The processes that will take place in these computers, i.e. how they will function, can only be described precisely in mathematical terms – quantum physics is not known for being particularly easy to perceive. All the more mysterious seems this new type of computing machine, which research groups all over the world are currently developing. In the race for success, international cooperation is just as important as aspiration to prestige and competitive pressure – and also the incentive provided by security concerns. Like any technological advance, quantum acceleration, in which the actual improvement achieved by quantum computers is expressed, is not free of risks for the digital society.

Prof. Dr. Frank Wilhelm-Mauch teaches and researches Theoretical Physics at Saarland University and is currently coordinating the development of a European quantum computer – the flagship project OpenSuperQ – at Forschungszentrum Jülich. In this episode of “Digitalgespräch”, the expert explains how the project came about and the goal it is pursuing, what distinguishes this novel technology and how a layperson can imagine computing with quantum systems. With hosts Marlene Görger and Petra Gehring, he discusses the tasks in which quantum computers promise great progress, how the practicality of quantum computing is developing at the interface between physics, computer science and engineering – and who could get access when and under what conditions.

Episode 15 of Digitalgespräch, feat. Frank Wilhelm-Mauch of Saarland University and Forschungszentrum Jülich, 11 Januar 2022
Further informationen:

Link to the website of the project OpenSuperQ : https://opensuperq.eu/

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The podcast is in German. At the moment there is no English version or transcript available.

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Communicating, progressing, enabling: How does a Digital Minister make politics?

For a long time, digitalisation was a process that progessed without systematic political control, releasing potential for drastic change in all areas of life. In recent years, however, a political awareness has emerged for the disruptions that have occurred. How effective digital politics can offer steering mechanisms for a digital transformation, fit to harness the potential of digitality for society while at the same time responsibly countering a wide variety of new risks – this itself is subject of political discourse. One strategy can be the introduction of dedicated digital departments or so-called “digital ministries”, which a few federal states have made first attempts on in recent years. Hence, digital politicians are emerging who are the first in their guild to level a completely new field.

Kristina Sinemus is the Hessian Minister for Digital Strategy and Innovation and one of the first dedicated ministers for digital matters in Germany. The professor of public affairs and former entrepreneur took over her newly created office at the end of 2019. In this episode of Digitalgespräch, Sinemus explains how she built up her department with its central tasks in terms of organisation, content and strategy, and what hurdles had to be overcome in the process. With hosts Marlene Görger and Petra Gehring, she discusses how priorities can be set in the complex field of digitisation, what role citizen dialogue plays and how political strategies regarding a state such as Hesse relate to European digital politics.

Episode 14 of Digitalgespräch, feat. Kristina Sinemus, Hessian Minister for Digital Strategy and Innovation, 14 December 2021
Further informationen:

Link to the Digital Hessen Strategy: https://www.digitalstrategie-hessen.de/dynasite.cfm?dsmid=513901

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The podcast is in German. At the moment there is no English version or transcript available.

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Likes, ratings and smart assistants – risks of a digital “consumer democracy”

There is an obvious difference between a simple Like and a written-out explanation of a decision: the former is a mere preference that does not reveal any of its criteria, the latter is a justification for a judgement that one can comprehend and adopt or disagree with. Still, both emerge equally when people share their experience online to help others make consumption decisions. In addition, Likes and posted ratings  have a common competitor: the algorithmically generated, personalised recommendation. It is no longer oriented towards explicit human statements, but rather tracks user behaviour. In the extreme, machines automatically start the next suggested song or series without waiting for the user to actively decide. Here, users are no longer even expected to give a rating – the tracked consumer behaviour suffices.

Thus, there is a development from consumer discourse, in which justification is demanded and provided, to unfounded and hardly questionable expressions of affect, to an automated dynamic that no longer calls for reflection – critical consciousness moves further and further into the background and may eventually disappear altogether. Does this picture already apply to our habits today? How can such a shift be traced? And: Where is a society heading that leaves less and less opportunity for critical reflection in everyday life?

Prof. Jörn Lamla researches and teaches in the field of sociological theory at Universität Kassel and has been observing consumer platforms since they appeared on the World Wide Web in the 1990s. In this episode of Digitalgespräch, he explains the changes that the practice of rating and advertising products has taken with the rise of Web 2.0, social media and algorithm-supported platforms, and how today’s forms of digital consumer society are shaking our self-image of the critical, sovereign individual. With hosts Marlene Görger and Petra Gehring, he discusses how consumer habits and different types of digital marketplaces affect democracy and self-determination, which interests are at play and what political challenges could arise from this.

Episode 13 of Digitalgespräch, feat. Jörn Lamla of Universität Kassel, 30 November 2021
Further informationen:

Link to Leopoldina‘s statement on digitalisation and democracy:
https://www.leopoldina.org/en/publications/detailview/publication/digitalisierung-und-demokratie-2021/

Link to Jörn Lamla’s expertise on critical evaluation skills as part of the JFF project Digitales Deutschland (in German):
https://digid.jff.de/kritische-bewertungskompetenzen-joern-lamla/

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The podcast is in German. At the moment there is no English version or transcript available.