The German Chapter of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) turns 50 this year and celebrates its anniversary with a Symposium in Heidelberg. The Symposium takes place 20-21 September 2018 under the motto “Being Human with Algorithms”. Experts from all over the world discuss effects of the digital transformation to modern society – including all its side effects. The talks range from topics of digitalization, artificial intelligence, autonomous driving, over big data to blockchain, and more.
One of the speakers is HITS researchers and scientific director Prof. Michael Strube. He is leader of the Natural Language Processing (NLP) group at HITS where he and his group focus on questions related to processing, understanding and generating discourse. Additional to his research, he is also deeply interested in the ethical aspects of research in NLP which made him teach and give lectures on the negative aspects automatic language processing. He will present this topic in his talk with the title “The Dark Side of NLP: Chances and Risks of Natural Language Processing” at the ACM Symposium in Heidelberg.
Natural Language Processing started out as an exotic, little academic discipline but turned almost unnoticed into a research area with high relevance for the society. Now NLP products are part of our lives. On the one hand NLP enables us to communicate and find information more easily; on the other hand its omnipresence leads to problems. I briefly recap the history of NLP and its origins through military funding in the cold war. Then I discuss the almost limitless possibilities to invade privacy by means of NLP in the age of the internet, mobile communication and social media. Relevant NLP technology is named entity recognition and linking, demographic profiling from social media, geo-localization of private messages, detection of psychological disorders, analysis of power and influence, uncertainty and deception detection, etc. We should be aware that NLP research is instrumental in the emergence of a new military-informational complex which has unforeseen potential to invade our privacy.
The Heidelberg Institute for Theoretical Studies (HITS) was established in 2010 by the physicist and SAP co-founder Klaus Tschira (1940-2015) and the Klaus Tschira Foundation as a private, non-profit research institute. HITS conducts basic research in the natural sciences, mathematics and computer science, with a focus on the processing, structuring, and analyzing of large amounts of complex data and the development of computational methods and software. The research fields range from molecular biology to astrophysics. The shareholders of HITS are the HITS-Stiftung, which is a subsidiary of the Klaus Tschira Foundation, Heidelberg University and the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT). HITS also cooperates with other universities and research institutes and with industrial partners. The base funding of HITS is provided by the HITS Stiftung with funds received from the Klaus Tschira Foundation. The primary external funding agencies are the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), the German Research Foundation (DFG), and the European Union.