Man and machine have a lot in common – they think, they work, they learn. But the two still differ in one important way: man can empathise, machines not yet. Emotions make life something special, and man for the time being superior to any digital achievement.

We wanted to know how digitalisation is changing everyday life and work – for better or worse? In search of an answer, we reached out to personalities from the realms of business, science, culture and society. For some of our discussion partners, digital technologies are a core competence; for others, merely a modern work aid. But they all see valuable opportunities in this brave new world. Yet as progress marches on, not only will it be met with waves of appre­ciation, but also howls of rejection and attempts at abuse. Alas, digitalisation indeed presents us with daunting new challenges.

In one respect, though, our interviewees are of the same mind: face-to-face interaction is and remains central. When the sun comes up day after tomorrow, the focus will still be on people. Because encounters and experiences make us special. Because people chat, laugh and live. Hence: the more that things digital influence our everyday life, the more we seek the human dimension. Offline.

The 4.0 era automates processes, simplifies communication and gives us the gift of spare time. Only, what do we do with it? Work more? Consume more? Go online more? For some, the price of heightened efficiency is heightened stress – from constant availability, anywhere, anytime. So we must learn to deal sensibly and responsibly with the opport­unities that digitalisation has opened up. Perhaps self-learning algorithms make more accurate decisions than we mortals do. But they don’t bear the ultimate responsibility for the mistakes, do they?

And speaking of learning: artificial intelli­gence (AI) is much more than just hype. It offers new forms of self-realisation and makes jobs more creative. The assembly line worker becomes a process manager; the salesperson a lifestyle consultant; the clerk a data agent. Nonetheless, AI is nothing other than a clever recogniser of patterns based on millions of samplings.

And just a post scriptum on data protection. Especially private persons don’t seem to care much about it. They voluntarily disclose the most diverse aspects of their lives via sharing platforms or social networks. Stricter regulation will surely be required to prevent abuse of such data. But at the end of the day, it’s up to each and every user and company to find the right measure in the way they go about handling sensitive data.

So with that said, you can now look forward to a delightful digital dissertation – all of it in analogue, for once!

Andreas Staubli

Andreas Staubli

CEO PwC Switzerland