Live longer

It is an old dream of mankind to live longer and longer. The Covid-19 pandemic has taught us many lessons that there are powerfully viruses and their continued mutations which threaten this. Life expectancy declined slightly during the pandemic and we learned that long Covid is yet another threat to our life expectancy. Scientists have found other sources that are crucial for survival. Like sepsis, it is the constant inflammation processes in our bodies. Long working times, stressful commute to work and interrupted or shortened vacations all contribute to keep inflammation at higher levels than is healthy from a longevity perspective. The research note published in Nature on the inflammation enhancing protein IL-11 highlights the chain reaction process of inflammation causing cancer and autoimmune disorders and diseases. Hence, it is essential to watch the biomarkers of inflammation and probably adjust our lifestyles accordingly. The sources of inflammation are manifold, but the potential rewards to address the issue are huge as well. Among the easy to address sources is nutrition, exercise and working life. Changing just a little bit here and there can make already a change. Monitoring how you feel about such changes puts you on a learning curve for your own inflammation levels. Vacation times are also perfect for adaptive behavioral changes. We just need to keep trying.


The physiological benchmarkS of VOPs (Very Old Person) has been lifted by an Irish athlete recently. The 92 year old person has been examined with state of the art physiological measurements to better demonstrate the training efforts and health outcomes of the VOP. In fact the cardiovascular fitness is comparable to a much younger person without much exercise. In differentiation to a sedentary lifestyle the VOP has a daily 40 minutes rowing routine plus 2-3 times resistance training, meaning weights. 20 years without injury made him indoor rowing champion repeatedly. Physiological benchmarks have been extended due to the surprising late onset of the training only at 73 years of age. Starting late with physical exercise allows to reap enormous benefits as well. For physiological fitness it is not only “use it or lose it” but “use it and extend it”. Almost irrespective of age the novel findings suggest a cardiovascular plasticity that was believed to be impossible. The descriptive account in “The Journal of Applied Physiology” allows no causal inference. Many cardiologists would probably even advise against such high intensity training without careful medical examination before, during and after some months. From a statistical or epidemiological point of view this statistical outlier will likely lead to adjustments of algorithmic potentials of human performance in older age. Handle with care, I would suggest. Working against resistance regularly remains an interesting perspective for an aging person and aging societies.

Aging Challenge

Several countries face an aging challenge now and in the near future. The OECD provides some basic data, figures and projections. All data to calculate the aging challenge are more subject to change than they used to. The Covid-19 rise in mortality rates has implications as the number of premature deaths of the elderly (65+) has risen even in the economically advanced countries. The so-called old-age dependency ratio is a widely used indicator to assess the charge or pressure on the working-age population (20 to 64) to finance those in retirement (65+). demographic ratio is defined as the number of individuals aged 65 and over per 100 people of working age defined as those at ages.
Major factors that have an impact on the ratio are mortality and fertility rates as well as migration, but also participation rates in employment for those younger than 20 or older than 65 years of age. Seminal shifts in participation of women in the labour force contribute also to reduce the old-age dependency ratio. An influx of about 1 million of refugees who have immediately a work permit like Ukrainians in Germany have a substantial impact as well. Life expectancy is expected to rise again after the years of reduction due to Covid-19. In 2024 and 2027 these ratios do not move too much. Extending the time horizon to 2050, when people born in 1985 would start to retire shows more reason for concern. Whereas in 2024 France, Germany and Italy are still fairly close to each other (2.4 percentage points), the gap starts to widen as of 2027 (5.5 percentage points). In 2050 Italy is projected to have an old-age dependency ratio of 74.4%, about 20 percentage points higher than France.
Okay, in the long-run we are all dead, says an economist joke, but changes to increase fertility or allowing more migrants in are not in sight for Italy. Therefore, the urge to react is increasing there. Younger generations might not be able or willing to foot the bill of high pension expenditure in Italy. Compared to Italy or even Japan the pressure on France is much less pressing, contrary to the national government’s opinion and policy initiatives to increase retirement age without parliamentary majority.
Source for projections and figures: OECD (2023), Old-age dependency ratio (indicator). doi: 10.1787/e0255c98-en (Accessed on 04 October 2023).

Virtual Sociology

Abstracting from the real world, the world we live in today or we lived in some time ago, is either speculation or maybe contribute to theory building. Virtual sociology has this potential. Exploring virtual worlds as in Virtual Reality (VR) or Augmented Reality (AR) allows us to take on new roles or experience a wider range of social interactions. This could be the strength of a new field of Virtual Sociology.
In the project in the Jewish Museum in Berlin the composition of a composer murdered by the Nazis in Germany was revived and played in the virtual setting of today’s concert halls. The novel by Kazuo IshiguroKlara and the Sun” explores the interaction of a child with her robot friend, when the AI becomes and/or replaces a friend. Virtual creations allow to explore and test more degrees of freedom of social interaction. Experimentation of new social spaces and different forms of interaction need to be explored. It allows a new form of sociology, maybe similar to the 1960s and 70s social revolutions we studied for years to come. Virtual sociology is not a sociology while being on drugs, however interesting this might be for some.
Virtual sociology takes sociology into the virtual world and investigates the new social relationships with avatars or care robots. In programming different social roles (managers, employees) we create new forms of interaction and have an observer within the social world. We may eventually test the Weberian claim of a value-free scientific method of the social sciences. This will inform our need to “supervise” or to guide algorithms that are claimed to do “value-free” execution of rules.
In fact, they don’t. They just reproduce the value system that is installed into them by a “careless” programme (song youtube). The social in virtual worlds is opportunity just as much as risk, but we have to analyse it systematically. As our technological and social environment changes, we have to adapt topics and methods to make meaningful scientific analyses as well.

Medical Personal

Like in many other professions, medical doctors and nurses are in short supply. Labour markets in Europe have changed from high oversupply (unemployment) to shortages of mainly skilled persons. 20 years ago, such skill needs were already visible in projections. In 2023 the discussion of skill needs is spreading to more and more professions. The medical professions are no exception to this rule. Even the best paying jobs will not be filled in sufficient numbers. The German institute for the medical profession ( forecasts, in my opinion, a lower bound estimate of medical doctors for the year 2030. Their projection is based on an underestimation of the growth of the population (war in Ukraine), which they see as about constant until 2030. From the recent figures on the population of Germany there were 1.5 million persons moving to Germany and a loss of more deaths than births of 327.000. Migrants are on average much younger than the German population and, therefore, overall aging of the population is reduced. Tough news for those daring to do projections. Thanks to the immigration of younger persons there will be more persons contributing to health insurance and pay for the higher costs of a rapidly aging population.
Following the projections of the distribution of specialists needed, we shall need more urologists, eye specialists and substantially more psychotherapists. This originates in the aging of the population and the higher demand of younger persons (post Covid-19), as well as refugees, in need of psychotherapeutic assistance.
So-called hog-cycles tell us for the medical profession, with a “production time” of 10 years for a medical doctor, that we are already far behind schedule to address the future skill needs of the aging medical profession and population. This strengthens the need to get serious about prevention of avoidable diseases. Stop reading here, stand up and go for walk. It is the best-practice-solution taking account of the aging of the medical profession and the population as a whole.


Die Lebenserwartung ist in Deutschland trotz überdurchschnittlicher Ausgaben des Gesundheitssystems nur unterdurchschnittlich. Das ist die Schlussfolgerung der Pressemitteilung des Bundesinstituts für Bevölkerungsforschung. Der Mortalitätsforscher Pavel Grigoriev führt das auf die besonders bei Männern (50-64) erhöhten Sterblichkeit aufgrund von Herz-Kreislauf-Erkrankungen zurück. Eine gesunde Lebensweise ist dabei ursächlich für eine längere Lebenserwartung. Walking und Ernährung spielen eine große Rolle bei der gesunden Lebensweise. Also Auto stehen lassen und öfters selber Essen zubereiten. Klingt doch einfach, berufliche und schulische Voraussetzungen dazu fehlen aber weitestgehend in Deutschland. Zu viele Süßgetränke verstärken die ungesunde Lebensweise. Das wissen wir eigentlich lange. Dennoch fällt es schwer, solche Routinen in den Alltag zu integrieren.
An der Tatsache eines überteuerten Krankensystems im Vergleich zu unseren Nachbarländern werden wir ebenfalls arbeiten müssen. Prävention, statt hochtechnisierte Versorgung in häufigen Krankheitsfällen ist die einfache Lösung. Jede Autoversicherung bietet hohe Schadensfreiheitsrabatte für mehrjähriges Unfallfreies Fahren. In der Krankenversicherung könnte das stärkere Berücksichtigung finden.
Der Gesundheitsschutz am Arbeitsplatz könnte ebenfalls durch eine stärkere Beteiligung der unternehmerischen Verantwortung herangezogen werden. Arbeitnehmende im Arbeitsprozess verschleißen und dann die Gesellschaft die höheren Kosten tragen lassen, ist ein unfairer Deal. Große Baustellen warten darauf, angepackt zu werden. Anhand der Daten des Bundesinstituts für Bevölkerungsforschung und des MPI für demografische Forschung lässt sich der Fortschritt der Lebenserwartung seit 30 Jahren aufzeigen. Die 4-6 Jahre längere Lebenserwartung der Frauen gibt zu denken. Daran hat sich über die Jahrzehnte wenig geändert. Die Männer haben zumindest ein klein wenig aufgeholt oder sollten wir sagen, dazugelernt.


Forschung betreiben ist meistens das Bohren dicker Bretter. Verständlich, dass das nicht jedermanns oder jederfraus Sache ist. Wer sitzt schon gerne alleine in einer kleinen Zelle und schreibt seine Forschungsergebnisse auf oder liest endlos lange und viel vorherige Forschung? Da ist ein Besuch in Archiven, Laboren oder anderen Datenarchiven schon etwas unterhaltsamer. Forschung ist überwiegend theoriegeleitet. Von Einzelfällen abstrahierende Theorien lassen die Forschenden entweder an diesen Theorien weiterarbeiten oder vielfach irgendeine Form von Daten sammeln mittels derer sie dann die Theorie(n) testen können. Eine Herausforderung an diese Arbeitsweise stellt die rein datengetriebene Induktion dar. Sozusagen der „deus ex machina“ erwächst aus einer hinreichend großen, am besten sich ständig erweiternden, Datenbasis. Wetterdaten, Verkehrsdaten, Krankheitsdaten, Börsendaten und Arbeitsmarktdaten bieten für sowohl für deduktive als auch induktive Verfahren hervorragende Beispiele. Datensammeln in Archiven, beispielsweise Rekonstruktion oder Interpretation eines Lebensverlaufs aus Korrespondenz ist ein klassisches Verfahren von meistens LiteraturwissenschaftlerInnen. Manche Archive belohnen die Forschenden mit Glanz und andere mit Gloria, selten mit beidem. Glänzende Aussichten bietet die biographische Forschung zu Komponisten und MusikerInnen in Paris. In der kleinen, aber sehr feinen Bibliothek der „Opera Garnier“ bin ich zu dem Komponisten Flotow fündig geworden. Es befinden sich dort in der Komponistenakte Zeitungsausschnitte, die 150 Jahre alt sind und ein Büchlein aus frühen DDR-Zeiten, die den Aristokratenkomponist durchaus kritisch durchleuchten. Die Ablenkung auf dem Weg in die Bibliothek und dem Archiv der Oper ist allerdings atemberaubend, also nur für ganz überzeugte Forschende zu empfehlen. Die meisten werden von der Opulenz des Bauwerks so beeindruckt, dass jegliche Forschungsfrage und Theorie „backstage“ verwiesen werden. Selbst backstage kann es ziemlich schön sein.

Repair 2

Ever since the visit to the exhibition “Care, Repair, Heal” at the Martin Gropiusbau in Berlin the image of flying protheses rests with me. Repairing the human body is feasible in many fantastic ways. The inner wounds, however, are less visible and sometimes hurting even more. In recognition of the thousands of victims again in the Russian war on Ukraine’s territory and the atrocities causes by mines to injure humans, we have to assist in caring, repairing and healing. This has not changed since the Great War or the Nazi-induced mass murder and mutilations. Humanity is unable to bann such landmines despite international conventions trying to achieve this.
The strong image produced by the protheses as clouds in the sky (Kadar Attia) remind us of the lasting effects of war. Images we had associated with the mutilated soldiers and civilians of the 2nd world war, many still around us in the 60s or 70s, are coming back to Europe. Writing about the 20th century, Aurélien Bellanger described in words a similar traumatising vision of flying protheses in his story of the lonely poet and philosopher. We cannot repair history, but we can work towards reducing useless additional suffering. It is part of the absurdities of our world that technology has created masterpieces to assist us and reduce suffering, but at the same time technology is applied to create the worst suffering as well. Rather than thinking of this relationship as 2 sides of the same coin, I prefer to hope for dialectic evolution towards a better synthesis solution using enforceable international law. Yes, I still have a dream! …


Approaching history with a personal touch is a powerful way of attracting persons into learning about others and themselves. The use of some personal belongings as part of a “history box” can be the beginning of an historical journey into the 30s, 40s, 50s or any other decade. It is an empowering tool for learners of all ages. Digging deeper into personal histories, societal constellations and societal change becomes alive through tiny little things. Communicating about these artefacts blends old and new narratives, just as much as the life courses of the “common woman or man” with the celebrities of the time. “Getting personal” is the hype in the time when social media want to define our life though endless nudging. Reflecting on origins is not what we tend to do, PhotoAPPs create retrospects for us, take it, or leave it. History is catching up on us. The fashion world reinvents history on a seasonal basis. After all, a bag is a bag is a bag. Or is it different from the one a person took to Auschwitz.

Aphorismen L3

“Was für Aussichten würden wir bekommen, wenn wir unser Kapital von Wahrheiten einmal von demjenigen entblößen könnten, was ihnen nicht sowohl wesentlich ist, als vielmehr aus der öfteren Wiederholung zuwächst.“ (Lichtenberg S. 50). Die Wiederholung ist eine starke Lernmethode. Sie wird seit Jahrtausenden erfolgreich eingesetzt. Alle Religionen bedienen sich am liebsten täglich dieser Methode, um sich der Treue der Anbetenden zu vergewissern. Der Glaube im Glauben ist: Oft genug wiederholt ist gut verinnerlicht. Dabei bleibt ein Glaube ein Glaube, selbst bei ständiger Wiederholung. Lediglich so manchem Mensch erscheint durch regelmäßiges Wiederholen die Botschaft als verinnerlichte Selbstverständlichkeit. Wahrscheinlich ist es beruhigender, sich nicht täglich zu fragen, ob das 1x,2x,3x mal tägliche Einmassieren von Chemikalien auf Zähne und Zahnfleisch wirklich nachhaltig gesundheitsfördernd ist. Alleine dem Markt wollen wir das Thema nun auch nicht überantworten. Warten wir weiterhin auf die nächste entblößende, hoffentlich wirklich unabhängige, wissenschaftliche Studie dazu. Mit den Pestiziden in der Ernährung hat das bekanntlich nur sehr bedingt funktioniert. Wie schön, dass alle Jahre wieder Frühling kommt und die finsteren Tage hinter uns lässt. Wiederholungen lassen Routinen entstehen, die uns das ständige Hinterfragen ersparen. Rasch gehen wir über Fragen von Kindern hinweg: Muss ich heute in die Schule gehen? Dabei ist Hinterfragen von Wiederholungen ein wichtiges Lernen, dem Mitläufertum entgegen zu wirken.


Alkohol ist eine Droge, da Alkohol abhängig machen kann. Die Bewusstseinsveränderungen können beachtliche bis extreme Ausmaße erreichen. Das wissen wir alle und zwar seit Jahrhunderten. Mäßigung bei Rauschmitteln ist nötig, aber schwer erlernbar. Etwas Genuss ist gesellschaftlich nicht nur toleriert, sondern gewollt zur Förderung der Geselligkeit. Zu viel Genuss beeinträchtigt meistens andere und wird dann zu einer schwierigen Problematik. Ärztinnen, Psychologinnen und andere Heilberufe stehen oft hilflos, wie auch das nahe familiäre Umfeld, vor dieser Situation. Selbst neuere Studien weisen darauf hin, dass die Versorgung dieser Patienten (UK), bestenfalls in der Hälfte der Fälle als gut einzustufen ist. Die Studie zu Großbritannien beschreibt gleichfalls die Krankheitsgeschichte und -versorgung als „eskalierende Tragödie“. Für die meisten anderen Länder liegen keine wirklich guten Daten vor, die weder einen Handlungsbedarf noch auf einen gesellschaftlichen Gestaltungswillen hindeuten würden.
Die Radiosendung zum Thema „Umgang mit Alkoholkranken“ und die Initiative von Sänger Max Mutzke, „Kindern suchtkranker Eltern eine Stimme geben“ beschreibt eindrücklich die generationsübergreifende Bedeutung von Alkoholkrankheit. Alkohol ist eben nicht nur das Problem der betroffenen Person. Ein ganzes Umfeld ist betroffen. Das Problem wächst sich meistens aus zu einer Problematik für das weitere familiäre Umfeld, Freundeskreise und ArbeitskollegInnen. Es ist erstaunlich, dass wir seit Jahrhunderten keinen anderen Umgang mit alkoholbasierten Rauschmitteln gefunden haben, als alles erlaubt oder alles verboten, außer der Altersbegrenzung für Kinder und beim Autofahren. Der Maler Bruegel sah das wohl ähnlich. Den St. Martinswein kann sich heute jeder im Laden um die Ecke selbst kaufen. Mäßigung im Umgang mit Drogen ist nach wie vor ein schwieriger Lernprozess, für Einzelne (Jordaens – Der König drinkt!), wie für die Gesellschaft. ( fast betrunkenes Video Alko VLC Bruegel MRBA Bruxelles.jpg zur Bildexploration).


The social sciences deal with time either as part of social theory and as part of social measurement in the broadest sense. The entry of time in “The encyclopedia of social theory” (Ritzer, 2006, p.837-41) reminds us that since the age of Augustinus, believing that time is a God-given concept, we have evolved with Kant’s notion of the “Ding an sich” that time exists within our experience, but also beyond our experience of it. It is Durkheim who sees time as a social institution and raises the issue of a social construction of the concept(s) of time. In the process of civilisation, Nobert Elias leads us to think of time as an evolving social process which allows us to reach higher levels of civilisations. Despite wars and other backlashes, the basic premise remains an eventual improvement on previous situations (Time 3). The phenomenological method applied by Husserl points at the “inner time consciousness” of persons, which finds its literary expression for example in Proust’s writings.
In addition to time as the object of social theories, we find frequent implicit use of concepts of time as a component of social theories. Life courses, social change, social mobility, social integration, learning, all these concepts are conceived with “time stamps” attached to the them. Their temporality, i.e. location in time and space, durations, sequential orders and interlinkages form huge fields of research. Whole societies have attempted to define when is the “normal”, “right” or “best” time to do something for the individual or the society as a whole. Social desirability is linked to time and space and varies accordingly. The 1960s probably were a decade where the questioning of social desirability was most obvious.
Social measurement of time and the location of social phenomena in time leads us to the empirical field of studying time or the treatment of time as a basic dimension in and of social processes. “The encyclopedia of social measurement” (Kempf-Leonard, 2005) list the sampling of time as a basic entry to the topic. Frequency of sampling, (yearly, quarterly), level of sampling (person, household, region, country), repeated surveys (prospective, retrospective) of same person or rotating samples of persons have their specific strengths and weaknesses. Analytical methods rely on the concepts of the measurement of time. It seems to be a fair observation that (Clarke and Granato, 2005, p.836) the future of time series analysis lies in the linkages to theory. After all, the 2 worlds of theory and empirical measurement are linked through the concept of time, despite the tendency to abstract from it or assuming a large overlap in the concept of time (and space) referred to. Clocks seems to be ticking differently in different places.
Image: Dali Paris. R. & N. Descharnes Salvador Dali Sculptures & Objects. Eccart. Ref. 615, page 238.


»Tempus fugit» (Latin proverb) time is flying, or time is escaping us. This is a classical quote. Students of Latin come across it in language acquisition.  “Carpe diem” make the most of the day, others responded. Some even raise it to a dogma of their existence. Whereas in classical times, time was more likely to be perceived as a linear concept (v = s x t), modern concepts discuss time as “acceleration” a nonlinear concept (a = v x t = s x t²)  or higher order non-linearities even (time³). Social time is embedded in such concepts of time. At some moments we perceive time as running very slowly, at other instances as running fast or accelerating. The synchronisation of time for friends, a couple, a family, lives, within a society or between societies is the big challenge. We tend to use calendars to synchronize our time acknowledging that time might be running at different speed for different persons. We have invented rituals of synchronisation like celebrating birthdays, departures at work, retirements or relative to seasons, with corresponding seasonal greetings. In between these events time fluctuates with different speed for different persons. Commonly in a kind of superficial objectivity, time is running in the same second-, minute-, hour-, day-like fashion, but considering activities or experiences, the same time span is widely different across persons. A lot of intergenerational conflicts have their origins in this non-synchronicity of time across generations. Bernard Guy (2018) reminds us of the link of time and space, as in the equations above, common in classical physics, where we could replace s with the change of coordinates of 2 GPS-signals. This space – time relationship complicates our simple reference to time. We have become used to think in time zones across the planet or within continents, however, our imagination is a bit stretched by imagining others sleeping while we are terribly busy on the other side of the globe. Global production and logistic processes have integrated the time and space framework for just-in-time delivery and optimisation of processes. As mankind we are still having a hard time to think about time and spend years “à la recherche du temps perdu” (Proust manuscript image below, BnF Paris2023).
Guy, B. (2018). Parler d’accélération, c’est aussi dire comment nous comprenons le temps. Dans : Nicole Aubert éd., @ la recherche du temps: Individus hyperconnectés, société accélérée : tensions et transformations (pp. 111-123). Toulouse: Érès.

Double bind

Knowledge and knowhow are a pair of notions that have strong links between each other. It is a challenge to see 2 knowledge systems, knowledges, to co-exist sometimes for a very long time. Medicine is a good example. The traditional Chinese medicine continues to exist in parallel to the western style science based medicine. It remains a challenge to analyse the effectiveness, efficiency and equality each system can provide. In terms of public health the border between knowledge and knowhow becomes more blurred. The knowledge about diseases needs to be transferred into knowhow of how to prevent the disease to the population at large. This is a steep challenge as the persistence of alcohol abuse, smoking habits and other drugs abuses show on a global scale. Knowledge alone on the negative consequences is far from enough to prevent abuse. The thin and blurred line between use and abuse of pharmaceutical products equally challenges our traditional views on knowledge and knowhow. In a knowledge graph knowledge would figure, for example, in the core and knowhow as a satellite on the periphery. However, despite the strong link between these 2 notions, knowhow has a lot of additional links to topics like health or yin and yang. Knowhow has a basic link also to notions like memory (techniques) or even war (equipment). The more abstract notion of knowledge, “le savoir”, has been seen for a long time superior to the less abstract notion of knowhow, “savoir faire”. Polymaths have been identified for touching on several fields of knowledge with little concern for the practical side of things, despite the fact that Leonardo da Vinci combined many fields of science of his time to improve technology of his time including visions for the future. The double bind link exists in the recursive element of a link between 2 notions. Rather than denying its existence we have a lot to do to incorporate the more complicated links into our scientific knowledge and the more practical knowhow.


In family histories we like to look on tree-like linking structures. Most frequently the choice is the descendant perspective (Top down). X, Y, Z have been the children of A and B and so on for a couple of generations. Bottom-up perspectives are equally feasible and modern patchwork families have more widespread representations of their families. Those representations were easy to do as families were lifelong bonds. Shorter family bonds, previously mainly caused by pre-mature deaths, are more common as people might have different partners and off-springs at different periods of their life course. Drawing family trees then looks more like a network structure of several families. History and literature is full of stories of how families aimed to keep their genealogy simple to the outside world. Modern days are no exception to this. Law had to adapt to these societal facts and changes thereof. Comparing decades over the last century there is, in my view, the remarkable trend to allow for more complexity in family histories, even after the 60s leading to many complete ruptures of family ties and links throughout the 70s and 80s.
With reducing fertility rates in most, not only western regions of the world, medical demography is back on the agenda. Similar to family trees, new forms of identifying promising pharmaceutical products have moved to more data-driven disease insights. Historically the local medical doctor had an overview about the likelihood of diseases following family’s medical histories over generations. Data-driven analyses, supported by data analytics and/or AI support, can learn permanently about potential and actual risks. New links of diseases are discovered this way extending the family doctor’s view of risks to watch out for in patients. Additional remedy and marketing potentials of existing drugs are also detected this way, beyond anecdotal evidence. Research published in the “Journal of biomedical semantics” by Vlietstra et al. (2020) classifies disease trajectories to construct knowledge graphs of biomolecular interactions. What previously a medical doctor in region could infer from his medical records in a less systematic way, can now be analysed on big data sets of countries, continents or even the global scale. Data is knowledge, and some already know, that this data-driven knowledge is worth a lot of money. Linking previously and seemingly unrelated facts or events, just like becoming aware of more complex family trees through DNA-analyses is the medical part of history. How we deal with this as families or societies as a whole, is the trickier part. Structural changes of societies are marked by decades-like changes, but specific events like “Fukushima”, Tschernobyl or other man-made rather than natural disasters have created new forms of contamination and the spreading of it. In addition to family trees we need broader consideration for knowledge bases to demonstrate, for example, the spread of cancer in the networked society. Additionally this evidence should have a stronger recognition in courts as prove of contamination lines. Statistical reasoning is more likely to become court-relevant. Hence, train the legal profession beyond what “statistical discrimination” is like. Causal mechanisms are manifold. Some are more likely than others. Semantic knowledge graphs remind us of the presence of reverse causality many relationships. Scientists need an optimistic state of mind to abstract from many intervening processes on health, be they tiny micro- or bigger macro-level societal effects.


Eine Sammlung von Aphorismen, wie sie Georg Christoph Lichtenberg hinterlassen hatte, regten viele Denkende an, sich mit seinem Gedankengebäude zu befassen. Die prägnante Form der Zusammenfassungen, Hypothesen oder Vermutungen zu jeweils einem großen Thema hat ihn unsterblich werden lassen. In Form von Gedankenblitzen, Neudeutsch Tweets, vor mehr als 222 Jahren, gestorben ist er im Jahr 1799, zeugen von großem Weitblick, Tiefe und Breite seines Wissens (Polymath). Jede Person, die sich heute in der Schule mit der Infinitesimalrechnung befasst, der mathematischen Annäherung an einen GrenzwertS (Mathe Vorlesungsnotizen pdf), findet bei Lichtenberg zum Beispiel die Anwendung dieser Methode auf soziale Phänomene. Einer Wahrheit werden wir uns auch nur annähern können, selbst wenn wir sie auf unsere Weise, zumindest temporär, als solche definieren.  Vor mehr als 250 Jahren hat Lichtenberg bereits in seinem ersten „Sudelbuch“ interessante Gedanken niedergeschrieben, die uns heute noch Nachdenken lassen. „Unser Leben hängt so genau in der Mitte zwischen Vergnügen und Schmerz, dass uns schon zuweilen Dinge schädlich werden können, die uns zu unserm Unterhalt dienen, wie ganz natürlich veränderte Luft, da wir doch in die Luft geschaffen sind.“
Dem modernen Menschen ist das Bewusstsein, in die Luft geschaffen zu sein, fast vollständig abhandengekommen. Unsere Eingriffe, wider besseren Wissens, lassen weltweit jährlich Millionen Menschen vorzeitig sterben am Smog der Moderne. Innovation ist enervierend, wenn sie nicht vornehmlich den Menschen im Blick hat. Es sollte noch einige Jahre nach Lichtenberg brauchen bis Goethe Faust den Satz sagen ließ: Die Geister, die ich rief, ich werd’ sie nicht mehr los. Lichtenberg setzte das obige Zitat so fort: „Allein wer weiß, ob nicht vieles von unserem Vergnügen von diesem Balancement abhängt; diese Empfindlichkeit ist vielleicht ein wichtiges Stück von dem, was unsern Vorzug vor den Tieren ausmacht.“   Aus dem Akt der Balance den jede/r Einzelne zwischen Schmerz und Vergnügen im Lebensverlauf beschreibt ist längst ein gesellschaftlicher und politischer Balanceakt geworden, zwischen gesellschaftlichen Gruppen sowie zwischen Generationen. Die Abweichungen von einem Grenzwert oder von einem ausbalancierten Zustand sind ebenfalls größer geworden, so dass der ganze Akt ins Wanken gerät. Mit dem beschriebenen, unserem Vorzug vor den Tieren, könnte jedoch ebenfalls ein Teil des Problems sein, denn die Vernichtung der Biodiversität ist nun mal noch die Lebensgrundlage des homo sapiens. Seien es Schwankungen um einen Mittelwert oder immer kleinere Annäherungen an einen Grenzwert, wir wanken auf Pfaden, die Lichtenberg angerissen hat. Blogposts sind wohl vergleichbar den Einträgen in Sudelbüchern.  Aus vielen Puzzleteilen kann ein Gesamtbild entstehen, muss aber nicht. Die Begriffe „Random Walk“ oder „Brownsche Bewegung“ sind erst lange nach Lichtenberg entwickelt worden. Heute sind wir von dem „Random Walker Algorithmus“ begeistert oder erschreckt, wenn letzterer für „fake news“ statt Wahrheitsfindung missbraucht wird.

Photo K

The self portrait is a timely topic for an exhibition of photography. As part of the European month of photography (EMOP), the PhotoBrusselsFestival offers a good overview of what photography deals with in the 21 century. The Korean cultural centre (KCC) in Brussels has a long tradition to serve as an exposition in the centre of Brussels (Sablon) and is joining this year’s photo festival. The 2023 photography festival has the “Self-Portrait” as a guiding theme. Rather than entering the debate about “portrait chosen or portrait endured” (Photographica 5,2022) the self-portrait has more degrees of freedom in it. Even if it is apparently a choice to portrait oneself, there are ample examples, where the urge to produce a self-portrait is part of a wider concern for fundamental issues.
The exhibition of 5 artists from Korea at the KCC invites us to reflect on the pervasive self-portrait practice all around us. The self-portrait is not only a tool of self-reflection, which has a long tradition in art (just think of a famous drawing by Albrecht Dürer of himself), but self-portraits are also pervasive on media and social media today. Additionally, the self-portrait is a powerful tool of thinking and imagining yourself at various stages of the life-course. For centuries it had been a social or political privilege to have your portrait taken. It still is to some extent, but only if the person taking the photograph, has a special reputation. In a market difference to the selfie, the exhibition of artists in the KCC highlights the process of self-reflection that is part of creating the portrait as well as the ensuing reflection by the spectator. In looking at the self-portrait of the photographer, we might involuntarily deal first with our own perception of the image. Danger, dreams, fantasy, sorrow, pain, self-assertion and reconstruction of the self, all these themes come to mind when confronted with the self-portraits of the 5 artists (Bae Chan-hyo, Jeong Yun-soon, Lee Jee-young, Ahn Jun, Choi Young-kwi).
KCC director Kim Jae-hwan names this collection, curated by Seok Jae-hyun, “An odyssey of images leading to self-re-flection”. In referring back to the protagonists in novels from Hermann Hesse, he points our attention to the “unique journey through images as they find themselves”. To embark on the journey visit KCC in Brussels, ask for a copy of the catalogue or start by reading the title of the exposition: “Who Am I” – it is apparently no longer a question after the journey. Is it for you?  More reflection on images and photos here.

Art Un-Fair

The Brussels Art Fair (Brafa 2023) with its long tradition is certainly a major highlight in the world of art in Brussels. In view of the languages spoken at the fair, mainly French and Dutch, some English with here and there a word in Spanish or German, the international reach is probably still not at the level of before the corona crisis.
The availability of established, internationally recognized art over many centuries on the art market is remarkable. Whereas before the crisis speculators bought art to shield their fortunes from a high inflation and/or politically instable period, nowadays it seems to me, that some art is returning to the market due to the need for liquidity of speculators or risks of confiscation in case of dubious previous acquisitions or ownerships. Renowned galleries, of course, provide impeccable certificates or information on them, a tricky business in itself. Anyway, the tour on the fair is a “parcour” through the history of art, mainly through the Western or European arts across centuries rather than decades. Most persons will find splendid examples according to their preferences of art ranging from paintings, sculpture, prints or other artefacts. Beyond the impressive individual art work, the arrangements and “mise en scene” of art is another learning experience at the fair. Whereas most public museums are happy to make accessible as much as they can of their collections and archives, the private art market has another objective. Effective and convincing presentation of the artefact is likely to “enrich” the value of art work as well as the seller and the dealer. Technology allows great lighting and some otherwise “sombre” artwork becomes a shiny little piece catching eyes, hearts and wallets. For some visitors it works probably the other way round.
For persons overly stimulated by art, I recommend to close the actual or virtual visit with a look at the little bit cheeky artwork presenting Belgian chocolate next to royalty (Gallery Delaive, showing Peter Anton’s “Paradise Variety” next to Andy Warhal’s depiction of a Queen, see below or their Instagram presentation). A sublime moment to repeat the experience at home at moderate prices with your very own box of chocolates. At a price of 10€ each box you can enjoy roughly 2000 of them for the price of the art work. The question is: What is more healthy? Think about mental health as well. Alternative question: Art on a Fair is fair, unfair or fair traide?


The fifties are remembered as the prosperous and booming years in the 20th century, worthy of nostalgy for some. Indeed, after the 2nd world war and its destruction the time of re-construction had come already some way, thanks to the Marshall plan of the late 1940s. Most countries had to turn huge military equipment industries into civil uses. After the Schumann Declaration, the European Coal and Steel Community was a first successful and lasting institution building in Central Europe. A mass production boom of cars, civil aircrafts, radio and the beginning of public television were landmark changes in the relationship of technology and society. The U.S. became a leading force in this evolution pushing for free trade between countries and consumerism. The deprived generations of the war period in the 40s welcomed the “fabulous fifties” (Arleen Kelin, 1978) as a dynamic and prosperous decade, despite dramatic speed to innovate new more deadly weapons. The atomic bombs were tested from superpowers and nuclear energy started to surface. Solar cells and optic fibres were also inventions of the mid-50s. Strange that we had to wait for another 70 years and multiple crises before these resource-efficient technologies achieved popular success. Integrated circuits, micro-chips, the laser, Tupperware, Coke, Lego, Mickey Mouse and global cinema came upon us during the 50s. The Sputnik effect re-opened an arms race as part of the cold war including outer space beyond airplane reach.
Families longed for and indulged in an as normal as possible family life. Unfortunately, this meant for many women, who had worked outside home during wartimes, to return to a role of housekeeping. Rock n Roll and increasing consumption of mass produced products could compensate for some of this deprivation. Higher divorce rates in the 60s and/or lack of own pensions were the dire consequences for many women. Showtime, and showing-off were the mantra of the 50s. Glamour (Magazine) rose to cult status and prepared popular culture and art. Following fashion and awareness of design spread across societies enabled by the easier access to “sewing machines” allowing more home production for the middle-class persons. The “people of plenty” (Andrew Dunar, 2006 p.167-8, referring to David Potter, 1954) were effectively sold a car culture with the automobile as an agent of change.
The atomic era was believed to continue prosperity for more decades (Expo 58 in Brussels) and a delicate, but relatively stable balance of power restricted open wars. “The End of Ideologies” during the fifties (Daniel Bell, 1960) lead to focus on Realpolitik and a race for prosperity, oblivious of the ecological consequences for many decades to come.


The evolution of time is fascinating as research topic. Both in theoretical as well as empirical approaches. Beyond the precise measurement of time and the use of time in measuring working time, which intensified during the industrial revolution, we witness continued struggles over the length and the organisation of working time. The 30+X hours week working time could be reorganised into a 4-days week to improve work-life balances for millions of people. The effects are not only on employees directly concerned, but also on their families and/or households involved.
The changing perception of time (as being short of time) and its evolution over time needs huge surveys collected over time (known as “Time use studies”). Inequality over the life course remains an issue with a persistent gender bias. Unhealthy and excessive overtime work is still a problem, usually negated by upper ranks in hierarchies.
Let us start to imagine different concepts of time to maybe one day overcome the shortcomings of our current understanding and use of time. Usually, time is considered a linear concept, one day follows another day and so on. Time, depicted as an arrow or a horizontal axis in graphical representations, is helpful for most processes we observe. If our aim is to explain a social process which evolves over time, we could perceive time as running with different speed in, for example, urban and rural areas of the same country. The liberalisation of women or peace movements evolved or spread with different speed in different regions. The 60s became known for many women as the decade when the control of reproduction allowed different life styles. Concerning reproductive behaviour and divorce rates a break in series compared to previous periods is observable, reduction of reproduction and diffusion of divorce throughout societies. Instead of continuous time we might speak of discrete time, in for example decades like the 60s, 70s, 80s. In retrospect “social time” seems to have passed faster in one decade than the other. We might also imagine time as growing exponentially as time². Taking into account the slowing down and successive rise again of evolution over time, the time trend might look like a rising wave (time² + time³). In econometric models testing of such hypotheses is feasible, although it is more difficult to convince reviewers of an alternative theoretical model of time.
An investigation of trends of democratic behaviour over time would need to adjust for the potential and sometime measurable return of undemocratic practices for periods. A depiction of such “social time” of democracies as an upward rising line with periodic relapses is a plausible theoretical framework. Trajectories of inwards or outwards spiralling processes are already fairly complex trends for the process of democratisation as the phenomenon to explain or the modelling of a time trend to explain the level of democratisation reached so far. Challenges of time frames for independent and dependent variables in social processes might be questioned altogether to claim that time is a spurious occurrence of events much like a process of a so-called “Brownian motion” also named white noise. In fact, not being explicit about the concept of time applied in social analyses amounts to a severe neglect. Examples of such neglect are certainly all those cross-section studies, still pervasive practice, in social sciences or opinion polls. The linear concept of time, as a chronologically processing arrow of time, is a convention useful for synchronisation of action. However, this synchronisation is already debated more forcefully with more persons being unsatisfied with the use of synchronisation as a tool to regulate our “social time” and social processes. Time zones, summer and winter times challenge our day-to-day perception of everybody living at the same time, speed or intensity. Bedtime for me, wake-up call for others, or vice versa.


In autumn 2019 the Cosmopolitan featured a headline “Stop fighting it: the ´70s are back”. At least in fashion the 70s are still with us. Platform soles, moon boots, hot pants, all had their first appearance in the 70s. We keep seeing them in fashion shows even 50 years later. In politics, the retreat of the U.S. from Vietnam in 1972, with more than 50.000 killed soldiers from the U.S. and many more Vietnamese persons, is certainly a success of the sizable activists’ peace movement of the 60s. Willy Brandt’s kneeling in Warsaw in front of the heroes monument in honour of the Warsaw ghetto marked the beginning of a reconciliation with Eastern parts of Europe.
The oil crises 1973 and 1979 caused mass unemployment and from the beginning of the 70s “Greenpeace” started its on-site activist approach against nuclear weapons, killing of whales and dumping of toxic waste. The network of independent organisations is contemporaneous to the invention of e-mail between large so-called mainframe computers using the now common address format x@y.z. The feminist movement achieved major successes with a UN resolution to ban discrimination against women. The male dominated aggressive and excessive punk movement occurred almost in parallel. New products like the Polaroid camera for instant photos and prints, video cassette recorder, the chopper bike “Bonanza” as well as the collapsible Maclaren Buggy for children defined a lifestyle around a more mobile society. Plastic furniture, bright colours with uncommon combinations brought with it a more diverse culture. Societies exploded into different lifestyles. Some taking the new Concorde, so-called supersonic speed delta airplane between Paris and New York, whereas others walked around in “wooden clogs” as a kind of folk fashion, watched Kojak the bold police inspector, listened or sang to ABBA tunes, danced like in “Saturday night fever”. In December 1979 Pink Floyd released “The Wall” which became with 23 million sales the top seller of all 70s productions (Champ Hamish p.120). Some of these artists we can still enjoy jumping up and down on stages across the world or being honoured with a Nobel prize in literature like Bruce Springsteen.
The wild 70s are remembered for the sexual revolution, the philosophy of love and peace as well as the continued spirit of the civil rights movements (Particia Massó, 2010). The sexual revolution spurred women’s liberation just as additional exploitation by thriving borderless consumption industry. Sex sells and it sold well. The cinema and print industry cashed in on the new trends and the spreading the new trends. Social relationships became much more unstable, divorce rates increased sharply in the 70s. In response, “surviving the 70s” (DeMott, 1971) a kind of survival guide tried to give advice of how to stem the tide, largely unsuccess for some decades.
Societies continued to explore new forms of life, while some niches of conservative life styles started to shield themselves from these outrageous trends. Vasarely imitating tapestry and design invited new forms of facing your own walls. Where to go on from this liberalisation? More equal rights for all, was a claim, but it took several additional decades to achieve some of the claims. Intersectionality, viewing for example violence as an across gender, social class and ethnicity as an overall mankind issue, became a claim much later only. “All in all, it was just bricks in the wall”, a huge wall it still is. We haven’t climbed it yet.


The colourful 80s. That could be a summary of the years from 1980 to 1989. Certainly in fashion and design a multitude of colours dominated the 80s. Mariel Marohn (2010, Ed.) published 20 years later a visual summary of the 80s. Often thought as less spectacular than other decades, the 80s had seen some defeats to start with. John Lennon shot dead in New York December 1980. The NASA space shuttle Challenger explodes 2 minutes after the launch in 1986. Nuclear accidents (after three mile island 1979, Tschernobyl 1986,or the finding of the Titanic demonstrated not only the “limits to growth” (1972), but reminded us of deadly consequences of technological ambitions wanting to move too fast in time. Ghettoblaster, Walkman, first cell phones, facilitated a more mobile life style to more people. Overcoming the oil crises of the 70s, mobility roared ahead again. Cars, bikes, planes, CDs, windsurfing and aerobics become part of the lifestyle in these years.
Mass culture in music reached all levels of society. Music was no longer perceived as a protest movement, but a normal part of the freedom of expression. Fusion of music and dance, but also music and street art like in hip-hop music and graffiti art become part of day-to-day experiences of commuters. In the anthology of poems of the 80s we find on page 141 “Commuters” by Edward Hirsch 1983 who singles out the commuting practice as the way of life, he does not want to identify with. “Malgré lui”, in spite of himself, he finds himself in cars, trains travelling distances every day. More, faster and with more colours, time moved on. The fall of the Berlin wall 1989 was thought of as a “Zeitenwende” already. Royalty in the press with the marriage of Diana & Charles, was replaced by Madonna as the Queen of Pop and Michael Jackson as the King of Pop. The digital age entered into a new era with the Apple Macintosh desktop computer with an accessible visual interface to computing. Reaganomics and Thatcherism pushed for a revival of liberal market economies ploughing the fields for digital multinationals (GAFAM) to thrive ever since. These lasting technological changes define this period as colourful, grabbing all our senses and attention. Want to breathe a bit of the air of the 80s – visit MAD Paris.


The concept of time has been dominated by “chronometry”. We used to take a look at our more or less reliable wrist watch for orientation in time. This is a cultural practice in all societies where such devices are readily available as consumer products. Before this time, even in the Europe, church bells or the sun played the role to locate people in time (Norbert Elias on civilization). Nowadays, even in remote areas of our planet the mobile phone has taken over to assist us to organize time. In the sociology of time, we observe multiple clocks. The personal time, social time – organized through laws, collective agreements, conventions or as behavioural features of us. So-called early birds have a specific awakening response of their cortisol level in their blood. For others this is delayed. We might conclude from this that different clocks are ticking within us. The societal challenge is to synchronize them. Starting time of schooling is another phenomenon of societal construction of life courses. Starting or ending time of a school day, week, month, year, adulthood, all are determined collectively and changed from time to time. Beyond points in time, there are durations in time to consider. Life spans are socially determined. Life expectancy varies a lot by social class and education levels. Therefore, at least in retrospect and keeping the duration constant across persons, life time clocks are ticking with different speeds for us as individual persons.
In the digital age and powerful search engines based on “web crawlers” we live more than ever in a global state of mind. Awareness of “global history of history” (Woolf, 2011) allows us to add perspectives from several parts of the world to our own version of history, historiographies and histories. Collective memories are continuously shaped and recreated. Due to easy reference to chronological time a perspective following decades has become a sort of collective mind map. This influences directly or indirectly through peer behaviour and preferences our own mindsets (Blanning, 2008 p.307). From a sociological point of view decades are at the crossroads of time, period and cohort effects, potentially mixing up all 3 effects. However, statistically speaking we might apply a spline function -´ to our otherwise / linear running of time. Thick description of decades like the 60s, 70s, 80s, is common practice in our communicative practices, preferences as well as behavioural features. A dialectic co-evolution of decades, one negating the other or one decade being a synthesis of 2 other decades are part of the critical assessment of lasting contributions to history through histories (Paul Ricoeur).


Languages are simple once you understood the making of them. Take children, they learn the alphabet first, and use notions or images in alphabetical order, which you associate with this list of short words from A to Z in western cultures. From short words like “Cat” and “Dog” the learner moves on to longer ones like “Bird”, just 4 letters now. More advanced learners then use more letter words like “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” invented for amusement in the Disney-film Mary Poppins. It sounds a bit like one of those never-ending long German words with lots of nouns just added on. This is exactly what we shall do in the following. A bit like in computational linguistics when ChatGPT is predicting the next word, we use algorithmic thining to form new combinations of an alphabetical list of notions. We start in the table below with column 1, then tell our spreadsheet to copy cells A1-01 to Z1-26 list and insert it in the second column just one cell below and insert Z2-27 at the place on the top of the list of column 2, which is A2-01. Then take this column 2 and repeat. Stop after, lets say the repeat counter is N=25.
The first 2 words combination then is “Action Zero”. Take this, enter it into Computer Search and take the top entry. “ActionZero” is an actual company name proposing actions to achieve  net-zero emissions. Following this, we produce a whole encyclopedia of pretty up-to-date knowledge from the WWW with hardly any humans involved anymore. We only need to cut out duplicates and nonsense entries. That’s what most editors or teachers are used to do. Knowledge creation might no longer be reserved to the human species. Oh my God – but the machine might eventually sort this word out as nonsense concept, too. The new mantra could be ZeroGod or let us try the reset like in GodZero. In other words we move from HamletMachine to our own KnowledgeMachine.


Zur romantischen Periode gehören die bekannten Lieder von Schumann und Schubert. Meine Auswahl dazu liebäugelt besonders mit den Liedern zum Lindenbaum. Die Linde mit ihrem süßlichen Duft an warmen Tagen hat Malende der Romantik sowie die Dichtenden und Komponierenden betört. “Am Brunnen vor dem Tore da steht ein Lindenbaum …” kannte vor 50 Jahren jedes Kind. Etwas weniger bekannt sind die fabelhaften Rückert-Lieder von Gustav Mahler: “Ich atmet’ einen linden Duft …”. Für mich steht dabei die Atmosphäre in der Nähe der Linde im Vordergrund. “Unter den Linden” assoziieren viele nur noch mit der Verkehr in der Hauptstadt auf dem Weg zum Brandenburger Tor. Zum Reinhören und Reinversetzen in die Romantik sind die Lieder ein idealer Weg. Der Frühlingsglaube (Schubert Op.20.2) besingt die linden Lüfte und das Aufblühen der Natur. Es keimt die Hoffnung auf, dass sich alles zum Besseren wendet. Doch etwas Skepsis ist schon angebracht. Im Lied “Die abgeblühte Linde“, ebenfalls von Schubert vertont, ist dann das Altern und die Treue thematisiert. Der Zyklus der Natur und Jahreszeiten nimmt scheinbar unaufhaltsam seinen Lauf. “Nur der Gärtner bleibt ihr treu, denn er liebt in ihr den Baum”. Das weise Herz will Gärtnern und erhalten, was so viele Emotionen und Optimismus hervorgebracht hat. Wir müssen die Bäume retten, aus Pflicht die Romantik inklusiv und erlebbar zu erhalten. Dazu können wir mit den Linden ja schon einmal anfangen.