Emerging From The Dense, Digital Fog – An Interview with Dr. Ulrich Kampffmeyer

Third in a series of interviews with leaders in the fields of Risk, Compliance and Information Governance across the globe.

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Dr. Ulrich Kampffmeyer is the Managing Director of Project Consult in Hamburg, Germany and a renowned expert on digital transformations, business intelligence and enterprise content management. I had the opportunity to sit down with him in May and discuss the GDPR, artificial intelligence and social issues emerging from the dense, digital fog we all find ourselves in.

Ulrich, you write and teach extensively about the cultural and social changes in work environments that are a direct result of the emergence of digital transformations. Now that data is at the fingertips of everyone, what changes should society expect that the business world may have already?

The pace of digital transformation accelerates day by day. Cloud technologies, artificial intelligence, IoT and other developments are happening so fast that there is a danger they’ll get out of control. The mightier AI becomes the larger the danger that it gets uncontrollable. Consider Soshana Zuboff (one of the first tenured women at Harvard Business School) and her three laws:

  1. Everything that can be automated will be automated.
  2. Everything that can be informated will be informated.
  3. Every digital application that can be used for surveillance and control will be used for surveillance and control.

Neither our businesses or society are currently prepared for this change. Just have a look at the GDPR discussions. Data protection as general necessity, data safety as the requirement for continuity, data privacy by default, information governance to keep control, keep the value, keep information accessible – these are basic requirements that should not be ignored like in the past. Future historians will call our era the dark age of the early information society.

You spent quite a bit of time at the Fraunhofer Institute developing imaging systems and processes to support archaeological studies. Given that images provide so much of the fuel for artificial intelligence engines, do you envision some of our older legacy systems and indexes ever providing value to future AI efforts?

In the mid-80’s I worked on pattern recognition, image processing, database systems and expert systems for archaeologists and prehistorians. Too early. Today, taking a computer, drones and sensor systems to an excavation is standard. The capabilities of software, hardware and self-learning algorithms are far more sophisticated than in those days. But lets consider so-called old fashioned methods of organizing information. You mentioned the terms “legacy” and “indexes.” Metadata is not legacy. It is a question of quality, control and governance. Controlled metadata, vocabularies and taxonomies are of special value to big data analytics, artificial intelligence and machine learning. Controlled data sets work as guide poles to train new technologies with high quality information. This is important for automated indexing when capturing information, when sharpening enterprise search for qualified results, and managing your repositories in regard to compliance requirements. Especially when it comes to compliance, straightly organized high quality information is an asset. But AI will change the game as well in the near future. Currently classification schemes and file plans are developed manually by academic rules. In the future software will analyse all information and organize itself by protection guidelines, user models, processes, value, retention.

This series of interviews with global leaders in information governance, risk and compliance seeks to find common values and themes in these disciplines across disparate cultures. I know that you are major advocate of standardization. Are there one or two common threads that run between all of the projects and people you’ve worked with that you also believe should be universal aims?

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