Prof. Dr. Markus Gabriel

Professor of Philosophy and holder of the Chair of Epistemology, Philosophy of the Modern and Contemporary Era
at the Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-University Bonn


»We want to advance NRW as a location through well-thought-out cooperation between philosophy and technology in the field of AI«

Markus Gabriel is a professor of philosophy at the University of Bonn. His work includes the topic of artificial intelligence and he talked with us about the relevance of philosophical questions in computer science.

Prof. Dr. Markus Gabriel,
© Christoph Hardt

Why is the topic of artificial intelligence so exciting for philosophy?
AI systems present humans with the challenge of surpassing us far in many cognitive performances. This raises the question of what is specific to human intelligence, as opposed to artificial intelligence, and how we can develop ethics of AI: In what domains do we want to use AI systems, and what use makes sense in light of the sometimes great risks involved in no longer being able to readily comprehend advanced AI systems in their operations. This raises partly fundamental philosophical and partly very application-related problems that can only be solved through transdisciplinarity.

Together with experts from other departments, you are working within the framework of KI.NRW to realize a certification of artificial intelligence. Why is this topic so important to you?
AI is a key technology of the 21st century. Its use has ethical and also geopolitical dimensions that can only be explored in close cooperation between different disciplines. The development of certification criteria for AI systems is an important basis for responsible and desirable digitization, allowing us to incorporate key technology into our social self-understanding in the most risk-free and meaningful way possible. The special thing about AI is that it also cannot be meaningfully exploited economically without a philosophical/ethical analysis of its application, which is why many large digital corporations have been employing philosophers and other humanities scholars for years. We want to advance NRW as a location through well-thought-out cooperation between philosophy and technology in the field of AI.

What can AI do to make the world a more livable place?
AI systems can be usefully deployed in many areas. They play an important role for the traffic turnaround (keyword: autonomous driving), for modern factories where robots are used, but also in the health sector and public administration. Philosophically and ethically thought-out AI applications can create new jobs and better working conditions. Particularly in the medical field, the high performance in pattern recognition that today’s AI systems can provide is forward-looking. To rationally manage the risks to the world of work and select AI systems that are still transparent to users in their fundamental decisions under conditions of use, we must present a transparent test catalog. Our goal is to use AI for the benefit of the people.

Prof. Dr. Markus Gabriel has held the Chair of Epistemology, Modern and Contemporary Philosophy at the University of Bonn since 2009, where he also directs the International Center for Philosophy and the transdisciplinary Center for Science and Thought. He is a regular visiting professor in Paris (Paris 1-Panthéon Sorbonne) and at the New School for Social Research, where he has directed the Institute for Philosophy and the New Humanities since 2020. Other visiting professorships have taken him to UC Berkeley and, in 2019, to New York University. His most recent publications are Fictions (Suhrkamp 2020) and Moral Progress in Dark Times (Ullstein 2020). In his book Der Sinn des Denkens (Ullstein 2018) and other publications, he has developed basic lines of philosophy of AI, on which he is currently conducting further research.