Strategy
An interview with Anders Indset and Harald Reisinger

Taking the lead or falling behind: Europe and digitization

Taking the lead or falling behind: Europe and digitization
New technologies open up new possibilities, at the same time they hold great potential and risks. Anders Indset is one of the world’s leading business philosophers, a trusted advisor to global CEOs and leading politicians on technology issues. In his book “Q Economy”, he describes what he believes to be one of the greatest challenges, namely creating new rules and structures that can cope with new technologies such as nanotechnology and artificial intelligence. In this joint interview, Anders Indset und Harald Reisinger look at how Europe handles technological progress and what tasks Europe will have to face.
Cyber Defense Center Vienna/Harald Reisinger and Christian Polster

Harald Reisinger at Cyber Defense Center Vienna

Europe is falling behind in digitization and technological race concerning cyber security. What does Europe have to do to get ahead?

Anders Indset: Europe needs to find its own way. We have a situation where there is trust between the major powers and peace prevails. In our history, the tradition of “seeing far beyond” – the original meaning of the word Europe – is deeply rooted in philosophical thinking. So that’s where we might possibly find our own way. Of course, in many fields of technology, it’s a question of sticking at it and catching up, but in many other areas it’s simply unrealistic to think that Europe can keep up. However, in things like quantum research and the study of consciousness, Europe is out there with the leaders, so from a technology point of view it might be possible to “catch the next wave”. There are also some very exciting developments in Europe regarding crypto-currencies and Blockchain. From my point of view, driving forward the quantum economy would be the right approach. Europe would be creating a new operating system for the economy. A new system in which everything is designed to be used absolutely infinitely – a genuinely circular economy – and new avenues are explored, for example in the capitalization of vital energy. We need radically new ways of thinking for the whole world, so why shouldn’t Europe be among the pioneers?

Harald Reisinger: Often an outside perspective helps: the Digital Life Abroad Report, carried out by InterNations, interviewed expats worldwide, it underlines the problems Europe is confronted with in terms of digitization. Europe is lagging behind when it comes to digitization. Even with seemingly banal problems such as Internet speed and online services, Europe is falling behind.

Politics and, unfortunately, many companies lag behind the rapid developments in digitization. In many cases, however, there is no lack of strategies or funding for research and development, but the problem is rather the slow implementation of these goals. We at Radar Cyber Security notice this ourselves on a daily basis. Cyber security is considered important in principle, but the threat situation is often misjudged. Digitization and cyber security must be at the top of the agenda.

Are companies in Europe ready for the use of artificial intelligence? Supposedly 20 billion in support are planned for that?

Harald Reisinger: There are three things we lack most of all: money, data and confidence in technical progress. Asia invests two to three times as much in AI as Europe. North America invests far more than China and Japan. And Beijing has set itself the goal of outperforming the USA as the global number one by 2030. In order not to risk losing out, enormous sums have to be invested in development.

Acceptance by people and trust are, of course, also part of the foundations for further advancing AI. The certainty that AI will not destroy thousands of jobs. In addition, data is needed without which machine learning simply does not work, and the creation of a digital internal market could remedy this. But in the end, it is important to note that we decide where the journey takes us.

Anders Indset: You hear talk of different sums and time slots. In China, for example, they are talking about investing around USD 150 billion over the next ten years. The question we have to ask ourselves is, equipped for or against what? We need to look at it in relation to something. It’s a question of what the real agenda is. What are we trying to achieve? And we need to be able to answer the question about what kind of values it’s intended to generate. In Germany, the rule was always: watch first and then catch up. In these fast-moving and complex times, that could be a risky approach. Keeping pace with the USA or China on investment could already be unrealistic, so Europe should focus on designing the new models of the future. But to find those, you have to be willing to take risks and have a culture in businesses that allows people to make mistakes, and permits failure. Preserving and regulating things is important, but in the future the technology – the management side – will take that over so now it’s all about creating new things. Companies in Europe need to futureproof themselves.

Data is the new oil. How great is the danger that we lose out and are controlled by a digital dictatorship?

Harald Reisinger at Pulse Conference Vienna

Anders Indset: If oil no longer enters into the equation in future, completely different approaches may be the right way forward. We need to respect the technology, but we should also seriously consider whether we want to have dictatorial leadership structures. If the answer is no, then we need to have something with which to counter the algorithmocracies and the authoritarian leaders in the world. We need to find a European way. At present, people are trying to bring about change in the old structures, but that rarely succeeds, or if it does, then usually far too slowly. We need entirely new models, for example, forms of direct democracy coupled with genuine enlightenment would be a good start. Digital dictators are also products of algorithms, and initially with AI the power of a leader will become even greater, through being able to access, process and distribute information. Assuming we recognize these mechanisms and dangers – if we can call them that – then we can and must act. But at the moment there’s primarily just a lot of talk. Certainly, the answer to a “giant Pacman” is not to look at the old models and adapt them from the inside, as we are doing, but to take radically new approaches that will also have to be tried out in practice.

Harald Reisinger: China is certainly a warning deterrent in this area with its “social credit system” and the associated complete monitoring of citizens and punishment for unwanted behavior. Furthermore, the just announced company rating system may have the potential to decide the life or death of companies.

For these reasons, there has to be a counterweight how to handle data responsibly and transparently. Data should be used to help people, not to control them. Technology should increase our quality of life and not influence it in a negative way. That, in turn, is a challenge for all of us. It is not technology that regulates how data and algorithms are used, it’s us humans who decide that.

Authority is shifting from us humans to algorithms – how can we protect ourselves against that and which paths need to be pursued in education?

Harald Reisinger: Algorithms alone are not saviors. We need to know how and in what areas they are used. This requires transparency and clarification of what happens with data. Nobody in Europe wants total surveillance.

Digital transformation must reach school classes as well. But there also has to be room for critical discussions when it comes to technological developments, especially with regard to democracy and humanity. Everything machines and data cannot do. Digital aids can optimally support pupils in their learning. In addition to didactics and methodology, content such as data literacy and what happens to personal data must also be dealt with in classrooms. These topics have to be addressed in schools. Digital literacy should have top priority.

Anders Indset: An algorithm-controlled knowledge society may sound good at first in the fight against fake news and so on. But what we need is a society of understanding. We need to develop a greater comprehension of implications and changes. That takes genuine enlightenment and a revolution in consciousness. When it comes to education, we need models based on practical philosophy that can be applied in real life. We also need time to think – everyone should regularly assign 1-2 hours a week in their busy schedules to thinking. For Europe, I see a specific problem regarding communication. Every EU country should have a common language as the first language in schools. Of course, English would be an obvious choice. But what is important is that we can communicate with one another on important subjects on a European level, at any time and covering all aspects. That doesn’t happen today. If we look at the English language skills of countries like France and Italy, it’s not surprising that we don’t come closer together. Language is a factor that binds people together and it should be the basis for business and politics, and that can only be achieved if specific measures are taken in education.

Cyber security plays an important role especially in critical infrastructure and the industrial sector. We see a rise in the number of attacks. How secure are those areas?

Harald Reisinger: The convergence of operational technology and IT increases the risk of attacks. Operational Technology used to be a closed system, its industrial and production facilities were opened and are now connected to IT systems. OT systems often have different, mostly physical security standards, it was most important that machines and equipment run smoothly. IT and OT security must now be set up holistically, including continuous IT and OT security monitoring, because there are numerous entry gates for attackers.

Anders Indset at Dis.Kurs Zukunft

How much regulation is associated with the question of ethics, or do we need a global ethos on digitization, like the Dalai Lama is calling for in relation to the world’s religions?

Anders Indset: Of course we need to have a common base. When it comes to exponential technologies where the scenario is quite clearly “winner takes all”, for example in AI, biotech and nanotech, solutions can only be found at a global level. If the technologies are now merging together and the “upside” is so great, we need new institutions and frameworks that are the same for everyone.

It also needs to be possible to take a (global) societal view on ethics separately from regional or nation-state initiatives. Here again it’s a question of developing greater understanding, driving forward the revolution of consciousness and calling on people’s common sense. Philosophers write books, but practical philosophy changes the world.

In your bestseller “Q Economy”, you ask what comes after digitization. Expect the unexpected? What is your vision for Europe in 2030?

Anders Indset: My vision for Europe would be that we become the designers of change, by setting up a new operating system – the “quantum economy”. And that we succeed here in Europe in communicating in a common language across sectors and disciplines, and in building a bridge between East and West. That we rescue the treasures of the past from those wonderful visionaries and project them on to the 21st century. That we combine philosophy with the science and technology of the future and have the confidence to look in the gaps between the disciplines for “wild knowledge” – the unknown unknowns. I would like to see Europe giving a definite impetus as an exporter of trust and “climate take back” technologies and as an initiator of new technologies and models for a genuine circular economy.

Harald Reisinger: The global digital innovation race will continue – with or without Europe. That is why we have to do our homework. This means driving digitization forward and, above all, ensuring that it is done the way we want it to be done. Europe must now find the answers to current challenges before we focus on future issues.

We need a new vision of the European idea, a digital strategy and a commitment to European technologies to set the rules for the future in a self-determined way. I especially care about innovation at the heart of Europe’s future.