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Artificial Intelligence and the Human – Cross-Cultural Perspectives on Science and Fiction



A Japanese-German Conference in Berlin, Germany

11-13 May 2022


Edited Volume (2023)

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Current debates on artificial intelligence often conflate the realities of AI technologies with the fictional renditions of what they might one day become. They are said to be able to learn, make autonomous decisions or process information much faster than humans, which raises hopes and fears alike. What if these useful technologies will one day develop their own intentions that run contrary to those of humans?

The line between science and fiction is becoming increasingly blurry: what is already a fact, what is still only imagination; and is it even possible to make this clear-cut distinction? Innovation and development goals in the field of AI are inspired by popular culture, such as its portrayal in literature, comics, film or television. At the same time, images of these technologies drive discussions and set particular priorities in politics, business, journalism, religion, civil society, ethics or research. Fictions, potentials and scenarios inform a society about the hopes, risks, solutions and expectations associated with new technologies. But what is more, the discourses on AI, robots and intelligent, even sentient machines are nothing short of a mirror of the human condition: they renew fundamental questions on concepts such as consciousness, free will and autonomy or the ways we humans think, act and feel. 

Imaginations about the human and technologies are far from universal, they are culturally specific. This is why a cross-cultural comparison is crucial for better understanding the relationship between AI and the human and how they are mutually constructed by uncovering those aspects that are regarded as natural, normal or given. Focusing on concepts, representations and narratives from different cultures, the conference aims to address two axes of comparison that help us make sense of the diverse realities of artificial intelligence and the ideas of what is human: Science and fiction, East Asia and the West. 


Wednesday, 11 May 2022 · Location: Spreespeicher (030 Eventloft)

19:00–20:30Keynote Address I: Kanta Dihal

Thursday, 12 May 2022 · Location: Japanese-German Center Berlin (JDZB)

10:00–10:30Welcome Note and Introduction  
10:30–12:00Concurrent Panels
Imagining AI & the HumanRobot-Human Interaction
13:30–15:00Concurrent Panels
The Languages of AIBodies, Intimacies, Relationships
15:30–17:00Concurrent Panels
Brain & MindIndustries
17:30–19:00Keynote Address II: Simone Natale
19:00Performance + Reception

Friday, 13 May 2022 · Location: Japanese-German Center Berlin (JDZB)

9:15–10:45Concurrent Panels
Asian AI vs. European AI? Methodological

Challenges of Cross-Cultural Research

Smart, Caring and Sensitive Environments
11:15–12:45Panel: Futures & Fictions
14:00–15:15Workshops and Networking Activities
15:45–16:45Keynote address III: Yukie Nagai
16:45–17:45Closing Discussion
18:00Conference Closing & Snacks


Conference Partners

The conference is jointly organised by Alexander von Humboldt Institute for Internet and Society (HIIG), Berlin, Japanese-German Center Berlin (JDZB) and Waseda University, Tokyo. The event is kindly supported by Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG).

HIIG                                               Japanese-German Center Berlin         Waseda University, Tokyo
Thomas Christian Bächle              Phoebe Stella Holdgrün                     Katsumi Watanabe
Christian Katzenbach






Image: Yayoi Kusama (2015): Obsession Infinita
Photo by Pablo Trincado

Copyright Information: CC BY 2.0  Pablo Trincado

Event date

11.05.2022 - 13.05.2022 ical | gcal


Japanese-German Center Berlin (JDZB),  Saargemünder Str. 2,  14195 Berlin


Thomas Christian Bächle, Dr.

Head of research programme: The evolving digital society


This high-profile lecture series thrives to develop a European perspective on the processes of transformation that our societies are currently undergoing.


Once a month we publicly discuss the impact of digitalisation on the society. Therefore we invite special guests and engage in a dialogue with the audience.


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