Digital revolution

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A microprocessor as an example of an invention often associated with the digital revolution

The term digital revolution describes the upheaval triggered by digital technology and computers , which has been causing a change in almost all areas of life in many countries since the end of the 20th century and leading to a digital world - similar to how the industrial revolution led to industrial society 200 years earlier . That is why there is talk of a third industrial revolution or, from a technical point of view, a microelectronic revolution .

The changes in the economic and working world, in public and private life accompanying the digital revolution are taking place at great speed wherever the material prerequisites for applications and uses of the advancing digitization exist. New media are increasingly influencing communication behavior , socialization processes and language culture . Areas of application and development potential of artificial intelligence are among the trends and open questions about the future of the digital revolution .

Contemporary historical location, development dynamics and trends

For Stengel, Looy and Wallaschkowski, after the Neolithic Revolution and the Industrial Revolution , the digital revolution of the present presents itself as the third great upheaval in human history in a sequence of previous human history determined by sociological aspects, which leads from hunters and gatherers to agricultural societies to industrial societies They propose that their breakthrough be at the end of the brief 20th century in 1989. At this point in time, a new development began that could not have been foreseen in the early 1980s: “In 1989, Tim Berners-Lee and Robert Cailliau developed the World Wide Web at the CERN research center in Geneva , without its hypertext protocols and web browser The existing but largely unknown Internet would have remained a matter for nerds , geeks and university staff for a long time to come. ”The World Wide Web made it easier for users to access information that was stored on distant servers. With the extension called Web 2.0 or Social Media , from 2003 users were also able to post their own content as text, audio or video files and to interact with one another on social platforms, and in 2010 the number of those with the Internet networked devices that of the people living back then. According to assumptions from 2014, within a decade, the Internet of Things will become part of the basic infrastructure in view of the increasing device networking.

Compared to the previous revolutions in human history, according to Stengel, Looy and Wallaschkowski, this revolution can perhaps even more rightly be described as a revolution than the previous two, "it happened within a few decades and on a global level." Andreas Mühlichen says: "The transition from a world of analogs to the era of digital computers, digital data storage and digital networking describes a media and information technology caesura that appears as profound as the transition from orality to written form." The German cyberneticist Karl Steinbuch formulated as early as 1966: " Information is the beginning and foundation of society. ”He predicted a system like the Internet as well as the Gordon Helmer Report of 1964 for the 1980s.

The use of the concept of revolution for serious breaches of continuity, which not only affect technology and the economy, but also revolutionize all areas of life, as Friedrich Engels, for example, put it for the industrial revolution: a "revolution that also transformed the whole of bourgeois society" is largely undisputed today . But while the industrial revolution today is essentially defined by a long period of exceptional economic growth, growth rates in major OECD countries and around the world have declined since the 1970s and increasingly since 1995.

If, as a revolutionary driver, one looks at the far-reaching information technology breakthroughs in the run-up to and at the beginning of the 21st century, as suggested by Manuel Castells with his concept of informational capitalism , the question arises as to why this revolution took place in a phase of stagnating and falling growth rates should or is still playing. There are various answers to this: On the one hand, the digital revolution in production technology can be understood as an attempt, in view of saturated mass markets and high raw material and energy costs ( oil price crises in 1973 and 1979/80) as well as falling returns on capital even in high-wage countries, more flexible, customer-oriented, material and to produce in a more energy-efficient and thus labor and capital-saving manner (primarily by replacing mechanical and analog technology with digital technology, by miniaturization and integration of components, by increasing information and decreasing raw material content in products, etc.) and at the same time responding more quickly to new needs to react. This is entirely compatible with a falling investment quota: worldwide this fell in relation to the gross domestic product from around 23-25% in the 1970s to below 20% after 2008.

On the other hand, many services of the digital economy are not fully reflected in the national accounts . a. the work of customers, who are increasingly involved in providing data free of charge (e.g. when booking a flight, doing surveys or configuring products). Added to this are the falling distribution costs for digital products via networks. All of these factors help increase corporate profits despite relatively falling growth rates.

A supply-driven revolution

Regardless of the question of how the digital revolution is expressed in core economic data and whether its benefits are even reflected in the national accounts, it can be stated that the process of technological transformation has so far expanded almost exponentially , and not just through the increase in Computing, storage and communication capacities, but “because of its ability to use digital language to create an interface between technological areas in which information can be created, stored, accessed, processed and forwarded.” The connection of embedded software systems for sensor-based monitoring and control the physical reality with global digital network infrastructures ( cyberspace ) allows diverse applications and problem solutions with high economic potential and strong innovative strength: On the supply side, more and more usage and linking possibilities are emerging n Data that enable new business models , while previous media and technology breaks and associated activities of data acquisition and transformation are no longer necessary. One can therefore say that the digital revolution is largely supply-driven, not demand-driven, because more and more flexible usage options are being “discovered” by more and more potential users and used to reduce costs and increase profits.

Due to the existence of a miniaturized, lightweight and integrated control technology, the development of which in the 1950s and 1960s was primarily driven by the demand of the military for rockets with large payloads, the possibility suddenly existed in the 1970s in view of a global growth crisis, and to use capital-saving flexible control technologies ( programmable logic controllers ) in machine tools , robots and other civil applications. Tablet computers used for private purposes nowadays are more powerful in terms of storage capacity, data processing and transmission speed than the NASA computers used for the moon landing .

The digitization of information and communication processes also led to an information explosion on the supply side, which is reflected in the users as information overload . Above all, global telecommunications and information storage capacities per capita have grown between 23% and 28% per year in the two decades between 1986 and 2007 (for comparison: the annual growth rates of the world economy are often percentages in the often low single-digit range).

It is believed that in 2002 it was possible for the first time to store more information in digital format than in analog format, an indication of the beginning of the “digital age”. It is estimated that only 3% of the world's information storage capacity was digital in 1993, compared to 94% in 2007. The global telecommunications capacity (bidirectional exchange of information) was already 20% digitized in 1986, two-thirds in 1993 (68%) and in 2000 98%. In contrast, global broadcast and radio capacity (unidirectional information transfer) lagged behind: in 2007, only 25% were digital.

The performance of the computer chips grows faster and faster in the manner corresponding to Moore's law , as the improvements made multiply and the performance of the technology doubles about every two years. According to Jaron Lanier , the performance of microprocessors has increased a million times over within 40 years . "Nobody knows how long this process can continue."

Meanwhile, at an advanced stage of development, the likewise digitally based research on artificial intelligence is working , the areas of application of which already extend to handwriting and face recognition , speech recognition and language assistance . Which forms and varieties of artificial intelligence will continue to be realized remains one of the open questions of the future of scientific research and human existence. However, today people experience for the first time the extent and importance of technical progress even in their own lifetimes in dramatic form - just think of the various forms of storage and playback of music since 1970, which led to the obsolescence of several media generations.

Technical aspects

The basis of the digital revolution is the microchip (integrated circuit) which, among other things, enabled the introduction of flexible automation in production and, from the 1970s, the establishment of the Internet using networked computers . Computerization was accompanied by the trend to more streamline work processes through electronic data processing . Since the 1980s, computers have not only been used in work and research, but also increasingly in the private sector. Graphical user interfaces and computer mice , advanced operating systems , software developments and computer games expanded the possible uses and the group of users of the new technology, which is now also used in miniaturized form in smartphones or stick PCs .

The starting point for digital development was the Turing machine and the calculating machines that followed it in the 1940s. Controls in space travel from the 1960s onwards were only possible with the help of computers. The first pocket calculators were produced at the end of 1969 .

As a PC , the computer (Apple II) became generally reasonably affordable from 1977; However, it was only very slowly replacing mainframe computer technology or medium-sized data technology in companies. A commercial breakthrough came with the provision of cheap standard software for office applications. In the 1980s, the Global Positioning System (GPS), CD , imaging procedures and magnetic resonance tomography were added, in the 1990s the mobile phone , robots , the Internet , DVD and computer animation , especially for simulations and in film art . In 1996, the mainframe computer Deep Blue was able to beat the reigning world chess champion in one game for the first time. It was followed by digital cameras , digital video cameras , digital television , digital radio , navigation systems , RFID , drones , and self-driving cars . The mobile app made it possible to digitize more and more everyday processes. This includes purchase, booking, payment, reservation and evaluation processes, assistance with spatial orientation and route search, as well as a wide range of games. At the beginning of the 21st century, data machines - understood as "socio-technical devices that can date events, i.e. record, store and evaluate them" - rose to become the "dominant machine form" and are increasingly permeating all areas of society.

Some future projections of the digital revolution include the expectation of a technological singularity , a stage of development in which artificial intelligence would be able to produce technical progress on its own.

Economic aspects

With the introduction of the personal computer in the 1980s and 1990s, the market entry threshold for many small businesses fell. Today, mobile communications play a similar role for small producers in developing countries , who can better explore their market opportunities through network access.

Digitization facilitates the large-scale relocation of production sites and workplaces in the course of globalization . So z. For example, colors on textile samples can be measured electronically and the data passed on to color mixing machines at remote locations, eliminating the need to send samples back and forth. In construction departments, for example, it is possible to distribute work across several continents, which enables “round-the-clock productivity” on the basis of global digital communication networks: “Because somewhere in the world part of the company is always awake and at work you can continue working on the products at any time. First the employees living in Asia or Australia, followed by the Europeans and Africans, before the colleagues in North and South America continue. "

The banks and the financial world, whose digital networking began in the 1980s, are considerably swirled by the new possibilities associated with the digital revolution. Ever more powerful servers have been used since then. The more recent developments in the digitized financial sector include the controversial high-frequency trading on the basis of programmed algorithms , in which computer capacities and data transmission speed are decisive for profit prospects.

In the economic mode that has been changed by the digital revolution, corporate profits can sometimes rise even without overall economic growth. This has made a significant contribution to the fact that the wage share has been falling since the mid-1980s, as the lower cost of capital goods has lowered the threshold for replacing labor with digital technology. A distribution rate of 70% wage income to 30% capital income was constant for many years until the 1970s. John Maynard Keynes spoke of an "economic miracle" in this context. This apportionment rule no longer applies today: In 2015 the global wage share was only 58%, which is accompanied by a weakening of the supply position of employees. An overall picture, however, has to look at all sectors of society and ask how their development is linked to the digital revolution. Whether the concept of “digital capitalism” coined by Dan Schiller is analytically suited to reflect the changed functioning of society is currently being discussed. Philipp Staab focuses on two consequences of the digital revolution: the legacy of proprietary markets that “belong” to the large Internet companies, and ubiquitous access controls to these markets and platforms, including the control of their users.

Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee from the MIT Sloan School of Management partly reversed earlier optimistic assumptions about the economic consequences of digitization in 2015: “In the 1980s, the growth of the average [US] household income stuttered. In the past 15 years it was even negative. Adjusted for inflation, an American household in the middle of the income distribution curve now earns less than in 1998 - even after taking into account changes in household size. Employment growth in the private sector has also slowed […] We refer to this phenomenon as the great disengagement. [...] Macroeconomic wealth in terms of gross domestic product (GDP) and productivity continues the upward trend, while income and career prospects for typical workers are downhill. We have never seen anything like it in 30 years. ”This trend also applies to Sweden, Finland and Germany, albeit not to the same extent as in the USA. “The middle class will continue to shrink, we will see growth at the bottom and at the top. Brilliant managers, entrepreneurs, investors, and writers benefit. Yo-Yo Ma is unlikely to be replaced by a robot anytime soon, but I wouldn't want to be number 100 among cellists in the world, at least from a financial point of view. "

Regulatory Aspects

The digital revolution was essentially driven by neoliberal concepts of deregulation. The privatization of the telecommunications networks and the commercialization of the Internet were important prerequisites. The aim of the deregulation of telecommunications was initially to limit the monopoly power of the large telecommunications companies, which in Europe were mostly in state hands and, because of their role in preventing competition, were also seen as price drivers and an obstacle to technical development. Networks have also been privatized in the USA. In 1990, the US government-funded ARPAnet , the most important predecessor network of the Internet, was shut down, and private network providers and information providers were added to the Internet.

The previously close connection between software and information dissolved on the World Wide Web. In the future, the network operators were only responsible for the transport of data, but no longer for the content. With Web 2.0, the end user was involved in the creation of content that could in fact no longer be controlled. With this deregulation, the basis was given for the rapid rise of the large Internet companies such as Google, which created their own marketplaces. In January 2019, Google had a market share of around 90 percent in Internet search, while Facebook had a share of almost 70 percent in social networks. However, these corporations continue to compete fiercely with each other and with others for advertising income, from which they are largely still financed.

At the turn of the millennium, the prerequisites for the emergence of a digital platform economy were met: buyers and sellers met on trading platforms such as amazon, seekers and advertisers met on search engines, self-employed people with clients on freelancer and project sites, drivers and those in need of transport on taxi platforms, Employers and job seekers on job exchanges, etc. The more providers of goods, services or information are on such a platform, the greater the choice, transparency and price competition; and the more customers access a digital platform, the more vendors will be attracted to it, with transaction costs lower than in traditional markets. The strength of the model no longer lies in the cost-efficient production and increase in labor productivity, but rather in the rationalization of the distribution of material and immaterial goods. Due to increasing switching costs , however, it is becoming more and more difficult for providers and customers to switch platforms, i. H. the marketplaces are becoming proprietary, quasi-monopoly markets . Of course, digital platforms such as the electronic stock exchange trading systems existed even before the Internet era, but the Internet also lowered the access threshold for private customers considerably and created the opportunity for digital marketplaces to expand rapidly internationally and only the fastest growing ones to survive.

The often criticized democracy-damaging legacy of the digital network economy took place via market-like processes: the large Internet companies are becoming brokers who can hardly be avoided when buying and selling. They make their profits from owning the markets in the form of commissions. This shifts the distribution of profit from the producers to the internet companies. Since the networks worked across borders almost from the start, there was no (national) legal and institutional framework that guaranteed their neutrality, e.g. B. with regard to the speed and prioritization of data transmission, in high-frequency trading on the stock exchange or in the ranking of the objects sought in search engines or in online trading, which is controlled by non-transparent algorithms. The difference to a preferred presentation of goods on the supermarket shelf bought by the supplier or caused by his market position is that this is monitored by the supplier and usually recognized quickly, while the customer can usually switch to other shops.

From the start, China largely dropped out of this model, which Staab calls a “privatized mercantilism”, which has blocked numerous popular websites such as youtube and therefore promotes proprietary developments, which are, however, censored.

After the financial crisis in 2009 at the latest and due to the subsequent social and political upheavals, there was a feeling of unease, especially in Europe, about the continued unregulated growth of the network industries. Back in 2010, EU competition commissioner Joaquín Almunia opened a case against Google for abuse of its monopoly position, which has been pursued more resolutely by successor Margrethe Vestager since 2014. As a result, the EU Commission moved the platform economy into the focus of its competition policy on digital markets. The starting point was the numerous conflicts that arise when users or business partners are exposed to unfavorable business practices on an apparently overwhelming Internet platform. In Google's practice, the EU Commission criticized the preference given to links that refer to Google's own services compared to competing services, the use of third-party material protected by copyright without their consent, and contracts that required third parties to do so, To take over (almost) all online search ads from Google, and finally the contractual restriction of the transfer of advertising campaigns to other online search platforms. Conventional monopoly theories and the corresponding (cartel) legislation often fall short because of the great dynamism of the sector because they are geared towards more stable, long-term monopoly situations. In this context, more recent economic theories also speak of temporary monopolies. Amazon punished publishers who refused to offer higher discounts with short-term delayed delivery.

Since the EU is responsible for trade policy, the discussion in Germany is primarily focused on feeding content into the network, which is to be re-regulated by a state media treaty. This contract is scheduled to come into force in 2020. It is also aimed at platforms that do not produce their own content, but prepare journalistic offers from third parties such as Google and Facebook. In the audio sector, Spotify and Amazon's Alexa could also be affected. There also seems to be a need for regulation for rating platforms, against which more and more lawsuits have been filed, for example in relation to Jameda, the u. a. a preference for premium customers among doctors was accused. Overall, the prevention of discrimination against private individuals is currently the focus of regulatory activities in Germany, while the different treatment of business customers is often accepted without complaint by them.

Internet crime is a special topic . For its 2014 report on the costs of Internet crime sponsored by HP Enterprise Security, the Ponemon Institute surveyed 46 companies in Germany in a cross-industry sample. The survey showed an average loss amount of € 6.1 million, with a range of € 425 thousand to € 20.2 million per year. Phishing, social engineering and web attacks accounted for more than 35% of the costs.

The enforcement of network neutrality (separation of the network level from the application and service level) is monitored in Germany by the Federal Network Agency . The Network Enforcement Act of 2017 is intended to protect against hate crime and personal rights . The specialist conference on “Digitization and Regulation of Network Industries” organized by the “Regulation in Network Industries” working group on May 31, 2016 marked the beginning of a broader public debate that focused for the first time on the disruptive aspects of networking.

The international experience of the lockdown during the COVID-19 pandemic shows that the large American tech companies Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple and Microsoft ( GAFAM ) benefited from the crisis in contrast to many companies in traditional industries. The GAFAM companies, with combined cash reserves of around $ 560 billion (more than Sweden's gross domestic product), created tens of thousands of new jobs worldwide in 2020. As a result of the crisis, Amazon's competitive position vis-à-vis the stationary trade improved both in the USA and in Germany.

Working world

Digitization and networking make the delimitation of the "company" system more permeable to the outside world. As a result, work is becoming increasingly interchangeable within and outside the formal boundaries of the company (see dissolution of boundaries ). The location of control and decision-making centers in companies is tending to be freely selectable, with the established system of regulation of work becoming partially obsolete. Telework , mobile work and platform work are becoming increasingly important. Digitization bridges the gap between the technical and social system, it penetrates more and more symbolic communication in the work process, but contributes to its regularity and formalization and thus to the segregation of rule-based and creative work without being able to fully assume the role of human creativity .

For people in the technologically advanced countries, the digital revolution creates new challenges in terms of professional qualifications and flexibility in working life: "Once you have learned a profession, it changes under the hands of the worker." Anyone who studied computer science in the 1970s or who worked in industry who have been trained, find themselves in a completely redesigned world of work, just like the parcel delivery man, biologist or novelist. "Sometimes it's the digitization of work equipment such as programmed CNC milling machines, sometimes it's the arrival of robotics in the automotive industry, then the networking of the scientific community across the globe or the arrival of navigation devices in taxis."

However, a study shows that in the current phase of digitization, women's industrial jobs are even less affected than men's. They seem to serve as a kind of flexibility potential or as 'stopgaps' in technical development.

In 2016 the Institute for Employment Research (IAB) developed a “Job-Futuromat”, which u. a. predicts the future automation potential of individual professions. For bakers and plant mechanics, for example, between 91 and 100 percent automation is predicted. According to the program, tax clerks , accountants , cashiers , proofreaders and forklift drivers are equally at risk . "Under the impression of the decoupling of employment and the economic situation, the sociologist Claus Offe advocates a citizen allowance / basic income .

According to the industry association Bitkom in Germany, 3.4 million jobs could be lost in the next five years from 2018 due to digitization alone: ​​“In view of the current almost 33 million employees who are subject to social security contributions, this would correspond to more than every tenth job. Every fourth company with more than 20 employees sees its very existence threatened by digitization. This is the result of a survey by the association of 500 companies across all industries. "

For the USA , various developments such as robot-controlled process automation (RPA) were examined in 2013 based on around 700 job profiles. Accordingly, around 47% of jobs could be lost through automation.

Ecological aspects

In theory, the digital revolution has the potential to increase the material and energy efficiency of production, distribution and consumption, but it has so far not been sustainable. Efficiency gains in production are nullified by increased consumption in consumption (so-called rebound effect ). Using various examples, negative than positive aspects are discussed more often.

The short innovation cycles and the associated throw-away mentality (see electronic waste ) create considerable environmental problems, for example when using rare earth metals . According to the German Nature Conservation Ring, 40,000 tons of aluminum, 30,000 tons of copper and 11,000 tons of cobalt were stored in tablets around 2018. In 2014, Eva Wolfangel, an employee at Spectrum of Science , judged that "nothing is sustainable about cell phones and tablet PCs ". However, there are alternatives such as the Fairphone .

The metal lithium required for the production of lithium-ion batteries has a share of about 0.002 to 0.006% in the earth's crust. In 2011, it was considered difficult to extract because of the widely scattered sites. According to estimates from 2012, it can be extracted in sufficient quantities. According to more recent studies, the deposits are sufficient to meet the increasing demand due to digitization in the future. 90% of the lithium used can also be recycled. There are now also processes for the raw material cobalt to recycle 95% of it.

The power requirements of the server centers of the large Internet companies are also considerable. Google maintains its own wind and solar parks with an installed capacity of 2.6 gigawatts . This corresponds to around the capacity of 1,000 wind turbines. According to the Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research in Karlsruhe, the energy requirement of data centers in Germany is around 10 to 15 terawatt hours , which roughly corresponds to the CO 2 emissions from air traffic in Germany.

Effects on society and individuals

In addition to economic and working life, many other areas of private, social and public life are also subject to the changes and consequences caused by the digital revolution. This applies to interpersonal forms of interaction as well as media use, education and scientific research. Origin-related and family orientation points, which form a reliable framework beyond the individual lifetime, are disappearing for many people in globalized and digitized everyday life. This state of dissolution, according to Zygmunt Baumann, is filled by consumption as “putty”. At the same time, digitization supports the pursuit of personal autonomy and the development of aloof elite.

Disclosure of data and use of information

The Internet enables everyone equipped with a connectable device to access and compare information of all kinds almost anywhere in the world at any time, or to send their own impulses and contributions. The fundamental right to freedom of information and freedom of expression, which is constitutionally guaranteed in pluralistic political systems, is - seen in this way - placed on an expanded foundation in the digital revolution.

In particular, the use of meta media such as search engines and platforms allows information from primary media to be selected independently of the original carrier medium, to be accessed in digital form, to be compared, to be processed and, if necessary, to be sent in a modified form. However, the algorithms with which information is selected and presented in a user-specific manner are no longer transparent for the average user. In order to obtain information, he has to disclose a lot of personal information himself, including the current location. The process of selecting and compressing the increasingly unmanageable content of primary media is also called meta-mediaization.

In liberal-democratic states or societies, the increasing data collection through the data machines integrated into everyday life is offset by the protection of personal data in the sense of the right to informational self-determination . Private platform operators such as those of Google and Facebook use nudging and covert collection of movement data to collect personal and usage data . Users are assured that their available data will be treated in accordance with the applicable legal provisions; In addition, you are offered various setting options to control the visibility of your data and your consent to the terms of use is requested. However, according to Rainer Mühlhoff, the fact that these are actually taken notice of by many is to be regarded as an illusion, “not only because it takes time, comes at the wrong time or the pages of legal clauses create a feeling of powerlessness, but also because there is no possibility at all to contradict them - unless one foregoes the use of the corresponding service at once. ”There is no basic mistrust of the state in relation to data collection on the part of citizens with regard to their own use of commercial platforms. Here you decide and control yourself which personal information you transmit to these platforms. The probability statements that could be made about any individual on the basis of a mass data set were not taken into account. For this purpose, the data that is voluntarily made available by the users every day is sufficient, according to Mühlhoff, in connection with the data derived from it - in correlations with other users. "Today's public debate about data protection, on the other hand, focuses on a liberalist individualism and thus loses sight of the fundamental transformations of the social and political that make the economic, police and political use of data as mass data possible."

According to Andreas Mühlen, privacy as the central prerequisite for personal freedom is “more difficult, more complex and more opaque than ever before under the conditions of ubiquitous networks”. Web tracking , among other things with the help of cookies and the recording of activities in social networks, can often only be avoided at the cost of not using it completely. “Even if the respective website operators may only receive anonymized data about me and my behavior on the web from the big analytics providers, so much data converges at least with these providers that it can be assumed that de-anonymization can either be carried out easily or is ultimately no longer necessary because it is simply known who I am and what else I am doing online can then simply be assigned. ”But it is also up to the consumers themselves, who are increasingly turning to digital technologies and Infrastructures ensure that networked data-collecting systems and processes permeate more and more everyday areas in public and private spaces.

Although the General Data Protection Regulation created an improved European regulation, it was criticized, for example, that the right to informational self-determination would run counter to harmonized competition. In addition, the example of the data leak at the Buchbinder car rental company showed that there are still serious deficiencies in the technical implementation.

Change in ways of communication

Even in the early phase of the spread of digital communication media, it was stated that, unlike in direct face-to-face contact, communication with interaction partners is partly determined by limited possibilities of perception and control, such as facial expressions, gestures and tone of voice. Under these circumstances it can take on a non-binding, anonymous character. So it remains questionable whether and in what way commitment or closeness and warmth can arise. These deficits can be partially compensated for by metacommunication (e.g. emoticons ).

At the same time, the communication radius is expanded considerably. This allows the establishment of global communities (e.g. international interest groups, identity groups or NGOs) or private cross-border information networks with relatively little effort. Development politicians and aid organizations have meanwhile defined the Internet and mobile telephony as part of basic needs, as these promote participation in economic and political terms . However, the extended filter options for communication can lead to the formation of information and sociocultural bubbles.

Communication in digital media not only facilitates and promotes the recording and transmission of affects , but also creates new affect dynamics and forms of reference, be it in the "echo chambers" of social networks, be it through the techniques of user experience design or promoted by the affective ones Dynamics of memes and online forums . Anja Breljak points out two opposing modes of action: On the one hand, a diffuse feeling of constant observation in digital communication spaces - in connection with the creation of incentives for evaluation and the public visibility of such evaluations - in the face of a possible loss of reputation leads to inhibitions regarding undisguised personal expression, the desire for experimentation and the Willingness to take risks. With regular practice, such behavior causes a cooling of social relationships ( social cooling ). On the other hand, there is also a tendency towards overheating ( social heating ): "If photos, videos, messages or comments are spread virally, this creates heated debates as well as political realities." Sharp titles, shocking images and fake news would be catapulted through the Internet all the more widely, ever the faster they were shared, the more indignation or concern they aroused. The following applies: "The speed of cool news, of outrageous content, whether true or false, meets a much slower educational work and much slower political decision-making procedures."

Changed effective forces in the media space

Similar to individual people professionally and privately, public space and the media public are in the field of activity of the digital revolution. Their effects also extend to political practice and harbor risks for the right to informational self-determination . If change through trade used to be an effective protective principle of Western democracies, now it is about networking "under democratic premises according to western, enlightened values". Digital technology will become indispensable and continue to permeate everyday life. "If it is owned and controlled by fewer, then the idea of ​​a better, digital society stands in the way of a powerful dystopia : the abuse of digital power."

The former dominance of journalism, which formed a “ fourth power ” in pluralistic systems in newspaper, radio and television, in public reporting, opinion- forming and in its political control function , has lost the extensive monopoly of disseminating information en masse. According to Beckedahl and Lüke, something will change if, for example, the 56-second video recording of a five-year-old with a three-year-old entitled Charlie bit my finger is viewed almost 400 million times on YouTube or if “what happens and is discussed in any bar” can reach any number of other people worldwide via livestream from a mobile phone.

The main question in the editorial offices of the various media is increasingly: "What clicks?" Online, every click by a user is worth real money. “If you get a lot of clicks, you can ask for more money for advertising. This is how the advertising industry wants it, this is how the business model works. "The advertisers do not care what content their products appear next to, whether it is thrown together picture galleries, sensational ante-texts or puzzle games:" None of this has anything to do with journalism. It's about clicks, clicks and more clicks. "

Journalistic media are appearing more and more often in addition to or solely with online editions, which they as advertising-supported platforms sometimes provide with additional offers. They also present themselves on social networks like Facebook and Twitter - in a mass competition for the attention of the audience. Even for politicians, it is no longer just a matter of appearing publicly in the media in order to arouse attention for their own positions and for themselves. They also operate personal websites, are expressing themselves more and more often on blogs or in social networks and are collecting followers there . A study published in Science on the popular short message service Twitter shows how problematic the resulting public space can be . It affects the English-speaking world and relates to the period 2006 to 2017: "According to the researchers, untrue content - a picture, an allegation or a link to an online article - is 70 percent more likely to be redistributed." Most frequently affected are political contents. “The snowball effect for untruths increased over time and was particularly strong in the US election campaign years 2012 and 2016.” One factor that stimulates the forwarding of particularly untrue content is therefore that it often appeared particularly exciting and novel on Twitter users.


Advances in digital technology mean that ever better copies, reproductions and even forgeries can be made. Copyright infringements and forgery can lead to considerable economic damage. In the early 1990s, for example, an internationally active counterfeiting ring was discovered in New York that had produced counterfeit works of art with a sales value of 1.8 billion US dollars. During the same period, the crisis in the music industry , which began in 1997, occurred due to unauthorized music downloads from the Internet , which can be burned onto blank CDs and thus illegally distributed. The number of blank discs in Germany rose from 58 million to 303 million between 1999 and 2004, while in the same period the number of recorded original CDs fell from 210 million to 146 million.

New types of copyright problems raise so-called meta media such as search engines that select, tap, recombine and distribute content (texts, images, etc.) from primary media. A class action lawsuit was brought against Google Books by US publishers and authors, but criticism of the Google Group's behavior also came from European countries. The media report of a "creeping decline in the book industry".

Political complications

The digital revolution has changed the framework for negotiating and shaping politics. Threatened by competition from the Internet, according to Bernhard Pörksen and Wolfgang Krischke, “classic media undermine their own legitimacy in the race for quotas and requirements by scandalizing politicians and trivializing politics.” Political actors would be permanently outraged Forced public on the defensive. There is a predominant effort not to provoke the next shitstorm of “a lurking digital norm police” by making an inconsiderate statement, not to let internal party differences leak out: “ Avoidance , but not programmatic design , appears as the leitmotif of current politics. Obviously there is a lack of quiet zones for developing ideas across camps and in all parties. One rushes ahead and lets oneself be rushed. ”In the literal sense of the word, there is hardly any internal consultation in the age of“ digital media everywhere and barrier-free marketing of secrets ”. Narrowing of the possibilities for discourse, streamlining of the public appearance and a rounded political German were among the consequences.

According to Poerksen, however, the democratization of the media world through the Internet has so far only had few effects on freedom. Above all, it benefits populists and strengthens the “self-affirmation milieus” that encapsulate themselves in their echo chambers. The great irritation in the digital age is accompanied by a tendency to become hypersensitive to linguistic issues. Hate speech and exaggerated "political correctness" are two mutually fueling phenomena of current debates. With increasing linguistic sensitivity, the main reaction is to the hate-driven poisoning of the discourse.

Lies are nothing new in politics, says Andrea Römmele . However, the liars would have known in the past that they would be exposed as such when certain facts came to light, and would have accepted a certain definition of truth and facts as the basis of democratic discourse. Lately, facts have lost their importance as a basis for discussion and have become a tool with flexible application possibilities for the establishment of world views. In some cases, manipulation of facts and images is not only used deliberately for political purposes, but also declared to be justified in the service of one's own cause even after it has been exposed. Such “ bullshit ” ( Harry Frankfurt ) simply ignores unwelcome facts: “What confirms the message is true, what runs counter to it is false. Truth content no longer plays a role, political debates lose their empirical basis. ”The world views, feelings and values ​​that remain as motives can then hardly be argued in a meaningful way because they are fundamentally neither true nor false.

Digital colonialism

"Digital colonialism" is the term used to describe strategies through which Internet access in third world and emerging countries or for poor population groups via a smartphone app is organized free of charge through social media. The network - in most cases it is Facebook with its Free Basics service , which is offered in 65 countries - makes a selection as to which Internet offers users receive free access to. Critics complain that local languages ​​and websites are largely excluded, users are flooded with services from private companies from the USA and large amounts of metadata are collected. The principles of net neutrality would be violated by the fact that usually only one service per division (such as weather forecast, news, search engine, advice for pregnant women and parents or sport) is offered. Often only headings would be presented; If you are interested, you have to buy additional data. There is also no e-mail program. This is where the technological division of the world is reproduced, which since the 16th century has led a large part of humanity to depend on the technologies of the colonial powers. According to the Guatemalan human rights lawyer Renata Avila, digital colonialism describes "a new, quasi-imperial power structure that is being imposed by dominant powers on a large number of people without their consent". So the US government had in autumn 2019 in response to the unrest in Venezuela, the American company Adobe , which cloud to terminate services in the South American country. The technology sociologist Michael Kwet uses digital colonialism to describe the entirety of the projects of US corporations such as Google, amazon and Facebook, which aimed to control the “digital ecosystem” and all data traffic, especially in Africa, but also in other countries gain.

Socialization, education and health

The social psychologist and sociologist Catarina Katzer sees the formation of an individual's identity as being greatly changed by the Internet. "Today we move in two equal living spaces that exist side by side, in our offline and online world." For the first time, the network enables the creation of identities in virtual spaces. “And these identities are“ real ”because we ourselves fill them with life. [...] As reference points for our opinions, attitudes, judgments or concrete behavior, we no longer just refer to our real environment in school or family. Especially when it comes to the question of who I am and who do I want to be, what is right and what is wrong, we focus more and more on people, the peers we meet online and with whom we are connected. ”This is particularly true for childhood and adolescence, the phases with the strongest formative effect on identifying.

For Markus Beckedahl and Falk Lüke, the importance of the basic skills of reading, writing and arithmetic for education is relativized in the digital society. The fourth component needed today is methodological knowledge as “competence competence”: “If you know how to access knowledge, you don't have to have it in your head.” The question arises as to how we as a society want to deal with it, “ that once we have learned knowledge, we can no longer get through life ". The unequal knowledge about the use of digital technology becomes a problem when entire social groups hardly have a chance to deal with it appropriately, be it due to deficiencies in the network infrastructure or speed, be it due to poor educational opportunities or a lack of financial resources: “Then there is it is those who can and have and are thus equipped for the future. And those who have no chance. […] If a child in a low-income family does not learn to use a computer, then that is an unacceptably large mortgage for their future. [...] Digitization, automation and networking will fundamentally call into question some conventional structures, some job descriptions and perhaps even forms of income. Only those who can see that can shape this change. Those who ignore it, however, will sooner or later be overwhelmed by it. "

The psychiatrist and brain researcher Manfred Spitzer warns with a view to recognizable sensorimotor development deficits and depression-prone psychosocial consequences of the use of electronic communication devices, especially in children and adolescents, against under-demanding of brain functions and "digital dementia". Citing scientific studies that have shown negative effects when using new media in schools, Spitzer opposes “digital classrooms” and the notions that children should be familiarized with computer programming as early as primary school: “We We're not doing students any favors for their health or education when we digitize educational institutions. We have to be clear about that. Everything else is post-factual education policy. ”With his warnings, which have been spread in several books, Spitzer encounters clear counter-reactions, including in scientific circles. The media scientists Markus Appel and Constanze Schreiner, citing meta-analytical findings, argue against certain of his statements and come to the conclusion: “The present reply contains scientifically untenable or hardly tenable claims. These are suitable for disseminating incorrect information and half-truths about human experience and behavior in dealing with the media in public. All in all, it becomes clear: Spitzer's one-sided perspective obscures the view of the opportunities and risks of life in a digital world. "

Katzer, in turn, points to findings from the USA, according to which more and more young people feel lonely - despite their strong network and their average of 250 "online buddies". The subjective well-being of young Facebook users is more likely to decline than to improve. The natural scientist and pedagogue Salman Ansari points out the openness and lack of clarity of certain course settings : “The meaningfulness of media for school learning processes has not yet been adequately researched. At the same time, the use of media is propagated. The children and young people should learn to program, handle robots and so on. "

Mimetic rivalry and influencer boom

Social media are becoming the “resonance space for imitation par excellence”. This does not only refer to the extended options for easy and fast copying and sharing of content. The Internet is also becoming an instrument of “mimetic competition”. René Girard uses this term to describe the imitative desire in the struggle for objects that are coveted together (see mimetic theory ). He postulates that we humans - as long as our basic needs are met - no longer want things for their sake, but because others want them. This promotes enculturation and learning processes on the one hand , and the imitation of and fixation on authorities (pop culture, etc.) on the other.

The meanwhile well-established practice of constant self-portrayal in social media also creates pressure to portray one's own life, which becomes a design object, and strengthens the spiral of staging through selfies and body cult. In a study commissioned by the market research institute IKW, 39 percent of the young people surveyed stated that they take selfies every week, 26 percent took them daily, 14 percent even several times a day. You control every single picture down to the last detail in order to get as many likes as possible. 30 percent of young people have recently started to see becoming famous as an explicit goal in life, a good twice as many as 10 years earlier.

The relevant role models from their own age environment are often still young influencers . These young people gain influence by having an unusually high number of followers on social media such as YouTube and Instagram for their self-expression. This makes them stars of the relevant network scene and also makes them interesting for the advertising industry. In some cases, they reach an audience of millions by publicizing themselves and their lives and appearing more approachable in their peer group approach and maintenance of contacts than conventional celebrities. According to a child and youth study by the industry association Bitkom , influencers are now more popular among young people than actors and athletes.

Their followers are just as trustworthy as family members and friends. As a result, they are more effective as intermediaries for their clientele for the advertising industry than any model or celebrity. “Influencers are standing in front of a temple in Thailand with the latest Canon camera. Influencers pose in a Prada coat in front of the Eiffel Tower in Paris, lean against a palm tree on the beach in Saint-Tropez in a Missoni bikini, or lie in bed at home with a bottle of Coral detergent. ”The value of a sponsored photo on Instagram is measured according to reach and interaction rate: "The more followers an influencer has and the more likes and comments his photos collect, the more money he can charge for it." According to the Bitkom study, every second among the young people surveyed sees the behavior of influencers as normal Work - and every third would like to be one themselves.

Orientation towards the present, space and time perception, memory

Critics claim that a strong focus on the present , which is often associated with hedonism and harmful (e.g. addictive) behavior, is promoted by excessive use of social media. The rapid updating of content on the Internet leads to ever faster obsolescence of the past. The streaming services also promoted the present orientation: the individual is permanently surrounded by music. As a result of the strong focus on the present, the reference to the future is also lost.

According to Carina Katzer, experiencing the real and virtual online worlds in parallel, including frequent switching between these two, creates numerous interactions for individual perception processes, for reception and memory. The perception of space and time also changed. "And loss of control, excessive demands, wandering and lack of concentration, distraction from the essential, the feeling of getting lost in the virtual garden, or the fear of missing out - are the consequences of the hype of being constantly connected."

More and more, according to recent studies, computer applications and the Internet are replacing various learning and memory skills that people previously needed for their orientation. Navigation devices take the place of learned skills for spatial orientation; Internet queries that are possible at any time reduce the interest in acquiring own knowledge stores. If the Internet is used more and more as a memory substitute, says Katzer, there is a risk that long-term memory will be damaged. But this also puts the ability to understand complex relationships at stake.

Social effects and mental health

A representative study of 33 million workers in Germany by the Center for Disability and Integration of the University of St. Gallen on behalf of the Barmer GEK showed neither clearly positive nor negative effects of digitization in the workplace on health. There were also only minor differences between the age groups in their perception of digitalization and its effects. Overall, the respondents were optimistic about digitization; very few feared losing their job due to digitization. All professional groups seem to be affected by digitization at least to a certain extent. In terms of industries, IT / computer / software / internet / data processing is the front runner and cleaning / disposal is the rear. While the actual sick days hardly seem to be influenced, there are undesirable connections with emotional exhaustion and conflicts between work and family life.

The 2017 health report of the Federal Association of Company Health Insurance Funds (BKK) states that 40 percent of those surveyed can do their jobs faster with the help of digital technologies and can process several tasks at the same time. Experts see a danger in this: Acceleration and multitasking increase stress, as does the expectation of having to be constantly ready to contact. While in 2006 ten percent of all sick leave was caused by mental illness, in 2016 it was 16 percent. However, it is difficult to isolate the effects of work intensification, digitization and factors not related to the work situation. Overall, the influence of multitasking (psychology) through working with electronic devices is judged to be rather negative. The neuroscientist Gary Small from the University of California, Los Angeles showed that mutitasking activities and frequent internet surfing impair the dorso-lateral prefrontal cortex and thus logical and strategic thinking as well as intelligence and empathy , which the German biologist Martin Korte confirmed.

The sociologist Eva Illouz considers the influence of digital technologies on people's everyday social interactions to be immense: “The old art of negotiating face-to-face relationships is being lost. People sit alone in front of their digital devices and count the likes on their profiles. ”The Internet is destroying traditional places of conviviality such as restaurants and cinemas. According to a study by the University of Leipzig cited by the Tagesspiegel , couples between the ages of 60 and 70 are more sexually active than singles between 18 and 32 years, which the participating scientists attribute to the random availability of pornographic material on the Internet . Illouz also sees pornography being virtualized; In the future, an increasing importance of sex robots is to be expected (see also cybersex ).

A study at the University of Pittsburgh among around 1,800 Americans between the ages of 19 and 32 looked at the psychological effects of time spent on social media. One of the results was that subjects who spent more than two hours a day on social media were twice as susceptible to feelings of social isolation as those who spent less than 30 minutes on it.

Digital Detox (German: digital detox) is under some permanent users of new media, by practice of renunciation or deliberate turning away from them to avoid an approach stress and time for experiences and encounters "real life" in the non-virtual ( Real Life regain).

Possible risk to eye health

According to some studies, one of the side effects associated with the digital revolution is increasing nearsightedness (myopia). The most dramatic values ​​in this regard were recorded in major Asian cities. In Hong Kong, Shanghai or Seoul, it is practically impossible to find healthy eyes among young adults; In Europe and the United States, too, at least every second pair of young eyes is affected. Unlike in the past, myopia is now considered a long-term risk to eyesight.

Recent research suggests that myopia develops when the eye is too rarely exposed to daylight and too often focused on near vision. While a light intensity of 10,000 lux can be expected outdoors on sunny days even in the shade, it is typically only 500 lux in a classroom or children's room. However, the time that children spend outdoors tends to decrease. "The most at risk are those couch potatoes who read books for hours in poor lighting or stare at the computer screen or the smartphone display."

The World Health Organization has declared myopia a global health problem. Experts justify the particularly high rate of those affected in Asia with the strict school requirements there, which would result in particularly long indoor stays. While in the 1960s just under one in five young Chinese was nearsighted, today it is over 90 percent. According to the Australian myopia researcher Ian Morgen, children should spend around three hours a day in a light intensity of 10,000 lux or outdoors in order to effectively reduce their risk of myopia: “For now, there is only advice that is usually good to follow The effect shows: instead of looking at the horizon much more often. And please do so outdoors. "

Implications for Research and Science

According to Pieter Drenth, ex-President of the All European Academies , the digital revolution has enabled advances in science in a wide variety of areas: successes in genome decoding, predictions in climate research , complex models in physics and chemistry , nanotechnology , and the neurophysiological foundations of language development and the cognitive functions, economic simulations and comparative studies in linguistics and literature . In fact, every scientific discipline has benefited from developments in computer technology.

Previously, research results had to pass filters (so-called gatekeepers ) in which a decision was made whether to publish or not to publish. Today, in principle, anyone can publish on the Internet. Scientists can therefore already continuously report on the research process (open science), make data accessible on which their findings are based (open data) or publish their results in advance (pre-publishing) without having to go through the review process of a journal. This review process can also be made more transparent (open peer review). At the same time, the possibilities of online communication intensify the competition for the first publication of research results: the receipt of texts is logged on the relevant servers to the second. On the one hand, this means that the flood of publications increases faster than the number of readers of the electronic journals and that often inadequately checked results are published hastily; on the other hand, the possibilities of checking (e.g. for possible plagiarism ) by the scientific communities improve .

The opening gap between IT and the humanities specialist culture is particularly critical. Computer scientists try to break down humanities issues into manageable formats (so-called digital humanities such as stylometry , etc.), but so far there have hardly been any successful attempts to map hermeneutic processes in machine-readable programs. For Richard David Precht , the computer-based “quantification of everything and everyone” has an impact above all in universities and research institutions, especially in economics and social scientists. Entire university disciplines seem to him “almost paralyzed under the centennial burden of empirical research.” It is undisputed that there are fields in which empirical research is useful. What is missing, however, is “the dictates of the empirical” in the social sciences, which degrade subjects with great traditions to suppliers of numbers.

Discourse aspects and critical reflection

As diverse and far-reaching as the impulses for change emanating from the digital revolution affect individuals and public spaces, the social discourse related to them is as diverse. New framework conditions for human interaction, for socialization, economy, politics and culture are emerging: as a predominantly promising progress for some, as the consequences for others to be viewed with skepticism. The emergence of a digital divide is being critically observed, which manifests itself in different ways both internally and internationally. In 2007, fewer than four percent of people in Africa were online. And India, for example, was in second place among the countries with the most Internet users in 2016 ; but these made up just under 35 percent of the Indian population.

The futurologist Daniel Dettling interprets the “megatrend of digitization” and its “disruptive character” as an invitation to society not to miss the connection with this new industrial revolution in the speed and simultaneity of changes. In the German bourgeoisie there is a "digital hysteria" - there is also talk of "German Fear 4.0" - according to which computers and cell phones are making children stupid and sick. However, thinking of the future as an extension of the present does not meet the new challenge. Dettling considers Emmanuel Macron's stance on artificial intelligence (AI) to be groundbreaking . Its AI strategy envisages an interdisciplinary cross between mathematics, social sciences, technology and philosophy, combined with the commitment: “I want to be part of the disruption . Artificial intelligence is a political revolution. The driver should be progress for the people. "

Richard David Precht does not see any opportunities for a radical political structural change via the Internet. The necessary bundling of topics, as they have been done by major opinion-forming newspapers in the past, will not be possible on the Internet. “The Internet segments so strongly that everyone can live in their own information world, but this also makes it increasingly difficult to establish common ground. This is often concealed because the internet cultivates the feeling of being able to contribute to relevant decisions with a short click. But it nourishes an illusion, because in reality the conditions remain the same. ”On the other hand, Precht sees the digital revolution - the“ second machine age ”- starting economic melting processes and coming times in which there is no longer any paid work for many people - with problematic consequences for their self-esteem. “A quick look across the Atlantic shows us unmistakably that a highly innovative digital economy will not save an economy by itself. While Silicon Valley is booming, classic industry is dying everywhere, producing unemployment, resignation and Trump voters. "

In view of the “depth of digitization in all niches of the living environment”, the sociologist Harald Welzer complains about a “strikingly” low awareness of political problems. “Start-up and innovation and disruption intoxication” may increasingly place people under “full-time distraction” in such a way that it is hardly possible to form clear thoughts. "After being overwhelmed, perhaps not so surprisingly, by all the forms in which digitization is just coming over us, it is now time to sort things out politically, based on the question of what of the undoubtedly excellent possibilities this technology has for the civilizational project is useful and what is not. ”Allowing algorithms to dictate how one should live is“ the re-entry of people into self-inflicted immaturity. ”A mature society sees digitization not as fate, but as a creative task.

The opportunities that the network offers for individual expression of opinion and political participation in general are only partially positive when exercised. In the meantime, cultural and political debates are mostly driven, if not dominated, by the activities of the many online; but many contributions lack any constructive orientation - in the matter as well as in dealing with people who think differently. As a result, there is a widespread impression that the rules of decency are disregarded much faster online than in face-to-face encounters: “Those who do not see, hear, feel what their utterances have on their counterparts, comment more uninhibited Group dynamic processes that encourage a rampant shitstorm fear: "As is well known, the wind in the network not only turns quickly, it is also unpredictable."

Zygmunt Bauman sees u. a. The stability and the inner-outer boundaries of social structures are called into question by the digitization and depersonalization of communication. These are becoming more and more fluid: "Disappeared is the certainty that 'we will meet again' [...] that it has more than a temporary meaning how we deal with one another because the consequences of our actions will be with us for a long time - kept in Thinking and acting of eyewitnesses who are always around us ”.

Change of orientation and values

The disruptive development in the field of everyday technology (the disappearance of typewriters, telephone boxes, daily newspapers, cameras, stereo systems or CD players, in the future cash), but also everyday practices (such as the disappearance of reading, fluent handwriting, mechanical toys or the Stammtisch, which is replaced by groups in social networks) has a polarizing effect on cultural and aesthetic values. It rapidly creates new forms of action and models of subjectivity that are in harmony with economic requirements (life in pop worlds, “digital realism”), but also provokes countercurrents (campaigns to promote reading, revival of beautifully decorated books). Daniel Dettling from the Zukunftsinstitut states a “value split”: In particular, the first-time users of the new digital technologies felt themselves to be representatives of values ​​such as freedom, mobility and sovereignty and welcomed “digital autonomy”, while 70 percent of Germans stared at the digital revolution with no orientation and fear .

Manuel Castells sees a declining influence of religion, morality, authority, traditional values ​​and political ideologies in the new communication system based on digitized electronic production and distribution and a corresponding exchange. They do not go away entirely, “but they are weakened unless they are re-encoded within the new system, where their penetration is multiplied by the electronic materialization of spiritually transmitted habits: electronic preachers and interactive fundamentalist networks are more efficient and effective in our societies more pervasive form of indoctrination than the person-to-person mediation of a distant, charismatic authority. ”Competing on the same level with any other offerings on the Internet, transcendental messages lose their“ superhuman status ”; the secularization gelange order to conclude: "The companies are final and truly disenchanted because all miracles are to have online and can be combined into self-constructed imaginary worlds."

Signs of "digitization mania"

Werner Thiede takes a critical look at the digital revolution from the perspective of a Protestant theologian. For him, it is not “the digital par excellence” that is in question, but its “implicit assertion and robust claim to rule.” What he fears, he outlines drastically: “Indeed, there is a danger that more and more technologists, economists and politicians over our Determine the future who have drifted mentally and more or less succumbed to digital dementia . And a society that has become more and more demented and has succumbed to digital mass madness will not even notice much of it, because it has largely become uncritical. "

Thiede sees opportunities for surveillance like never before with the spread of “sparking computer glasses” , which opened up interesting, possibly addictive possibilities for all users and thus at the same time provided the data processing services with an abundance of raw material. Such drawings were also a digitized healthcare from where soon all a virtual copy of one's body could have, for example, for drug effect or disease prevention as a forecasting tool, "The is our body takes hold digitization delusion serves the Big Data concept: He alienated us to the extent of ourselves by opening the door to manipulation. "

In the context of social media , Thiede sees the possibilities of individual life design dwindling: “Those who want to decelerate instead of accelerate further, who clearly prefer the analog world to the digital, have it increasingly difficult under the rule of digital technocracy; his freedom decreases. ”In the last of 95 theses on the topic of the digital tower of Babel , it says at the beginning:“ In view of the development spiral of the digital revolution, the serious question arises for theology and the church whether explicit resistance to coming excesses is not the ethically required course of action should be."

The psychologist Gerd Gigerenzer also criticizes the widespread euphoria associated with digitization and emphasizes: “The most dangerous thing about digitization is the Internet of Things.” He describes the digital language assistants as “potential home spies” and warns against careless handling of personal data.

Data extraction as an invasion of privacy

The massive collection, storage and transmission of digital data associated with the digital revolution has opened up previously unknown possibilities for surveillance , some of which are beyond the rule of law. This jeopardizes the right to privacy and makes transparent citizens a possible reality.

Yuval Noah Harari believes the triumph of a "religion of dataism " is possible. Its supporters believed that the intelligence created by networking computers and the development of an “Internet of Things” would lead to a “posthumanist age” in which data protection and democracy were meaningless terms. Social networks such as Facebook are already in a position, by analyzing 300 “I-like” clicks, to know better than their life partner what likes and dislikes the person in question has. Soon, appropriately “fed” networks would know more precisely than a certain voter which voting behavior would be most useful for him, but could also manipulate him highly effectively.

Jaron Lanier called for the "free temptations" of the new network world to be considered as well as the downside of chic gadgets , smartphones and tablet computers : "We regularly communicate with people we didn't even know about before the network age would have. We can find information on almost any topic at any time. But we've also learned that our devices and idealistic-motivated digital networks are being used by ultra-powerful, distant organizations to spy on us. We are analyzed more intensely than we analyze. ”In most cases you cannot even turn on a tablet computer without disclosing personal information.

Without data collection and data analysis, according to Beckedahl and Lüke, a modern society cannot function, and in some respects they are also very beneficial for citizens. It is not a question of whether this happens, but rather “how and according to which rules it takes place in order to prevent the misuse of data. This idea has not yet arrived in politics and economics. "For lawyers, digitization and the Internet world are a particularly difficult field, because law is a matter of" lagging sciences ": Here, appropriate rules are usually only set when" something is in the world or at least imaginable ”. The technical standards system of the Internet is hardly compatible with the legal one. “For centuries, legal scholars have tried to define state sovereignty and to define and shape a world community of sovereign states including international law. The network says: I'm everywhere. [...] It doesn't really matter what it is transporting and from whom to whom. This has posed problems for lawyers around the world: their national and international regulations all too often do not really fit. "

Heinrich Wefing , one of the initiators of the Charter of Fundamental Digital Rights of the European Union , takes a critical look at the business model of Internet platforms such as Facebook , Google and Twitter . Their existence depends on binding users to them and seducing them to spend as much time as possible with them. “Because the longer users are on a platform, the more advertising they can be presented with. And the more data can be extracted from them. ”The respective algorithms are programmed in the manner of digital addictive substances to constantly attract as much attention as possible from the users. Iyad Rahwan , Director at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development , compares the responsibility of internet companies with the problems of environmental pollution in an interview and sees a need for action by the state and society.

New aspects of alienation in data-based power constellations

The conference and innovation platform Digital Life Design shows the role of large corporations in the technical development process. The management consultancy PricewaterhouseCoopers sees agriculture as a pioneering role in digitization. The KTBL noted in 2017 that, for example, the loss of autonomy in processes and decisions being overwhelmed by the increasing complexity of decisions and polarization can represent the working principle risks of digitization in agriculture.

In a contemporary appraisal of the socio-economic theorems of Karl Marx on the occasion of his 200th birthday in 2018, Jürgen Neffe links manifestations of the digitization of economic and working life with the knowledge of Marxism : Like the factory worker of the machine assigned to him, the individual in “data capitalism” today serves through that of him used device of the "digital world machine", which sucks off life data like a vampire. “The inflow of raw materials through living activity makes the dead mechanism of processors and memory chips all the more alive the more we give it. He processes it into very useful information, which he gives us when he is allowed to pass on recommendations and advertising to us. In this way something that depends on us turns us into its dependents. By shaping what we feed, we become the product of our own creation. "

In the machine fragment of 1857, Marx had already raised the question of how the capitalist system would function if all goods and services could be produced fully automatically on the basis of knowledge. "As the promise of timely, needs-based and automatic production makes us a little further into subjects of our own creation, we experience something like a Marxian moment." Neffe believes a development is possible, even with economic freedom remaining at the core, "in the Basic needs such as food and water, mobility and participation in cultural life can of course be met with free communication and network access. ”He envisions that these goods would become common property, such as public green spaces, roads and squares that are maintained beyond commercial interests and all be available. "Even without overturning, a digital modernity could be imagined in which control over the growing amount of data does not lie uncontrollably in the hands of individuals."

Perspectives in the corona crisis

The sociologist and cultural scientist Andreas Reckwitz sees digitalization as the “second big winner” in the corona crisis , in addition to the regaining strength of the state as a regulatory power . In this, the digital revolution is proving to be a stroke of luck in that it enables communication between spatially separated people; Although it cannot replace everything, it can replace some. “Home office and video conferencing in the field of work, digital learning in schools and universities, online consumption and personal communication via the net - one can assume that these experiences will lead to further profound digitization of work, education and privacy even after the end of the crisis . "

The philosopher Richard David Precht sets a different accent with the remark, "Artificial intelligence doesn't tell anyone what to do in a crisis, and digital devices do not protect against existential life crises." In the follow-up to this crisis, analogue needs also apply again more to consider.

Future projections

For the 21st century, Stengel, Looy and Wallaschkowski expect a fundamentally changed relationship between man and nature. Human life will continue to shift from nature into digital spaces. After intervening in their own genome and in the genome of other organisms, people would also create new, synthetic organisms in the future. In an emerging post-capitalist economic order, companies no longer necessarily need to produce many things. With new manufacturing processes such as 3D printing, the economy is changing from a centralized top-down economy to a democratic bottom-up economy in which much could be produced by the citizens themselves. Decentralization is also imminent with regard to the energy supply as soon as every building can supply itself with it. Medical progress promises all people a longer and healthier life span. Big data will enable the transition from standardized to individualized medical therapy procedures. With regard to the cultural changes associated with such developments, only those religions could convince in the future that succeed in integrating genetic engineering and the human creation of artificial forms of life into their worldview and system of norms.

In the future, people of the digital age will differ markedly from those of the industrial age due to the expansion of their physical capabilities, due to new forms of human enhancement on a genetic , pharmacological and technological basis, says Oliver Stengel. “Man 2.0” will change not only through biological interventions in his genome, but also “through the integration of (digital) technological components in his body and perhaps also through nanotechnological interventions.” In the same way as the cochlear implants that have already been used for improved Hearing, Stengel expects, among other things, the development of retina implants in the form of a microchip in the eye or contact lens that connects to the Internet or a navigation system .

Human and international law issues

According to Miriam Meckel , technology companies in Silicon Valley are working on "making the human brain the new zone of conquest for their entrepreneurial activities." The term brainhacking stands for the interaction of the latest technology with the human brain aimed at increased performance , according to Meckel. Since 2018, Facebook has been researching a technology that makes it possible to transfer thought products directly to the smartphone and thereby enormously accelerate writing on the device. The entrepreneur Elon Musk deal his company Neuralink turn it, human brains in a through artificial intelligence to network enriched brain cloud. The individual thoughts would then be available to everyone who connects to this cloud . Meckel warns that such a development would bring with it almost unlimited access to the innermost core of the individual personality: “And where thoughts can be read from the brain, they can also be written into it. This is how you can save information, experiences and memories and rewrite a personality. "

The sociologists Heinz Bude and Philipp Staab are considering what role people will remain in a future global society that is fully digitized . You see the USA and China with very different models vying for digital world domination and are looking to determine their own European location. While the securing of mass loyalty in China is emerging through a social credit system based on comprehensive data disclosure and monitoring (granting privileges for good behavior in the sense of the communist party leadership), the American counter-model amounts to diverse and largely free “life assistance offers”: “You pay with your data and enjoys the tremendous convenience of digital access to the world. ”In this variant, mass loyalty arises from the free supply of digital life aids. “Do we only have the choice between Huawei and Facebook?”, Ask Bude and Staab and point out that the prerequisites for the “third stage of the evolution of the network” are present in Europe: “After the communicative network with social networks, the commercial one With the Internet department stores we are now building an industrial network of things worldwide. ”For Europeans it is important to show how people“ are here as a networked producer with distributed intelligence, as a disposing consumer with a variety of retail options and as a constitutive one Citizens in a completely new and different way. ”It is a question of“ whether open societies can bring individual freedom and collective agency to swing again as the two sides of a joint effort. ”The two sociologists come to the conclusion:“ From the Movement comes from individuality, form from solidarity. That is the European way. "

International law issues raised by the digital revolution moved into the focus of social and political discussion in the course of the surveillance and espionage affair in 2013 . This includes largely unresolved issues relating to human rights , counter-espionage, and state sovereignty .

See also


  • Markus Beckedahl , Falk Lüke: The digital society. Network politics, civil rights and the question of power. Munich 2012, ISBN 978-3-423-24925-6 .
  • Anja Breljak, Rainer Mühlhoff, Jan Slaby (eds.): Affekt Macht Netz. On the way to a social theory of the digital society. transcript, Bielefeld 2019, ISBN 978-3-8376-4439-5 . ( PDF download )
  • Uwe Jean Heuser: A thousand worlds. The dissolution of society in the digital age. Berlin Verlag, 2000, ISBN 3-8270-0208-7 .
  • Catarina Katzer : Cyber ​​Psychology. Life on the Net: How the Internet is Changing Us. Munich 2016.
  • Andreas Mühlichen: Privacy in the age of networked systems. An empirical study. Opladen, Berlin, Toronto 2018.
  • Otto Peters  : Critic of Digitization. Warner, suspect, fear maker, apocalyptic. Frankfurt 2012.
  • Erik Brynjolfsson , Andrew McAfee : The Second Machine Age: How the next digital revolution will change our lives all . Plassen Verlag, 2014, ISBN 978-3-86470-211-2 .
  • Karl Steinbuch : The informed society. History and future of communications technology , Deutsche Verlagsanstalt Stuttgart 1966
  • Oliver Stengel, Alexander van Looy, Stephan Wallaschkowski (eds.): Digital Age - Digital Society: The End of the Industrial Age and the Beginning of a New Epoch. Wiesbaden 2017, ISBN 978-3-658-16508-6 .
  • Werner Thiede : The digitized freedom. Dawn of a technocratic surrogate religion. LIT-Verlag, Berlin 2013, ISBN 978-3-643-12401-2 .
  • Werner Thiede: Digital Tower of Babel. The technology mania and its consequences. oekom, Munich 2015, ISBN 978-3-86581-727-3 .
  • Armin Nassehi : Sample. Theory of the digital society. CH Beck, Munich 2019, ISBN 978-3-406-74024-4 .

Web links

References and comments

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