Deutsch Intern
Würzburg Centre for Social Implications of Artificial Intelligence (SOCAI)

Subproject 2: Socio-Technical Transformations

The emerging Distributed Ledger Technology-based network infrastructures (DLT), seen as socio-technological constructs, could arguably represent a next wave of cooperativism. Participants to the network would effectively act and operate within a common system, be it voluntarily, with governance structured in a decentralised or distributed manner. Any such network would consist of multiple layers of algorithmic protocol, applications, as well as direct interactions among peers. The dynamics of public DLT networks in particular would generally be in flux, given that their composition as a result of the continuous entry and exit of peers would change constantly. This greatly affects the degree and scope of network decentralisation when considered in a direct causal relation with the network's governance.


The consequential legal uncertainty of public networks would then limit the potential for a societal shift towards self-determination of personal data and general disintermediation from siloed authority clusters. Additionally, decision making and power dynamics have been subject to a shift in relationships between nation states and international technology corporations in the context of the provision of their products and services. For instance, private companies have been actively involved in Germany to provide AI –enabled cognitive analytics for the country's public domain, which includes, among others, banking and reimbursement -related claims in its health sector. Similarly, distinctions between public and private spheres have been subject to erosion due to corporate influence on national, supranational and international politics as well as fiscal and monetary governance.

The pillar will address and facilitate discussions, among others, surrounding following topics:

  • Increasing significance of transnational technology corporations in the public domain.
  • Increasing reliance of public policy and decision making on data collected by privately built tools and analysed by proprietary algorithms.
  • Increasing relevance of Internet of Things (IoT) in public-private interactions, i.e. government and citizens.
  • AI and DLT -enabled advances that are dominated and pioneered by private actors.
  • Mass data storage on privately operated cloud computing systems.
  • Information asymmetry among stakeholders and actors.
  • Redefinition of notions of accountability, transparency and governance.