Why are people interested in technology

People, technology and the future of politics
Wake up, damned ones of this earth!

The future is coming. In fact, it comes very quickly. We don't see any robots on the street yet, but even the smallest devices that we carry with us are usually smarter than the human machines from the future series The Jetsonsthat we loved as kids. However, when the machines start to learn from other machines (so-called machine learning / machine learning), then things really take off. We are now here and today at the take-off point of an exponential technological development: for 4 there is 8, 16, 32 and so on. From the nice Wind of Change the 90s will be a neat tornado.

By Tim Renner & Gerd Leonhard

Nothing against high speed, it is only unfavorable if you then have no one who steers prudently and with foresight. Nobody who is authorized by us sits in the ‘Mission Control’ of technological progress. The future is currently being made by scientists and for-profit companies. Exclusively: Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Baidu decide what we communicate about. How we get to know each other and fall in love: Tinder and Parship. Apple, Google and Co influence what we are interested in. Tesla, Uber, Waymo and Co will soon even be driving our cars. Meanwhile, IBM is working on and with quantum computers, whose cognitive performance is said to be far superior to humans, while Google is working on the Magenta project, on artificial creativity. This list could go on and on ...

© Gerd Leonhard

Technology doesn't have ethics

It's important to understand that technology in itself is neither good nor bad. It is neutral, it is a tool. "Computers are there for answers, people for the questions," he writes Wired-Co-founder Kevin Kelly.

In other words: technology has no ethics - we have to add these ourselves! But are science and industry able to do this on their own? Are you made to be an ethical authority? The answer is clearly “no”: Science has to be curious because it is about exploring what is possible. The economy must be greedy for progress, because it is about efficiency and thus maximized profits. Science and business cannot be blamed. Thinking about the future in terms of all of humanity is not really part of her job description.
Many people understand or feel this and want the future to be shaped politically and socially. There is hardly any other explanation for the meteoric rise of the Pirate Party in 2011/12. The pirates had little more to offer than liquid democracy, unconditional basic income, data protection and protest against an antiquated copyright law, as well as a lot of internal party chaos. However, they gave the impression that politics and civil society would once again have a say in matters of the future. One hoped for people who think outside the box, question and excite, like artists and philosophers. One hoped for politicians who are concerned with purpose, meaning, ethics and aesthetics. The Pirate Party could not deliver and disappeared. The wish remained.
What to do? Waking up would be a very effective measure. The politicians of the progressive parties in particular should wake up and interfere. Social democracy used to stand for wanting to use new, technological possibilities for social and societal progress. For this purpose Lasalle and Bebel founded the party 155 years ago. Today one is discussing in all seriousness in local and district associations the withdrawal of the party from Facebook - because Facebook is now "no longer to be trusted". This is not entirely wrong, but it remains a helpless and conservative and therefore exactly the wrong reaction. The German SPD is not an isolated case: the collective downfall of European social democracy is due to the fact that it is unable to respond to technological change. Unfortunately, other progressive political forces do not jump into this gaping gap either.

© Gerd Leonhard

What is missing is the mixture of foresight, optimism and social and political control.

This current refusal to work and the lack of prospects by the former progressive parties is a threat to democracy. A future driven by digitization, automation, virtualization and globalization is fearful if it is far from one's own or at least political influence. Despite the boom and very good employment, populist parties are elected because they have a clear stance on the future: they want to prevent it. Parties like AfD, FPÖ, SVP suggest that you can bring back the past instead of shaping the future. One does not fight this reactionary promise by completely foregoing promises, but by formulating a better promise!
That is why we need images of the future that make us look forward with curiosity and hope: Machines and intelligent algorithms could, for example, free people from a lot of unpopular work - research speaks of up to 85%! It is primarily about routine work, mostly repetitive activities that we can leave to the AI ​​and the robots with a clear conscience in the future. Assuming a secure income, we can instead devote ourselves to other things (or other people) and do work that advances our society.
© Gerd LeonhardBut it gets even better: Vertical farming and meat from the laboratory can help to defeat famine once and for all and at least meet climate targets - not to mention animal welfare ... The 3D printer avoids unnecessary transport routes for goods. Much of what you think you need, you will simply print out at home (such as the 3D-printed GM seat brackets. This means that resources are not in stockpiling. And because the car sharing vehicle drives autonomously to the door, hardly anyone owns it one more car of their own, data synchronization in the cloud and the convergence of biology and technology will make medicine easier and significantly cheaper and make people healthier around the world.
But hardly anyone believes this story as long as it is only told in Silicon Valley and China. In this country and in Hollywood films, people prefer to indulge in Armageddon fantasies with relish. The fear articulated in this way is not unfounded: the dangers of the misuse of data and exponential technologies are undoubtedly great. Therefore, a skepticism about a purely positive future narrative is justified. What is missing is the mixture of foresight, optimism and social and political control. That would take politicians who are courageous and skeptical at the same time.

The future is coming. Wake up and come with me!

You have to dare to think big, exponentially and not linearly so that the future inspires again, so that it becomes a strong promise again. The world will change faster and deeper; within the framework of “business as usual”, ie normal processes and regulations, we will not be able to set any important course. For example, it is absolutely correct when MEP Jan Albrecht (The Greens) addresses that “data is the new oil” and calls for better protection. The result is a classic regulation called the General Data Protection Regulation. The little bureaucracy monster led to an unprecedented flood of emails instead of real data security and transparency. Data can still leave our legal space. Why don't we ensure that data find a safe, state-controlled port here and insist on an EU cloud?

As long as the background of most politicians is a degree in political science or law with subsequent employment in a parliamentary office and / or with an interim supply job in a state or party-affiliated institution, we may ask too much of them.
© Gerd Leonhard
We need a European “Digital Ethics Council” so that they have guard rails for future-oriented action. (More on this here). Cross-party scientists, philosophers, thinkers and artists should be appointed to this council. He should constantly discuss and explain the new challenges and opportunities that arise in the context of technological development. The Council could publish recommendations for action for states, governments, politics and business and thus give speed and direction to the discussion. Global agreements could also be made on the basis of his work.

We already know international moratoria from chemical and nuclear weapons. They emerged after humanity had devastating experiences with the respective technologies in the First and Second World Wars. We will also need such global contracts in terms of artificial intelligence and genetic technology. However, this time we cannot wait until fatal incidents like Hiroshima have occurred: the development could be irreversible after such a fall, especially in these two areas - a so-called intelligence explosion of AI would not be reversible.

For other measures, however, no support from the USA and China is to be expected. Ultimately, the major digital players such as Google, Facebook, Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent come from their economies. Just like other digital platforms, they should continually have to earn their “license to operate” by introducing effective measures to protect against misuse of our data. It cannot be that global corporations with hundreds of millions or even billions of users are less monitored than public media or banks. Nor does it make sense to let corporate profits go through the roof when marginal costs decrease or even disappear as a result of digitization. Modern technology needs modern systems of taxation.

The future is coming. In fact, it comes very quickly, and it is often here already - we just haven't recognized it yet. It contains a lot of good that we can experience and use together. It will only function in the interests of humanity if we intervene and actively shape the future. By saying how we want to live and who we want to be, by also being ready to dream and fight.

Let's run towards the future. Wake up and come with me!


Gerd Leonhard | © Gerd LeonhardGerd Leonhard

Gerd Leonhard is a world-famous futurist, keynote speaker, author and future advisor. His films on technology, people and the future are widespread and extremely popular. Over 300 leading companies from 30 countries like to fall back on Gerd when it comes to the holistic understanding of the near future. After working as a professional musician and producer, and later as an internet entrepreneur in the USA, he found his current passion in 2001: The future and the examination of exponential technologies, which we are currently experiencing at first hand everywhere. Gerd sees and describes both the advantages and disadvantages, but he is basically more of an optimist. Gerd's central message is that all technology should always serve the collective human happiness first, and that we welcome technology but should not become it ourselves


Tim Renner | © Martin Becker Tim Renner

Tim Renner is a German music producer, journalist and author. Renner initially worked as a journalist, including for the NDR, the Tempo magazine and the city magazine Tango, and switched to the music industry in 1986. In 1994 he founded the universal sub-label Motor Music, and in 2001 he became music president and managing director of Universal Music Germany. In 2003 he was named "Global Leader for Tomorrow" by the World Economic Forum. Renner has been a long-time lecturer in the music business course at the Baden-Württemberg Pop Academy and was appointed professor there in 2009. He is a member of the SPD and is an assessor on the board of the “Cultural Forum of Social Democracy”. From 2014 to 2016, Renner was State Secretary for Culture in the City of Berlin. In the 2017 federal election, Renner ran for the SPD as a member of the Bundestag in the Berlin-Charlottenburg - Wilmersdorf constituency, but was narrowly defeated by his CDU competitor.

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