Sorry, this entry is only available in German.

Roland Dürre
Monday May 13th, 2019

Wikipedia and the Copyright.

The Logo of the encyclopedia

“It is difficult to predict things! Especially if they are in the future “.
Even our Munich hero Karl Valentin knew that.

Consequently, I am thinking about a method that starts with the past and then ends in the future. It is not a prediction, but more an extrapolation.

Let us look at the past and at the history of the media. This business sector found out quite early that intellectual property (as created in the copyright legislation) is far easier to scale than material products or even services. Consequently, this field has been doing business with particular success ever since the printing press was invented.

Trading with intellectual property makes enormous margins possible.

The media moguls knew that you can do business quite well with knowledge and information, provided the property you create and trade falls under the term “property”. They started very early with the creation and installation of laws that made it possible to buy intellectual property from authors and other generators of said material and then earn a lot of money with it.

Copyright legislation is the “licence to print money”.

And they also saw to it that the deadlines for intellectual property were always duly extended. That is why, in the USA, these laws are called Mickey-Mouse-legislation (Mickey-Mouse-Gesetze). Walt Disney succeeded several times when it came to extending the copyright deadline for Mickey Mouse.
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What is the state of affairs with knowledge and information?

Following the reasoning that the generation of knowledge needs an effort, it was declared capable of being owned. Consequently, the generator is given the right to the intellectual property, which is supposed to give him the material advantage generated by the intellectual property. Well, I, too, think that scientists should be amply paid. But that does not mean that things an intellectual worker creates are actually their property and belong to them. If you accepted that, you would have to call these people “owners of intellectual property”. However, I do not think that knowledge is a property that should be traded.

“Knowledge is the only thing that grows as you share it“.

Which means you should probably share it, doesn’t it? Yet, if knowledge becomes personal property and belongs to someone, then its volume is artificially reduced. That is beneficial for few but detrimental for many.

So I am opposed to including knowledge, information, rights, natural structures, laws, regulations and similar things in the concept of property legislation. Incidentally, this is also true for data – which becomes more and more fashionable.

The motto seems to be: my data belong to me!

Newspapers and books are goods that have been existing for hundreds of years. The editing is an old business sector that grew exponentially with the printing press. And it gave itself ever more optimal rules.

As in all sectors, following the basic concept of capitalism and logics, competition and mergers caused the rise of huge enterprises.
“Intellectual property“ is easier to scale.

This made publishing companies more powerful and richer. Equalled only by the realty concerns thanks to the special trilogy – ownership of the soil and buildings, cheap money and quick price increase – and by other gamblers who bet on raw materials, bonds or currencies – they managed to get rich and powerful in an extremely short time.

Encyclopedia were particularly good business.

For all publishing companies, the encyclopedias were especially important. It was good business, because encyclopedia were mostly high-price products that also needed updating relatively soon. The leading publishing companies always had at least one enterprise in their empire that produced encyclopedias. And the profit they made over the decades was reliable.

Eventually, these encyclopedia were also electronic books. They were distributed on cheap data carriers for high prices. It was truly a licence for printing money. However, it did not take long before someone put an end to it. The internet appeared. And a group of crazy volunteers founded a free encyclopedia, in 2001. They called it Wikipedia.

”Innovation is creative destruction“.

For many, this was a painful experience. It also hit the publishing companies who had been benefiting from the innovations in printing machines and communication for many years. It meant that there was an end to all the great commercial profit they had made in the encyclopedia business. The publishing houses probably suffered enormous losses. They became victims of the internet or of Wikipedia and had to close enterprises or find a new business purpose. It was probably quite painful for the German media concerns.

They say that the internet never forgets anything. That is not true. I have been looking for many things, for instance the first web-pages of InterFace Connection GmbH – and I never found them. It is not the internet, but the concerns that have the excellent memories. They actually never forget anything. And for them, the sentence “revenge is sweet” is quite true!

Now they are a huge step closer. After many years of patient and diligent lobby work, they now managed to get the copyright reform  bill through the European parliament. Immediately afterwards, the VG-Media sent their first bill to google. I am sure the publishing companies will soon follow suit. They say the German way is going to be to pay instead of using upload filters. Let us wait and see.

So how is Wikipedia doing?

Let us postpone an analysis of the media concern and instead take a look at Wikipedia. At first sight, it is a really beautiful story – a free and independent society of people working on an honorary basis writes down what they know. They finance the entire project totally advert and sponsoring free – exclusively by donations from people who use the system.

This is how Wikipedia, a few years after it was initiated in 2001, destroyed all its competition. Wikipedia has a monopoly and is now the only remaining encyclopedia. That is what makes it so important – but it also makes it extremely fragile. Its only competition is probably the internet itself, which is also threatened.

Shadows loom over the internet and Wikipedia.

As before, knowledge grows exponentially. But the work force at Wikipedia does not. On the contrary: as I see it, Wikipedia has become the club of old white men. Here, too, we pay the price as time goes by.

Young and female people are few and far between at Wikipedia. We are talking the typical next-generation problems we also see for chess clubs, the voluntary fire-fighters and now even the powerful DFG. This is how I and my friends at Wikipedia see it. All statistical data I found are usually ten years old and totally untrustworthy. Mind you, Wikipedia was founded in 2001, which, as of now, was only 18 years ago!

Who among the young generation likes to do the dry work of an encyclopedist, who has to play by strict rules? Especially if the way the old white men treat the next generation is rather unfriendly?

Wikipedia is an infra structure of knowledge.

The knowledge grows, the technology ages. And there are fewer and fewer people who do the maintenance work on the infra structure.

In the extreme model, the work force at Wikipedia will die out.

What will happen then? A knowledge infra structure without maintenance? Even as it is, the quality of the articles gets worse. And there are other problems, such as technological ageing, poor coordination, too little clarity in content and structure, organizational problems. There is a lot that needs to be done at Wikipedia.

Wikipedia is probably the largest user of foreign copyright world-wide.
They felt that they needed to be careful about copyright legislation and demonstrated their concern by turning off their servers.

Those who are in favour of the copyright reform try a placatory approach:
Wikipedia is, after all, for the common good and consequently not part of the reform!

But is Wikipedia really for the common good? As you see above, I wrote: Wikipedia lives from the donations of its users. I, too, only give money to Wikipedia because I want to keep using the service. Wikipedia is more or less blackmailing me:

Pay something and make sure that you will still get your service!

Perhaps the enterprise Wikipedia is not really a common-good-oriented one in the sense of tax-relevant definitions? All those who donate money expect (and get) something in return for the money they pay. Their payment only seems to be voluntary. They depend on Wikipedia and give money because they fear that otherwise there might be an end to what they get in return.

Huge concerns are very patient and think in long-term concepts.

Now the media groups have taken up the scent. The copyright reform showed them that it pays to do lobbyist work. They certainly know that Wikipedia would be an exciting object.

After all, the lobbyists are currently practicing how you can deprive NGOs of their title “common-good”. With such a measure, you could further weaken Wikipedia, or even take away the basis of its existence. And later, you could re-introduce it to the Reich as a common enterprise that belongs to several enterprises. In the sense of a re-unification. I already hear the message:

Lobbyists, let us go and visit the ministry of finance. We will get Wikipedia.

Here are the good news 
At least Wikipedia would survive – even if full of adverts and interest-motivated articles. But on the whole, this would be a good fit for our modern internet world.

Brave new world!

RMD
(Translated by EG)

Roland Dürre
Thursday January 17th, 2019

(Deutsch) (Null), Eins, Zwei, Drei, Vier, Fünf. (…)

Sorry, this entry is only available in German.

Roland Dürre
Wednesday June 13th, 2018

KNOWLEDGE. SMART. SMART CONTRACT. RPA.

Yours truly deep in contemplation and hiking on the Cyclades.

In the context of digitalization, “everyone” or “many“ talk about ”smart“. If we are talking smart applications, the smart contract plays an important role.

Such talk gives me pause and, again, I would like to say “no more buzzwords”! Because if technological progress is per se smart, then this sounds too easy to me. For me, digitalization is simply technological progress. I want to know the real meaning of the word “smart“ and what a “smart contract“ is supposed to be.

For me, the first step towards knowledge is that I ask people who (would have to) know about it. If that is not good enough, I will start hunting for knowledge online.

The first person I ask is a very highly esteemed (German) employee of a Chinese concern that sells exclusively “smart” products. Her reply to my question “What is the meaning of smart?” is simple and sounds reasonable.
She says:
”If a product has a WLAN interface and can access the internet, then it is smart in the eyes of the Chinese.“

So: everything that does IoT (Internet of Things) is smart. Very easy. Basically, IoT is smart. She also has a good example for me:

”A set of scales is a set of scales. But as soon as it is part of the wonderful IoT world, it is a smart set of scales “.

I can understand that. Now I know the meaning of the word “smart”. At least mostly.

A computer science professor provides me with the explanation of the term “smart contract“ and with information about what a central role the so-called “oracle“ plays. He is good at explaining and I understand it. At the end of this article, I will relate it to you.

Yet, I am not totally satisfied. After all, I would also like to explain to other people what “smart” and a “smart contract” means. And I certainly would not wish to tell lies. How would I know if the Chinese are correct? And how did the professor gain his knowledge?

He may simply have used one source that looked plausible to him, but said source might not really be a relevant one. How thoroughly did he examine said source? Or maybe he invented the explanation himself and nobody else knows it?

And the many Chinese on this world define “smart contract“ totally different from how my processor defines it.

So I now start travelling through the internet and hunting knowledge. Certainly, Wikipedia will have an entry. If there is no German Wikipedia entry, then there will certainly be an English Wikipedia entry.

It must be said about wikipedia that it happens quite often that the entries are nowhere near perfect. That is no surprise. I know no encyclopaedia that is totally free of nonsense. When I was young, I had two dictionaries – one from the FRG and one from the GDR. There was a lot of nonsense to be found in both of them – as I, as an citizen of the FRG, saw it, even more so in the GDR dictionary than in the FRG dictionary. But then, people living in the GDR may have seen this differently.

Incidentally, I really enjoy looking for “nonsense“ in a heavy encyclopaedia. I often find great entries. Perhaps the task that remains for the old encyclopaedia is to show people how much nonsense they used to believe and still believe today.

Now I really want to know the meaning of “smart“ and the definition of a “smart contract“. So I look online. On typing Smart, I find a link to wiktionary  and the definition of “smart“ as: adept, cuning, cute, resourceful, elegant, good-looking  and spirited along with synonyms such as keen, diplomatic, experienced, adept, agile, polished, experienced, cultivated, clever, experienced, sure, tactical, extensive, open-minded, urbane, agile, distinctive, chic, elegant, fine, posh, classy, attractive, dashing, spirited, stylish and courtly. Isn’t that nice? Except – I ask myself the probably stupid question what all this has to do with digitalization.

So I continue with my search, this time I type smart contract. And in the German Wikipedia, I find an article that I would not necessarily call total nonsense, but perhaps a little incomprehensible.

The second entry on google gives me a much-read Bitcoin page  with an actual explanation of what a smart contract is. The heading is:

“Smart Contracts are the central part of block-chain technologies. They are responsible for a decentralized execution of contracts and are supposed to make the network consistent.“

And the article is in the same vein. Ouch! Perhaps this is actually more nonsense than just incomprehensible. This is not what I have been looking for.

I remember the example of my friend the computer science professor. He explained it like this:


Let us assume that the partners who signed a contract are “one” car insurance and a “car owner”. A normal contract about the insurance of a car becomes a “smart” contract if the contract contains a special condition that depends on a third element – the so-called “oracle”. The oracle is an important part of the contract. It informs both partners about changes, its publication automatically causes a change in the content of the contract.

The Flensburg Federal Office for Motor Traffic can be the oracle. If there is something in the contract about the regular fees being dependent on how many bad points the owner of the car has in Flensburg and if the insurance can automatically change the account of the insured party by using a fixed “algorithm” after something in his Flensburg account has changed, then we have a “smart contract”.


This is how all companies that insure cars in Germany could automatically do business with a provider and diverse oracles. They would no longer need clerical assistants. That is certainly a “smart idea“.

But we already have this. It is called RPA (robotic process automation) and it could help reduce costs. And it could help to make employees redundant, because they are what costs most. And it does not have anywhere near as much to do with algorithms – as many think – as with programming.

Well, I like abbreviations even less than buzz-words (after all, they were spread by the Nazis). And I do not feel like further elaborating about RPS and similar things. I will soon do so. Let me put an end to this article at this point!

RMD
(Translated by EG)

Roland Dürre
Thursday March 15th, 2018

Landing on Antarctica (including travelling report).

Roland landing in the Antarctica.

All participants of an Antarctica expedition have to take part in a preparatory seminar prior to landing. During said seminar, they learn how seriously the world community takes the protection of the unblemished nature of the continent Antarctica.

At the same time, the entire Antarctica, and especially Southern Georgia, is one large museum where many stories of expeditions and science are told. However, it also gives profound insight into the history of this world to geologists.

There are ten rules for landing on the Antarctica and Southern Georgia. You have to strictly abide by them whenever you set foot on the Antarctica and its islands.

  • Please keep quiet!
  • Keep your distance (five metres from penguins, 15 metres from seals and birds)!
  • Do not tread on anything!
  • Never bring plants or animals!
  • Respect protected areas!
  • Preserve historic sites and monuments!
  • Do not take “souvenirs” with you!
  • Respect scientific research!
  • Think of your safety!
  • Preserve the pureness of Antarctica!

That also includes that you must not spit, sneeze or piss anywhere.

Roland on his way back to the ship.

These rules are also meant to protect the animals. I was surprised to see how seriously all participants took them and how they all rigorously kept to what was required.

I, too, got used to never treading onto a green spot. We all avoided unprotected sneezing. It was not possible to accidentally forget a paper tissue.

Thus, each landing became an impressive adventure. The light, the pure air, the wonderful nature made a huge impression on all of us. Historic buildings gave testimony of a horrible industry (waling) that, by promising people good money, had motivated many people to do a gruesome job under the hardest possible conditions far away from home. There were all kinds of remains that revealed quite a lot.

Back in Germany, it really shocked me how thoughtlessly we treat our environment and our nature both on a huge and on a small scale. Even more than before my trip, the pollution of our cyclists’ paths, streets and cities horrified me. The same was true for the gigantic soil sealing of our beautiful country. And of how we, totally without being forced to, expose ourselves to a lot of noise and polluted air in the nice residential areas of our cities.

This is where I also would like to publish a report (Bericht) on the trip for my friends. It was written and illustrated by our great editor Dr. Katrin Knickmeier. She was one (not the only) person from whom we learned so much – and I can also recommend to all of you to visit this special continent.

RMD
(Translated by EG)

Hans Bonfigt
Monday August 7th, 2017

(Deutsch) Hans im Glück, Version 2017

Sorry, this entry is only available in German.

Hans Bonfigt
Friday July 21st, 2017

The Power and the Glory

Sorry, this entry is only available in German.

Roland Dürre
Monday April 17th, 2017

Solution

Two weeks ago, I formulated a Logelei I very much like. I also considered it extremely hard to solve. Well, one email I received had the correct answer.

Here is the solution to the problem I gave you on April, 2rd, 2017. I copied the formal part of the solution from the winner: Jörg.
The question was:

How can the criminals make sure that they all survive?

And the solution is surprisingly simple!

Jörg – the winner!

The 10 gangsters have to assign a number between 0 and 9 to every one of them, for instance by counting them down!

As soon as a gangster will see the nine images of all the other nine gangster, he will do the sum of all the numbers on these images and then add “his” number to the sum.

Then he applies the operation modulo 10 to the result and calls the resulting number. Every gangster does this during her or his interview.

This is how you can make sure that exactly one of the gangsters will give the number on his/her picture. The others will, of necessity, say a wrong number – but that is irrelevant, since it will suffice if one of them gives his correct number. That means they all will survive.

Well, as you see, you must never give up hope – once in a while, even mathematics can help.
Here is the formal description of the solution (after Dr. Rothermel).

• Let the number of gangsters be: N
• Let zi be the number assigned to the gangster I (not known to him). It is not necessarily unique and it is part of the set {0, 1, …, N-1} of which a minimum of one needs to be told in the end..
• Let S be the sum of all pre-defined numerals S = Σ zi
The gangsters agree upon the following procedure:
1. Initially, each of them gets a personal, unique number i (known to him/her) assigned to her/his picture from the set {0, 1, …, N-1}.
2. During the interview, every gangster builds the sum of all the numbers he/she can see – that is the (definite) total sum S minus his own (not known to him) numeral zi , i.e. S – zi . That is the only information at his disposal.
3. Since the gangsters are only interested in the numbers in the range {0, 1, …, N-1}, they will modulo N or the congruency relation ≡ N. Now each gangster will calculate an integer x such that:
x ≡ N i – (S – zi ) or
x = ( i – (S – zi )) mod N (I)
With this procedure, exactly one gangster will get his correct zi!

Proof:

S is congruent with a number s from the set {0, 1, …, N-1} or S ≡ N s, consequently, you can also write (I) as:
x ≡ N i – (s – zi )
Since no two N i’s are identical, one of them equal s, consequently, we have for one gangster:
x ≡ N zi.
both x and zi belong to the set {0, 1, …, N-1} which means they are not only congruent, but identical:
y = zi,
and that means this gangster will have the correct number for himself.
(Solution and proof by Dr. Jörg Rothermel)
Now I would recommend that you read the problem  again and ponder it a little bit.

RMD
(Translated by Evelyn)

Roland Dürre
Monday April 3rd, 2017

A Very Special Task!

The Solution will be Supplied Later!

A short time ago, a good friend of mine came up with a brainteaser. He did not know the source, otherwise I would gladly have cited it. My friend was not able to solve the problem, neither was I. But it is a truly exciting scenario. And it has a surprisingly simple solution, including a beautiful mathematical reasoning. It also gives us a nice metaphor for our lives.

Among other things, it shows that mathematics can also, once in a while, be quite useful. Here is the story:

Here is a female criminal. On her card, the number 1 is written. But she does not know this. After all, she only knows the nine other images with their numbers.

A – not dislikeable – gang of 10 persons constantly violates the prevailing moral concepts in an outrageous manner. The gang members are creative and wise – this is how, with great finesse, they remain unmolested by the arm of the law for their abominable activities. That is lucky for them, because the legal penalty for their crime is death by strangulation.

In the public perception, the gang soon has a legendary reputation, and is idolized by quite a few simple people. For the authorities, this development is totally unacceptable. Consequently, the increased manhunt of the authorities, along with a growing arrogance and flippancy among the gang members led to the capture of the group.

All 10 gang members are quickly sentenced to death due to their abominable behaviour in a show trial. However, there is a way for the ten comrades in crime to save their lives – through an appeal for clemency. The head of state who decides upon said appeal is a very prudent and well-meaning woman. She is very wise; there are even some rumours insinuating that she may to some extent sympathise with the gang.

Actually, she works hard to come to a fair decision. She hands down a conditional amnesty (a little like a “Judgement of God”):
Before the verdict is executed, the ten members are permitted to see each other once more. There is a farewell meeting, the ten gangsters can spend the afternoon before their execution together and without supervision.

Here is a male criminal. On his card, the number 2 is written. But he does not know that. After all, he only knows the nine other images with their numbers.

As the meeting starts, the gangsters are told how the amnesty will work. A picture of each of the members is taken (two of them can be seen here). On each of those pictures, a number from the set 0 – 9 {0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9} is drawn. Each number can be used several times. Consequently, it is possible that the same number is written on all the pictures. Or that only some numbers are used, for instance {1, 2, 3)}. Or maybe only the even or uneven numbers. Whatever. But perhaps all numbers have been used. Nothing is impossible.

After the meeting, each of them is taken into solitary confinement until the time of execution. Each of the ten gang members is shown the nine pictures of the other nine members – but not his own one. And then they ask him the number on his own photo. And if even one of the gangsters gives a correct answer for the number on his card – all of them will get the amnesty.

Initially, you will think that the gangsters have quite a good chance to avoid their punishment and enjoy clemency over justice. And there is no doubt that their situation will have improved. After all, chances are not too bad that one of the ten will guess correctly and thus free them all.

But it is nowhere near as easy as that. Matters may turn out poorly. And there is one thing the wise regent forgot (or perhaps not): by applying a simple agreement, the ten gangsters can make sure that one of them will inevitably say the right number, as written on his picture. And this is how he can guarantee that he and his comrades will enjoy the amnesty.

It is a small problem: what agreement makes it possible for the gang to use the meeting that was meant as a farewell to make sure that “their heads” are out of the sling with a 100% chance?

I will publish the solution in a few weeks – and until then, I look forward to having many email solutions sent to me!

RMD
(Translated by EG)

Roland Dürre
Thursday January 21st, 2016

Bernd Fiedler – K-Working

I am sitting in the ICE 1682 from München to Berlin, on my way to the PM-Camp-Orgateam meeting. Again, the WLAN does not work in the train (no IP) and I do a little “tethering”. The Deutsche Bundesbahn will not repair the WLAN before tomorrow morning at 8 a.m. (according to a @DB-Bahn tweet in reply to my complaining through twitter), although a simple “reset” would probably do the job.

But, luckily, I have the new book by Bernd Fiedler on me. Bernd is a good friend of mine. I like coming along when he goes on presentation tours, or else I meet him playing cards. He is one of those persons who never create new problems. Instead, he always talks of things and the future in positive terms. Consequently, meeting him is always a delight.

K-Working-FiedlerNow he wrote a small book. And thanks to DB, I have time to read it. Like its author, the book is constructive. The title is: K-Working. It describes how brain-workers might and should cooperate in a “new world”. Reading it really gives you courage and delight.

Yet it is also a book full of critical remarks, containing surprising and often very precise theses. For some persons, Bernd produces a merciless mirror to hold in front of them. And more often than not, some of the actual (bitter) situations are exactly what I, too, experienced in the past, which is why I find myself sharing the analysis in in the book.

From the outside, the book looks small and unpretentious. But somehow or other, all you need to know about brain workers and leadership can be found in it. And he says it all in a very simple and commonly comprehensible language. It is exciting and an easy read.

That is because it does not want to be a missionary advertising highly elaborated and complicated theories. Instead, it remains rational, focussing on what is really important.

Even the font is nice and large – basically, my reading is almost exclusively digitally these days and reading my old pocketbooks is often a hug effort for me. K-Working, on the other hand, can easily be read in the half-light of an early January morning and the (very much appreciated) diffuse ICE illumination.

All that is important can be found in the book. It is concise and has no endless repetitions as you often find them in US management literature. In those, you often know after the first fifty pages what will follow. And on the remaining 300 pages, you get it all again and again several times. Well, K-Working is not like that!

The book was published as a pocketbook by the epubli publishing house, the language is German. It has 140 pages and the ISBN is 9783737566599. And for 14.99 €, you can already buy the second edition (!), also at epubli.

RMD
(Translated by EG)