DLD Conference 2017 Key Takeaways: The Future of Work, Education, Fake News & More

I had the great pleasure to spend last week at the DLD17 in Munich. As usual on conferences of these kind I wish I could have a sneak peek into the notebooks of the participants around me. Everyone will find different insights valuable and notable. Here a little glance into my key takeaways and some thoughts:

The future of work

  • Reinhard Kardinal Marx, the  Archbishop of Munich and Freising, defined work as community, identity and not just the mere accumulation of capital. According to him work is essential in living a good life, which he defines as serving humanity, global responsibility and personal accountability. He sees work as essential for human fulfillment and necessary for a stable society. He mentioned briefly that during the election in the US people where so afraid to lose their jobs and connected this fear to their personal future.
  • There were some big question around the topic of the future of work:
    • How would a world without work look like?
    • Do humans have a right to work?
    • Will the digitization lead tot he substitution of work?
    • What are the skills (we need to teach our children) to work within a digital economy or a AI age?
    • How can a normal person be included in the on-demand economy and keep their self-worth (meaning in plain English, not being used for stupid repetitive tasks)?
  • Joe Schoendorf warns that we talk about the future of work as if it would really just happen in a far away future, but the transformation of the work environment is already taking place.
  • Frequently mentioned book recommendation at the conference: Hillbilly Elegy, A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis a memoir by J. D. Vance. Read its review in the New Yorker.

Education for the AI (Artificial Intelligence) age

  • Technological intelligence is pattern recognition while humans are able to judge within different scales e.g., apply ethical thinking
  • One of the biggest challenges will be fighting inequality. Rose Luckin states rightfully that the current system privileges the already privileged. 
  • What are the skills we need to teach our children?
    • One of the biggest tasks will be learning to say NO (So important! Thank you, Tabitha Goldstaub)
    • Creativity
    • Social Skills
    • Problem solving
    • Project management skills
    • Ability to not just learn raw information that computers can already provide but adapt them to the devices ("Don't compete with computers!" Conrad Wolfram)
    • Adaptability to learn new skills
    • Being able to work towards abstraction and not the other way around. We need to start with real projects.
  • We need to stop teaching in schools test based learning and focus instead on projects that are able to connect skills. In our professional life there won't be a test situation where we get a gratification through grades, our performance is rated differently. How can we establish a project based learning in schools?
  • We are heading towards a Computational Knowledge Economy (Conrad Wolfram)

Fake News - Alternative Facts - Post Facts -- Or in plain english: LIES

  • Up to now there used to be this believe that you have to be outspoken to go viral. The big question is: How will qualitative information, where facts are checked and provide value, find their way to the audience and gain visibility among all the other noise?
  • Predictions didn't do any good during the election and are still too vague to provide value. It is time to slow down and say more often "I don't know yet".
  • I really missed the presence of some unexpected media outlets, who have done a terrific job in covering the election like Teen Vogue, in comparison to the established ones. If you haven't done it already, read this article by Lauren Duca in Teeen Vogue, Donald Trump Is Gaslighting America.

After inauguration day, which took place after the DLD17 conference, I found this heated interview of Chuck Todd with Kellyanne Conway, Counselor to the President, about why Press Secretary Sean Spicer used 'alternative facts' in his first statement to the Press Corps, a very good example of how communication skills are misused to form some sort of fake reality and how we need to be careful to continue using fact checking as our highest good.

Fake news and all its other descriptions are recent terminology to describe soundbites and headlines that create clickbaits with the purpose to sell adverts on fake media outlets or reverse power structures in democratic discussions, or in the worst case in elections. It is not a really new phenomenon but seems to have gained momentum in debates around climate change, the US election and around topics of surveillance. This fake information is used to implant a thought of doubt into heads of people until they seemingly believe there could be some sort of truth at its grain or, in some cases, the fake is easier to digest than the truth. It seems that there is a screwed up believe that once the rumor is spread reality will catch up on it and, as unbelievable as it sounds, is seems to work. At least people who spread the fake get the outcome they wish for. It is disgusting that so called "thought leaders" intentionally manipulate people for their own profit.

The Power of Real Networks (Gina BIanchini)

  • According to Gina Bianchini social media has been compromised as it traded the social network for media, meaning that the true value of relationships is dropped in favor of gaining the biggest attention.
  • Likes, follows, shares and hashtags aren’t communities they demonstrate at its best energy around an idea, but they are missing the opportunity to build towards concentrated, sustained action, support, learning and real relationships.

  • Networks used to be focused on the demand to connect people who already know each other personally, professionally or by reputation. The majority of breakout startups launched in the last few years have been networks that promise an opportunity to meet new people around a strong identity or interest ==> identity networks.

  • As I am an Art Historian I am interested in community engagement with relevance to art, education and culture. Social Media expert and champion of the inclusion of young visitors, Mar Dixon, has been talking about #BringSocialBacktoSocialMedia in the beginning of this year. She complained about the lack of conversation and rise of marketing purposes and launched this initiative to start communication in cultural spaces with their visitors. I would love to see more networks around culture and education.

On my way home I had a serendipitous moment listening to Krista Tippett's Podcast On Being and her conversation with Anil Dash on Tech's Moral Reckoning, which somehow connected the dots between a lot of things discussed during DLD17:

"We’re still sounding our way through this incorporation of technology into our lives. And it always does come down to — what are our values? And what do we care about? And what are the things we think are meaningful? And then using that as a filter to understand and control and make decisions around these new technologies. And that’s part of the reckoning I’d ask everybody who’s not in technology to have, is to raise that flag. At the time when somebody says, “You’ve got to try this new app,” “You’ve got to use this new tool,” think through what are the implications of, one, me using this, but two, if everybody does."

Let me know your thoughts. Anyone who wants to share a sneak peek into their conference notebook? Let me know in the comments below or through social media.