Our society is fundamentally changing. These days, almost nothing works without a computer chip. Processing power doubles every 18 months and will exceed the capabilities of human brains in about ten years from now. Some time ago, IBM’s Big Blue computer already beat the best chess player. Meanwhile, computers perform about 70 percent of all financial transactions, and IBM’s Watson advises customers better than human telephone hotlines. Will computers and robots soon replace skilled labor? In many European countries, unemployment is reaching historical heights. The forthcoming economic and social impact of future information and communication technologies (ICT) will be huge – probably more significant than that caused by the steam engine, or by nano- or biotechnology. The storage capacity for data is growing even faster than computational capacity. Within just a year we will soon generate more data than in the entire history of humankind. The “Internet of Things” will network trillions of sensors. Unimaginable amounts of data will be collected. Big Data is already being praised as the “oil of the 21st century”. What opportunities and risks does this create for our society, economy, and environment?
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