Big changes are often only recognized when they're complete -- such is the nature of the beast.
We are currently in the midst of one such epoch, a time in which the internet penetrates every aspect of our daily lives. That is going to change everything: the way we work and how we live, how we treat sick people and how we treat each other.
We are experiencing the revolution now.
Make no mistake, the world didn't experience the actual digital revolution in the 90s. It is only now that we realize the real revolution. What we've seen in years past was only the beginning. This exact fact is the motto of this year's Digital Conference (DLD). This change has to be discussed.
This revolution affects everything and everyone. The internet is going to impact every aspect of our lives over the next few years: the media, work, medicine, and even academia. We've only just seen the very beginning of this development.
What is more, the internet is changing its shape, coming loose from desktop computers and laptops. It is omnipresent, in everything around us. The digital is ubiquitous, just like electricity.
The changes brought about by this development are dramatic, whether they're positive or negative. I for one am absolutely convinced that the positives will outweigh the negatives.
A look at our working lives
The lines between work and our private lives are getting blurred. We are becoming more flexible while at the same time exploring entirely new kinds of cooperation. Some go to the office early, and others work while they're on the road. We'll be using innovative communication tools that allow for novel ways of working together.
Several professions will have to redefine their job descriptions over the next few years, such as cab drivers, who are being challenged by Uber and other services, and hotels, which are facing fierce competition from providers like Airbnb.
In general, non-cognitive jobs seem to become increasingly marginalized. Working on an assembly line is a great example. The rise of robots has been much discussed: They are able to build machines, extinguish fires, write simple texts, and even drive cars. In the olden times, computers and TV screens were all the rage at IT fairs; today, it is self-propelled cars.
Every new cultural technology brings forth new professional needs, while others disappear. Traditional patterns are replaced by new ones. Appropriate reactions are called for to avoid significant social problems. It is vital that we reinvent ourselves in the course of this change.
Should we be worried?
On the contrary. I'm absolutely convinced that this new development presents new opportunities for the most part. Opportunities for innovation, and the chance to be more of a human again.
The reason is that we gain time from technological innovations fresh out of the lab. Sophisticated tools will, for example, enable journalists to negotiate huge amounts of data, thus giving them more time for other things.
Similar trends can be expected for other professions. We'll have more time for essential things in the future, and that will have a positive impact. Already, it is obvious that people all around the world feel the need for more social engagement, which goes way beyond a symbolical mouse click from the comfort of a sofa, but in the direction of specialized platforms that allow for a real contribution.
Change cannot be stopped
Many people are still afraid of this change, and not least because the media like to stir up fear of these new technologies, especially in Germany. The reason is that they themselves are the subject of this change.
However, we need to understand that this change cannot be stopped. We need to shape the change before it shapes us.
To do so, let's remember what traits once made Germany an important hub for technology. Let's be more curious, courageous and, most of all, passionate when it comes to new technologies.
The interconnected world will benefit us all
I feel that digitalization is perceived by many in Germany as a necessary evil.
Yet, the interconnected world of the future will help all of us. Transmission drones will soon be used by enterprises like Google and Facebook to transport the internet to the darkest corners of the poorest countries in the world. Sebastian Thrun or Shai Reshef and their online universities provide top-notch education to people who haven't had a shot at getting into a top university to date.
First and foremost, I'm excited about the changes that we'll experience in the medical field. Imagine the groundbreaking imaging techniques or the personalization of medicine by employing the new means provided by the fast progressing field of genetic technology. Health care demonstrates clearly how algorithms can be used to save lives.
In the USA, computers analyze the data of premature babies. Since they have the data for thousands of babies, they can use patterns to discern illnesses and complications, and warn doctors before the problems even arise.
These examples go to show what enormous opportunities these new technologies present, and this is what we should talk about more often.
With all due skepticism, my glass is not half empty. It is at least half full. We'll have to learn to learn what we don't know yet.
DLD (Digital, Life, Design) is the international conference and innovation platform of Hubert Burda Media. DLD organizes Europe's leading digital conference DLD and the women's conference DLDwomen as well as international networking events. DLD Media also produces publications and online and video formats about the conference topics and consults DLD partner companies, startups, investors and institutions.