Waldbrände sind leider jenseits vom Süden Europas auch im Zentrum von Europa ein Bestandteil der täglichen Gefahren geworden. Vor 50 Jahren waren die seltenen heißen Sommer die große Gefahr. Seit einiger Zeit bemerken wir öfter heiße Sommerwochen, die die Wälder austrocknen und leicht entzündlich machen. Jetzt haben wir die noch frühere Sommersaison nicht nur im Süden, sondern auch im mittleren Europa. Neben den Bränden in der Lausitz in Deutschland, kämpfen Feuerwehrleute öfter in den französischen nördlicheren Waldregionen mit Bränden. Eine Nachricht, wie die zum Brand Anfang Juni im „Forêt Fontainebleau“, sollte uns klar machen, da brennt unserer europäisches ökologisches und kulturelles Erbe. Jeder hat die brennende Kathedrale „Notre Dame de Paris“ noch in Erinnerung. Da war Klimawandel nicht die Ursache. Bei den Waldbränden sieht das anders aus. Das Ergebnis ist das gleiche. Die Vernichtung unseres kulturellen Erbes schreitet voran ohne Prävention. Das ist eine zentrale Aufgabe. Nicht erst in der Zukunft. Prävention verlangt Handeln, Planen und Implementieren schon heute. Das ist ein riesiges Qualifizierungsprogramm nötig. Es umfasst die Sensibilisierung für die allgegenwärtigen Gefahren genauso, wie das Schulen allfälliger Einsätze von professionellen und freiwilligen Helfenden. Gefahr erkannt, heißt leider nicht schon Gefahr gebannt. Da gibt es viele Zwischenschritte, die geprobt sein wollen, damit ein effektiver Einsatz gelingen kann. Es bleibt viel zu tun, packen wir’s endlich an. (Artikel in La Marne 7.6.2023 S.6)
So-called deep learning algorithms can assist us in lots of routine tasks. Their applications seem to be spreading more rapidly than we commonly believe. The recent paper published in “Lancet Digit Health 2023; 5: e257–64” shows the relevance for medical screening again. Beyond skin or breast cancer, digital images have for years or decades been subject to studies using deep learning algorithms to early detection of cancer and other diseases. Now Google has published an additional potential application of algorithmic learning that assists in diagnosing blood sugar levels among others. For diabetes scanning photographs of the external eye with professional equipment (Zeiss Cirrus Photo 600) was used in the study, but the outlook hints already at the potential for most recent smartphone cameras to also be able to capture images of even better resolutions.
Just like measuring our weight and muscles as a weekly routine on scales, we shall have a more scientific look at our selfies soon. Spotting early onsets of several diseases will become a normal feature.
Early adopters of the new technology and screening potential of the smartphones might live even longer. Reminders to adopt or keep a healthy life style will be all around us. In some cultures, it is deeply offensive to look straight into the eyes of another person. We always knew that our eyes might tell a lot about us. Beyond mental health, they tell a lot about physical health, too.
Artists have always told us fascinating stories about eyes or how and what they see with their eyes. Scientists confirm that there is a lot of information in the eyes. (Image extract from MAD Paris, Picasso, Schiaparelli).
The study published in PNAS in May 2023 is demonstrating the loss in bio-diversity with respect to birds over last few decades. Our economic growth has caused considerable costs. Some of these costs we shall never be able to make up again. Species gone for ever, we should care. Measuring the loss is a first step in calculating the negative impact our economic growth models have already caused. Time to stop, repair and reverse as much as we still can. It is not fair to next generations to destroy a large amount of bio-diversity now and leave the exploited planet to “no-future generations”. A good documentation of the losses (radio-france-LINK) allows us to pin down who is most responsible for the losses. Agro-industry with the heavy use of pesticides is well known for the huge negative impact it has on bird populations and us as well. It is not only a European issue, but rather a world-wide issue. However, starting at home is a huge step to practice agriculture differently. Most of this is known for some time. It is the implementation of the necessary policies where powerful lobbying is successful to carry on as usual. Thinking “Beyond growth” delivers many useful perspectives and solutions to these problems.
Repair is our new mantra. Think of repairing in all domains as of now. Nature is showing us the way how to repair in many ways. Culture is also embracing the shift towards repairing as caring. If we really care about our planet, and there is no planet B, we shall have to repair in many more domains. We are used to repair bicycles, cars, roofs, windows etc. Repairing is never boring. You can improve the performance of a device or building by repairing it, even with relatively small budgets. Isolation of buildings is a good example of investing in upgrades through repairing. Rather than throwing away a functioning heating system repairing it with an energy saving device is enhancing its performance and produces fewer emissions in the short run. Heat pumps are the way forward for new installations. Shifting a sector, heating with gaz, to ensure longer lasting repair and improve options would save a lot of raw materials and CO2 as well. The construction sector has repair work almosts in its DNA, the energy sector will have to make that shift as well. Dare to repair.
Es war wieder Designmesse. Klein, aber fein, in Berlin in den KantGaragen. Die Location weckt schon Hoffnung auf Experimentelles, Garagenhaftes, Handwerkliches. Das bringt Abwechslung in die sonstige, glitzernde Shoppingwelt. Das renovierte und entgiftete Parkhaus erlaubt einen Rundgang über mehrere Etagen, vorbei an Galerien und Ständen von DesignerInnen. Es macht sich eine anregende Brise von erfrischenden Ideen breit. Von Design im Raum mit Leuchten und Möbeln über Design von Mode und Schmuck lässt sich viel Schickes finden. Blickfang, samt Blickfang Akademie haben es geschafft, die Mini-messe in den KantGaragen zu etablieren. Es kann sogar Eintritt verlangt werden. Eine weitere Begleitung der Neuen auf dem Markt wird oft nötig sein, denn selbst gute Innovationen sind meistens keine Selbstläufer. Konkurrenz belebt nicht nur das Geschäft, es bleibt meist auch ein Verdrängungsprozess.
Die großen, vielfach schließenden Kaufhäuser in den Innenstädten spüren besonders die Konkurrenz der individualisierenden DesignerInnen mit ihren einzigartig anmutenden Realisationen. Singuläre Kauferlebnisse auf solchen Messen, in stilvollem Ambiente, selbst in einem alten Parkhaus sind, allem Anschein nach, ein Erfolgsrezept. Start-up statt Close-down schafft viele erfüllende Arbeitsplätze. Gute Arbeit wird nicht aussterben, sondern durchstarten.
Risks are all around us. Risk is the spice of life. True, but this might be an elitist concept of life or business. Survival of the fittest or the best equipped to take risks might be the consequence. After the 3 crises, financial, covid, energy, we have a new impetus to thrive for de-risking. Certainly, concerning our health, we are aware that prevention is key to fight a pandemic. In order to stem an energy crisis, most countries start to rethink their energy mix and achieving more energy autonomy is a major step to shield against risks of delayed delivery or commerce with belligerent states like Russia. De-risking is key in supply chains for industries (automotive production, microprocessors) as well as service providers (cloud services, care givers) just as well. Mariana Mazzucato (UC London) urges us to develop a new narrative to accompany the transformation of our production and service provision models. Mazzucato advocates to learn from lessons from the ground of how to proceed in the best way. Copenhagen is a good starting point to observe how a metropolitan city manages the greening and decarbonisation of a city. It is important to not only target single policies but the coherence of several policies and approaches. In my view de-risking means for Germany and the EU to shield energy systems from foreign, malignant interference. Only local production of energy and nearby consumption of it will ensure the de-risking of energy provision and consumption. Let us start with massive investments in rooftop solar or small wind turbines. Nobody complained about millions of ugly television antenna all around us. Solar cells on balconies contribute to a basic local electricity supply, difficult to target millions of solar cells instead of a single huge and horrifically dangerous nuclear power plant. At the same time ,we reduce dependency on monopoly or oligopoly structures that develop their own agenda (Too big to fail, remember those?). I prefer the reverse statement. Because they are so big, they are doomed to fail and, therefore, fail us sooner or later. The Forum New Economy offered an open and accessible platform for exchange of ideas. That’s a good starting point to address de-risking. Reducing Risk is in the subtitle of Rebecca Henderson’s Chapter 3 on “Reimagining Capitalism” (short Review), but I would like to add the business case for household production of energy for de-risking supply failure and exploitation of consumers through excessive profit margins as a prosumer business case.
Crises, yes crises, we have seen a few in recent years. After the first financial crisis, 2009, the COVID-19 crisis and now the energy crisis, , they all have cost us respectively 1.6%, 2.5% and lately a whopping 7.8% of GDP loss according to Tom Krebs (Uni Mannheim and FNE) in his assessment of lessons from these crises. Also Philip Lane (ECB) showed the lower GDP growth rates due to the crises.
We lost out on the wealth of our nations and face mounting difficulties for the distribution of this wealth. As firms cashed in on profit margins lately, workers risk even more to fall behind significantly. At the same time, it is high time to prepare for the next winter season now, to ensure the same risks as the dependency on energy resources from outside Europe, especially Russia, can be maintained. The conference of the Forum New Economy from the 8th of May 2023 discussed several ways forward to learn our lessons from these crises. Strategic independence needs to be properly defined for Europe as a whole, not just in each individual state. Implementation has to be rapid as well. Geopolitical challenges will not wait for us to finish discussions. Germany and minister Robert Habeck has received some acclaim from the economists for a fast and rather successful reaction to safe us from an energy crisis last winter. Massive increases in renewables (+20% solar energy) has helped a lot to ensure sufficent energy supply when France suffered heavy reductions from its nuclear energy power plants. “Let the sun shine … in”, I would sing. However, we have to think even further ahead build our resilience based on improved energy efficiency and may rethink the risks and vulnerabilities of our economic model of production and consumption. Diversifying imports from Russia with imports from other countries and other (green) forms energy is part of the solution. A heavy reliance on China as buyer of our products is good for trade balance, but some sectors (automotive) are nowadays critically dependent on selling in China. Some of our partners are very anxious about this new dependency on Asia for our economic growth model (see figure below from conference). Market based economies suffer more openly from huge economic swings than more secret-based autocratic economies. Our state agencies have to keep that in mind and state intervention seems to become more likely options in future as we have already witnessed in the past crises. We had to rely on running higher state deficits to cover the losses incurred from the crises. The EU, the larger Europe in combination with the transatlantic and pacific alliances has a lot of resources to address these strategic interdependencies. Being prepared, in strategic thinking and potential implementation procedures is a major part of building capacities that ensure resilience and strategic independence. As in a game of chess, you have to think ahead a couple of steps to frighten off some potentially dangerous moves of other players.
In terms of a planetary concern we still have to address the major climate crisis and the last 3 crises have largely contributed to reduce the resources we have available to address climate change. Smart crisis management succeded to ask for emission reductions in return for subsidies from firms and private households. This might be the “best practice examples” worthy to learn from. There are still huge evaluation tasks for analysts of these crises.
Es war wieder einmal Hannover Messe. Das jährliche Treffen der Industrie mit samt der neuesten und manchmal auch älteren technischen Lösungen bietet eine eindrückliche Plattform zur Repräsentation von technischen Problemlösungen (offizielle Bilder LINK) . Da gibt es Lösungen für Probleme, bei denen wir noch nicht einmal wussten, dass wir sie haben oder einmal haben werden. So überrascht es nicht dort einige Firmen gelistet zu sehen, die ihre Dienste und Produkte anpreisen für die Unterstützung mit künstlicher Intelligenz, aber eben auch das Erkennen von Mogelei unter Zuhilfenahme von künstlicher Intelligenz. Also so ähnlich wie auf einer Automesse gibt es auch eine Abteilung die Rettungs- und Krankenwagen präsentiert. Technische Lösungen denken, wenn sie gute Lösungen sind, eben immer gleich ihr eigenes Versagen mit. Es bleibt letztlich nur die Frage, wie viele Versagensschleifen mitgedacht worden sind oder mitgedacht werden können. Der menschliche Faktor (als Fehlerursache) ist dabei ein sehr schwer auszuschließender Problemfall. Das musste nun auch die Hannover Messe als Ganze erfahren. Wenn die Menschen, die die Menschen hin- und wieder wegbringen vom Messegelände streiken, dann kommt das nahezu einem GAU (größtem anzunehmendem Unfall) gleich. Es gibt nicht nur menschliches Versagen bei Maschinenabläufen zu berücksichtigen, sondern auch mangelnde Kooperationsbereitschaft oder gar Böswilligkeit. Dabei sind wir nun aber schon in der Science-fiction oder James Bond 007 gelandet. Artificial Intelligence wird nicht frei von diesen allzu menschlichen Schwächen sein. Ein paar Gedanken sollten wir als Interessenten einer Fortbestehung unserer Spezies schon haben. Zwischenzeitlich lasse ich ChatGPD mal die Frage beantworten, wie Angestellte der Deutschen Bahn effektiv ihre Forderungen durchsetzen können. Kein Wunder, dass autoritäre Länder bereits mit dem Regeln von künstilicher Intelligenz begonnen haben. Ich zumindest habe viel Energie und CO2 gespart, denn der Messebesuch in Hannover fand virtuell statt. Deswegen dann auch keine eigenen neuen Bilder. Zur Produktion von Fake-Images oder recycling-Bildern früherer Messen (Photoshoppen) fehlt mir die Lust, Zeit und wohl auch die künstlerische vielleicht sogar kriminelle Energie.
Printing is a more than 5 century-old industry. The invention of the printing press is mostly attributed to Johannes Gutenberg from Mainz. However, the Asian precursor of mobile type letter printing of Cai Lun of the Jikji dates back to 1377 in Korea. These early masterpieces of the inventors of print can be inspected at the Bibliothèque nationale de France (BnF). The summary term for this technical innovation by historians is the “age of start-ups”. The procedure for Gutenberg to have 2 financing rounds with his “business angel” Johann Fust, who is later claiming even almost the full rights of the printed volumes, resembles the start-up spirit of today as much as that of the 15th century. Not belonging to the Patrician families, it was very difficult to defend your rights in courts of the gilds. The printers also became a very powerful intermediary themselves. They either sold pre-ordered books or had to take the risk of assessing the market for their product. The editors of today do much the same in the trading world of books and rights of authors and translators. Merchandising products of the church and later churches (protestants Luther Bible) had a particular value to both the clergy and its devotees, not to mention the shop keepers in-between as well. Pilgrimage business was another start-up industry still going strong in the 20th and 21st century and popular in all religions. The early prints and typographs applied are fascinating in themselves, but there is a lot to be learned about the foundation of a new industries that still employs millions of people and is at the origin of learning revolution similar to the one we are living with the digital technologies today. The European languages with respect to printing had a certain competitive advantage, based on 26 letters of the alphabet, far fewer types were needed to print books than the more than a thousand different signs for printing a Korean text. In terms of printing this is cost-reducing and probably you do not need to be able to read yourself to be a printer or it makes proof reading more accessible favouring benefit margins. After all, the age of industrialisation probably had a precursor in the printing industry. The potential of the printing industry was only exploited much later to the full extent. Comparable to “peak oil” we hope to have reached “peak paper” at last as well for the sake of our planet and our own survival.
Le Corbusier (1887-1965) chose his artist’s name instead of his lengthy original name of Charles-Édouard Jeanneret at the age of 33 (in 1920) after having moved from Switzerland to Paris in 1917. He established a theory of modern architecture often summarised in his 5 major principles of modern architecture: 1. Pilotis as grid of pillars, 2. freeing ground floor design, 3. more open facades, 4. windows stretch horizontally, 5. garden, terrace on the roof. All these principles allow a more healthy living environment due to more light, less humidity in buildings and ease of circulation. The house Le Corbusier designed features surprising effects of light and lightness of living. “Les maisons La Roche et Jeanneret” date from 1923 and was completed in 1925. These purists Villas breathe thanks to the impression of abundant empty spaces despite relatively small surfaces. One Villa is designed for a small family, the second for a single person (Raoul La Roche) with a collection of paintings to be exposed in a small gallery. The focus on essentials of living, health, light, water, air and art combine to a relaxing and inspiring atmosphere. Despite many of his convictions to build affordable housing for many people, which received mixed success, his “maisons bourgeoises” in Paris and elsewhere remain masterpieces beyond the 1920s and the 20th century. Le Corbusier was concerned about tuberculosis. Today the corona-crisis has reached comparable health concerns. Architecture might react to the latter crisis in re-considering the lessons from the former. Relaxing in a Le Corbusier Chaise longue and meditating in front of a Picasso, Braque or Léger painting is indeed more than a little bit elitist. But copies of such images or your very own slide show or museum VR-clip in this surrounding make this experience more affordable and compatible with living arrangements for millions of people of the middle class as well.
Architecture is all around us. However, we rarely consider the build environment as “conditioning” feature of our life. Architecture is contributing extensively to our perception of “social space” (Bourdieu). Inner cities, suburbs or spacious residential areas have diverse impacts on our perception of, for example, security, modernity, health or sanitary sensations. The corona-crisis has made it clear to most people that a healthy environment is a very essential part of our perception of comfort. Here the psycho-social perception of living and/or working space enters into the co-creation of housing people. Technology is a big driver of change in housing, urban spaces and rural imagination. In order to avoid corona infections a new culture of working from home for the masses become a health-driven imperative. Payment without contact, home delivery of meals, food, books, medicine have changed the living style of many people. Too little movement for our bodies has caused another silent pandemic of obesity. Enough reasons to rethink architecture from a sociological perspective on it. This probably starts with speaking of architecture as architectures. By this we mean to think of architecture from its social origins, functions, impacts and perceptions. Great historical examples of architects have implicitly or explicitly formulated a social theory of architecture or space as the basis of their “concrete” realisations. The sociology of professions of architects and the many construction-related professions needs empirical foundation beyond the cliché of socialisation as artist versus technician. Still recent forms of participatory democracy as part of urban and rural planning as well as realisations. Participatory individual or community housing are likely to stay with us. People want to get involved in co-creating their living and working space as their social environment. Architecture as social process and specific layer of the network society will be the new mantra. It has always been there, implicitly. Up to us to strengthen the social discourse on architecture.
Feuer im Wald
Das sogenannte grüne Lunge kann immer öfter ihre wichtige Funktion der Klimaregulation nicht mehr wahrnehmen. Waldbrände begleiten den Klimawandel. Bereits 2018 gab es ein großes Feuer im Wald bei Paris. Im “forêt de Sénart” in der Nähe der Städte Montgeron, Yerres und Brunoy (nahe Paris) hat sich der Wald seit dem Feuer im Hitzejahr 2018 noch nicht erholt. Geld für Reparatur der Schäden fehlt und so lässt die notwendige Aufforstung auf sich warten. Der Verlust der Biodiversität durch den Brand lässt sich schwer bemessen. Brandrodung, gängige Praxis im Amazonasgebiet, hinterlässt auch bei uns mehrere ungewollte Folgewirkungen. Die Bewirtschaftung des Waldes hat die Schäden abgeschrieben, aber Zukunftsinvestitionen lassen auf sich warten. So heizt sich die Region Ile de France eben weiter auf und Millionen Käufer von Klimaanlagen. Die befördern in naher Zukunft das Wirtschaftswachstum, aber beschleunigen den Klimawandel. Wir wissen, dass es so nicht weitergehen darf. Nur der Wille, wirklich etwas daran zu ändern, fehlt an vielen Orten. Weiterso, wenn es kein Weiterso geben darf, ist die Schizophrenie unseres und des letzten Jahrhunderts. Lernen im und vom Wald ist nötig. Das ist unsere Lebensgrundlage.
Sagt die Lehrperson zur Schulklasse: Stellen wir uns alle jetzt mal alle eine Schaukel vor. Wie sieht die Schaukel denn so aus? Was gibt da so drumherum? Könntet Ihr nun bitte versuchen, die Schaukel auf ein Blatt Papier zu malen? Jeder hat seinen Bleistift und einige Buntstifte dabei. Einfach mal versuchen, es gibt keine Noten dafür. Es soll Spaß machen und wer möchte kann sein Bild anschließend den anderen zeigen. Schön, sofort wird es ganz laut in der Klasse und alle legen los. Naja, fast alle, das stille Mädchen aus einer der hinteren Bänke stockt und wirkt unruhig. Sie ist erst seit einigen Monaten in der Klasse und spricht noch nicht wirklich wie die anderen die Ortssprache. Da liegt wohl an der langen Reise, die die nicht mehr ganz so Kleine hinter sich hat. Die meisten Jungen und Mädchen erklären zugleich recht lautstark welche Schaukel sie malen werden. Die vom Garten hinterm Haus, vom Spielplatz nebenan oder sogar die Schaukel unterm Baumhaus im angrenzenden Waldstück. Bei den meisten Kindern steht rasch die Schaukel nicht mehr im Mittelpunkt der Kurzgeschichten, sondern die Freunde oder Kinder mit denen sie gemeinsam schaukeln. Nur unser stilles Mädchen erinnert sich mehr an ihren Reiseweg, bis sie dort in dieser schönen bunten Schule angekommen war. Das waren viele Stationen, von denen sie gar nicht erzählen möchte oder gar ein Bild malen möchte. Die meisten Erinnerungen war so, dass sie diese lieber für sich behalten wollte. Zu weit weg waren sie von den aufgeregten Erzählungen und fantastischen Geschichten der anderen MitschülerInnen. Doch dann hatte sie doch ein Bild vor Augen. Ein Spielplatz in einer großen Stadt, Berlin genannt, ist ihr in Erinnerung geblieben. Als sie diese Schaukel grob, ohne Farbe nur mit Bleistift auf das Blatt skizzierte, keiferte der Banknachbar schon: So sieht doch keine Schaukel aus! Die Neue kann noch nicht mal eine Schaukel malen. Das stille Mädchen blieb weiter still, wusste sie doch genau, dass ihre Schaukel eine Überraschungsschaukel war. In der großen fremden Stadt war ihr diese Schaukel aufgefallen, denn sie war fast so schön, wie die Schaukel an dem starken Ast des Baumes, im Garten ihrer Großeltern. Dadurch verknüpften sich ihre vielschichtigen Erinnerungen zu einem Bild.
The Strategic Development Goals (SDGs) date back to 2015 for their enactment. The goal setting is a routine procedure for the UN and its subsidiary international organisations. This makes a lot of sense, because if you do not name the problems, you are unlikely to address them in a systematic fashion. Quantifying the goals is then a much more difficult task and that then already part of the ensuing discussion about idealist, illusive or realist goals. Most diplomatic exchanges focus on this goal setting and scheduled monitoring as well as more comprehensive evaluations of goal achievement. The SDGs comprise another strategic twist. Rather than concentrating on national governments, non-governmental organisations and businesses were encourages to actively participate in the implementation of the goals. After more than 7 years the achievements of intended improvements should become visible. Well, goal setting and monitoring over the last seven years is likely to reveal failure on several of the 17 indicators. Covid-19, disruption of supply chains, wars causing recessions and high inflation are major factors to explain failure. However, knowing the reasons of failure is a substantial part of improving in the next coming years. Returning to cooperation rather than confrontation could do the trick. Even after wars cooperation to organise relief is the only way forward to come closer to achieving the SDGs.
Bold initiatives like the Marshall-Plan for Europe in the 20th century made it possible to rise from the ashes. Countries that have been in ruins at that time, now have important roles as financial contributors to support other regions. The goals remain the same, the challenges as well.
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! …
Over the 20th century technology has pushed forward in many fields. As there were huge investments needed the public campaigns to support new technology without much further reflection of potential consequences have pulled many western societies into risky technologies. Except the Club of Rome there were very few to question the naïve beliefs that technological change will make societies rich and potentially even more equal. The recent report “Climate Inequality Report 2023: Unequal Contributions to Climate Change” has debunked both of these claims. More flying across the planet, particularly short city hopping, has allowed few persons to reap the benefits of the jet-set world, but contributed to climate change in excessive quantities. This is a fact when we compare major world regions among each other as well as within each country. It has to be the wealthy countries that have to shoulder the biggest share of the costs. It has to be the wealthy that pay higher contributions for their pollution. Society has to reign in technology more than ever before. Moreover, we still have to get the income and pollution distribution organised in a better way. It is not only an implementation challenge, but the major question of the 21st century to repair the damage largely caused throughout the 20th century.
The 20th century has told us many lessons. History does not repeat itself, but it appears that new variants of old themes keep coming back. Slowly passing the century like a movie in decades instead of episodes, we witness socio-emotional tides. The first decade, the 00s intensify the beginning of urban planning and social revolutions. The 10s show the arousal and subsequent extinction of masses of people in trenches. The 20s were described as the Carefree Twenties. In the 30s we observed the rising tides of fascist organisations followed shortly afterwards by the disastrous 40s. After the Shoah and the World War the 50s were fabulous viewed from the U.S. and Western Europe. The 60s propagated sex, drugs and rock n’ roll spreading across continents. The wild 70s became almost inescapable through the continued rise of mass media. The 80s were depicted as the colourful 80s as the 2 previous decades had set the scene for psychedelic colours. The 1990s have been coined as the gay 90s by some. Coming out as a gay person became easier and Western societies more sensitive and open to diversity. The back cover of the recent publication by Aurélien Bellanger “Le vingtième siècle” (The 20th century) speaks of the book as “roman polyphonique virtuose”. I look back on the 20th century as “polyphone” in many respects. It would be an illusion to believe we can only keep the nice sounding harmonies without the tensions or dissonances.
1900 marks the year of the 5th world exhibition in Paris. The Eiffel tower, built for the 4th exhibition in Paris remains the iconic attraction despite the new architecture that is added to Paris as the Petit and Grand Palais as well as the 1st Metro line. Art Nouveau style adds to already impressive architecture in and around Paris. With the planning horizons of several years in advance of events, urban planning with all its facets of urban infrastructure and architecture becomes much of a defining scientific discipline for decades and for most of the time of the century. Grand urban architecture and design constitute just another form of competition between nation states. Most of them want to show off their imperialist acquisitions and, what they define as “curiosities” at the time.
Habib (2005, pp.502) singles out Arthur Schopenhauer and Friedrich Nietzsche as “heterological thinkers” who coin major thoughts in the late 19th century that shall influence the beginning of the 20th century right from the year 1900 onwards. “The world should be formed in your image by your reason, your will, and your love! And truly, it will be to your happiness you enlightened men!” (Nietzsche. Thus spoke Zarathustra 1978, p.110). In retrospect from the 21st century we shall doubt this overly positive approach to human intentions and their will to form the world according to their abstracting ideas only. Tensions between technology and society became visible and it took many decades before society became conscious that it is up to society to choose technologies they preferred.
The planning for the Brussel Expo 1910 started right after the previous Expo 1905 in Liège. Protests in Brussels accompanied already the choice of terrain for the Expo, but the governors and shareholders of the enterprise decided 1906 for a site near the “forêt de Soignes”, where trees had to be cut for access to the construction site and for future visitors under local protest. Women workers were present to exhibit the low pay of women in industries. Child labour was documented with shocking images. Around the globe labour movements started to raise attention. In the U.S. the National Women’s Trade Union League (1903) was founded as well as the National Child Labor Committee (1904). “Bloody Sunday” in St. Petersburg (1905) saw the killing of peaceful protestors in front of the Zsar’s palace, which ignited the Russian Revolution of 1905 and the creation of the Russian Parliament. Some of these issues (child labor) keep returning to our social agenda well into the 21st century.
Einstein’s publication of the theory of special relativity (1905) as well as challenges from social philosophy reflects the huge discrepancy between advancement of the sciences and the living conditions of the masses. Social theories and science advances foreshadow the violent turbulence throughout the 20th century.
(Sources: (1) Max Welch Guerra et al. (2023). European Planning History in the 20th Century: A Continent of Urban Planning. Routledge. (2) St. James Encyclopedia of Labor History Worldwide: Major Events in Labor History and Their Impact, Neil Schlager (2004). (3) Images from I. Van Hasselt(1980) Bruxelles Expo 1910: l’incendie / de brand. J Stevens.
Construction as an industrial sector was growing strongly in the last decade. Corona crises, supply chain disruptions have slowed growth in the last two years, but the sector was still growing in terms of employment. The topic of skill and employee shortages hardened from year to year. In March 2023 the sector has more time to reflect on the somehow rapid, if not sometimes chaotic growth of the previous decade. The macro-economic scenario has changed now. Following on supply chain disruptions, we saw the high inflation rates of raw materials. The war of Russia against Ukraine caused energy prices to soar and eventually come down again. Latest worry is the increase in interest rates to finance construction projects of public, private and the business sector.
The whole sector is known for its economic role of forerunner of economic cycles, up or down. So, what are the prospects? Not so rosy, as the experts explain for example on the expert forum of the Belgian construction forum. The official from the Belgian National Bank announced a rather bleak outlook for the sector. New construction is stalling, but the renovation of buildings, especially for the purpose of reducing energy consumption is still strong and growing. Long-term reduction of emissions keeps the sector busy, thanks to the EU green deal in my opinion. The public, private and business investments in buildings all keep growth from turning negative. 2 big worries remain: (1) skill shortages and the lack of employees signalled in job openings in the sector is high and still rising; (2) the scarcity of women employed in the sector is still trailing most other sectors. Most companies have seen earnings grow over the last decade, sufficient time to build up reserves for the tougher quarters to come. Skill shortages and gender biases are harder to overcome. The Construction Forum in Brussels addressed both topics and tries to convince employers and the younger generation. Construction companies have to work on their male-dominated image was one of the take home messages Hélène de Troostemberg, the Director of Build Up pronounced.
It is not certainly not enough to have a woman as moderator of a panel and an all-female singers group accompanying the presentations. Women as architects, technicians and builders will make the sector even more attractive for the next generation of men as well. Aging of employees in the sector is another tough issue waiting for innovative solutions. Digitalisation of every step in the value chain is an additional necessary step. The leadership and trade unions in the sector are well aware of these facts. Maybe next year women engineers will pilot the robotics demonstration rather than being in charge of building a nice atmosphere with their songs. I must admit I liked the intro song to the Forum: “We build this city on rock ‘n role”, but I am less sure whether rock ‘n role will solve the gender and recruiting issue of the sector. However, naming and framing the problem(s) is already part of the solution.
Gustave Caillebotte has done it again. Son of a great beneficiary of war efforts himself. He started with support from his father’s fortune on a painting career. Soon after his father’s death, he joined the group of “alternative artists”, later called the impressionists in France. On the 1.2.2023 the Musée d’Orsay acquired a key painting of Caillebotte for 43 Million € with the help of a donation by LVMH. Where does the hype come from? A catalogue of the exhibition of the painter “Gustave Caillebotte, The painter’s eye” from the National Gallery of Art in Washington from 2015 established Caillebotte again as a key person of the impressionist movement. Rich in diversity of motifs, the painter and supporter of the impressionists (Philantropist) has foreseen the challenge photography could bring to painting. The painter’s eye is well explained by Michael Marrinan (pp.22) in the catalogue. In fact, the spatial depth of the views of the streets of Paris is a precursor to many photographers and movies of several decades later. Caillebotte’s images of Paris depict well the mixed feelings about a daunting city size and the isolation of people captured in their own little inner circles with little communication despite or because of the noisy surroundings. Misty atmospheres allow to focus on impressions. Almost meditative walking in the city is his modern topic. Reflecting on painting as profession versus painting as artist is somehow an impressionist’s sociology of professions. Gustave Caillebotte did not have to paint for money and he was aware of social class differences as son of a factory owner. It did not spoil his artistic view with social facts, but rather tried to reveal the intrinsic beauty not only of landscapes, but ordinary working people. Other impressionists painted beautiful ballerinas, Caillebotte painted workers and sometimes more challenging parts of Paris in his early years. With climate change near Caillebotte’s home in full swing, we shall “adore” the rainy days in Paris even more. And in the countryside, too. The painter’s eye reveals a visionary view of the modern and post-modern world.
The pandorra’s box is wide open. With ChatGPT applications the discussion has started to use it for more medical applications. As for much research having assistants to support you in routine tasks in your research is a standard procedure. Now the medical profession is also discussing the use of ChatGPT for the boring and time-consuming task to draft reports. The first study, published in the Lancet Digital Health, evaluates in a preliminary form the patient-sensitive form of communication between clinics and patients. Beyond chatbots, which organise information from calling persons, the obvious application is the use of ChatGPT to draft patient clinic letters. The example in the study is the skin cancer reporting. Lengthy reporting back to patients of lots of “hot and cold spots” might be done by AI with sufficient reliability. All depends on the correctness of the data base, the screening and samples taken. The communication between clinic and patient can then focus on other issues. ChatGPT just like neuroflash has its strength in being able to control for the “level” of the language. In addition to the choice of the output language it is possible to use, as it is required in the U.S., an average understanding level of patients. In other words, easy language rather than medical expert language is an option or even a requirement. Anecdotal evidence and the PISA for adults studies show how difficult it can be to talk the same language even if you talk the same language. There is ample scope for improvement and ChatGPT or neuroflash for German applications of AI are prime candidates to fill this gap in clinic patient communication. Considering that our mobile phones (can) do already most of the scanning of skin cancer dots and AI is used in pre-scanning the images and recommends to consult medical expertise, the next step to improve health delivery seems feasible. Whereas the statistical analysis explains 62% of “median humanness”, the score of 37% of explained variance of median correctness is a surprise as the basis of the model to explain deviation from correctness should be as low as possible. Medical data, like many other data, is not simply binary. The way forward is most likely relying on a “human-in-the-loop” approach for some time. A limited human input might reassure many patients as well.
Source: Stephen R Ali, Thomas D Dobbs, Hayley A Hutchings, Iain S Whitaker (2003). Using ChatGPT to write patient clinic letters. Lancet Digit Health 2023 https://doi.org/10.1016/S2589-7500(23)00048-1
In retrospect from the 1930s and in prospect from the 1910s, the 1920s may well be described as “The Carefree Twenties”. Several other summary notions are attributed to the 1920s. “Les années folles” in the French speaking world, “The Jazz years” within the U.S. or the “Wild 20s” in Germany coined the decade after the disillusion of the 1st world war. The economic and cultural revival after the period of atrocities has seen thriving city centres and comparatively little economic hardship until the Wall Street crashed on October 24th in 1929 the so-called “Black Thursday”. The party was suddenly over and a lengthy economic crisis spread globally. It was within this carefree spirit of the 1920s that the counter movements of the 30s started to take roots. The 20s saw the skyscrapers soar and the credit-financed speculation was at its highest. Pierre Boudon (1991, pp. 137) characterises the architecture of the 1930s as “l’inversion des signes”. The Bauhaus of the 1920s was later forced into emigration. The film of F. Lang “Metropolis” (1927) prolonged the constructivist lines of the 1920s to a haunting vision of big cities with its daunting acceleration of economic and cultural experiences. Walter Benjamin later referred to the method of technical reproduction as one of the major foundations for the mass movements and mass culture, which turned the relatively carefree 20s into the disastrous 30s. Indeed, many scholars group the 20s and 30s into one historical period as the rise and decline between the 2 world wars of the 20th century. Certainly in terms of economic development many countries witness as steep rise in prosperity in the 20s followed by deep recession in the 30s. What went up in spectacular terms in the 20s, economic development, democratic participation, came down in the next decade due the rise of Fascist movements. 100 years later in 2020s we still struggle with many of the same issues. Poverty and “Existenzminimum” as topic of the 2nd International congress of modern architecture in 1929 in Frankfurt reflects the ever lasting need to address “social questions” throughout decades, if not whole centuries of mankind.
12 Jahre nach der Kernschmelze im Atomkraftwerk der technologiebegeisterten Japaner stellt sich immer noch die Frage nach der Entsorgung der verstrahlten Reste und Kühlwassers. Laut eines Berichts und den veröffentlichten Bildern zu dem Kernkraftwerk Fukushima staunen wir über das weite verseuchte Umfeld und die riesigen Lagerstätten für den verstrahlten Abfall. Geothermie, Wasserkraft, Windkraft und Solarenergie könnten auf der Fläche sicherlich riesige Mengen von nachhaltigem Strom produzieren. Das hatte bis vor 13 Jahren niemand denken oder aussprechen dürfen. Heute nach 18.000 Toten und vielen Folgeschäden durch Krebs und geschädigtes Erbgut wird der Unsinn weitergehen. Da sind sehr starke Interessen am Werk, denen es nicht um Menschenleben geht. Atomkraft, koste es was es wolle. Die Einleitung eines Teils des verseuchten Wassers ins Meer ist wohl bereits erfolgt. Noch mehr wird folgen müssen. Über die Fische als Teil der Nahrungskette werden Menschen dann mehr Radioaktivität aufnehmen. Das war schon so mit den Pilzen nach Tschernobyl. Fukushima bleibt ein abschreckendes Beispiel weltweit, da helfen jetzt zum 12. Jahrestag ein paar Solarzellen als Trostpflaster wenig. (Bilder aus ARD Tagesschau 11.3.2023. Auch bei uns ist es leider schmal Glück gewesen, dass nichts Schlimmeres passiert ist (Link Radiobeitrag DLF 2023-4-17)
Narratives have been with us as long as mankind exists. They just take different forms and content nowadays. Whereby narratives have first spread orally, then much later through written words, images and movies, they are forceful ways of communicating. Robert Shiller wrote a good story about narratives related to the field of economics. Referring to the writing of the polymath David Hume (1742), main proponent with Adam Smith of the Scottish enlightenment, contagion like in pandemics is mentioned for the first time to explain that “the multitude will certainly be seized by the common affection and be governed by it in all their actions”. (Shiller 2019, p. 58). In order to understand narratives going viral Shiller mentions the importance for narratives to be embedded in “narrative constellations”. Holding truth against spreading false narratives might not be enough in itself. Strong, catching narratives seem to bypass or override even truthful information. Additionally, narratives never die, but rather offer opportunities for repetition. On content of economic narratives Shiller exemplifies stock market panic, consumerism, financial stability, automation and AI fears, speculation bubbles, evil business and labour unions. Topics like lazy unemployed persons, too early entry into retirement, too late entry into the labour market for youth, women or migrants, all have endured stigmatising narratives across time and/or across countries. With emotional and powerful economic narratives all around us, trust and authenticity become a very important meta-currency. The instantly printing camera now serves as proof. Beware of the scenery, actors and action chosen. Medieval painter Gabriel Metsu (1629-1667 Leiden-Amsterdam) had chosen the economic narrative of the “women baking pan cakes and the child as beggar”. Ending up in a museum instead of the White House is probably the opposite of going viral. The same Photo in black and white might have more of a trustworthy documentary character than the suggestive colours.
Joseph Stiglitz (2003) provided a detailed description and interpretation of the economic history of the 1990s in his book on the roaring nineties. As a member of the Clinton Administration serving as a Chairman of the Council of economic advisers, he had first hand access to the information, debates about interpretations and conclusions drawn during the period. In the preface (2003, p.XII) he provides some of the lessons this work has provided him. “Today, the challenge is to get the balance right, between the state and the market, between collective action at the local, national, and global levels, and between government and non-governmental action. As economic circumstances change, the balance has to be redrawn. Government needs to take on new activities, and shed old ones. We have entered into an era of globalization in which the countries and peoples of the world are more closely integrated than ever before. But globalization itself means that we have to change that balance: we need more collective action at the international level, and we cannot escape issues of democracy and social justice in the global arena.” The surprising approach by Stiglitz, as a winner of the Sveriges Riksbank Prize, to present no data in tables or figures demonstrates the need for telling convincing stories beyond throwing images and shuffled data at your audience. However, this is probably only feasible once you won a quasi-Nobel prize to not lose credibility among economists. Nevertheless, the issue is larger. Stiglitz manages to address the much larger audience of non-economists who construct or constructed their own “collective memory” of the legacy of the nineties as the “global 90s”.
The narrative of the 1990s grossly neglected the value of the biosphere. Asymmetric information (his shared prize winning issue) was and is still used in the market of natural resources to keep polluting the planet and push ahead with careless deforestation. The Exxon case is just one piece in the puzzle of asymmetric information and misinformation. Misguiding economic narratives play a powerful role. Maybe we need to write more about the “roaring failures” of economics and public policies across several decades in the 20th century. (red dots = forests lost on our planet A early 2000s, and there is no planet B)