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Past Program

Overview

"We cannot predict what we might achieve when human intelligence is magnified by the tools that AI may provide, but the eradication of war, disease, and poverty would be high on anyone‘s list. Success in creating AI would be the biggest event in human history. Unfortunately, it might also be the last", said Stephen Hawking.

Computers are not smarter than humans – yet. We are still far from replacing the human brain, but artificial intelligence (AI) and its applications have become the bedrock of automated and digitized economies. Statistics abound on vanishing jobs. Millions outsource daily decision-making power to AI.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution has a fragile backdrop. Geo-polarization and populism are rising. The “establishment” is widely rejected for failing to redress inequality and boost accountability. Representative democracy is growing weaker amidst fears of manipulation. Tipping points are multiplying. For many observers of politics, the driverless society goes well beyond cars.

Since 1947, Salzburg Global Seminar has challenged current and future leaders to shape a better world. Then, the priority was to rebuild wartorn societies. Ever since, we have worked at the frontiers of change on critical issues across geographies, sectors, and cultures. Looking forward,technological transformation and the brave new world of artificial intelligence raise new challenges at the intersect of people, power, and policy. The contours of this new universe are a matter of speculation.

The stakes today could not be higher. Will AI inexorably carve up communities? Is mass unemployment just collateral damage? Will countries weaponize AI? Fear of change is normal and can spread when people do not understand the changes taking place. But change can be positive and create undreamt-of opportunities. AI-related technologies have the potential to help meet people’s needs and wants in line with the Sustainable Development Goals: better services for less; fairer life chances;personalized health; and breakthrough climate action and science. Could the 2020s become the decade of redeployment, with education and lifelong learning redesigned for a post-industrial digital future?

2018 marks the centenary of the end of the First World War. Compared to government mistakes of the past, will we be digital architects or sleepwalkers in this revolution? Human institutions and laws have always lagged behind technology. Private power and initiative are now concentrated in very few hands. Together and separately, countries need anticipatory leadership across sectors to address asymmetries and build smart frameworks to serve the public good and engage their citizens.

Where better place than Schloss Leopoldskron to meet extraordinary people reshaping technology, ethics, finance, education, and health? What better year than 2018 – the centenary of its purchase by Max Reinhardt,Europe’s top theatrical visionary, who co-founded the world famous Salzburg Festival from within these walls? If creativity is the new currency,this baroque jewel is the ultimate setting for dialogues that matter.