Digitalisation is changing how we live, but not only for the better: In addition to giving rise to new products, opportunities and services, it’s also having unintended side effects. The project “Digital Data as a Subject of Transdisciplinary Processes” (DiDaT) focuses on both the opportunities and the undesired consequences of digitalisation. It aims to identify and analyse side effects and make concrete proposals for coping with them. At an event to kick-start the project at the end of March, researchers and practitioners came together in Potsdam to define the main areas the project will focus on and outline potential solutions.
Democracy, science, and the rule of law are increasingly coming under pressure. How can we defend them? How can we harness new technologies and use our knowledge, ingenuity and wealth to achieve the goal of sustainable development: a good life for all? To mark the eightieth birthday of former Minister of the Environment and IASS Founding Director Klaus Töpfer, the Federal Ministry of Education and Research and the IASS held a symposium titled “Friends of the Open Society” on 21 November 2018.
Many countries are riding a wave of digitalization in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, with office staff working from home, friends meeting on video conferencing platforms, online trade booming and governments rolling out tracing apps to track infection chains. However, developing and emerging countries could suffer setbacks in their efforts to strengthen their economies and societies through the adoption of digital technologies. Now more than ever, states must double down on efforts to ensure a globally just digital transition.
The issue of digitalisation and sustainable development has – finally! – reached a wider public. When IASS launched a research project on digitalisation five years ago, only a few researchers were concerned about the relationship between the digital transition and sustainability. However, the number of publications and events on this topic has increased noticeably, especially in the last year. In April of this year, the German Advisory Council on Global Change (WBGU) then presented its flagship report entitled "Towards our Common Digital Future". Just a few weeks later at the annual re:publica conference the duo of digitalisation and sustainability was already inseparable. There, the Federal Minister of the Environment, Svenja Schulze, presented a green paper outlining a digital policy agenda for the environment.
The term Industry 4.0 has been bandied about increasingly since it was established in 2011. Also referred to as the fourth industrial revolution, Industry 4.0 describes the growing use of digital technologies to link manufacturing technologies and facilitate continuous real-time data exchange. These manufacturing systems are based on interconnected cyber-physical systems with the capacity to independently organize and optimize their performance. Industry 4.0 promises to fundamentally transform manufacturing industry.
Wouldn’t it be a big leap forward for climate and environmental protection if we could let a machine, a powerful artificial intelligence (AI) manage our consumption of natural resources? Remind – or even compel – us to buy local food instead of products from overseas? Tell us to take the bike instead of the car to work when air quality levels are low? Shut off streaming TV series when we have exhausted our weekly carbon budget? Or maybe even advise the government on the conversion of urban areas into much-needed cropland or the preservation of wilderness areas?