I visited CeBIT, Germany’s largest fair for IT and wanted to see what the future will look like.
Gamification was a topic, big data as well and the usual suspects of e-Health, driverless cars and smart cities. Everybody seemed extremely positive and eager to step into a decade of wealth and happiness. Amongst the thousands of future-proof, fearless young men in smart suits a spirit from the 50s could be sensed. This did not smell like teen-spirit, rather a mixed brew of Google grog and geek gaiety. There were only a few women there, whose main occupation was to advertise Chinese hardware by handing out leaflets to men.
In times of a huge financial crisis, European states at the brink of bankruptcy, unsolved nuclear problems, 1566 dead in the attempt to cross European borders this year (taz, 20 April 2015), a regular re-occurance of terror attacks and at least 5 active wars, everyone seemed to be very positive about the future. I am a positive thinker myself, but it felt strange to me that the future looked like what our grandfathers imagined it to be in the 1930s and 1950s: Loads of urban highways, cars and autonomous helicopters – smart ones of course. It is amazing that a planet that has almost been destroyed by the combined forces of the automotive industry and the petrol industry re-embraces the idea that cars could be the solution to all of our problems. Google does so, Tesla as well and Mercedes and BMW seem to be trying to get into a pole position. The concept of a dense network of concrete streets that for some time had been replaced with the concepts of “data-highways” (Datenautobahn) and “information superhighways” (1990s) seems to fall back again into streets made from pebble, asphalt and concrete. The illustration below is from the CeBIT webpages of the year 2015:
Massive highway constructions in Germany started in the 1932 with the opening of the Bonn–Cologne „Autobahn“ by Konrad Adenauer, then mayor of Cologne, and have been made a number one prestige project by the Nazis because of their double-function as entertainment backbone and as military infrastructure. Most Western countries developed communication superstructures then, that look a bit outdated now, given the often declared “death of the car industry” and the end of the age of petrol.
Surprisingly the car as a vehicle for individual transport is still celebrated as the holy cow of industry 4.0. Volkswagen alone prides itself of having created a turnover of € 202 billion and profits of € 11 billion in 2014 (Der Spiegel, no. 16, 11 April 2015). This is year is said to be even better. What has changed during the last few decades, however, is the aggressive tone, that promotes a programme with no alternatives to playing the game of ludocapitalism.”those who do not adapt, will be extinct” („Wer sich nicht anpasst, verschwindet vom Markt“), our cities will be “imperial cities” („die neuen Kaiserreiche“), “the digital transformation will eradicate without mercy” („Die digitale Transformation siebt gnadenlos aus“) and communication will be via the „Internet of Everything“. The linguistic totalitarianism is of course intentional. It is pronounced to tell us that everyone has to bow to the new emperors, and that everyone has to submit to the Web 2.0, to industry 3.0 and to Farming 4.0. What a bullshit!