Friday, March 9, 2012

Gunter Dueck at e-Day Austria

Professor Dr. Gunter Dueck gave a wonderful opening keynote at the Austrian Chamber of Commerce's annual e-Day event last Thursday. Dueck on Wikipedia German, his homepage also in German. Dueck worked for IBM and is the author of several books about information technology and society.

Dueck started by asking the question, what do we build first? Our house or the wall around it? It was meant to make you think, since the theme of the day was "security".

Slide 1: The sunrise of premium operating systems

Dueck talked about a whole series of premium operating systems that are allowing us to forget the mechanics of generation one OS (mac, pc, etc.). They include: facebook, automobile control systems, applications of all kinds, medical apps ... in short the things we are using the internet to do today.

He told many funny stories, as he said later, because it helps us deal with the speed of change. This reminded me of one of my favorite lectures at PICNIC2011 by Ben Hammersley on how we need to warn our friends about the speed of technology change, in short if you can dream it, it will be here in the next 5-10 years.

For cars, the car itself is becoming less important, more important is the operating system. Soon we will be asking sales people: "Can I drive this car with my iPad?"

In medicine many problems, diabetes for example, can be better treated via computer than with a doctor via the normal process: travel to doctor's office, wait, blood test by doctor, discuss, send test out for analysis, get analysis, discuss analysis with doctor .... a long and winding process. A simple blood test machine at home attached to an internet database could give you more personalized information in seconds. Doctors are really needed for special cases, not routine care.

Slide 2: Internet makes everything a commodity

Continuing on the theme, Dueck had a list of professions and asked us to think of how the internet could revolutionize each of them.

  • Who needs publishers when you can self publish an e-book?
  • Who needs professors when you have the Khan Academy and elite universities broadcasting lectures from their best professors (not only do you get great lectures, but you can re-wind when you miss something)?

Buying on-line: applications that let your customers compare prices means you need to offer something more or match the lower prices.

St Giulia Museo della Citta Brescia Italy - 40
No Driverless Cars Allowed!

Driverless cars: the only thing a car cannot do now is determine where you want to go (you need to tell it). When this is accepted there will be no need for us to own a car: our needs can be served by a fleet of automated taxis. This will have huge impacts on the automobile industry since we would only need about 10% of the cars we have today ... which may be one reason automated cars don't exist yet: industry won't let it happen. Consider how much better this could make the world.

Political parties are creatures of the previous age: in Europe Social Democrats (industrial workers) and Christian Democrats (farmers) ... similarly in the US, but these were formed when these groups made up large shares of the population. How many farmers are there today? How many industrial workers? How many will there be in 10-years?

Are today's political parties still relevant? (Note the Pirate Party success in Berlin.)

Slide 3: Khan Academy

Only the best can be teachers.

By the way, if you can't find the answer on google, do you really think your teacher will know it?

Slide 4: The 2nd revolution in the 3rd business sector: industrialization (I probably got this slide title wrong ... )

Everything that can be done automatically will be done automatically.

Today when you go to have your car repaired what do they do? Plug it into a computer, the computer tells them what's wrong, they replace the part. What skills are needed for this? How much would you pay for it? Master mechanics, like doctors, will only be needed for the most difficult cases.

The trend towards a small number of elite jobs for highly skilled workers and low paying rather menial jobs will continue. ... and this will affect ALL professions.

(Aside: Richard Florida believes that service workers could help build a middle class, but Dueck did not mention that.)

Slide 5: Who will care for our aging society?

It's too late for us to have enough children. We'll need to be as efficient as possible ... the internet will help.

Slide 6: Geoffrey Moore: Crossing the chasm

Moore's theory is that there is a chasm between early adaptors of technology and the next stage ... crossing the chasm is very difficult.

Dueck described the four types of people:

  • Early adopters (10%), smart phones are cool, I'm getting one.
  • Pragmatic adopters (40%), do I really need a smart phone?
  • Conservative adopters (40%), I'll get a smart phone when I have to.
  • Skeptics (10%), I'm going to start a ballot initiative against smart phones.

Dueck cautioned that things will never really be safe (a theme well covered by Bruce Schneider) and that this should not prevent us from trying new things. (Also remember that 2-3% of everything in stores is stolen!)

Given the fear of change, often the hysterical side wins.

Podium Discussion

Dueck participated in the podiums discussion, two points:

  • Social media - it's not so important to him that a company has a lot of facebook fans, but rather that the website provides the information he needs ... don't put I have xxxx facebook fans and that makes me great, but rather the information customers need: opening time, information on the strike at Frankfurt airport ....
  • Infrastructure - the biggest problem for information technology is physical infrastructure (e.g. glass fiber, etc.). It takes too long to get these physical systems in place because no one can make a decision. Neal Peirce from talks about the possibilities for cities that invest in digital infrastructure in a recent column on Kansas City.

Finally, Dueck pointed out several times that just because he was saying these things were happening, he was not necessarily in favour of them ... he was just reporting what we are doing.


An aside: I completely agree with Dueck's view of social networking, it's not an end in itself. In other words it's not important how many fans you have, it's what your fans do for you. That's part of the idea behind my  project. It's a game/social network designed to increase public participation in transport planning. The prototype is on line and now we're searching for a launch partner. Development was partly funded by ZIT: The City of Vienna's Technology Agency.

Finally, this post is from my notes, sorry for any mistakes, add corrections in the comments. Here's a link to Dueck's slides (mostly in German): Dueck E-Day 2012 Keynote Speech

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