Roland Dürre
Monday November 28th, 2016

A Christmas Oratory that is a Little Different

Logo ArcisVocalisten
What would the advent and Christmas time be for music lovers without a Christmas Oratory?
Not only the fans of classical music find that the festive sound is an integral part of the quiet time of each year. And whenever the word “Christmas Oratory” is spoken, everybody knows immediately who is the composer: of course, the Leipzig Thomas cantor Johann Sebastian Bach! And there is definitely no other option. Or is there?

On Monday, December, 5th, 2016, at the Sendling Himmelfahrtskirche, you can find the proof that another baroque master, too, wrote a really great piece when composing his Christmas Oratory. It is absolutely great music that goes straight to the heart of the audience and creates a festive Christmas atmosphere almost by itself: we are talking the Christmas Oratory “Mache dich auf, werde Licht (Go Ahead, Become Light)”, a work written by Carl Heinrich Graun, who was impresario of Frederic the Great.

After having sung – and recorded in cooperation with the Bayerischer Rundfunk as a CD – Graun’s Passion Oratorio “Der Tod Jesu/The Death of Jesus” in 2014, the Arcis-Vocalisten have now worked on the Christmas masterpiece composed by the impresario of “Old Frederic”.

For Professor Thomas Gropper, the choir director of the Arcis-Vocalisten, it is the differences between this work and the ever-present Bach Oratorio that make the work on it particularly attractive:
“Even the libretto is structured totally different from how Bach did it in his Christmas Oratorio – Graun took only very few of the original sentences from the Gospel of Luke, instead making heavy use of free contemplation and dialogues”, says Gropper. “And there is much more of the “gallant” concept that will be setting new trend in Graun’s music than in that of the Thomas Cantor. Said concept being the already quite obviously emerging more sensitive style that became generally accepted at the time the work was composed in 1735”.

The masterpiece was only re-discovered in 1999 and is characterized by a skilful change between melodic and challengingly counterpoint-oriented choirs and sensitively voice-caressing arias that have been given an extremely colourful orchestral accompaniment: festive string and trumpet sounds on top of the Christmas Atmosphere. Well, it is a somewhat different Christmas Oratorio…

(Translated by EG)

Die Winderhitzer der Völklinger Hütte.

““Die Winderhitzer der Völklinger Hütte”. Also Vintage”

Regardless of the fact that I consider email vintage technology, I still have some email addresses. Many useless and stupid messages arrive.

It is my task to then delete those emails and ask my communication partners if, please, they could use other ways of communication.

Today, something happened that made me smile. I received an email from a beloved and long-time friend whose technological competence I rather appreciate.

He sent an email to a lot of people ( (

Could you please leave us alone with this totally irrational discussion!!!!!
I, too, said what I think about mail distributors and internal mail in the survey about new communication forms.
This is another typical example illustrating the fact that intra-company emails are total nonsense and why email distributors inparticular should be immediately made redundant.
To all, and I really intended to write this!

Incidentally, the “totally irrational discussion” was about the problem with rechargeable i-phone batteries and their exchange.

I replied as follows:

Your email made me smile. 🙂
After all, I totally agree with you – except that I am even more radical. Email is no longer a general communication channel. Instead, it is a totally old-fashioned one which – it goes without saying – should no longer be used in modern enterprises.
Emails to third parties should only be sent in those few instances where in former times you actually wrote a letter, sent a telegram or went to a public phone booth. Everything else should be done with tools that are adequate to the task.
Best wishes and a nice weekend to you!

Yes, I, too, dislike emails. More often than not, they have huge footers made even larger by artificial nonsense and totally uninteresting advertisements or stupid legal disclaimers.

I hate email dialogues that cause a constantly growing series of email incarnations through more and more dialogue steps. With every reply, you create a new email that contains the same as before, with the addition of the last reply.  When the internet was first introduced, they made an attempt to make the design of email communication a little more agreeable. For example there was the so-called tofu rule.

Unfortunately, however, “tofu” was only applied by very few users and consequently failed.

As a general rule, communication will be carried out as a “thread“. Ever since we have the perfect chat, email is mostly obsolete. In the “peer2peer“ thread, I can always immediately see what has been recently said. That is also true for persons with whom I rarely communicate – where it is extremely valuable. Threads are also a good tool for more than two persons who wish to communicate. If you use email, you immediately get a catastrophic flood of “cc”-s and “bcc”-s.

Moreover, I enjoy using images, audios or small videos in my daily communication. How cumbersome is this both for the sender and the recipient if you use email? Just look how easily bbm, wechat, whatsapp, the FB “messenger“ or Skype, the twitter  “dm“ (direct message) etc, work. Not to mention Snapchat, the system with the most modern and simple of all user interfaces.

Even better for structured communication, even in bigger teams/groups than chat systems are “communities”. There are many communities in the internet, for instance in Google+. They show you how it is done. And how you can communicate well and yet very structured and highly efficient with very simple means within an organization. And how you can do totally without the email nonsense, rather than flooding the non-interested and non-concerned parties with spam all the time!

Note also:

The telephone is also OUT. I only use my telephone after having made an appointment in advance to do so, if there is something important I need to do or if I want to talk with someone and pay full attention. Consequently, I no longer use the telephone in the car or in public places like trains. And even for important issues, I only use the telephone if image telephones (Hangout, Facetime, Skype, Cisco, Citrix …) are not an option because the person at the other end prefers the good old telephone.

In case you forgot: the “telephone” function on the smartphone is also just an app for synchronous spoken communication that enables your connection with addresses made up from telephone numbers (digits) and through “voice-over-IP“.

If someone calls me and I reply with
“Now who interrupts me in my work?“,
then I kindly ask you to forgive me.

I continue to be available on the telephone for all those who need me. Here is my physical telephone address 0049 171 4850115 (unfortunately, the symbol telephones have now been out of fashion for a long time). But, please, only call if it is really important and totally urgent!

In all other instances, please ask yourself if it might not be enough for you to use asynchronous (spoken) messages through one of the chatters I use or, if it is about a specific topic, for you to send a message to the respective community.

(Translated by EG)

Roland Dürre
Thursday November 24th, 2016

“Digital Change” – About my Presentation – #nostructure !

Leider habe ich keine Bilder von Vortrag in Nürnberg und Rosenheim.

Unfortunately, I have no pictures of the presentations in Nuremberg and Rosenheim.

I always enjoy giving presentations. Most of them are for cherished friends or good causes. I try not to express truths, instead questioning those concepts I myself believe in.

Because I feel the “truth” inside myself that there is no such thing as an absolute truth.

It is a rather difficult topic. Just think of the sentence:

“Tolerance is the most precious commodity. Intolerance can only be tolerated against intolerance. But that is where it has to happen!“

A little pondering will quickly make you understand what the real problem is.
These days, I mostly speak about topics such as “leadership”, “entrepreneurship” and “digitalization”. I always learn most when I give a presentation. The same was true the day before yesterday in Kolbermoor, where I had been invited by Tech-Division, which is an enterprise that gave me a very positive feeling. The Tech-Division’s offices in Kolbermoor are at the “Alte Spinnerei“, which is a beautiful loft building.

This time, the title of my presentation on digital transformation was: 
What is often forgotten when people talk digitalization!

Since it is my desire to have something of interest for all the audience, I always bring something like a “critical potpourri”. I mostly work with metaphors. I try not to force the presentation into a structure. Consequently, as a matter of principle, I do not use slides (if the lecture hall is huge, I use emotional background images).
I only use the important standards of communication (such as the rule of three and the rule of five, Syllogisms  and logic arguments) within my “potpourri”. I used to give many “sales presentations”. The intention was to manipulate or at least to convince the audience of something.

Here is how I did it:

In my presentations, I introduced a (plausible) theory X (which was easily understandable for the audience) and then developed a logical chain: from X follows A, from A follows B … and from Y follows Z. This is how I deduced a message Z from X, wanting to show that from a commonly accepted assumption X a conclusion Z can be justified. Z was my message. I wanted to make the audience believe in Z. Those days are over.

In general, I like working with analogies during my presentations. For instance, I describe a principle or a mechanism that basically has nothing to do with the actual topic, yet it contains a message that can be applied to other principles or scenarios. And, depending on how I see the current moment, I also relate the analogy – or let the audience find it.

Here is an example:

Whenever I talk digitalization, I also talk infra structure. Infra structure is an exciting topic. We live in the Anthropozene (Anthropozän), that is the era of humans. Humans have changed the world, either considerably or totally. They created new infra structure and technologies. In fact, it started with the “humanoids” who were our forefathers.

Initially, a very long time ago, came the upright posture, the (resulting?) development of tools, the ability to think and speak (10,000 years ago?), followed by “written language” (5,000 years ago?). These innovations probably triggered the “information society”, or else they were at least what made it possible.

Building infra structure in mobility was probably started with the development of paths that facilitated “walking on foot”. When the wheel was invented (3,000 years before Christ?), the first forms of “streets” had to be built. Water (the ocean, rivers, lakes,…) has always played an important role when it came to mobility. A network of channels was used. Then came the postal service coach, the railway and mechanized and motorized individual traffic. The traffic network was extended to an unbelievable dimension.

However, not only humans and products must be mobile. The stories of the people also needed mobility. This is why the job of the courier was invented. Letters were sent, transmission by cable or radio communication, networks such as the telefax, telegram or telephone circuits were invented. Today, it is the internet. The first requirement for all these things was electricity. Consequently, they made electricity networks for transporting energy.…

What I like talking about in my presentations on “digitalization” is the road network, which – as I see it – is the biggest infra structure of all times. You can probably get to almost any inhabited place on this planet by car. You will find parking places, streets, gas stations and repair shops for cars everywhere – even on small islands. There is probably nobody who does not get products that have not at some point been transported by a truck or car.

There is probably no other sector where rules and regulations tell us how individual mobility has to look and what we have to do and what characteristics such a vehicle must have. There is a minimum age and you need a driver’s licence if you want to move inside this infra structure with a motorized vehicle.

For me, the question (naturally) is: what benefit did all this bring us if we look at the results. 1,400 million fatalities per year world-wide. Besides no end of health hazards through noise and air pollution. But also indirectly because we no longer exercise and consequently become obese. A landscape that is all concrete. And much more. Isn’t it quite obvious that one might fear something must have gone wrong? And that perhaps you should learn from history?

In my presentations, I take this huge infra structure and the way there as a metaphor for technologic development (after all, digitalization is only a part of technology). Now, being the orator, I have to decide:

Should I explicitly say it? After all, I am talking about “digitalization”. Consequently, everyone in the audience might start thinking about how the road network metaphor might be applied to the “digital network” and the internet.

I might choose to motivate people verbally towards thinking and I might give some impulses.

On the other hand, I might want to expand on facts that will motivate people to think by themselves. That the traffic network reaches almost every human. However, the internet currently only reaches 2 trillion out of 8 trillion persons. Facebook can allegedly reach 1 trillion persons. I say “allegedly” because some sources say the number is “only” 500 billion.

I could ask people what it means to be a “digital” person and internet user. Is it enough to use email and chat, have a Facebook account and occasionally use Wikipedia (which, basically, is just another thesaurus)? Or do I have to actively participate in order to be a digital person? Just think of the not-so-old buzzword Web2.0 that is now forgotten (humans becoming “part-givers”, instead of being “participants“)!?

This is how I intentionally try to give very “chaotic” and “confusing” presentations. I enjoy every single nice feedback. Especially if it is later modified by phrases such as “… but, unfortunately, it did not seem to be very clearly structured… “ or ”… even if occasionally I could not find a real thread… “

Because then I succeeded in doing what I wanted to do!
(Translated by EG)

Here is another piece of advice: if you want to learn something about digitalization – meaning how it works – then I recommend you read Fefe’s Blog, That is the “BILD-Zeitung for Nerds“ (joke!) You can learn under many aspects.

Digital Transformation and Industry 4.0 – Trump and our Beloved Jobs …
Yesterday, I received an email from a very beloved and wise friend. The following paragraph contains the gist of the message:

The day before yesterday, Kaeser of Siemens demanded the unconditional income. He is worried about future jobs – our old topic. Since you are a person who likes to think about theories, maybe you would like to question my thesis that Trump, by being a protectionist, is actually unintentionally doing the right thing. Because before the negative influence of protectionism can really have consequences, there will be a massive reduction of jobs through industry 4.0 – and since, by then, the USA will again have more jobs in their own country, there might actually be more jobs available in the end.

I am sure this thesis is not really well-researched, but I can easily imagine that it might happen in this way.

So sehen mich Christian und Daniel (© Visual-Braindump) - zumindest letzte Woche auf PM_Camp in Dornbirn.

This is how Christian and Daniel (©Visual-Braindump) see me – at least it is how they saw me last week during our nice Dornbirn PM Camp.

I cannot comment on Trump. I do not know if Trump will be good news or bad news for the USA or even for the entire world. All I know is that most politicians, entrepreneurial leaders, union heads and other socially responsible persons have made a whole lot of mistakes and that now the time has come to pay the price. Because people are fed up and will no longer have patience. Basically, that is also true for me.

I rather like the theory that Trump might be doing the right thing if he is putting some restrictions on globalization. The phrases I outlined in “bold lettering” seem to take the assumption for granted that a future reduction of job opportunities will be a consequence of industry 4.0, which seems a little disturbing to me. I often hear it. Just like I often hear that a huge “service proletariat” will grow in times to come. My opinion is that we already have the latter. Just look at how many people earn their living by “driving cars” or “security”, or similar jobs.

I will also concede that a reduction of job opportunities is quite possible in industry. As soon as we no longer have cars, there will no longer be jobs in the car industry. That sounds logical to me. However, I believe that those jobs will then be substituted by other products to be manufactured. Basically, this is an automation process. As it has always been.

But: The future cannot be predicted!

If you believe you should think about the future, then at least you should not think as one-dimensionally as apparently some of the huge enterprises seem to see it when they now suddenly and surprisingly demand the “unconditional income (BGE)“. Basically, I believe they will now copy Trump as “Mr. Success”. That means they just demand something. Perhaps they have the desire to also be at the receiving end of a beating. Well, why not comply. Trump was beaten for every other thing he said – and perhaps that is exactly what he wanted. …
After all, he is a sly fox and wanted to win the elections. Following the motto – the more beatings, the more honour.

Consequently, I can also imagine that, in the future, we will perhaps have a lot more jobs, regardless of “industry 4.0” and “digital transformation” (and I am not sure what terminology and mental experiments are behind those buzzwords). Here are a few examples:

  • Farming
    If we want to return to eating food that deserves the name, then it might well be possible that more persons will be needed for farming …
  • Forestry
The information I have tells me that, even now, more than one million persons work in forestry in the FRG. It is quite possible that forests will become extremely important for our lives in the future …
  • Crafts
    As I see it, there will be endless opportunities in this sector in the future …
  • Care
    Elderly persons need attention, elderly persons need care. And our average life expectancy continues to grow …
  • Education
    More and more young persons need more and more assistance when it comes to coping with their own lives and finding their place in society …
  • Infra structure (old)
    Be it Munich underground trains, railway trains, streets or bridges – our infra structure is badly in need of maintenance. And soon there will only be two options left to us: either barricade them or repair them. And basically, we cannot really barricade all of them, can we?
  • Infra structure (new)
    I read that public transportation is threatening to collapse even in the small “megacity of Munich”. I hear visions of the “smart city” of the future. All these things will not happen by themselves.
  • Infra structure (example)
    A short time ago, I heard from the “Stadtwerke München” that they think rather intently about “cooling down Munich”. It is assumed that the “Asian Way” of making buildings cold – as many persons will soon demand – cannot be applied in Munich (the reasons are, among others, that it is inefficient). Now they are thinking about remote cooling as the best solution …
  • Tourism
    As far as I know, even today, the hotel and restaurant sector is the strongest of all in Bavaria as far as turnover and employment are concerned. Those who occasionally spend time in Peking or Mumbai will probably appreciate what climate, scenery, sightseeing venues, security and other attractions we have. He or she will probably enjoy vacationing in our country. This might turn into a lucrative business. However: welcoming people will only be possible through humans and service…
  • Demolition (environment 1)
    As of now, we still cover enormous amounts of Bavarian soil with concrete every year. However, this process might easily (have to) be reversed.…
  • Catastrophe prevention (environment 2)
    “We will drown in all this water !“ said astro-physicist Harald Lesch recently about the huge flood catastrophes that seem to happen all over the place. You could read it in todays “Bavaria” sector of the SZ. It is quite possible that, in the future, we will have to tackle not only floods, but also tornadoes, massive periods of dryness and much more. And that means we will need a permanent catastrophe army. …
  • Integration of refugees
    It is quite possible that what we saw in the last two years is just a small prelude to what will come in the future. If we want to socially integrate all the persons who come to us even rudimentarily without heading towards another catastrophe, we need many, many people. 
Incidentally, this is also true for the German Leitkultur. Someone has to teach it. …

I am sure that you can come up with many more similar things if only you take the time to think about them.

As you can see, I do not really believe that there might come a situation when most of us will not have anything to do and we will consequently need an unconditional income. On the contrary: I am afraid there will be more than enough work for us just to make sure we will survive. And it will not suffice for us to simply melt down some of our wealth reserves.

Regardless, I consider it quite important to try the unconditional income. But this is not because there is no work left to do. It is because otherwise we probably cannot afford our complex system with things like child-care money, BaFöG, unemployment benefit, basic security (more, social subsidies, Hartz4, subsidized rents, …) . Because we cannot play bureaucracy until we die. Instead, we will have to start hands-on.

But as I said: nobody knows what the future will bring. Just like none of us owns all the truth. And when we are talking the future, this is doubly true.


I just remember that the big “Sechziger” sponsor arrived driving a Maybach he rented at a Munich chauffeur centre for the press conference scheduled given after their coach was made redundant . …

pmcamp-logo-dornbirnWell, I have attended quite a few PM Camps. And in some way or other, every one of them was different from all the others, yet they were always a great experience. Yesterday and the day before yesterday, we had the 6th PM Camp in Dornbirn. My personal perception was that – at least for me – it was even “better” than all the prior PM Camps. And I gained a lot of clarity as far as the model and the aim of PM Camps is concerned.

As I see it, clarity is one of the most important topics for social systems. It might even be the one most important factor for success. This is true for families, clubs, enterprises, communities, political units – in other words: for all kinds of social systems. Wherever you have a clear concept of what the system is and what tasks it wishes to accomplish, you are on a promising path.

Something that can help on the way towards clarity is theory – in particular system theory. Consequently, the “system theory” given by Gerhard Wohland (@GerhardWohland) in Dornbirn was very welcome. He gave two impulse presentations that, to me, seemed extremely important. In one of those, he introduced the term “resistance nest”.

This is how I learned that life, both in original societies and our developed society, is and has always been a huge resistance nest. Actually, you could call a human life an accumulation of resistance nests as they are lived by each of us both similarly and serially.

The term resistance nest is made up of resistance and nest!

“Resistance” as part of resistance nest means that there is a lot of resistance. That hurts and will consume a lot of energy. Once in a while, resistance will make us desperate. It can make us plummet deeply into crises. Which is something that can really make life hard. On the other hand, ideas are only born from crises. Without a crisis, you might have thoughts, but not real ideas.

In the middle of a crisis, it is rather easy to collapse, sometimes in such a way that you cannot get up under your own steam. That is where the term “nest” comes in. It means that fellow humans will help us to get up after we have collapsed. The term “nest” also means recreation and leisure!

In a “session” with Gerhard on exactly this topic, Stefan asked if maybe we should turn PM-Camp into a resistance nest? And how to do it?

So sehen mich Christian und Daniel (© Visual-Braindump)

This is how Christian and Daniel see me (©Visual-Braindump)!!

That is when I had a moment of clarity.  PM Camp is not a resistance nest, nor would I want it to be one. No! What I want is for PM Camp to be a nest where everybody feels comfortable. Since all the participants appreciate and respect each other (and also behave accordingly) and all of them are prepared to open up and share their experiences, we have a wonderful nest of leisure. As far as I am concerned, you can feel free to call it “comfort blanket zone” or some similarly derogatory name. I rather like “comfort blanket zones”!

After all, there are enough resistance nests in my real life. Sometimes there is more resistance than nest. Consequently, I enjoy having a leisurely time at the PM Camp. When I am there, I want to indulge in having my “intellectual and emotional spa”. I do not want to show people how well I can perform or even fight. I go there without any goals and I do not want to compare myself with anybody, let alone compete with others. All I want is enjoy myself and experience and understand new and different things in a very comfortable environment.

Consequently, emotions, too, were not forgotten at the #PMCampDOR. The hour with five times pecha kucha in the morning of the second day brought us “pure feelings” and was the ideal bridge after the – as always – intense party that had concluded the first day. And there were quite a few “sessions” that were real heart openers.

It was great! Many thanks to all those who were there and supported us.

(Translated by EG)

Here is the result of my session “Happiness“, I assume that my report will also follow soon in the IF Blog.

Vielen Dank an Christian und Daniel, die bei unserer Glückssession auf #pmcampdor 2016 so toll mitgemacht haben. (©Visual-Braindump)

Many thanks to Christian and Daniel who were such great candidates during our happiness session at #pmcampdor 2016 (©Visual-Braindump).

Roland Dürre
Saturday November 12th, 2016

Interview for the DOAG-TV on “Digitalization”

DOAG22016-K-A-Banner-180x180_speakerBetween November, 15th and November, 18th, 2016, the DOAG Conference and Exhibition will be for the 29th time in Nuremburg. I was there and was permitted to give a presentation – and I was also interviewed by DOAG-TV. Here are the questions and my answers:

When and where, as you see it, did digitalization basically begin?

For me, digitalization started with the “written language”. A few thousand years – maybe 5,000 years – after language had evolved, they found a way to write it down. Then came the information carriers for written language , such as papyrus, paper and IT, along with machines such as the printing press, the lead set and eventually the internet.

Incidentally, written texts were first used for business purposes (merchandize). Business is the inventor of all things – not war. If anything, war is just an extreme sort of business – and, as I see it, a totally questionable and perverted one.

Auch damals waren die Zeiten schon "digital".

In those days, times were already “digital”.

Where are we today, and what does digitalization mean for the “analogous” creature “homo sapiens”?

Humans are and will always remain analogous creatures. Through the “cultural techniques” such as reading and writing, humans became a little digital. But never quite fully. After all, to this day humans cannot really manage to translate digital experiences into their analogous concepts of mind. Just think of the secret of the big number. Linear is hard enough, geometrical is quite difficult, logarithmic is impossible. Can you imagine how much money 200 quadrillion Euros is (it is the sum by which the EU countries indebt themselves anew each year)?

We lost the competence to calculate mentally or on paper as soon as the pocket calculator was invented. Who of us can still do it? Who can still extract a root or do a logarithmic value by hand?

Looking ahead: what will digitalization bring us?

Strangely enough, digitalization might actually make our lives analogue again. In former times, we translated digital data into analogous signals by modem (modulating and demodulating) before sending them on through a cable. And at the opposite end of the cable, the modem again re-translated them into digital data. Today, we translate analoous signals (noise and images) into digital data for transportation, split them into small data packages, send them through a package network, collect them and then re-arrange them in order to reconstruct the analogous signal from digital data (which is why we no longer have any static).

What will we have in the future?

  • In communications: facilitation gets more and more important. We will have more images and less written words. We will talk more and draw and write less. Audio will become more and more relevant – also as part of asynchronous communication. Podcasts and video recordings will continue to grow.
  • A “rudimentary illiteracy” will spread more and more. Language will benefit. Strong metaphors will become important, along with the awareness of “restricted code” and “elaborated code”.
  • Control of language and gestures will become dominant.
    Well, this is what the future might be like. Or maybe not. After all, we cannot predict the future.


So much about my interview! I will give a presentation at the DOAG Conference on Wednesday about “Digitalization – A Huge Error”. I already collected so much exciting material that I do not know what to tell people. That makes me nervous. But then, I will first be interviewed on Tuesday. As soon as my interview is online, I will, of course, set a link to it on the IF Blog. And I am quite curious what it will be in the end that I am going to talk about.

The picture was taken during my last presentation on the GOAG Conference of 2015.

"Zur Erinnerung an meinen Vortrag in 2015 (created by Christian Botta")

“Commemoration of my Presentation of 2015 (created by Christian Botta)“.

(Translated by EG)

 How the Chauffeured Gentleman Imagines the Autonomous Car.

ADFC – that is the lobby club for us bike riders. Many bike riders think this club is a little stuffy and consider it just the equivalent of the ADAC. Consequently, they prefer free grass root movements, such as “Critical Mass“ and the like. Regardless, it is a pleasure for me to be an ADFC member and I also support the association with lobby work wherever possible. And I also very much recommend the membership.

The ADFC also organizes many excellent events. One of them is the lunch discussion group in Munich. At those lunches, I already witnessed many interesting presentations, for instance by Herrn Ude (when he was still mayor of Munich), Herrn Ramsauer (when he was Federal Minister of Transport), Toni Hofreiter (as mobility expert of the Green Party), but also by persons who are less publicly well-known, as for example the DB-Regio .managing director. The discussions were always very interesting and important.

Yesterday, we had another ADFC lunch discussion in Munich. The speaker was Peter Driessen , who is general manager of the IHK Munich and Upper Bavaria. For those who do not know what IHK is: it means Industrie- und Handelskammer (Chamber for Industry and Commerce). It is an organisation you have to be a member of if you own an enterprise, just as you have to pay their membership fees.

As an entrepreneur, you do not know why you have to be a member, but in return, you get a high-gloss magazine at regular intervals that is rather lacking in content and not very interesting either – and that will immediately end up In the rubbish bin. The IHK is generally quite present in people’s minds, because more often than not it has many managing directors – and those managing directors earn quite good money. After all, they are also responsible for many enterprises (see Official List of IHK on incomes of the GF team, not included other advantages such as business car and chauffeur, etc. – Offizielle Liste der IHK zur Einkünfte der GF-Teams ohne weitere Vorteile wie Geschäftsauto mit Fahrer etc.).

And then, Peter D. (without having intended to) explained with a personal true example how all the different traffic systems might be integrated in the future, at the same time disclosing his personal vision of a “driver-less car”:

“On the way to a presentation, his chauffeur-driven car got stuck in the traffic jam at Donnersberger Brücke. And since there was no chance for him to reach his destination in time using the private vehicle, he just left his car and continued on his way by S-Bahn train. And he managed to be on time. This would not have been possible without a chauffeur, since he could not have left the car standing in the middle of the Donnersberger Brücke, could he?”.

He then completed this example using his personal vision of a self-driving car:

“This is how, in such situations, you could continue by using public transportation in order to reach your destiny on time and the driver-less car could then do a leisurely turn through the congested streets and eventually retrieve its owner”.

He sounded rather serious when he said this. Perhaps he meant it as a joke? Except that such a concept of mobile future is all but hilarious. Especially if it comes from an important representative of a business association, at least one who considers himself extremely important.

(Translated by EG)

Roland Dürre
Monday November 7th, 2016

Entrepreneur’s Diary #118 – Employee Involvement

A short time ago, I received an email from a young man who is also an entrepreneur and a friend of mine:

During the last two years, a lot has happened and our small IT company now has seven employees. For next year, we are again seeking new employees. We are also wondering how to improve salaries in general without threatening our financial situation – in case matters will at some time not be so rosy.

Now I would like to ask you if you have experience with employee involvement or if there is somebody you could refer me to. Since we do not specialize in one product, generate a lot of cash flow with custom-made goods and also do not wish to sell our company, the question might be a little more complicated than it initially looks.

Would there be a chance for you to feel like and have time for coaching us in this matter in the near future?

Naturally, my answer was YES. But it was not because I wanted to coach them. That is something I refuse to do as a matter of principle. I also do not like to give advice. After all, advice can turn vice. Instead, I share my knowledge and ask questions.

Hoch die GREAT WALL mit Käppi nach hnten.

Once in a while, being an entrepreneur is like climbing the GREAT WALL.

First and foremost, I checked If I had ever before written anything about employee involvement in my entrepreneur’s diary (Unternehmertagebuch). Since the answer is no, I will relate the results of my discussion here in the blog.

Let me start with my own experiences:

As a matter of facts, fairly shortly after the foundation of the InterFace Connection GmbH (for us, the name Connection was more than just a name, it was programmatic) in 1984, Wolf Geldmacher and yours truly decided that we wanted to offer all employees (and even in 1986, we are talking around twenty) shares of the enterprise.

At the time, we were four partners in the firm. The “active” ones were Wolf and I. We were both employees of the Connection as managers and both owned 30% of the capital. The two “passive” partners in the firm were Dr. Peter Schnupp (a man who had written IT history) and the InterFace Computer, represented by Claus M. Müller. They had 20% each. At the time, our capital was as much as 100,000.- DM and our legal status was limited liability company.

Dr. von Hase was “our” counsellor-at-law. He accompanied our enterprise during many years. In retrospect, I can certainly say that his advice was always very good advice for the company. It did not take long for him to convince us that the limited liability company status was not the best possible for an enterprise with several partners. Especially if some of them are also employees. Conflicts that, for example, might arise from the enterprise-employee relation might easily have a negative effect on the partnership level.

Consequently, 17 employees of the IF AG founded a share association that took 10% of the capital (10,000 DM) out of the entire sum (100,000).

The sales price for the 10% was 60,000 DM (10,000 DM for the shares plus an extra rate of 1:5 , i.e. 50,000 DM). At the time, our enterprise was easily worth 600,000 DM. The money remained in the company as backup, which improved the capital situation (from 100,000 to 160,000 DM). The total shares situation changed as follows: Wolf and I now held 27% instead of the 30% we held before the transfer. InterFace Computer and Peter Schnupp now had 18% each instead of the 20% they had had before. And 10% were now owned by the shareholder association of employees who then mathematically held a share of 1/170 each of the enterprise. It was a good example for a successful employee involvement.

For the employees, one disadvantage was that they could not directly own shares of the enterprise, instead “only” indirectly holding shares as an association. This limited the fungibility of the shares. When, in the late 1990ies, the InterFace Connection GmbH became the InterFace AG, the shares of the employee association became stock of the InterFace AG, which meant this limitation was no longer active. Whenever I meet InterFace AG employees today on general meetings, they tell me that the employee involvement was the best investment of their lives.

In the 1980ies and especially in the 1990ies, many persons worked with option models in Germany that were rather dubious affairs as far as tax was concerned. The procedure was particularly attractive for young and quickly growing enterprises that wanted a speedy entry into the stock market. I have a few scattered friends who actually – to their own surprise – became millionaires because of these models. Mostly, however, the persons I know who did it tended to lose money, rather than profit.

Today, I believe cooperatives are probably something to keep in mind when this is your purpose – especially if you want to think sustainable and long-term. Even though originally the cooperative model was not intended to be beneficial for employees. Initially, they wanted to share the use of production machinery and buy said machinery. But it will also work if you want to make it possible for employees to share the success.

To me, partner models such as those used for entrepreneurial counselling look rather innovative. Especially the varieties where you can buy shares upon entering the firm and have to hand them on as you leave sound exciting, With them, you will profit from the success and growth of the shared enterprise in all the time you are part of it. If I were ever to found a new company, I would probably try the BGB company partner model.

During our discussion, we also looked beyond the “pure earnings”. To be sure, a market-oriented income plays an important role when it comes to the employees’ motivation. In fact, salaries and continued education are the most important costs in service companies. It goes without saying that enterprises find it easier if they only need to pay part of these costs if they are actually successful.

However, money is only one (even if an important) part of what constitutes the relationship between the enterprise and its employees. The entrepreneurial culture and the values lived in the firm are just as important. Catchwords are openness and transparency, the possibility to participate, as well as respect and appreciation of all the persons in the firm being a foregone conclusion.

In an enterprise, you should feel that all the employees share the courage for the future and find pleasure in doing what they are doing. “Strategy” should be something like a shared feeling, rather than just words. The enterprise should not just create value for the shareholders, but also for all the stakeholders. That includes the families of the employees. For partners and children of colleagues, the enterprise should be something they can “touch”.

And also – this is very important:
Success should (as often as possible) be celebrated together!

(Translated by EG)

For more articles of my entrepreneurial diary, click here: Drehscheibe!

Guido Bruch commented on my article
#Digitalization – The “Ethics” of IT and “Artificial Intelligence“
(#Digitalisierung – Die „Ethik“ von IT und „Künstlicher Intelligenz“)
Here it is:

In the book “Silicon Germany”, the ethical dimension is discussed. Here is an example: a child runs onto the street from the right side. On the left, an elderly person is walking with a walking frame. Humans behind a wheel would decide either at random or consciously whom to run down if they cannot stop their car in time. But then, what to tell a machine to do? Should we always protect the child and thus select (and this with Germany’s past?) or should there be a random generator? I think this is what it is all about.

But I am sure these are all just theoretical questions, since the number of potential accidents is probably small. The topic would probably solve itself. Have there ever been these kinds of accidents?

Another question is what the car manufacturers will do if the request changes from country to country? For instance if some Golf countries say they want to protect the natives at all costs and instead sacrifice foreign labour?

Many thanks to Guido. His article gave me many associated and emotional ideas:

The problem is that a program that is supposed to follow a balancing ethics has to have an evaluation matrix with calculable rules that can evaluate the value of human life through a well-defined systematics, covering all cases in several dimensions.

In other words, you would suddenly have to evaluate and classify the age and gender, but also the education, function and social responsibility of a person and much more. And thus you would have to reach a “personal value number” that makes it possible to calculate the relation between an individual and the set of all humans. Similar to the mathematical value “bigger than“ for whole numbers.

(In theory, you will then not have room for “equal” or “equal-same”, because that would probably mean you need a random generator, after all.)

If you continue in this way, then you will also have to think about such a relation as “bigger” in terms of a set of humans at any time and decide about one of them being the most important and one the least important.

Totally mathematically. To me, this entire discussion seems absolutely useless, even if you will find it in the book Silicon Germany.

Incidentally, this has been regulated for persons living in the FRG a long time ago. We have a constitution that clearly states that all men are equal. Consequently, an absurd metric that would algorithmically determine the “value of a person” is not permissible.

So what “ethical” definitions should a machine follow?

Here is an example:
Guido writes – and immediately doubts – that one might come up with the idea of always saving the child. Then the first question would, of course, be: what to do if you have to decide between two children?

Quite apart from the fact that this would define a two-class society: children versus the rest of society. But then, how do we define “child”? By age, size, weight, maturity? And what about a mother as part of the “rest” if she is nine months pregnant? Perhaps she is two persons – one child and one rest? I also think the “rest” would vehemently oppose this kind of regulation.

Incidentally, the dilemma is very old. What to do if, shortly before the birth, they discover that the mother would die giving birth to a baby that might live? And that the mother can only be saved by killing the baby? This is a mental experiment that actually happens in real life. And, of course, you can extend it by telling people, for instance, that the mother has two more small children (and a husband…). Can this kind of thing be forced into a series of rules that a machine could work with? Of course, the answer is: no!

Here are a few examples with which I would like to show the absurdity:

Who is worth more?

  • The Federal Chancellor or the leader of the German Soccer Team?
  • A CSU county representative or an SPD federal representative?
  • An entrepreneur or a politician?
  • A German or a Frenchman (depending on where)?
  • An integrated citizen with white skin or a dark-skinned asylum seeker?
  • A young man or an elderly lady?
  • The person sitting in one car controlled by a robot or the person sitting in the car controlled by another robot coming from the opposite side?
  • Or, to be cynical: robot A has been installed by BMW. Potential accident cars are another BMW and a Mercedes. Should he ram the BMW or the Mercedes?

You can produce these examples in huge quantities. But to what end? Except in order to demonstrate how it does not make sense at all?
Let me give you a few seemingly harmless examples: cat against dog, which is of higher value? The strangling dog or the pedigree animal owned by the opera star? Or – just to top all absurdity: what should the car roll over if there is a choice between the “common German toad on its way” and a “run-away Greek tortoise”?
(Please note: when I ride my bike, it always hurts me to see all those run-over toads and in Greece all those run-over tortoises).

Most persons propose you could use a random generator for these decisions. After all, it would not really be activated very often, would it? This sounds rather pragmatic. Why not?

Incidentally, the great Isaac Asimov solves the problem quite easily in his SF work: as soon as a robot threatens to do damage to a human, the system will block itself following the three robotics rules, thereby being destroyed once and for all. But he, too, soon discovers that his proposal has a glitch (incidentally, it is from the 1940ies).
The glitch is:
What are the characteristics by which a computer identifies the human being? At one time, this seems to be the dialect of the Solaris “spacers“. Aurora “spacers” seem to have huge problem with it. And the same is true for the “settlers“. And consequently, the Solaris robots start killing intruders – even if those intruders are humans.

🙂 Here is what I propose: why don’t we take the Bavarian dialect as a determining factor whether or not someone is human? Even the big Bavarian party might want to make this idea part of its program…

However, when it comes to autonomous cars, the “laws of robotics” will not help either. It can only work if the car is driving empty :-).

No, the ethics commission for autonomous driving is nonsense – just like most ethics commissions and discussions.

To be sure, I would wish for an ethics commission for drones and war robots. However, the result of those commissions seems as clear as the fact that those who have all the power would ignore it anyway.

Another ethics commission I could easily imagine is one that answers the question if it should be allowed for private institutions (concerns such as google, amazon …, but also lobbyism as practiced in many sectors, up to private armies employed by some enterprises) to get such power as has never existed in society, in extreme cases even including psychological and even physical violence. In some cases, there should probably be a discussion about a violation of the “federal monopoly of violence”.

Except that it is absolutely clear to me that the result of such a commission could only be a clear “NO”, which would, however, be likewise ignored.

Ethics will not help when we try to solve our problems. Especially not if it is supposed to be generated by a commission. What we need is human wisdom. I always like citations by Bertrand Russell:

» All technological growth, provided said growth causes an increase, rather than a decrease of human happiness, will give us growth in wisdom.«

And, unfortunately, ethics will not at all help us to become wiser. On the contrary: it is more conducive to distracting us from wisdom.

In particular, ethics will not at all help with “autonomous systems”. It is my personal consolation that, as far as I know, there has not been a single event with track-bound traffic where “mental experiments” such as the trolley dilemma, ever happened. Consequently, there is no need to worry too much.

Perhaps the following ideas will help:

Railway tracks are made of iron. In the iron age, they were used in order to transport persons and products from A to B. The autonomous car is a result of IT. Consequently, it is a little more modern, quasi running on “tracks made of software and computers”.

And in doing so it makes use of an infra structure that was the only one to have established itself on a world-wide scale: flattened ways in concrete, also known as street network. That is why it can not only transport humans and goods on tracks along the line between A and B (A and B being fixed stations), but also between X and Y (X and Y are now variable end points that can be reached via street).

And in former times, the railway was twice redundant. First, it had to set a recovery for a “basically impossible” error. For cases when this failed, a second level was generated in order to avoid the maximum accident even for a twice “impossible” error.

Consequently, it is our task as engineers to guarantee the highest possible degree of error free roads. We should create a first “redundancy” that covers the “impossible error”. And then we should create an extra safety level, as the railway used to have it.

This is how you make errors as unlikely as possible. That is the mission!

The ethics discussion is intellectual onanism. It seems to me that politics try to deflect our attention from relevant and very uncomfortable questions about digitalization (incidentally, I ask those questions in my presentations). This is how it is abused as election campaign instrument. Politics want to make the citizen believe he has a high competence and responsibility. The goal is to win as many points in the electoral campaign.
(Translated by EG)

There is only one instance when I remember an ethics commission coming up with a reasonable result. A few decades ago, there was a lot of discussion about the §217 (abortion). At the time, the ethics commission had the idea that abortion should continue to be illegal, but that there should be no punishment. As I see it, this was not a bad idea. After all, it also became the basis of the new abortion law.

But do you really need an ethics commission for this kind of thing? In his “Dreigroschenoper”, Bert Brecht says:

You must not punish too severely those who acted illegally! 
This will help the persons concerned, because there is no punishment. But it will not help with the decision making process. Because it will always happen in the hearts and heads of the parties concerned.

The Federal Minister of Transportation and Traffic, Alexander Dobrindt followed the mandate of the Federal Cabinet and his Chancellor and constituted an Ethics Commission . Among other things, it is supposed to clarify whose liability it is if an autonomous vehicle causes an accident – the driver’s or the manufacturer’s.

After all, it is quite possible that one of those crazy autonomous computers will cause an accident because they made the car speed! Who will then get the ticket – or even the complaint?

However, the ethics commission is also supposed to find out if there are ethical norms which the autonomous vehicle has to adhere to in conflict situations. The former Federal Constitutional judge Udo di Fabio will preside over the commission. The minister gave the “Wirtschaftswoche” an interview about it.

11348857_10206989802848252_348583267_oEver since my first seminar with Rupert Lay in the early 1980ies, ethics has been something that interested me very much. As I understand it, ethics is also concerned with moral dilemmas. One of the fundamental examples is the Trolley-Problem (Trolley-Problem).

Let me cite a Wikipedia Article:

Due to a wrong switch stand, a freight train is threatening to collide with a stationary train full of passengers. A worker discovers the threat and moves the switch in such a way that the freight train will end up on an auxiliary track where it runs into a group of maintenance workers, all of whom die. How accountable is the person who moved the switch?

Welzel is said to have asked this question in 1951. In the following years, up until today, many “mental experiments” of this or a similar nature were formulated. One of the most acute, at least one of those that impressed me most, is the following:

A doctor has ten patient waiting in his medical practice. Every one of them is at death’s door because one of his inner organs (a different one for each patient) is completely destroyed. In order to get well, they all need an “organ donation” immediately. But there is no chance that any organs will be available.

By chance, a healthy person enters the practice. He has all the organs the doctor would need in order to save all his patients. Should the doctor kill the man in order to save all the other ten?

Well, the example brings the topic to a culmination. Regardless of it ethically being absolutely within the scope of consideration to kill one person in order to save ten, most people will consider this solution completely inacceptable. Why? Perhaps because then nobody would ever again dare to go and “see the doctor”.

To me, this seems the real purpose of moral: we want to make things we are afraid of impossible. Things that we want to avoid at all costs. Consequently, those are the things where you have to say: this is a no-go! The very idea is a taboo.

For me, this “mental experiment” is so valuable because perhaps it teaches us what lies behind morals (You do not do this!).

The public television channels, too, are now concerned with ethics. On October, 17th, 2016, the ARD broadcast the TV experiment “Terror – Your Verdict“. And then they asked the audience to decide how the film ends (guilty or not guilty for the pilot with the ethical dilemma). However, the critical voices I read afterwards were not really enthusiastic about the experiment.

Incidentally, I find the doctor example a lot more realistic than the one with the trolley. I imagine that doctors will actually once in a while be faced with this sort of dilemma, for instance if, after a catastrophe such as the Bad Aibling train crash, they have to decide what patients to help first. Even if this, too, is a lame example.

Let us go back to all those mental experiments with trolleys, trams, freight trains, etc. They are all rather exciting material for an intellectual discussion. But for practical application, it all seems extremely useless to me.

All those constructs originate in examples with traffic that is bound by tracks. However, I never heard of a single event where something like this happened in reality. Which means that no worker in transportation world-wide ever was confronted with this kind of situation. So we actually discuss and work intellectually and ethically with pure mind games.

In week-end SZ edition, you can find a well-written “digital” article about the Bad Aibling train accident. Twelve persons were killed and 89 wounded on the morning of February, 9th. The digital article is titled
Chronologie eines vermeidbaren Unglücks
(Chronology of an accident that could have been avoided).
I strongly recommend that you read the article by clicking on the link.

This shows that reality looks totally different. Especially if you have an accident situation. We learn that:

  • With those electronic signal-boxes that are technologically up-to-date as far as DB standards are concerned, the station inspector would have been notified of his first ok-signal a lot more sternly: at least by a thick, red, sparkling arrow. However, there is no such display at the Bad Aibling signal-box, because the technology was older. This was a safety risk the Deutsche Bahn had long been aware of. An internal guideline would have recommended as early as in the 1980ies that the relay signal-box should be updated. If the signal-box had been “digitalized” to meet the “current state of technology”, there might have been a good chance that the accident would not have happened. A complete digitalization would probably have prevented the entire accident. Maybe we should discuss if that is ethical?

What else do we learn?

  • Shift work is not a good thing! 
The station inspector had started work at 5 a.m. The way from his family residence on a farm to his place of work at Bad Aibling – ten kilometres west of Rosenheim – is forty-five minutes. Due to a storm the German Weather Service had announced during the night, the station inspector had probably left home even earlier than usual. This makes me assume that his alarm clock will have rung around 3.00 a.m. In other words: he cannot have had a very long night. 
Shift work is always a problem. It is detrimental for your health. There are many studies that prove this fact. And whenever I sit in an S-Bahn train early in the morning (with which I mean before 6.00 a.m.), I only see grey faces (except those of the young girls and boys who enter at Ostbahnhof on their way home from the “Kunstpark Ost”). And all those people are not really at their best at this time of day. At least I am not. But here the good news:  
Computers (digital systems) do not mind night shifts!

We also learn that you should not play computer games when working.

  • Computer games are dangerous! 
At 5.11 a.m., the station inspector starts the video game “Dungeon Hunter 5“ on his smartphone. In the virtual role play, he is hunting monsters and villains as reward hunter. It says in the railway service regulations that station inspectors may use their smartphones at work when it is necessary for their job. Games are explicitly forbidden. And everybody will immediately say that, of course, computer games are not allowed at work. 
But is that realistic? Who abides by the rule? After all, we get more and more standby work places. The best example is the extremely well-paid job of the pilot. They are top earners and their job is tough. Shifting work schedules, night shifts, climate changes, etc. 
Except that they told me that the average pilot of a long-distance flight of around eight hours only has two five-minute intervals during which he actually has to work hard. So what to do during all the other hours? Drink? Well, that is something you are not allowed to do. So the only thing you can do is play. I also remember well all the fairs I attended where the bored personnel enjoyed playing solitaire on their PCs – and I freely admit that I, too, had a time when I was solitaire addicted. Mind you, this is not because of the game addiction. Anybody can get game addicted. Instead, it is because this game was probably the reason why Windows ever became great. The good news is again: 
Computers (digital systems) do not play! They focus on their work!

That is why I believe we should – first and foremost – get digitalization well under way in order to make life healthier and safer.

Except – the cars of the future are now supposed to solve these problems by using programs – at least that is what the ethics commission thinks. And they have to decide which cyclist is to be victimized if in a situation (mental experiment!) there is a choice between killing one or the other cyclist. Let us assume the one cyclist is a man riding without a helmet. The other cyclist is a woman wearing a helmet. Should the system decide that the woman will be overrun because – due to her helmet – she has the better chance at survival? Or the man as punishment for not wearing his helmet? Or should they base the decision on gender or age? Or on what social responsibility the man or the woman has …

To me, this all looks like nonsense. Consequently, I do not appreciate the Dobrindt ethics commission. As likely as not, it is just another small piece in the mosaic for the next election race with which the Big Coalition wants to show what important topics it – as the only administration world-wide, just like with data security – has been tackling so courageously and prudently, thus having a particularly responsible position in digitalization. Even if such a position is actually far from reality in current times.
Someone once said: all politicians talk digital change and throw terms such as block chain and big data around. Yet they have no idea what those terms mean! Just like they want reforms but no change (reform is violence-free change). And innovation is promoted, but nobody promotes destruction. Except: innovation is basically nothing other than creative destruction. I always get the impression that politicians who hear stories of bloggers and blogs always secretly contact the block warden in order to prevent things from happening.

If at all, I would wish for an ethics commission in the ministry of Frau van der Leyen. Such a commission could relate how ethically desirable the use of fighting drones and robots  is, for instance, for freely killing humans. The problem that the internet runs following the motto “the winner takes it all” and the question if it is ethical that some day a concern like google might determine the world alphabet are perhaps useful commission topics. Why not for the Ministry of Trade and Social Relations?

(Translated by EG)