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

On 11 October 2018, the Federal Minister of Labour and Social Affairs, Hubertus Heil, together with the responsible State Secretary, Björn Böhning, invited to the Berlin headquarters of the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs to 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. In rapid succession, we are confronted with new technologies and devices 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 human being and society?

"Digitalization will become the social question of the 21st century. It can only turn positively 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 of philosopher Janina Loh, of the expert for innovation strategies from the USA, Olaf Groth, and of sociologist Dirk Baecker 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 topic and discussed it 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 in view of the rapid developments, it is a think tank`s aim to incorporate the international perspective into its work and to build up a broad network", said State Secretary Böhning.

The pianist Hauschka und visual artist Uli Sigg set the musical and audiovisual framework of the evening accompanied by poetry slammer Bas Böttcher, who performed his reflections on "working and thinking".

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 deal with.

The work enviroment as an important role in our life is affected in all its aspects by the profound effects of the digital transformation - socially, economically and culturally. With the help of innovative approaches the Policy Lab Digital, Work & Society will dedicate itself to the development of future scenarios, identify new fields of action for politics and develop solutions for concrete questions of tomorrow's work society. As a new and more flexible organisational unit within the "Digitalization and Working Environment" department of the BMAS, it will contribute to actively shaping this change. The core team of twelve employees works together on an interdisciplinary basis. In addition, it is planned to bring in expertise on a temporary basis - for example through an international fellowship programme, which is intended to enable scholars to conduct research in connection with the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs in Berlin. In addition, temporary formats such as future labs are to be set up for individual topics in order to incorporate other perspectives, external knowledge and practical experience.

The Policy Lab's approach is to think about digitalization consistently and systematically from the people’s perspecitve and their social relationships. In this way, new strategies for shaping the working society of the future are to be developed. At the same time, the Policy Lab Digital, Work & Society will be a platform for further interaction and exchange. It bundles projects and processes related to digital transformation and is the starting point for scholars, applied science and social partners. For this reason, the opening event of the think tank also gave the kick-off for further projects and working groups: the Transatlantic Dialogue on Artificial Intelligence with partners from the USA and the focus group "Artificial Intelligence in the Working World", which also met for its constituent meeting on 11 October.

Uli Sigg | impressions