Humanity facing the second machine age

Networking Nations, in collaboration with Ipsos and the Vodafone Institute for Society and Communications, hosted an event called „The Human and the Machine” on Tuesday the 5th of September in Berlin.

Topics such as the digital world, the bodily future, the second machine age and what technology poses for society were core of the event. Several speakers were present, including key speakers such as Pippa Bailey, Roly Keating and Andrew Keen. Approximately one hundred guests and journalists attended the symposium to listen to digital experts discuss our co-existence with technology.

Connected yet isolated

Pippa Bailey

Pippa Bailey, Head of Innovation at Ipsos, presented some findings on how the public views connectedness. “63% of people globally agree that they spend too much time online” says Bailey. This is where Pippa underlines the importance of digital detox, switching off from time to time. “Connectivity will become a human right and privacy will be paid for” states Pippa, laying emphasis on people wanting and expecting to be connected everywhere. Pippa ends the speech by underlining the need to understand the new technologies and implications.

 

Andrew Keen

Andrew Keen, author of “The Internet is not the Answer”, followed with a speech on “How to fix the future?” Andrew argues that there is a crisis of trust, people have no trust in digital institutions, just like people have no trust in political institutions. Humans see technology as an enemy since they do not quite understand it and poses the question: “How do we maintain humanity?” Keen comes to the conclusion that we have to master the technologies before they master us. He says “We need to learn from the past in order to fix our current digital world.”

 

Roly Keating

“We are turning culture into data.” says Roly Keating, CEO of the British Library.  Keating’s talk, “The Mechanical Curator” revealed a modern bringing of the past to the present. The British Library has caught up with digitization. Keating underlined the fact that in order for historic items to survive the age of digitization, they themselves need to be digitalized. He highlighted the creativity that can get unlocked when you unleash machines on heritage, like the library’s software that finds hidden patterns in historic pieces arranging them by age, similarity, colour and theme.

“The Human and the Machine” ended with a final discussion on trolls, privacy and social bullying. This discussion focused on the issue of freedom of speech in an online world, ending with the conclusion that worldwide free speech is under pressure and that is something we have to be aware of.  The general views in regards to the digital future were optimistic, yet it is clear, that the human and the machine still have to get to know each other better. Professor Julia Hobsbawm, founder of Networking Nations, sums up the day with “Technology helps us in doing things that the body and mind cannot do itself”.