Die Welt: “We Need a Willkommenskultur for Innovation”

One day before general election, Arago CEO Chris Boos takes the opportunity to publish an open letter to Chancellor Angela Merkel and appeals to tackle digitalization by three policy goals in the next legislature. These policy goals include a different approach to the job market, a change in the educational system and a change within the law to motivate people to become innovators. Boos expects rapid changes of digitalization taking place within this legislature. Waiting out, he says, and avoiding the issue would simply be impossible for the Chancellor. Boos sees his three requests as prerequisites for the next coalition contract.

First, Boos asks Ms Merkel to lay the groundwork for employees of established industries to play their part in digitalization. In his view, machines could not catch up on the experience of millions of years of human evolution. Boos does not consider the current gloomy forecasts on the relationship between men and machines as realistic since computer technology depends on human experiences. Even if certain industries become irrelevant, he values their knowledge as incredibly precious. The government should create a financial and legal framework to be able to close certain industries, without laying off its employees. The former employees should receive a salary for preserving and passing on their knowledge. In this way, Boos also proposes to work with trade unions to make them the gatekeepers of knowledge. Such a system he hopes, would replace the fear of being replaced by a machine with an encouragement to become a carrier of knowledge.

Second, Boos proposes that the current German school system should be reformed. It should prioritize a more general education. A future education system should not have a single-minded focus but should instead enable students to acquire broad knowledge and support their different talents. Boos does not see a future for the current system which aims for efficiency and specializing people. Machines would always be more efficient than humans and will be able to perform specialized work better. In the long-term, efficiency-focused jobs would make people sick in the long run. In his opinion, the creation of a new labor market is without an alternative. Yet, with broad knowledge and the skills to connect the dots, a new generation of inventors, artists and pioneers is be possible.

Third, Boos proposes to pass laws that motivate people as well as companies to be promoters of change and innovation. As an example, he names laws concerning self-driving cars: New rules in this field should clearly state the liability of companies, since the self-driving car should not need a driver who could then be liable. In addition, with the amount of collected data, the companies would be able to negotiate far cheaper insurance policies for their vehicles. Boos sees the self-driving car as an essential technology for Germany. With its strong industrial core, Germany should be the first country to profit from the technology’s advantages. He expects transport to become 90% cheaper, cities to have 5% more space, as well as less road deaths from traffic accidents and 70% less usage of energy sources.

Boos worries in his open letter to the Chancellor about the foci of the election campaign.Digitalization was mainly discussed with a focus on either infrastructure or making programming a subject in school. In this way, he asks that digitalization is seen not from a narrow perspective but as a future which is to be created. In the field of artificial intelligence Germany already has a solid foundation with its education, research and companies in the industry. Boos is convinced that large parts of society and businesses also share Ms Merkels motto: “Wir schaffen das!” (“We can do this”) in the context of digitalization. Yet, this change would need a government that has a plan how the potential of all Europeans and Germans could be empowered. Boos believes that his fellow countrymen and women will handle change better than some might expect. At the same time, he criticizes that politicians have lost the stamina to solve the problems arising from the migration crisis. This should not happen again with digitalization.

Digitalization would be the biggest chance for Europe since 1900. While there is much talk about risks and poverty, the process could have a positive impact on societal issues such as the current pension system, the growing gap between rich and poor, as well as the missing investments in education. Another important topic which lacks attention is the climate change. Boos states that in the last industrial revolution it took two economic crises as well as two world wars to establish a stable environment. With the challenges of digitalization western societies have the possibility to tackle the problem from its roots and lay the cornerstone on how to proceed with difficult challenges, digitalization and beyond. The goal is to do so without causing major disruptions, as the world wars and the economic crises were, within the society.

Click here for German article.

Arago Redaktion 25. September 2017

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