Roland Dürre
Sunday May 7th, 2017

Quo Vadis – Digital Transformation?

Personal Statement.
“Digitalization” is a topic I also often talk about in my presentations. Consequently, I will also again attend the Oberland IT Camp next Friday (May, 12th). This is both in order to enlighten some people and – above all – to learn many new things and make new experiences.

Here are some of my ideas from several presentations, discussions and debates around digitalization. I am sure it would be enough to fill an entire book, which is why some of my ideas are only in catchwords. However, it should suffice for those who know a little about the issue.

Digitalization – a great misunderstanding?
No tomorrow without today, no today without yesterday!

My presentation during the evening event BICCnight it at media in the foyer of the Funkhaus Bayern, München on 22/07/2011 (picture taken by: Stephan Goerlich) – For the video, see below.

If you want to understand the present, you need to know how the present came about. The history of digitalization is very old. During the last fifty years, the development speeded up tremendously, and in the last two decades, there was yet another boost. All indicators suggest that, at least in the next twenty years, the acceleration will continue.

“Digitalization” caused a massive change in our society. It did so in a different way than but to a similar extent as the “Industrial Revolution” in the last three centuries. As we all know, the second great “transformation through technological progress” still lies ahead. It will, again, totally change our individual and social way of life.
Consequently, it cannot do any harm to ask the following questions:

What exactly is the meaning of digitalization? How did it happen? What changed so far? Where are we today? What does digitalization mean for the “analogous” creature “homo sapiens”? What will come next? And is it possible that the new technology will transform us back to a “creature that communicates purely analogously”?

In my presentations, I discuss these and other questions both on a technical and sociological level. I try to make my presentations easily comprehensible and entertaining. I am also brave enough to give prognoses and suggest a few answers. But above all, I try to provoke people and make them thoughtful.

Thus, many questions arise. They can be answered in quite different ways.

From here: more in catchwords.
What is the purpose of digitalization?

After all, humans communicate analogously, don’t they?

In our brains, language and thinking are analogous processes. A relatively short time after language was first used, there came the wish to write down numbers, ideas, thoughts and stories. Initially, it was probably also because it was an application that was economically useful. Later, it was used for handing down and making available for a broad public through the times all “knowledge”.

This is how images, symbols, digits, numbers and a systemic stock of signs (alphabet) were created. The goal was always to “lay down in writing” language (ideas, stories). Because you wanted to transport them through time and space with more than just by word of mouth. And when reading them, the “brains” had to “de-cipher” them into analogous language.

All stock of signs can be bi-jectively represented by the minimal set of numbers {0,1}. Digitalization means basically that what is analogous can be represented by something digital and then transported and processed, but, above all, again “made analogous”. That is how it started. However, today the digital world has come such a long way that it serves us totally analogously.

The history of digitalization:
Written language as digitalization of language: 24 symbols.
Stone, clay, papyrus, paper as information carrier.
Formerly: one monk dictates, many write down.
Then: printing press, movable letters.
Sound is mechanically stored (wax disc, hurdy-gurdy, record disc, chiming cylinder).
Information was transported through physical transport of the storage elements.
Interesting exceptions were linked signals based on optical and acoustical means (mirrors on watch towers along the Italian coast, drum chains) – usually with a reduced information width (for a certain purpose).

Then electricity came…
Transfer through cables via electricity or wireless
Storage: still mechanically (punched tapes).
Later: first magnetic sound carriers (currently disappearing).


The history of transmission protocols alone would fill an entire book. Here are just a few catchwords:
MORSE-Code (3 values, short, long, pause=end; variable sign length, maximum of four).
For transfer and later publication of content (material and method).
TELEX (mechanical – electrical)
CCITT-Code (5 Bit-Code, 31 symbols with 24 letters plus special symbols)
Telephone/Telefax – both were analogous with cable transmission.
ISDN and packet switching (X25) came later.
Long distance data transfer was by modem through the telephone network.
(modulation of digital signals into analogous signals and back through de-modulation at the other end of the connection).
Then digitalization came for data transfer, too. Basically, it is all about sampling curves in same-distant intervals (grids) – this is also how sound = music = language is digitalized.

At the same time, the universal machine (computer) was invented. Basically, it could do more than just calculations. In fact, it could do everything.

Pandora’s box opened.

The CD came in 1982, ISDN in 1989 (Pilot as early as 1979).
CD is short for Compact Disk, initially it was called DD for Digital Disk.

When ISDN was first introduced, both the population and the parliament were very much afraid because now total supervision was possible! Today, ISDN has been replaced – as TELEX has been in the 1980s. And everything can be more or less supervised – and is being supervised as the necessity arises.

Data processing, too, became digital as a matter of principle and data display consoles were added to the mix.

I saw my first colour data display console on the Hannover Fair in 1980. It had been produced by Tectronix, looked like a big Oscillograph and cost as much as a small terraced house in Munich.

It was now possible to multiplex on one cable; then, at long last, data remote transfer based on packet switching comes (Datex-P X25). For the first time, networks become “clouds” – up to now, they had always consisted of numerous linked lines.

The future belonged to screen texts. The blanking interval of TV was made use of. After all, during the time the cathode ray needed for going from the bottom right to the left, no data were transferred. This was utilized for embedding data into the TV program. By using a simple back channel, they were even able to create an interactive communication through the TV with screen text computers. Even graphics was possible. Simple images were coded on the line and column screen through codes that were based on alpha and mosaic tables. To be sure, the result was a little plump and it took a long time to generate a page, but at least it worked. Nevertheless, BTX was soon overtaken. But it was certainly a good tool for watching soccer results and simple news for many years.

Another “service” – teletext with a more achievement-based point-to-point protocol (Datex-L) and standardized visual display units as stations was to become the predecessor of Telex (also known as: wire based with output on teletypewriter). But that was a product that failed before it was even operational

I experienced two “goose-bump moments” on the Berlin IFA (Internationale Funk Ausstellung): first with coloured TV (1960s) and then with the CD (in the 1970s). Both times, I experienced something that had seemed “unbelievable” for me. Again, reality pushed its way closer to our living rooms, the real world started getting mixed up with the virtual world.

Technological Advanced is Under Way:

Here my father’s original “Transistor-Radio”. We used it in IF-Blog as label for our Radiophilosophie.

I will never forget my father’s transistor radio. Because this was some progress that really made him happy. It was a small Grundig device with six transistors. It ran on UKW and MW, was small, had batteries. Now you could receive radio waves everywhere – even abroad. That was important in times of cold war.

Incidentally, coloured TV was first broadcast in 1967. And for us black-and-white watchers, it was something like a technological miracle (although we had been taught – and even understood – the technical principles in physics).

When coloured TV started in 1967 Körting offered the cheapest colour TV, a device with 14 tubes plus image tube and with a two-transformation unit concept.

And then matters developed from there.
Digital music (the gramophone record was replaced by the CD, the CD was integrated into the iPod through MacIntosh and iTunes).
We got wireless telephones and then later digital telephones.
In addition to synchronous communication, there was now also asynchronous communication.

Here is a video recording of my presentation in the Foyer of the Funkhaus Bayern in Munich on July, 22nd, 2011 that fits quite well at this point. The wonderful title was::

What’s new, pussycat?”


Then came solutions that we still know today …

telephones with pictures
Social Media, FB, Google, Wikipedia …
Today, this is all really ancient stuff.
But there was also lots of rubbish:
The obligation to save emails, data collection and data security (almost ridiculous and a thing of the past, because today it is a matter of course)

Then came BIG DATA and with it another huge misunderstanding.
Just look at sentences like: “Data as crude oil of the future”, “big data engine will make dollars out of data”. All these sentences are bullshit at best.

Along with these developments, the calculator replaced having to do your sums by heart, on paper or with a slide rule.

And they say that, soon, the cars will all sit in the queue without anybody behind the wheel while the manager uses the underground train, which brings him to his meeting on time while the car arrives late. …

But what is the trend?

There was a time when I would have written: snapchat, wechat and the likes are what determine our future. But today, all of these, too, are a thing of the ancient past.


This is probably only about developed societies – the others will become poorer and poorer and will have totally different things to be concerned about. But here, much (all?) might change:
Chat kills E-Mail
Podcast kills Post
Audio kills reading & writing
Video kills Audio (telephone)
… ???

The classic form of mobility will change drastically.
3D will change everyday life.
Documents will probably soon disappear.
Money will become truly virtual.
Ownership, property and legality will become virtual – with all its consequences.
The golden rule will be: “Whatever is simple and useful will win“
The Messie culture will leave the real world (property will only be a burden) and become virtual.
We will leave physical values, a well-filled digital stock is more important than strange physical values that only cause stress.
Many hypes that today annoy people will become matters of course – or will totally disappear.
Even more than now, people will talk about things they do not know anything about.
Machines will determine what happens.
New tools will determine trends.

Learning and education will change drastically.

What will happen to schools and universities? Perhaps some of them will survive as nostalgic remainders from former times.
Smart Solutions will work for us and we will not even be aware of it.

Smart Solutions will make “shared economy” possible, perhaps thus saving the world? Or maybe they will at least postpone the apocalypse a little?

Through self-sufficient learning, systems of artificial intelligence will become faster and more intelligent – and will humans, to make up for it, become more and more stupid?
New technology will make the world go round even without humans, because it will directly communicate with the world.

In society, we will get “conspiracy theories” that have totally new dimensions. Humans will use more and more audio, video and three-dimensional experiences. The competence to read and write quasi automatically because it is a cultural competence as a matter of course will disappear. Rudimentary illiteracy will develop. Most people will forget how to read and write, just like they already forgot how to do sums by heart or on paper a long time ago. Because you simply will no longer need it.

But then, what technologies already play an important role today and will probably become really relevant in the future?

Or: What do we wish to focus on today?


Up until recently, the entire IT always communicated only with humans or, at best, with other “digital systems”. By using sensors, IT can now suddenly work directly with the world – it no longer needs humans as in-betweens.

Smart Solutions
In the context of solutions, Smart means the combination of “digital technology” and “social change”.

Short: smart = social + digital

More advanced solutions that, today, are named by buzzwords like augmented, merged or virtual reality.

All kinds of autonomous and integrative systems, probably totally different from those we even imagine today. Which probably means something other than the self-driving car. Let us just wait and see!

The problem will always be the user interface. For instance, if you look at the poor grades even much-used “German Apps” get, then you can easily conclude that the development of Apps has a very good future.

Let me conclude with a warning and a
The future – based on digital technology – will bring the “analogization” of everyday life and an enormous social change through smart solutions!


Digitalization is a very old thing! It was in the ancient past! Issues like data security are dead. Discussing it will only deflect us from actually following the current developments. And from giving the quasi automatical social change a humane orientation.

As I see it, we really should have discussions and debates about this. But, please, think first, then talk!

(Translated by EG)

9 Kommentare zu “Quo Vadis – Digital Transformation?”

  1. Chris Wood (Monday May 8th, 2017)

    At the start, I read “Sprache und Denken sind im Kopf analog”. This may be how we seem to experience things, but behind the scene, it is more digital, or even binary. Nerves and brain cells work with impulses, which do not vary in intensity in proportion to the cause or effect. On the input side, consider hearing. Sounds move microscopic “hairs” in the ear, which react individually to appropriate frequency. Similarly, on the output side, sequences of nerve impulses to the muscles somehow produce smooth movements, at least in young people.

  2. rd (Monday May 8th, 2017)

    Lieber Chris, ich kann mir nicht vorstellen, dass Bits und Bytes durchs Gehirn schwirren und es ein “human unicode” gibt. Und Geräusche (wie Musik) digitalisiert werden. Meines Wissens unterstützen die Erkenntnisse der Gehirnforschung diese Annahme. Und ich gehe mal davon aus, dass der digitale Nachbau des menschlichen Gehirns (ein ja mit Milliarden von € gefördertes EU-Projekt) auch deshalb scheitert, weil das Gehirn eben nicht digital ist …

  3. Chris Wood (Thursday May 11th, 2017)

    Dear Roland, probably you feel that the air you breath is analogue. Nevertheless, it consists of molecules. The whole world is quantised. “Analogue” is just how things seems when one does not look closely enough. The brain is too complex to look closely enough. But the brain is largely made out of nerve cells. These work by exchange of impulses.
    Analogue computers cannot compete with digital ones. I cannot believe that our wonderful brains are based on a failed design.
    We need a comment from somebody who understands this.

  4. rd (Thursday May 11th, 2017)

    Lieber Chris, in der mir bekannten Natur gibt es keine Digitalität, keine “Null” und keine “Eins”.
    Und das Gehirn als nicht-digitaler Computer ist immer noch jedem digitalem System überlegen.
    Die analogen “Computer” waren – soweit es sie überhaupt gab – immer mechanisch oder chemisch (anorganisch). Aber nie organisch. Organische Computer findest Du nur in den Körpern von Lebewesen wie Tintenfische, Ameisen, Delphinen, Adlern, Eichhörnchen oder auch Menschen. Bei den Menschen aber eher mit reduzierter Performance, die vielleicht ein klein wenig durch das Kleinhirn ausgeglichen wird. 🙂
    Wir können ja mal Gehirnforscher wie den Gerhard Roth oder den Gerald Hüther fragen 🙂

  5. Chris Wood (Saturday May 13th, 2017)

    Dear Roland, there were electrical analogue computers. Our argument was about analogue/digital. Do not fog the issue with “organic” or “bio”. Of course binary exists in nature; for instance dead/alive or mineral/organic.
    Ask the people you mention; I do not know them.
    Looking in Wikipedia, I see that Roth is mainly concerned with behaviour produced by the brain, rather than details of internal functioning. I see that Hüther is slightly more involved in detailed functioning, but his ideas seem to be much disputed.
    Both seem more educated as philosophers and medical researchers, than as bio-electricians. My brother Philip, a biology teacher, may be a better person to consult.

  6. rd (Saturday May 13th, 2017)

    Lieber Chris,

    Eigenschaften wie “tot oder lebendig” oder “organisch oder anorganisch” sind willkürliche Einordnungen in künstlich durch menschliche Denkvorgänge geschaffene Kategorien, die zwar aus unserer eingeschränkten Sicht heraus vielleicht plausibel erscheinen, aber mit der Realität wohl nichts zu tun haben und auch gar nicht zu tun haben können. Daraus die Existenz einer digitalen Welt abzuleiten erscheint mir mehr als kühn. Ich sehe in der Natur keine Nullen und Einsen.

    Auch auf der Suche nach Kreisen, die sich der Zahl pi unterwerfen bin ich in der analogen Welt noch nicht fündig geworden …

    Ich persönlich kenne auch keine analogen Rechner auf elektrischer Basis. Eigentlich kenne ich nur den Rechenstab, und der wird mit (menschlicher) Körperkraft betrieben 🙂

  7. Chris Wood (Sunday May 14th, 2017)

    I was surprised to read that they are still being developed.
    This, like the Wheatstone bridge, was what I would regard as a very early electrical analogue computer. In my day, we learnt at school about such things.
    I do not understand the rest of your last comment.
    You cannot really believe that dead or alive has nothing to do with reality, or that circles have nothing to do with pi. How could a circle “sich unterwerfen”?

  8. Chris Wood (Wednesday May 17th, 2017)

    I have discussed this with my brother Philip. We are both convinced that brains and nerves function digitally, not analogue. That is, they function with discrete impulses, that can be understood as ON or OFF, (aka 1 or 0). There are also inhibitory impulses, (aka -1). Impulses add together, to decide whether the result is positive. This is digital, and surely not analogue. I suspect that various “number bases” are used, hardly ever 10. I do not know whether error-correcting codes are used. “Number bases” larger than 2 may be used, to give reliability through redundancy.
    This must work with massive multi-processing. I guess this is only locally synchronised.

  9. rd (Friday May 19th, 2017)

    “I suspect that various „number bases“ are used, hardly ever 10.”
    Ich wüßte keinen Grund, warum das Universum sich auf eine 10-er-Basis einigen sollte, nur weil ein paar Zufallsgeschöpfe zehn Finger haben (falls das der Grund dafür ist, dass wir dezimal denken und rechnen.
    Die Mathematik ist doch auch nur eine Theorie, die auf einfachen Axiomen aufbaut und die hilft Vorgänge zu beschreiben. Die Erklärung mag dann bis zum nächsten (erdachten) Pradigmen-Wechsel zu funktionieren.
    Wieso aber sollte die von Zufallswesen geschaffene Mathematik aber das Gesetz sein, nach dem das Universum zu funktionieren hat?
    Diese Annahme finde ich ungefähr so vermessen wie die Theorie des Kreativismus.

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