“At BFH, we embrace digitalisation and see it as a challenge”

22.11.2023 This year, BFH Day was all about digitalisation. The participants discussed the opportunities, the risks, the limits and the possibilities of increasingly intelligent digital tools, and the role of human beings in this new, digital world.

The increasing digitalisation of our lives raises a question in many people’s minds: how can we keep pace with the ever faster developing applications? BFH addressed the related issues. And so did the host of the event, Florian Imhauser, in his opening speech: “At BFH, we embrace digitalisation and see it as a challenge”.

Unbridled innovation

For many speakers at the event, it is obviously not the first time our society faces a major transformation. BFH’s President, Sebastian Wörwag, led the way, comparing digitalisation to the advent of the railway and encouraging us to embrace rapid change with caution and foresight. “Where there is artificial intelligence, there must be human intelligence too,” he said. Christine Häsler, member of the Bernese Grand Council, agreed with him: “We are all dependent on the transfer of know-how into everyday life for digitalisation to succeed.”

In short video sequences, passers-by in Bern explained their hopes and concerns concerning digitalisation. A constant balancing act between innovation and regulation was revealed in the discussion between Martine Docourt, head of the Policy Department at the UNIA trade union, and Lukas Federer, deputy head of Infrastructure, Energy and Environment at economiesuisse. Where the trade unionist sees digitalisation as a driver of deregulation, the representative of the economic world puts things into perspective: “Most studies show that digitalisation creates as many jobs as it destroys.”

Fantastically ecological?

The second part of the evening was dedicated to the possibilities of transferring digitalisation into everyday life. Two BFH lecturers, Jan Bielser and Martin Ziesack, explained how digitalisation is concretely shaping our daily environment. For Jan Bielser, the fantastic possibilities of digital technology are also associated with ecological opportunities and risks. In order to really exploit the potential of technology for the environment, we need to ask ourselves why we are using digital tools: “We also need to look at the business models behind digitalisation.”

Martin Ziesack, for his part, explained why a complex ecosystem such as a forest can be transformed into digital twins, and why these twins can be used to optimise forest management thanks to sophisticated sensor technology, algorithms and IT systems. Yet, basically, the person who works in the forest keeps his job: "I am a forester,” stressed Martin Ziesack.

Flexible and efficient

Sarah Dégalier Rochat, head of the Humane Digital Transformation thematic field, explained how digitalisation can fundamentally improve working conditions. She spoke of cobots, i.e. machines that work together with humans on an equal footing. This is because the human-machine tandem is not as rigid as traditional automation, thus offering greater agility: “We need to develop machines that are possibly less efficient, but more flexible."

At the same time, she emphasised that there are also limits to the simplification of machines. For human-machine interaction to be successful, people must be given the necessary skills to work with the machine.

A pinch of madness

Following this, two BFH alumni focused on specific applications. Benjamin Habegger and Dorian Selz, representants of the start-ups Axiamo and Squirro, explained how their studies and collaboration with BFH enabled them to develop their applications in the fields of AI and activity measurement and bring them to market.

While Benjamin Habegger presented his start-up, which is developing the basis for increasingly intelligent sensor technology in the sports industry and sharing it with the community, Dorian Selz explained how the weaknesses of current AI can be remedied. Innovation always requires a pinch of free spirit: “When you innovate, you have to be a bit nuts,” he stressed in front of the audience.

Digitally mature

The event ended with Sebastian Wörwag, after poetry slam world champion Gina Walter summed up the sometimes serious subject with a wink.

“We need to develop technology for people, but we also need digitally literate people in the age of machines”, said BFH’s President. “We don’t want to face digitalisation with fear, but actively and positively”.

Impressions of BFH Day 2023

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