From September 28 to 30 2001, the German Forum InformatikerInnen für Frieden und gesellschaftliche Verantwortung, FIfF e.V. (Computer Professionals for Peace and Social Responsibility) held its 17th annual conference and meeting at the University of Bremen. Under the title ”2001 – Odyssey in Cyberspace. Ways and Wrong Ways of Information Technology”, more than 150 participants discussed current developments, such as cyberwar, global information society, computers and the third world, the use of new media for education, cryptography, civil rights, etc.
In response to the terrorist attack of the World Trade Center, many speakers changed their initial presentations to consider the consequences. In their talks Dr. Gabriele Hooffacker (Journalism in the Information Society) and Prof. Wolfgang Coy (Arguing with Texts, Images, and Numbers) presented a critical review of media coverage of the terroristic attacks. The talk about „Missile defense and armament in space“ by Dr. Jürgen Scheffran gained actuality due to the decision of the US Congress to provide a substantial amount of money.
In addition, Gerhard Stuby, professor for law of nations at the University of Bremen gave a talk on ”International terrorism and law of nations” to clarify background issues und assess the actual situation after the events of September 11. At its annual meeting, FIfF members signed a declaration which had been prepared by the Bremen regional chapter of FIfF. The central issues are comparable to CPSR´s resolution written largely by Harry Hochheimer. Apart from condemning Terrorism, FIfF called for a long term peace initiative and demanded from the German Government not to cut down on civil rights such as the right of informational self-determination or the use of encryption technology. Any initiative taken by the government to fight terrorism should be temporal and accompanied by an evaluation and assessment procedure to ensure its effectiveness and to discard ineffective means that create an imbalance between security and liberty.
Apart from a panel on ”Informatics and War: The end of feasibility” which was broadcast live by Radio Bremen 2 (MP3 record, german language), the highlight of this years meeting was the presentation of the FIfF-Award to David Lorge Parnas. David Parnas, who has been a FIfF member for many years, was honoured for his exceptional achievements in software engineering and his world-wide recognized statements against the Strategic Defense Initiative (Star Wars). Throughout his professional career, David Parnas has acted as a concerned and responsible scientist and citizen in a way that makes him a role model for young computer professionals. In his laudatory speech, Frieder Nake, a distinguished computer science professor from the University of Bremen, said that Parnas can be easily recognized because walking upright among the many professional fellows bowing und buckling in front of money and politics is still a rare activity. The price was given to Parnas by the re-elected head of the board of directors professor Reinhard Keil-Slawik from the University of Paderborn. Parnas was also invited to deliver the talk for the closing session. In his presentation he described his attempts to establish a sound engineering curriculum at his university (MacMaster, Canada) which is different from a traditional computer science curriculum. A lively discussion about his idea and the question to what extent it could be implemented in Germany marked the end of the annual meeting and conference.