While the IAA premiered in the Bavarian capital Munich, around 200 invited guests gathered at the BMW World, to discuss one of the most pressing topics of our time: sustainability.
“… what’s the plan?” is the motto of Europe’s most important innovation conference, which kicked off in Munich on Sunday. “… what’s the plan?” is also the central question to be discussed by 150 digital visionaries, movers and shakers from science, business, politics and society with around 1,000 attendees. “Artificial intelligence” and “the future” are just two key phrases in a process of digitalisation that is getting faster and faster and drastically changing not just society and politics, but above all our everyday lives.
“The best time for humanity”
These drastic changes in all areas of our society remind Oxford Professor Ian Goldin – whose presentation set the mood for the coming days – of the Renaissance, a period that totally changed the way people thought. Born in South Africa and a former advisor to Nelson Mandela, he is optimistic about our era of globalisation. According to Goldin, we are living in the “best time for humanity”. Despite the huge gulf between rich and poor, he pointed out that this is also the best time to be born into poverty. Social mobility and opportunities to escape poverty through talent are greater than ever before. Technology enables many more creative and talented people to enrich the world with their ideas.
Artificial intelligence researcher Jürgen Schmidhuber and Christopher Schläffer, former Chief Product and Innovation Officer for Deutsche Telekom, discussed the next stage in the evolution of the internet and the role of artificial intelligence. The two men stated that language-based assistants like Siri and Cortana, which are already analysing and predicting the habits of their users, are just the first step towards a constantly self-improving “Contextual Internet”. “We will reach a point where we have to give up a piece of our privacy”, said Schläffer. After all, this technology cannot be implemented without personal data.
According to Klaus Fröhlich, member of the BMW management board, the vision of cars driven by intelligent systems while drivers sit back and relax will become a reality in just four years. Mr Fröhlich discussed autonomous cars with Intel CEO Brian Krzanich and Amnon Shashua, the Israeli founder of Mobileye. “The automotive industry will evolve more in the coming years than it has in the past 30. Autonomous driving is a game changer, like flying to Mars”, said Klaus Fröhlich. An initial test fleet is set to hit the roads this year. Intel CEO Krzanich emphasised that to develop autonomous cars, large tech companies like Apple and Google must work together not only to share data and resources, but also to create uniform standards.
Trump and technology
New technologies collect ever increasing quantities of data. “Many people are afraid of this development”, warned Hoettges on the “Beyond Technology and Data” panel. Ian Goldin also compared modern times with the Renaissance: many opportunities, but also risks. “This is the best time – and also the scariest. We must constantly question our actions”, he said. “Many people are afraid of this development”, warned Hoettges, thinking particularly of the political consequences if the elite remove themselves from the people. Like so many presentations on the first day of DLD17, this session also quickly touched on the influence of technology on the US presidential election.
The power of Twitter and Facebook
Sitting in the audience, Stefan Winners (Member of the Executive Board – Digital at Hubert Burda Media) asked the panel a question that would be addressed several times throughout the day and examined from various perspectives: “What about artificial intelligence and social media?” 20% – 30% of all internet users get their news exclusively from social media. “That worries us”, emphasised Winners. He then asked another question: “How was it possible that at the end of the US election, fake news on social media had more readers than traditional media? What does it mean for Facebook and Twitter to have this power? News cannot be classified on these platforms; in many cases sources cannot be identified.”
Winning elections with data analyses?
Data analysts, who were credited with a large proportion of Donald Trump’s success, analyse data and address people based specifically on their preferences. Alexander Tayler’s company Cambridge Analytica ran a campaign for Donald Trump during the US election. “It was difficult to know who was going to win before knowing exactly who would turn out to vote”, said Tayler in conversation with Steven Haft (Indyworks). Tayler used an example to demonstrate the precision of data analyses: “We can divide people up in such a way that we can display different adverts to extroverts and introverts – this allows our clients to address the people who also want to interact with them.”
The future of work
Alongside big names from business, politics and culture, the speakers at this year’s DLD also included a representative of the Catholic Church, as Cardinal Reinhard Marx spoke about the future of work. Dominik Wichmann asked him whether people have a right to work, to which he responded: “Machines are changing our lives, and people must adapt. But why don’t we ensure that machines adapt to the lives of humans?” In the subsequent panel entitled “Thoughts on the Future of Work”, Carl Benedict Frey of the Oxford Martin School emphasised that technological changes often also result in generational conflict. The younger generation is usually better prepared for the new jobs available. Janina Kugel, Head of Human Resources at Siemens, added: “The most important thing is that jobs do not change completely overnight. It happens gradually.” Further education must be an important issue for everyone – regardless of their age.
Europe and data security
Brexit and the result of the US presidential election raised many questions at DLD17. Marc Al-Hames, managing director of the internet browser Cliqz, asked how Europe will deal with the fact that many important companies whose services and products guarantee the data security of European citizens and companies are based abroad. He discussed what this means for data security with people such as Werner Vogels (Amazon) and politician Viviane Reding. Werner Vogels added that “our key concern is our customers’ security”. However, it is especially difficult for medium-sized companies to implement the regulations.
Aenne Burda Award
“She is a true heroine.” With these words, Dominik Wichmann presented the Aenne Burda Award to Princess Auguste von Bayern for setting up “Biotopia”, an innovative natural history museum in Bavaria. Named after Hubert Burda’s mother, the award will be presented to creative and visionary leaders.