A 23 year-old explains the (digital) world to old-established companies. In conversation with Philipp Riederle, a young entrepreneur and an author about the prejudices and advantages of digital natives.
Mr Riederle, you represent digital natives. What motivates this generation, and what’s important to it?
By deﬁnition I still count myself as part of generation Y (1980–1994). I bracket this generation together with generation Z (1995–2010) as the digital generation. The digital transformation is not happening for us because we grew up with it – we have no experience of the analogue world. What we‘re actually experiencing is a change of values and prejudices.
So are there actually any values left along with the bits and bytes?
We are in fact often called the superficial smartphone generation who only make swipe gestures on Instagram, and Snapchat etc. and constantly travel around the world and don’t want to tie themselves down. But the clear values which for example have been identified in studies of young people are completely antithetical to many prejudices. In these studies we‘ve specified that having “local roots“ and “personal connections" are especially important values.
It‘s called social media – but doesn‘t it turn us all into asocial beings?
Current studies relating to “How we use social media or social networks“ conclude that we use digital technologies to make arrangements more quickly, including at the level of a group. And that enables us to spend a lot more ‘real’ time together. We can keep in touch with friends and acquaintances.
Quicker, more complex and more networked – how does this affect our quality of life?
We look at our mobile phones every 18 minutes – my generation actually every nine minutes. Media skills also include self-reliance and self-determination. Should I check my emails just once or twice a day or do I let myself be distracted by every push notification? That‘s why the technology is neither good or bad. Technology can free up a lot of my time, or rob me of lots of time – ultimately it‘s me who decides.
Developments in the digital world are racing ahead. How will we be living in ten years‘ time?
Technological developments will probably obey Moore’s law which assumes a doubling of performance levels every two years. We‘ve been experiencing the transformation of the labour market for years already – automation is making many jobs redundant but new ones are also being created. In my opinion digitisation will have more radical effects. This is because artificial intelligence and increasingly clever algorithms will also make jobs in the service sector redundant. Some studies predict that 40 to 60 percent of jobs will simply disappear.
What can society do to manage the changeover to a digital world?
The crucial, decisive challenge will be managing as a society to reform our education system and our skills. Not only in schools but also in the workplace. The issue is underestimated in my opinion. One thing is clear, the new jobs will all be much more demanding.
What do you recommend to today‘s schoolchildren?
Don’t let the labour market forecasts get you down. Don’t base your search for a training course or a job on rational reasons. Do what you‘re really interested in, what you‘re really passionate about.
Then you won‘t be afraid of coming into contact with the appropriate technology, and life-long learning will become natural for you.
Philipp Riederle has already reported from his bedroom to the world wide web. His podcast “Me and my iPhone“ achieved massive numbers of downloads which made him an overnight internet sensation.
The 23 year-old has already written two highly regarded books about digital natives: “Who we are and what we want” was on the Spiegel bestseller list for four weeks in 2013. “How we work and what we demand” came out it 2017.
Riederle has already given advice on 400 companies, he’s in demand as a speaker, and he’s currently studying Sociology, Politics and Economics at the Zeppelin University in Friedrichshafen.