What We’re Reading

"Someone who understands how to read, possesses the key to great deeds, to undreamed of possibilities." - A. Huxley

We will here keep you up to date by providing a regular survey of interesting books, magazines, blogs, etc. which we read ourselves.

What to Think About Machines That Think, John Brockman

The theme of artificial intelligence makes more and more headlines in our daily lives. IBM Watson, IPSoft Amelia and Apple Siri are just some examples of where we today experience the reality of artificial intelligence. With his book “What to Think About Machines That Think”, John Brockman has invited the world’s best researchers and philosophers to answer the following question – what do you think about machines that think? In the book, there are a large number of answers to this question and two combined responses can be found here.

For example, Professor Dimitar D. Sasselov of Harvard University writes of the deep hope that everything stays the same and that continuity is maintained. But the reality is quite different, because no species on our planet would still exist today but for progress and advancement. Thus, progress is a natural phenomenon and is also necessary if we want to have a long and successful future

Athena Vouloumanos, associate professor at New York University writes that a “machine-run world” will free time up for us human beings. People can now use this time to experience more important things such as creativity, solving new problems, and spending more time with family and friends. Thus, we can build stronger social networks and develop new, previously unknown skills.

The book is highly recommended and can also be used as a reference because of the numerous responses made.

Harvard Business Manager 9/2015: Your New Colleague

People have always been fascinated by robots, which keep turning up again in such films as Star Wars, Wall-E or I Robot. At the same time, fears about robots can’t be disregarded. In the face of digitalisation and current progress in robotics and artificial intelligence, that fear is stronger than ever. This time we are not talking about robots in factories, but about robots in offices.

In 1920 about 45% of the population worked in agriculture. Through the onset of machines, that share has today fallen to about 2%. Nevertheless, not everyone has become unemployed. The key question which now has to be asked is not how this progress can be slowed down, but how one can prepare for the unfamiliar. It is therefore important to consider which new activities humanity can perform.

Therefore, HBM argues that automation leads to augmentation and that humanity will have to use new strategies to adapt to the transition. A thoroughly interesting topic which is discussed in this issue of HBM.

Rise of the Robots, Martin Ford

With “Rise of the Robots”, Michael Ford has written a New York Times bestseller which narrates the rapid and ever accelerating rise of automation and the resulting challenges for humanity. The book explains in great detail why we humans have to reorient ourselves and retrain in order to keep up to pace in the world of work. Martin Ford underpins the book with meticulous research. He also is not afraid to call out optimists who base their rosy predictions on old models. This time everything is different, he writes, and illustrating the ways and means to keep up within this changing world.

If you feel like reading an exciting book about innovation and automation, then this book is a key text.

Die Geschichte der Zukunft (German), Erik Händeler

At the Unternehmer-Kongress Nürnberg, we had the pleasure of listening to a lecture by Erik Händeler on the history of the future. Mr. Händeler initially made it plain that it is important to discuss the future so that society and business can be prepared.

In 1750, mechanical energy was the most scare element in production. Therefore, entrepreneur James Watt was asked to work out a solution – and the steam engine was born. In concrete terms, this example demonstrates that new markets, jobs, etc. arise due to the presence of an economic necessity. As an explanation, Händeler uses the Kondratiev wave.

What Händeler is able to say that today, we live in a knowledge society. A knowledge-based society means that things like planning, organising and advising will become the daily activities that most of us undertake. Work will therefore not disappear, as has been argued by many other previous researchers, because there will always be problems to solve. Thus, work will not disappear, but will rather change its nature.

The biggest challenges for today’s entrepreneurs lies with the professionals and employees. There just aren’t enough professionals. Therefore, in the future it will be a case of mobilising a whole company’s knowledge.

Should you find this topic interesting, you will find here a short video and Erik Händelers website.