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The world is digital. Photos have gone digital for some time, as have communication systems; the modern workplace is constantly changing, and global knowledge can now fit into your pocket. In research and science, data-driven approaches determine project applications, the Bundeswehr, the German Armed Forces, are taking the Internet into their security policy portfolio, and fully automated driving is no longer a pipe dream.

The added value of digital technologies has become self-evident. Access to information and services at all times is indispensable for implementing business ideas and for managing our daily lives. No network? No way! Politics and the business world have placed digitalization at the top of their agendas. It is now a top priority as a key driver for ensuring future prosperity.

To the same extent that a digital society is establishing itself, there are growing fears that data and algorithms wield a destructive power, from which there is no escape. Like a self-fulfilling prophecy, data and algorithms are devouring jobs, privacy, and freedom, so as to ultimately replace us with artificial intelligence. For many, digital technologies and growing data mountains constitute a black box: complicated, complex and non-transparent. Politics, it now seems, cannot keep pace with the dynamics of technological developments and is powerless in dealing with a globally operative digital economy.

In this essay, Geoff Mulgan asks what needs to be done in order to exploit the benefits of digitization, without becoming hostage to its disadvantages. The author, an experienced policy adviser and Chief Executive of the Nesta Foundation, refutes the assumption that technology is deterministic. He urges us “to think digitally” instead of merely staring at new technologies. Iterative, collaborative, networked, and adaptive are keywords that are meant take the focus away from traditional analysis of structures and hierarchies toward stronger network behaviour.

For Geoff Mulgan, the ability to openly navigate and manage a complex network of supporting relationships is crucial in order to be better prepared for change: digitalization doesn’t pose us a technical challenge, but above all a social one.


ImageTobias Wangermann
Head of Team Digitalisation
Phone +49 30 26996-3380

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