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

Causal Benefit Model

In the field of medicine we move more and more towards precision medicine. Previously, the term of personalized medicine was used which suggested to a certain degree that a personalization might be feasible. The budget constraints have forced us to change the term to avoid unrealistic, untenable promises. In the field of cardiology scientific advances advocate to shift from a risk-based model of treatment to a causal benefit model. (Kohli-Lynch et al. 2024 Link). Long-term benefits of a treatment are more promising, if the treatment addresses the causal mechanisms at work. It is wide spread practice to deal with general risk profiles as guidelines as the precision medicine based on a causal benefit model is far more laborious since to search the causal mechanism at work requires additional testing of hypotheses. This becomes immediately clear if genetic causes enter into consideration. Nevertheless, medical research advances more and more in this direction. Genetic testing has been shown to be useful in analyzing and treating issues like sudden cardiac arrest (in survivors). We are somehow aware that genetics may play a role here, but we shall need a lot of additional studies to make the causal benefit model a feasible option for widespread applications. Targeting research in this field will offer new avenues for precision medicine in the 2020s.

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.

Heroines

In youth we are open for a wide range of influences. Heroines in children’s literature, picture book or cartoons look back on a long history as successful influencers. Creation, transmission and criticism of stereotypes are all part of the scientific reflection on heroines and heros. Nowadays, influencers have taken over picture books through the use of more compelling videos.
In the 1950s,1960s and 1970s picture books or cartoons dominated the influences before mass media like television became more absorbing, addictive and powerful influencers. Children’s books are passed on from one generation to next generation. The French-speaking world (and beyond BBC reference) has witnessed the success of the illustrated booklets of the young “Caroline” (Hachette) and “Martine” (Casterman) exploring the world. Parents passed on their collection to children and had their own parents read the stories to their grand children.
Well, that’s how intergenerational transmission of cultural heritage has worked for a long time. It describes the basic social mechanism. Nevertheless, new forms of influencing emerged with new technologies. Successful illustrated narratives like “Caroline” and “Martine“ were adapted as television series as well. In France you could chose your side of either explorations with Caroline and her group of animals or the adventures of Martine.
Ideally it would be an occasion for the families and friends to discuss pros and cons of each character and, thereby, become aware of what is a stereotype, at least at a later stage of the life course. Gender stereotypes have evolved and to observe 2 boys colouring Martine images in public (Brussels book fair 2024, image below) was a positive surprise. It almost felt like a real world experience of the AI-enabled Barbie explorations.

Wage Minimum

A wage at a minimum level is frequently lower than the minimum wage. Most EU countries have a legal minimum wage that should protect against poverty risks at low levels of wages. Over decades it has not yet been possible to raise all low wages to this level. Le Monde (Béatrice Madeline et Aline Leclerc) has published on April 3rd a comprehensive analysis of sectors and people concerned with this difficulty to make a decent living while earning the minimum wage. In France (La désmicardisation), as in many other countries, it is difficult to earn just a bit more as the minimum wage because both employers and employees may lose social benefits if they just earn some hundred € more than the legal minimum wage. For all those persons who do receive only a wage even below the minimum wage getting stuck in a poverty trap is very likely. The number of working hours is then often is the only option to make ends meet your needs. Put bluntly, you work additional hours and/or take a second job to complement the lack of earning a wage at the minimum level. Public procurement that makes the application of the minimum wage compulsory and controls this application effectively benefits society as a whole. Lots of infrastructure projects, urban and rural development receive public support. The conditionality to pay the minimum wage + X should be a „conditio sine qua non“. The millions of workers at the lower end of the wage distribution have a power at the ballot box, which continues to be underestimated in many European countries. The EP elections on June 9th will probably alert us about the lack of faith in a bettering of living and working conditions of those persons coping with wage minima.

Home Delivery of everything ! Working Conditions

Fertility Growth

The first association of fertility and growth is likely the growing of fertility rates in a country or region. Only macro economists associate the growth or decline of fertility with the macroeconomic consequences of more or less economic growth. Countries with higher fertility rates in most cases have higher growth rates as parents spend more on food, clothes, mobility and education. Accommodations are changed, adapted and refurbished. Estimates of increased consumption per child by economists range from 500.000 to almost 1 million in the highest developed countries. Children are a country’s wealth, but they also cost a fortune in monetary terms. Good news for the economy if families keep spending independent of economic cycles. More children keeps dedicated shops running or even a whole sector of the economy. In recessions the downward pressure in this sector becomes an additional challenge not only for the families but with ripples-on effects for the whole economy and society. If you see shops closing which has sold furniture for children for the last 15 years then the realization of an economic downturn becomes also more real. Sometimes the parallels in the news of declining fertility and increases in pensions do not square well with the fitness for the future or the future orientation of a society. Democratic voting rights that give families more weight in elections could change this. It is not yet on the political agenda.

Fertility BPS-SPB

Fertility is another example of the co-determination of the biological, psychological and societal spheres of life. The latest available data for Germany and Sweden in 2023 show a remarkable decline of 10% in the seasonally adjusted Total Fertility Rate (TFR) in both countries (Bujard, Andersson 2024). The TFR was at 1.3 in Germany and 1.5 in Sweden. This means both countries are well below their population replacement rate. In both countries the populations will shrink further. There are no easy answers to the question: why?
The co-determination of the biological, psychological and societal spheres of life seems to be combined driving force. The biological clocks are ticking for women who delayed birth. Maybe pollution of drinking water or PFAS, nanoparticles of plastics disturb fertility. Psychological reasons such as increased anxieties due to the Covid-19 pandemic, lock downs or closed schools have left parents without adequate support for 2 years. Isolation or loneliness could have delayed partnerships and fertility as a consequence. The social environment has also provided additional uncertainty as the cost of living has risen and affordable housing for families is scarce in both countries.
We have probably underestimated the effects of the “Zeitenwende” on people’s mind sets. Sweden has suddenly sought to join NATO to achieve a broader military safety net for its people. In Germany the experience of damages due to war or as a consequence of Russian occupied territory is very present in people’s mind. The war of Russia in Ukraine may have increased uncertainties, anxieties beyond the immediate effects of higher living costs, interest rates or prices for energy. At best fertility might only be delayed for some years, but the consequences of shrinking populations need to be taken seriously. Making societies more welcoming for children and their parents is part of the solution.

Sleeping BPS-SPB

Sleeping is a good example of the co-determination of the biological, psychological and societal spheres of life. The environment with the daily cycles of light and dark as well as the social norms of work and rest determine the circadian cycles of hormones. Shift work or otherwise disrupted sleep patterns depend on social norms like regulation of noise or light in cities. Healthy sleep patterns, therefore, depend to a large amount on regulation and implementation of those social norms. Birthday parties are tolerated, but much less the irregular partying in shared housing with lots of neighbours. Reducing social contacts during Covid-19 led to the changes in sleep patterns as well.
The psychological determinants of sleep go well beyond the world of dreams as theorized by Freud. Nowadays, we investigate all sorts of behavioural patterns that have an impact on sleeping like “bedtime technology use” of smartphones or the ability to switch off thinking of problems. Sleeping is a particular functional state of our mind. A lot of sorting of daily impressions into memory occurs during the different phases while sleeping. Persistent disrupted or impeded sleep is recognized as torture in severe cases. Stress at work or working overtime is also a major cause of sleep disorders.
The biological indicators used to investigate sleep have revealed a lot of links of sleep and the hormones of melatonin as well as cortisol. Testing has become more accessible and provides good indicators of how the biological clocks tick within our bodies.
However, we are only at the beginning of the analysis of more complex interactions of the multiple forms of interaction of the bio->psycho->social (BPS) as well as the social->psycho->bio (SPB) co-determination of sleeping. Scientific research is faced with a steep challenge as the direction of causality is not uniform except in very controlled experimental settings. Maybe the arts have coined and popularized a useful term in this respect. “I am in a New York state of mind”.
(Image: extrait of Magritte. La clairvoyance, 1936 and The cultural context of aging, Jay Sokolovsky)

Sleep biology

Biological processes work hard during our sleep. Our immune system in particular benefits a great deal from undisturbed sleep. This is the simplest summary of the study by Kabrita et al. (2024).
We can study the temporal expression pattern of major histocompatibility complex MHC class I for example in mice. 2 groups of sleep-restricted versus normal mice reveal the biological impact of sleep restriction. In comparison to the control group sleep restriction in mice produced a bimodal pattern of Splenocytes with higher protein levels during the resting period. Such an increased protein expression during resting periods indicates a “preparedness for a potential infection”. Sleep recovery, even if short compared to the longer sleep restriction, allows to return to the baseline of protein levels. The good message is that at least mice seem to recover rather quickly from sleep deprivation with their immune response system.
The biology of repeated phases of longer sleep deprivation could inform us on the implications of sleep deprivation on aging processes. The biological responses in single event sleep deprivation seem to show a fast recovery pattern. Probably it is worth studying the same recovery process of groups of young versus aged mice.
Anecdotal evidence from myself indicates that recovery after sleep deprivation in older humans is no longer as fast as at younger ages. Behavioural responses might be less sleep deprivation (less fun) or longer recovery periods (stay in bed longer). The behavioural response of humans appears to be an obvious one. Instead of either or, we tend to go for both at the same time.
(AI Image: BING +Dall-E. one group of mice is partying in a club at night. Another group of mice is sleeping tight in another room. Cartoon-like images. 2024-3-18)

Family Music Days

Kids are queens, kings and princesses as well as princes at the family music days in Berlin at the FEZ. Kids can enjoy the full spectrum of musical experiences from just listening to playing themselves, if they feel like it or dare to risk a sound. Just making noise is okay, too. Building your very own version of a musical instrument is a great learning experience for the young. To make music it doesn’t always have to be an expensive instrument. Your own imagination assisted by persons with patience and passion creates marvelous sound experiences. Initiating kids to the endless worlds of sound is having lasting effects on them. Great to see a concert hall full of young enthusiasts. Learning is so much fun, if taught in accessible and inclusive ways. Professional instructors joined by many volunteers make the world go round for kids. Wish you we here. Let’s spread the message.

Berlin FEZ 2024-3-16

Biographies

The biographies of painters, composers or artists in general can be reconstructed by use of their major works. The biography of René Magritte by Eric Rinckhout (2017) has chosen this way of a retrospective in images and explanatory texts. The biography is built around 50 major images starting with the first one by Magritte at the age of 28. “Les réveries du promeneur” (see below) deal with the confrontation of Magritte with death, suicide and the difficulty to find rational answers to all those questions of why this happens and what becomes of people who experience such a tragedy.
His own childhood was affected by such an event concerning his own mother who suffered from depression. Coping with the evolution of psychic illness over years and the absence of a supportive father have posed a steep challenge for the young person. Creation of art became a coping strategy as well as a relief for those who manage to eventually cross the bridge into their own life leaving behind the bad experiences. J.J. Rousseau was an influence on Magritte as well.
Finding your own destiny and your own style is a process. This process evolves over years. The chronological sequence of 50 images allows to follow the path taken. Thereby, it becomes possible to open up the personal learning and working trajectory of the artist. In retrospective perspective it seems often logical that one style or period of painting follows on from another one. However, in the forward living of the creative life many choices are heavily contingent on other circumstances. Influences of friends, exhibitions, reading, cinema, private or financial situations may determine the creative choices simultaneously or one at a time.
The chronological path of images writes a biography of a special kind. It allows to think in sequences just like in a sequence analysis as sociological methodology. Description, reconstruction, analysis, causality remain a challenge in our attempts to learn and understand more about biographies or the construction and reconstruction of life courses.

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.

Nocturnes

Contrary to some people’s belief “Nocturnes” is not only the denomination of the late opening of splendid shopping centres selling French fashion, but the name of music pieces. The origin of the Nocturnes as innovative form of composing is attributed to Irish born and bred John Field. The Polish born Frédérik Chopin developed the art form to perfection and he is the person who is also remembered for master pieces of this type of short romantic music pieces.
Mozart has left a famous piece entitled “Eine kleine Nachtmusik” and previous lesser known attempts of this kind were named Notturni, popular “Serenade” or “Pastoral”. All these Nocturnes shared the basic emotion, which we might call nowadays some kind of love-songs (Piggott, 1973, p.115). “Bel canto”, the tradition of emotional recitation of songs or arias, Paganini’s virtuous violine play were predecessors of the Nocturnes.
John Field published the first 3 pieces named “Nocturne” in 1814 and continued to produce new Nocturnes and revising former ones. These somehow more easy-going melodies or phrases often written in E or A flat major are technically less demanding for piano players than the later ones composed by Chopin, but their “charme” lies especially in their simplicity. Reducing complexity of sound rather than the virtuous effect seeking of a tune could attract large audiences. After the rebellion in France in 1830 and the foundation of independence of Belgium in the same year, so-called high culture had to address a lot widely differing emotions.
Maybe, in 2024 we are less surprised to rediscover the value of straightforward emotional tunes when even so-called high fashion shows in Paris return to more simplicity.(Image: KI Dall-E, Composer plays on grand piano Nocturnes by Chopin with romantic flair, photorealistic style on 2024-3-5).

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

Schubert Franz

Franz Schubert hatte ein kurzes Leben. Geboren in 1797 verstarb er bereits mit 31 Jahren. Seine Lieder werden nach wie vor viel gehört und aufgeführt. Mit 10 Jahren wurde er vom Hofkapellmeister Salieri in Wien bereits als Sängerknabe in die Hofkapelle aufgenommen, was gleichzeitig die Aufnahme ins Stadtkonvikt bedeutete. Seine Lieder wie „Der Lindenbaum“, „Die Forelle“ oder „Die Rose“ blieben lange Standards in den Musiksalons und Konzerthallen. Beeindruckend bleibt auch die Schaffenskraft des jungen Schuberts der in seinem „Liederjahr“ 150 Lieder komponierte. Seine Versuche eine Oper zu schreiben waren weniger erfolgreich. Das hat dann fast 200 Jahre gebraucht bis die Pariser Opéra Comique diesen Traum Schuberts erfüllt hat. Vielleicht hatte es etwas mit seinem Lehrmeister Salieri zu tun oder den hohen Ansprüchen der Wiener Klassik in der damaligen Zeit. Friedrich von Flotow hatte den Weg nach Paris gefunden und war sich der Bedeutung des ausdrucksstarken Librettos bewusst. Orchestrierung zur Verpackung der Lieder wird dabei bedeutsam. Flotow sollte das Oeuvre Schuberts bekannt gewesen sein. Erfolge mit eingängigen Melodien haben beide feiern können. Jeder auf seine Weise.

Schubert Sekundärliteratur

Personal Health

Most people would agree, health is a personal issue. From the onset of life, we have package of genes that predetermine a number of factors of our personal health. Epigenetics has taught us there are many factors to take into account additionally. Environmental factors have huge impacts as well. Improvements in the availability of medical devices in the hands of individuals as well as AI systems on portable devices like smartphones facilitate the monitoring of personal health. Several indicators of early-onset of illness can be retrieved from such devices. Dunn et al. (2024) show that prior to the onset of symptoms of Covid-19 or influenza portable devices can indicate the presence of infections through indicators of resting body temperature, heart rate/min, heart rate variability/millisecond or respiratory rate/min. Combined with the indicators of air quality, indoors as well as outdoors, the presence of allergens a much more personalized data set emerges which can easily be part of an AI-assisted diagnosis. More abundant personal health data and analytical power allows remote and digital health applications to inform patients, medical doctors and the public at large. Digital health technologies are only at the beginning to unfold their potential. Prevention becomes more feasible using such devices, medical professionals should be allowed to focus on interpretation of data and treatment rather than simple data gathering. Thinking about digital health technologies points in the direction of dealing with climate and environmental hazards as sickening causes more forcefully. Personal medicine and personal health are, after all, still heavily dependent on health and safety at work, commuting practices and all sorts of pollution. Personal health, however, is a good starting point to raise awareness of the potentials of digital health technologies to better our lives.
(Image: AI MS-Copilot: 2 robots run in a city. They sweat. The air is full of smog. 2 other robots rest near pool. All look at their wrist watch showing heart beats)

Error 444

The error message 444 is a not so rare encounter while surfing on the web. The error code 444 stands for the message that from the side of the server the connection is closed without any additional message. The occurrence leaves you without further indication of what exactly went wrong in building a connection to a web service or website. You just simply get shut out and that’s it. It may be tough on you if concerns your online banking or other access to vital services delivered through the internet.
In organization science and social science there are many new studies dealing with the finding, dealing, coping or handling errors. It has become much more acceptable to deal openly with errors, blunders or failures. From an individual as well as organizational perspective the cultures that deal openly with these events seem to have a certain advantage to overcome the consequences of errors at all or faster than others.
In some biographies failures are part of the lessons learned throughout life. It is deemed important to acknowledge failures or paths not taken for better or worse. Organizations just like individuals seem to learn more intensively from their failures or omissions than from everything seemingly running smoothly. Learning curves are faster also for “machine learning” if you have access to a huge data set which contains ample data on failures rather than encountering failures after release. Hence, the compilation of errors is an important part or early stage of a learning process. Failed today? Fail again tomorrow. You’ll be really strong the days after although it might hurt.

Sepsis

Sepsis is a major cause of mortality. Therefore, early detection of sepsis is of high importance. Antibiotics constitute a powerful antidote. However, the application of antibiotics without need, i.e. for purely risk reduction in general, has side effects in antibiotics losing their effectiveness later on.
The paper published in The Lancet Digital Health by van der Weijden et al. (2024) reports on the effort to provide an open source access to a calculator of early onset of sepsis (Link). The Neonatal early-onset sepsis calculator developed by Kaiser Permanente builds on the use on the risk carried by mothers like time since membrane rupture, regional infection risks of mothers per 1000 population and the infants presentation at birth. It is important to point out the combination of risks put into the calculator. New systems of artificial intelligence might equally make predictions or recommendations about the application of antibiotics implicitly making use of such a calculator without disclosure.
From a sociological point of view it is interesting to scrutinize the indicators used in the calculation. The approximation of mothers carrying a sepsis risk relies on national, regional or better local indicators. This information is rarely accessible to the public. The choice of a hospital, speed of access to it in case of membrane rupture as well as staffing come into the calculation of an overall risk of sepsis.
It is great to follow the progress of digital health and the increased transparency of critical health decisions at the earliest stages of the life course. Inflammation as a precursor of sepsis should be taken serious at all stages of the life course. (Image calculation based on Kaiser Permanente digital tool Link)

Processed food

We eat a lot of pre-processed food. Our busy work schedules allow us to take only short breaks for meals in order to get more work done while in office or at work in general. The intensification of work has reached the next level and we move from pre-processed food to ultra-processed foods (UPFs). In medical journals and nutrition recommendations the warnings to not eat too much ultra-processed foods are abundant. The signs of obesity in societies reach higher levels from year to year. Especially younger people seem to be at higher risks to consume a lot of ultra-processed foods. Freisling et al. highlight the “risk of multimorbidity of cancer and cardiometabolic diseases” due to UPFs. The discussion between scientists is a lot on which UPFs are most harmful (beyond animal origin or and artificially sweetened beverages) and/or whether it is the combination of UPFs that additionally increases the danger of UPFs. Preventing the “too much of each” is probably the safest recommendation. Being able to read the nutrition information on the labels is already a difficult task. Just making the information abundant and very small print discourages most efforts to compare across products. Learning about basic human needs like food has never been more difficult. Combined with “shrinkflation” we have a hard time to make informed choices of what to buy and eat. There are many hurdles to overcome for a healthy meal.

AI and Behavior

We start to analyze the impact of AI on our behavior. It is an important question to be aware of not only how we interact with AI (Link), but also what effect the use of AI (disclosed or not) will have on our social behavior. Knowing that AI is used might change our willingness to cooperate or increase or decrease pro-social behavior. The use of AI in form of an algorithm to select job candidates might introduce a specific bias, but it can equally be constructed to favour certain criteria in the selection of candidates. The choice of criteria becomes more important in this process and the process of choosing those criteria.
Next comes the question whether the announcement includes as information that AI will be used in the selection process. This can be interpreted by some that a “more objective” procedure might be applied, whereas other persons interpret this signal as bad sign of an anonymous process and lack of compassion prevalent in the organization focused mostly on efficiency of procedures.  Fabian Dvorak, Regina Stumpf et al. (2024) demonstrate with experimental evidence from various forms of games (prisoner’s dilemma, binary trust game, ultimatum game) that a a whole range of outcomes is negatively affected (trust, cooperation, coordination and fairness). This has serious consequences for society. The social fabric might worsen if AI is widely applied. Even or particularly the undisclosed use of AI already shows up as a lack of trust in the majority of persons in these experiments.
In sum, we are likely to change our behavior if we suspect AI is involved the selection process or content creation. This should be a serious warning to all sorts of content producing media, science, public and private organizations. It feels a bit like with  microplastic or PFAS. At the beginning we did not take it seriously and then before long AI is likely to be everywhere without us knowing or aware of the use. (Image taken on Frankfurt book fair 2017-10!)

Stroke

A stroke is a very serious medical incident. The NIH defines it in easy language as the the moment in which “blood flow to the brain is blocked or there is sudden bleeding in the brain“. Thanks to a European HORIZON project  forecasting models are produced to estimate the likely incidence until the year 2050 by age and gender within Europe. The good news is major regional imbalances of incidence and mortality have been reduced and will likely be reduced across Europe. The challenge remains the aging of societies which necessitates to address the issue of strokes in each single region of the European Union. We know that the shorter the time to treat a stroke immediately after its occurrence, the better the survival chances and the better the prognosis for (partial) recovery.
In the US the widespread use of blood thinners which tripled over 30 years has not lead to the reduction of intracerebral hemorrhage (Link to studies). High blood pressure and arhythmic heart beat are major causes of this often disabling medical event. The study by Wafa et al. (2024) uses age-pyramids to demonstrate the effect that as European societies are aging the incidence of intracerebral haemorrhage occurs with increasing age and even more so for women than men of 80 years and older.
Prevention of high blood pressure through walking or careful endurance exercise seems even more indicated for an aging society.
Image below from Wafa et al. (2024), The Lancet Regional Health, Europe.

Force of dependency

Drugs have their particular strength in creating dependency. This is well known for tobacco or alcohol. Helping people to overcome the forces of dependency has its merits. At the same time it is big business. Vaping instead of smoking might be a way out one dependence but into another one. In the end it is an empirical question how many persons can escape the force of dependency of both types. Important to test the probability to get rid of the dependency altogether. With respect to hard, life-threatening drugs like Nitazene the death toll keeps rising in the UK. In the latter case changing the dependency is already a success. The sustainable deflection from drug dependency has to address underlying issues and health hazards. It is a rather individual issue. Society wide evaluation studies need to inform the debate also about placebo effects. The force of dependency might not only be physiological but psychological or linked to the social environment. All these potential effects have to be carefully sorted out before simple pseudo-solutions are implemented. Even the price and availability of drugs is part of the overall equation to solve the force of dependency.

Arthur Sapeck 1887 Illustration, BNF Pastiche 2023-4

Forced Labor 2024

Thanks to the ILO we have recent data on forced labor across the globe. At the time when the EU struggles to tighten the rules on decent supply chains, it is important to draw attention to the already reversed trend that worldwide forced labor is on the rise again. According to latest report by the ILO 27.6 million women, men and children were in forced labor at any day of the year 2021. This is even about 10% more than 5 years before in 2016. The fact sheet from ILO highlights the region that are practicing it the most but mentions at the same time that no region in the world has completely wiped out this criminal activity. Despite the SDGs containing a goal to eradicate forced labor by 2025 for children there is little hope that this will be reached. Controlling supply chains of the rich countries could be an important factor in identifying the states or companies which built their production model on forced labor. The fight against this practice is an enduring challenge. We cannot allow to shun away from the thorny issue. The price for labor is only one argument in the reasons for the persistence of forced labor, migration is also a force at work. This asks for specific solutions to country-specific or sector-specific problems. It is a global responsibility but needs partnerships across continents to reach better outcomes in the interests of humanity. Some countries like Germany have a historical debt to invest more than others.

ILO recommendations 2024-1

Skill loss

There is a sense of skill loss in watching the trends to increase comfort. We all use washing machines and maybe dishwashers. Households can save a lot of time by using those machines. Some porcelain and clothes should not be left to the machines. The need to organize traditional washing routines is almost forgotten after 1-2 generations. The same holds for many technical skills. Bicycle and car repairs or small repairs of electrical appliances are delegated to specialized repair shops. Not using or having learned these skills puts you in a form of dependency and at the risk to pay a price for specializing on other skills. Find out and focus on what you are best at. This has been the mantra of economic theory since Adam Smith. The potential value of satisfaction with an own production rather than a bought product is frequently acknowledged for baking cakes yourself rather than simply buying one in a shop. The same rationale holds for many other skills. Autonomy of own production with possibility to improve or repair are forgotten values. The have become a luxury item or a necessity for persons lacking financial spending power to buy products from others. Many skills will be lost rapidly because products have become so cheap to replace or order for home delivery. Industrial production is desperately searching for skilled persons but losing skills is pervasive at the same time. Public schools and academic curricula will not be able to stand the tide of pervasive skill loss.

NS München

The documentation centre in Munich of the National Socialist time and crimes has an encompassing collection of documents on display. As the prime centre of the Fascist movement in Germany in the 1920s and early 1930s Munich was the home to party elites from the first months of the movement that became the epicentre of the dehumanizing policies we can follow throughout Europe (Topography of Terror, Berlin). The historical research in both documentation centres complement each other in many respects. Understanding the beginnings of the Fascist movement remains important to today. Fascist movements need to be stopped before terror even against neighbours takes hold. Records of the evolution of membership, men’s and women’s movements later on, attacks of the parliamentary system all have to be taken into account to be able to stem the Fascist tide at that time and today again.
Materializing” is the current exhibition, which can be visited in part online. How can we deal with the “Shoah“? Polish artist have a long experience to cope and deal with the unimaginable horrors, the Nazis and the “Wehrmacht” committed in Poland.
Memories have to find a place, a piece, a word, a sound or an emotion to materialize. In that sense yesterday joins today and is preserved as learning and warning for tomorrow.
In addition to the much discussed “Wehrmachtsausstellung“, the work by Jochen Böhler provides ample evidence to debunk the myths of war without crime. This holds for the past and for the present. (Source: Böhler, 2019, S. 59-68, Die Wehrmacht und die Verbrechen an der Zivilbevölkerung während des deutschen Überfalls auf Polen 1939, Image below).