One of the defining principles besides the job description, working time, working place, remuneration of a work contract is the subordination to a superior. The employment contract entails some more or less strictly executed form of direction, but a right of direction nevertheless. This element of subordination has become a major issue in the definition of whether you are effectively an employee or a self-employed person. The digital revolution had enlarged the kinds of subordination. Platforms and algorithms, that distribute work among several employees (but named platform workers) disguised the subordination to a superior level of management to the platform and its seemingly anonymous algorithm. Many young riders were saying, I don’t like bosses, but I am willing to accept a “technical” platform that distributes work tasks only seemingly in a non-discriminatory way. Due to a failure of labour legislation to regulate early enough a thriving model of fake self-employment developed throughout Europe and beyond. Labour Courts have contributed a lot to correct the disguised subordination. Even Uber is advertising that they only operate as a broker of tasks, but have no subordinated employees. The related issue of subordination remains largely the same. Subordination to an algorithm of the distribution of tasks is the end result.
Many start-up enterprises use Kanban boards to facilitate project and team management. Shifting tasks between employees, introducing new tasks and self-selection of tasks are potentially subordination-free allocation of tasks (example software). Flat hierarchies seem more manageable through the use of such tools. The number of tools that integrate other office functions is impressive. When testing such tools, that become more popular also in the distribution of household tasks, beware of the data-hungry nature of such tools. For example, https://trello.com/ warns correctly in the small print that for its full functionality it would need to have permission to use “your” camera, microphone, contacts, photo library, calendar etc.
This demonstrates that subordination, nowadays, is complemented by the algorithmic use of a lot of privacy, we would never have agreed to a boss in person should even ask for. The new and old subordinators have powerful tools at hand, the subordinated will have to get their act together and limit the amount of subordination they are willing to accept.
Again, this is a generational topic. The low threshold to accept technical subordination in younger generations, your autonomous level-5 car is breaking earlier than you even perceive a risk, is confronted with the higher threshold to accept personal subordination for youth. Interestingly, for older generations the obverse is true. All in all, we have ample reason to rethink and re-define also in legal terms the manifold, disguised and new forms of subordination related to work.
Eigentlich ist die Photovoltaik eine alte Technologie. Seit 1954 werden Solarzellen, damals noch mit geringerer Effizienz und teuer, produziert und benutzt. Da hat sich viel verändert und nicht zuletzt durch die sogenannten Balkonkraftwerke sind Solarzellen zu einer weltweit beliebten, rentablen Alternative geworden. Dächer eignen sich wegen ihrer Schräge und oft der Ausrichtung bestens zum Aufstellen von Solarzellen. Renovationen und Neubauten sollten diese Art der Energieerzeugung unbedingt in Betracht ziehen.
Wegen Olympia 2024 in Paris wird dort gerade viel städtische Infrastruktur erneuert. Der “Gare de L’Est” wird beispielsweise von Frankfurt aus mit TGV und ICE angefahren. Da kommen viele Geschäftsreisende und Touristen aus Europa und der ganzen Welt an. Ein Blick auf die Dächer des “Gare de L’Est” von dem Fußweg zum Gare du Nord zeigt viel verpasste Investitionen. Ein Meer von Dächern liegt brach, bestens geeignet zur Installation von Photovoltaik. Das könnte eine Menge an Energie vor Ort produzieren, die die Züge dann direkt benötigen. Mehr Ökostrom statt Atomstrom kann einfach sein. Es fehlt nur oft der Wille. Nachhaltigkeit und Olympische Spiele ist ein ganz eigenes Thema, nicht nur für Paris 2024.
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.
Wasser im Wald hat viele Funktionen. Historisch erleichterten Wasserstellen an denen sich Wildtiere genüsslich im Morgengrauen laben, die Jagd des erschöpften Monarchen. Einfache Ziele, die jeder Jagende sich zu nutzen machen kann. Kleine Seen dienen aber auch als Wasservorrat beim Löschen von Waldbränden und nicht nur den Badenden im Sommer. Viele kleine Seen in Frankreich leiden an erheblicher Wasserknappheit. Wasserstände, die sonst im Spätsommer erreicht wurden, nach Trockenheit und Verdunstung, sind im Frühjahr 2023 berreits erreicht. Ein Waldbrand könnte kaum mit vor Ort vorhandenen Wasserreserven gelöscht werden. So hängen Feuer und Wasser im Wald recht eng zusammen. Austrocknende Seen vernichten zusätzlich die Biodiversität im Wasser, denn weniger Lebensraum im Wasser hat Konsequenzen. Das heizen mit den Motorrädern im Wald, hab ich selbst gemacht vor vielen Jahren, ist heute eh schon verboten. Aber Verbote und Jugend sind ein eigenes Thema. Wir haben der Jugend die Freiräume geraubt, die wir noch hatten und jetzt beschweren wir uns über die stubenhockenden Jugendlichen mit ihren Computerspielen und Social-Media-Aktivitäten!?! Ein völliges Überdenken des Wassermanagements ist von Nöten. Das sind wir den nachfolgenden Generationen schuldig. Welche Arroganz besitzen wir, dass die Jugendlichen von Heute viel klüger und noch schneller erwachsen sein sollen als wir selbst in diesem Alter. Aus Fehlern lernen wir, aber wir scheinen das Lernen, den späteren Generationen überlassen zu wollen. Leider funktioniert das so nicht, wir müssen schon an unser Verhalten ran und von uns verursachte Schäden selbst reparieren. Das Fegefeuer brennt schon, ob wir es noch rechtzeitig löschen können?
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.
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.
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)
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.
Adolphe Sax is celebrated for his celebrated design of musical instruments in what it known and played as the Sax family of musical instruments. Most museums around the world have an example of an early Sax instrument in their collections. Beyond the many fascinating musical delights and emotions produced with the instrument, there is a century-old debate around the issue of the patent attributed to the various designs claimed by Adolphe Sax for the Saxophone among others. The patent attribution was hugely different across Europe in the 19th century (largely inexistant in other parts of the world at the time). The reason for this were differing laws guiding intellectual property rights. “In France no preliminary examination was necessary before a patent could be granted; in Germany examination was obligatory; and … British patent laws, which allowed makers to register designs or apply for patents for developments that had been copied from abroad (imported inventions), as long as they had not been published in Britain.” (Mitroulia and Myers, 2008 p.93). There is a well-documented controversy about the “Berlin valves” and the contested patent in France of it. Design of instruments, particularly popular ones, guarantee sizable earnings for producers of instruments. After 20 years of the 1846 patent in France 1866 the patent expired and the copies could become even cheaper. Some ugly disputes in the middle of Europe were fought around this issue. Remember that military music was still accompanying troops for better or worse. “Visionary or plagiarist? The authors are unable to give a simple verdict. … The fact that Sax claimed originality for some borrowed ideas seems in retrospect less important than the true vision shown.” (Mitroulia and Myers, 2008 p.135). We might not agree with this statement. The visit to the MIM in Brussels gives a good overview of the evolution of musical instruments over thousands of years and across continents, which pushes us to rethink the link of society and technology through the lens of music and technology. Welcome to techno music beyond patent laws. Pushing the boundaries of copyrights on sound sequences to new limits.
(Sources: MIM Brussels, Rice A. R. (2009). Making and improving the nineteenth-century saxophone. Journal of the American Musical Instrument Society. 35:81-122. Mitroulia, E., A. Myers. (2008). Adolphe Sax: Visionary or plagiarist? Historic Brass Society journal, 20, 93-141).
360 days of traumatising war of Russia in Ukraine. Yet, Ukrainians manage to stem the invasion this time for a year. My generation of baby boomers in Western Europe no longer knows the day to day horrors of war. A photo-realistic exhibition organised by Dr. Justyna Napiórkowsak together with the Ukrainian Embassy in Brussels brings to us more than images of destruction. The Exhibition builds on a transparent organisation. All day and night long you can feel and reflect in front of the gallery windows of what war means to people affected. Rather than passing over the daily horrific news, it is important to take in images that will last within you. Since the exhibitions excels in linking to strong own emotions, the images tell lasting stories. Communicating about war is difficult. This exposition at the “Mont des Arts 8” in Brussels, not far from the “Place des Martyres” is symbolic. Ukrainian artists are going to stay with us, showing us what “The year of resilience. courage, determination and solidarity” mean in the Europe of today. Ukrainian youth, like the whole population, demonstrates all of this in posing for their 2022 graduation photo (Stanyslav Senyk, 2022) actually within the ruins of their city. They seem to sing: “We shall build this city on rock and roll” again. Ukrainian culture is unique. Putin’s Russia is still living in the 50s state of mind. The Russian soldiers might soon have their 60s moment “make love, not war”. For persons with Russian roots in Eastern Europe it feels like what you believed or were told was a friend before is now turning around and you shooting at you including committing warcrimes (Geneva convention) on you. The exposition is a “homage to Ukraine”, Ukraine’s resistance and resilience. Teaching us lessons, lessons we should like to learn fast for the survival of democracy and our way of life based on freedom not coercion. The sociology of war informs what the term “Zeitenwende” means. Look at it, rather than look away. As previous College Master at Jacobs University Bremen graduation ceremonies were very personal and emotional events meeting students, many with their families. Ukraine 3.0 will prevail eventually. Thanks, Justyna for putting images 360° and 360 days next to this optimistic message.
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.
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.
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.
It is the role of scientists to ask questions. “The New Scientist” asked in one of its recent editions the fundamental question of what are the limits to knowledge? Nice, they provide 5 parts of an answer to the question. (1) According to Karl Popper, the falsification guy, knowledge is only valid as long as it has not yet been falsified. Hence, a limit to knowledge exists where we cannot falsify a hypothesis or theory, i.e. for example when empirical measurement is impossible. (2) Mary Douglas’s messy problems have been claimed as another limit, or as the New Scientist puts it, “when things are outrageously complicated”. Chaos theory, applied in climate modelling leads us to learn about the potentially huge impact of tiny, little things. (3) Our tools to look into the sky have improved since Ticho Brahe‘s time before the telescope was invented. Most of our knowledge about the universe has only be as accurate as the tools to capture radiation or to observe planetary movements. Therefore, the next limit arises from the fact, “when our best tool to describe the universe may be unreliable”. (4) “When we can’t directly experience something”, we might be unable to understand the concept of colour another person or animal is experiencing. Listening to colours is possible for some, but generally we would not accept such experiences without recourse to drugs, maybe. Bats use ultrasound frequencies, especially trained blind persons use “click sounds” for orientation. Dialetheism is another branch of the philosophy of science and knowledge, a bit hard to digest, as empirical evidence may lose its importance. Its all dialectic or what? (5) If “logic itself is fatally flawed”, what are we left with to construct as knowledge, beyond logical sequences or even causality itself is in question. The Condorcet paradoxon or the impossibility theorem shown by Ken Arrow is an example where it is impossible or very tricky to arrive at a logically consistent solution to a social choice issue. Our tree of science and knowledge grows, undeniably, every second even. Where are we located in this forest now? Thinking of a tree up-side-down shows some have roots even bigger than the visible branches.
Does the Panda bear in the Berlin Zoo have a cognitive map of the cage in his mind? Do they care? Only recently they even had a baby Panda bear there.
The urge to program human language originates for some in the quest for better explanation or understanding, for others in the improvement of communication. Both approaches have witnessed rapid evolution in recent years. Based on linguistics, psycholinguistics, sociolinguistics or neuroscientific advances, the potential of knowledge creation and communication has risen due to computational models and applications to linguistics. ChatGPT3 and Neuroflash allow us to play around with the commonly available AI-applications. Construction of a linguistically informed Glossary of political and social ideas is a specific application case. In addition to the subject/object list we may add predicates or verbs to link subjects and objects. For this purpose, we construct a basic alphabetical list below which draws mainly on action verbs and is embedded in the socio-cultural environment of the sciences in general. A categorised list of verbs, like the one from Purdue University, is helpful to draw on several relatively distinct fields. With perspective on labour market or societal relevance the list focuses on verbs related to skill sets: administrative/managerial; communication; creative, information/data; caring/helping; efficiency; research; teaching/learning; technical. The categories are not mutually exclusive and may well be supplemented by additional categories like relational skills and transformational skills. Computational psycholinguistics (Crocker, 2006 pdf-file) differentiate the “principle of incremental comprehension” (add one word at a time) from the “concentric theory of complexity” (start from complexity to specificity or vice-versa) and the “deductive sentence processor”. ChatGPT is built on the incremental approach, supposed to be the fastest and probably a more reliable computational approach. We could just attempt to use the other approaches in the simple ABC glossary of subjects, objects and predicates to test for the possibility to build no-nonsense short sentences using random choices as starting points. The Oxford handbook of psycholinguistics highlights in the final chapter the theoretical alternative of connectionism (p.811). Symbolic computation construes cognition as mental states that are symbolically represented. The sequence of operations then runs from one representation to the next one. However, the connectionist model operates more like a neural network and proceeds with the parallel processing of notions, relations or patterns. A list of predicates or verbs might do the trick: Chose a subject, chose a predicate and an object to start playing around: Subjects: action balance corruption democracy enterprise freedom god health imagination joy knowledge law memory nature optimism policy question repairing society time union value war xeno yinyang zero. Predicates: applies broadens creates directs establishes forms generates helps induces jeopardises keeps likes moderates needs opposes prioritises qualifies represents strengthens tests uses varies weighs x-outs yields zigzags. Objects: freedom god health imagination joy knowledge law memory nature optimism policy question repairing society time union value war xeno yinyang zero action balance corruption democracy enterprise.
Linking information, explanation and entertainment is the power of the world wide web. The tool used for this is the hypertext format of texts and media in general. Wittgenstein was already dissatisfied not to be able to show the steps of his thinking more explicitly. In the “Tractatus logico- philisophicus (Link to pdf-file de/engl” he uses the a cube (5.5423) to explain that we see to different facts depending on our point of departure of our vision. Try it with the logo of www.schoemann.org you should realize how our vision swops from one way of viewing the cube to another. The white corner is once in the front of the cube and appears to be in the back, when you move your vision further up. In general this leads us to be careful with the choice of our point of departure, not only for our vision. Context, some say background, is important to determine starting points. Adding the hypertext markup language to a document, like in a blog entry, allows readers (+algorithms) to see the cognitive structure surrounding a text as well. Potentially as a reader you enter into a multidimensional space with each blog entry. Any encyclopedia, glossary or index has an apparent alphabetical order to entries, but the links between the multiple entries remain hidden at first sight. With use of hypertext this has changed and each entry is turned into a 3-dimensional space, for example. Additionally, all entries have different numbers of links to other entries including dead-end entries. With the structure of links it is interesting to learn about the self-referencing just as much as about the disciplinary locus of a text, chapters, a book or a library. This helps to still see the forest despite all those trees in front of us ,or we see the geological structure of the mountain while in the middle of the forest. Happy travelling in our new knowledge space!
Action words are in other words called action verbs. Each complete sentence has one. Hence, they are part and parcel of the basic construction of sentences.
“The purpose of an active verb is to create a clear, concise sentence. By using an active verb, you can eliminate unnecessary words and make your writing more direct. In addition to making your writing more concise, active verbs also add punch and clarity. They can make your writing more interesting and persuasive. Additionally, active verbs can create a sense of immediacy which is often useful in persuasive writing. When it comes to writing, there is nothing more important than using strong, active verbs. Not only do they make your writing more interesting and engaging, but they also convey a sense of confidence and authority. In addition to being more descriptive, active verbs also add a sense of movement and action to your writing. Rather than simply stating that something exists, you can use active verbs to show how it exists. For example, rather than saying “there is a chair in the room,” you could say “the chair sits in the corner of the room.” This may seem like a small change, but it can make a big difference in how your writing comes across. Finally, active verbs can also help to set the tone of your writing. If you want to convey a sense of wit and humour, then using playful, lighthearted verbs is a great way to do so. On the other hand, if you’re aiming for a more serious tone, then using powerful, authoritative verbs will help you achieve that.”
After the 3rd sentence this blog entry (Link) has been written by the artificial intelligence app “Neuroflash”. They promise that it is not just copy and paste, but rather written following some instructions I gave like title, table of content, style and then selected among several choices. It makes sense to me, although it is just like many other textbook entries I have found on the web. It may well serve as an introduction. Lazy journalists, priests or lawyers in case they do little research will be replaced soon by AI, who else, who is next? Big brother drafts the brave new world for us already.
Digital formats allow flexible organization of lists like alphabetical lists. Opening several pages, at the same time, of the same dictionary is easily feasible. In science the proceeding in this way is coined the inductive method. The entries of each letter stand on their own, but jointly they form a whole set of topics. Random choice is facilitated this way. New sequences or preferences of topics are the way forward. Alphabetical order or chronological order are only one out of many variants of possible sequences. Chose your own 3 favourite topics, maybe. On a big computer screen you might even organize your own poster – beam it on the wall – walk in the virtual exhibition of the metaverse with it. It could feel like you are strolling within parts of my brain. Frightening? For whom? The universe is within us.
In Europe many people were lucky to live without the existential threat of war for a long time now. Putin has stopped this with his land-grabbing in Ukraine. We wonder why, what, when and where? War is back in our minds again. Members of the birth cohorts of the 1920s, 30s or early 40s have direct experience our traumatic memories related to war times. Some later born cohorts suffered from various forms of deprivation . Economic reconstruction or even so-called miracles may follow and can soften the traumatic experience, often by way of focusing attention on repair and new investments.
The work by James Hillman “A terrible love of war” has been a difficult read. To acknowledge that “war is normal” and our mindsets should take this into account, is hard to accept. Hillman cites Susan Sontag to state that “we cannot imagine how terrible war is – and how normal war can become”. We need a leap of imagination (p. 9) to grasp the mythical element about war which seems to be beyond the rational understanding of it. Greek tragedies told us, all along for more than 2000 years. The Romans exceled in it and German perfectionism and cold-bloodedness added the most horrible recent experience of war for millions of people. Memory and historical knowledge are important to activate recall for older and learning for younger generations. (short Video clip on war and UKR)
Value in its singular form refers for most people to the value of things. Since Karl Marx we have been fighting about the surplus value of a worker’s work. Nowadays, we have to deal with speculation bubbles on the value of property or even basic elements of nutrition (Water, wheat, energy). Max Weber introduced us to the rigorous analysis of value judgements. In political science the plural “values” refers to basic human rights as fundamental values of humanity. Many other associations with the letter V pop up and arouse emotions: victory, video, view(s), vision, visit, voice, vote, vulnerability.
Creating lasting value seems to transform itself into part of our system of values later on. The longitudinal dimension of value is often neglected, particularly in the short-term focus of much of economic reasoning. Value over time, in addition to the distribution question, or as part of distribution over time, excites researchers of inequality and policy design for generations. Approaching the end of the alphabet increases the stakes of the “endgame”, it seems. Value for me, might not be of value for others. I hope you have found a person that values much of the same as you do yourself.
Interpersonal value, value exchange and intertemporal value are own fields of research. Since the Scottish enlightenment and Adam Smith’s work on “The theory of moral sentiments (TMS)”, reciprocity in value exchange has been an issue, well before the utilitarian turn in his own writings on “The wealth of nations”. Even Adam Smith refers to happiness and interest as a kind of value and “very laudable principles of actions” (part VII.ii.3.15 in TMS).
Children learn and experience value as natural part of growing up. Material things which you valued highly as toddler, you are ready to trash or exchange a couple of years later at much lower prices. Above which monetary value are you ready to trade in your humanitarian values? Never? History and bargaining theory is full of experiments and experiences that teach us otherwise. Corruption is the prominent example of exchanging or trading material value against immaterial values. Reading Kwame Anthony Appiah on “Experiments in ethics” is highly instructive. This bring me back to the economist joke I used to tell in lectures: You know that you’re an economist, if you ask your child, whether s/he prefers 20 Euros in cash, a trip to an adventure park later, a basket ball set or a pizza party for the next birthday. Economists do all this to find out about the value of each item, the preferences, the time frame of delayed reward or discounting of value also called the net-present value. Reading up to here is equal to the value of, maybe, an online bachelor in economics or social science. In your very own life review of learnings you then can estimate the value of your readings to you, your community or humanity. Alternatively, enjoy the joy of just living in peace with optimism.