Composing Assisted

Before the existence of digital composition tools composers were assisted by “Kopisten”. These persons rewrote the original draft of a composition into a “proper” version of the original document. Musicology has a tough time to deal with deviations from the original. It needs to be clarified which is the final and authorized version. In some instances this is far from evident. Just as an example Robert Schumann made ample use of the assistance of Kopist Otto Hermann Klausnitz (cf Nr 6), sometimes for the preparation of the composition, the finalized versions or the explicit drafting of different voices. Klausnitz himself was a flautist in Leipzig (Gewandhausorchester) and a conductor in Duesseldorf. Overall the debate is still going on, whether the composer’s draft or in many instances the Kopist’s version of the composition (authorized or not) prevails. In the age of AI, which is highly influential in modern music, such questions will most likely be intrinsic to the process of composition as well. AI is influential in evening out rough edges. Anette Mueller (2010) has done a great job to make this work of “Kopisten” much more transparent and her concluding chapter is programmatically entitled “Komponist und Kopist- Aspekte einer produktiven Kooperation”. (Image Mueller, A 2010 p. 340).

Betting vice

Betting is considered a vice. The industry has moved from the local bookmakers to the internet and is spread across countries and continents. Some legal advisers have classified betting as the fastest growing vice industry and it is about time to launch a wake up call for more oversight of what is going on in the sector. As betting like gambling seems to be working in conjunction with other addictions the potential of cumulative risks is quite high. Our brains tend to wire things together which frequently occur jointly. It is difficult to disentangle these co-occurrences later again. The major angle of attack is prevention. Health journals start warnings of the detrimental effects persons and observe that the industry follows similar strategies as the tobacco industry to address as many people as possible. And this is very successful and profitable for them. Hence, prevention strategies should also follow what has been applied to smoking like the ban from restaurants and bars as well as the restrictions on advertising. We will have to accept that betting and gambling should not be as easily accessible as it is currently. Age restrictions have to be applied stringently. I bet this will take quite a long time until Europe and elsewhere the regulations will change. Some of the young get interested in even more stimulating activities like exploring arts (image below class at Neue Nationalgalerie Berlin 2024-6) rather than betting on who is going to win the Euro 2024 football matches.

Smoke Gamble

Smoking is like a gamble. Your input is your health and money. This is not including those who might rely on you or family relationships that might suffer one way or another. The other link has gambling at its source and smoking goes along with the continuous risk taking or the belief to be able to master the risks involved with both forms of potential addictions. Research has accumulated evidence that in fact both smoking and gambling occur frequently in combination with each other. Taking risks against the odds of suffering losses, maybe only in the medium or longer run perspectives like for health seems acceptable for those people. Society has put rather high taxes on both activities to discourage people and invests in prevention of addictions. However, it does not have substantial effects on people as smoking remains around the same level and gambling (poker online) or betting on sports (Euro 2024) are rising rapidly. Vaping and internet gaming have broadened the spectrum of addictive behaviors mostly for younger persons and young adults. The risks are manifold and increasing in their addictive potential since the smartphone is always in some pocket just like the smoking device. The behavioral turn in the social sciences has been well understood by the industries as well. The stakes for human development are high in this endeavor to offer young people equal opportunities at entry into adulthood.

Cannabis Alcohol

The use of cannabis and/or alcohol is yet another question where we are used to ask questions in the form of: either the or the other? Over generations we have gotten used to no longer ask for each do you or don’t you. With the controlled liberalization or legalization of cannabis in some Western European states the framing of the question is more like you do the one or the other, particularly for many younger persons.
Decriminalization of both drugs in small quantities is apparently reducing crimes link to drug use and drug dealing. On the other hand, the thresholds for doing drugs are lower than they used to be. In inner cities it is therefore no longer a surprise to find both kinds of drugs with addictive potential next to each other (see image below). We know that it is a slippery road from regular drug use to uncontrolled dependency and personal disaster. For cannabis a study published in the Lancet (Petrilli et al. 2022) added the importance of the potency of tetrahydrocannabinol to the estimate of risks. This is similar to the studies that differentiate the level of alcohol in drinks consumed. The higher the concentration, the higher the risks. A simple proportional relationship prevails in both drugs. The cumulative effects of consuming both together might have quite surprising non-linear effects.
The big issue is the risks of mental health related to these drugs. However, the causal direction is not easy to detect. Drugs induce mental health problems, but also mental health issues lead to drug abuse. This remains quite a puzzle for scientists to disentangle.
Additionally, the link to smoking and addiction to nicotine is a frequently observed corollary. Studying just one single source of health problems and addiction might be too restrictive to learn about the whole set of causal effects and casualties. For the time being we seem to jump from one field of attention to the next one ignoring the multiple interrelated factors at hand.

Smoking Vaping

Both smoking and vaping are big business. Nicotine is well known for its addictive capacity. Once started, it is very hard to give it up again. For many decades we devote considerable efforts and costs to encourage people to give up on smoking or, better, not to start smoking in the first place. The young are particularly vulnerable as damages persist for a longer time. Progress has been made to reduce passive smoking of children and people in restaurants, at work and public spaces. The relatively recent trend of vaping instead of smoking is considered less harmful, but scientific long-term evaluations, whether these effects are lasting for several years, are still missing.
A repeated cross-section study in England (Tattan-Birch et al. 2024) has revealed that the declining trend of nicotine use has already been reversed among youth due to the rise in vaping. Vaping seems to move from the fashionable niche product to the popular mainstream among youth. The addicts are only cost-sensitive on the margin. The relative prices of smoking and vaping might play a role to put people on different health trajectories. The question is not between either smoking or vaping, but for some it is both, although it should be none of both. The question of smoking yes/no is likely to be framed as either vaping/or smoking.  The re-framing of the question shows the harmful potential in the longer run. We shall have a hard time to convince people and particularly youth not to be tempted by either/or but to focus on their long-term health trajectory and potential. (Image: Extrait from Arnold Böcklin, Self-portrait with death playing the violine 1872, Alte Nationalgalerie Berlin)

LED light

For decades now, we have the LED light technology around us. In many instances we do no longer realize the presence of light emission devices (LEDs) for example in our television screens or in road lighting. However, this still is an exciting field of electrical engineering and the replacement of gas lighting as well as other electrical devices with higher energy consumption are high on the agenda for sustainable lighting. There are important health and security aspects related to lighting (sleep and road traffic).
In Berlin the demonstration and test area for innovative LED lighting is also an open-air museum which can be experienced throughout the year. The party-goers and club visitors might best know the demonstration street as part of the “Deutsches Technik Museum” The energy saving potential of LEDs use in street lighting is substantial and should interest most rural and city councils. The demonstration of the differential effects of targeted lighting and broad illumination based on the same technology is impressive. Of course, the design aspect of LED-technology with the colourful potentials are of interest beyond the technical aspects to replace for example gas lighting. There is much more to lighting than just opening your eyes in the morning. (Image FG Lichttechnik TU Berlin)

Gas light

Even if it sounds crazy from today‘s perspective gas lights once were the symbol of progress. In the middle of the 19th century gas lights started to lighten and brighten the boulevards of major cities in Europe. The historic evolution of the various designs can still be followed in Berlin in the open space museum of gas light in the Tiergarten area near Zoologischer Garten. These gas lights were brighter than candles or petroleum lights and needed less maintenance. The CO2 footprint was no concern at that time and also safety concerns have been tolerated. Mechanical maintenance was relatively easy and sufficiently qualified personnel still abundant. All this has changed and the lamp posts powered by gas are mostly a part of industrial history now. The image below shows a fine example from Amsterdam. The solid construction shows nice ornaments on steel. The rounded shape remained quite unique.
Unfortunately, the accessibility of the museum has contributed to the loss of many nice examples of gas light designs. Many were destroyed during the football world cup in Berlin in 2006. Let’s hope the Tiergarten survives the Euro2024 better than the previous huge football events and Love parades. Serious precautions have been taken with quite solid fences to protect the inner city wild life.

Berlin Gas Light Museum

Aussensicht Innensicht

Die Sicht vom Skulpturengarten der Neuen Nationalgalerie auf die laufende Ausstellung „Zerreissprobe…“ erlaubt einen tiefen historischen Einblick in die 1980er Jahre. Die Sammlung von Postern des Künstlers Klaus Staeck zeigen die bewegenden Themen der achtziger Jahre. Frauenrechte, Umweltschutz, Sicherheit sowie Medienwirtschaft. 40 Jahre später beschäftigen uns weiterhin, Lösungen für die plakatierten Themen zu finden. Images können Themen so zuspitzen, dass Anklagen daraus werden. Texte sind im Vergleich zu der Eindrücklichkeit der Bilder ein vergleichsweise stumpfes Schwert. Es ist aber gerade die Verbindung von Bild und Text, die Eindrücke verstärkt. „Meme“ Creators sind ein standard tool das die Kommerzialisierung und die Promotion weiter befördert haben. Kunstformen hatten diesen Trend bereits vorweggenommen.

Democracy Enemies

Discussions in the social sciences about the fate of democracy have a long tradition. With the results of participation rates in elections for the European Parliament in 2024 weeks need to take up the challenge again. The book by Bryn Rosenfeld “The Autocratic Middle Class …” stated already in 2020 that autocratic regimes tend tp buy off democratic intentions through providing lots of jobs in the public sector which promise stable living standards and pensions to regime conformity. If the public sector crowds out private sector jobs this creates a tendency to lock in the current political system of autocracy. The analysis, however, lacks the explanation of the micro level sociological mechanism that made the “color revolutions” plausible in many parts of the world. Even the recent success of a government change in Poland in favor of pro European Donald Tusk would have been impossible if the buying of the middle class through public sector jobs is the overriding mechanism to avoid democracy to win the upper hand. Withholding funds to make public sector expansion more difficult or risky in for the longer term stability of an autocratic regime might do the trick. Autocrats have many enemies not only externally. The enemies from inside the society have multiple options for opposition as well. The other perspective that there are many enemies of democracy to be found within the public sector is another known challenge to democracy. Low turnout in Elections is a warning signal that we have to take very seriously and continue to act upon. (Image: Neue Nationalgalerie Berlin 2024 Extreme tension, explation on Ewa Partum)

Broken Promises

In a library catalogue, the entry of « broken promises «  returns more than 3000 times that the title has been used. « Promises kept » is almost as popular. A rapid inspection of titles reveals that the former titles suggest more factual analyses, whereas the latter is frequently used in the form of an imperative in combination with “should be kept”. The book by Fritz Bartel “The Triumph of Boken Promises …” (2022) demonstrates the importance of the concept of broken promises in the social sciences. The rivalry between socialism, capitalism and the rise of neoliberalism is strongly influenced by the way they handle the breaking of promises made to their respective societies. The promises of increasing wealth and wellbeing have been part of all political regimes. To keep these promises is a completely different story. Especially since the first and second oil crises and many other kinds of crises, it has become much harder to keep these promises. Working hours, retirement ages or minimum wages are all at risk to no longer live up to the promises made in earlier periods. This has put welfare states under pressure that millions of voters perceive politics as a “game” of broken promises. Socialist political regimes like Russia are ready to use physical violence to shut up people that remind leaders of these broken promises. In democracies the ballot box is often used to sanction governments that do not live up to expectations of previous promises. A lot is about public infrastructure which is failing people. Migration, education, social and labor reforms are on top of the political agenda if it comes down to broken promises. The elections of the European Parliament gave many a chance to express their discontent about various broken promises. Maybe democracy is better in providing forms of letting off steam early and protracted protests rather than the Russian way to suppress any critical analysis, let alone opposition movements. Just like the move from industrial production to services as production models, with AI we are likely to see similar problems and probably also broken promises. The challenge is huge and promises should be made with an eye of what promises could be kept.

Public swimming pool closed for reconstruction 2024

EURO 2024

Before the EURO 2024, (European soccer championship) has even started, the host country Germany and the DFB- foundation for culture joined forces for a remarkable exhibition. In the “National Gallery of Contemporary Art” and next to the Berlin Hauptbahnhof a provocative video installation is mounted that uses the imagery of soccer (football) to portray the life and atmosphere associated with soccer. Injuries on the playing field, but even more so injuries caused by violent groups among the spectators create an emotionally charged representation before, during and after the match. The role of the umpire is central in the match and in the cultural project. Shattered dreams are part of the game for players as well as spectators. Visual impressions have contributed enormously to spectacular success of football on television. The masses of viewers has created a big business of television rights and merchandising products as well. The DFB Kulturstiftung undertakes great efforts to open up the discussion about soccer in a critical way through art projects. The entry into the installation resembles the entry of players through a tunnel into the huge stadium. The world of soccer has multiple links to physical and psychic violence. The installation “Winner” signed by Marianna Simnett challenges the media’s largely beautiful videos about the world of football. In the ocean of enthusiasm this exhibition is just a tiny grain of salt, adding spice to life.

Winner by Marianna Simnett 2024 Berlin

European Voters

Elections of the European Parliament are more about a learning and participation experience than about crucial political influence. This seems to be the lesson learned from the relatively low voter turnout in many countries in 2024-6. Belgium reached by far the highest percentage (90%) of participants, but it had federal and regional elections at the same time. Croatian voters could not be bothered with these elections with just 21% of turnout. Many countries hovered around the 50% participation mark like France, Spain, Italy, Ireland and Sweden. Germany reached almost 65% which is relatively high, but due to its population size, it sends the most MEPs to Brussels later on. The most surprising result is the extremely low turnout in the former Eastern, Southern Eastern and Baltic states of the European Union. Apparently, the voters in these countries care little about their political option to vote for MEPs. This should worry all other parts of Europe profoundly as we invest billions in infrastructure and social cohesion to keep the European Union an open house for all East and West, South and North. The challenges for the next 5 years are huge. The expectations are high, but the commitment to democratic procedures like voting and decisions through the ballot box are not to be taken for granted throughout Europe. (Image European Parliament 2024-6-11)

AI Ghost Writer

Yes, with AI we have entered a new phase of the impact of IT. Beyond the general applications like ChatGPT there is a rapidly expanding market of AI applications with more specialized functions or capabilities. In the realm of scientific writing AI-Writer is an interesting example of the AI assisted production of scientific tests. After the specification of the topic you will receive several options to specify the content of the short paper you want to produce with AI-Writer. You may choose the headline, keywords, subtopics and the logical order of these subtopics depending on your audience. Alternatively, you leave all those decisions to the application and restrain yourself to fix the amount of words you would like the paper to have.
AI-Writer is a powerful ghost writer for much work even of advanced scientists. The quality of the paper needs to be checked by yourself, but the explicit list of references, from which AI-Writer derives its restatements of the content, is just next to it. Your ghost writer AI is likely to replace a number of persons that were previously involved to just produce literature reviews or large parts of textbooks sold to millions of students.
A much lesser known feature of such tools is the way it makes plagiarism much more transparent for the scientific communities and the public at large. These programs demonstrate the techniques of combining knowledge and the citation imperatives in a transparent, almost pedagogical way. This latter function will speed up scientific work like dissertation drafting, since the reading up and documentation of previous literature in a field is a time consuming early stage of academic degrees.
Email composition, rewording, plot generator or social media posts are additional nice-to-have features of the new AI-assistants. A lot of work that has been outsourced, for example, to lawyers, consultants or other technical professions, might equally be challenged. Ghost writers have been around for centuries. With AI for everybody, they will also be involved everywhere.
(Image screen shot of working with AI-Writer 2024-6)

AI Citation

In science we love citations. The whole issue about plagiarism is about use and abuse of citations. It is a core competence of scientists to properly cite the work of other persons who dealt with the same or similar topic. There are lots of conventions or ways of how to cite mostly defined by professional academic groups. How do we cite texts that originate from an AI-system? We shall have to establish ways of how to do this properly rather than to ignore the spreading practice of its use.
For the time being, we test AI-systems that provide references in addition to the text and even direct clickable links to the original work they use. The AI-toolbox is called “scite”. Your assistant by scite will draft a short note on a topic (for example: Minkowski space, see trial below) for you and provide the linked citations for follow-up. At the price of about 15 €/months it is affordable for students and young researchers. The texts generated will then, in many instances, acquire “intellectual property and publishing rights” by persons.
The ways to follow back on citations of AI-produced texts seems a trustworthy step ahead. The authors of millions of papers cannot claim more than the original ownership of the text. The academic mantra “publish or perish” has been turned into “publish and perish”. AI-enabled citations might alleviate the pain only a little bit. The profession of even university professors shifts as reviewer of texts from students to texts of machines.

Forecasting floods

As floods as becoming more frequent and more severe forecasting of such events is crucial. The recent example in Bavaria (Germany) of the Danube river (2nd longest in Europe) has demonstrated the role of forecasting to spur adequate behavior of people living in areas at risk of flooding. With the weather forecast announcing lots of rain for a large area the forecasting of floods needs to follow closely these trends. It is not only a question of expectations, but an issue of adaptive expectations for people to adopt appropriate precautions. In retrospect the early forecasts turned out to be fairly accurate in terms of the peak of flooding to be expected in June 2024. The Bavarian “Hochwassernachrichtendienst” (no joke, one word) forecasted on the 2nd of June about 7.50 as the peak to be reached in 2 days in the city of Kelheim. This was beyond the usual 4 warning levels based on an escalation scale. The forecast was beyond the frequent flooding levels established in the last decades. People and emergency services would have to adapt their expectations accordingly. Renewing forecasts is essential to guide people and services in their efforts to deal with emergencies and repair damages as flood levels recede. Management of crises critically depends on forecasting even if they are obviously prone to error margins which should usually be reported as well just like in weather forecasts. Adaptive expectations are key in combination with forecasts to ensure survival.

Hochwassernachrichtendienst Bayern 2024-6
Kelheim on Danube

Adaptive Expectations

In economics it is important to understand the concept of adaptive expectations. We all form expectations about prices and inflation, but there is more than just simple expectations. These expectations guide our behaviors in many domains. If we expect a drastic price change for goods and/or services we shall most likely modify our behavior in response. We might want to advance a purchase to take advantage of currently lower prices in the expectation of higher costs later on. Most people would follow the price changes on a regular basis and adapt their expectations according to the updated information. It is an important process as there are millions of people who do this and this process drives price levels in many countries. In Europe we would like to see not only inflation, but also expectations about inflation to be around the target level of 2% per year. After the high price rises of energy and food (Putin’s war) as well as the disrupted supply chains (Covid-19 crisis) we were unsure, whether we would have to adapt our expectations for the coming years. The credit crunch in the last few years forced people to adapt spending plans and expenditures. We seem to have overcome these major crises due to rapid adaptive expectations. The crucial mechanism to achieve this is a timely and open communication of changes. Media have a role to play to not only spread the information, but to explain underlying reasons. This contributes to a widespread understanding of basic economic principles that helps countries to navigate stormy weather. It is like players of chess who adapt their strategy after the other player has acted or not according to their expectations. It’s simple, isn‘t it?

Schostakowitsch Revival

Je mehr Putin sich unablässig in seinem Angriffskrieg gegen die Ukraine und gegen seine eigenen Leute versteift, umso mehr werden die musikalischen Werke von Dmitri Schostakowitsch aktuell. Schostakowitsch hatte viel unter Stalin zu leiden. Sein Werk konnte kaum Gefallen bei der stalinistischen Führung finden, aber dennoch haben voele der Russen seine Werke geliebt. Insbesondere die sogenannte „Leningrader“ Symphonie, die das Volk einte vor den Radioempfängern, selbst mitten im Krieg gegen Nazi-Deutschland. Die Berliner Symphoniker haben diesem Werk eine neuere Ehre erwiesen mit einer Aufführung in Berlin 2024-5. Das Interview dazu mit dem Dirigenten Yannick Nézet-Séguin wurde geführt von Matthew Hunter, Bratschist der Berliner Philharmoniker. Es beschreibt diese eindrückliche Auswahl hervorragend. Die Berliner Philharmoniker haben eine lange Tradition, Werke von Schostakowitsch aufzuführen und einzuspielen. Die Digital Concerthall hat eine umfangreiche Sammlung mit Werken von Schostakowitsch. Oftmals etwas schwere Kost, aber durch das Ausspielen des ganzen dynamischen Spektrums von pp bis ff nie langweilig. Eine kleine Filmmusik „Volksfest“ (Sylvesterkonzert 2022) ist leicht beschwingt oder gar etwas beschwipst. Der musikalische Nachwuchs hat die Tiefe der Werke erkannt und gewinnt international anerkannte Preise mit Vorträgen von Werken Schostakowitschs. So geschehen zum Beispiel beim „Concours de la Reine Elisabeth in Brüssel 2024-5. Der Ukrainer Dmytro Udovychenko würdigte Schostakowitschs Leben und Werk inklusive des Existenzkampfes und gleichzeitig seine Heimat die Ukraine mit dem Belgischen Nationalorchester mitten in Europa. 

Example Audio Playlist on Spotify or Videos on DCH

Co-authorship Kafka

In science Co-authorship is a tricky issue. Therefore, many higher reputation journals list precisely who has contributed what to the paper. In the teaching and supervision of bachelor, master or doctoral dissertations it is imperative to scrutinize the original contributions of authors to the subject. There are huge differences between universities to the amount of innovation or originality that is required to award degrees or the publication of the research and results. Rüdiger Safranski published with Hanser 2024 an essay on Kafka which has 224 pages, but a 16 page long list of the sources of the copy-paste citations used from the orignal Kafka writings. By scientific co-authorship practice Kafka should claim co-authorship of the book and the costs of the „Process“ should be paid by the publishing house. However, I enjoyed the many links between comments and the originals next to each other. It is like a data analysis that sticks plausibly to the original data. AI still has a hard time to rival with these skills, although AI is catching up faster than many of us might believe or want to believe. From a social science perspective we might say the original work of maybe only 180 pages is inflated to make for a longer text of 240 pages. This justifies, probably, the publisher’s price (€26) and the marketing costs. On the other hand it becomes evident that Kafka has an enormous impact on writers and seems to take possession of them in an encompassing fashion. You move with him, but rarely beyond him. Tough lessons indeed from the publishing world.

Marketing bicycles

The marketing of bicycles has changed considerably over the course of history. Today’s narrative is more about the eco friendly impact of it. Historically the freedom aspect of free movement and emancipation of women was at the forefront. The collection of images in poster formats presented at the DTM in Berlin is impressive. The focus on women on bicycles is quite surprising for this early time around 1900. Few of the companies from the early days have survived until today. Bicycles are still fascinating children and adults today. The experience of a fragile equilibrium, your own strength and weakness in muscle power, cardiac or pulmonary strength is always challenging. It is you who is in control of speed and direction. This should be easy to sell to the masses, and it was and still is. “Bikenomics” is here to stay. Artists had the same impression and created a whole universe of promises for riders of bicycles. The long run health benefits were not even known at the time, but it was unthinkable that humans would spend most hours sitting in offices, cars and on their couches. The biking story needs to be retold to encourage people to take up the emancipating storyline again. Get on your bike again!

DTM Berlin 2024-6

Bikenomics

There is a whole cluster of enterprises associated with bicycles. Selling a bike is only the first we might think of. Repair works are the most tricky part of bikenomics, a bit like bidenomics. In many cities during spring and summer it is even more difficult to get an appointment for bicycle repairs than for a doctor’s appointment, and that can be hard at times. Shortages of skilled technicians are pervasive in this sector. DIY for do it yourself is the best alternative. With the arrival of e-bikes and the digital connectivity the skill set has been enhanced recently as well. Insurance for bikes, lockers, helmets, airbag system or clothing including spectacles are part of the standard safety and security set of bicycle riders nowadays. Many, many job opportunities there and the willingness to pay for bicycles has steadily increased over the last years.

Berlin has just seen its 48th bicycle demonstration in 2024-6 on roads including 2 motorways with several ten thousands of participants. In a star like fashion multiple tracks met at the city center. The final meeting with stands and information was at the Deutsche Technik Museum with refreshments and repairs. The exhibition of cargo bikes and taxi bikes or “rickshaws” was another highlight. We need to rethink our mobility concepts and try to get the sharing to work more comfortably. For different purposes and activities you need a different bike. Ownership of each is no longer adequate as for example with aging alone your preferences for mobility with bikes also changes. Sharing is caring and this is also part of bikenomics.

Law Nature

There exists a rather complicated relationship between law and nature. It is part of constitutional law to check whether nature figures at all in a state’s constitution as part of the fundamental legal principles. On a global scale the nations or people living in the closest relationship with nature most often do not have written constitutions. In the same vein, animals or biodiversity do not figure in most constitutional documents (nice project to substantiate this claim). The philosophy of law has line of literature devoted to “Naturrecht” which is more concerned with human beings and their differentiation than the millions of other species.
Administrative law is probably the domain with most of the legal judgements with relevance to nature or the environment as for example any larger scale construction is either land, water, air or biodiversity grabbing. Rights and limits need to be defined precisely. In this field the role of law as “appeasement” is widely applied. However, this is more complicated in cases when a whole population of an island in the ocean is threatened to disappear due to the rise of the sea level like in the case of the Torres Strait Islands, next to and part of Australia.
The UN Human Rights Committee (UN-HRCee) in Geneva has made a decision on the claim of these people to have rights that the nature of the islands as low-lying islands is threatened by disrespect of their fundamental rights of existence and survival. The claim has been received by the court, but the court deems that the threat to their culture and survival is not imminent. In practice, therefore, the sword of law is rather weak and time until the disaster is used as a right to continue the usual economic exploitation of earth as before despite the deferred consequences for the planet in a rather unequal way.
(Image by AI copilot designer 2024-6-2 “5 judges in red gowns sit in a flooded courtroom”, 2 propsitions)

Kafka Kafkaesque

The last 4 years in the life of Franz Kafka had been challenging due to his tuberculosis. Despite these challenges he realized additional, lesser known pieces of literature from 1920-1924 including a collection of aphorisms. The interpretation of these pieces is quite controversial and making your own judgement about these pieces should be left to each person. The most debated elements are his level of abstraction. Additional examples of animals enter into the arena. Mice received his attention in his last work. Whereas Josef was the name of principal characters before, Josefine was his last character. Continuation, discontinuity or dialect dialogue between the characters, up for interpretation and debate. The role of artists or writers in society was also a recurrent theme in his work and life. Great to have an easy access in the Leselounge at Stabi Potsdamer Straße as an extension of the exhibition of the family photographs in the Stabi Unter den Linden.

Cars electrified

It is not only cars, but the whole automotive industry that got somehow electrified. The U.S. have imposed a 100% tax on electric cars produced in China recently. Europe is feeling the heat as well (compare Fressoz in Le Monde 31.5.2024). Production of cars is not a for fun activity. It is firmly embedded in our economic system which believes in profit maximization even at high environmental costs. Therefore, the production of cars follows the logic to build cars that generate the highest profits. Bigger cars yield bigger profits and this has been known for decades. Why should we expect our car producers to deviate from this logic. Investors push hard in this direction as well. Small e-cars generate small profits. This can only be economically valid if large numbers are produced. China’s home market has the market size and air pollution levels that make this a viable strategy also for the lower income people. If not sold in the US or Europe, the home market is able to absorb huge amounts of electrified cars. Downsizing of cars needs to happen particularly in inner cities. The implementation of this is not going to be easy and without resistance.

Library Search

Libraries have not only lots of books on shelves and in storage places, but scientific research makes use of lots of scientific journals as well. The direct access to these journals shortens the search for information. We tend to focus on certain sets of journals, which we follow regularly as well as some random choices. Libraries like the Staatsbibliothek in Berlin have the advantage of access to multiple scientific disciplines under the same roof. This facilitates cross-disciplinary research with access to the best available knowledge. This resembles university libraries where also a broad spectrum of disciplines is taught.

Moving from paper-based publishing to electronic publishing, it is obvious that libraries are part of this move. Printed journals disappear and the electronic versions are made available to the readers. 2 issues arise: (1) adapt your search strategy to e-search and reading on screens and (2) accept that your research leaves traces (and potential tracking of your activities) of what information is really used. User statistics are likely to have consequences in the medium term. All libraries want to know who are my readers and what kind of search strategies do they apply. Similar to some of the best scientific results that are an outcome of by chance findings the search in libraries is enriched through „random effects“ of search. On-shelf access to printed copies allows a rapid overview of a whole year of issues beyond the abstracts always available online anyway. It is so much faster than the online search that we shall miss the paper-based issues of journals for quite some time. At the time of artificial intelligence everywhere reading and writing might be overvalued as economists might say. Our search algorithms and use of libraries is evolving at the same time. The by-chance or random inspiration might move to other places.

library shelf with empty journals‘ stock

Portable Grundgesetz

Celebrating democracy in Germany is rare. We take it for granted that democracy persists, as most of us have not experienced it otherwise in Germany. This is grossly mistaken as the opinion polls show repeatedly in recent years. Therefore, it is welcome to find the “Portable Grundgesetz” at the “Demokratiefest” in Berlin and Bonn at the event to celebrate 75 years of democracy in West Germany and 35 years in East Germany.
The century-old tradition to produce miniature books has been revived and the miniature books have been widely distributed at the event. A side effect consists in the eco-friendliness of this version, which saves a lot of paper. It is fun also fun to turn pages rapidly and discover some paragraphs which we would not have read otherwise. “Daumenkino” is the German word for versions that contain many images. Maybe next time, an illustrated and/or animated version of the Grundgesetz could encourage youth to celebrate using the texts, §s and images to discover the fundamentals of our constitution.
325 years ago, Weigel the Elder has illustrated, edited and published such a tiny edition of the Bible. It is currently exposed in the treasure museum at the “Kulturwerk” in the “Stabi Ost” in Berlin. “Back to the Future”, lots of ideas we get by taking archives seriously. By chance inspiration is undervalued. Search algorithms have a hard time to replace this in an effective way so far.