1984 Plus 10: Reality and Utopia in Computer Science 10th Anniversary FIFF Conference in Bremen
by Ingo Ruhmann
Member of the FIFF Board
CPSR News Volume 13, Number 1: Winter 1995
After ten years of existence, the Forum IntormatikerInnen fuer Frieden und gesellschaftliche Verantwortung (FIFF) held its anniversary conference in Bremen. The title of the conferenceÑReality and Utopia in Computer ScienceÑwas chosen to document the changing perception of developments in and applications of computer science, as well as the discipline's still enormous potential to cause problems for our society. Approximately 250 members and other participants attended the weekend conference, making it one of FlFF's largest.
FIFF was modeled after its U.S. sister organisation, CPSR. Therefore, Jeff Johnson, the former CPSR Chair, was heartily greeted as a representative of CPSR. As an opening, the work, the successes, and the problems of FIFF were reviewed. (Jeff Johnson provided similar summaries of CPSR's history and current situation.) Although the German parliament has awarded FIFF a technology assessment study on computerised warfare, militarisation of' computer science is no longer a central issue in FIFF work, but merely one among many. Privacy. ecology and a livable future, computer systems for medical uses, women and computers, as well as other topics, are by now areas of interest to FIFF working groups. While FIFF now has a voice in Parliament, it has remained a small and independent organisation with just over 900 members. The working groups covered an even broader spectrum of topics, from civic networking and ethics in computer science to the impact of computer technology in the new German states (i.e., the former East Germany). One high point on Sunday was a lively discussion about the changing situation of computer scientists and engineers in the workplace. A corresponding change in attitude was apparent. The former reluctance of computer scientists to form unions is fading as they find themselves an easy target for downsizing in a European electronics industry that is itself under tremendous pressure.
While the 250 participants engaged in brisk discussions throughout the two days of the conference, the social aspects of the meeting were not neglected. On Saturday, a special political cabaret evening was followed by an enjoyable gathering lasting long into the night.
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