Claudio Grass (CG): A lot people still consider it safer to go with a huge, established corporation, thinking these solutions would be more reliable and robust, especially for business applications. What is your take on this view?
Bernd Rodler (BR): This is a perfectly understandable view, at least from the standpoint of a manager applying the „cover your a…“ strategy. Who can blame him if the SAP project fails? Well, they are the market leader. So it can not be his fault.
On the other hand, I have been in the IT business for more than 20 years now and during that time, many large, even world leading corporations like Enron, WorldCom and Yahoo collapsed or merged or fell apart. And I don‘t want to even think about all the products that were discontinued or taken off the market, which created tremendous problems for the customers using them in mission critical environments. Not to mention the blackmail with ever increasing software license prices.
So, I doubt that large corporations are stable per se. To the contrary. The entire world is on steroids today. Innovation requires speedy adaption and development processes. These have become incredibly fast compared to even five years ago, so that large units seem to be standing still. The hierarchies that you need to overcome before reaching a conclusion and decision means you are always a bit if not too late.
That‘s probably the reason why VNClagoon is winning projects against the Goliaths of the industry.
CG: Looking at some of the bigger shifts we see in Tech and in the ways in which everyday citizens interact with the online world, either for business or for personal uses, would you agree there’s been somewhat of an “awakening” surrounding security risks and privacy issues even among those of us who are far from experts?
BR: I hope and I think that there is indeed a reconsideration or „awakening“. If we look at the massively declining numbers in terms of subscribers at corporate media and the increasing number of followers, subscribers, readers in the so called „new media“, I am convinced that people are smarter than many believe. And people seem to loathe mind control and censorship.
Also in business, we see a significant increase of requests stressing the topic of security and privacy. Astonishingly, there are more from Government clients than from enterprises. Which is weird or it might show that dependencies from investors, shareholders, hedge and other funds are extremely strong.
CG: Given that few of us have the technical skills and the know how to effectively mitigate those risks and to evaluate the different services and solutions that are on offer, what are some of the key features and parameters that we should be looking for or what’s some of the basic knowledge we should familiarize ourselves with?
BR: A good question and difficult to answer. We definitely have to overcome this state of digital illiteracy. If you do not understand the basics of software, encryption, AI, you can not make sound decisions. I believe that coding should be taught in school like mathematics. At the same time, I urgently recommend an education in philosophy, ethics and history, as well as geo-politics. IT is a global power. If you do not understand what the interests of large players could be, you might end up as a slave of technocracy.
I could also throw in some buzzwords or phrases: encrypt your data, select your provider carefully, use Open Source tools only, do not expose yourself on Facebook and similar networks. But these recommendations are not easy to follow for everybody. If organisations like the NSA want to spy on you, they have a hell of a lot of tools at their disposal. I surely believe that encryption of data is key to protect your privacy. But do Governments allow encryption at all? Is the encryption algorithm closed source? Then just forget about it.
What’s also important to highlight here is that protecting yourself often means losing comfort and convenience, which most people don‘t like. The only way to combine security and comfort is by establishing an ecosystem of decentralized providers with a variety of user friendly, useful tools offering the positive aspects of e.g. social collaboration. We opt – as I stated already – for decentralized but interconnected products. Technically, this is feasible.
Decentralization is another archetype besides Open Source. It is a must.
The bigger problem is the business model, as providers have to pay for servers and network access. Users want everything for free, but everybody has to be aware that nothing is free. The biggest price you pay is giving up your data. How can parents accept that their children are monitored by AI in the background, and I mean that literally; every one of their key-strokes, their voices and faces? Imagine that this will be already enough for employers to decide whether they are going to hire this individual.
But in the end we also need to make sure wrong-doers will be held accountable in case of severe data breaches. And the great invention of Technology Assessment (German: „Technikfolgenabschätzung“) needs to be revived. Not everything we can technically do is the right thing to do. We need to use technology in a sense of pro-humanism and not trans- or post-humanism.
GG: If you had to make a prediction about how the future of online collaboration and communication looks like, would you expect it to be predominantly decentralized or do you think centralized, top-down systems will prevail?
BR: There is no room left for centralized and closed systems, I am sure of that. Non-monopolistic and decentralized systems will be the best practice not only for technology but also for society at large. Subsidiarity, for example, made countries like Switzerland so efficient and successful.
Leave the responsibility to the level it belongs to. And definitely not to a detached board of directors, politicians, or other wannabe „One World Government“ leaders.
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