The assumption of power by computers


A production by zb Media for ZDF 2017 (43 minutes).

Screenplay: Stephan Bleek, Peter Kocyla.

Director: Peter Kocyla.

Camera and editing: Wanja Nolte.

Especially in Germany, people are often sceptical about innovations. In the 1950s it was television, in the 1980s personal computers, in the 1990s the Internet and today smartphones and social networks. The fears and warnings of that time are amazingly similar! In the historical review it becomes clear that 1.) it came differently, and 2.) than one thought.

Critics of  computerisation

The critics in the 1970s were quite right: computers and industrial robots have displaced thousands of jobs that are irretrievably lost until today. At the same time, increased productivity has created hundreds of thousands of new jobs. It is all the more interesting when hackers in the 1980s discuss whether it would be desirable for all computers to be “networked” with each other – because even then it was possible to dial into other computers via telephone and acoustic coupler. Data protection was a hot topic at the time. The ghost of Orwells was conjured up in 1984.

The wind of change

Then, in 1989, the Berlin Wall fell. The classic totalitarian state disappeared – at least in Europe. Paradoxically, more personal data is available on the Internet today than ever before in history. And this data is being used, as we have known since Snowden at the latest. It is all the more astonishing how comparatively carefree one is today in disclosing one’s private data. Voluntarily. That was completely different at the time of the 1983 census. And yet our world today cannot be compared to Orwell’s “1984”.

The end of privacy?

Is there a way back at all? Is better data protection the solution? Do the old rules still help at all? Or should one rather escape to the front and make the data accessible to everyone? Our film spans an arc from the 60s, through the 80s to the 90s until today. The aim is to show the developments and changes that have taken place as a result of the digital revolution – without blinkers, without trying to follow the same patterns of pessimism and social criticism, but still reflecting on them – and with a historical perspective that allows some things to appear in a whole new light. Just as today we look amusedly at discussions that took place 20 years ago on the Internet, today we have to ask ourselves how future generations will judge us when we discuss smartphones, Facebook and the like.

Will people smile leniently in 30 years’ time at the fact that people used to be afraid to sit in self-propelled cars? What will “privacy” look like in the future? Is this future dark or bright? Or in the end… quite different?