Digital Fix — Fix Digital: Can we solve the problems of technology with technology?

I am a tech enthusiast. I love to develop and test new apps, solutions and services together with diverse teams. Technology enriches my life, it makes me smarter, more mobile, more connected.

But even as an enthusiast you sometimes have to admit to yourself what doesn’t work so well. It is important for me not to fall into a general lamentation but to stay solution-oriented. So how can we solve the obvious and future problems around, with and of technology?

The NEXT Conference in Hamburg, hosted by the two agencies SinnerSchrader and FAKTOR 3, also addressed this question.

NEXT18 opening in Hamburg

Last year’s event focused on the gaps between the digital and analogue worlds, this year was about how we can eliminate or at least minimize these gaps in the future. The motto was “Digital Fix — Fix Digital” and in a way it reflects my personal view on the topic: We are currently using technology very much as a tool to solve existing problems and improve existing systems. At the same time, technology has to be repaired and improved in many places, the tools themselves remain in beta status — a real dilemma. So the question is: Can we solve problems of technology with technology? In some cases, this would correspond to the idea of an artificial intelligence that continuously develops itself and thus never becomes obsolete. Is that even possible? And even if it is: Is that really the solution?

Three talks at #NEXT18 and approaches to this problem have especially remained in my mind:

1. Calm Technology — the end of the disturbing technology

Amber Case does research at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society in Harvard. She is focussing on “Calm Technology” — quiet tech solutions that require as little attention and time as possible from their users. The idea behind it is simple: technology used to be something special, something rare. Not everyone had a PC, a laptop, a smartphone. During this time, we gladly paid a lot of attention to technology. Today, all these devices are ubiquitous, but we still treat them as if they were not. With every sound, every display flashing, we turn to the technology — it consumes a lot of time, but above all it breaks our concentration in everyday life. Amber Case has set herself the task of developing a counterpart: “Calm Technology”, which restrains itself and lowers the amount of impressions that pelt down on us. Any of us can take a first step in this direction: Simply switch off the push function of our apps and check your phone for yourself, and don’t let us tear ourselves out of everyday life for every single message and notification.

Photo by Justin Peralta on Unsplash

2. Artificial intelligence x ethics

A more suitable name for a professor for AI & Society can hardly be imagined: Virginia Dignum teaches and researches at the University of Umeå since October. For all those whose Latin lessons date back too far: “Dignum” means as much as dignified, thus deriving from the word “Dignitas” for dignity. She explicitly welcomes the fact that more and more organisations are setting up their own ethics councils or ethical principles for AIs — for her this way artificial intelligence will one day become the technological tool that puts our values and principles into practice and helps us to better act according to them.

3. (Digital) Humanism instead of dehumanization

There are exciting approaches for dealing with AI even far away from science — John Watton, European Marketing Lead for Adobe’s business customer segment, presented how Adobe is addressing the subject. Contrary to the common assumption that technology is dehumanizing us more and more and drives us further apart, he showed how AR, VR, IoT, Wearables and AI can work together to make our world more human again. For example, where technology helps us discover more new things: Algorithms could consciously show us content that doesn’t fit into our usual pattern. That way technology can help us to return to seredipity, the happy coincidence that leads us to new ideas.

Back to the roots: Not fixing, but new thinking

I draw one conclusion from all these impulses from NEXT Conference: We are not asking the right questions. It is not about solving problems from and of technology, and certainly not about whether we can solve them with technology. Rather, it is about digital humanism, as Gartner expressed it as early as 2015, in which we focus on people in the development of new solutions, services and business models. Digital humanism uses technology to solve people’s problems, to empower them, not to fix any bugs in the existing system. For me, this is a very good approach and, above all, a concept that I would like to look into more closely — also an exciting perspective for my daily work at Porsche and in the Porsche Digital Lab for future projects.

NEXT18 conference in Hamburg

What do you think — is digital humanism the solution? I look forward to your comments and questions!

#NextLevelGermanEngineering

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Thanks NEXT18! Thanks to all attendees, speakers, partners, hosts and everybody else involved for making NEXT18 a truly memorable experience for me. See the best pictures on the NEXT18 Flickr page, and more insights on the NEXT18 Blog.

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Anja Hendel

Managing Director @ diconium | #Innovation #DigitalTransformation #Mobility | How do we transfer the successful German art of engineering into the digital age?