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"How we think in the digital transformation": Launch of the Policy Lab Digital, Work & Society

On October 11th, 2018, the Federal Minister of Labour and Social Affairs, Hubertus Heil, together with the State Secretary responsible for the Policy Lab, Björn Böhning, invited the Berlin headquarters of the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs to the launch the Policy Lab Digital, Work & Society, the newly founded think tank of the Federal Ministry of Labour.

Digitalization has become part of our everyday culture in many ways: We inform and orient ourselves online, communicate via different channels, email, text, chat and tweet; we shop and play on platforms, work with digital media and in the cloud, do our banking online and live in smart environments. We are confronted with new technologies and devices at rapid succession and integrate them into our lives. Our everyday practices have profoundly changed - and so have we? How are perception, speech, and thinking changing in the digital transformation? What does digitalization mean for our concept of a human being and society?

"Digitalization will become the social question of the 21st century. It can only have a positive outcome if we ensure that the newly emerging digital work is also good work. In this sense, the Policy Lab Digital, Work & Society will be an expedition unit that politically discovers and maps the digital space, fills white spaces, discovers new opportunities and warns of risks," said Minister Heil in his opening speech.

The team of Denkfabrik hosted the event under the headline "Thinking in the digital transformation" with international guests: the keynotes delivered by the philosopher Janina Loh; Olaf Groth, an expert on Innovation Strategy from the USA; and Dirk Baecker, a sociologist, spanned the spectrum from "the effects of trans- and posthumanism on people" to "aspects of people in a world of thinking machines" and to "reflections on the next society". Subsequently, writer Katrin Röggla, director Tom Tykwer, journalist Ute Schaeffer and cultural studies scholar Thomas Macho took up the helm and discussed the topic from their point of view. Finally, State Secretary Björn Böhning and the English journalist and author Paul Mason discussed the effects of digitalization on the economy and society. "Artificial intelligence is a central theme for the Policy Lab Digital, Work & Society. Especially given the rapid developments, a policy lab aims to incorporate the international perspective into its work and to build up a broad network", said State Secretary Böhning.

The second day of the opening of the Policy Lab Digital, Work & Society focused on the scientific aspects of digitalization:
Around twenty research institutions gathered in the Denkfabrik to discuss the current state of research on digitalization in Germany, to identify gaps in knowledge, and to present what topics the Policy Lab Digital, Work & Society should tackle.

The digital transformation is penetrating every aspect of our life. It questions things we once held for granted and presents us all with new challenges: which innovative work and economic opportunities are being borne out of the transformation and which ones are we losing? Do we control technology, or does it control us? And how could the working society of 2040 look? The Policy Lab Digital, Work & Society will systematically address these questions stemming from people and their social relations in a sociological context, developing future scenarios, identify new political fields of activity and develop solutions for the problems of the working society of tomorrow through innovative processes. As a new and flexible unit within the department “Digitalisation and the working world” of the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, it contributes to the active forming of the transformation. The team of roughly fourteen members works in an interdisciplinary fashion and always brings temporary external expertise to it - through labs, cooperation with scientific institutions, or the planned Fellowship-Programme, which will allow scientists to research with a connection to the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs.

The Policy Lab Digital, Work & Society understands itself as a platform for interaction and as a central support player for scientific research, praxis, and social partners. Because of this, the opening ceremony of the Policy Lab also included the starting signals further projects. These include the transatlantic dialogue with partners in the USA as well as the Stakeholder advisory group on „AI in the World of Work,” which also had its inaugural meeting on Oct. 11.

Uli Sigg | impressions

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