26 May 2023 - 28 May 2023
Socrates Seminar 2023: “From AI to Co-Creation: Democracy Now”
La Granja de San Ildefonso

Socrates Seminar 2023: “From AI to Co-Creation: Democracy Now


Aspen Institute España and Fundación Telefónica will host next May 26-28th a new edition of the Socrates Seminar “From AI to Co-Creation: Democracy Now. This seminar, which belongs to the Tech & Society Program, organized in collaboration with Fundación Telefónica, will take place at La Granja (Segovia). Leigh Hafrey, Senior Lecturer at the MIT Sloan School of Management, will moderate the Seminar.

Following the lines determined by Aspen Institute in the US, the Socrates España Seminars provide a forum for emerging leaders (between the ages of 28 and 45) from various professions to convene and reflect on contemporary issues through expert-moderated dialogues. These seminars enable participants to explore current and pressing leadership challenges. Discussions are built around contemporary texts and are led by expert moderators who engage and encourage participants to share their views. At the core of these Seminars is a remarkable group of emerging and recognized leaders including entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, representatives from the public sector, and journalists, among others.

Aspen Institute España and Fundación Telefónica hosted the first edition of the program in 2017. In its sixth edition, the Program has become the main forum in Spain for reflection on the challenges posed by the new technologies. The fifth edition hosted various leaders from civil society, including Evgeny Morozov, a writer, and researcher specializing in the political and social implications of technology, to debate advances in digital technology and its influence in areas as diverse as human relations, politics, education, economy or medicine.


From AI to Co-Creation: Democracy Now


What is democracy today? Per ChatGPT, “democracy continues to be a system of government where power is held by the people through elected representatives. However, democracy has evolved . . . One significant development in 21st-century democracy is the increasing use of digital technologies to enhance citizen participation and engagement in the political process.” Does the wizard ChatGPT knowingly pull back the curtain here on its/his/her/their own operations? In this fleeting expression of the black box AI that worries us, we find both the core challenge to and new promise of a viable democratic order.


In three sessions, our seminar “From AI to Co-Creation: Democracy Now” explores the connection between evolving digital technologies and the political culture that we experience today. While platforms evolve in Silicon Valley, climate change, war, and poverty drive population flows across the globe. Faced with this stark virtual/physical tension, we consider the forces that have modulated the tech-utopian vision of the late 20th century, ask about its intended and unintended consequences, and imagine what we might do today to produce the flourishing that we have, over the centuries, defined as the good life.


We begin with Steve Jobs’ 1984 introduction of the Macintosh, look at where the tech’ giants are today, and confront viruses as a metaphor for life on social media and real life in the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. We explore nature as strategy and counterparty, forcing us to reconsider our species identity and with it, our relation to other species and the species that we might engender. We surface the concept of co-creation as a practical means of fusing technology, culture, design, politics, and the economy. We ask, finally, whether we have the potential, thanks to technologies only partially of our own devising, to become the democracy we have always intended. “From AI to Co-Creation: Democracy Now” suggests that we must still, as a species and a notion, find the prompt that will put us on the road to fulfillment for all.


Leigh Hafrey

Senior Lecturer at the MIT Sloan School of Management. Since 1991, Hafrey has worked in professional ethics, with a focus on ethical leadership, teaching courses at Harvard Business School and MIT Sloan, and consulting with professional practitioners in the United States and abroad. At MIT Sloan, he teaches in the MBA program and Leaders for Global Operations, for which he moderates a mandatory two-year leadership course. He has also taught in MIT’s Industrial Liaison, MIT-China Management Education, Master of Finance, Management of Technology, Nanyang Fellows, Sloan Fellows in Innovation and Global Leadership, Supply Chain Management, and System Design and Management programs. Since 1996, Hafrey has moderated the Aspen Institute’s Seminar in Leadership, Values, and the Good Society and other seminars sponsored by the Institute in the U.S. and abroad. From 1993 to 2010, together with his wife, Sandra Naddaff, Hafrey was a co-Master of Mather House, one of the 12 residential complexes in Harvard College. The Mather community brings together 400 undergraduates; 100 faculty, administrative, and alumni fellows; and dozens of advisory and other staff. A former staff editor at The New York Times Book Review, Hafrey has published reporting, essays, reviews, interviews, and translations in The New York Times and other American and European periodicals. He serves on the editorial advisory board of Philosophy of Management (U.K.) and the Journal of Business Ethics Education (U.S.). His publications on business and management include a quarterly column for IPA’s Business Today (2007-09); cases and blogs for MIT Sloan; a book on how people use stories to articulate ethical norms, The Story of Success: Five Steps to Mastering Ethics in Business (2005); and War Stories: Fighting, Competing, Imagining, Leading, an essay on business alternatives to a culture of war in today’s America (2016). Hafrey holds an AB in English from Harvard College and a Ph.D. in comparative literature from Yale University.

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  • Leigh Hafrey
La Granja de San Ildefonso
  • Seminar