Digitalisation back

Thomas Ramge: "Cultural and creative workers will have an advantage in the future"

Thomas Ramge: "Cultural and creative workers will have an advantage in the future"
Photo: © Peter van Heese

Digitization is changing the world of work and life, and it's changing the future of creative work as well. The business journalist and brand-eins author Thomas Ramge has written several books on the subject. His current book "Das Digital" (The Digital) deals with the future of the working world in data capitalism. He calls for a "progressive data-sharing obligation" that curtails the power of large corporations and benefits above all creative workers. How is this supposed to work? What future do creative forms of work have in the digital data age?




CCB Magazine: Mr. Ramge, a decade ago you published "Marke Eigenbau: Der Aufstand der Massen gegen die Massenproduktion" with Holm Friebe. Your thesis was that DIY is experiencing a renaissance in favor of high-quality products at fair prices. Your latest book "Das Digital" reads like a homage to Karl Marx' "Das Kapital" and settles the score with global data capitalism. Would you say that you consciously sharpen things up to make them transparent?

Thomas Ramge: Of course, exaggeration is part of the tools of authors who want to be heard. But the title "Das Digital" is less a homage to "Das Kapital" than an allusion with a wink. In any case, Viktor Mayer-Schönberger and I laughed out loud when our agent Thomas Hölzl suggested the title. Our concern is also not a settling of accounts with data capitalism. We are not data neo-Marxists.

The data belongs to us, the users who generate it

CCB Magazine:But in your new book you criticize the increasing data monopolization.

Thomas Ramge: That's true, but the vision we describe is not data socialism as the historical precursor of data communism. Rather, we see and describe how monopolization of data could ruin the great opportunities of digitization. And we hope that data capitalism will become a digital social market economy and we make suggestions on how to create one.

CCB Magazine: How to create a digital social market economy?

Thomas Ramge: The government must ensure that large digital groups cannot form oligopolies and quasi-monopolies, but that fair competition prevails. At the same time, people must learn to use data and so-called artificial intelligence (AI) for the benefit of individuals and communities. And both must be brought into harmony, which is what we describe in our book. "Das Digital" aims to contribute to the discussion on how we can shape digital change in such a way that it increases prosperity and participation for everyone, not just for digital companies and their shareholders.

We propose a "progressive data-sharing obligation". The companies with extreme data wealth must share their data with competitors. This would also play into the hands of cultural and creative professionals

CCB Magazine: What is the core problem?

Thomas Ramge:Over the last twenty years, a new generation of superstar companies with digital platforms has succeeded in establishing quasi-monopolies. This "The-Winner-Takes-It-All-Trend" will be further strengthened in the coming years by data learning AI systems and data-rich markets. Antitrust law, made against steel barons, is already proving to be completely powerless.

CCB Magazine: Ok, what's to do?

Thomas Ramge: We propose a regulatory innovation against data monopoly capitalism: A "progressive data-sharing obligation". This sounds complicated, but the principle is essentially simple. Companies with extreme data wealth must share their data with competitors. In concrete terms, it could look like this: The obligation to share data sets in as soon as a company reaches a certain market share, for example ten percent. If a company exceeds this threshold, it must share part of its data with all competitors who wish to do so.

In conversation with Creative City Berlin, Thomas Ramge. Photo: © Peter van Heese 

CCB Magazine: And that should work? The Sharing Economy was born out of the attempt to minimize ownership and enable participation. Today, many creative professionals are focusing on new forms of cooperation and sharing in order to work in a more resource-efficient way. Doesn't sharing with certain competitors "who want it" lead to new alliances of purpose and a new concentration of power?

Thomas Ramge: Of course, the company must not consciously select the data that must be made available to others. As a rule, the data must be selected randomly, in some cases it can also be determined by a neutral third party. And, of course, data protection must also be taken into account. By the way, the German insurance industry already has something like this: the large insurance companies have to give the small companies tips on how to cut their rates sensibly.

CCB Magazine:But giants like Google, Apple, Facebook and Co. are not up to this.

Thomas Ramge: Of course they will defend themselves with all their lobbying power against this kind of redistribution of data. They will argue that their hard-earned analytical skills are being unfairly undermined. But that is nonsense. The data does not belong to them. It belongs to us, the users who generate it. That's why their benefit must be more appropriately allocated to competition. In recent years, the data giants have succeeded in making exclusive use of collectively generated data treasures. And of course they want to be able to continue to protect their analytical methods and algorithms through patents or secrecy. A progressive data-sharing obligation would correct this. In the dawning age of machines that learn from data, this is urgently needed. Otherwise Marx is right after all and data capitalism will end up abolishing itself. Not even the data monopolists can want that.

Photo: © Peter van Heese 

CCB Magazine: What role do the creative markets play in this context? On the one hand, they benefit from digitization because it creates digital opportunities for design and distribution without intermediaries. On the other hand, the creative markets cannot compete with large digital groups. Which weighs more: the opportunities to get things off the ground or the danger of not being able to hold their own against large corporations?

Thomas Ramge: Against the concentration of power of the few, the small-scale markets naturally have a hard time, including the cultural sectors and the creative industries. A "progressive data-sharing obligation" would therefore play into their hands. On the other hand, the digitization of the small economic unit, the small company, the solo entrepreneur or the creative artist has provided a whole host of tools to digitally market their uniqueness and the unique analog product - often globally. Moreover, especially today we are longing again for something special in the tangible world, because digitization is advancing, and this renaissance of the physical and haptic is producing above all the small-scale and creative niches. And today, even small businesses can do what only corporations used to be able to do: develop and sell products or services for a global market. I see the latter as an opportunity.

Creatives must be role models: They must test how things work differently than in the hierarchical large-scale organization with its control and command logics

CCB Magazine: If current forecasts are to be believed, however, digitization will destroy several million jobs in the next ten years. Mr. Ramge, when you think of tomorrow's forms of work, how will we work? What can a culture and creative industries do to achieve this, and what development potential do you see for solving social problems?

Thomas Ramge: The creative people must be the vanguard and role model. They must test how things work differently than in the hierarchical large-scale organization with its control and command logics. And creatives must sharpen their eye for what humans can do better than machines, at least for the foreseeable future. Many professions that were previously considered impossible to automate are being automated away from data learning systems, from truck drivers to clerks to today's highly paid contract lawyers. Cultural and creative professionals even have an advantage over many other knowledge workers. One could even say that they are crisis-resistant in this context. Because artificial creativity has been so damned uncreative up to now and it will remain so for a long time to come. Creativity is the ability to bring the new, the unknown into the world. Even the most intelligent machines are not familiar with the unknown. In the search space for the new, algorithms have no data they can process.


Thomas Ramge: He is a publicist and business journalist. He works as a technology correspondent for the business magazine brand eins and is the author of several books.

The interview was published in the 10-year print edition "The Big Good Future" on 10 years Creative City Berlin. The magazine is freely available since December 1. All information is available here.

Category: Knowledge & Analysis


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