Roland Dürre
Saturday December 29th, 2018

This Way or That Way?!

We have the choice. Continue as before or continue to live?

Here is something I found online:

Here is the translation:


Buy-Nothing List

  • Do I really need this?
  • How many of the same product do I have already?
  • How often will I actually use it?
  • How long will it remain in working order?
  • Can I let someone else borrow it?
  • Do I have something similar?
  • Can I live without it?
  • Can I repair it myself?
  • Do I really want it?
  • What will I do with it when I no longer need it?
  • Who gets the money I pay for it?
  • How and where was it made?
  • How long will it make me happy?

There are two opinions:

A)
If this Mem becomes common consent, Germany can close its doors in one week. 
The reason is evidently that our system will no longer work.

B)
If this Mem becomes common consent, your children and their children might at least have a chance to live off what this earth could offer.
? The reasoning is that consumption mania leads us away from ourselves. We are part of nature!

We have the choice!
It does not seem to be an easy choice.
Why?
When, on Silvester night, the rockets will again go up, I will think about it. For the new year.

RMD
(Translated by EG)

Between November, 23rd, and December, 8th, 2018, Barbara and yours truly spent two weeks aboard a ship in the Caribbean. We saw nine islands. In former times, I often wrote travelling journals during my trips, and reported in great detail what I had done and experienced. This time around, I decided to proceed differently: I will just jot down all the impulses and inspirations I had during the trip.

Travelling inspires you and gives you impulses (© Luc Bosma)(© Luc Bosma)

This is supposed to introduce a series of articles about my trip. I will illustrate the articles with nice pictures. Some of the pictures have been taken by me, some are from Luc Bosma. Among those is the picture of flying flamingos you see here.

An Overview:
Setting out from La Romana, we visited the following nine islands:
Martinique (as a French overseas territory in the EU), Barbados (independent and a member of the Commonwealth of Nations), Gouadeloupe (as a French overseas territory in the EU), Dominica, St. Lucia , St. Lucia , Grenada (all three of them are independent and members of the Commonwealth of Nations), Bonaire (a special municipality of the Netherlands), Curaçao (part of the Dutch Kingdom ) and Aruba (one of the four states with equal rights that belong to the Dutch Kingdom ). The last three are also known as the ABC islands and are geographically a part of South America. They are not far from Venezuela. The other islands geographically belong to the Lesser Antilles. If you follow the link, you will find many interesting things. It is well worth reading about.

Each of those islands is a small country. For me, it was remarkable to see that some of these countries actually have no armies. Basically, some of these countries have problems beside which the fear of external enemies looks small.

In the next few weeks, I will tell you all the new things I learned during this trip and what especially impressed me.
And here is a first enlightenment that could not have happened without the trip:

If you arrive on the European part of the Caribbean and all of a sudden you can again use your flatrate on the Smart Phone, you will immediately feel very much at home.

So here is what I postulate: for many people, home is where you have unhindered and cost-neutral use of your smart phone.

There is somebody at home. (Foto © Luc Bosma, Bonaire)

As I see it, this is definitely a definition of home that should be taken seriously!

Now I will work on the first actual article as instalment #1 – it will be about slavery and serfdom.

RMD
(Translated by EG)

16 Landmarks for Free and Agile Schools.

 

Roland’s first day at school.

With each year I gain in age, there is a growing belief that we experience such a huge amount of unconceivable nonsense, enmity and cruelty in life because we are socialized as young persons in such a way that we will later, as adolescents and adults, do all these stupid things. We are enveloped in our socialization.

The first diapers immediately after we are born might well serve as a metaphor for such a development. We need the diapers because otherwise we would leave too many tracks. And with every day of our young lives, the development continues. We learn what we should and should not do, what is good and what is evil, what is right and what is wrong, what is bad and what is nice,…

In order to de-velop autonomously, we must anti-en-velope ourselves – which, naturally, is difficult or even impossible.

I have the hope (or illusion?) that, as parents, along with the parents and supported by the external instance that we call school, you could do a far better job making the future generation happy than it happens now.
As a reaction to my article on “schools“, I learned that I am not the only person who starts getting impatient with educational politics.

So why don’t we do something about it!

In my IF-Blog, I wrote how I experienced my visit at Marbach Christophine  (Cristophine I), as well as how school could and should work, My next article (Christophine II) on the topic had some arguments why I consider a new form and implementation of school absolutely necessary.

I recently discovered an old paper buried under other papers that deals with the Freien Schule Christophine (FSC). The paper describes sixteen landmarks for positioning the FSC. For me, every one of the block we call landmarks named in the paper is a metaphor for a dimension of thinking that a free school needs to have. Since I feel that it is a waste if such precious ideas sit in drawers unread, I will now publish these sixteen landmarks.

Every one of the blocks/landmarks describes a dimension of thinking and the sum of them is the mind-set that a free school must have. They show how pupils, parents and teachers as the important stakeholders of a free school, but also the school management and school college as relevant councils think and feel.

I found the landmarks as the structured establishment of this special school, the marbacher christophine (marbacher christophine). I assume that the landmarks, too, have been written by Lorenz Obleser, who is the father of the “Marbacher Pädagogik“.

In this article, the “Christophine“ is a metaphor for a “free, agile school that is self-organised by teachers, parents and children”. I assume that there are quite a few of them and that many educational experts would like to proceed in the same way. This makes me quite happy, because before long the first of my grandchildren will start school.

In the sixteen mile-stones listed below, pupils, teachers, parents, but also the teaching college and the school management will be heard. To me, what these stakeholders of the school say sounds authentic. They provide a story about the standard defined in the landmarks of the FSC (Freien Schule Christophine) which, for me, is an exceptional model for a functioning, agile, self-organized and free school. The landmark is a block that tells you about the stakeholder – and at the end of each block, the importance will once more be summarized (inversely) .

Now let us just read the landmarks and let the impression sink in. it might help if we switch off our brains and just be open for the messages.

 


 

 

Being open while walking and thinking in springtime.

16 landmarks

 


 

Landmark #1: Individuality in Schools

Pupils
I learn mathematics, write a story, work in my exercise book, practice orthography. We do some research, observe a cat. I go upstairs to dance, play outside with Diabolo.

Parents
If I were a teacher, I do not think I would be able to react adequately if a child behaved like my son. He is certainly very special.

College of teachers
The solutions the children find are very different. Two children have never been the same.

School management

Who of us knows what they are really talking about when we say ”individuality”? For far too many years, it was an unknown quantity.

At Chrisophine, the children are constantly encouraged to try what they can do, to find new formulations and to be creative. In this culture of self-education, everyone, regardless of intellectual potential, can learn about his or her individuality and maintain his or her identity. That is true both for the pupils and the adults. If this is how you treat each other, the respect for the individuality of the other party will grow. This honesty will enrich daily school life, because all parties concerned with school can productively contribute during the various learning processes.


 

Landmark #2: Ways of learning at school

Pupils

I will do this later. First I want to read something.

Parents
Luckily, a look at the mathematics exercise book will tell you what the children already learned.

Pupils

Too easy? Well, I did this for N. He is a first grader.

College
Why do they say “continuous learning” when you are talking about adults but “additional learning” when you are talking about children?

Pupils

Now I want to learn how to write with a pen.

School management
Activity-oriented? That sounds quite well. For me, it is more important to make children understand that they can actually act.

Not only from the physiological viewpoint, learning is one of the most individual and personal processes. It always happens in cognitive, aesthetical and social connections. The school Christophine accompanies the children on their way towards finding successful learning approaches. They can make experiences through all the sensual channels because, after all, stored knowledge, too, will be retrieved in different ways. The individual learning approaches characterize the different types of learners. Through our individualized work in open classrooms, we help the children to find and also move to a higher level of frustration tolerance thresholds through experiences of success.


 

Landmark #3: Self-organization as a goal of learning

School management
Please write on your work cards what you do.

College
I have to do all the documentation, the children will forget.
School management 
It has been a long time since you last did any mathematics, hasn’t it?

Pupils
Today, I did some mathematics because my mother told me to. Otherwise I would have had to do it at home.

School management

If a child tells me he/she find something boring, I will not respond. If it asks for recommendations what to do, I say: do your mathematics. They like procrastinating.

Parents
He always does his homework, there is never a problem.

At the Christophine, our work is based on findings that show that children have enough creative potential to notice their learning situation and to also make themselves part of the formulation of said learning situations. Children can form their environment quite well in a structured and creative way in order to adopt them to their needs. The school Christohine supplies the pupils with the tools they need in order to give them the necessary room for self-projection. At the Christophine, all parties concerned can find their own structures because structures developed in this way can have more stability. This is true both for learning and being together.


 

Landmark #4 – Activity and Co-operation

Pupils

Come here, I will show you how you can easily find out about this.

College
If N says he does not want to do anything, or if he does not even say anything, then this is always initially shocking for me.

Pupils
Why do you ask if I enjoy this? At school, I only do things I enjoy. That is why, once in a while, I also do nothing at all. We are the same age and our birthdays are in the same week. But what grade are you in?

Parents
Again and again, we hear during parent interviews that he is not working at all. I asked you before: do you think our son learns enough?

Christophine clearly and pointedly counts on the initiative of the pupils. Starting from such initiatives, questions that often lead to other work will develop. Sometimes there will be a call for employees or corrections, for motivators or partners that share some of the learning experience. The fact that pupils like to rely on familiar things in the form of structured work materials shows that they like to know that they actually made some progress in learning.


 

Landmark #5 – Self Effectiveness

College

Why don’t you go to the city council and tell them about it?

Pupils
I will ask the bus driver.

Parents
We then went to all the bakeries in town and asked them for their pasta recipes.
School Administration 
Well, you are correct. It was not a good idea of mine to say this.
Parents
It is not important that he attends grammar school. The only thing that matters is that, in the coming months, he gets his balance back and can again enjoy school.

College
I do not appreciate this kind of manners.

Pupils
Why don’t you let him have his say …

As the philosopher Peter Sloterdijk says, learning is not a step towards a later state but joy in the current state: “Learning means looking forward to finding out about yourself. This state of looking forward to the next phase in your life is what matters”. The Christophine school insists that the original joy of learning and the creativity and self-effectiveness remain important during the learning process. Even if the ease with which a person used to learn is lost later in life: if he remembers that learning was always a joy, he will still be able to learn later in life.


 

Milestone #6 – Social Competences

Pupils

Take a look at the school compass. At this school, that is our sixth finger: togetherness.

Parents

I was truly impressed by how self-relying and strong every child looked as they stood there.

Teachers

However, you can also see how they all constantly get stuck in dependencies.
School Management
Our school thrives on doing things together. That includes playing together and sharing your knowledge. Everything else can actually easily be done by private tutors.

It is important that the children learn to orient and assert themselves in society. If you want to gain technological competence at school, you cannot get it without cooperation. Remarkably, many children grow up without siblings. Since, simultaneously, many spaces of freedom for children away from school have been abolished, school as a social space for learning has gained importance. Just as the children have to assert themselves at school, so the entire school system has to manifest itself in the educational environment.


 

Milestone #7 – Knowledge and Competences

School Management
Please ask R., he tackled the same problem yesterday.

Parents
It always surprises me to hear his stories.

Pupils
There is nobody who has no competence anywhere. Everybody can show you something.

Teachers
Well, we do want a child to succeed at a higher school without him/her having to take extra private tuition.

We give the cultural achievements mathematics and writing a huge priority. Our school is a place full of challenges. Learning and working both enjoy a huge amount of appreciation. In this sense, our school wants to be an actual space where there is a lot to realize and to enjoy but little to just consume. The high degree of motivation is supposed to inspire not only the pupils, but also the grown-ups.


 

Milestone #8 School as an Environment for Experiences

Teachers

If that is what you want, then start organizing what you need. I will gladly help you. You only need to let me know.

Parents
We parents do not even know how the school gained its experience.

School Management

Well, the school is, after all, a place that learns, too.
Pupils
I cannot do this. I do not want to do this. This was a failure.

Teachers
Let us analyse why this project failed.

Pupils
I want us to vote … but there is already a rule. Basically, we said … I am the circle leader and will decide how we do it. You can change this procedure if you are the circle leader. I want to include this in the final discussion.

It is not at all true that, in order to make learning possible, we exclusively take advantage of original situations. Enlightenment does not have to strike quasi epiphani-like in the lecture hall. A lot of experience is necessary during all those many strenuous moments of everyday school life. In this sense, we also consider the usual work a practice that can expand our possible courses of action.


Milestone # 9 – School in the Context of the City

Pupils
It is about time that we visit there again.

School Management

I am sure that the children will be taken seriously wherever they go. Because everybody knows our Christophine School.

Pupils

“Dear Mayor, we would like to see you and talk about the defunct traffic lights“. – “Dear Police, could you please come and visit our classroom. Three four-graders need to do the bike test.“

Teachers
At long last, we managed to visit the museum again.

School Management
The sports club offers us their facilities during the third hour of the school day.

Parents

Parents always have to make some kind of contribution. Basically, the school cannot do everything. I take my son to painting and sports lessons.
Thank you so much for taking the children on the outing.

Our city of Marbach and its regional environment are the topsoil on which our school will grow and on which our lives will succeed. The pupils either come from here or go by bus or train. We can climb the city walls, jump around in the castle ruins or read poems in the house where Schiller was born. Here, we have neighbours who get angry with us if we sneak into their gardens and take the strawberries.


Milestone # 10 Fear-Free School

Parents

My son is always unhappy when the school is closed.

School Management

I am not always free of worries when I enter the school building. But in the assembly hall, I always see that we are actually quite well equipped.

Teachers
Well, it is normal if you see the coming school day with respect, isn’t it?

Pupils
If someone acts around with a wooden stick in the garden, I get scared. But only if he/she hits me. Whenever someone hits me, I will see to it that he gets one week of stick ban.

We should not fear fear. However, we must not make anybody fearful. We are a school that encourages, we are capable of enjoying mistakes, of making a glitch the reason to take a break and of once in a while laughing about minor errors. Emotions regulate the quality of teaching in the lecture room. However, sometimes our feelings can also be our own impediments.


Milestone # 11 – Role of the Grown-Ups

School Management

See what I found for you. It seems that you still have a problem or two to solve.

Pupils

I need a certain tool. Do you know where I can find it?

Teachers

I take up what the pupils suggest. If there is not enough coming from them, I will start doing something, produce something in the sense of our definition of work.

Pupils
These things have all been self-taught.

Parents
I presume you accompany the children more when they learn?

We only have one teacher. But everybody is sometimes the master, the school master and the one who accompanies them when they learn. Some persons are players. Some have responsibility. They are the boss. But that is not a question of age. It is more a question of standards, competence and desires.


 

Milestone # 12 – Common Reflexion in the Assembly Hall.

Teachers

What can we change to improve matters for next time?

School Management

Our school needs an institutionalized place for doubts. I mean doubts about the pedagogical concept, the things we do, our teaching material, our policy, everything we get upset about.

Teachers
Innovative? The children are more conservative than I am.

School Management
Our school is now in its third evaluation year. I will not continue in the same way as before.

Even our furniture shows the importance of communication. We have a meeting corner, the quadratic shape of our pedagocical circle. Here is where our community has a place to meet, here is where we discuss difficult situations and here is where we meet friends for easy leisure. The role of discussion moderator changes all the time. This guarantees an e.ducation that is not only supposed to lead towards a democratic understanding, but that also has its place in interdependencies made aware through discourses and democratic circumstances.


 

Milestone # 13 – School Celebrating

School Management

Welcome to our big festival in May, our show at year’s end, our big party on the first vacation day. …

Pupils
Today, we must celebrate three birthdays: the birthdays of J. and C. were during vacation times.

School Management

If someone managed to do something great or discover something new, that in itself is worth celebrating. I say: that is a reason to celebrate.

Pupils

Why don’t we sing the other song again? Oh, no!

Taking the citizen society as a model, people meet at Christophine in order to take charge of their affairs and thus contribute towards a successful school life. Both the management of everyday problems and the planning and realization of school parties or excursions are part of this concept. The grown-ups motivate this process of management by pointing towards future events or problems during discussion time.


Milestone # 14 –  School versus Family

Teachers
Basically, we highlighted the partnership with the families quite well in our school contract.

Parents
This is what I keep telling everybody: they talk a lot more with each other at this school.

Pupils
You have no right to order me around. You are not my mother.

School Management
However, I do not consider chatting on the corridors a binding exchange of ideas between school and family. It is more like the lubricant for common pedagogical activities.

Pupils
Last Saturday, my mom took me along when she went to clean the school building. I had the run of the entire house.

In many school situations, you can observe a family spirit. It is responsible for all parties concerned feeling comfortable in their groups. They also know that there is a feeling of belonging in what they do. There are intimate situations full of self-recognition and also affection. Since, however, our school, too, is an independent institution, i.e. an institution of learning, we will not allow families to delegate their jobs to us. School and family are two fields that need not follow the same rules.


 

Milestone # 15 – Diversity at School

School Management

I certainly want to represent diversity.

Parents
Basically, the families come from various milieus.

School Management

We motivate everyone to visit us in the assembly hall. And if you want to visit, you will have to bring something in return. Because we also want to benefit from your visit.

Teachers
Starwars, Ninjago and James Bond. More often than not, you do not get too many diverse ideas.

Having to make decisions at all times is quite demanding for all parties concerned. The plurality of school work and stimulations you get as a consequence will guarantee that the content is multiplied and that you get quite surprising friction areas and points of contact. It is the duty of the school to enable the students to get a good grip on their own strength and their own images in order to offer them an alternative to the one-dimensional consumption society.


 

Milestone # 16 – Great Expectations and Modest Pretences

Pupils
The children decide by themselves … you said so yourself.

School Management
The pedagogic development and the economic growth are harmoniously intertwined. If you do not need to pay back debts, it is easier to learn.

Parents
The way we follow their progress is always linked with the development of the children. There will come a day when they will have to attend another school…

Teachers
The Christophine is our place of work. Where everything grows, you would expect that, some day, perhaps you could earn a little more than now?

The School
 Christophine was built into the educational environment because there was a huge political impatience in the educational sector. By now, it has four years of experience. The supporter has four years left to pay off the initial debt. There is still room for eleven pupils in the building. That is how long the wish of the parents to get a secondary school will have to wait. …


Here is the source of my ideas:
CHRISTOPHINE – marbach – free school
Freie Schule Christophine e.V. · Ludwigsburger Straße 24a · 71672 Marbach am Neckar · 07144/305 80 98
info@freie-schule-christophine.de · www.freie-schule-christophine.de
Kreissparkasse Ludwigsburg BLZ 604 500 50 Konto 300 520 11· GLS Gemeinschaftsbank BLZ 430 609 67 Konto 700 5615 700


I published the milestones because I think they are an excellent and rather commonly acceptable inspiration for all those who are interested in school life and yearn for an agile and free school!

RMD
(Translated by EG)

Roland Dürre
Wednesday November 15th, 2017

The Future of the Planet

Today, I will not write about electric bikes or sex, but about politics.

The Jamaican coat of arms

Jamaica

Currently, many people develop a sudden interest in the land of Bob Marley. It is about Jamaica, which, naturally, is only a silly word-play. It is all about the “Coalition Discussions“ (Koalitionsverhandlungen) in Berlin. We call them Jamaica because the coat of arms of this country is identical with the colours of the parties concerned (black, yellow and green).

I must admit that I had been hopeful for the Green Party to be the positive factor in these discussions.

But what is the Green Party doing?

They went to Berlin with demands that were probably justified but it is clear that these demands cannot be successfully pushed through during negotiations (which has already been proved). The first of these demands was that the combustion motor be abolished in the year 2030 (1) and the second was that all coal-based power plants be closed by the same year (2). Especially (1) sounds more than utopian. Besides, we do not need general goals but actual measures.

Electricity must replace coal, not use it up!

I will not comment on (2). After all, it is evident that the only way we can and must end the “dark” era when fossil energy was burned using electricity. Yet replacing coal by electricity cannot mean that half of the electricity world-wide is produced with coal. This must (and will soon) become a thing of the past. However, I find (1) a lot more exciting.

Driving an automobile is out!

Everybody must realize that an “individual mobility” based on electricity cannot and will not be the same as many of us now use the car. Just like “autonomous cars”, too, will not be driven in the same way as MEN and WOMEN drive them now.

2030 will soon be here!

In only 12 years, it will have arrived – that is as many years as the life-span of a car used to be. In that respect, what the Green Party demanded would have been rather easy to realize.

Prepare for the exit!

One of the factors is to quickly establish a speed limit – if necessary, why not step-by-step so that people can get used to it – but with a clear end even before 2020 at a maximum of 30 km/h in closed built-up areas, 70 km/h on secondary streets and 100 km/h on motorways. And, also step-by-step, a truly relevant and drastic increase in taxes on fossil fuel (including kerosene for planes). And if then the gigantic subsidies on “business cars” (at least the huge practice of abuse) were finally restricted, then the entire scenario would make sense!

Slim end efficient!

That would be a slim and efficient solution and it would raise hopes for a “soft landing”. It would also make quite a few stupid ideas, such as road charges, obsolete. And the Green Party, perhaps for good reasons, does not wish to be unpopular. Mind you, I personally believe that being unpopular brings you more votes than it costs you.

Investing in the future

And the money you get from all these projects must not be spent for building even more new motorway crossings on two levels with up to ten lanes, which today apparently, as a consequence of the motorway expansion having to happen on ever more lanes, has become a necessity. Instead, we should invest these moneys in a public transport system and, of course, in the “energy change” – which basically only means the abolition of nuclear and coal-based electricity production. As I see it, we are actually already quite well under way in this respect.

RMD
(Translated by EG)

Klaus Hnilica
Thursday June 1st, 2017

An Outrageous Summing-Up!

He had promised himself that this was going to happen: when he, ’Colonel ’ Vatter – two “t-s”, please – would turn seventy, and if by then he would still be clear-headed, – then he would write a summing-up of his life in front of the entire family clan Vatter, especially in front of his wife Cornelia, his daughter Conny and his son Corni! And since, even in early childhood, he had been given the nickname ’Colonel’, the ’ruthless summing-up of his life’ was a foregone conclusion.

Or rather, it was ’some kind of summing-up’! Just like you also have double accounting!

Basically, it was a dry listing of ’positive’ and ’negative’ assets, including a subsequent ’balancing’, just like on a scale, that was now determined!

Without qualms and totally self-critical, he was going to list under ’positive assets’ everything that he had managed to accomplish in his life and how he had left all losers behind. And, naturally, under ’negative assets’, he was going to list everything that others had failed to accomplish! He was going to list their failures in the most precise and unbiased way, just like all diligent book-keepers traditionally knew that was their duty!

Basically, in his opinion, every upright man should make such a list when he nears the end of his life in a neutral and humble way! A balance sheet of life where you focus as clear as glass and judge your success and other people’s failures.

Even your own family could not be left out of such a balance sheet, provided you wanted to include them.

But then, everything had to be dug up and put on the table. Even if you only had the dining room table – because no other table was big enough. Naturally, this was a nightmare for his much-loved Cornelia: because said dining table was overflowing with stone-hard breakfast eggs, tough steaks, burnt schnitzels, half-cooked chicken legs, mushy beans, hard milk-rice and many, many more ’delicacies’ from her kitchen!

But then, after a short hysterical spell of screaming, she would certainly have calmed down and understood that such a balancing only made sense if it was carried out with the highest possible degree of honesty.

And if on this ’dinner table of life achievements’ space would have become really scarce – since perhaps Conny and Corni, too, would have bashfully added their ’failure packets’ – then he, the ’Colonel’ would certainly have been quite willing to place his ’palette of successes’ underneath the table. After all, there was plenty of space and Conny and Corni would have had an ideal opportunity to learn in a very pedagogic way how the German proverb ’modesty is a virtue’ can be both strikingly demonstrated and lived in practice! And they would have experienced themselves what our Federal Chancellor had recently said when she had talked about ’our values giving us a sense of feeling at home’…

Initially, he had actually believed that this kind of ’life balance sheet’ might well also have been written as an ’interim balance’ focussing on special phases in life. For instance, even as early as on his fiftieth birthday, such a balance could have been written – especially if you looked at his unparalleled career!

But unfortunately, at the time, his well-loved Cornelia had run amok and had, out of the blue, demanded a divorce. Just because, again, she had made an elephant out of a mosquito, this time named Marianne! Mind you, it had been Cornelia herself who had introduced this Marianne to the family. Against the wishes of the ’Colonel ’!

My God, how she had idolized the much younger Marianne! The two were inseparable! And every shopping tour with her had been celebrated like a glimpse of paradise. Cornelia could and would simply not see that the golden Marianne was bringing nothing but discord into the harmonious Vatter family.

Actually, at the time, he, the ’Colonel ’ himself, had to get active and show her once and for all where the limits were that she could not trespass. However, she needed to be shown those limits all the time. It had been really bad – there were days when – hard to believe though it might be – she needed three limits in a row!

Eventually, the ’Colonel ’ had been more than happy when Cornelia finally saw that this Marianne person had to leave. And instantly! However, the idea Cornelia – in some sort of somnambulant shock – had come up with that they needed a divorce, was quite over the top and called for medical treatment. Of course, the ’Colonel’ was more than considerate and thus, to make matters bearable for her, refrained from the aforementioned first ’interim life balance report’ when he turned fifty: After all, among the ’negative assets’, one would have had to write Cornelia’s less than beautiful desire to get a divorce, while, at the time, he would have had to write his advance into the concern management among the ’positive assets’. That would have been the only way for such a documentation to make sense, rather than just becoming a stale re-interpretation of the truth.

But, naturally, he did not want to thus punish Cornelia! She was desperate enough as it was!

The children, too, had been against the idea. Well, they hardly had anything noteworthy to report under ’positive assets’, which would have meant he alone would have appeared there …

No – it had really been quite a good idea at the time from which all parties concerned benefited to refrain from this first ’partial life balancing’. After all, for him, a ’Colonel’ such an omission was definitely bearable!

Following the logic at the time, another chance for an ’interim balancing’ would have been when he had turned sixty! In fact, he had been quite prepared to do so and had already collected and listed loads of material. But then this excruciating data theft became fashionable, where illegally gained information about diverse Swiss accounts had been offered to the German finance system. Since ancient times, the entire world had parked their dirty money on these accounts. And suddenly, everybody who owned perhaps a million or two more was called a tax fraud – and worse!

Naturally, the ’Colonel ’ had to be the shining model for his children Conny and Corni and, by being one of the first who reported himself to the authorities, demonstrate to them that tax fraud was just something you did not do! And that, if your slate was clean, you never had to be afraid that the legal authorities who suddenly started to move all over the place might come after you.

However, when suddenly, one week before his birthday, the finance authority officers had invited themselves for a kind of ’pre-birthday-party’, his much-loved Cornelia opined that, this one time, it was probably a good idea to limit the celebration to the immediate family. Since her nerves were already very tightly strung, the ’Colonel’, naturally, agreed without hesitation. When expressing his gratitude in a few words, he refrained from even the slightest hint at a ’life balancing’. With his tendency towards honesty and unadorned truth, such behaviour would only have stirred up unwelcome dust from his environment. Not to mention the immense problems that the very fragile health of his extremely old mother and his even older father would have caused. Neither of them had long survived the subsequent debacle of the European Financial World – they had each lost too much money …

But now, on his seventieth birthday – the ’life balancing’ was finally going to happen!

At least a short version thereof!

All that would have been inconvenient had now more or less been omitted or made itself obsolete: for instance Cornelia, who, five years ago, had separated from her ’Colonel’ and was now living in Belgium with a musician. Allegedly, Conny was doing well with her family in the USA and Corni was in an important bank director in England.

Well, the problem was actually that now, although nobody was in his way, there was also nobody he could have told about his grandiose successes. Except the two drunken nephews and the cross-eyed cousin he had not talked to in thirty years! And, of course, Marianne, with whom he had now lived for six years, because she had never given up her habit of breaking down all obstacles that blocked her path!

Marianne, however, although she was a wonderfully attractive lady, had not the slightest bit of understanding for his, as she called it, almost ’sickly chronic self-indulgence’: on the contrary, she herself wanted to be admired! And all those silly memories from the past were things she certainly could not have cared less about!
But if he, the ’Colonel’ felt that he needed to give a life balancing, then why did he not himself write down his great life achievement. Quasi as a last will for the entire Vatter family. And now he also had time, didn’t he?

With these words, she pressed a brand-new, lockable, leather-bound note book into the hands of her ’Colonel ’ – hands that were overflowing with age spots. She added a quick kiss on the dried-up wrinkles of a forehead that already reached to the nape of his neck.

If, however, this was too much of an effort for him, whispered Marianne, then he could feel free to tell his entire life balancing story to Inge the cleaning lady who, as always, was going to care well for him: since she turned off her hearing aid most of the time anyway, it was a good idea to tell her about his great life on a daily basis –and in the process, he could include all his small, big and even bigger indecencies in detail! Wasn’t this a great way to spend the day for a man in his prime! And – without catching air – she happily told him that now, in a real hurry, she had to be on her way to the airport, since she was flying to the Algarve with their daughter Carola to play golf! Even from the already open door, she managed to send an entire salve of the hottest kisses towards her ’Colonel ’ …

KH
(Translated by EG)

Roland Dürre
Monday January 23rd, 2017

Inflation in Local Traffic

I did not pay too much attention to the latest Deutsche Bahn price increase at the time when the schedule changed from summer to winter. I just had made a mental note that the “Deutsche Bahn increases its prices for long-distance travelling by 1.3 per cent on average”. That is what the SZ, too, had written.

The Shuttle Munich-Nuremberg Today on Arrival at Nuremberg.

But it turns out that was a myth!

On Saturday, I wanted to go to Augsburg with three other persons. So I ordered a Bayern-Ticket on the internet. My eyes almost pop out: it now costs 25 €. A very short time ago, it was 23 €. That means it is more expensive by 2 €, which is an increase of around 9 %.

Well, I can survive that, can’t I? But then comes the other surprise: all travellers sharing my ticket (up to four are possible) used to cost 5 € per person. Now they cost 6 € per person. That is 20 % more.

Consequently, the Bayern Ticket for our small group is now 25 € plus three persons à 6 €, which is 25 € plus 18 €, in sum 43 €. Well, that is no less than the price I occasionally pay for two long-distance DB tickets to Sylt (for instance in February).

Formerly, I paid 23 € plus 3 persons times 5 €, which was 38 €. Consequently, the price for the four of us increased from 38 € to 43 €. Well that is 5 € more, which means an increase of 13 %.

I also admire the “rounded prices” they so easily come up with. To be sure, cents are inconvenient and more and more shops simply round the sum when you purchase products. But simply obscuring the first digit after the comma – after all, we are talking 10 cents, that used to be 20 Pfennige – is a little strange to my way of thinking.

Incidentally, there is also an inflation on special tickets for all kinds of things: with and without local traffic in transport associations, for special regions, between cities or for a maximum distance. This is how they make everything more complicated. And if you include the basic moon prices and the similarly introduced low prices (special offers in long-distance travel), then the price policy of Deutsche Bank gets more and more bizarre.

This is how empty the shuttle looks at 4 p.m. – I always carry my chrome book.

However, I only get annoyed once in a while and later continue going places by train, because, for me, there is simply no alternative to railways. Consequently, I am also going to Nuremberg and back with the Bayern Ticket today after having paid my 25 €. After all, the train is a good place to sit and answer all your emails and write all your articles. That is something you cannot do when driving a car.

Basically, driving a car is out of the question for me these days. According to social research, the majority of our people are embittered. I, too, would be bitter if I had to spend one or more hours behind the wheel of car each day. I prefer going by train and enjoy seeing how google waits in front of the A9 traffic jam. It is my morbid delight in the failure of a stupid system.

Going by bus would be an alternative to going by train. But that is not my idea of travelling. I am a little spoiled because of the mostly rather empty DB region trains and do not enjoy being squeezed into narrow busses that are often forced over the streets of this republic in self-suicidal mode by their drivers. Besides, meinBus and flixBus had to cut their networks considerably and drop quite a few connections from their list of destinations, because the venture capitalists who own the companies no longer felt like permanently making up for the deficit.

So here is what I will do: I will continue to go by train and hope that the density of train services with the resulting mostly empty trains will remain the normal state of affairs. …

Incidentally, the German railway is not the only company where these enormous price increases can be observed. You can also find it in public institutions and quality food, as well as with some everyday articles. And in real estate.

Yet now I hear that, allegedly, the inflation rate is still less than 2 %. Basically, I do not believe they lie to us on purpose. But I certainly do not believe the 1,X % – and I think they are not really interested in telling us that our savings dwindle. Which also means that the chasm between the rich and the poor continues to grow. We already have ample opportunity to see the consequences and can speculate on more of them to come.

RMD
(Translated by EG)

The shuttle to Munich on January, 23rd, 2017 at Nuremberg Central Station, platform 12.

Roland Dürre
Tuesday January 10th, 2017

BICYCLE Culture – an Interview with Roland Dürre

I basically know Franziska Köppe from the EnjoyWorkCamp. It is a very nice barcamp promoting a new understanding of work that is held annually in Stuttgart. Franziska interviewed me about my bicycle enthusiasm. The result is something that is very important in my life – which is why I revised it a little bit and then saved it in my IF blog, as well. However, I tried to leave those parts that came from Franziska as they were in the original version.


 

Active Mobility – Promotion and Request

January, 3rd, 2017 – Are car drivers the coachman of our times? Mobility is undergoing change. Since the 1950ies, the automobile industry has been strongly promoted – especially by politicians. The sector is said to be “system relevant’”. It is closely linked to many providers, as well as with traffic planning and lobbyism. But is that “system relevant”? Start-ups and the crowd economy, as well as cultural changes with respect to the behaviour of not only our young generation threaten conventional business models. I talked about bicycle culture and his own contribution towards our future mobility with the entrepreneur and mobility activist Roland Dürre.
(introduction by Franziska)


 

The Interview

Franziska: Hallo Roland, please introduce yourself to our readers. Who are you and what exactly do you do?

Roland: I do not know who I am. It feels to me like I am a human being, an activist, a blogger, a coach, a maker, an entrepreneur. I love life and my family. I try to be courageous and to very much enjoy what I do. After my retirement from the InterFace AG, it is – even more than before – my task to hand down experience and, if possible, to help others – especially younger persons – to become happy and successful. I am grateful for all the beautiful things I experienced in my life and will be happy if this gratefulness will further increase during my remaining years.

Franziska: One of your passions is riding your bicycle. What is the meaning of the word BICYCLE culture for you? What connotations does it have in your life?

Roland: Both culture and RIDING my BICYCLE are beautiful things. They go together well!
But let us look at what car culture brought us. Driving a car, I am totally isolated from everything that is outside my car. Other people become anonymous objects in other cars. I actually know people who, conscious of their own isolation when sitting behind the wheel of their car, use swear words they would never use in their normal environment. That is something I can easily understand.

Riding my bicycle, I am used to greeting cyclists I encounter. When standing at a red traffic light, I often start a conversation with persons riding on the bike next to me. I try to be considerate. As I see it, pedestrians should always have right of way before cyclists. But then, cyclists should also have right of way before cars.

Riding my bike, I see more that is happening around me. That is true both if I am on a bike journey in foreign countries and in Germany. Social contacts are quickly established. Riding my bicycle, however, I also see how many animals, such as toads, cats and dogs are killed by cars. It always makes my heart bleed.

Consequently, I see a correlation between driving a car and being ruthless and inconsiderate. Whatever is in the way of a car will be killed. Carbon dioxide is emitted, fine dust produced – and it all happens just because people want to be comfortable. It is normal to have 1.400,000 million fatalities world-wide, because you cannot do without a car. But the truth is: you can! I experienced it in a self-experiment. And you definitely feel better without a car.

Here is a cultural provocation: Car drivers are the coachmen of our times. Coachmen were not very well-liked, because whenever any of the common citizens were in their way as they drove through the narrow streets of the cities, they used their whips to beat them out of the way. In those days, coachmen were considered “scum and riff-raff?!

BICYCLE culture – a quiet and clean world with happier and healthier people.

Franziska: It is probably true that most of us – especially those living in big cities – consider mobility as something that has to be connected with a car. Mind you, not too long ago, it was a matter of course that people went by bicycle whenever they had to go somewhere that was more than five kilometre away. Let us return to bicycles. What kind of world would come to mind if you were permitted to dream BICYCLE culture?

Roland: A quiet and clean world with happier and healthier people. From a change in mobility concepts, progress in other areas of life would automatically develop. One of the things I like to say is: If someone cannot even get a grip on his or her mobility, how are they supposed to get a grip on their entire lives? After all, you cannot get anywhere without the “desire and ability to live a responsible life”.

Roland Dürre on his way from Salerno to Pisciotta

Franziska: So far so good. Except that the reality in everyday life does not look quite so blue and rosy. You already said it: That is one of the reasons why you are actively promoting “active motility”– AktMob, as you call it  ..

Roland: That is true. I know many streets in Munich where it is no fun at all to ride a bicycle. And on my big tours, it also happens time and again that I have to struggle through a street where I am really afraid I might die.

Mind you, AktMob is not just about riding a bicycle. It is about any sort of mobility that is not horse-drawn carriages, combustion motors or electronic cars. All that matters is that you are moving under your own steam. Be it with roller-blades, skate boards, hiking or using the

Franziska: In the traffic sector, cars as individual means of transportation have been promoted since the 1950ies. It was based on the political concept of the economic boom in Germany. Unfortunately, even this short time was enough to make our cities inhuman. Strange as it may seem, pedestrians and cyclist no longer belong to traffic in the cultural sense. Especially a look at kindergardens and schools every morning shows how absurd this sometimes is: children are driven by car because, due to all that traffic, it would be too dangerous for them to walk. How grotesque is that?

Cars as status symbols in the economic boom world.

Roland: What a good example! Cars were, indeed, not just an object that took you from A to B – especially for men. As soon as you had a driver’s licence and a car, you were at long last grown-up. It is certainly not totally wrong to call a car a phallic symbol. And sitting behind the steering wheel of a vehicle, men in particular feel omnipotent. Can you imagine anybody not liking that feeling?

But even more than that, the car was a status symbol in the economic boom world for Germany and the world where everybody was recuperating. The car is perhaps the best metaphor for bought happiness as a substitute for needs not being met.

When we were still young men and had no cars, we always got the impression that the beautiful young girls clearly preferred the men who owned cars – while they looked down their noses upon us non-car owners.

But the car was also a symbol for freedom – like the cigarette. And it was also a new private space – in the US, for instance, they say that there were several years during which more than half of the children were made on the backseats of cars. Even the Kinsey report said so. And these motorized vehicles certainly also were a nice thing when it came to our laziness. Well, and that such a god-like vehicle – especially when its marketing was also optimal and emotional – won over everything else is rather clear, isn’t it?

The critical mass – riding bicycles together

Franziska: With activities “We Are Traffic”, there are so-called Critical Masses on a monthly basis, both in Germany and world-wide. Cyclists make use of §27 of the StVO, which says that, as soon as they are more than 15 (critical mass), they may drive together. I am quite happy that this movement gets more and more popular in D-A-CH. For instance, it was a peaceful and joyful event for 3,290 cyclists last November in Germany. This year in July, the number had even increased to 13,371 [source: Daniel via itstartedwithafight]. Everybody can join – even if they only want to ride a short part of the way.

© Radlhauptstadt München – cyclists’ night 2016 [picture taken by Andreas Schebesta

Roland: I rather like Critical Mass! In particular, I appreciate the movement because it seems to be truly grass-root. And I am convinced that the only way to cause change is “from the bottom”. Politics and administration are paralyzed by lobbyists and their own rules and have neither a chance nor the desire to try anything. But – without someone trying something, nothing will happen!

Franziska: And yet you can find some bicycle enthusiast among the politicians, too. For instance look at your hometown. The city of Munich aspires to being called bicycle capital. This is also due to the commitment of Wigand von Sassen, who has now been responsible for the city bicycle campaign project since March 2009. Since they started with intense bicycle promotion, there has been a considerable increase in the relative number of cyclists among the total traffic. For instance, there are regular bike checks where you can have small repairs for free. In October, you had the cyclists’ night, in September the RadCouture… This is a lot of commitment in favour of BICYCLE culture. It shows a lot of courage and stamina.

But let us think in more modest terms. What can every one of us do? You do not always need grand gestures.

Driving a car – nothing but a bad habit?

Roland: It is definitely time for something to happen. However, I do not think the higher percentage of bicycles is due to an “intense” promotion of bicycles. In fact, I think that more and more persons discover that there are better ways of being mobile than using a car and also that a car eats up a lot of money. I see all those many cars as a prosperity reserve for the future where many of us will feel more “tightness”.

Driving a car is nothing but a bad habit. Basically, it is necessary for us to be willing and able to change our habits. Smoking is a good metaphor for the process. It is not easy and for many smokers unthinkable to become a non-smoker. And then you can do it against all the odds – and you will quickly feel a lot better.

Currently, I myself am a good example for how hard it is to change patterns you were used to and actually liked. On regional trips up to thirty kilometres, I only go by bike. But unfortunately also for short distances. So my personal mobility program is now “get off your bike and back to walking”. I want to do more hiking. And it is very hard for me to give up the old habit and not automatically mount my bicycle, even if I only have to go a short distance.

Franziska: It is certainly not easy to change behavioural patterns. When I was still an employee, I found it easy to mount my bicycle every morning and ride to the firm. To this day, it is not a problem for me to take the bike when I have business meetings (except if they are too far away, then I use public transportation).

It was easy for me because I knew I had to be there no matter what. But ever since I work in my home office, I find it very hard to mount the bicycle every day – just because I want the exercise. The requirement of having to go from A to B is missing. That makes it more natural for me to do my hiking round through the vineyards in the evening. It gives me peace to ponder and structure the day’s ideas.

Now I integrate this exercise into my working day. On the one hand, I offer public network meetings. We call it Walk to Talk. We meet at a green place and see what topics everybody brought. And then we run through urban greenery for 90 to 120 minutes.

I particularly delight in the fact that the people I coach, my mentees and my supervision partners appreciate this way of talking just like I do. That means that I can enjoy this exciting discourse surrounded by greenery (“Gehsprächs” im Grünen) between four and six times each month. But I would not object to it becoming more.

Incidentally, I would recommend this format to everybody – especially as a welcome deviation from meetings that far too often happen in closed rooms and sitting down. Which brings us to the topic work world = life world.

You have been an entrepreneur for a long time. What can a boss do in order to promote a BICYCLE culture? What are the important factors?

BICYCLE culture in the mobility and health management of enterprises – not an easy task for the boss

Roland (laughs): That is not at all easy. I am sure the most important factor is that you do not offer business cars as an allegedly attractive part of the salary. Unfortunately, I did it up from 1984. The InterFace AG has far too many so-called “business cars”. And it is not at all easy to take away acquired rights.

Services such as bicycle racks with roofs and/or showers in the basement are to be recommended. And you have to be a good example yourself. You have to infect people with your own enthusiasm for bicycles and for riding bikes.

Franziska: Riding bicycles is, indeed, catching. The last time I made that experience was when, in the company I last worked for, we founded an everyday cycling group. It worked like a bus line. The experienced cyclists offered to ride alongside the beginners. In no time, we had an ad-hoc bicycle repair shop and organized (after work) bike tours. Through joining in, I learned about shortcuts and secure routes to work, as well as all kinds of bike tricks.

It filled me with pride to notice how much I already knew after some time and how I could advise others. That was a huge motivation boost towards also surviving the wet-cold rain days with temperatures around the freezing point. There are considerably more dry days than rainy days. And as soon as you are on your way and have ample rain protective gear – the rain does not matter anyway. That is also something I only found out through riding my bike on a daily basis. Mind you, this is still not considering all the many natural panoramas and the intense experience of the seasons of the year.

In your experience, what is it that makes active mobility in everyday life hard or impossible? What – perhaps small – helpful advice can you give to overcome those obstacles?

Roland: Many things come to mind. There is, for instance, the wrong belief that children and heavy objects can only be transported by car. That is not true. Children are happier on the bicycle than in a car. Shopping is a lot easier if you take a bike trailer or a cargo bike instead of a car. Even two bike panniers will go quite some way.

Regularly taking a look at your mirror and your weight, perhaps even at your blood pressure, will soon convince you that it makes sense to exercise more often.

Franziska (laughs): Correct!

Let us get back to entrepreneurial thinking. Since many employees are determined by numbers, data and facts, I am often expected to ask about it. What advantages do you see for the boss to consider “active mobility”?

Roland: Well – it has been proved that persons who exercise regularly in fresh air have considerably fewer sick days. Isn’t that something to convince you? They will also arrive at work in a better mood and more emotionally balanced. And riding a bike also gives them an enormous amount of creativity.

Strong together – AktMob promotes active mobility in everyday life.

Franziska: Early in 2016, you had the AktMobCmp in Unterhaching in order to bring active persons around “active mobility in everyday life” together. In 2017, you will organize evening events and the next AktMobCmp is also currently being organized. What are the topics you will discuss there? Who were – and who are – the participants?

Roland: The invitation addresses everyone who thinks in terms of taking responsibility for our future. The way we think about mobility directly reflects on our way of life. AktMobCmp is a BarCamp – which means we do not know the topics and sessions in advance. This openness, however, makes it possible to get many nice and tangible results on the personal level.
AktMobCmp 2016 — BarCamp for active mobility in everyday life.

Franziska: In other words, you organize and moderate the ActMobCmp as a BarCamp in order to provide space for everybody’s topics. What is special about this particular event format?
Roland: The Barcamp format is characterized by the persons who come organizing their meeting and their sessions according to their individual needs. There are no invited presentations that have been selected by a committee. Everyone is allowed and supposed to contribute. The organizing team only has the role of host who makes it possible to meet at all. The social control is with the participants. I already experienced several times how a session that was abused for marketing purposes was empty in no time.

Franziska: And then there are sessions where humans are made to work intensely and productively in order to solve a shared problem. That is what I like about BarCamps. Especially if the organizers believe in the self-organization and self-control of the participants practiced in those anti-conferences.

For you, this belief grew over the last few years because you experienced it yourself. Because this AktMobCmp is not the first BarCamp you have organized. You are one of the fathers of the PM Camp movement that brings together people all over Europe who exchange ideas on project work. What fascinates you about the BarCamp idea?

Roland: The great thing about BarCamps is that you discover many new things. After all, all the participants are willing to open up and share their knowledge. As a general rule, all participants will go home happy and richer. What you experience will continue to have an effect on you. You have made new friends with whom you remain in contact. This is how, on BarCamps, humans and movements are linked and thus gaining more and more strength.

Franziska: I know exactly what you mean! Since some of my readers are BarCamp newcomers, can you give a few examples?

Roland: Well, there are movements such as eye-level (Augenhöhe),  intrinsify.meEnjoyWork with EnjoyWorkCamp, entrepreneurial democrats (Unternehmensdemokraten), common good economists (Gemeinwohlökonomie) and many more, all of whom I met at BarCamps. Along with those who support and promote them. This is how I made new friends at BarCamps, for instance  Nadja Petranovskaja, Dr. Andreas Zeuch, Dr. Eberhard Huber, Gebhard Borck, Dr. Jens Hoffmann, Maik Pfingsten, Dr. Marcus Rainer, Dr. Niels Pflaeging, Roger Dannenhauer, Dr. Stefan Hagen and many, many more.

We, too, first met at a BarCamp (EnjoyWorkCamp?) didn’t we? You will find posts, podcasts and videos of all these persons online. Reading those will automatically make you understand why you need to connect yourself with others and do things together.

Franziska: I think the first time we met was at the Dornbirn PM Camp. But our first really intense discussion was during the “EnjoyWork” initiative. Consequently, I find it even more exciting to have gone into more detail about a few topics we share. Many thanks, Roland, for the exchange of experience.

I wish you well and for your ACtMob to be a huge success – and a good bike-chain at all times.

Roland: Many thanks – it was a true pleasure!

RMD
(Translated by EG)

Some more links:

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.
RMD
(Translated by EG)

P.S.
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?

RMD
(Translated by EG)

Roland Dürre
Thursday September 8th, 2016

HELLO WORLD – An Open Letter – #PEACE

Symbol of westeuropean peace movement

Symbol of west european peace movement.

A short time ago, I had a great conversation with someone I hold in very high esteem and learned to love. I want to recruit him for our project PEACE. A day after our conversation, I sent him a letter – here is what I wrote.

My dear friend!

Now that one night has passed since we met, I would like to thank you again for yesterday’s conversation.

You asked the right and important questions. That is of high value. Because you will only find solutions if you have asked the right questions.
Here is my attempt at giving a short answer to your wise questions about the project PEACE (why and how):

For me, PEACE is the general metaphor for the opposite of what, in my opinion, is wrong in our society.
All over the world (with very few, rather dubious exceptions), an economic system that manipulates people is pre-dominant. It puts “shareholder value” and the increase of wealth for the acting agents over all else in unprecedented consistency. War, too, serves as a means to this end.

This system could not care less about the well-being, the physical and emotional health of the humans and also about our planet. I can prove this for many sectors, also due to the special insights I have gained through my network.

Among my sources – just to give an example – are discussions with managing directors of a very relevant pharmaceutical concern I cooperate with in a research project. And if I then take a look at the current evaluation of the newest pharmaceutical projects (one out of 23 is labelled green, few orange and more than half of them are labelled red), I know exactly why that is so (see yesterday’s SZ).

Unfortunately, this is true for many (perhaps even all) sectors, be it healthcare in general, food, energy, finances (banks and insurances), raw materials, merchandize, cars, communication, technology … Of course, it goes without saying that the weapons industry is also among them.

And (unfortunately) this is no conspiracy theory but can be proved by facts.

The EU, too, unfortunately, is (now?) a very undemocratic organization. It is dominated by the concern interests and, when all is said and done, you can even say that they were the ones who founded it. Just like the EURO is not a political product but one that was demanded by “business”. Yesterday, an EuGH decision, again, proved this (see yesterday’s ZEIT).

However, I do not wish to start a discussion about all these wrongs. I would rather talk about terms such as reform, revolution, change, modification, innovation, evolution, transformation. Those are also the terms my presentations are based on, no matter if they are about digitalization, leadership or entrepreneurship.

These are all difficult terms: in my book innovation means “creative destruction”. Reform is violence-free change. Everyone calls for reforms – yet nobody wants change. And change always means violence.

For the project PEACE, I use the term: transformation. Perhaps it is my goal to create a communicative concept to counterbalance the “non-peaceful” concepts. And I definitely do not want it on a religious level. In other words, I am not a missionary.

Instead, I want to give emotional and rational incentives for thinking. My intention is to inspire people. I would like to plant the idea of contemplation and activity. I am thinking of a snowball system that allows people to find autonomy without dogmata and drugs – that would be nice.

I kindly ask your forgiveness for my heart brimming over and consequently my goals being rather high. It is partly because – at least that is how I perceive it – I already managed to do quite surprising things in my life. Things I myself would never have believed possible.

On the other hand, I see myself as a rather humble person who can also live quite well with small success. After all, first and foremost, the journey is the reward!

But: not noticing and doing nothing is out of the question.

In my role as a mentor, I only support people in “homeopathic” doses. And I am happy whenever I can make others a little happier and more successful. And then I am very content and happy myself. The same is true for “my start-ups”..

My main personal goal is to live in gratitude.

Many heartfelt greetings and let us remain in contact!

RMD
(Translated by EG)