29th EEAC Annual conference, online 17 – 19 November 2021

This year, the EEAC Annual Conference – entitled Digital Transformation for a sustainable Anthropocene: Ethical, Green and Inclusive – focused on the digital transformation within a European context and the issues and opportunities it raises for sustainable development. Two levers and important elements of the transformation, both central to the European Green Deal and the European Digital Strategy were explored in particular. These are, firstly, the relationship between the green and digital transformation (the twin challenge), and secondly, the ethical and social implications of this transformation, including the application of Artificial Intelligence Systems (AI) in the European area.

The twin-challenge

The consequences of ongoing digitalisation have an increasingly prominent place in our lives. Digitalisation influences for example how we communicate and relate socially, how we move, how and where we work and learn, and how we produce and consume, including energy. In fact, there is an ongoing transformative process driven by digitalisation. Hence: a digital transformation. This digital transformation coincides with the green transformation.

In the European policy arena, both transformations are increasingly linked. The European Commission for example has referred to the green and digital transitions as “the twin challenge,” placing the two transformations in the same boat. Advisory councils – as present in the EEAC Network – have also identified the crucial role of digital transformation for accelerating the transition towards a more sustainable EU, linking the two transformations.

Ethical and social implications

The second element on which the conference focused was the ethical and social implications of the digital transformation, with special attention paid to the application of Artificial Intelligence Systems (AI).[1] The ethical questions that rise, and the social challenges that come with the ongoing digital transformation are substantial. This conference touched upon rights, digital inclusion and reinforcing democracy in the light of the digital transformation and the application of AI systems in particular.

AI systems work automatically to generate content, make predictions or take decisions. Although this ensures that AI is a valuable instrument for digitalisation, not all advances of AI come without risks. As AI systems work automatically, the outcomes are not the same as humans carrying out those activities, bearing full responsibility for the consequences. This may lead to ethically doubtable or even unethical situations. Furthermore, it should be noted that the individual and societal effects of AI systems are, largely unexperienced.

Bridges need to be built, connections need to be made

The conference provided – in the role and tradition of advisory councils – an integrated, cross-sectoral view on the two main themes of the conference. In order to reach the aim and to answer to the questions raised, the conference engaged representatives from the digital transformation domain to speak about sustainability, as well as representatives from the sustainable development community to speak about digital transformation.

Programme, Recordings & Presentations

The EEAC Network and the Advisory Council for Sustainable Development of Catalonia (CADS), hosted the 29th EEAC Annual Conference virtually from Barcelona on 17, 18 and 19 November 2021.  The conference programme can be consulted HERE.

Day I: Digital transformation in the Anthropocene

Day II: The twin challenge: towards a green and digital Europe

Day III: Governing the transformation in the new Digital World

[1] (AI) systems are a set of key technologies working automatically, with the capability to make predictions based on measurable correlations between data that are invisible to human eyes, but visible to machines. (Here.)

17 November 2021