AI and Data Science in Fiction and Society (HWS 2018)

The aim of this seminar is to reflect on how AI and data science influence the world we live in. We will discuss fictional works (i.e., novels) and analyze which developments are described therein and how realistic we deem them.


In this seminar, you will read and analyze a fictional work (i.e., novel) of your choice, and identify parallels between (a) AI technology described in fiction and actual technological developments, and (b) interactions between technology and society. In particular, we will discuss the societal and ethical impact of AI on modern societies.

Each participant will read a fictional work, present it to the seminar participants, and participate in the discussions. Each presentation is accompanied by a seminar paper, which will undergo a peer review process. Note that you are supposed to also read the novels for which you are peer reviewing the reports, which makes for a total reading workload of several novels throughout the semester. Presentations are supposed to be about 25 minutes long.


This seminar is organized by Prof. Dr. Heiko Paulheim

Available for Master students (2 SWS, 4 ECTS)

Prerequisites: none


  • Kick off meeting on 7 September, 10:15 – 11:45 (room B6 26, A3.01) Slides
  • 28 October: Deadline for seminar report drafts
  • 11 November: Deadline for peer review on seminar report drafts
  • 21 and 28 Novemberth, 13.45 – 17.00: block seminar (tbc, room tba)
  • 9 December: Deadline for final seminar papers
  • Registration

    • Registration will be available in Portal2 (tba)
    • After getting a confirmation from Portal2, please send a ranked list of three works you would like to read and present in the seminar to Bianca Lermer
    • Final assignment of topics will be made in the kick off meeting
  • Possible Topics

    (Note: you are kindly invited to propose other works as well)

    AuthorTitle (en)Title (de)
    Andreas Brandhorst--Das Erwachen
    Cory DoctorowLittle BrotherLittle Brother
    Dave EggersThe CircleDer Circle
    Marc ElsbergBlackoutBlackout
    Marc Elsberg--ZERO
    Andreas EschbachLord of all ThingsHerr aller Dinge
    Robert HarrisThe Fear IndexAngst
    Marc-Uwe Kling--Quality Land
    Stephan Meier--Now
    Daniel SuarezKill DecisionKill Decision
    Daniel SuarezDaemonDaemon
    Daniel SuarezFreedom TMDarknet
    Juli ZehThe MethodCorpus Delicti
  • Additional Lecture

    (You may use those as background material, but you are kindly asked to conduct some further literature research yourself)


    • Nick Bostrom. Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies. 2014
    • James Hendler, Alice M. Mulvehill. Social Machines: The Coming Collision of Artificial Intelligence, Social Networking, and Humanity. 2018


    • Giorgio Buttazzo: Artificial Consciousness: Utopia or Real Possibility?, 2001
    • Bruce G. Buchanan: A (Very) Brief History of Artificial Intelligence, 2005
    • Colin Allen et al.: Why Machine Ethics?, 2006
    • Yudkowsky, Elizier: Artificial Intelligence as a Positive and Negative Factor in Global Risk, 2008
    • Ethan Fast and Eric Horvitz: Long-Term Trends in the Public Perception of Artificial Intelligence, 2016