Statement of Objectives
– Statement of Objectives –
The future will be bright,
but transition will be difficult
The history of humanity has always been marked by change. But nowadays, there is a difference: the exponential speed of it. This is due to the technological layer that has settled atop of almost everything. Unlike my parents, I as a father cannot even remotely assume what my kids should expect within the next 20 years. In retrospection of the past centuries, it was possible – at least to some degree – to anticipate which spin the world would most likely take in a comparatively short time frame: Approaching changes in the form of government, the coronation of a new king or an inevitable war between hostile tribes could have been noticed before they fully appeared on the horizon.
Our times are different: We grew up in a linear world and are the first generation facing exponential developments. By the rapid advancement of technology during the last half century and its lead over other sciences that do not develop exponentially along Moore’s law – art, healthcare, education, philosophy, literature etc. – our society is already in a tremendous transition. Admittedly, it is currently in an early stage, but we can expect to leave beta status in the 20s and 30s of this century – and tangible answers are still missing.
This transformation affects all of our society’s cultural areas. Soon, it will gain even more speed: 26% of the global population is 15 years old or younger and quite a lot of them are digital natives – a fact that is set to continue. Even though this transition is based on the development of new technology, it still is a cultural revolution. One environment that is particularly affected by it is urban life. In the near future, our cities will have to face several challenges: mobility, climate change, urbanization and refugee flows. Although, from a tech company’s view, in the digitized city of tomorrow smart is often equated with technology-based. But there is more to it. In an essay, that I recently wrote for the Federal Institute for Research on Building, Urban Affairs and Spatial Development, I pointed out this allegedly tiny example:
Let‘s assume you could book a sensor-based smart parking spot before you set off and know it will be available on arrival. This sort of broad-scale guarantee would undermine efforts to restrict the use of private vehicles in inner-city areas and to encourage people to walk, ride a bike or travel by public transportation and thus relieve pressure on the environment and protect the climate. To improve the quality of life in tomorrow‘s cities, digitization is key – but it mustn‘t be seen as an end in itself. This sounds obvious, but after four years of invaluable professional experience in the technology industry, a holistic view of the different stakeholders within an urban environment cannot be taken for granted in the leading tech companies. My point of view, the resulting controversial ideas and a background in urban planning from graduating above average in architecture have often been highly valued.
While studying at the University of Technology TU Berlin, I co-founded a coffee brand that was among the first in Germany to sell directly traded single origin coffee in well-designed packaging through our award-winning e-commerce and our offline café, before, in 2012, we sold both to a bigger coffee roaster. In the last 15 years, I lived in dialectic environments on four different continents: from sprawling Copenhagen’s city center to a gated community near Pretoria; I experienced organized Japanese metropolises as well as the unstructured island life in Hawaii as a social service worker. Recently, I also co-founded a startup that targets to enable urban administrations to build an up-to-date digital image of their cities by themselves so they can gather actionable insights and improve efficiency. This came up after a discussion with city officials about their pain points with affordable street view images on a regular basis. Instead of thinking about jobs and careers I am thinking about diverse challenges and problems to solve: My kids will start going to school in a few years. According to recent studies it is highly likely that they will have jobs at some point in their lives that are not yet invented today. “I want to become a pilot one day.” and other preferred professions in kids’ eyes will probably be more abstract in the future and the precursor for this shift is already here: Rather than pursuing salvation by working in a “secure” job until retirement – yet obeyed by many people – it is becoming more common to build up a professional portfolio. I have worked in diverse sectors and dialectic environments. Instead of identifying with my job role or description, I have been constantly adding skills. Even in my current situation I take on various roles within a large tech company and outside. My high level of empathy, intellectual curiosity and creativity have helped me to rapidly adapt to new situations and collaborate with diverse teams and individuals.
Managing startups with employees and being an entrepreneur requires result-oriented, pragmatic action and user-oriented thinking. The same goes for my objectives to consciously create environments and products that meaningfully impact people’s lives.