The digitalization of our economy and society is a dominant feature of modern life. As a research institute, we help to create the technological basis for digital transformation, especially within the context of our guiding theme “Cognitive Sensor Technologies”. Albrecht Fritzsche works at the Chair for Information Systems I at Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg, which is a close partner of the Fraunhofer Institute. As a mathematician, he has a profound insider’s view of digitalization. However, as a philosopher, he also has his eye on the bigger picture – and we were keen to learn more about it. We met with him to discuss his assessments of how digital transformation will change our society, how humans and technology will interact in the future, and what responsibility we carry for these developments.
Dr. Fritzsche, digitalization triggers a range of emotions in society. Some people fear that jobs will be lost or that our privacy will increasingly be eroded. Where do these fears come from, can you understand them, and how can they be tackled?
Every important social development should be the subject of vigorous debate. After all, that’s the good thing about a democracy: instead of simply putting up with things, we examine them critically. What strikes me, however, is that the people who are actually affected by digitalization express far fewer concerns about it than the media or other stakeholders. When I see people in the street using their smartphones, I get the impression that they are very uninhibited when it comes to digitalization. In other words, I have no idea whether the issue really affects people or whether we are simply having an intellectual conversation with ourselves about it and then projecting that onto the people in the street.