Working together, instead of against one another – an interview with "Blackout" author, Marc Elsberg.
Marc Elsberg, born in 1967 in Vienna, was a strategic consultant and creative director in the advertising industry; he was also a columnist for the Austrian daily newspaper "Der Standard". He now lives and works in Vienna. With his international bestsellers BLACKOUT and ZERO, which warn against the dangers of the digitised world and transparent society, he has established himself as a master of the science thriller genre. Both thrillers have been named "Wissensbuch des Jahres" (Science Book of the Year) in the Entertainment category by the German magazine "bild der wissenschaft", which turned Marc Elsberg into a sought-after interviewee on the topics of politics and the economy.
Marc Elsberg was the keynote speaker at the Bechtle IT Forum NRW on the 7th March 2018. With the presentation title "Blackout – Warum ein Kuhstall so sicher sein muss wie eine Bank." (Blackout – why a cowshed has to be as secure as a bank), he discussed the hidden connections in our networked and digitised world, as well as the resulting challenges. Beforehand, we were able to ask Marc Elsberg a few questions about the topic.
Your book "Blackout" was published in 2012. Have you had to rewrite it for the current situation?
Only small details. Some general conditions have changed. In my opinion though, they do not have a significant effect on the scenario outlined in Blackout. However, the story would not improve due to the effect of these events, but rather become even more dramatic.
Our sense of physical safety has developed over millions of years of evolution – networked IT systems have been around for about 20 years. How can we adapt to this development?
Our society today is characterised in particular by the extremely high level of networking. This networking coincides with a high level of dependency. This is why I find it particularly important to focus on successful co-operation – we shouldn't be working against each other, but rather together. I think the desire to optimally coordinate work in large groups is very important.
Instead of a "digital economy", will we experience a "digital Wild West"?
We have already been experiencing this for years. Various US companies have become some of the most valuable companies in the world in the last 10 to 15 years by collecting data – even though numerous cases of misuse of customer data at these companies have been made public. However, in my opinion, the latest attack on the German Federal data network belongs to the category of ordinary crime or traditional spying, i.e. criminality or spying that can be fought and whose effects can be reduced or even prevented entirely, and which are not a feature of an unregulated space.
In my opinion, the latest attack on the German Federal data network belongs to the category of ordinary crime or traditional spying.
Marc Elsberg, author
Will we be able to reliably coordinate organisation, technology and human behaviour in the foreseeable future?
I think that we are already able to coordinate these three elements. Of course, this is an ongoing process which frequently faces difficulties – but despite all fluctuations, it works.
Can networks be protected using artificial intelligence?
As with every type of technology, I would say that it works very well in some sectors, and not at all in others. Of course, protection from artificial intelligence means that attackers can also use it to exploit existing systems. This means that new mechanisms are developed to prevent against this. This is therefore an ongoing process that continuously has to be reassessed and developed.
What drives you?
Day-to-day contact with people. I experience a high level of motivation for co-operation in my private life, as well as in my speeches, readings, etc. Many people want to get along with people around them. For me, this is the biggest reason to be optimistic.
Many people want to get along with people around them. For me, this is the biggest reason to be optimistic.
Marc Elsberg, author
Managing Director of Bechtle IT System House Solingen