Unite! Summer School: What Computers and AI Can't Do at TU Darmstadt

Reflecting on Errors, Malfunctioning, and Limitations of Technology in the Digital Age
AI critic Hubert Dreyfuss's 1972 book "What Computers canꞌt do" is one of the classics of the early AI debate. Dreyfuss criticized the AI of the time (the so-called symbolic AI) and insisted that it could never replicate human thought processes. He diagnosed a fundamental limitation of AI. Another prominent critic of the time, Joseph Weizenbaum, argued ethically and called for a rather careful consideration of what computers should and should not do.
Today, in the context of statistically based approaches to machine learning, limits, flaws, and failures in digital processing are discussed. The bias of AI is criticized. Errors in autonomous vehicles frighten people, and the hallucinations of Chat GPT have been intensively commented on.
While the public debate focuses mainly on what AI can do, how it could make the world a „better place,“ and what dangers it might pose to people and societies, the Summer School will focus on the limits, errors, and malfunctions in the digital age, thus on the power and politics of failures. The functioning of society depends on the functioning of digital technology and probably soon on AI. Thus, their failures, malfunctions, and limitations are highly relevant for contemporary societies.

We will discuss the following interwoven themes:
  • The Public Discourse on Errors, Limits, and Malfunctions in the Digital Age
  • Concepts of Error
  • Tackling Errors/Finding Errors/Scientific Culture of Error
  • Ethical and Scientific Limits of Computers and AI: What They Can't and Shouldn't Do
Who can participate in the Summer School?

We invite students and Ph.D. students of history, STS, philosophy, sociology, and neighboring humanities disciplines, as well as students and Ph.D. students of engineering science and computer science to participate.

How to Participate?

Participants can present and discuss their research project with e.g., a lecture, a poster, an intervention, or a science slam. Should you like to participate without giving a presentation of a current research project, reading texts and active participation are expected. The standard number of ECTS points for the Summer School is 5 - if required, other amounts can be arranged. Attendees will receive a certificate for their participation in the Summer School.

How to Apply?

All applications should be submitted electronically in PDF format and should include the following:
  1. Letter of Intent indicating interest in the Summer School’s annual topic (max. 300 words);
  2. Curriculum Vitae (max. 2 pages);
  3. Abstract of a possible presentation at the Summer School (max. 450 words)
To apply, please send the documents by March, 31, 2024 as a single PDF file to

Time and Place

The Summer School will take place in Darmstadt on June 17-21, 2024.