17-10-2017 - Democracy (as a successful misunderstanding) in an algorithmic world


Mireille Hildebrandt
17 Oct 2017

Via Via, Baksteenkaai 74, 1000 Brussel

Redelijk Eigenzinnig / Reason and Engage is organized by the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB). It is an interdisciplinary course for students and a series of lectures and activities open to all. The third edition of Redelijk Eigenzinnig / Reason and Engage explores scopes and impact of new technologies.


On Tuesday 17th of October 2017 Redelijk Eigenzinnig / Reason and Engage invites Bernard Manderick, Mireille Hildebrandt & Joost Vandenbroele for a lecture 'Democracy (as a successful misunderstanding) in an algorithmic world'.

Today, machine learning AKA big data, datamining, predictive analytics, etc. is everywhere. Recommender systems advice us which book to buy (Amazon) or which movie or series to watch (Netflix). We can talk to virtual assistants like Siri on iOS, Google Assistant on Android, or Cortana on Windows devices. IBM’s Watson beat the best human Jeopardy! players, DeepMind’s AlphaGo won against the world champion Go and CMU’s Libratus beat the world’s best professional players in a 20-day poker competition. Machine learning is used to profile humans politically, sexually and as customers. As our environment is swamped by self-driving cars, smart thermostats, fake news algorithms, automated credit rating systems, and intelligent tax fraud detection systems, our autonomy is redefined by calculated 'choice architectures’ that can either empower or restrict us. This also affects democratic participation and the formation of engaged publics and public discourse.

In his lecture, A Primer on the Algorithmic World of Machine Learning, Bernard Manderick will discuss the conceptual model of machine learning and look at its basic ideas, limitations and pitfalls offering a primer for people concerned with the social and political issues raised by this technology. As a lawyer and a philosopher Mireille Hildebrandt will inquire into the promises and limits of algorithmic transparency and the need to make sure that we are not forever targeted on the basis of our past behaviours. Joost Vandenbroele will explore trends in e-democracy, online participation and CivicTech.

Lecture from 18h00 to 20h00 in English. Entrance is free. Click here to register.

Bios / Slides

Bernard Manderick

Bernard Manderick is professor in the Artificial Intelligence Lab at the Department of Computer Science of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel. He is (co-)author of over 150 papers covering several machine learning techniques (genetic algorithms, support vector machines, reinforcement learning, Bayesian networks, etc.) and several applications (bioinformatics, text mining, evolvable hardware, music classification, etc.). Before that he obtained a Master in Philosophy (1978) and Mathematics (1982) both from the University of Ghent.

Mireille Hildebrandt

Mireille Hildebrandt is a tenured research professor of ‘Interfacing Law and Technology’, appointed by the VUB Research Council at the Faculty of Law and Criminology. She works with the research group for Law Science Technology & Society studies (LSTS) on the nexus of law, philosophy of law and philosophy of technology. She is also a part-time full professor of Smart Environments, Data Protection and the Rule of Law at the Science Faculty of Radboud University, Nijmegen.

Joost Vandenbroele

Joost Vandenbroele studied languages and started his career as a journalist, before joining BRAL (a Brussels-based NGO), where he was involved in the citizen participation process. Joost now works as participation specialist at CitizenLab, an online civic engagement platform.