Sebastian Saxe likes to think in terms of the “day after tomorrow” as simply “tomorrow” falls short of his needs. The Interface Society (ThIS), of which Saxe is CEO, is now aiming to make the day after tomorrow tangible in society, academia, commerce and in political spheres. This generates impulses for overcoming challenges and recognizing opportunities. Digitalization may have become a buzzword, but everyone has their own interpretation of the term. “We aim to tell stories about the digital shift to bring the theme across for everyone in an intelligible way. To do so, we rely on images, videos, animation, virtual reality and augmented reality,” he said.
Ethical rules for using autonomous technologies
Saxe aims to stimulate debate in society about digitalization, drain the fear of an Orwellian future and reveal the various “faces” of the digital shift. Not only has digitalization long since pervaded all areas of life, but the opportunities and risks associated with the new technologies must penetrate conceptually. Only then can the different tools be deployed to best effect. Significant rises in effective processes and procedures can already be seen with artificial intelligence, while the debate about ethical rules for using the technologies of the future is still in its infancy. “We organize events on the various fields of action in the digital era with a view to developing concrete theses and demands. Our aim is to publish between seven and ten theses after each of these events,” Saxe pointed out.
Big players on board
Saxe is pleased with the current mix of ThIS partners: 45 per cent of the companies involved are in commerce, 30 per cent are research institutions, and 25 per cent are partners from the public sector. Saxe wears a number of other different hats. He is Chief Digital Officer (CDO) of the Business, Transport and Innovation authority, CDO and member of the Management Board of the Hamburg Port Authority. Saxe was Chief Information Officer (CIO) of HPA for eight years and had contact with all the relevant players. This helped secure Michael Müller-Wünsch, technology board member (CIO) at OTTO, and Bernhard Fischer-Appelt, founder and CEO of FischerAppelt creative agency, for the executive while Professor Tilo Böhmann, head of Information Technology at the University of Hamburg, is responsible for the research committee at ThIS. “Many other top-level people from Hamburg and beyond are involved in ThIS,” Saxe said.
ThIS launched a SmartCity-Kompass in April to give an overview of the multiplicity of research and state-of-the-art approaches. This new platform shows all the SmartCity projects in the German-speaking countries at a click. “Experts and all those interested gain comprehensive information on the current state of digitalization in cities across the German-speaking region. This is undergoing continual change. Saxe sees artificial intelligence (AI) as the main driver of change this year, “but who knows what awaits us in the years ahead”.
Intelligent interplay between procedures
The developments will prove beneficial, he believes, and noted: “We are currently seeing the beginnings of intelligent support in leisure and professional life,” and pointed to voice typing instead of keyboards or folding drones to save skiers’ lives. “Basically, digitalization is the intelligent interplay between different technical procedures that combine all areas of life.” There are no limits to the imagination.
Glimpse of the future
“Imagine U.S. tourist arriving in the early morning at Hamburg Airport to embark on a cruise in the afternoon.” After welcoming the tourist at the airport, a mobile robot could arrange a meeting with ancestors e.g. in a literary cafe where they discover a mutual love of art. The multi-touch table points to the Affordable Art Fair and the user just swipes to order tickets for MOIA (electric rideshare). “During the visit to the exhibition, the visitor’s shoes, which have been covered with intelligent foil, light up: The cruise ship’s captain reports in to say the cabin is ready and that a car will be waiting outside the fairgrounds in 15 minutes,” Saxe says spinning out his tale. He is able to imagine the day after tomorrow vividly – and ThIS aims to develop many more positive images of the future.