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Ready for the Digital Future?

Artificial intelligence, virtual reality, self-driving cars, robots, and the Internet of Things are a mainstay in the news, but are we ready for the digital future? Do we have the necessary skills to take full advantage of new technologies?

Digital transformation is a multi-disciplinary topic—perhaps one of the most complex and confusing of our time. The purpose of this film is to make digital transformation easier to understand and start a conversation about what kind of digital future we actually want. Is the future complicated and inevitable, or can each of us create the future they envision? Technology is a curse and a blessing, but this depends on each of us thinking about the future in a constructive but critical way. 

Digital Transformation: The Film

Digital Transformation: Visions of Nations, Companies, and People builds on interviews with visionaries, futurists, scientists, entrepreneurs, politicians, artists, authors, and others around the world who speak about their views and hopes for the future. The interview series began in March 2017, and the documentary film begins streaming in spring 2018 on YouTube.

This film encourages the conversation about what kind of future we actually want. Technology offers nations, companies, and people amazing tools for good. Many of them are useful, others we are free to reject. If we use these tools in a responsible way, the future isn’t inevitable, it is what we make it.

A Film by Manuel Stagars

Manuel Stagars was born and raised in Zurich, Switzerland. He is an economist, film director, author, and serial entrepreneur with twenty years of experience in consulting and startups in Switzerland, the United States, Japan, and Singapore. His current film projects focus on the potential of technology for the economies of nations, societies, and the lives of people around the world.

His recent films include FinTech Made in Switzerland (2016) and The Blockchain and Us (2017), both of which received accolades internationally. Digital Transformation builds on Manuel’s research and global professional networks in different parts of the world.

Manuel has published books and scientific articles on startups, marketplace lending, impact investing, data quality, and Open Data. He has a degree in economics from the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) and several financial certifications (CFA, CAIA, ERP). Read longer bio on


Interviews from the Film

Digital Transformation is in production at this moment. New video interviews take place until the end of 2017 and go live regularly. The first interviews went live in May 2017.

Interview Partners

Many thanks to all conversation partners. This list constantly updates as the project continues (in alphabetical order).

Nichol Bradford
Game Developer, Entrepreneur, and Executive Director of the Transformative Technology Lab (TTL), Sofia University
Silicon Valley, United States

Heather Desurvire
User & Player Experience Designer for Games, Entrepreneur
Los Angeles, United States

David Edgerton
Hans Rausing Professor of the History of Science and Technology and Professor of Modern British History, King’s College
London, UK

Martin Ford
Author, Futurist, Software Developer/Entrepreneur
Silicon Valley, United States

Mirta Galesic
Psychologist with research focus in online communities and complex social phenomena
Professor and Cowan Chair in Human Social Dynamics at the Santa Fe Institute
Adjunct Researcher at the Center for Adaptive Behavior and Cognition at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin
Santa Fe, United States

Lino Guzzella
President and Professor of Thermotronics, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH)
Zurich, Switzerland

Mark Halverson
Entrepreneur and Advocate of Moral and Ethical Boundaries in Technology
Austin, Texas, United States

Bryon Jacob
Open Data Entrepreneur, Startup Mentor
Austin, Texas, United States

David Krakauer
Evolutionary Theorist, Mathematical Biologist focusing on the history of information processing mechanisms in biology and culture
President and William H. Miller Professor of Complex Systems at Santa Fe Institute
Santa Fe, United States

Richard Lemarchand
Game Designer, Writer, and Associate Professor in the Interactive Media Division of the School of Cinematic Arts at the University of Southern California (USC)
os Angeles, United States

John Markoff
Author, Senior Writer at New York Times covering Technology and Silicon Valley
San Francisco, United States

Hall T. Martin
Technology Investor, Entrepreneur, Startup Mentor
Austin, Texas, United States

Byron Reese
Serial Entrepreneur, Author, Futurist
Austin, Texas, United States

Kyle Robertson
Artificial Intelligence Entrepreneur
Austin, Texas, United States

Johann Schneider-Ammann
Head of the Swiss Federal Department of Economic Affairs, Education and Research
One of the seven members of the Federal Council, Switzerland’s executive body
Bern, Switzerland

Peter Stone
Pioneer in Machine Learning, Multiagent Systems, and Robotics
David Bruton, Jr. Centennial Professor, University Distinguished Teaching Professor, Associate Chair, Department of Computer Science at The University of Texas in Austin
Austin, Texas, United States

Don Tapscott
Author, Futurist, Entrepreneur
Associate, Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society, Harvard University
Toronto, Canada

Lars Thomsen
Futurist, Entrepreneur
Zurich, Switzerland

R “Ray” Wang
Author, Technology Analyst, Entrepreneur
Silicon Valley, United States

Geoffrey West
Theoretical Physicist with a fascination with scaling phenomena in biology, cities, and societies
Founder and former leader of the high energy physics group at Los Alamos National Laboratory
Distinguished Professor, Santa Fe Institute
Santa Fe, United States

Steve Wilson
Digital Identity Innovator, Technology Analyst
Sydney, Australia

On the Road: Los Angeles-Paris, September 2017

A trip from Los Angeles to Paris costs one hour in traffic, three hours of airport time, and ten hours in the air. It's experience versus convenience. With consumer technology, which are we emphasizing? Die Reise von Los Angeles nach Paris kostet eine Stunde im...
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On the Road: Drums of El Paso, September 2017

El Paso is the American border town with the infamous Juarez in Mexico. El Paso turns into a tense ghost town after 6 PM, the football stadium one of the few places left with activity. Two brothers hit their drum kit outside above an intersection a few blocks away....
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On the Road: Rock, Glass, Paper, Yoga, August 2017

Elisabet Nye was a celebrity sculptor in Austin who carved stone after European kings, American artists and politicians. She ran her studio like a factory, not unlike the many glass towers lining the highways today. In Fort Worth is one of two U.S. money printing...
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On the Road: Texas, Lone Tech State, August 2017

Austin is an emerging alternative to Silicon Valley for young tech entrepreneurs. Instead of sitting in traffic in the San Francisco Bay area, they spend their weekend at the Austin river or attend music festivals. Not everything is bigger in Texas, after all. Austin...
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On the Road: Technology in the High Desert, August 2017

Santa Fe in the desert of New Mexico is home to colonial churches, open air art exhibitions, breathtaking sunsets. In the outskirts of the city are also Los Alamos, where the first nuclear weapons came from, and the Santa Fe Institute, a research institute focusing on...
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On the Road: Downtown Los Angeles, August 2017

Every street corner of Los Angeles tells a story, but downtown has more stories to tell than the rest of the city. There is a jewelry district, a fashion district, and many creative startups. People come here because they work in a specific field or have no business...
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On the Road: Of Games, Surfboards and Horses, August 2017

Saturday afternoon is one of the busiest days at the Los Angeles Marina. At a nearby beach, I'm meeting Heather Desurvire for a conversation about user behavior in software, apps, and games. Well designed games prepare us for experiences in the real world. How does...
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On the Road: San Francisco, August 2017

Most people living in San Francisco work on the digital future in some form or another. Is this a reason that next to many other things, it is also the city of second-hand book stores? Die meisten Menschen, die in San Francisco wohnen, haben mit der digitalen Zukunft...
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On the Road: From the Valley to the Sea, August 2017

Silicon Valley designs much of the software and electronics for the entire world. On a trail above the valley, I meet engineers from Germany, India, Russia, and China, who work at some of the tech giants below. Engineers stay at Apple, Facebook, Google for an average...
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On the Road: Making Things Better, July 2017

A drive of forty miles can take three hours in the San Francisco Bay Area. No wonder the idea of autonomous vehicles resonates here. Who would mind automating away traffic? Further north 150 guests enjoy a three-course meal infused with high potency cannabis oil....
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On the Road: Moving Fast and Slow, July 2017

A race between high speed drones takes less than five seconds. You hear the rotors spinning, but the drone is so fast it's invisible except when it stops. Pilots guide their drones with virtual reality goggles, as if they were flying in the machines themselves. The...
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On the Road: The Inventor and the Flying Car, Mojave Desert, June 2017

Inventor Dezso Molnar is building a flying car, the ultimate harbinger of the future. He takes me flying on his gyroplane in the Mojave Desert at dawn. There are no giant dashboards or touch screens, just good ideas that address problems with no frills. It seems some...
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On the Road: The Painter and the Drone, Los Angeles, June 2017

I've known the painter Marty Katon for over a decade as one of the most prolific artists in Venice. He often saves lost animals, is a medicine man, and teaches art class at a local college. Marty is telling me of plans to add drawings of drones and smartphones to his...
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On the Road: Los Angeles, June 2017

Research for the film takes me to Los Angeles, where I visit old friends, go to their filmshoots and screenings, and meet potential interviewees. There were always more screens here than people. Traffic is as slow as ever, and it's no wonder people desire self-driving...
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What is Digital Transformation?

Digital transformation is a process that begins with digitization and digitalization. Digitization is the translation of analog information into digital form. Digitalization is the process of using digital information. Both have enabled trends of our time, such as the Internet of Things, Industry 4.0, Big Data, artificial intelligence, robotics, 3D printing, blockchain technology, or cryptocurrencies. Digital transformation describes the stage where digital technologies reshape the way nations, economies, and societies function.

This transformation is only beginning and poses many questions, including the question if it really has the dramatic impact many predict. Within the next years, digital transformation may alter the way we have lived as a species for the last centuries. An exciting time in history, indeed.

Why This Film Matters

Technological subject matter is often confusing, and it is hard to separate fiction from reality. At the same time, many big changes are exponential: They build slowly until their effects show in a short amount of time. This can be unpleasant if it hits us by surprise. Instead of focusing too narrowly on specific technologies, we should think about the future we actually want to live in. This film provides the first global outlook on hopes, fears, and dreams of the role of technology in the future.

Progress holds great promise for those who keep an open mind. If anything, this film shall inspire you to join the conversation about making the most of our human talents in the digital future.

Production and Communications

Ruedi Maeder  
Agentur am Wasser,
Zurich, Switzerland

Many thanks to Ruedi and his network for making this film happen.

Special Thanks

Next to all interviewees, many people are supporting this project in many ways. Special thanks for your time, feedback, access to networks, and other help in the course of making this film! This list constantly updates as the project continues (list in alphabetical order).