The effect of light – learning from biology for digitalisation

540 million years ago, numerous new species suddenly emerged explosively in the oceans. A spectacular accumulation of biological novelties. Within a few years, new life forms and body shapes, organs and strategies for attack and defence developed.

These new species also had new enemies. In order not to be eaten, the individual ocean inhabitants had to camouflage themselves, e.g. with tanks or deceptive manoeuvres. Or, more generally, in order to survive, they had to adapt to their environment as quickly as possible. This “big bang of the oceans” is called the “cambrian explosion“. Only those who adapted could survive. Evolutionary biologists do not know for sure how this amazing development came about.

The zoologist Andrew Parker from the University of Oxford assumes that this development was caused by light. Light penetrated the previously opaque and now shallow oceans, fostering numerous biological innovations.

The philosopher Daniel C. Dennett and MIT Professor Deb Roy now transfer this biological development to digitalization.

In the oceans, light provided a multitude of innovations and species. It changed the entire biological life. Scientists see the same development through digitalisation.

The ocean of human knowledge is illuminated by digital transparency.

A big bang of free information- The two researchers understand digitization as a big bang of the history of human information. Who suddenly set free a variety of human knowledge and data.

Just as sunlight lent sight to life in previously dark water, the transparency of digital information gives people knowledge in the “sea” of information.

A new dimension of progress

Progress in the technology of communication is not new. Whether it is the invention of writing, the printing press or the telephone – these innovations have already caused upheavals in the past. But the effects of digital technology are already eclipsing these upheavals.

Why? They are shifting power from the powerful, who up to now have only been able to establish and maintain themselves through lack of transparency, to the previously powerless, who now suddenly also receive a voice.

Disguise and disinformation have always been instruments of power

Whether governments, church, military, universities, banks or companies – they all have often been able to maintain their power through local knowledge. Without digital transparency, they could exclude and keep secrets. These old methods of maintaining power are working less and less in the age of digital transparency. The old screens to the outside world have fallen.

New world without old rules

The social media provide the previously excluded with powerful communication tools with which they can respond to old power relations: YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Instagram, WhatsApp and SnapChat create new media – away from the old monologues of TV and radio.

Biodiversity of the exchange

New species are emerging in the digital ocean of communication. The smallest companies are suddenly finding global markets, and social services are sprouting up at every corner to compete with historic companies. The speed at which this digital world is changing is breathtaking and demands flexibility and adaptability from entrepreneurs that has never been required before.

Economy, politics and society

Easier access to data puts everything to the test. Transparency, control and self-preservation are the big issues of the old institutions in this new digital world.

Voters, customers and citizens can react to news or statements within seconds, but also drive rumors and fake news through the digital ocean. Historical habits must change or the old organizations will perish.

Secrets are competitive advantage

One finding of game theory is that the players in a game must keep secrets.

It does not matter whether the playing field is politics, economics or finance. Whoever discloses his or her condition loses knowledge advantage and thus valuable autonomy. He’s in danger of being manipulated. In order to maintain a competitive edge, companies, recipes, ideas, products, expansion plans and company data are protected. Schools and universities must keep their examination papers under lock and key until the time of the examination. Otherwise an examination is ad absurdum.

Information warfare or fraternization

For me, two possible scenarios arise from these two opposites – ever greater transparency through digitisation against authorised and unauthorised secrecy.

I think a bitter fight for information is conceivable, in which new mechanisms of camouflage and isolation are established. Or fraternisation – where all information is shared.

Only one thing seems certain: at the end of the development, people will find themselves in a new order, with new memories, beliefs, plans, values and actions.

The departure into a new world has only just begun.






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