Schachliteratur

Es gibt sie noch, die Personen, die Schachbücher lesen und kaufen. In vielen Sprachen existiert die Niche der heimlichen Strategen. „Teaching old dogs new tricks“ oder ist es eher „teaching young dogs old tricks“. Das ist eine empirische Frage. Nicht nur Zeitungen für sogenannte BildungsbürgerInnen haben noch kleine Spalten zumeist mit Schachproblemen. Manchmal findet sich Schachspielen sogar als Schulfach. Lesestoff zum Schachspiel findet sich reichlich. Schach in der Literatur ist jedoch verschieden von der Schachliteratur, die sich mit Strategien und Tempi befasst.

Das Lesen von Schachliteratur mit Meisterpartien hervorragender Spielenden ist vergleichbar dem Lesen einer Partitur einer Symphonie oder Oper. Das Kino spielt sich dabei überwiegend im Kopf ab. Gelegentliche unvermittelte Gesten oder Ah-laute sollten den Spielenden ihrer Verzückung wegen entschuldigt werden. Vielleicht sollten die Schulen diese Kulturtechniken mehr vermitteln. Macron‘s Vorschlag Theaterspielen mehr in den Schulen zu vermitteln erscheint in diesem Vergleich als ein Entgegenkommen an die „Generation der sich ständig selbst inszenierenden“. Mehr Spielen ist aber schon mal ein wegweisender Vorschlag.

Schachbücher 2024

Transparent Publishing

New technology pushes transparency of publishing, journalism and science to new levels. Through the hyperlink structure of texts it is easy to link back to the sources of a text. What used to be long lists of references at the end of a text or in footnotes has become directly accessible through weblinks. Only paywalls may or may not restrict the fast and easy access to original sources. In writing online, this is a major additional feature of publishing in the last few years. Some online journals allow this for quite some time now, but there are lots of printed versions that stick to the read and be stuck approach of publishing.
In teaching I have been an advocate of “read the original sources” as the basic source of inspiration for authors. The transparency of the thought process and the evidence provided in whatever form should be traceable. In publishing this transparency allows to exclude the copying of thoughts or unreflected referencing.
However, the task to check for the validity of weblinks and the updating is an additional task. 500+ blog entries with an average number of 2 weblinks per blog entry makes this a job of its own. Testing of 1000 weblinks is something you need a software or plugin which alerts you to “broken links”. The maintenance of a webpage, therefore, increases substantially as the content increases. Reorganisations of webpages make the follow-up of links sometimes quite hard. Projects like the general archives of the web and webpages are very important to ensure the transparency of publishing in the short, medium and long run. The archives of today look more like machine rooms than the splendid archives or libraries of the past and present.

AI Reader

In the middle of the hype around AI it is useful to take stock of the reflection and evolution of AI. In my own analyses and writings on AI it evident that a narrowing of focus has taken place. Whereas before 2022 the writing dealt more with digital technologies in general. The links to the literature on the social construction of technologies was obvious. Algorithms and AI was a part of the broader topic of society and technology.
This has changed. The public debate is focused on “everything AI now”. We look at technological developments largely through the lens of AI now. Hence, my focus of assessments of technology from a societal perspective follows this trend. In a collection of blog entries on AI we try to demonstrate the far reaching changes that have started to have an impact on us. In the last few months the all encompassing concern about AI’s effect on us needs full attention of social scientists, policy makers, companies and the public at large. We can no longer leave this topic to the software engineers alone. By the way, they themselves ask us to get involved and take the latest advances in AI more seriously.
As a “flipbook” the online reading is rather comfortable (Link to flipbook publisher MPL). The pdf or epub files of the blog entries allow to directly follow the links to sources in webpages or other publications (AI and Society 2p 2024-4-18). The cycles of analyses and comments have become faster. Traditional book writing suffers from time lags that risk to make pubications outdated rather quickly. Dynamic ebook writing might bridge the gap between time to reflect and speed to publish or inform the wider public.

Forest Management

Responsible forest management is key. To safeguard against the loss of biodiversity the management of forests can achieve a great deal as the study in Nature of 2024-4-10 has demonstrated. Reducing hunting by humans in dense tropical forests allows bigger species to survive and thrive compared to forests with easy access by roads. FSC certification of forests helps significantly to protect wildlife. The ability to ameliorate biodiversity of forests is assisted by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) through the responsible management, preservation and limitation of access to wild forests. This is an important message that in fact it is still possible to preserve wildlife also of larger species if we only really commit to the cause. It is well worth to support such initiatives and monitor the progress. Of course, any such success attracts new hunters and a continuation of the FSC efforts is needed for the benefit of the whole biodiversity on our planet as there is no planet B.

Berlin Zoo 2024

Series Evaluation

The monitoring of TV series is a serious science. The evaluation of so-called binch viewing has redrawn attention to the field of media studies again. We observe a bit across Europe, following the US experience, the change of TV productions into series that may run over several years. The successful format of a TV series draws advertising to the relatively constant audience. Most series have a particular age group as their target group. Viewing behavior determines time slots allocated. Each group has its own prime time. The publisher of books had their successes with similar series of for example children’s picture books or cartoons. Asterix, Martine and similar book series have basically applied the same “serial” mechanism before. Popular success creates its own dynamics. Therefore the evaluation of such serial productions should stay on our research agenda of the social sciences as well.

In a radio discussion “France Culture” has juxtaposed the 2 currents of series evaluation in a concise way. One current of assessment holds the view that rather than high versus low culture, the debate should take popular culture seriously. It augments the set of experiences as the characters in a TV series live through a kind of “experimental setting” each time anew. The variety of experiences is catching popular attention as they are beyond the scope of the spectator’s usual life settings and thereby a learning opportunity. This highlights the value of the content in the evaluation. This requires a thorough scrutiny of that content to evaluate an emancipatory value of viewing it (Sandra Lauglier, 2023).

An opposing view is defended by Bertrand Cochard (2024) with reference to the conflict about one’ use of free time available to us and how we spend it. His criticism takes issue with the amount of time “lost” by viewers of series. Time is not spent twice. The loss of time alone or side by side rather than spending it with other persons or physically active constitutes a major risk to the social fabric of society.The jury is still out on the issue. We likely see the start of a series of entries on this topic as well.

Mehr vom Meer

Wir sollten uns mehr um das Meer kümmern. Länder ohne Küsten finden meistens wenig Gründe, warum sie sich um das Meer bemühen sollten. Es ist doch so weit weg. Weit gefehlt. Erderwärmung erhöht die Meerestemperaturen und das wiederum beeinflusst massgeblich die Regenfälle im Inneren der Kontinente. Wir sitzen buchstäblich alle zusammen in einem Boot. Historisch betrachtet war das Meer mindestens seit der Antike Teil des machtpolitischen Kalküls der Beherrschung der Welt und der sie Bewohnenden. Wirtschaftliche Interessen waren ebenfalls Bestandteil der Erkundung und Eroberung des Meeresraums. Die Hansestädte in Europa bieten dazu noch heute gute Beispiele. Nach dem Sklavenhandel sind heute die Überseekabel und Rohstoffe des Meeres die begehrten Schätze des Meeres. Der Artenreichtum der Tiefsee wird erst seit kurzer Zeit intensiver erforscht. Externalisieren von Kosten des Umweltschutzes zu Lasten unserer Meere hat noch wenig Berücksichtigung in Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft gefunden. Tourismus- und Migrationsströme zum Meer, auf dem Meer und über das Meer stellen uns vor große Herausforderungen. Wir werden sicherlich mehr über das Meer reden müssen, und das ist keine Mär. Image aus „Europa und das Meer“ (DHM).

Das Meer

Wir haben vielfältige Beziehungen zum Meer. Diese reichen von romantisch geprägten Gefühlen zum Meer, den Wellen und den Fischen bis zur wissenschaftlichen Befassung mit den Meeren, Mangroven und dem Klimawandel. 71% der Erdoberfläche besteht aus Meeren. Das sollte den Festlandbewohnenden eigentlich klar machen, wie wichtig Meere für unseren Planeten sind. „Ocean Literacy“ nennt die UNESCO das. Neben Lesen, Schreiben und Rechnen sollte die Literalität auf unsere Ozeane ausgedehnt werden bevor es zu spät ist. Verschmutzung der Meere passiert hauptsächlich im Verborgenen. Lediglich Beobachtung aus dem Weltraum kann die weitläufigen Routen der Verschmutzenden zumindest teilweise nachverfolgen. Vielleicht hilft die Rückkehr zu der romantischen Sicht auf die Meere eines „William Turner“ zu einer höheren Wertschätzung der Meere, dem Licht und den Wellen.
Die kleine Sammlung von Gedichten „Das Meer“, erschienen im Reclam Verlag, ist eine gute Reisebegleitung für Begeisterte des Meeres. Darin findet sich eine Vielzahl von renommierten Schreibenden, die ihre Faszination des Meeres zum Ausdruck bringen. Mein momentaner Favorit ist Wolfgang Borchert darin (S.41-42) „Muscheln, Muscheln“.
Muscheln, Muscheln, blank und bunt,
findet man als Kind.

Muscheln, Muscheln, bunt und blank,
fand man einst als Kind!

Zoo Visit

The visit of a zoo is always a great event. Accordingly the prices of a visit have reached levels that are beyond prices for a cinema entry. Usually a whole day is spent with high emotions watching animals sleeping, walking or eating. Sometimes we can watch a training session or a brief medical intervention. Learning about the beauty of biodiversity is important because we treasure more what we like. Looking into the eyes of an animal stimulates affection. Gathering support for the preservation of ecosystems was and still is a great effort. And yet, we have to move beyond preservation to the restoration of ecosystems like in the UNDP projects (Link). Animal parks can contribute to this if we encourage such cooperation and co-financing. The awareness, understanding and willingness to engage in restoration projects is largely increased after the visit of a zoo. A second round effect is the potential to reduce international travel to destinations with rich animal diversity. Restoration is a win-win situation for wildlife habitat and our planet as a whole.

Disappeared

We talk a lot in abstract terms of the loss of biodiversity. In the Museums of Natural History, like the one in Berlin, we can follow the trajectory of extinction of species. The dinosaurs are for most children the greatest attraction. No surprise, they are the biggest ones we have had on our planet. But there is a huge collection of disappeared species represented in the museums which we admire as a lost treasure or species threatened with extinction. Evolution had also created this rather big bird-like creature of the “dodo”. It couldn’t fly anymore and was inhabiting the splendid island of Mauritius. Hungry colonists passing have most likely literally eaten up this rather defenseless animal. Many other extinct species can be admired now only in museums and children feel naturally attached to some species that seem to have human expressions. Panda bears and gorillas rank high on such a list, but also some fish, especially if they smile or look at you straight into your eyes. This should help us take biodiversity and biodegradation more seriously. Children feel intuitively attracted to animals as natural companions. Something we have lost as adults and most of do not even realize this as a deficiency. The Nobel price winning author frm Mauritius has published a collection of short stories „Avers“ which captures the spirit of the island and the loss of species. J.M.G.Le Clézio seems to look at us through the eyes of children or a disappeared species. Magic moments are an escape as well as reason for hope.

Natural History Museum Berlin 2024

AI and dialect

The training of Large Language Models (LLM) uses large data sets to learn about conventions of which words are combined with each other and which ones are less frequently employed in conjunction. Therefore, it does not really come as a surprise that training which uses standardised languages of American English might not be as valid for applications that receive input from minority languages or dialects. The study forthcoming in the field of Computer science and Language by Hofmann et al. (Link) provides evidence of the systematic bias against African American dialects in these models. Dialect prejudice remains a major concern in AI, just like in the day-to-day experiences of many people speaking a dialect. The study highlights that dialect speakers are more likely to be assigned less prestigious jobs if AI is used to sort applicants. Similarly, criminal sentences will harsher for speakers of African American. Even the more frequent attribution of death sentences for dialect speakers was evidenced.
If we translate this evidence to wide-spread applications of AI in the workplace, we realise that there are severe issues to resolve. The European Trade Union Congress (ETUC) has flagged the issue for some time (Link) and made recommendations of how to address these shortcomings. Human control and co-determination by employees are crucial in these applications to the world of work and employment. The need to justify decision-making concerning hiring and firing limit discrimination in the work place. This needs to be preserved in the 21st century collaborating with AI. The language barriers like dialects or multiple official languages in a country ask for a reconsideration of AI to avoid discrimination. Legal systems have to clarify the responsibilities of AI applications before too much harm has been caused.
There are huge potentials of AI as well in the preservation of dialects or interacting in a dialect. The cultural diversity may be preserved more easily, but discriminatory practices have to be eliminated from the basis of these models otherwise they become a severe legal risk for people, companies or public services who apply these large language models without careful scrutiny.
(Image AI BING Designer: 3 robots are in an office. 2 wear suits. 1 wears folklore dress. All speak to each other in a meeting. Cartoon-like style in futuristic setting)

Korallenriff

Kinder verstehen direkt, dass es sich lohnt, Korallenriffe zu erhalten. Plastikmüll in den Meeren gefährdet die Korallenriffe und die bunte Vielfalt an Fischen, die darin leben. Ein kleines Theaterstück dazu von Kathrin Brunner begeistert Kinder, weil es sie erleben lässt, wie einfach Lösungen aussehen können. Den großen Leuten zeigen, wie traurig die Welt aussieht ohne die farbenfrohe Pracht der bunten Fische, wird sie schon zu Veränderungen bringen. Das Theaterstück und Buch dazu wurde am 16.3.2024 im FEZ in Berlin aufgeführt. Das Figurenspiel mit überleitendem Refrain, das vom Publikum gleichsam der Promenade in den „Bildern einer Ausstellung“ (Mussorgsky) mitgesungen haben, bildete jeweils eine gelungene emotionale Überleitung und Aufmerksamkeitspause. Wir wünschen uns noch viele kleine und große Besuchende für diese Aufführungen. Die Kinder werden es uns schon lehren, den blauen Planeten noch zu retten.

Need of War

It seems like a horrific idea to talk about the need of war. We might have deemed it outdated to read about the terrible love of war or about the strategy of war. However, the time of war is back in Europe and Eastern Europe feels the real threat and Ukraine the bombs hailing from Russia. Why does Putin love war? The love of war is largely driven by domestic issues. Staying in power for unliked authoritarian leaders is easiest if they indulge in external conflicts. Dictators love war because it makes it easier for them to sustain leadership through brutal force within the country due to a proclaimed external threat or even outright engagement in war. Democratically elected leaders know that they will leave office eventually in a peaceful way (exceptions like Trump are rare). Dictators use any force or terror necessary to stay in power. The love of war is part of this.
Hence, the need of war goes without questioning, if a country in decline or at risk of decline tries to uphold an inefficient, belligerent regime. Beyond rational reasons, such regimes will abuse ideation about national pride, the national interest and anything pertaining to some supposed myths of nationhood to justify its need of war. The dictators have all failed eventually as resistance against this need of useless war is found out by enemies either within or externally. But thousands or millions of victims will suffer. The pressure against the need of war has to rise internally from opposition as well as from alliances of democracies that do not need war to motivate their people to achieve the best they are able to deliver.
Therefore, the defence of democratic rule is, at the same time, a fight against the need of war by some doomed regimes. After winning the war comes the difficult task of winning peace. This means to create a state of affairs and a state of mind that can do without the need of war. If the external threat diminishes the internal threats might rise and have to be contained as well. Lots of challenges, even for mature democracies. (Image: Berlin 2022-10)

Magritte Symbol

“People always search for symbols in my works. There are none.” For those familiar with the work of Magritte, they know that he means precisely the opposite of what he is stating there. He applies well-known symbols like the white pigeon representing peace in his paintings to represent and make us think about peace. The image becomes surreal in the sense that we go beyond the real world of violence and war to lift our attention to the other surreal version of the world as it currently appears to us.
In times of war, it is more difficult to image a peaceful world and yet, this is the time we need to believe in the possibility of peace beyond the reality of aggression. In 1966 Magritte has painted “L’oiseau de ciel”, the year the peace movements became more than a surreal dream across the world. It remains a challenge to think beyond the cold war at the time and the hot war initiated by Russia in Ukraine. Surrealism helps us to think beyond the real state of affairs.
In Magritte’s own biography the “dove of peace” occurs towards the end of his own life. Whereas at the onset of his career as painter he dealt with depression and suicide in his family, towards the end of his career he moves beyond the autobiographical topics. Globally valid symbols gain the upper hand. The life course seems to have come full circle.

 

Corruption Watch

There is a persistent need to watch carefully whether corruption is involved in political as well as economic deals. Transparency Watch is doing a great job in reporting on corruption cases. In democracy we can talk openly about corruption but in authoritarian regimes it is life-threatening for yourself to talk and report on corruption. The case in Europe around the network of Eva Kaili continues to make headlines due to the ruthless abuse of rules the European Parliament. (Link to Le Soir, image below, 2024) The close monitoring of activities and lobbying of powerful industrial interests targeted on parliamentary candidates and officials will continue to be essential for the survival of democracy. The organization „Abgeordnetenwatch.de“ is doing just this. Investigative journalism needs to complement the work of NGOs in this field. Thanks to these efforts it has become much harder to cover up corruption. Only if the risk to be found out is a credible threat corruption can be contained. Let us watch out carefully and probably with the assistance of AI to uncover early any attempts of corruption.

Clip „Le Soir“ 2024-2-28 p.1

Schachnovelle

Die Schachnovelle von Stefan Zweig gehört seit langem zu den Klassikern der deutschsprachigen Literatur. Zuletzt hat Jean-Philippe Toussaint in seinem autobiografischen Roman « L’échiquier » dieses Werk nochmals gewürdigt. Die psychische Belastung der fortgeschritten Schachspielenden macht spannende Lektüre. Bei Stefan Zweig ermöglicht das kognitive Training mittels Schachspielen die Bewahrung vor dem drohenden Wahnsinn durch Isolationsfolter. Gedankliche Fokussierung auf das Schachspiel und Spielen gegen sich selbst im Gedankenexperiment werden Rettung und Flucht in virtuelle Welten. Dennoch hinterlässt die Intensität der Erfahrung Spuren. Absorption ins Game, heute als Gaming meist verharmlost, lässt sich in vielen anderen Lebenssituationen wiederfinden. Es kann zur Sucht werden und Personen komplett absorbieren. Alleine Rauskommen oder vom Trip runter kommen ist schwer. Glück haben diejenigen, die professionelle Hilfe suchen und bekommen können.

L’échiquier

The game of chess has been subject of an ever increasing amount of literature. Not only historically the game, where two kings fight against each other, but the queens are the most powerful figures on the chessboard attracted a great deal of attention. We studied chess in books and watched live tournaments between the best players of the world. Most of this has successfully moved online and we have gotten used to losing against computers for almost all human beings some time ago. The internal federation of chess FIDE lists the top players male and female. The calendar of face to face events is still impressive. The federation operates somehow like a platform of players, as well as for players, to organize their lives as chess players. Anther kind of chess literature is the one that is constructed around the lives of chess players. Some characters get really absorbed into the mental or virtual world of the dialogue between 2 or more characters or players. The real world experience and the game on the board become intertwined or entangled. Losing or winning, to win or not to win, may unbalance whole personalities. Beyond the “Schachnovelle” von Stefan Zweig we have a new addition of fictional writing with autobiographical traits by Jean-Philippe Toussaint (2023) on our desks. « L’échiquier » is a story unfolding in 64 chapters just like the 8 x 8 spots on the chessboard. Of course, the story does not unfold in a linear fashion. It seems as if the players or opponents even change as the game unfolds. Maybe there are more than one game in action. Simultaneously as in some chess tournaments. Some games are blitz games taking just a few minutes, others go on beyond a lifetime. The experience of playing chess even against yourself has a psychological and sociological dimension. You can go round in circles for some or you are like “bowling alone” in the individualized society. About time to shed an additional light on the mystery of the chessboard. Self isolation with a chessboard was also a way of coping with the Covid pandemic. Some still suffer from long Covid and cures are not always easy to find.

L’échiquier, chessboard, Schachbrett

AI Collusion

In most applications of AI there is one system of AI, for example a specialized service, that performs in isolation from other services. More powerful systems, however, allow for the combination of AI services. This may be useful in case of integrating services focusing on specialized sensors to gain a more complete impression of the performance of a system. As soon as two and more AI systems become integrated the risk of unwanted or illegal collusion may occur.
Collusion is defined in the realm of economic theory as the secret, undocumented, often illegal, restriction of competition originating from at least two otherwise rival competitors. In the realm of AI collusion has been defined by Motwani et al. (2024) as “teams of communicating generative AI agents solve joint tasks”. The cooperation of agents as well as the sharing of of previously exclusive information increase the risks of violation of rights of privacy or security. The AI related risks consist also in the dilution of responsibility. It becomes more difficult to identify the origin of fraudulent use of data like personal information or contacts. Just imagine using Alexa and Siri talking to each other to develop another integrated service as a simplified example.
The use of steganography techniques, i.e. the secret embedding of code into an AI system or image distribution, can protect authorship as well as open doors for fraudulent applications. The collusion of AI systems will blur legal borders and create multiple new issues to resolve in the construction and implementation of AI agents. New issues of trust in technologies will arise if no common standards and regulations will be defined. We seem to be just at the entry of the new brave world or 1984 in 2024.
(Image: KI MS-Copilot: Three smartphones in form of different robots stand upright on a desk in a circle. Each displays text on a computer image.)