The Interaktivrat of the #techourfuture initiative concludes its work
In May 2023, the Ferdinand Steinbeis Institute (FSTI) of the Steinbeis Foundation brought its #techourfuture initiative to a close. The project gave fellow citizens – from schoolchildren to retirees, from the tech-savvy to those less familiar with technology – a chance to find out everything they needed to know about future technologies, but also to exchange ideas in order to better understand and discuss technology. The initiative was supported by the „Interaktivrat“ which means a so called Interactivity Council and which, following a scientific evaluation of the project, has now completed its work – although hopefully not permanently!
The ten members of the Interaktivrat spent two years providing valuable support to the project. Drawing on their insights into society, business, and science, discussion among the members placed particular emphasis on topics in the areas of overlap between society and technology. During a meeting held in early May, a “value cycle model” was created, providing a potential point of reference for social discourse, especially when it comes to introducing new technology.
A key objective of this model is to contribute to critical discussion of our understanding of education. The aim of the members of the Interaktivrat is to offer ideas and inspiration in support of the now urgently needed educational discourse in society in general, politics, science, and business. At the same time, they wish to support the future development of required measures.
The Value Cycle Model – acceptance based on understanding
The new model comprises modules formed by four thematic clusters. As a circular model, it begins with a central demand, namely that emerging technology should be an aspect of discussion among members of the public as early as possible – starting at preschool age, and no later than elementary school. In doing so, technical understanding, the discernible benefits of technology in positively shaping life, but also personal insights derived from technology should be communicated and elaborated on in such a way that they can be understood by civil society. For this to happen, people of all ages need sufficient education; they should welcome and want to adopt lifelong learning as a perfectly normal part of their lives.
The second cluster of topics builds on this module, reflecting the need for knowledge-sharing regarding new technology to be conceived as an appreciative and respectful form of discourse. In specific terms, this means not unilaterally trying to make people want to accept new technology. Instead, it is about offering the opportunity to engage in factual, i.e. fact-based exchange in a “forum of trust.” This method of neutral knowledge-sharing should support people in forming their own opinions, so they are in a position to weigh up benefits or decline from using a form of technology themselves.
Once this goal has been achieved, module three follows. The previously defined process establishes a sense of trust between scientists, engineers, policy makers, and members of society. This allows the possibility of people feeling a loss of control to be replaced with the certainty that they have access to factual, i.e. fact-based knowledge.
Finally, the fourth cluster of topics determines that an educational model based on the Value Cycle Model gives people freedom and independence of thought, and enables them to take responsible action. It thus intrinsically helps shape a sense of responsibility within society. However, this can only be achieved if it is possible for new things to be explored and discovered on an ongoing basis, through a sense of curiosity and pleasure; furthermore, the integrity of all involved stakeholders must be secured. This closes the loop of the Value Cycle Model, taking the process back to the initial cluster of topics.
In addition to supporting #techourfuture, the Interaktivrat also offered its thoughts and ideas in order to reinforce work taking place on a higher level at the Ferdinand Steinbeis Institute. It therefore comes as little surprise that the management team at the Ferdinand Steinbeis Institute, Professor Dr. Heiner Lasi and Michael Köhnlein, are currently considering ways for the council to continue providing support. This could be independent of specific projects, potentially spanning the entire spectrum of scientific pursuits at the institute.