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)

Detlev Six
Saturday January 2nd, 2016

(Deutsch) Neues von Gott und dem großen Bumser.

Sorry, this entry is only available in German.

Das Grauen der fossilen Welt nach Transfer Patras-Venedig auf einer nicht minder stinkenden griechischen Fähre.

The terror of the fossil world after a transfer from Patras to Venice on a very smelly Greek ferry.

In this article, Jörg Schindler wrote down a few ideas on the question that sprang to mind recently.

He talks about pure battery cars (E-cars) that get their energy through re-loading the battery from the common energy outlets.

Basically, there is only one possible conclusion – not just after reading this article. We have to drastically re-think and change our mobility. However, in our society, change can only be done from the bottom, for instance through grass root movements.

On January, 4th and 5th, 2016, we start our first barcamp for “Active Mobility in Everyday Life“ in Unterhaching – AktMobCmp.

So here is the article by Jörg Schindler:

What e-cars contribute towards reducing emission and making us less dependent upon crude oil.

A change of course in the propulsion technology and the fuels of the automobile industry is inevitable for various reasons:

  1. The cities literally suffocate under the exhaust fumes of car traffic, not just in China.
  2. In the long run, kissing oil good-bye – and consequently kissing the combustion motor good-bye – is inevitable, because less and less fuel will be available.
  3. For reasons of climate protection, this farewell should happen pretty soon. Consequently, a change of technology from the combustion motor to electrically powered vehicles is necessary and makes sense.

There is no doubt that it must be our goal to drastically reduce the number (and/or the use) of cars powered by oil quickly and considerably. E.-cars will emit no harmful substances locally, thereby making a contribution towards improving the air quality at the place of their use. Yet the global emissions are not zero.

Instead, they depend on how the electric energy has been produced. In Germany, electricity is still produced with an enormous fossil percentage (hard coal, brown coal and natural gasoline), which causes an enormous locally effective pollution in the power station, as well as globally effective emissions of greenhouse gas. With the current mixture of energy production in Germany, e-cars are “emission elsewhere vehicles”. Currently, the greenhouse emission is not reduced.

With respect to availability of resources and greenhouse gas emission, e-cars only make sense if they come with a profound change of primary electric energy sources from fossil to renewable.

The positive effect of e-cars when it comes to the quality of life in the urban environment

Apart from less emission at the place of utilization: no positive effect. In the public domain, motorized individual traffic is still domineering, regardless of the e-cars. And its political priority continues. The plan to open bus lanes for e-cars even exacerbates this tendency. As before, cars dominate the public domain. Self-induced chances of mobility for children and persons who do not own a car do not improve. There is no promotion – let alone priority – of active mobility.

The social and industry-political aspects

For persons who do not own a car, the transition to e-cars is not an improvement in their chances of mobility. The discussion about promoting the sale of battery cars is motivated by industry-political aspects – it is desired that said transition should not hurt the industry. It is more likely that the goal is reached if you calculate taxes according to carbon dioxide emission.

Additionally, it is obvious that tax reductions for Diesel fuel should be abolished (as they now plan to do in France by 2020). A radical banishment of cars with health-hazardous emissions in inner cities is also necessary.

The list of necessary measures can be added to almost at random (for instance: speed limit). Besides, we already have relatively clean small conventional cars (for instance those that emit less than 95 g of carbon dioxide per 100 km). But they say it cannot be expected from those who drive business cars, from the average car driver and from the German automobile industry to use them.

The proposed 5,000 Euros in subsidies for those who buy an e-car would suffice to give three Hartz-IV recipients a Pedelec, which would considerably improve the mobility chances for deprived groups. (It might be worth thinking about why these kinds of alternatives for spending public money are not even considered).

Promoting e-cars more and more aggressively (since said promotion apparently is a failure on the market), those solutions already possible and currently much more effective are concealed through the one-sided propagation of tomorrow’s solution. In doing so, these currently possible solutions are ignored and kept from influencing the current political debate. Consequently, things that could and should be done immediately and would have a far more positive effect are left undone.

Trapped in the paradigm of fossil traffic

As before, the general agreement is: it is better to be motorized than not. It is desired that the structures remain unchanged, only the technology has to improve. Sustainability as an add-on (just like whipped cream on the cake).

You will always see the same pattern: there are no explicit political alternatives. Instead, technological problems are re-defined and a solution has to be found for them: e-cars as the solution for all urban environmental traffic problems.

Another example for repressing political solutions: a possible (re-)structuring of the public (street) domain is not made the topic of any discussions – except when it can absolutely no longer be avoided, like on the Munich Rosenheimer Strasse.

The necessary transition to the post-fossil mobility is a lot more all-encompassing.

Clean power production and the transition to renewable energy sources for motorized traffic are a matter of necessity. But it is not sufficient to solve all the problems of modern traffic.

Reduced availability of crude oil and energy that will be more expensive in the long run will increase the local resistance, i.e. the economic, time and emotional effort necessary for getting from location A to location B with motorized means of transportation on the street, on water and in the air. Through the increased local resistance, what is nearer will become closer and what is farther away will become more remote. Consequently, reaching places in the vicinity will become more important than reaching remote places.

There is no doubt that efficient ways of travelling are a necessity in this context. But it is just as important to have efficient spatial patterns and urban structures that minimize the realization of human mobility needs. This structural change is made possible and promoted by active mobility. To the same extent as this happens, the necessity of motorized individual traffic will decrease.

Why active mobility is our topic and why it is the right topic

Short-range mobility in urban structures with short distances is the solution of many traffic and environmental problems if the distance can be and is covered on food or by bike. That is what we mean when we say active mobility.

It will increase the quality of your stay and the safety in the public domain. It creates equal mobility chances for all groups in society. And it will promote the physical and psychological health of all humans.

Neubiberg, October, 28th, 2015

About the author:
For many years, Jörg Schindler was managing director of LBST (Ludwig-Bölkow-Systemtechnik) and now he is director of ASPO Deutschland e.V.. He has spent many years discussing future relevant topics in the energy sector. For instance, he is also well-known for his numerous publications and as co-author of a series of technological books.

Many thanks to our guest author Jörg Schindler.

RMD
(Translated by EG)

P.S.
Do come to the barcamp Active Mobility in Everyday Life !
P.S.1
The picture is my own work. I hereby authorize everybody to use it under common licence following the rules therein.

Roland Dürre
Sunday September 20th, 2015

I almost forgot: Karlsruhe PM Camp on September, 25th and 26th!

pmcamp-logo_karlsruhe_153x70I am angry with myself. I almost forgot the Karlsruhe PM Camp. And it would not have been advertised. This is not tolerable!

Dear organizational team in Karlsruhe: please accept my apologies. I feel truly contrite. And I promise to do better in the future.

In Karlsruhe, the motto will be:

Projects with enthusiasm – where does the magic come from?

Unfortunately, I cannot attend next Friday and Saturday. Which I find a true pity. Because the Karlsruhe organizational team did a fabulous job. And they would certainly have deserved a few more participants.

So here is my appeal to you: if you live near Karlsruhe and are at leisure this Friday and Saturday – and if you are at all interested in project management, management in general, leadership, entrepreneurship and such, you should definitely attend the PM camp at the Karlsruhe Hochschule für Technik.

As always, the program is exciting. It will be well worth the trip and, as always, all PM Camp participants will return home content, wiser and happier.

And, in absentia, I will follow the timeline of the tag #PMCampKA and be happy about many, many twitters from the camp by the participants!

And here is a special request by me:

If, to give Karlsruhe extra advertisement, you twitter this article more often than usual, you would also make me very happy!

RMD
(Translated by EG)