Future, Evolution, Transformation & Digital!

One week ago on Saturday evening, we started on our way to Italy, leaving the train on the next morning in Orvieto. It took us three days to get to the congress venue at Castel Gandolfo by bike. Riding our bikes to the Albanian Ocean in the south-west of Rome was a great preparation for the international
“10th NETWORK MEETING OF THE PETER PRIBILLA FOUNDATION (MAY, 4th – MAY, 6th 2016, ROME)” I was lucky enough to be part of.

The workshop was intense and challenging. Consequently, we spent the day afterwards being truly at leisure and indulging in luxury in Labico. Subsequently, we rode our bikes through Italy for three days. The first leg was from Labico to Terracina (around 80 km). Then we continued to Nettuno (about 75 km). From there, only about 50 kilometres were left to ride to Ostia, which meant that we arrived there early in the afternoon and had plenty of time to see the ancient Ostia by bike and generally enjoy Ostia.

During the three days riding through the provinces of Roma and Latina during the wonderful Italian early summer, I had a lot of time for contemplation. It was a truly special meeting.

Tomorrow, our voyage will be at its end. We are going to Rome. There, the night train that is supposed to take us back to Munich by Thursday morning is already waiting for us. Let me write down a few memories of today’s meeting.

Lido di Ostia, von der zentralen Seebrücke aus bewundert und fotografiert.
Lido di Ostia, picture taken and scenery admired from the central ocean bridge :-).

The meeting was sponsored by the “Pribilla-Foundation“ and about “Digital Transformation“: After all, this is a transformation that concerns all of us ever more, making us aware of change that is happening and growing at rapid speed.

The workshop was opened with an impulse presentation by Manfred Broy, who is the director of the Bavarian Digital Centre (Digitales Zentrum.Bayern). He gave a precise “sweeping swipe” on “digitalization”. Based on exciting facts, he pointed out to us what is currently happening. I was allowed to give one of the three (3-minute) short responses to the presentation. Here is a short version of what I said (with a few additions, because three minutes is actually quite a short time):

“The digital transformation will probably have a massive influence on the evolution and our future. It might even help on the way towards finding the necessary great transformation humanity needs badly.”

I came up with a theory on all the terms marked in this sentence – that is: I formulated my “basic beliefs”. Here they are:

  • Future
    As I see it, the future cannot be predicted!
    That is also the first theory formulated by the great and unfortunately already dead management scientist Hans Ulrich from St. Gallen who revolutionized the theory of management in the 1980ies with his essay “Eight Theories on Change in Management”..
    It may well be possible to predict the future correctly once in a wile if you use the tools of science and your common sense. That is: you might receive a “message from the future”. Yet you will never manage to correctly interpret said message.
    To me, the future of humanity can be described using the metaphor of a boat on a river. The river is in the “white area”. The boat moves down the river.
    You can measure the speed at which the river flows and also, for instance, the stream gradient and other data. But still, all those data will only give you limited information on what is going to happen. Using a spy glass to look into the distance will also only be of little help. It is not predictable how the river will continue on its way (will it become broader or will it find its way through a narrow gorge and become a torrential river, will there be a bend or a waterfall or will it suddenly disappear totally underground?).
    And in this metaphor, we do not even know if humanity is the boat or the river (or maybe just a swarm of fish?).
  • Evolution
    Evolution is useless. Perhaps it tries to make sure there will always be life, but we do not know why and for what purpose.
    As I see it, evolution cannot be controlled – just like the future is not predictable. Basically, we cannot install a “steering committee” and tell them ”Please control evolution!”. It simply will not work (just like, incidentally, it does not work with huge enterprises and social systems).
  • Transformation
    I think in a next step, evolution will have to and will undergo another huge transformation. This is necessary if humanity wants to survive. It will come, disregarding the question of whether humanity will continue to live or not. We know nothing about this transformation, except that it will bring basic change and come as a huge surprise. The time for this transformation is ever nearer. It will probably happen within the next few generations.
  • Digital Transformation
    It would be nice if digital transformation could become a positive driver for this great transformation. I see quite a good chance. Even now, the world changes through digitalization – and in my opinion said change is for the better.
    The friendly persons build networks, the combination of digital + social makes it possible to cooperate constructively in a way that was hardly possible in former times. Thanks to the “digital” world, something like “enlightenment 2.0” develops. To me, this looks to be more important than the “buzzword” of “industry 4.0” which, after all, is only “normal” technological progress.

What remains is the question: how can we contribute towards digitalization changing the world in a positive way?

Of course, I do not know the answer. It is my belief that we should not talk too much but instead act. Every one of us should act in his own specific way, following his personal inclination. And we all should do it together and connect with all the ”friendly persons” in our society – for instance those persons I actually met in huge numbers at the nice meeting in wonderful surroundings!

(Translated by EG)

During the meeting, I mentioned a book that might actually help you a little to understand how totally different even our “small” children think – and how helpless the ancient concepts of thinking and teaching and education have become.
(Re-Invent Yourself! A Declaration of Love for the Network Generation by Michel Serres).

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