Paris calm

As Paris is just 3 days before hosting the Olympic games 2024 the preparation of the spectacular opening ceremony along the river Seine is calming down the whole city. In the vicinity of the Quai Bercy the usually very busy road is already reserved for the arrival of athletes, artists and spectators. Security levels are exceptionally high at all corners to reassure people and to be able to intervene early if need be. Air pollution is rather low even near the busy roads. Buildings and public transport have been polished for the event and the excitement is building up. An expected 1 billion of television viewers of the opening ceremony will hit new records for such events. The population around Paris might have difficulties to get tickets to some of the popular events as official prices for the opening that rest cost 900€ per person. Locals are not amused and the critical voices denounce such an event as exclusion of most ordinary citizens through ticket prices. There are however places free of charge as well if you know where to catch a glance of the ceremony from the distance. Some bridges seem to be favorite places to catch a glimpse of glamour for free.

Olympic Flame

The Olympic Games 2024 have started to attract attention long before the actual games. The arrival of the flame on the many stops on the way to Paris is each time an event of its own. The choice of persons who carry the flame and the parcour are carefully chosen and sponsors contribute to finance the ceremonies. With the tradition of the “Tour de France” which started in 1905 in Montgeron, the city in the vicinity of Paris knows how to organize popular events. Like for a marathon large crowds are waiting and watching along the track. Police and life guards watch over participants and spectators. Many volunteers participate to make the event an enjoyable experience for all. The sports competitions of the very specialized athletes make much more sense if many people are encouraged to exercise as well. It is fun and the spirit of the Olympic Games should encourage more people to stay fit. Just a little bit at times helps to improve your health. Daily exercise is a challenge but even more beneficial. The idea of a relay is also stimulating continuity.

Chapelles Sportifs

In Paris the “Chapelle Notre Dame des Sportifs” was benedicted in 2023 in view of the Olympic Games 2024 in France. The catholic church is following the popular Olympics to call for “Holy Games” with subtitle “L’évangile c’est sport”. The chapel can be visited in the splendid church “La Madeleine” in the middle of Paris. You can buy candles with inscriptions like “the last ones, will come first (Mt 20,16)” or other citations from the bible. On Friday 2024-7-19 a special ceremony was held where you could jointly pray to win in your discipline or, of course, for other noble causes. The whole service was recorded with multiple cameras from a professional television team for a worldwide dissemination. It remains an open question, whether the church sponsors athletes as well or whether the athletes sponsor the church through their followers on social media. in any case it is a bigger media event accompanying the Olympic games in Paris.

Plastic wasted

The amount of plastic that is wasted exceeds our imagination. Even in the most distant islands we find remaining pieces of plastic from our careless consumption. The European Directive 2019/904 has set the limit on detached bottle tops to July 2024. The industry waited until the last few months to implement the old directive. Great that there is hope to find less detached plastic in oceans across the world in some years at least. The behavioral change to move beyond plastics everywhere in our nutrition delivery system is long overdue. We shall get used to bring our own bottles for a refill or other devices to reduce plastic waste further. The change begins with thinking about the topic and finding suitable reusable packaging solutions for yourself. Children learn in art projects about the importance and creativity potential to reuse otherwise wasted materials. Reduce and re-use can be turned into an own competence. Competence in sustainability has been neglected for decades in school curricula, despite its importance for our own health and survival. (Image James Ensor exhibition and competition KBR, Brussels 2024-7)

Sport Fashion

Sport is fashion and fashion is sport. Not only in the Euro 2024 the teams make a big fuzz about the design of their sportswear, but certainly the Olympic games in Paris 2024 will demonstrate the close links between the 2 worlds. We might say playing football is a bit like a fashion catwalk. Keep going right on target, despite obstacles, when thousands of people are watching your performance and potential failures very closely. Making a “bella figura” is a must in both spheres. There is also a strong tendency for “the winner takes all”, that s/he takes the trophy and the jackpot.
Both worlds are also big business in their own right. It is at least 100 years old that sport and fashion got married. The “Musée des arts décoratifs” in Paris had an excellent exhibition on the combination of sport and fashion (booklet link). According to the curators both spheres have always been interlaced. High-level performance and specialized fashion just made for a splendid combination. As the rich and wealthy had more than a penny or two to spend on their leisure activities the combination of sport and fashion soon became itself a big business, beside the visible beauty of the bodies, movements and dresses. Just watch the breakdance fashion as the latest addition to the repertoire of olympic disciplines. In a recent article in “Le Monde” (2024-7-11) the value of the market of sports including its fashionable merchandising is estimated to reach a turnover of € 500 billion in 2022.
The competition of sports has been turned into a competition of the best images and videos. Fashionable as well as functional clothing can assist in climbing the podium. In the Euro 2024 Football Final the teams equipped with Adidas (Spain) and with Nike (England) compete for the trophy. Changing equipment sponsorship from one to the other can raise substantial amounts for a team (€ 100 million/year for the German national team). Big business seems to take over sports and fashion after the century-old marriage of sport and fashion. Since then, they have jointly been on an extended honeymoon. (Image from www.emptyspacetm.com 2024-7)

Olympic Games 1924

100 years after the Olympic games were held in Paris, they will take place there again. Each time for the Olympic games new locations (Colombe) were built. For the 1924 games for example the first 50m swimming pool was built (Stade nautique des Tourelles, Porte des Lilas, Paris 20th), but a new one will host the 2024 competitions. However, the old pool will still serve in 2024 for the preparation of the competitions. The successors of Johnny Weissmuller (5 gold medals in swimming 1924) and star in many Hollywood films, the access to the stadium has become much more secured these days. In fact, security has turned into a crucial issue to host the “peaceful games”. In 1924 Germany was still not allowed to participate in the Olympic Games in Paris as the security of participants could not be guaranteed. Some competitions at the time turned rather violent as the example of the rugby competition, in which the converted American football team as rugby players had beaten the Fench rugby team.
The idea of alternative games has also been around for decades. There were already in the 1920s international competitions of worker associations (for example Frankfurt 1925) and the Olympic idea had to defend itself against the accusation of a Western countries’ domination. The set of disciplines in the competitions is always up for discussion and negotiations. We shall see interesting new additions in 2024, like break dance, to broaden the understanding of Olympic disciplines.
Even 100 years after Pierre de Coubertin steered the modern Olympic games the idea is to bring more to the games than “Faster, higher, stronger”, notably to be together. To be together in a peaceful way remains the biggest challenge for humanity. The inclusive turn is, however, a challenge to host the games, particularly to host paralympic games in inner cities that have abundant barriers of access for impaired persons. Inclusiveness for many countries is another challenge that goes beyond the simple participation in the games, but consists in training facilities and equipment for many disciplines.
(Image: BNF Gallica)

Art or Profession

In political science it is a long tradition to discuss, whether politics is an art or a profession. The idealist tradition, going back as far as Plato in ancient Greek history of ideas, puts the exercise of politics near the exercise of a divine art to do justice. Much later in the history of ideas Max Weber rather bluntly defined politics as a profession (original in German) that requires to master a set of competences.
Recent elections in Europe (EU, France, UK, Belgium) and around the globe (India, USA) in 2024 add interesting case studies to the old question. Is politics an art or a profession?
In modern politics the life course or life cycle of a politician consists of at least 2 phases: (1) the electoral campaign before and (2) the potential of governing or opposition. Each phase requires a different set of competences. In phase 1 it is important to propose a new or different ideal from the previous government. Charismatic presentation of an ideal set of policies is asked for.  In phase 2 it is required of the politician to forge compromises, either within the own political party or beyond boundaries of political parties. Certainly, in multi-level governance systems like the European Union additional forms of coalition building across countries is required, intercultural competence or language skills are an advantage here.
The 2 phases of the life cycle of a politician require different sets of skills. Charisma as mentioned by Plato and Weber can get a politician into power and charismatic leadership can get you through a lot of coalition building. On the other hand, modern campaigning in repeated elections is a specialized competence that resembles marketing expertise as well as “reading of statistics” and in-depth analyses of shifting or stable preferences of electorates and to succinct conclusions on this basis. Running a political party or a parliamentary group is yet another leadership skill just like communication skills that, beyond many prejudices, can be learned.
In a nutshell. Politics is an art and a profession. The art consists in the variable combination of different sets of competences. Art requires competences just as professions can be turned into art.  Welcome to the hybrid world of modern politics. (Image extract from MAD Paris, Picasso, Schiaparelli)

Searching Beauty

The search for beauty is an endless story of humanity. We have searched for it almost everywhere. Depicting beauty is probably the oldest form of artistic endeavors. We have invented numerous ways to find and represent beauty in a rather restless manner. We tend to find it in other persons of the same or other gender. The challenge is to keep trying to see the beauty in persons when others don’t, or don’t admit to it. Andy Warhol made this search for beauty his primary aim in his life as well as for his artistic work. The “Neue Nationalgalerie” in Berlin presents the, at times controversial, perspectives on beauty through the eyes and artwork of this exceptional artist. Beauty is at times a holistic concept or a detail by detail, piece by piece approach. Being open to other visions and versions of beauty is the major thrust of Warhol’s work. There is so much beauty around we just have to bother to focus on it. If not satisfied design it yourself. Start with a tour of exhibitions and experience the endless scope of imagination through the eyes of artists. (Image from Warhol exhibition in Berlin 2024 Neue Nationalgalerie, series „Ladies and Gentlemen“ 1975)

1Person Nation

One single person can stand for a whole country. At least that’s what mass media have tried to make us believe. Whole countries or even empires have been associated with single personalities. Maybe for simplicity we start with Caesar, Cleopatra and the like. These personalities reach historic status through the literature that has reported on their achievements and fame. Mass media of today copy that strategy to create fame out of images. The American journal “Cineaste” has recently exemplified the making of an idol with the popular actor “Jean Gabin”, who happened to be the representative not only of French cinema, but the image of France across countries and even continents. Identification with an actor or the projected image of a person are common goals in politics as well. The actor Ronald Reagan became elected as president of the USA. Zelensky in Ukraine has followed a similar trajectory. The examples are manifold, but the underlying mechanism remain pretty similar. Before we had the concept of influencers, not influenza, popular spreading of messages is key. Only the technology changed. New ways to prepare a 1person nation have been added over time. Followers are the new political currency. Beware of signs “Follow Me”, even if it is the police asking you to do so. (Image: Deutsche Kinemathek Exhibition 2024)

Superstates reloaded

We live in an age of superstates. Such is the conclusion of Alasdair Roberts (2023). China(1.4), India (1.2), USA (0.33) and the EU (0.45) in billions of people jointly host about 40% of the world’s population (UN data). The Russian Federation with a population of 0.15, Japan 0.13 rank further behind, for example Pakistan 0.24 and Indonesia 0.27. Nothern, Eastern and Western Africa (0.25;0.46;0.42 respectively) have a huge unfulfilled potential that does not reach the impact it deserves.

These big and populated entities contrast with the increasing number of small states that have become new members of the United Nations. The institution of the United Nations, through its setup as an international rule based governance structure, has facilitated small states to seek voice and influence in the international arena of politics. The UN had 51 members in 1945 and has now a membership of 193 of all listed states of 237 on the globe. The increase in membership is due to many small states joining the UN after independence from big imperial powers. The international power relations, however, are only partially determined by population size but economic and military factors. The so-called superstates reach power through their power of direct and indirect “persuasion. Therefore the relationship between small and big states remains a delicate balance of power. Russia attempted to grab Ukraine and its population of 410 millions to remain in the league of superstates by population size and has suffered a hefty setback which further unsettles the disequilibrium of its male (68) and female (78) population with predominantly male soldiers’ lives lost.

Whereas we have seen the small states’ numbers on the rise in the last few decades, the expansion of superstates from Russia, China, India or Pakistan remain a threat to peace on the globe. The crystallization of a multi polar world order is on its way, but the stakes are high and unsettling in many respects. The fallout of war stalls the adaptation to climate change and increases the millions of starving people on the globe. the attempt to reach superstate status by already big states is probably the greatest danger we shall face for the coming years. Preparing for the instability of the world in transition to an increasing multi polar world order will dominate the political agenda of many intermediate powers as well as smaller states. (Image Globe Moscow 1994, displayed Stabi Berlin 2024)

Webpage Analytics

I do not collect data of detailed webpage analytics. Therefore, I thought I do not know anything and do not want to know anything about webpage visits of this webpage. However, the most basic information of how many times the webpage is visited per months is given by the hosting service of the webpage. The previous jump beyond 20.000 visits/month had the implication to move the security level of the webpage for me and all visitors to a higher level. Additional information of how many seconds an “internaut” is staying on the webpage tells, maybe a little bit about the interest in the content or image of a specific entry. Reaching 84.000 visitors/month was a surprise that asks for an explanation. Apparently, the most visited page is the blog entry on “geo-politics”. The longest time people stayed on a page or blog entry is a recent entry on “nutrition policy”.
Other statistics show that people who visited an entry on “find trust”, trusted in the webpage to click on many other entries or pages on “www.schoemann.org”.
I do not collect data or statistics on where visitors go after a visit. The hosting service, however, measures the so-called “jump-off” rate. This indicates the importance of the webpage as spring board to jump to other pages on the internet. It is usually = 1, just showing that you left somewhere. For some pages this reaches higher levels according to the number of links you offer on a blog entry, for example. It gives an indication whether you manage to lead on readers to explore the topic further. This is a usual evaluation question of lectures and seminars given at universities.
Last but not least, even without collecting any “real data” about visitors, it is part of the minimum information your browser transmits is the “operating system” used for access. Your smartphone provides the information on IOS, Android, Linux, or Windows versions used. These technical purposes remind me that there are still vast amounts of users of what we believe are outdated operating systems. Windows 7 and Windows 10 are still heavily in use across the globe. The hype around the latest operating system and smartphone is most likely only a phenomenon of the rich and wealthy in the rich parts of the western world. This reminds me to include images, which are small in data size to allow fast downloads in all parts of the world. We should embrace this as an important topic of geo-political relevance.

Nutrition Competence

Nutrition is a good example of how a long lasting disregard in education and learning systems has led to huge medical costs for individuals and societies nowadays. The obesity pandemic calls for urgent action and policy changes in the field of nutrition policies and learning goals for children and adults. Medical doctors have mostly discarded that it is also their responsibility to provide medical guidance on nutrition, as this is highly controversial at times and asks for behavioural changes of the patient. School teachers see little scope to act on the issue due to increasing demands in fields of literacy, numeracy, problem-solving, digital and communication skills. Hence, the hope is to fill the instruction and learning gaps with a hybrid approach of nurses taking on both roles and communicate with children as well as adults alike. This is a tough challenge for these persons, but hopes a high that they can make a significant improvement to the nutrition competences of individuals, pupils, their parents and specific target groups.
The starting point is to recognize that there is an issue with nutrition. The next to establish the best evidence and based on this to develop a curriculum for the nurses to be well-prepared for the challenge in the field. Even with the differentiation of different levels of competences, the learning has to be rather encompassing several related fields as well. Individual, behavioural as well as society-level factors like biology, technology, religious beliefs, economic and social factors determine nutritional choices and consumption. Just because there are so many factors to consider  does not justify to keep nutrition out of school curricula for example. Nutrition is a fine example of a topic which links disciplines across a broad range. It is a tasty, at times spicy mixture of issues to learn and apply. The former is the beginning, the latter the real challenge which needs ample and repeated guidance or coaching. (Image: Extrait of Abraham Mignon, 1640-1679, Undergrowth with flowers, animals and insects, MRBA Brussels)

Nutrition Policy

The evidence on nutrition policies has accumulated a series of policy recommendations based on the best available evidence. The German Institute of Human Nutrition has presented these results repeatedly not only to the scientific community, but also to the interested public at the Science Week or the Long Night of Science. Their leaflet on the tools to improve our human nutrition in market economies highlights “nutrition competence” as a key component of a broad strategy to improve our food and subsequently health. Nutrition goes beyond the biological ingredients of food to include basic understandings of human metabolism including the times and timing of meals. This competence has to be transmitted to preschoolers, pupils as well as adults to stem the waves of obesity (ARTE Docu). Learning how to manage your own nutrition is a crucial competence to strive and survive. In schools it can have substantial impacts on performance and inequality of opportunities as well.

The science-based policy recommendations propose to alter the structure of costs, for example via tax reductions, in favor of healthy food. Plain water should be substantially cheaper than sweet beverages or alcoholic drinks. Nuts and proteins from vegetables fall in the same category as plain water. It is in the longer term interest of all of us that schools, canteens at work places or homes for the elderly offer also healthy nutrition at least as a daily option. More sustainability in food production is last, but not least part of nutrition policies. A lot to chew on to improve nutrition.

Food Future

What do we have for dinner today, tomorrow or in 10 years from today? Research Institutes presented some of their insights based on solid evidence in the open door event in Berlin. The 5 years of the project “food4future” are over and my glance through some of the results suggests that we shall have many more proteins, most from vegetable sources, on our plates. The arguments for improved sustainability are rather compelling. The taste of these products that currently have higher amounts of bitter taste might be solved. Similarly sea food beyond fish like halophyte will enter our diet. The salty taste can be incorporated in meals in which we add salt or other spices anyway. These elements might make it possible to feed the 8 billion people on our planet. We probably also need to include protein rich insects in the meal plans of the still growing human species. It appears like a rather long shot into the future of nutrition, but if we do not think ahead and start the change in our mindsets we shall be badly prepared for the future and more people will decide to seek food in other places of the earth rather than stay hungry. It also helps us to refocus our priorities in nutrition and aim for a better balance of the pleasures of eating and sustainability. The issue of food for future generations starts with food for thought in the abundantly nourished Northern parts of the planet. (Image: AI Copilot, Prompt: 2 couples enjoy eating a meal of halophytes and insects, 2024-6-25)

Science Transparent

Every year there is only one special big event (Lange Nacht der Wissenschaften) to make science more transparent to the population at large. Mostly hidden behind impressive walls and buildings guarded by porters,
science is not as transparent for the large public as it would like to be. In general people are rather intimidated or feel quickly out of place if scientist start to “explain” in lengthy formats their topics, ideas, questions and intermediate solutions. Even if the distributed open science fair is running only from 5 p.m to midnight, there are lots of things to learn and look into.
The website lists 1500+ sessions, 230 are in English language. You have to be selective or spread your interest over several years. I chose to start with, maybe, the toughest choice the Weierstrass-Institute near the Naturkundemuseum. Several projects of applied mathematics and stochastic processes were exposed and explained in more or less transparent and/or understandable form to the audiences. The talk by Julian Kern “Why chance doesn’t happen by chance” had a nice interactive format with “Kahoot-quizzes” and gave a good introduction, why it is useful to understand, statistics and stochastic processes in fields from biology, physics to social phenomena. The White board replaced already the black board and chalk.
The open doors policy, at least one day per year, raises interests and awareness for topics few people would only think that they existed already. The  volume “Mathematics and Society” (Wolfgang König ed. 2016) is something I shall follow up on eventually. There are lots of applications of mathematics to social phenomena (time seen from the perspective of generations for example, image below from talk), which we have a hard time to come to grips with without the aid of mathematicians.

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.

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.

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

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?

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)