21 June 2017
Trend researcher Matthias Horx is convinced that the Internet will change our future everyday life far less dramatically than has been the case in the last few years.
Trend and future researcher, founder and co-owner of the “Zukunftsinstitut” (“Future Institute”)
What does the Zukunftsinstitut do?
We observe society and the economy, we conduct experiments, we describe change systems in our studies and we use our findings to support companies in their transformation processes.
How will the Internet change our everyday lives in the next few years?
Less than it has in previous years. Connectivity and the concentration and networking of everything are coming up against their limits on many levels. A period of “digital review” is now starting in which we need to separate the wheat from the chaff. One example is the civilising of Facebook, but you also have the universal phenomena of overstimulation and overload in the digital information field. Every technology goes through a pioneering phase before being forced to fit into human dimensions. This results in a lot of mistakes and adverse side-effects which are then corrected. The digital wild west is now slowly being civilised, and, in some cases, hype is turning to flop. Just look at Google Glass.
“Much of what’s existentially crucial for people is simply beyond the reach of mechanical intelligence.“
What is your forecast for the future of Artificial Intelligence?
I think that much of what is being said is pure hype: people are peddling horror stories that at some point become just as irrefutable as religious myths. We can of course use expert systems to outsource a few activities, like driving or identifying standard tumours, for instance, or regulating traffic flows more intelligently in cities. But in this debate we’re confusing intelligence - the ability to operate logically - with consciousness. And much of what’s existentially crucial for people is simply beyond the reach of mechanical intelligence. We need feelings, instinct, intuition and soul, and you can only get that in carbon-based bodies.
Would you like a household robot?
No, because I know that controlling and maintaining it would be so stressful that it simply wouldn’t be worth the effort. Nor would I like a robot chef, because I enjoy cooking as a social, slow, even meditative activity.
Which technological innovation of the last few years wouldn’t you be without?
The lovely Macs that I’ve been working in for twenty years and the Tesla that I drive, which proves that high-tech can also be eco-friendly and that computers really can learn to drive. What I also really love is my lithium-ion-battery lawn mower. It doesn’t make any noise, it doesn’t stink, there’s no cable.
And what do you find surplus to requirements?
Any amount of digital junk like “intelligent fridges”, Twitter since Trump, and those broad swathes of the social media landscape in which darkness and violence or greed or narcissism hold sway.
“A holiday without Wi-Fi? If you want to think and work, which I like doing on holiday, then not having Wi-Fi is a drag.“
A holiday without Wi-Fi – is that a dream or a nightmare?
If you want to think and work, which I like doing on holiday, then not having Wi-Fi is a drag. Otherwise I would welcome it now and then: you breathe and feel differently.
What do you think - how many times a day do you check your smartphone?
Not many. Although I would have to say that I do look at my mails too often. I’m still learning something that I myself coined the term for: A life “om”-line. With the emphasis on “m”.
Which social networks are you active in?
In my own, where there’s no data theft. Seriously, though: not Facebook, it’s simply too annoying. And not business networks - I already have a job. But I do have a rich network of acquaintances and friends in RealSpace. There it’s often enough just to have phone numbers. My experience is this: If you just text instead of talking, you lose human contact.
Do you sometimes yearn for the return of the phone box?
No, they were hot, stuffy and smelly and not great for communicative eroticism.
The “Profile” series is a new format of #explore: Here we want to regularly give a voice to exciting and inspiring people from the digital scene - to researchers, bloggers, start-up founders, entrepreneurs, hackers, and visionaries.
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© Matthias Horx, Trend- und Zukunftsforscher (www.horx.com), Foto: Klaus Vyhnalek
Trend researcher Matthias Horx thinks the topic of artificial intelligence is pure hype and prefer to cook by his own instead of let a robot chef do the work.