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Claus Kleber on visions for the future: “It’s a diabolical alternative”

Claus Kleber was the face of the ZDF “heute-journal” for 19 years. In a podcast conversation with Richard Gutjahr looks to dangerous visions of the future.

Claus Kleber doesn’t get ruffled easily. In his award-winning documentaries, which he shot with Angela Anderson, the television journalist addressed issues such as environmental protection and human rights. But when it comes to Silicon Valley, you can hear how Kleber seethes: “Time to get involved,” he asks at the very beginning of “Utopia-crazy visions in Silicon Valley”, his most recent documentary in the

ZDF (can be seen here in the media library).

“It wouldn’t be the first time in history that we take a huge step back, culturally and humanly,” he explains in the new “Die Zeitraffer” podcast on t-online. “Perhaps the 21st century is a dark Middle Ages, in which much of what we fought and won for will be lost again.”

You can listen to the entire conversation in the “Die Zeitraffer” podcast. Either right here in the article or on Spotify, Apple Podcast, YouTube, and Amazon Music.

This is not the first conversation I have with Claus Kleber. In 1999, almost a quarter of a century ago, I asked him in Washington. At the time, Kleber was the head of the ARD studio. Since I was studying journalism in the US capital at the time, I wanted to meet him and ask him what an American correspondent’s job is like.

His office comforted me because his schedule was full. weeks passed. Then, one day, the message on my answering machine: “Mr. Kleber has time for you now!”

That conversation made a lasting impact on my career as a journalist. Not only did Claus Kleber take a full hour to answer my questions. The TV star gave me a clear insight into his daily life: the time pressure he’s subjected to as a Breaking News correspondent.

The daily struggle for unfiltered information. The attempt to provide viewers at home in Germany with the most accurate picture of America possible. Tips that would help me years later when I was allowed to work as a Washington correspondent myself.

Now that I’m back, I consider it a great privilege to tap into the wealth of experience Claus Kleber has accumulated over decades and to be able to share it with the listeners of my new t-online podcast.

In “Die Zeitraffer – the future t-online podcast” Kleber talks about his experiences in Silicon Valley. He reveals how television interviews with the great tech geniuses are born and why they almost fail. For example, when Jaron Lanier slammed the door in his face despite the agreed shooting date. Or from the numerous attempts to get to Mark Zuckerberg or Elon Musk.

Claus Kleber is concerned about the plans of the big tech developers. Computer chips are transplanted into skulls to connect the human brain to the Internet. This could be used to treat diseases, but also to read feelings and thoughts. I want to know from Claus if he would have installed such a chip. “No,” he replies. But maybe at some point you won’t have a choice, says Kleber, because super chip people will be so superior to normal chipless people that there will be a lot of pressure to keep up.

In the nearly 40 minutes of our time-lapse podcast, we also talk about Kleber’s favorite tech gadget, the Metaverse, and the future of media. I want to know how many years Kleber left for linear television and why he sees a good chance that journalism will experience a renaissance. “If people understand that we do our job well and that we don’t cheat anything in their mix,” she believes, reporters can regain the public’s trust. “As long as we do everything right for a while,” she adds.

According to Kleber, what Europe must say against the tech giants is above all transparency. “We have to open the box,” she says. “We, as consumers, need to understand what these apps are doing to us and how.” This has to happen now, because there is not much time available, Kleber says. “While we’re talking about it for a three-quarter-hour podcast here, conditions are changing again.” And soon it may be too late. “If we are not careful, we will become our own robots,” warns the 67-year-old. “And who wants it?”

“Die Zeitraffer – t-online’s future podcast” starts Wednesday 12 October. In the first few episodes, host Richard Gutjahr meets Claus Kleber, Renate Künast and former Facebook employee Niklas Steenfatt. There are always new episodes on Wednesdays Spotify, Apple, YouTube, or Amazon Music podcasts.

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