Richard David Precht: Nobody has a glass ball

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There are many stupid phrases. And it's really hard to rank. But if you ask me, the stupidest phrase of our time is, “Nobody has a glass ball!” The sentence is currently in every digital conference.

But when it comes to the future of work, the social consequences of artificial intelligence, biomedicine and all the impending distortions – there is always a politician who turns off all fears with a single phrase: “Nobody has a glass ball!” Do not worry about what you can not really know anyway!

Well, if no one has a glass ball, then we all live just like Hans Guckindieluft. What marks does my son expect in his testimony? Nobody has a glass ball! Which cars could secure the long-term survival of the industry? Nobody has a glass ball! What tasks should the next SPD chairman tackle? Nobody has a glass ball! And without glass ball no worries!

Now, of course, everyone knows that no normal person and no company come through life. What does the coach say before each tournament: “We will prepare as well as possible and adapt to all future challenges.”

The succinct reference to glass ball deficiency would be its putative end. Instead, he dares cautious forecasts and deals with obvious scenarios. And that, without consulting any widow Schlotterbeck with her ball.

But when it comes to the less important things than football, about the future of our society, any forecast, scenario or plan for the future should be prohibited for lack of marbles. Only fortune telling or nothing is of use.

Who does not want to deal with conceivable problems and challenges, has the way, a second phrase at hand. To the glass ball comes the smoke candle: “That must decide the company!” Sounds democratic, liberal and open. But it is not.

“The society” does not decide anything. She is neither a subject nor an actor, nor a decision-maker. In any case, “society” has never met me. Precisely because it can not decide, society in democracies shifts its decision-making mandate to the level of elected politicians. And playing her back the card simply means refusing to work.

Nevertheless, in order to relieve “society” in the game, politics is inventing commissions and expert councils galore. Lots of luminaries that hardly anyone in public knows. The most important criterion for sitting in a panel of experts is the lack of strong opinions. Exactly because one recognizes the expertise!

All columns by Richard David Precht

At the end, there is a job-heavy finding that analyzes everything and recommends nothing. Because every “both” has its “as well”. It is reassuring that nobody is reading it anyway and the experts agree: “That's what society has to decide!”

The decision-making concerns issues such as the extent of surveillance in German cities, self-manipulation of our brains through neuronal enhancement, our children's selection through reproductive-medical optimizations, self-driving cars with built-in death algorithms, or the creation of space drones and other intelligent killing weapons.

The experts, who do not want to decide, still really decide and are not listened to by anyone, ponder this. And in the end, then decide on corporate contracts, business interests, market opportunities and global competition. This is completely clear to digital ministers and digital state secretaries. The fewer concerns, the better your own career. Nobody needs a glass ball to know that.

Richard David Precht, 54, teaches philosophy and writes books. Most recently, the third volume of his four-part philosophy story appeared, “Be yourself” (Goldmann).

This text is taken from the Handelsblatt magazine N ° 7/2019. Download the complete Handelsblatt magazine as a PDF – or buy it printed on the kiosk on 8 November 2019 with the Handelsblatt magazine.

More: Minister for Economic Affairs Peter Altmaier and Advisory Board “Junge Digitale Wirtschaft” prophesy: ​​The second wave of digitization is yet to come. What good news for German companies.

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