How has technology changed your life 1

Internet, autonomous vehicles, robots, a new world feeling: How digitization is changing our lives. An essay by Erna Lackner.

A little boy is standing in front of an aquarium and wants to enlarge the fish behind the glass with a swipe of his thumb and forefinger on the pane - a scene from the picture book of digitization. What will the boy perceive as normal reality when he grows up? How will the digital technologies that shaped his relationship with the world from an early age have influenced his consciousness? What is natural for the digital natives? How real is the virtual?

The digital revolution has turned the world upside down, not only technically and economically, it is also culturally - mentally, emotionally, intellectually - upheaval. A hundred years from now, it will be easier to judge whether the greatest transformation in our human history to date is actually taking place. We are fascinated by it, but we can already say today: We will have lived in interesting times. Google counts 5.6 billion searches every day, 65,000 every second. More than a billion people are active on Facebook every day. Today, more than one in four people has a cell phone; there are 2.1 billion smartphones. Young people use their smartphones 160 times a day, and they have grown together with it.

The internet came like a natural event - and is probably a force of nature. To stand against it would mean to be against yourself, against your social being and all spirit. It is human nature that a digital language and communication technology was invented or found.

The latest impetus came with Steve Jobs' stroke of genius to bring the human hand back into the high-tech game: With the swipe of a finger on touchscreens, smartphones became sensual and intuitive to use.

The internet shines like a second sun today. Wipe - and you are connected to the world. You will never forget this world feeling, you always want such a connection, this magical realism. We are still living in a transition phase, older people slow down: Don't live online! Go analog! But they too congratulate each other secretly: to still be able to experience this uncharted territory. The world is like fresh - it was already completely discovered and explored to every corner of the Antarctic. But now: a spirit of optimism, remeasurement of the world that has been pulled over the old one, conquests are possible again. Start up!

Fortunately for all of us, the inventor of the World Wide Web, Tim Berners-Lee in 1991 at CERN in Geneva, had no economic interests. The network was created open and there for everyone. The English physicist has given us a freedom of communication that has never existed before. Accordingly, the social and economic effects increase. In the exponential growth race, the fastest became the permanent winners at the switching points of the infrastructure: Google, Facebook, YouTube, Apple, Amazon, PayPal and other megaplayers. In times of multimedia, we get used to the reality of the virtual, including virtual reality, for the time being with glasses.

Perhaps in these pioneering years we will experience the Wild West again, in order to stay American. Like the first settlers, there are wonderfully undeveloped land masses ahead of us, naturally with risks and side effects. The new territory is like infinite and not yet blocked by bureaucracies and barriers. But the signs are increasing that the grandiose global free space will not last forever. Regulations, warning signs, barriers, selections, enclosures, and tampering will be reinforced, for business reasons, as a transparency requirement, in the name of clean democracy, because of the trolls, in order to distance oneself from algorithmic bots.

Cookies line our paths. Online targeting, like in e-commerce, is now also used in politics; in the US elections, types of customers turned into types of voters. Apps with promises of convenience and happiness lead us to open-heartedness that we would never allow ourselves in analog, "real" life. But digital profiling is also real. The old adage "Nothing is so finely spun, everything comes to the sun" also applies in the new world of the Internet, precisely because of the finely spun recording machinery of the Internet.

The third wave of digitization is rolling in

Like all upheavals, digital change sparkles in the interplay of light and shadow. Mail order companies are crowding out local businesses. Conversely, small producers reach large markets online.

Traditional media are no longer needed to convey news. News spreads digitally via social media, and not only Donald Trump tweets top-down, many politicians like to communicate suddenly. Since the digital platforms are open to everyone, the fashion blogger as well as institutions or companies, the media industry has not shrunk, but enormous and - well! - grown in many ways.

The economic interests of digital innovators are currently shifting with all their might to the "Internet of Things": the networking and control of intelligent machines for our everyday lives. According to Internet pioneer and AOL founder Steve Case, the “third wave” of digitization, after the first with the WWW and the second with search engines and social media, will dynamize all possible industries. Wearable technologies for patients and telemedicine, self-driving cars, smart homes. The refrigerator reports when the beer is about to run out, the heating goes up during the driverless drive home, and the car parks itself. When you come in through the front door, you are greeted by your favorite music that matches your mood. The floor is perfectly vacuumed - if a robot could now keep the rest of the household in good shape!

In Japan, which is almost in love with technology, robots are used as cleaning staff and porters at airports and in hotels, and also as approachable helpers in old people's homes. In this country people are already asking sensitively “Can you hit robots with a hammer?”, And EU lawyers are thinking about e-persons and their rights and obligations, but Europeans are not entirely comfortable with humanoid machines. Of course, every useful technology has always won over a large number of buyers if it is really good. And in the Internet of Things, Silicon Valley is congenially linked with German engineering and mechanical engineering. Many devices with intelligent control electronics come from research departments in German industries that deal intensively with deep learning: Machines with artificial intelligence not only learn to act appropriately to the situation and task, but also to cognitively write their operating software.


This article was published in CHANCEN spring / summer 2017 “Success in the digital world”.

To the issue

In the home country of the automobile, of all places, even autonomous cars are still met with a lot of skepticism. BMW, Daimler, VW and Elon Musk with Tesla have to do some psychological work in addition to the technical work against the fear of losing control. Even if the driver is no longer the free person on the open road in a traffic jam, the car with the steering wheel is a symbol of freedom for him. He's a king in the cockpit.

The digital all-rounder smartphone has given him endless leeway, but the digitized car wants to take away the joy of changing gears and power? Yes, driving is still fun! Well, assistance systems are already in many vehicles today - the transition to self-driving cars will be gradual. And when drivers have finally experienced the flow when gliding in digitally synchronized rush hour traffic, they will be steadfast for it. This flow, comfort, quality of life and other surprising gains will also be the allies of this digital changeover. In general, shouldn't the name of the automobile have to drive itself from the start ?!

The author

Erna Lackner is a freelance author in Vienna, writes primarily for the “Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung” and has published a book about “The Generations Y and Z”.

These are exciting times in which we live. Let's enjoy them and help shape what and where we can. We have the wonderful tools, both technical and human. Digitus, Latin, means finger. The digital future is in our hands.

Published on KfW Stories on: Friday, June 16, 2017