Photo: Chris Müller, Steffi Burkhart, Gracia Pfeiffer, (C) Ness Rubey

Digital Values – Gap between Humanity and Technology

Contribution by Reinhard Gruber

The world is changing rapidly. And people are changing with it. Whether they want to or not is not the decisive question. It will be a question of using everything we create for the good of people and not to their detriment. Against this backdrop, speaker Steffi Burkhart spoke about digitalisation, AI and ChatGPT in the Linz tobacco factory.

Is what we create for the good of people or not? Is artificial intelligence a threat or a helpful support, and what does digital progress mean for the world of life and work? The first edition of “Digital Values”, an event organised by the Digital Makers Hub together with the Tabakfabrik Linz, the Forum Humanismus Wilhering, the Evang. ORG Rose, the GRAND GARAGE Linz and the DELTA Group, revolved around questions of this kind. Pupils, teachers and company representatives addressed the broad range of topics.

“We have the questions to solve and we will find the right answers together,” said Chris Müller in his last event after eleven years at the helm of the Tobacco Factory. The founding director moderated the morning together with Rose student Gracia Pfeiffer. Steffi Burkhart (37) gave the keynote speech. The former competitive athlete (rhythmic gymnastics), who has been campaigning for her generation in politics and business since 2015, spoke afterwards with Reinhold Gruber (OÖN) about challenges, changes and hopes.

You have not yet lost faith in the fact that people will continue to have their place in the ongoing digitalisation?

Steffi Burkhart: I always try to look to the future with a positive mission, because you see too much gloom anyway. When young people sit here, you have to give them a positive view of the future. We will have more humanity, the young can shape things, that is an opportunity. There must always be hope that the future will be a more positive one and that technology will not massively take us over.

What has the competitive athlete made of you?

Steffi Burkhart: I think I did pick up a few skills in human intelligence. Ambition, getting back up after defeats. I had to learn to function in a team, take responsibility and build up stamina. Sport had more of an impact on me than school. The fact that I developed in a completely different way, you also need self-confidence.

Was it difficult to find yourself?

Steffi Burkhart: I came to the job I do now at the age of 28. I didn’t even know that there was a job as a speaker. I have tried out many different things. I have always been interested in the biopsychosocial health of people and organisations. I have tried to instil in young people that they should trust that things will fall into place in retrospect. They should follow their hearts, should not be influenced by the advice of their elders, which is good but no longer fits into the current reality. It is important to be the CEO of your own life. Social norms are softening more and more. As a result, everyone has to take more and more responsibility for themselves.

Be brave, is one of your mottos for the young.

Steffi Burkhart: If the parents’ generation were sitting in front of me, I would tell them exactly that. They should encourage young people to find themselves. Anyone who has a passion for what they do will also be able to earn money with it.

Change is always the most difficult thing, because it has to start with oneself. Meeting people in a non-judgemental way, for example. Have we already reached the point where we as human beings have internalised this need for change?

Steffi Burkhart: I think it is an important part of human intelligence that I encounter everything in a value-free way and reflect on how I value myself. The older I am, the more I have my patterns and beliefs. Experience alone will no longer take us into the future. Of course we need new questions and new answers. I have to face the new in a non-judgemental way and face young people, which is not so easy yet. But that means self-reflection.

You also say that the school does not necessarily need grades.

Steffi Burkhart: What do grades mean? Many young people think they have to have the best grades. I always say, use this as a space to experiment, work on yourself, that’s how you’ll convince the companies. Professional expertise is changing. We all know a lot, but we implement far too little. We know enough dropouts who are highly successful in their professional lives.

Are you afraid of the future?

Steffi Burkhart: No, I am a very optimistic person, I believe that solutions have always been found to better develop humanity, but of course we have to see that we avoid serious mistakes in the rapid technological development stage. If technology is too advanced and too negatively oriented, it can somehow also attack human beings. That should not happen.

How do we manage to deal with each other?

Steffi Burkhart: We have to constantly ask ourselves, what impact will tools like ChatGPT have on my job, how will it evolve and how do I stay on the ball and on the pulse of time. These changes will come so often that we will have to invest much more time in learning and developing. You can go to places like the Tabakfabrik or the Grand Garage and learn to understand the new issues. That is the way of the times. We are in a new phase of change where we have to stay very curious.

What gives you hope that we will realise that we all need each other to make the world as a whole a better place?

Steffi Burkhart: A lot of who gets to run countries comes from governments. What develops negatively in societies often has to do with governments and people in politics. My hope is that we have many more positive leaders in governments who are allowed to act.


Personal details: Steffi Burkhart, born in 1985, studied sports science in Cologne after 12 years of competitive sports and A-levels and completed her doctorate in health psychology in 2013. From 2010 to 2012, she worked in the company health management of a large corporation, then switched to the start-up “GedankenTanken” in 2013. Burkhart has been self-employed since 2015. More info: