Roland Dürre
Saturday March 2nd, 2019

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

What will happen when the digital era comes to an end?

Im Jahre 2019 habe ich nach einem Jahr Pause wieder am Biike-Camp in Sylt teilgenommen.

After one year of abstinence, I again took part in the Sylt Biike-Camp in 2019. The Biike Camp takes place on Sylt annually, along with the traditional Biike-Brennen. It is a huge meeting of entrepreneurs, counsellors and leaders. It is organized by Tedic, the brothers Krickel first founded it around the turn of the millennium.

This time around, the motto was The Turn of an Era. Again, it was more than worth the effort to go there. I was invited to give a presentation on the second day of the event. They had suggested the topic:

”Entrepreneurial Leadership in the Post-Digital World”

I will write down my presentation in the following paragraphs. I started by introducing myself, then I tried to analyse the title in two columns.


 

Personal introduction
Since, on the first day of our meeting, it became clear to me how very much most of us (including myself) are formed by the car, I started by introducing all the cars that I ever drove in my life. In other words: I related my former car and current bike culture. 
? And in the process, I also discovered a few things about myself.
Then I mentioned the computers I use (Mac and Chrome, no Windows).
So I have double mobility – MIV (motorized individualized traffic and on the network). Both tells a lot about the life of a white old man.
And, of course, I also had to speak of my personal history. I told the audience about duerre.de and if-blog.de and mentioned that I consider myself a late founder (I was 34).
With respect to my InterFace history, I referred the listeners to the Wikipedia entry on InterFace AG.


In order to be able to react to the content of the other presentations with the highest possible degree of flexibility, I abstained from using slides with content. Instead, I mostly worked with Wikipedia.

It was my plan to tackle the topic “entrepreneurial leadership in the post-digital world” in a dialectic way. In other words, I wanted to analyse the individual terms post, digital and world (column 1) and entrepreneurial leadership (column 2).


 

I. The post-digital world

(Column 1 – what is the meaning of post, digital, world?)
Before today, I only knew the term post factual. Post digital was news to me. For me, post factual means that we live in the era of totally irresponsible babble, which is part of the new dishonesty (Rupert Lay).

You can even see it if you look at legislation. China is not the only country where legislation is introduced in such a way that it can be interpreted at random. Perhaps this happens on purpose?

Digitalisation has become a matter of course. Everybody talks about it. A short time ago, I read: digitalization is a technology that cannot be turned back. In other words, without digitalization and soon also AI, nothing can be done in the near future.

It seems that we are totally dependent on digitalization, as we depend on electricity and electronics. In the same way, a life as most of us want it would not be possible without digitalization. Every piece of technology contains a huge part of software, there is no technology without any software inside.

If I have discussions with the bee savers in Bavaria about the provocative thesis that “it might already be too late“ to save the planet, then they tell me that, thanks to digitalization, we might actually be able to save the planet. 
? So we have really great expectations when it comes to “digital“.

I like to refer the audience to Wikipedia when it comes to explaining digitalization. You will find an article by Thomas Kofer – at the time he wrote it he was a employee of ZD.B – where he tries to explain the term. He invested many man-years to write the article.

Then I look for the term post digital online. In Wikipedia, you will not find this kind of nonsense. To make up for it, you find something in Accenture. Here is what they say about  post digital:

”The advent of technology identities is leading to a new generation of business offerings.“

Are they really serious? If you click on their link, you find more such BBB (Berater-Bullshit-Bingo). For my presentation, Accenture is definitely not helpful.

Digital and digitalisation are currently buzzwords. They are very famous – and there are no two identical definitions on the market.

So let me investigate the word post. I find that it is “if a composite of adjectives – sometimes also with nouns and verbs – specifies that something happens/ed at a later time“.
That is correct – post is a preposition that specifies adjectives. Well, I understand that much.

Digitalization is said to be irreversible. Because if there is no digitalization, there will also no longer be any technological industry. After all, in all technological products today, you have software, i.e. digitalization – and soon also AI.

Consequently, there can be no post-digital era, because it would mean the end of our technological world. Especially not if the digital world has made itself autonomous as AI. Which is what many expect.


 

On AI

Artificial Intelligence, Deep learning, Big Data are at the top of the current buzz-words list. The world, or at least all those who want to be heard, talks about robots and bots.

So here is my question:
Who of you knows the three letters T, A and Y? 
If you connect them, you get the word and name Tay.

Many in Germany talk about AI, but most of them do not know what it is. Consequently, nobody knows the Tay. As I see it, that is symptomatic for the entire current discussion.
Tay is – or better: was – the twitter bot of Microsoft. Microsoft developed it – and then it was quickly de-activated because of misbehaviour. Both the first and the second version. It was a few years ago.

Today, it looks like Microsoft does not want to be part of AI. They capitulate before Amazon and Google and terminate their system/project Cortana. Because to the great and mighty IT concern Microsoft, AI looks just too big.

Simultaneously, the Free State of Bavaria declares that they want to start an AI offensive. Microsoft gives up because Google and Amazon are too far ahead. And Bavaria wants to make up for it. Just like China. Except – China, unlike Bavaria, will actually succeed.

To illustrate it with an example I tell my audience about the Chinese News Anchor Bot.
Nobody in the audience of AI experts knows it. Well, that comes as a surprise to me.

So much on AI


 

What exactly could the end of digitalization and AI look like?

Here are a few mental experiments:

The first step towards digitalization was when language was first written down. 
Consequently, “post digital” might mean that, in the future, the majority of the people cannot read or write fluently, but only rudimentarily? As I see it, that is distinctly a possibility. Would that be good or bad? Can there be a good or bad – or are we just full of traditional prejudices?

Because:
Why would anybody want to learn something nobody will need any longer? So: why would we want to learn how to read (and practice it all the time, because otherwise it gets harder and harder) if most of what you want to know is available as an ebook or podcast and the remainder is read to you by a speaking computer? A computer that simultaneously translates everything. The asynchronous and synchronous communication is done via spoken language, anyway (oral messages). That is nice, because spoken language transports more than written language. And then, naturally, language will no longer play a role at all?

If that were to happen, then a modern society can easily forego reading and writing, but it certainly could not forego digitalization.

Then I think about “post digital”. On the level:

What or who could destroy the internet?
(besides the EU regulation mania that is pushed by the FRG)

Two things come to mind

 – Engineers become priests.

Isaac Asimov already introduced the concept in his futuristic novels (for example in the series on Trantor):
The people who maintain the systems no longer understand the machines. They only perform memorized (maintenance) rituals.

I can easily imagine such a concept, because even today, in computer science, that is what programmers do. They do a lot of clicking – and they have no idea what exactly they are doing. The complexity overwhelms us, it is easily possible that the world will lose its know-how.

– The end of Moore’s law.

It is very simple:

IT consists of the three components: computer, connection and storage.

Those are the three relevant IT components. With respect to storage, we have arrived in the nano dimensions, you cannot become any smaller because of the dimension of the atoms. With respect to connections, we now work with the speed of light. You cannot go any faster. I deliberately chose the term computer. Because a modern processor (for instance by Intel) contains so much that I like to use the metaphor of the mega city of New York.

We want to make the computers faster by using the quantum computer. Except that, so far, it does not really work. And it will probably never be able to do much more than decode. But that is good enough for the countries of this world, because basically they only want one thing: monitor us.

That is how the end of Moore’s laws could put a stop to our AI dreams. In the past, the multiplication of resources in small time periods spoiled us. The time has definitely come for this indulgence to be over.

So what is important in the digital world?

As I see it, the first thing that comes to mind is Wikipedia – and there are several reasons for this:

– Wikipedia – the thesaurus of world knowledge.

Wikipedia is great. It is currently free of advertising (with the exception of a few articles they smuggled in about Bayern players’ wives), it is administered on a completely honorary basis and financed by donations, independent of concerns, etc.

That makes it one of the last bastions. We need it every day, because there are no thesauri left. Regardless of some weaknesses, for instance when it comes to the topic of digitalization/IT, Wikipedia is still great.

However, now comes the

BUT:

It is written mostly by old white men, in other words: there are few young persons and only very few women. Wikipedia is like a knowledge infra-structure. As with many infrastructures in our world (streets, bridges, railway tracks), the need for maintenance and renovation increases, but the resources decline.

Wikipedia is threatened by ageing and additionally by the copyright (update filter) and lobbyist pressure.

What will happen if Wikipedia breaks down? Who will then take over Wikipedia?
One of the three dominant German media concerns? The Federal Government? EU and UNO might also be candidates. Or the internet giants Google, Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft …

Just imagine advertisements being permitted in Wikipedia. If I were the owner of Wikipedia, I could well imagine other great business models.

– Services such as Youtube, Vimeo, Facebook++, wechat …? 
(I deliberately left out email as a service, because in my opinion nobody needs them any more)
So: What will happen if all these things no longer exist? A short time ago, I read about a murder threat against the youtube boss because of her statement that, as a consequence of copyright legislation (update filter), she may have to terminate the service in the countries concerned!

You should remember:
regulation mania is detrimental.
For all of us!

Instead you should:
Correct the underlying deficits. That is: you should look for the errors, and then initiate reform. For instance when it comes to copyright legislation.

And let us have less DGSVO …

À propos world:
I am sure you remember: only about half of the world’s population have internet access. We still have two worlds: one with the internet and one without. They are approximately the same size.

But in the internet, there are also two internets (more like a vertical separation). The Chinese one and ours.

Many tourists first notice this as they arrive at Peking airport and want to use gmail for sending greetings home or if they want to chat. It does not work.

Then you will try VPN. But VPN service providers are delivering poor quality or else they are very expensive. Mostly both. So unless you have a VPN of a concern that still works in China, you are not very lucky. Googlemaps does not work at all. It can get difficult. Lost in China. But fear the not: the practical Chinese AI will help.

À propos China:
They are now doing a lot with AI. Among other things, they are now inserting humans into a Social Media – System that is omnipotent (wechat). And then they award credits for social behaviour, both positive and negative. Will this lead towards a digitalised dictatorship– or will the human dream of adequate justice come true? As we all know, it became clear as early as with Aristotle that an arithmetic justice  does not make sense in social life.

Well, I believe that, along with Chinese technology, Chinese culture will reach us. And I wonder if what I related above is not too far-fetched for us, either.

Besides:
The use of the internet is collectively and individually totally diverse. As I see it, we still have horizontal divisions.

In a developed, prosperous and intellectual world, the internet is used totally different from how it is used in a poor and educationally remote world. That is how the internet is extremely divided. We have home office users, pornography watchers and internet gamers. Maniacs and fanatics, etc. It is all just as it is in real life. Mind you, that does not mean that intellectuals never watch pornography.

And also, there must and will be an unbelievable number of smart devices on the internet (everything that can activate WLAN is smart and will need a network: cars, lightbulbs, refrigerators, scales). It all happens on a system of antiquated protocols that were initially planned for totally different purposes. And nobody knows who is actually responsible for the change of interfaces.

How is that supposed to work?
I am sure this is a good question.

 


But let this be it about digital and post-digital. So now I will move to entrepreneurial management, i.e. leadership and social co-existence.


 

II Entrepreneurial leadership

(column 2 – what exactly are: enterprise and leadership?)

Enterprises

A young person once said to me that, for him, an enterprise is an organized mass of people who have a goal or purpose.

That is not a bad definition. We call enterprises or public offices social systems with an economic or administrative purpose.

With enterprises, their size is an important criterion. We have concerns and small enterprises. Their nature and functionality differ hugely.

In our concept, we assume that, as a matter of course, an enterprise has several employees. Not only a constitution and capital. And that the employees, like the customers, are human beings. In other words, that an enterprise has people working for it. For the customers, this is no longer true. Mostly, small enterprises do business with other enterprises. It is called B2B.

Enterprises without people – is such a concept realistic? Only with robots and bots? Everything that humans need will be outsourced, i.e. bought from the providers. And the customers are also no longer humans, but instead, for example, autonomous cars and their managers. Is that imaginable? You would no longer need participation and the work regulations (maximum hours, enterprise constitution, labour contracts, …) would be obsolete.

I know founders (teams) who want to build up an enterprise where everything is automated. Basically, the entire enterprise will only be some software!

No employees, only robots (and providers and partners). Everything else is outsourced – the programming of the product and the marketing/sales. What remains is a small back office with one assistant – the leadership is limited to this one person.

Then you will need no leadership in the sense of human resource. A mere jamming session with the founder team is all you need. Just like jazz. The founding process and the enterprise will become a game with providers, customers and money providers.

I know these kinds of business plans from BayStartUp. I would say they are fashionable. Just like the design of portals or apps used to be fashionable. Or the use of 3-D printers…

In all the business plans I know, the necessary and to-be-written software had enormous importance – I cannot remember a single business plan where it was not a fundamental reason for the USP.

Leadership is, per se, only possible if you have people (employees). But perhaps we will not need them in the future.

For this presentation, I would like to assume that the majority of enterprises will still have employees in the future. Then it makes sense to talk leadership.

The broad range of leadership.

Hierarchy versus Network.
(teams working in a network)

Secrets versus Transparency

Group based (model German Reichswehr – Siemens) versus Team based (micro organization with self-organization)

Taylorismus
(detailed pre-definition of working methods ”one best way“, exact fixation of the place and time of delivery, extremely detailed and divided tasks, one-way communication with determined and strict content, details requirements with respect to final goals for every individual without obvious connection between these details and the general goal of the enterprise – along with quality control) 
versus
Involvement 
(as the sum of being made part of the whole, being included and the integration of task… ).

Processes versus self-organization 
(Henry Ford – the caste of engineers as the predecessors of management caste)

Feudalism versus self-determination.

Being someone’s property versus belonging to yourself. 
That is the theory of power. There are two classes: the wise ones and the stupid ones. With Henry Ford, the farmers were the stupid ones. Powerful machines made them jobless in farming and thus they had to work for him. Not even clocks were something they were familiar with. The engineers had to teach them everything, from being on time to how the tools needed to be handled. Every single procedure at the conveyor belt had to be shown to them. And the caste of engineers are the forefathers of the manager caste.

Evaluation:

As you all know, I always preferred the red option.  Yet in practice, nothing is just black and white (in this case redblue), which means we mostly need to answer the question if an organization is more red or more blue.  I also do not believe that red is only for the “creative“ processes and  blue only for “simple” processes. I know enough examples that prove the opposite, for example Buurtzorg for nursing services. More than 10,000 employees in the Netherlands do the work that is allegedly simple.

Digitalization supports both red and blue !!! It supports communication at eye-level and can also take the role of the boss in a hierarchy. That is also why there is a fear that adssRobots might rule over humanity.

I am convinced that all efficient structures, both blue and red need a powerful digital infra structure.

The blue world needs it for realizing processes and command structures, the red needs it for realizing an infra structure that enables a management of experience and enlightenment for all. I do not use the term knowledge management, because this is about enlightenment and experience.

And I see a huge potential for AI in both worlds.

Outlook for and review of history 
Because especially with social topics, you have to consider yesterday, today and tomorrow.

Yesterday:
(before 1900) 
In the European countries, there was fiefdom, in the new world, there was slavery (also in God’s own country).

During a trip through the Caribbean, I saw Curaçao. I visited the Kura Hulanda Museum and learned a lot about slavery. It officially existed until the early 20th century. In many countries, they still have it.

But also in Europe and Germany , we had many centuries of serfdom . Basically, it is the same as slavery. Only few people were free, most belonged to someone else. The majority of the population lived in the country and produced food (90%). Not in the city – “city air makes you free” (10%).

In the cities, progress had its origins. Because this is where the free craftsmen – wood and iron, levers and wheels (wheelbarrow) had their networks and cooperated with each other. In the country, most people were owned by someone else. Mostly, they were farmers and worked on the land. Which is why they were owned by the land. It was actually quite simple – the people belonged to the person who owned the land.

Both the land and the people were of the feudal class – the nobility and the church. It lasted until the end of the 19th century. This, too, is part of our glorious Christian tradition. Sadly, this is often forgotten.

But here is what beats everything:
Slavery and fiefdom were not abolished for humanitarian reasons. Instead, they found that it became too expensive, inconvenient and costly. This also explains why they fought the American Civil War. Naturally, the end of slavery was promoted by the resistance of the parties concerned. It was both individual and collective resistance.

Well, that was the moment when my idealistic concept of the world was destroyed for good.

Today:

Consumism  is the world’s most powerful religion. Without work, a person is worthless and beyond society. There will be less work in the future. I think especially of well paid administrative workers in offices and the financial industry and similar tasks. Even today, RPA (Robotic process automation) is extremely relevant.
In the developed societies, the people who have a job (or/and capital) are still really well off. But the rich who are well off become fewer and fewer and the poor become more and more.

Tomorrow:

It will depend on what works better whether enterprises will have leaders who are blue or red.  It is not about ethics, morals or #newwork.
And, of course, the development will also depend on the economic and social situation. On the other hand, it might also be simply about survival!

The future

I will not try to predict the future. 
I am sure others are better qualified. My favourite is and has always been the Brave new World by Aldous Huxley.
If you do not know the book – here are three options you have.

  • You can read the book (or listen to the audio-version), 
that is the classic approach and will take some time.
  • You can visit the theatre (there is an excellent performance at the Volkstheater München) 
which would mean you need a ticket – the work is rarely performed
  • Or you can read about it in Wikipedia  ? 
 which is the easy, quick and free way What could come next?

In the dwindling upper classes:

  • Money becomes an electronic number (a digit on your smartphone).
  • Power and feudalism will remain.
  • The upper class will work with courage and joy in a developed society.
  • Work will be part of self-fulfillment. “newwork” might happen?
  • All efforts are taken to multiply your property and to fight impoverishment.

Time becomes a personal value.

For the masses, it will be different!

  • No work or precarious work.
  • Work on call. Whenever the robot is out of order. Or if there is extra need. For instance at the harbour in Mombasa or in the calium mine in Tunesia, where masses of people stand in the queue offering their service for minimal wages. Or:
  • Thanks to BGE (unconditional income) you kill time by playing games. Or by just chilling.

The polarisation between the poor and the rich will increase – the world-wide tendency is clear. The rich become richer and fewer and there will be more and more poor. That is quite drastic.

Turn of an era :


Money feudalism, robots and poor people will probably be the drivers of a future turn of an era. There will be a BGE and it will not be enough, which means that the people will have to improve their income by doing precarious jobs.

New combination of feudalism and slavery?

Those who have money can find self-fulfillment with courage and joy, probably on an honorary basis. Other than that, all they will need to do is increase their prosperity. They simply have to see to it that they avoid impoverishment.

The others either have a BGE or not and earn extra or struggle for existence?
Topics
(that move me)

  • Education
Should children use a smartphone as early as possible?
  • Schooling
Schools have become worthless. What will have to happen?
  • Science and higher education 
The structures of and life in academia are still feudalistic. Will that be good enough for the future? My answer is: no!
  • Societ:
#Newwork is far away because our genes are still in a feudalist pattern.
  • Men still dominate and have all the power.

In front of Westerland (Sylt) taking a walk on the beach.
But where are we headed?

RMD
(Translated by EG)

P.S.
I dedicate this article to the Biike-Team around Kai Krickel.

P.S.1
At the end of the two days, the speakers were asked to formulate a concise message for the audience. The thing that came immediately to mind was:

”Love it, change it or leave it“!

Kommentar verfassen

*