Roland Dürre
Sunday May 26th, 2019

Turn of an Era: The End of the Digital World?

On May, 16th, 2019, I was invited to give a presentation on “post-digital” at the Hotel Eden-Wolff near Munich Central Station, which was organized by the regional GChACM group and the GI. It was about the question if and how the end of the digital world might be possible.

I try not to give any sales presentations with which someone tries to convince someone else to buy or do something. Consequently, I no longer use any manipulative transparencies that only restrict both the audience and the speaker.

Let the art of painting serve to illustrate how I speak: it used to be painting as true to nature as possible. Then, new forms of expression came along. They were called impressionism and expressionism and led to abstract art. My presentations are similar. I try to serve individual spots of colour dynamically and they are supposed to inspire and make the audience thoughtful. However, not everybody in the audience always understands this.

The question: “Who owns the internet” is such a spot of colour. Because for me, the internet is and always has been something special. The internet, too, has an infra-structure. It is similar to that of the railway or of streets for the motorised individual traffic and trucks.

Today, we have to accept that the internet as we loved and appreciated it no longer exists. And that we have only just started the phase where the network is controlled and used for influencing people. There is no end to gangsters who want to shanghai the internet.

Florian Sesser and yours truly spontaneously decided to give the presentation together. And we said: Hey, let us do a Chautauqua :-). Here is how you pronounce  the word.

The Chautauqua combines entertaining and educational elements as a form of educational oratory. It also has aesthetic standards and wants to motivate the listener towards active participation.

Opening:

I see myself also as a “digital evangelist”, just like the “technology evangelists of Sun”. This year, I will celebrate my fifty years of digitalization. There is definitely some pride about being able to present myself as a pioneer of the third IT generation.

Here are the presentations I gave at the same place: 
Entrepreneur sketches (roughly twenty years ago with Norbert Weinberger and Alois Wolferstetter) and
Ethics and Computer Science (eleven years ago). 
Today, this was exactly what the focal topic of the current Informatik-Spektrum (membership magazine of Gesellschaft für Informatik) was about. I read it – and I really feel quite motivated to critically discuss what has been written.

Incidentally, I once was a member of the GChACM board of directors – together with Wolf-Rüdiger Gawron. He cannot come today because he is vacationing in Spain. The highlight of my time on the board was the local jubilee event that celebrated the 50-ieth birthday of the huge ACM (1998). Charles “Chuck” House had come to Munich and told us about the huge event in the USA (1998). Many thanks to the then GChACM president Wolf-Rüdiger Gawron who organized the event with the support of BMW AG (Siemens had opted out) and given everything an outstanding setting.

I never managed to visit the ACM jubilee event in the USA in 1997. When Chuck came to BMW Munich, he signed the book with all the presentations of “beyond computing” and gave it to me. So now I was able to read everything I needed to know about it.

How shall we live in 1975 – Hobby title page in November 1955

I was going to show you my “beyond computing“ book during my presentation, but, unfortunately, I could not find it. The important thing about it was that (at least) three famous science fictions authors (on top of many software development experts) were also present at the jubilee event. They also talked about the future of IT and software.

If you translate “Beyond computing” into German, you want to be careful. I just learned from Professor Oliver Kretzschmar (Uni Stuttgart) that the German “künstliche Intelligenz” is not really the same as “artificial intelligence”, simply because intelligence means something in English that it does not mean in German. And this is the reason for quite a few misunderstandings.

I brought the following books/brochures for you to browse:

  • Lexikon der Datenverarbeitung by Siemens, seventh (and last) edition of 1978. Incidentally, the first edition was of 1969. It was sold out so fast that they printed a second improved edition in the same year.
  • 30 Hobby magazines of 1955 – 1967 (randomly selected). 
It is absolutely fascinating how technology, engineering concepts and knowledge are explained in such a way that everybody can understand it. All of them are great magazines, let me pick out two that seem to be particularly fitting today:
  • November 1955. In this edition, they predict exactly how we are going to live in 1975.
  • “Here a car comes flying“ … which sounds extremely modern today (I wonder why I am thinking in terms of flight taxis today??? 😉
  • And a few Science Fiction books (Issac Asimov in the Heyne-Verlag), for example „ich der Robot“ (https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ich,_der_Robot – the English version of which was published when I was born!)
    Predictions are difficult to make, especially if they are about the future. (Karl Valentin).

Here comes a car flying … Hobby August 1956

Please note that even the great Hobby magazines are mainly about cars. This also goes to show what a formative effect the focus on mobilized individual traffic has had on us during the last hundred years. There are few digital issues – if at all, it is only Morse codes and similar things. I also seem to remember reading a short article about decoding.

What did I read in those days? After I started grammar school (1960), Karl May was a thing of the past. And Bravo was something I did not find really exciting. Consequently, science-fiction (along with existentialists like Alber Camus) became my favourite literature. At the time, the Heyne pocketbook edition was excellent.

Science fiction probably triggered my interest in IT. Mind you, Asimov had written “Ich der Robot …” twenty years earlier – and he had described laws of robotics that might now slowly become reality.

Florian Sesser – a young entrepreneur who fights for a better world.

And I also brought along Florian Sesser. He gave me the book where I found Chautauqua. Robert Pirsig – Zen and the art of Motorcycle Maintenance (Nachruf NPR). Thanks  to Flo!

Then Florian introduced himself in his modest but very forward way. Let me tell you about him:

Florian Sesser, born in 1983, is a creative person. He loves it if he finds simple and elegant solutions to difficult problems in informatics. He started programming when he was eight years old. In 2014, he was one of the founders of accu:rate. The companie makes huge events and public buildings safer places by using computer simulation.

🙂 We want to jam the Chautauqua together. I am (mostly) the vocalist and Florian will play the instruments. We will divide our teaching speech into two sections with thirty minutes each. And with a biological break. Because otherwise things might get too hard.

BLOCK # 1„Postdigital“
BLOCK # 2 “Digital and Society ”
If the circumstances change – for instance because the audience is more active – then we change our agenda. We might, for example, remove the second block and, if that is what you wish (and Wolfgang finds it is doable), re-schedule it for another presentation.
Here is what the presentation will be about. I will not fill in all the comments. Instead, I will just give you the structure of the presentation in catchwords. This is like a collection of material in two blocks. You can let your imagination run free!
Syllabus BLOCK 1:

•    Post-digital
•    Definition (what comes to mind)
•    Post-factual  🙂
•    Era of irresponsible babble (R. Lay)
•    Digitalization: buzzword, also “post-digital”. Look it up in the internet and you will get the following hits.
•    Definition of “Digitalization ” (as I see it, it all began when the written language was invented). Today, it means something like automatization based on algorithms. A buzzword.
•    In Wikipedia (fairly new article)
https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Postdigital
•    Accenture (consultant: Bullshit)
https://www.accenture.com/us-en/blogs/blogs-paul-daugherty-digital-transformation
•    Digital is not reversible? Irreversible?

•    What might destroy digitalization? Question – trying to find answers.
•    Wikipedia
•    Wikipedia is great (open source, totally based on honorary work, independent, no adverts,…)
•    Question to the audience: Who of you uses, pays for, administration, …
•    Infra-structure of knowledge (founded in 2001)
•    Age and gender???
•    A world of old white men (women are the exception).
•    What will happen if Wikipedia breaks down?
https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Wikipedistik/Soziologie
•    Wikipedia is the best example for creative destruction.
•    Wikipedia destroyed thesauri and encyclopedia.
•    What will be the future of the infra-structure of knowledge when those who work it on an honorary basis no longer feel like doing it?
•    Who will then own Wikipedia?
(BRD, UNO or a private agent …)
•    For the editors, it was really bad news
•    Lucrative business models and enterprises were lost.
•    Concerns, as opposed to the internet, will forget.
•    Revenge (copyright legislation)
(free from, because common-good oriented).
•    Politics and lobbies currently practice how to deprive NGO-s of the common good status.

•    Other threatening examples
•    Over-regulation and influencing
•    Facebook/Google example: vaccination enemies are ostracized
•    Upload filters
•    Commercial change (news that you pay for getting priority)
•    Mooresch’s Law (1965)
https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mooresches_Gesetz  We are close to the end. But perhaps the future will continue to need exponential growth  (AI, BIG Data, Blockchain …)
•    IT has the power of the potency 
(seed on the chess field)
•    Trinity of computer science has its limits. No more exponential growth.
•    Data storage – we are now in the nano sphere.
•    Communication – we send at the speed of light on glass fibre.
•    Computers – are quantum computers really the solution?
•    Engineers have become priests
•    Asimov (Trantor-Trilogie)
•    Some programmers today actually remind me of it. Once in a while, I get the impression that they “have no idea what they are doing“.
•    Digitalism – a religion. Should we smile at it or take it seriously? Way Of The Future Church ?

•    The infra structure corrodes. Then, there might soon be an end to world-wide communication.
•    Speaking about which, it might be interesting to ask a few questions. Two of them are:
•    Who owns the intenet – in the physical sense?
•    How does it work?
I asked the questions. The result is a good example for the current state of the world – incompetence all over the place. Even the digital top Government cannot answer these basic questions.

…. Translation will be continued soon …

RMD

(Translated by EG)

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