Horst Walther

My near philosophical musings about the world in general its problems and possible ways out.

2017-01-16

The Refugee crisis - how to deal with it with some dignity

May 15th last year I posted a link to David Blair's great article in "The Telegraph" on my Facebook page.

I commented it with:

One step further to an understanding of the current “crises” as the new normal: a logical result of our own politics.

The author David Blair however revealed only half the truth.

He correctly concluded that western politics like medical aid alongside with the simple availability of life saving products and practices enabled notoriously unstable regions to raise their population size tremendously, leading to a proportional grow of their “traditional” outpour of refugees and migrants.

He however missed to recognise that the sheer population growth itself is a prime source of conflict driving those desperate masses from their home countries towards an uncertain future. More can be read here.

Wolfgang Keller replied to it like this:

Hello Dr. Walther. There the question remains, how a solution would look like, or what is to come? In your blog post you describe the phenomenon of the "youth bulge" and the consequences, it may lead to. The open question however is: Should we Europeans simply "give up"? Should we shut our doors? Or is there any other solution without a "regional war" in Eurasia / North Africa?

And finally here comes my response:

Hi Mr. Keller,

Thanks for your critical response. I didn’t want to leave your question unanswered. Yes, my answer comes late. However, the simplest questions quite often turn out to be the hardest to answer. An – unfortunately – the very problem is here to stay.

First of all it appears pretty clear to me that we are miles away from a “solution” which could rightfully claim to satisfy an appropriately civilised level. It is even not entirely clear to me, whether we are approaching it at all or rather moving backwards.

Of course we quite simply could solve the annoying "refugee problem" by means of the so called "real politics". The AFD hawk Beatrix von Storch has placed her distinct scent marks here.

The majority of Germans might manage to live quite well with such a relapse into barbarism - at least as long as the football world is still in order, there is no speed limit on the Autobahn and the fridge always contains enough beer.

But you have asked me for my opinion.

I advise that we should first of all put an end to our own disorientation and thus helplessness and secondly do the same with our political representatives, so that they become enabled to truly represent us. It is about finding our philosophical positioning: Who are we? Who do we want to be? How do we want, and how we don’t want to live?

And may our tomfool career addicted politicians have got lost by all moral standards. May they condemn one despot and court the other. May they not be able to keep apart active aid to people in need from migration …

As an individual, I certainly can take a position. And this position will even not new.

But I have to take a step back to get the full picture:

The world has become more global, and so have its catastrophes.
We are at the beginning of a major transformation, the extent of which is not yet apparent. We shouldn’t be surprised however, as the guiding signals stood out of the noise for quite a while already.

On the refugees of the Syrian civil war, for example, I had already noted elsewhere:

"The civil war in Syria is already in its fifth year. In many areas, the means of livelihoods are largely destroyed. Even before that state was, measured by its usable resources, already overpopulated. And that is not the only failed state. A whole region is about to collapse in in front of our eyes. In order to "win" the European governments for his personal agenda, Recep Tayyip Erdogan has repeatedly and for quite a long while threatened us to open the “flood gates” for refugees who want to move further to Europe.

That was all well known. Therefore we should not be surprised. It only feels quite different when it is no longer an abstract theory that can simply be ignored, but the people stand waiting at the doorstep.

In order to respond to a situation, which we had ignored for so long, from a German perspective, the answer must consist of two parts:
  1. Of course we are obliged to help, when people are in trouble, if we do not want to lose all self-respect. We cannot just leave them in their misery and perish at our borders.

  2. If a refugee however, no matter where he comes from, wants to establish his own future here, he has to fulfil some fundamental prerequisites. These may not be present in the majority of cases.

This is the view from the German perspective. And this will certainly not be enough. A European response is the least that is required here. I fear that even a joint European action will not suffice. The helpless paralysis of all those involved seems to me to be an indication that we are faced with a political paradigm shift that nobody still can imagine."

You may read helplessness in my lines. This may well be. By this however I may be already a step ahead of those who try to comfort us with simple answers. Those don’t exist as much as our politicians go retro.

If we anyway have to start from the very beginning, perhaps I should start with some basic theses:

1. We need to help people in trouble.

This sounds trivial and absolute - and so is the intention. The fact that Germany, being one of the very few countries, was ready to step in and help and, however uncoordinated, even did so, cannot be praised enough. The details however undeniably bear the stigma of failure.

2. Refugees don’t equal migrants

Help for refugees has does in on way imply migration or immigration. Most of these people do not leave their country voluntarily. Hardly anybody has the intention to morph into a German. And so they will not do so. They will be here temporarily only. We should make good use of this period of time nevertheless. Some of those humans who arrive here however will not only be able but even willing to integrate into our society and hence adapt to European values. We should give them a chance. They should be given appropriate further support.

3. Germany alone cannot solve the problem

I am talking about Germany and the rest of the world. What about the United Europe? Isn’t it after all one of the great achievements in the wake of the ultimate catastrophe, the Second World War? Oh, Europe! (A readable book by Hans-Magnus Enzensberger, by the way). Europe is aging and crumbling. It does not work any more - or it anyway only did during nice weather periods. Something has to fundamentally change in its construction. There are also thoughts about this. Right now cannot build on Europe. At present, Germany indeed stands alone in the cold. It has to act on its own and presumably take the lead for further regional development.

4. Germany does not need any immigration

To make no mistake: I don’t oppose immigration. The German population has by no means been created within Germanys today's borders. Throughout the ages Germany has been a melting pot of wandering peoples. So, we are already a result of permanent migratory movements. I can track them back in my own family. Germany has always been a hub on the crossroads of peoples.

Nevertheless, Germany does not need any immigration. No single country on this planet needs immigration. Even if our "economic pundits" can’t think of anything else than preaching growth, conventional wisdom tells us that there is no such thing like infinite growth. Our current ecological footprint covers 2.5 times our current planet, without we having more spare planets at hand. Our country is already densely populated. Actually we should not become more. On a global scale we even have to reduce the population in order to survive as a species. We should not strive for 10 billion, but for about one billion, so that we may not end up like the unlucky aliens. In addition Germany would be well advised to relieve its strained and overloaded infrastructure a little.

If we do not have the amount of skilled workers our economy demands, this is more due to the absurd expectations of the recruiting companies. And our old age pensions becoming a too heavy burden for us, is more based on a traditional corporate image associated with an outdated economic structure. As people tend to become a 100 years old, we cannot start phasing them out of the economic process beginning with the 50+ generation. In addition we have to say goodbye to economic models based on infinite quantitative growth. It is not deemed prudent to bury the rest of the republic beneath a layer on concrete and asphalt.

However, I must admit that our economists have not yet developed a model for sustainable management. So no one can currently tell us how truly sustainable economics could look like.

5. Refugee aid must be organized

Most refugees are young men. Young men are, however, especially when not sufficiently challenged, are natural born fighters. So, when is a man sufficiently challenged? Well, when he has no job, no wife, and no future. Of course, he then takes up arms, or creates some kind of trouble. And by this we already named the cause of that massive migration wave. It is not (just) due to evil dictators, medieval religious struggles, or the destructive effect of US imperialism (which, of course, has contributed those secondary causes). No,  paradoxically the reason is that the countries where most of the refugees originate from, did prosper for a long time. So their population has grown beyond the limits of their capacity - until a big bang inevitably had to come. This is not a new situation in the human history. And that is why I have discussed this point earlier.

When a refugee arrives here, the clock starts ticking. Life has to go on for them. This life has to be organized – strictly organized and tightly controlled. Just stating "We will cope with it", will not help much. For in the reality of the anachronistic, absurdly complex German federalism, this translates to: "They will cope with it" the states, municipalities and voluntary helpers. This however would mean overstretching their capabilities. There is only one organization nationwide that should be prepared for organizing a task of such epic proportions - at least in principle. This is the German army, the Bundeswehr. Of course it currently has a totally different mission. But it can be changed. That organisation has some experience in handling "explosives" of the above mentioned type. Much would have been gained already by separating women, families and children traveling alone from this army of young men. Even the religions, must be separated in these heated times. Children must attend kindergardens and schools. Even married women, mothers and grandmothers have to undergo some kind of brainwashing to make them realize that they have arrived in a totally different world now. A world which offers them refuge however requires them to adapt their style of living to the new environment.

6. Don’t start no new wars

Should we wage a regional war to restore order there? The silence of a graveyard can possibly be produced by this. For any positive outlook however, evidence is missing. On the contrary, not instigating new conflicts would help much more.

Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, ... the list of countries, which became failed states only by Western intervention, could be extended almost arbitrarily, if one goes back in history only for a little time.
When I crossed Iraq in my old VW bus in 1972 to get to Syria, I was able to witness the high standard of living, comprehensive education, free health care, the comparatively free status of women, the high civilian security (the political Persecution remained invisible, of course!) and other achievements. Today only ruins remain. We wanted to "free the land from the tyrant" - even if other motifs are more obvious. You can of course eliminate ugly rust spots on a car by blowing it up in the air. The butcher Saddam Hussein was already unbearable, but now it has become much worse.

So at times taking the hand from the trigger would help already. It will probably not be enough however.

7. Actively defend our European values

Occasionally I will have to take the time to describe this perhaps most important point a bit more in depth. For now only this much: Germany is widely envied for its basic law (Grundgesetz). Even if their fathers have missed a unique opportunity to model a secular state, rights and freedoms are granted here as being unalienable, which in many other countries have no reliable legal basis. The US Constitution (+ Bill of Rights) and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of the United Nations also speak of similar freedoms, draw from the same sources.

These liberal ideas do not come from a vacuum. Over the past 300 years they have been won by our forefathers in tough struggles with the power of the monarchist states, or even in open revolts. They were always endangered by setbacks, counter-revolutions, the empire striking back, by derailments towards the left and right margins.

In the end, we have achieved something in Europe which does not have its like in the entire world. It should be fiercely defended against all totalitarian challenges of political or religious nature.

Equal rights for all people, equality before the law, the prohibition of discrimination, separation of state and church, separation of the powers of the state, .... and some more are among the achievements, which Europe can rightfully be proud of. When and by whomever they might be endangered, we should stand up and fight for them. Our tolerance must not lead to tolerating intolerance. By such "appeasement politics" we would lose everything again.

8. And how to go on?

The science-fiction author William Gibson is quoted as saying: "The future is here, it's just not even yet distributed yet." If there is only some truth in these words, we just would have to look around at appropriate locations to recognize, how it may continue for the future.

Will we be pleased then?

Or will the words of Franz-Josef Degenhart (those who don’t know him, please google) turn out having been prophetic, when he wrote so splendidly “in the good old days”? “And they still rejoiced, when clouds dyed in the evening, and when the earth smelt burnt they calmly continued feasting.“

But then that was the end of those times, the good old times.

As Wolfgang's question was in German, I intuitively gave the reply using the same language. Now finally I was able to provide an English version too, in order to open the content to the rest of the world. Your comments are welcome.

2016-07-09

The Refugee crisis - how to deal with it with some dignity


May 15th this year I posted a link to David Blair's great article in "The Telegraph" on my Facebook page

I commented it with:

One step further to an understanding of the current "crises" as the new normal: a logical result of our own politics.

The author David Blair however revealed only half the truth.

He correctly concluded that western politics like medical aid alongside with the simple availability of life saving products and practices enabled notoriously unstable regions to raise their population size tremendously, leading to a proportional grow of their "traditional" outpour of refugees and migrants.

He however missed to recognise that the sheer population growth itself is a prime source of conflict driving those desperate masses from their home countries towards an uncertain future. More can be read here.

Wolfgang Keller replied to it like this:

Hallo Herr Dr. Walther. Bleibt die Frage nach der Lösung oder dem, was kommt? Sie beschreiben in ihrem Blog Post da Phänomen "Youth Bulge" und was dann passieren kann und wird. Ergibt sich die Frage: Sollen wir uns in Europa dem "ergeben"? Oder sollen wir die Garagentore runterlassen? Oder gibt es eine Lösung ohne "Regionalkrieg" in Eurasien/Nordafrika?

And finally here comes my response:

Hallo Herr Keller,

ich wollte Ihre Fragen nicht unbeantwortet lassen, danke für die kritische Reaktion.

Meine Antwort kommt spät. Aber die einfachsten Fragen sind oft am schwierigsten zu beantworten. Und das Problem läuft uns ja leider nicht weg.

Eines erscheint mir ziemlich klar: von einer Lösung, die den Anspruch auf ein angemessenes zivilisatorisches Niveau erhebt, sind wir noch sehr, sehr weit entfernt. Es ist mir nicht einmal klar, ob wir uns ihr überhaupt nähern.

Natürlich kann man das lästige "Flüchtlingsproblem" relativ simpel mit den Mitteln der "Realpolitik" lösen. Die AfD-Scharfmacherin Beatrix von Storch hat da schon klare Duftmarken gesetzt. Die Mehrheit der Deutschen könnte mit einem solchen Rückfall in die Barbarei sicher gut leben – zumindest solange die Fußballwelt in Ordnung bleibt, es auf den Straßen kein Tempolimit und im Kühlschrank immer ausreichend Bier gibt.

Aber Sie haben ja mich gefragt.

Und ich meine, wir sollten zunächst einmal unsere eigene Orientierungslosigkeit und damit Hilflosigkeit beenden und dann die unserer politischen Vertreter. Es geht um die philosophische Standortbestimmung: Wer sind wir? Wer wollen wir sein? Wie wollen wir leben – und wie nicht?

Und mögen auch unseren hanswurstigen Karrierepolitikern sämtliche moralischen Maßstäbe durcheinander geraten. Mögen sie den einen Despoten verdammen, den anderen hofieren. Mögen sie tätige Hilfe an Menschen in Not und Migration nicht auseinander halten können.

Als Einzelner kann ich durchaus einen Standpunkt beziehen. Und der ist nicht neu.

Aber dazu muss ich einen großen Schritt zurück treten, um die Zusammenhänge zu erkennen:
Die Welt ist globaler geworden, und so sind es ihre Katastrophen.

Wir sind am Beginn einer größeren Transformation, deren Ausmaße noch nicht erkennbar sind. Nur überraschen sollte uns das alles nicht.

Am Beispiel der Syrischen Bürgerkriegsflüchtlinge hatte ich an anderer Stelle dazu bereits einmal angemerkt:

Der Bürgerkrieg in Syrien ist bereits in seinem fünften Jahr. Unterdessen sind dort in weiten Bereichen die Lebensgrundlagen eines, gemessen an seinen nutzbaren Ressourcen, ohnehin übervölkerten Staates weitgehend zerstört. Und das ist nicht der einzige failed state. Vor unseren Augen bricht eine ganze Region zusammen. Recep Tayyip Erdogan hat schon länger damit gedroht, die Grenzen für Flüchtlinge, die weiter nach Europa wollen, zu öffnen, um die Europäischen Regierungen für seine persönliche Agenda zu “gewinnen”. Das war alles bestens bekannt. Da sollten wir nicht überrascht tun. Es fühlt sich eben nur ganz anders an, wenn es nicht mehr Theorie ist, die sich schlicht ignorieren lässt, sondern die Menschen vor der Tür stehen.

Aus deutscher Sicht muss die Antwort aus 2 Teilen bestehen:

  1. Wenn Menschen in Not sind, müssen wir Ihnen helfen, wenn wir nicht unsere Selbstachtung verlieren wollen. Wie können sie nicht einfach in ihrer Not verkommen lassen.


  2. Wenn aber ein Flüchtling, egal, woher er kommt, hier eine Zukunft haben will, muss er einige fundamentale Voraussetzungen erfüllen. Diese dürften in der Mehrzahl der Fälle nicht gegeben sein.
Das ist aber der Blick durch die Deutsche Brille. Und der wird nicht reichen. Eine Europäische Antwort ist das Mindeste, was hier gefordert ist. Ich fürchte nur, dass auch das noch nicht genügen wird. Die Hilflosigkeit bisher aller Beteiligten scheint mir eher ein Hinweis darauf zu sein, dass uns ein politischer Paradigmenwechsel bevorsteht, von dem sich noch niemand eine Vorstellung machen kann.

Daraus mögen Sie Hilflosigkeit herauslesen. Das mag sein. Nur bin ich damit möglicherweise bereits einen Schritt weiter, als diejenigen, die mit einfachen Antworten daher kommen.

Wenn wir schon ganz von vorn beginnen müssen, dann fange ich vielleicht am besten mit einigen grundlegenden Thesen an:

1. Menschen in Not müssen wir helfen.

Das klingt banal und absolut – und ist auch so gemeint. Dass Deutschland, als eines der ganz wenigen Länder, bereit war, zu helfen und das, wenn auch unkoordiniert, auch tat, oder getan hat, kann gar nicht lobend genug hervorgehoben werden. Der Rest aber ist im Wesentlichen falsch gemacht worden.

2. Flüchtlinge sind keine Migranten

Die Hilfe für Flüchtlinge hat nichts mit Migration oder Zuwanderung zu tun. Die meisten dieser Menschen verlassen ihr Land nicht freiwillig. Kaum einer hat die Absicht ein Deutscher zu werden. Dann werden sie es auch nicht, sind also nur auf Zeit hier. Diese Zeit sollten wir gut nutzen. Einige der hereinströmenden Menschen aber werden nicht nur integrationsfähig sondern auch integrationswillig sein. Ihnen sollten wir eine Chance geben. Ihnen sollte entsprechende weitergehende Unterstützung zuteilwerden.

3. Deutschland allein kann das Problem nicht lösen

Ich rede hier immer nur von Deutschland – und der Welt. Was ist mit dem vereinigten Europa? Es ist schließlich eine der großen Errungenschaften der Zeit nach dem zweiten Weltkrieg. Ach Europa! (ein lesenswertes Buch von Hans-Magnus Enzensberger, übrigens). Europa bröckelt und altert. Es funktioniert nicht mehr – oder hat es ohnehin nur in Schönwetterperioden. Da muss ebenfalls grundlegend etwas getan werden. Auch dazu gibt es Gedanken. Auf Europa können wir nicht bauen. Derzeit steht Deutschland tatsächlich allein da, muss handeln und vermutlich auch das Zepter für die weitere regionale Entwicklung in die Hand nehmen.

4. Deutschland braucht keine Zuwanderung

Damit mich niemand (versehentlich) missversteht: Ich bin nicht gegen Zuwanderer. Die deutsche Bevölkerung ist keineswegs in den heutigen Grenzen Deutschlands erschaffen worden. Wir sind ohnehin ein Ergebnis permanenter Wanderungsbewegungen. Die kann ich in meiner eigenen Familie rückverfolgen. Deutschland ist von jeher ein Knotenpunkt am Kreuzweg der Völker.

Dennoch braucht Deutschland keine Zuwanderung. Die benötigt kein Land auf diesem Planeten. Auch wenn unseren “Wirtschaftsweisen” nicht anderes einfällt, als Wachstum zu predigen, weiß schon der Volksmund, dass die Bäume nicht in den Himmel wachsen, dass unser aktueller footprint 2.5 mal unseren aktuellen Planeten umfasst, ohne dass wir weitere Planeten in Reserve hätten. Unser Land ist bereits dicht bevölkert. Mehr sollten es “eigentlich” nicht werden. Weltweit müssen wir wieder weniger werden – nicht mehr. Nicht 10 Milliarden sollten wir anstreben, sondern etwa eine Milliarde, damit es uns nicht irgendwann so ergeht, wie den nicht mehr vorhandenen Aliens. Auch Deutschland täte ein wenig Entspannung gut, um die ohnehin überlastete Infrastruktur wieder ein wenig zu entlasten.

Wenn wir nicht die Wunsch-Fachkräfte haben, die die Wirtschaft fordert, liegt das eher an den abwegigen Erwartungen der Personaler in den Unternehmen. Und wenn uns unsere Renten zu teuer werden, liegt dem ebenfalls ein inzwischen traditionelles Gesellschaftsbild mit zugehöriger Wirtschaftsstruktur zugrunde. Wenn die Menschen 100 Jahre alt werden, können wir nicht bei der Generation 50+ mit dem Aussondern beginnen. Und von Wirtschaftsmodellen, die auf quantitativem Wachstum basieren, müssen wir uns ohnehin bald verabschieden. Es ist ein Irrweg, auch noch den Rest der Republik zubetonieren zu wollen.

Ich muss allerdings zugeben, dass unsere Wirtschaftswissenschaftler bisher noch kein Modell für nachhaltiges Wirtschaften entwickelt haben. Es kann also noch niemand sagen, wie ein Wirtschaften im Gleichgewicht aussehen soll.

5. Flüchtlingshilfe muss organisiert werden

Die meisten Flüchtlinge sind junge Männer. Junge Männer aber sind, zumal wenn sie unterbeschäftigt sind, sind natürliche Kämpfer. Wann ist ein Mann unterbeschäftigt? Wenn er keinen Job, keine Frau und auch sonst keine Zukunft hat. Dann greift er ganz natürlich zu den Waffen, oder macht sonst irgendwie Ärger. Und damit haben wir auch die Fluchtursachen beim Namen genannt. Es sind nicht böse Diktatoren, mittelalterliche Glaubenskämpfe oder die zerstörerische Wirkung des US-Imperialismus (die natürlich alle drei ihren Beitrag geleistet haben). Nein, den Ländern, aus denen die Flüchtlinge zu uns kommen, ging es zu lange zu gut. So ist deren Bevölkerung über die Kapazitätsgrenzen hinaus angewachsen – bis es jetzt zum großen Knall gekommen ist. Das ist nicht neu in der Geschichte der Menschheit. Und deshalb habe ich diesen Punkt früher schon einmal erörtert.

Wenn ein Flüchtling hier ankommt, tickt die Uhr. Dann geht das Leben weiter. Das will organisiert sein – und zwar straff organisiert. Da reicht kein selbstbeschwörendes Mantra “Wir schaffen das”. Denn in der Realität des anachronistischen, kuriosen Deutschen Föderalismus bedeutet das übersetzt: “Die schaffen das”, die Länder, Kommunen und freiwilligen Helfer. Nur schaffen die das eben nicht. Es gibt nur eine bundesweite Organisation, die für die Organisation einer Aufgabe derart epischen Ausmaßes wenigstens prinzipiell gerüstet ist. Das ist die Bundeswehr. Sie hat natürlich einen anderen Auftrag. Aber der lässt sich ändern. Und mit der Handhabung von “Sprengstoff” der oben genannten Art, hat sie einige Erfahrung. Damit wäre bereits viel gewonnen, Frauen, Familien und allein reisende Kinder von dieser Armee junger Männer abgetrennt. Auch die Religionen, müssen in dieser aufgeheizten Zeit getrennt werden. Kinder müssen Kindergärten und Schulen besuchen. Auch Ehefrauen, Mütter und Omas müssen durch eine Art Gehirnwäsche, um zu begreifen, dass sie jetzt in einer anderen Welt angekommen sind. Die nimmt sie zwar auf, fordert aber von ihnen, nicht mehr so zu leben, wie in der zerstörten Heimat.

6. Keine weiteren Kriege beginnen

Sollen wir mit einem Regionalkrieg Ordnung schaffen? Friedhofsruhe lässt sich damit möglicherweise herstellen. Für einen positiven Ausblick fehlt bisher jegliches Beispiel. Ganz im Gegenteil würde es bereits sehr helfen, nicht laufend unüberlegt neue Konflikte anzufachen.

Afghanistan, Irak, Libyen, Syrien, … die Liste der Länder; die erst durch westliche Eingriffe zu failed states wurden, ließe sich noch fast beliebig verlängern, wenn man in der Geschichte ein wenig zurückgeht. Als ich 1972 von Iran kommend, mit meinem alten VW-Bus den Irak durchquerte, um nach Syrien zu gelangen, konnte ich den hohen Lebensstandard, die flächendeckende Bildung, freies Gesundheitswesen, die vergleichsweise freie Stellung der Frauen, die hohe zivile Sicherheit (die politische Verfolgung blieb natürlich unsichtbar!) und weitere Errungenschaften bewundern. Davon sind nur noch Trümmer übrig. Vorgeblich wollten wir “Das Land vom Tyrannen befreien”, auch wenn andere Motive auf der Hand liegen. Aber man kann auch hässliche Roststellen am Auto beseitigen, indem man es in die Luft sprengt. Der Schlächter Saddam Hussein war schon unerträglich, aber jetzt ist es noch viel schlimmer geworden.

Also einmal die Hand vom Abzug zu nehmen, würde schon helfen. Reichen wird es vermutlich nicht.

7. Unsere westlichen Werte aktiv verteidigen

Um diesen, vielleicht wichtigsten, Punkt zu beschreiben, muss ich mir gelegentlich noch mehr Zeit nehmen. Aktuell dazu nur so viel: Weltweit wird Deutschland um sein Grundgesetz beneidet. Auch wenn deren Väter die einmalige Chance vertan haben, einen säkularen Staat zu formulieren, so sind darin Rechte und Freiheiten festgeschrieben, die in vielen anderen Ländern keine solide rechtliche Basis haben. Von ähnlichen Freiheiten spricht auch die US Verfassung (+ Bill of rights) und schließlich die “Universal Declaration of Human Rights” der United Nations.

Diese liberalen Vorstellungen kommen nicht aus einem Vakuum. Sie wurden über die letzten 300 Jahre von unseren Vorvätern in zähem Ringen mit der monarchistischen Staatsmacht oder auch in offenen Revolten errungen. Sie waren immer gefährdet durch Rückschläge, Gegen-Revolutionen, das zurück schlagende Imperium, durch Entgleisungen am linken und rechten Rand.

Am Ende haben wir in Europa etwas erreicht, was weltweit seines Gleichen sucht – und wehrhaft gegen alle totalitären Strömungen politischer oder (sogenannter) religiöser Art verteidigt werden sollte.

Gleiche Rechte für alle Menschen, die Gleichheit vor dem Recht, das Diskriminierungsverbot, Trennung von Staat und Kirche, Trennung der Staatlichen Gewalten, …. und noch Einiges mehr gehören zu den Errungenschaften, auf die Europa stolz sein darf. Wann und durch wen auch immer sie in Gefahr geraten, sollten wir aufstehen und sie verteidigen. Unsere Toleranz darf nicht dazu führen, Intoleranz zu tolerieren. Mit einer solchen Art “Appeasement Politik” würden wir alles wieder verlieren.

Und Weiter?

Der Science-fiction Autor William Gibson wird mit Ausspruch zitiert: "“The future is here, it’s just not evenly distributed yet."” Wenn in diesen Worten nur etwas Wahrheit steckt, dann müssten wir uns nur an geeigneten Stellen umsehen, um zu erkennen, wie es zukünftig weiter gehen mag. Ob es uns dann auch gefällt?

Oder sollten die Worte Franz-Josef Degenharts (Wer ihn nicht kennt, bitte googlen) prophetisch gewesen sein, als er so trefflich "“In der guten alten Zeit"” gedichtet hat: “"Und wenn Wolken sich am Abend färbten, freute man sich noch, und man fraß ganz ruhig weiter, wenn die Erde brandig roch.”"

Doch dann war Schluss mit jenen Zeiten, mit den guten alten Zeiten.

As Wolfgang’s question was in German, I intuitively replied in the same language. Hmmm, perhaps I should provide an English version too, in order to open the content to the rest of the world. So please stay tuned.

2016-02-27

Dexit – why Germany should leave the EU

Grexit was a topic for quite a while as taxpayers were frightened by the threat to pay for Greek elites plundering their public finances. Many saw a better alternative in kicking the whole Greece out of the EU – without solving any problem, of course. In fact the taxpayers now have to pay for – well, for bailing out the lenders to those corrupt governments, hence for rescuing banks once more. A sovereign default, truly not the first one in history, would have been a better solution – accompanied by some kind of ‘Marshall Plan’, to give the Greek people a chance to raise their heads again. However Grexit is no longer a topic, at least not for this reason.

As we obviously can get excited about on one problem at a time only, we switched to the refugee crisis – for now. And here we have yet another formidable example of a total failure of European politics with the potential to tear the Union apart. This failure was inevitable, as there is no real sufficiently empowered administrative body to take the necessary actions, swift and bold. The EU is just a loose a confederation of states, which tries to act like a federal state.

Consequently the introduction of the Euro was a premature step – at best. If meant to become a traditional currency like D-Mark, Franc and Lire had been before; it would have been prudent to prepare the necessary environment before, like unified financial politics. As history of currencies and their governance, national currencies and those of confederations alike, aptly demonstrate, this still would not have been necessarily a recipe for success. Well seeing the value of a common currency, a more exotic Bitcoin or Frederick Hayek like approach would have been a better fit. But this would have required an even more vanguard type of thinking. In its current shape however the EURO does more harm than good and may possibly even not survive.

No surprise therefore that the mood shifts. Brexit is the next looming issue. This time it is the British, or to be more precise, the English people, who feel deeply alienated by those obscure European power play games. Surveys show that there are majorities favouring an exit from the EU in other countries too.  Many citizens feel that Europe is moving to the wrong direction – without having any clue of what the ‘right direction’ might be. Confidence into the EU now in Germany and France is as weak as in the UK, not to talk about the eastern belt of EU states, which are giving rise to a new aggressive nationalism. And in many other countries, including Germany, the worst yet has to come.

No, folks, let’s face reality: game is over.

So better start a new one.

But which way to go? Back to good old times?

To my conviction there is no way back. There even have been no good old times. Nevertheless it seems prudent to take a look back – and learn from history. Let’s remember, that the whole idea of a unified Europe could only have thrived in the wake of the ultimate catastrophe of WWII. This was after the fact, when our fathers and forefathers sat on the ruins of the European countries as they knew them.

That doesn't mean that there had been no early warnings prior to the conflict.
There were quite a few contemporaries in those days, which were perfectly aware that the policy of all involved parties during the pre-war years would straight lead into a major conflict. Governments either were paralysed, busy with patching holes or simply not seriously worried. War in the pre-nuclear age was still thought, just being the continuation of politics, just by other means. The pains of its brutal outcome could not yet be imagined or even felt. A similar tragic prelude by the way preceded the First World War as well and even the financial crisis of our very recent past.

To make no mistake, there are sufficient threats and even more early indicators today as well. There is Russia flexing its muscles again and bite by bite carving out little pieces of other countries, even openly threatening to take ‘back’ the Baltics, the Ukraine anyway. There is the unreliable and probably decreasing inclination of the US to engage in smaller European conflicts. There is the collapsing Middle East, where a naively implied Arab spring consequently turned into a chilling winter – with all the foreseeable, however not foreseen, consequences for us. There is Turkey, the Wests false friend, increasingly causing trouble throughout the region. The list would become rather long, if I would attempt to complete it.

There was an article in the Wall Street Journal from Feb. 19, 2016 by Tim Montgomerie: “A Better Britain Outside the EU” where he writes: “Brexit—a British exit from the European Union—would give the U.K. self-determination and free it from the dysfunctional European project.”
Tim’s lucid diagnosis may be right. However there is no reason the share the optimistic outlook:
Yes, for two or three years, a post-Brexit Europe will be bumpier and more acrimonious. But the temporary upset will be worth it if it transforms the continent from a collection of unhappy tenants of a would-be super state into vigorous, happy neighbours, cooperating where it matters most but otherwise operating as free, self-determined nations.”

There can be no doubt; no single European country is strong enough to survive all looming threats and coming crises. Each of them will be marginalized and suffer for its current follies.
If there is any reason to believe that human evolution goes forward and does not regress, oscillate or move in circles, this time we should be slightly more attentive and anticipate the obvious. Even more important we should be brave enough to act now instead of letting it happen a little later.
There might be a way forward – into uncharted territory.

The unification of Europe is one of the best ideas that have ever been created in this this blood-drenched continent. However, we did not make good use of the small window of opportunity, when the European peoples were still shell-shocked and hence susceptible for revolutionary change. Instead during implementation we put the cart before the horse. Instead of starting with the constitution followed by the decision-making bodies and finally the numerous decisions themselves, we tried to do it the other way round - and got stuck in the political morass when we were half way through. We should put an end to the absurd attempt to achieve consensus in a polyphonic chorus of national egoists and political egomaniacs in a variety of detailed questions.

But how to get out of this morass?

Our governments, while facing periodic crises and chronic dysfunction will most likely simply try to muddle through to somehow keep the show on the road. But their attempts will ultimately fail. Some countries may break loose; others will paralyse the Union with their increasingly aggressive tone and selfish demands. And whatever goes wrong, Germany will be blamed for it. But this sad fact opens a way for Germany to act independently as the critique can only marginally increase.
To my conviction there is only one way out: “Dexit”, Germany should leave the EU.

As this act of desperation should not be confused with a solution, we should turn it into a creative destruction and simultaneously come up with a new offer for a better Europe. This EU 2.0 would more resemble the United Nations of Europe sharing a common constitution, army, ministries of defence, external affairs and finance and of course one government elected in direct elections.

As most probably no country inhabiting English native speakers will join this new federal state, we should even use English as a common administrative language. Maybe by then the pressure exerted on the fragmented dwarf state landscape may gently nudge one or the other state to seriously consider joining the new and tighter union.

Otherwise we just have to wait – for the tsunami to come.


2015-12-09

Knowledge is power

Knowledge is power. This is known since Sir Francis Bacon coined the phrase back in 1597.

Hence, knowledge about people is power over people.

Since we humans used to live in societies rather than alone and in isolation, we have to cede parts of our decision-sovereignty to the community. When living in a representative democracy, citizens delegate this part to elected representatives, who in turn form the governmental bodies.

This insight is neither new nor innovative. The right balance between a sufficiently empowered state and an inappropriate loss of sovereignty however is difficult to achieve. Traditionally a shift in one direction or the other direction is common and inevitable.

Although this task turns out to be challenging enough, not always resulting in the optimal solution to this conflict, the currently available information and communications technology adds yet another component to it. And here we even cannot draw from tradition.

Although innovative minority groups, such as European pirate parties, regarding themselves as the vanguard of an emerging political movement, addressed this issue several years ago and thus for a short period gained some public attention. Only recently the realization has become mainstream that our informational self-determination is at risk if not even already compromised. In the end it was triggered by the far-reaching revelations of secret practices by the US whistleblower and ex-NSA employee Ed Snowden.

The shock struck us hard. It raised the attention of a major part of many nations' societies and caused a lot of indignation. A lasting learning effect however, which would result in consequences to our political philosophy, could not be observed. Apparently, it is not an easy task to complement our basic understanding of self-determined life in the light of the new technical opportunities.

It is common understanding that the basic conditions for a civilised human life include the concept of privacy. We all need some room we call privacy, in which we are "amongst ourselves" where we can freely operate without having to ask someone's permission. By default the outside world should not have any insight here. At least we want to retain control to decide for ourselves who should know what.

The medieval law that "breathing city air for a year and a day” made you a free man was the lure that made whole generations migrate into the cities. And not only were they fleeing the feudal structures in the countryside. The promises of anonymity too directly translated into personal freedom. In the villages everyone knew (almost) everything about (almost) everyone. A foreigner was immediately recognized and met with suspicion. In the cities however, by default, everyone was a stranger. To encounter a familiar face, rather was the exception.

This precious anonymity from the outset was in conflict with governmental obligations. Some compromise had be found, a deal to be closed. In former periods too this deal was not always respected by the parties. The sovereign sniffed on his citizens, the citizens cheated their sovereign. It is not much of a surprise therefore that nowadays secret services, as well as parliamentary supervised institutions succumbed to the temptation to harness the new possibilities of global communication by grabbing all available information. Most puzzling however is that long after its unveiling the public already stands scared stiff.

The need for privacy varies greatly from individual to individual; even more so than the desire for physical freedom or the freedom of speech. On the one hand there are people who hide from the public, almost paranoid of any publicity. Others enjoy living their life publicly – thereby spreading all of their personal information.

As mentioned before, the issue is about setting minimum standards. Even if that should ever be achieved, it will not suit everyone.

Imagine we would, e.g. represented by the United Nations, like to let the world know about our demand for privacy, how then would this look?

As the most fundamental principle we would request that each person owns all personal information. Only he or she can authorize the use of this information by third parties.

Many services in a modern society however cannot be provided to anonymous customers. They require knowledge of some attributes of this person.

Again, we should say that in principle only the person may authorise the use of this data - bound and restricted to this particular service. Here, for the purpose of feasibility and efficiency this consent may well be given implicitly by using the service.

As a rule, the minimum principle applies here too: Only that information may be collected, used and stored, which is necessary for the provision of the specific service. And it may be kept only as long as this necessity lasts.

Any disclosure or sale to and use of by third parties – whether it be commercially or not - for purposes other than those authorized, is hereby excluded.

According to this philosophy these principles apply universally, thus to operators of search engines, social networks or other collaboration platforms as well.

Also these principles should apply to information that has been previously published by the person, however they may be spread across places and times.

The collection and collation of their data allows the generation of information, and in turn knowledge about a particular person. These aggregations and the resulting analysis of any subsequent analysis thus are also subject to the personal data sovereignty.

In order to exercise the right of ownership on information about oneself, another rule is required: a right to information. Contractors, who keep information about a person, in order to provide services, on request must be able to provide this particular information at any time.

On request this information then has to be deleted. Of course, such demand, issued prematurely, may lead to the termination of a business relationship and ultimately also to claims for damages. These secondary legal consequences, however, are seen as subordinate to the "fundamental right" to personal data sovereignty.

In principle this relationship towards third parties applies to states as well. In this sense they are regarded as ordinary contractors. As such, however, they may claim their freedom of contract and, where appropriate, refuse services (for example, to grant a visa or crossing a border), in case that the person is unwilling to provide sufficient information about themselves.

The relationship towards our own state however has to be viewed differently. To this authority we have collectively transferred the monopoly of power. In order to fulfil its associated obligations, it occasionally needs information about the person concerned that goes beyond the "usual level" even without that persons explicit consent. This may be the case in the course of a judicial investigation or a police action. In order to largely rule out abuse in these cases, this extended access to information requires a judicial authorization in each individual case.

This requirement appears so natural, that it is already fundamental to many legal systems. Here rather, it is imperative to find ways to ensure its practical implementation and to keep all parties' operations transparent.

Concluding, we demand legal systems of all countries of this planet to implement the following principles...

  1. Ownership - The individual is the owner of her personal data

  2. Control & Consent - Being the owner, he has control over his personal data. Any use by third parties requires his consent.

  3. Minimal Disclosure & Constrained Use - In this case only those data may be used, which are necessary to fulfil the intended purpose. The data must be kept only during the designated period.

  4. Justifiable Parties - Personal data, which has been released to a third party for a specific purpose, may be made available to the necessarily involved parties only.

  5. Transparency - If personal data about an individual are held by a third party, this individual has the right to request information about the type of information and its use at any time. The means enabling him to do so, and it must be provided to him in a reasonable manner.

  6. Revocation - The individual may withdraw his consent to keep selected personal data once given to third parties at any time.

  7. Judicial warrant - If authorities equipped with sovereign rights feel an increased need for personal data, while they are pursuing their obligations with respect to the individual, a court order to allow this access should be required.

We deem it necessary to adopt these principles in respective national laws in order to ensure the civil rights, necessary for a free and enlightened civil society, in the digital space as well.

This seems necessary, as information can be derived from the combination of various personal data which in turn may result in knowledge about a person.

Knowledge however is power.

Hence knowledge about people equals power over people.

Consequently the control of their own personal information belongs into the hands of these very people.

2015-12-03

Wissen ist Macht


Wissen über Menschen ist Macht über Menschen.

Da wir Menschen in Gesellschaft leben und nicht isoliert und allein, müssen wir einen Teil unserer Entscheidungssouveränität an die Gemeinschaft abgeben. In einer repräsentativen Demokratie delegieren die Bürger einen Teil dieser Macht an gewählte Volksvertreter, die ihrerseits staatliche Stellen besetzen.

Das ist weder neu noch originell. Die Balance zwischen einem ausreichend handlungsfähigen Staat und einem zu großen Souveränitätsverlust aber ist schwierig und gibt traditionell Anlass zu permanenten Verschiebungen in die eine oder andere Richtung.

Wenn das bereits schwierig genug ist und keineswegs immer das Optimum dieses Konfliktes gefunden wird, so fügt die aktuell verfügbare Informations- und Kommunikationstechnik diesem Konflikt noch eine weitere Komponente hinzu. Und in dieser haben wir noch keine Tradition.

Zwar haben innovative Randgruppen, wie die europaweit aufgetretenen Piratenparteien, sich als Avantgarde einer kommenden Erkenntniswelle verstehend, dieses Thema bereits vor einigen Jahren adressiert und damit kurzzeitig eine gewisse öffentliche Aufmerksamkeit gewinnen können. Mainstream geworden ist die Erkenntnis, dass unsere informationelle Selbstbestimmung gefährdet, wenn nicht gar schon kompromittiert ist, erst durch die weitreichenden Enthüllungen geheimer Praktiken durch den US-Amerikanischen Whistleblower und ex-NSA Mitarbeiter Ed Snowden.

Der Schock saß tief, hatte weite Bevölkerungskreise erreicht und für viel Empörung gesorgt. Ein erkennbarer Lerneffekt, der zu Konsequenzen in unserer politischen Philosophie hätte führen müssen, ist aber nicht zu beobachten. Offenbar ist es nicht leicht, unser Grundverständnis von selbstbestimmten Leben im Lichte der neuen Möglichkeiten zu ergänzen.

Klar ist, dass zu unserem Verständnis vom Menschsein auch der Begriff der Privatheit gehört. Wir alle brauchen einen Bereich, den wir Privatsphäre nennen, in dem wir „unter uns“ sind. In diesem Kreis wollen Dinge tun, ohne jemand anderes um Erlaubnis fragen zu müssen. Im Zweifel soll die Außenwelt davon nichts erfahren. Zumindestwollen wir selber kontrollieren, was sie erfahren soll – und was nicht.

„Stadtluft macht frei“ war der Lockruf, der neben materiellen Verheißungen, ganze Generationen in die Städte ziehen ließ. Und keineswegs war nur die Flucht vor der feudalen Herrschaftsstruktur auf dem Lande der Antrieb. Auch die Verheißungen der Anonymität wurden unmittelbar mit Freiheit übersetzt. Auf dem Lande wusste jeder (fast) alles über (fast) jeden. Den Fremden erkannte man sofort und begegnete ihm mit Misstrauen. In der Stadt waren, per Default, erst einmal alle Menschen Fremde. Auf ein bekanntes Gesicht zu treffen, war die Ausnahme.

Diese kostbare Anonymität stand von Beginn an im Konflikt mit staatlichen Aufgaben. Es musste ein Kompromiss gefunden, ein Deal geschlossen werden. Auch früher schon wurde dieser Deal nicht immer eingehalten, wurde von hoheitlicher Seite geschnüffelt, vom Bürger geschummelt. So ist auch nicht verwunderlich, dass Geheimdienste, aber auch parlamentarisch überwachte Institutionen, heute im Rausch der neuen Möglichkeiten der globalen Kommunikation reihenweise der Versuchung erlegen sind, nach allen Informationen zu greifen, die verfügbar sind. Die Dauer der Schreckstarre der öffentlichkeit nach dessen Enthüllung verwundert allerdings mittlerweile schon.

Stärker noch als der Drang nach physischer und Redefreiheit variiert der Bedarf an Privatsphäre stark von Individuum zu Individuum. Auf der einen Seite verstecken sich Personen vor der öffentlichkeit mit geradezu paranoider öffentlichkeitsscheu. Andere wiederum gefallen sich darin, ein öffentlich einsehbares Leben zu führen – mit all den Informationen, die sie damit über sich verbreiten.

Auch hier kann es also nur um die Festlegung von Mindeststandards gehen. Auch wenn das einmal erreicht werden sollte, werden sie nicht jedem reichen.

Stellen wir uns einmal vor, wir wollten unsere Forderungen an die Welt, etwa in Form der Vereinten Nationen, stellen – wie müssten diese dann aussehen?

Grundsätzlich sollte gelten, so unsere Forderung, dass die Informationen über eine Person eben dieser Person gehören. Nur sie kann den Gebrauch dieser Informationen durch Dritte autorisieren.

Viele Dienstleistungen in einer modernen Gesellschaft können nicht gegenüber anonymen Abnehmern erbracht werden. Sie erfordern Kenntnis einiger Attribute dieser Person.

Auch hier sollte gelten, dass grundsätzlich die Person, den Gebrauch dieser Daten - gebunden an diese Dienstleistung - frei gibt. Dabei kann diese Einwilligung aus Gründen der Machbarkeit und Effizienz durchaus implizit durch Inanspruchnahme der Dienstleistung geschehen.

Grundsätzlich ist hier die Einhaltung eines Minimalprinzips zu fordern: Nur die Informationen dürfen erhoben, verwendet und gespeichert werden, die für die Erbringung der konkreten Dienstleistung erforderlich sind. Und sie dürfen auch nur so lange vorgehalten werden, wie es notwendig ist.

Damit ist auch eine Weitergabe an Dritte, ein Verkauf und eine Nutzung – ob kommerziell oder nicht – für andere Zwecke, als den autorisierten, ausgeschlossen.

Diese Prinzipien gelten nach dieser Vorstellung universell, also auch für Betreiber von Suchmaschinen, sogenannten sozialen Netzwerken oder anderen Kollaborationsplattformen.

Und diese Prinzipien gelten auch gegenüber Informationen, die gestreut über Orte und Zeiten bereits einmal von der Person selber publiziert worden sind. Deren Sammlung und Verdichtung, erzeugt aus Daten, Informationen und daraus, wiederum Wissen über die betreffende Person. Diese Aggregationen und Analyseergebnisse fallen mithin ebenfalls unter die persönliche Datenhoheit.

Um das Eigentumsrecht an Informationen über die eigene Person ausüben zu können, ist ein weiteres Recht erforderlich: Ein Auskunftsrecht. Vertragspartner, die, um Leistungen zu erbringen, Informationen über eine Person halten, müssen auf Anfrage jederzeit Auskunft über ebendiese Informationen geben können.

Auf Wunsch sind diese dann gegebenenfalls zu löschen. Natürlich kann eine solche Forderung, vorzeitig ausgesprochen, zum Abbruch einer Geschäftsbeziehung und schließlich auch zu Schadensersatzforderungen führen. Diese sekundären Rechtsfolgen sind jedoch als nachrangig gegenüber dem „Grundrecht“ auf persönliche Datenhoheit zu sehen.

Prinzipiell hat dieses Verhältnis gegenüber Dritten auch gegenüber Staaten zu gelten. Dieser wird in diesem Sinne als gewöhnlicher Vertragspartner eingestuft. Als dieser kann er allerdings das Recht auf Vertragsfreiheit geltend machen und gegebenenfalls Dienstleistungen (beispielsweise eine Visa-Erteilung oder ein Grenzübertritt) ablehnen, falls die Person nicht bereit ist, ausreichend Informationen über sich selber bereit zu stellen.

Anders stellt sich das Verhältnis nur gegenüber dem eigenen Staat dar, dem wir kollektiv das Gewaltmonopol übertragen haben. Um seine damit verbundenen Aufgaben wahrnehmen zu können, benötigt er gelegentlich, etwa im Zuge gerichtlicher Ermittlungen oder bei polizeilichen Maßnahmen, auch ohne die Einwilligung der betroffenen Person über das „übliche Maß“ hinausgehende Informationen. Damit hierbei Missbrauch weitgehend ausgeschlossen werden kann, muss dieser erweitere Informationszugriff einer richterlichen Genehmigung im Einzelfall bedürfen.

Diese Forderung erscheint derart natürlich, dass sie in vielen Rechtssystemen bereits verankert ist. Hier sind eher Wege zu finden, die praktische Umsetzung sicherzustellen und die Vorgänge für die Beteiligten transparent zu halten.

Zusammenfassend stellen wir folgende Forderungen an die Rechtssysteme aller Staaten dieses Planeten …

  1. Ownership - Das Individuum ist der Eigentümer seiner persönlichen Daten

  2. Control & Consent - Als Eigentümer hat er die Kontrolle über seine persönlichen Daten. Eine Verwendung durch Dritte bedarf seiner Zustimmung.

  3. Minimal Disclosure & Constrained Use - Dabei dürfen nur die für die Erfüllung des beabsichtigten Zwecks erforderlichen Daten verwendet werden und das auch nur während des vorgesehenen Zeitraumes.

  4. Justifiable Parties - Einem Dritten für einen Zweck freigegebene persönliche Daten dürfen nur den damit notwendigerweise befassten Parteien verfügbar gemacht werden.

  5. Transparancy - Werden Daten über ein Individuum von einem Dritten gehalten, so hat dieses Individuum das Recht auf jederzeitige Auskunft über die Art der Informationen und deren Verwendung. Die dazu erforderlichen Mittel müssen ihm in zumutbarer Weise zur Verfügung gestellt werden.

  6. Revocation - Das Individuum kann Dritten jederzeit eine einmal erteilte Zustimmung zur Haltung ausgewählter persönlicher Daten wieder entziehen.

  7. Judicial warrant – Wenn Stellen mit hoheitlichen Rechten in der Wahrnehmung ihrer Aufgaben gegenüber dem Individuum einen erhöhten Bedarf an persönlichen Daten haben, bedarf es einer richterlichen Anordnung, um diesen Zugriff zu gewähren.

Wir halten es für erforderlich, diese Grundsätze in entsprechenden nationalen Gesetzen zu verankern, um damit die für eine freie und aufgeklärte Bürgergesellschaft erforderlichen Bürgerrechte auch im digitalen Raum sicher zu stellen.

Denn aus der Zusammenschau verschiedener personenbezogener Daten lassen sich Informationen gewinnen und daraus wiederum Wissen über eine Person.

Wissen aber ist Macht.

Und Wissen über Personen ist Macht über Personen.

Die Verfügungsgewalt über die eigenen Informationen gehört also in die Hände ebendieser Personen.


2015-02-14

Where are all the Aliens?

Not long ago a colleague handed me over a book. “Here read this, it’s a classic.” It was the famous Arthur C. Clarkes “Childhoods End”, a (science fiction) classic indeed. Here suddenly monstrous star ships arrived and positioned themselves above each major city in (our) world.

At first nothing else happened for a while. Then these others had learned enough to contact the UN and gently persuaded them to convey a message to us earthworms. From then on these ‘Overlords’ took over the oversight, guidance & stewardship as benevolent dictators, when they felt a need to do so. Although this was not often the case henceforth a golden age of mankind gently unfolded – leaving us happy idiots to some slight and creeping cultural degeneration until ….

Well I don’t want to tell the story here. It was about the year 1953, more than 60 years ago, when Arthur C. Clarke expressed this – rather common – expectation, that there should be higher civilisations out there, much further developed than we bloody earthlings. Hmm, should they? But where are they?

Brighter minds already noticed this anomaly, aka “the Fermi Paradox”, first introduced by physicist Enrico Fermi. He asked the question, “Where is everybody?” Or, more specifically, “Where are all the aliens?”

When we factor in the size of the universe, the number of Earth-like planets, and a range of other variables (as outlined in the Drake equation), there should be tens of thousands or more extra-terrestrial civilizations in the galaxy. And with the galaxy being around 10 billion years old, scientists say that intelligent worlds have had plenty of time to contact one another. So if aliens should statistically exist, why haven’t we encountered any yet?

In one of the plenty publications for believers the question has been discussed further (of course): 10 Reasons That We Still Haven’t Found Aliens.
The hit list ready like this:
  1. Earth Is Special
  2. All Intelligent Life Hits a Stumbling Block.
  3. They’ve moved out Of the Universe.
  4. Earth Isn’t As Great As We Think.
  5. We’re living in a Virtual Reality.
  6. We Live In The Cosmic Boonies.
  7. We Haven’t Spotted Their Signals (Yet).
  8. We Can’t Recognize Their Signals.
  9. Super-Organisms Are Inherently Suicidal.
  10. They Walk Among Us.
Now take your choice out of this rich menu.

My personal opinion? Well I think, the closest we ever come to shaking hands with our ET-counterparts will be stumbling upon their ruins, hence some kind of blended scenario of 2 and 9.

In 2013 in his lucid article “Primeval planet: What if humans had never existed?” Christopher Kemp asked the question “Is there some sort of inevitability on our having become what we became?

I think there is.

As individuals we are nothing more than hormone junkies with the illusion of a free will. As a species we are following a pre-set program, called the evolution of life. There is an underlying biological evolution. On top of that a cultural evolution takes over at a faster pace. And if not we humans did and do it, there still would have been selective pressure for some other species to go through the same kind of development that we did.

You may agree to it or not. But even, if you do so for us here on earth, will the same driving principles apply on totally different planets in distant solar systems? Are these driving forces truly universal?

You might have had the chance to watch Alien Planet, a video in which NASA shows how they would explore an exo-planet, called Darwin IV, with their future space technology. As they explain further, it also gives some educated opinions regarding the likelihood of alien life, and how we could study such life forms by some of the greatest scientists and astronomers in the world.

What is more even interesting however is what James Kirkland assumes about the likelihood of intelligence evolving from ‘common’ life: It will be the predators, those who thrive on pack hunting, which will first have the need for coordination, communication, a ‘cultural’ layer on top of their biology.

And they will be very aggressive, most probably so much so, that will be constantly engaged in fierce competitions, fights, wars. And – as they become more and more intelligent – they develop weapons, more and more powerful – until they will be easily capable to destroy, one another, hence themselves.

Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

And there is something else, which does not support optimistic views. Life is a form of self-organization, far from energy equilibrium. Life needs energy. And the higher organized life becomes the more energy it needs. Predators prey on herbivores, which have to consume lots of low energy leaves and grasses. The predators benefit from the high energy concentration meat. Higher sophistication requires even more energy, as we experience in our daily life. This energy acceleration surely doesn’t happen just by accident.

There must be a fundamental underlying reason for it.

Energy is precious and a limited resource. Competition will be focus on it. In the end there will not be room for everyone.

Combine both driving forces and you will end up with a bleak outlook – not just for the ‘human civilization’, but for any alien civilization as well. And this might be the reason why we may wait forever, without ever getting into contact with any intelligent life form.

They are all dead already.

2015-02-09

What fools these mortals be

Just recently I (again) read a shocking story about ‘How China's one-child policy has ruined the marriage prospects of its young men’.  How could this be? Such population growth measures just limit the population growth. They don’t have per se the potential to skew any gender distribution. – Well not per se, but … a bit further down in the article the innocent sentence “…, combined with a cultural preference for boys, …” reveals the total brutal truth. Chinese (and may other) parents simply don’t want girls – they want boys. So, if they are blessed with a female foetus, there is a tendency to simply kill it.

You may well call it murder. So the system works as designed: If you don’t want girls, you will never have women, which your proud boys, once they became men, could marry. It is that simple. So, where is the problem? No one can be so stupid, not to instantaneously see this simple equation.  The sad truth is, journalists can. Eric Schulzke even seems to be a Westerner. Nevertheless, only the hell is the limit to his stupidity. Well not all is wrong: He correctly points out, that, all these young men, without women, jobs and without future, do what young men in such situations always used to do. They start turmoil, civil unrest, even outright wars.

So, what to do?

As the academic and popular science author Jared M. Diamond points out in in his 2005 book “Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed”: there will be a solution. It might just not be a pleasant one.  Perhaps a collapse of the unpleasant kind?  Well, that sounds cynic. But it is just one of the options – one of the most likely ones.

You might have heard of the Earth Overshoot Day. In 2014 it was August 19, marking the date “when humanity has exhausted nature’s budget for the year. For the rest of the year, we will maintain our ecological deficit by drawing down local resource stocks and accumulating carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. We will be operating in overshoot.”

The Earth Overshoot Day is just a drastic illustration of the results of the applied footprint theory:
  • Today humanity uses the equivalent of 1.5 planets to provide the resources we use and absorb our waste. This means it now takes the Earth one year and six months to regenerate what we use in a year.
  • Moderate UN scenarios suggest that if current population and consumption trends continue, by the 2030s, we will need the equivalent of two Earths to support us. And of course, we only have one.
There are more fine-grained and scientifically better funded theories, e.g. like this one here.  However there is no way around the simple conclusion, that we are already too many. There is no chance, that all the emerging markets and developing nations will ever be able to reach an average ‘western’ standard of living. The necessary resources simply don’t exist – down here on earth. Even worse, even if we proud Westerners could be able to defend the great economical divide and keep all newcomers out, we will have to reduce our standard of living drastically.  The resources will not be available for long. We are simply too many.

So what can we do? Fortunately there is one country – only one – which acted prudently on this challenge: After several trials and and years of considerations it was the Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping, who in 1978 established the one child policy that limited the number of children people could have to only one.

Most probably this was the wisest decision in history of mankind – but it will not suffice. It came late and found no followers. The less prudent rest of the world happily switches to the overdrive mode – on the racetrack to hell.