April 9, 2018

Sociopolitical Advisory Council helps the HLRS gain more perspective

A super computer for society

At 11am on April 9, the Sociopolitical Advisory Council will begin work at the High Performance Computing Center Stuttgart (HLRS). This collaboration will enable a more in-depth understanding of our society and the challenges it is facing. The advisory council is intended to identify potential situations where computer simulations can make a positive sociopolitical contribution.

The High Performance Computing Center Stuttgart (HLRS) at the University of Stuttgart is home to one of Europe’s most high-performance super computers. Simulations take place every day, for example of how a car body must be formed to ensure that energy usage is reduced as much as possible. But even though everyone profits indirectly from simulations, scientific and economic interests are paramount. And what’s more, this knowledge is usually reserved for the experts.

The intention is that in the future, a greater number of social groups will profit from the use of simulations
Prof. Michael Resch, Director of the HLRS believes that this can result in a restricted perspective: “The benefit of computer simulations is indisputable and that is why this must not become a privilege reserved for the ivory tower of academia”. For this reason, he convened the Sociopolitical Advisory Council (GPB), together with Dr. Andreas Kaminski, Head of the Philosophy of Computer Simulations Department at the HLRS. This council will begin work on April 9. Resch’s says of the GPB that: “We want to ensure that more society benefits more from computer simulations in the future.” This advisory function will ensure the formulation of specific issues or problems that could be tackled with the development of a suitable support program with research projects.

Motivated by the GPB, the HLRS will become more socially engaged than it has been previously
The members of the advisory council come from a range of different fields (e.g. the care sector, architecture, education, journalism), thus ensuring the desired diversity of socially relevant topics. Many members of the GPB recognize the potential of simulations to demonstrate complex connections in a more understandable way: “Simulations can make complex social phenomena more understandable and accessible for decision-makers and those affected”, says the Prof. Ortwin Renn, Head of the Advisory Council and Scientific Director at the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies in Potsdam. He also emphasizes that, “Against the backdrop of such progress, we must also ensure that ethical values are not harmed in any way and that societal preferences are sufficiently considered.”

Together with the advisory council, the High Performance Computing Center at the University of Stuttgart will be able to discover entirely new fields where computer simulations can be used to make a positive contribution to society. This is a significant expansion of the HLRS’ efforts to fulfill its social obligations. Until now, the center’s social projects have included a sustainability group at the HLRS that is tasked with the challenge of examining the energy usage of the high performance computers and a support project that is part of the school project “simulated worlds”, where young people are supported as part of a one-year scholarship that includes projects such as simulating traffic data, thus improving the digital skills of those involved.

 

Lena Bühler
Telephone: +49 (0) 711 / 685-65858
email 

Dr. phil. Andreas Kaminski
Telephone: +49 (0) 711 / 685-65982
email