Round Table on the Governance of Digital Futures – a Pacing Problem?

Date and time of the conference panel session: 27 July 2022; 11:00 am –12:30 pm

Organization: Linda Nierling & Jens Schippl, Institute for Technology Assessment and Systems Analysis (ITAS), Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT); This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Source: Robert Fuge / KIT

The basic idea of this session is to discuss challenges and expectations related to the governance of digitalization and artificial intelligence (AI), with a particular focus on the timing of AI governance. Currently, several attempts are being made to govern AI at both national and European levels, introducing a risk-based approach to identify a comprehensive regulatory instrument for AI. Since there are many different types of AI technologies, the landscape of AI governance is complex and there is no “simple” solution in sight.

Given the complexity of AI governance, this session aims to address the issue in a broader context and relate it to fundamental challenges for TA and the governance of technologies. The questions of interest by no means claim to be new – yet they are highly relevant for TA in the context of AI. The point of departure is the so-called “pacing problem,” which refers to the notion that technological innovation is increasingly outpacing the ability of laws and regulations to keep up. It was prominently explained in Larry Downes’ book The Laws of Disruption (2009), in which he states that “technology changes exponentially, but social, economic, and legal systems change incrementally.” In a similar vein, the well-known Collingridge dilemma addresses the issue of timing and the associated challenges for societal “control” of technological development. It states that there is a lack of information in early stages of technology development (information problem); in later stages, when the technology is established, control or change is difficult due to lock-ins and path-dependencies (power problem).

In this session, we will draw on these ideas to discuss challenges and options for the governance of AI. The following topics will be addressed:

Are we drivers of development or driven by it?

  • Does governance in the field of AI lag behind technical development, or in other words, do we have a pacing problem?
  • If so, why and in what areas of AI is this the case today?

2030 – Do we still have a pacing problem?

  • What will be the situation in 2030? Are we running toward a technological determinism through AI? What are important preconditions for future governance of AI? What are (normative) visions for the future?
  • What kind of problems need to be addressed at the international political level? Which issues leave some room for maneuver for stakeholders at the national and local levels? How can scientists, political actors, and citizens act with foresight?
  • What processes are needed to better cope with issues of pacing in governance? Who are the key (institutional) actors in this?

What needs to be done by the TA-community?

  • Do we need more knowledge (information problem)? And if so, what kind of knowledge is needed (monitoring, assessments, scoping, real-time advice, etc.)?
  • How do we need to differentiate between AI applications to provide specific case study knowledge for governance approaches?
  • What formats or impulses are needed for transformative, interdisciplinary, and integrative research on AI? Where should the international TA community join forces with other disciplines and actors?

Panelists are invited to address some or all of these questions and discuss them with the audience.


List of speakers




Lars Adolph, Director and Professor at the Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (BAuA) in Dortmund, studied psychology and ergonomics and received his doctorate from the Ruhr University Bochum (RUB). Subsequently, he researched and advised on safety and health in complex work systems, e.g., in the aviation and automotive industries. Between 2004 and 2009, Lars Adolph headed the Human Factors and Occupational Health division of the international testing and consulting company DNV GL, focusing on the process and energy industries. In 2009, he moved to the BAuA as Head of the Human Factors and Ergonomics unit. Since 2013, he has been Scientific Director of Division 2 “Products and Work Systems.” Since 2021, he has also coordinated AI research at BAuA. Lars Adolph is a member of the GfA Board of Directors and the DIN Standards Committee Ergonomics and various other committees dealing with the impact of AI on the world of work, such as Germany’s Platform for Artificial Intelligence.






Matthias Finger is Professor Emeritus at the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale in Lausanne, Switzerland (EPFL). He holds a PhD in Political Science from the University of Geneva. He was an Assistant Professor at Syracuse University (New York), an Associate Professor at Columbia University (New York), a Professor of Management of Public Enterprises at the Swiss Federal Institute of Public Administration, and between 2002 and 2020 he held the Swiss Post Chair in Management of Network Industries at EPFL. Since 2010, he has been a part-time Professor at the European University Institute (EUI) in Florence, Italy, where he is Deputy Director of the Florence School of Regulation’s Transport Area (FSR-T). Since 2017, he is also a Professor at the Faculty of Management at Istanbul Technical University (ITÜ), where he directs the Istanbul Center for Regulation (IC4R). In 2010, he was appointed as a Research Professor at Northern Arctic Federal University (NArFU) in Arkhangelsk, Russia.






Armin Grunwald is a Professor at Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT). He holds a PhD in theoretical solid state physics from the University of Cologne. His Habilitation and venia legendi is in philosophy (Philipps-Universität Marburg, Germany). He has been a Professor of Technology Assessment and Systems Analysis at the University of Freiburg. Since 2007, he has held the Chair of Philosophy and Ethics of Technology at KIT. Since 1999, Grunwald has been Head of the Institute for Technology Assessment and Systems Analysis (ITAS) at KIT. And since 2002, he has also been the Director of the Office of Technology Assessment at the German Bundestag, which is run by ITAS.





Sonja Thiel is a Historian, Philosopher, and Museologist and has been Head of AI development at the Badisches Landesmuseum since 2021. Prior to that, she worked as a Curator for various cultural history museums with a focus on participatory processes. As Scientific Coordinator, she was also responsible for the development of the digital academy program museOn | weiterbildung & netzwerk at the University of Freiburg.






Melanie Volkamer is a Professor at the KIT Department of Economics and Management. She heads the SECUSO research group with a research focus on usable IT security, electronic voting, and privacy protection. From August 2016 to March 2018, she was a Cooperative Professor at the Department of Computer Science at the Technical University of Darmstadt. From December 2015 to December 2018, she was Professor for Usable Privacy and Security at Karlstad University (Sweden). Before that, she was Junior Professor at the Department of Computer Science at the Technical University of Darmstadt and Head of the Usable Security Lab at the Center for Advanced Security Research Darmstadt (CASED) from January 2012 to August 2016. She is the author of more than 200 scientific papers submitted to conferences and journals. She was also an OSCE Election Observer in Estonia (2007), served as an expert on Electronic Elections at the Federal Constitutional Court (2008), and advised the Council of Europe on the development of recommendations for the conduct of electronic elections (2007 & 2008).