The Vicious Cycle of AIV*

We enter a vicious cycle

Doing what we hate to do,
loosing any virtue
just in order to gain virtuosity which is
in fact nothing else then virtual perfection
– escaping then … into some virtual world
 gaming, drug-binge, bungee experience …
… and in fact the weird excitement of entering with your friend
an exhibition,
getting the spectacles that allow
experiencing the virtual reality
fearing …, not being able to help yourself,
in order to allow helping your friend —
the fear to fall
together from the narrow beam,
so close
– you thought
you would be to heaven,
so close you are
to the ground
awaking, having learned something
* the artificially intelligent virtuality

You should sleep nine hours without dreams. Then you have the day for dreams

Herbert Marcuse supposedly said this …  Is it another version of the words written on a postcard I recently received?

Swim to Nowhere, With No Thoughts.

So there we are worrying about big brother, watching us, algorithms rule the world and with Artificial Intelligence taking over.
Sure, there are important issues linked to these catchwords – though one seemingly tiny point is a negligence, not just as matter of language I suppose.
Just a few mails, from a Spam-poor night, and a mail-free one too. Leaving the obvious SPAM aside, to mails are perhaps even more worrying: the one at the top …, well, is there a term like SPAM-IFICATION? At least it does exist now.
* Instead of thoughtful targeting advertisement and communication in general, we accept the wikiwiki culture, leading us to just throw things out, without much thinking.
* Instead of “academic matchmaking”, I mean: bringing me/us academics in contact with relevant other academics, sites like academia, researchgate … often come to the most confusing proposals: does it really make sense to send me a link to an article on trading chemical products between China and Europe, presumably on ground of the fact that I gave a presentation on OBOR or the fact that I lived some time in China?
* hat is the premium of having access to something that is out of reach in terms of manageability?
over two million papers …? What are the criteria forlinking them …, and when will I be able to read them?
Artificial Intelligence?
Indeed, I read an article some time ago, a short one in a newspaper, talking about
artificial stupidity
… which is too often more characterising.
Don’t we have to blame ourselves for it – not because of using FB; twitter etc.. It is probably a much more serious problem that we – living and working in academia – accept this world and work being directed by ranking; publishers’ journal sites that manipulate our reading behaviour by aggressively suggesting that “readers of this article also read … — and quoted ….” and boxing our thinking and acting.
A new trinket in the jewel case of administrative stupidity, with which the Polish government (as a Czech friend said yesterday on the phone “we are joining”) is blessing us: every academic, working in a university, has to commit her/himself to two subject areas: sociology, economics, medicine … – sure, they are very broad which may be taken as some comfort. Articles for the assessment of the academic will only be taken into account if it is in line with this self-attribution. What now if I am looking into
as M. Keith Chen did.
What if I am looking at the question of European unemployment insurance in the light of legislation, sociological aspects and the economic development, possibly publishing the results in a journal on European history …?
There is not only direkt and outspoken censorship but also the seemingly “tame brother”,
And predictive shopping is not really new – though earlier it occurred in different forms
(Saw this the other day in Berlin: “What is missing today?” – Bakingpowder, bread, butter, eggs … onions)
Still, there is surely the need to resist …
… though there is also the time … – well, as said the other day I received a postcard, with a colour drawing, not algorithm-based but manufactured in the true sense by the sender, much appreciated by the recipient …, occasionally I allow myself resisting the need to resist, sitting there
and looking at it,
Swim to Nowhere, With No Thoughts
as the few words under the drawing suggest. And making me think, energising me … to resist!

Deep Talk – Meaning …

…and the lack of the understanding of what meaning is about.

Two robots – artificial intelligence and predictive apps are switched on – are sitting in a self-driving car. The one, named 42, begins laughing out loud.


What’s the matter?

asks the other, named 21.

Oh, it is about the joke you are going to tell me in an hour.

…. An hour later, 21 says:

Do you actually know where we are going?

42’s turn:

Boy, I don’t have the slightest idea.

No break,  but just the answer, on the spot:

Neither do I – but you know google has this self-prediction – so they will know where we will be happy.

I have serious doubts, that god plays a role as Shauna Niequist suggests. But I guess it is of little meaning  if the engineer laughs about fooling people who are caught in [and by] another solution that is not an answer to any problem. Remember what you could read in a recent blogpost about poems and raincoats … .

Artificial Intelligence – and the Reduction of Being

Both quotes are from Hannah Arendt’s Human Conditions, 43 and 41 respectively (Arendt, Hannah, 1958: The Human Condition; Chicago/London: University of Chicago Press). Aren’t they saying much what Artificial Intelligence is about – and how much it depends on the reduction of ourselves?

The unfortunate truth about behaviorism and the validity of its “laws” is that the more people there are, the more likely they are to behave and the less likely to tolerate non-behavior. Statistically, this will be shown in the leveling out of fluctuation. In reality, deeds will have less and less chance to stem the tide of behavior, and events will more and more lose their significance, that is, their capacity to illuminate historical time. Statistical uniformity is by no means a harmless scientific ideal; it is the no longer secret political ideal of a society which, entirely submerged in the routine of everyday living, is at peace with the scientific outlook inherent in its very existence.
This modern equality, based on the conformism inherent in society and possible only because behavior has replaced action as the foremost mode of human relationship, is in every respect different from equality in antiquity, and notably in the Greek city-states.

The no-problem-society III – Beautification of living trying to gain space

No problem, of course – indeed, only if there is shadow, there will be light. And the one-sided view, so prevalent as it is so easy, allows to ignore seeing the ‘dark side’ – which of course is a problem for those actually sitting in the middle of the shadow. In other words, what really is at stake is – as so often – the old question not simply concerned with to be or not to be but where and how to be – the Shakespearean is relatively simple to answer as it is universal in the sense of the finality that is involved: a simple reduction of being on physical existence, the story around it nice, superstructural and though it is essential for the individual it is in terms of the social not much more than bric-à-brac. The other question deserves a more differentiated look as it is about power, and as such it is, equal to the question of value, fundamentally relational and ‘human’. Three quotes from Hannah Arendt’s book on the human conditions are providing some food for thought:

 Man, in so far as he is homo faber, instrumentalizes, and his in- strumentalization implies a degradation of all things into means, their loss of intrinsic and independent value, so that eventually not only the objects of fabrication but also ‘the earth in general and all forces of nature,’ which clearly came into being without the help of man and have an existence independent of the human world, lose their ‘value because [they] do not present the reification which comes from work’.[1]


The unfortunate truth about behaviorism and the validity of its ‘laws’ is that the more people there are, the more likely they are to behave and the less likely to tolerate non-behavior. Statistically, this will be shown in the leveling out of fluctuation. In reality, deeds will have less and less chance to stem the tide of behavior, and events will more and more lose their significance, that is, their capacity to illuminate historical time. Statistical uniformity is by no means a harmless scientific ideal; it is the no longer secret political ideal of a society which, entirely submerged in the routine of everyday living, is at peace with the scientific outlook inherent in its very existence.[2]

It is also about equality

This modern equality, based on the conformism inherent in society and possible only because behavior has replaced action as the foremost mode of human relationship, is in every respect different from equality in antiquity, and notably in the Greek city-states.[3]

While Hannah Arendt discusses these issues in the perspective of the general conditions of existence, it is not less, perhaps even more relevant in terms of social classes and groups – and the spaces provided for the development.

Sifting things onto the behavioural level is usual simple: the appeal to be optimist, the appeal to behave in a responsible and respectful way, to be emphatic – and even the non-utilitarian approach will soon reveal the real issue. And that is the objectivity of shadow, the objectivity of the shades of grey .., and the nevertheless somewhat finality of black. As we could see: defined by statistics, defined by the combination of different paint particles.

Indeed, as Arendt pointed out, action is not least a matter of speech, understood as consequential communication. However, as the issue had been previously about space and its creation, we can approach this way (some of) the underlying issue(s): real spaces are about real communication, at least about allowing real communication – honest communication as dispute. The true ‘art’ of the Greek polis in which communication was about dispute which was about having the better arguments – and of course: the better way of presenting. Surely different of compared to today’s common mutual confirmation and shown agreement – with the clenched fist in the pocket and shaking the head after turning around … no problem, just do what you can present – and today, more than ever before, you can present figures.

Even indicators and evidence are reduced on means of confirming and proving what we know, not helping us to understand complex patterns and reducing issues on simplified causal and mono-directional connections.[4]

Quality of any product or service is now defined by … – by what the producer or provider states it is about. Yes, it is reality defined for instance by the ISO, the new gods of the International Organization for Standardization claiming

We develop and publish International Standards.

It is simple: if we include for instance the failing of the product after three years in the definition of a standard of a lawn mover and if the product is failing after three years it may be said it is ‘good’. Lasting longer would actually not be ‘good’, missing to fail as promised.

Goethe’s Mephisto already knew:

To nonsense reason turns, and benefit to worry.
Woe unto you that you’re a grandchild, woe!
For of the law that was born with us, no!
Of that, alas! there never is a query.[5]

(Goethe, 1806)

One of the problems – perhaps this makes us feeling that things are ‘new’, that they are getting worse – may be that we witness some kind of exponential growth of stupidity: close a hole by digging another and dig another hole to close the second and …, with any new one we are not simply facing a spatial shift but instead a larger than the original one that we closed, somewhat unrecognised, piecemeal strategies to maintain some form of peace, friable and from the beginning inclined to emerge as smooth nonsense: beautiful and without substance and without even claiming any substance.

But if things would be as simple as they appear to be … but they aren’t if we allow moving forward and backward, acknowledging the dialectical, dual meaning of sublation and supersession. –What is this about then?

Recently I looked a bit into Artificial Intelligence, also watched some films (as e.g. Ex Machina, Her). I still think it is interesting – and something that, in different ways, goes beyond the ‘narrow topic’. There is a film ‘Io e Caterina’, in Italian, a comedy but it is about the relationship between a man and his robot. Another thing I saw recently at the airport in Helsinki: a ‘voting stand’ asking the esteemed user to asses the service. What is new, remarkable? The development: It begins with people meeting at the counter and expressing directly what they think of each other, possibly ‘feedback cards’ can be found on the desk. Then there is the ‘press button-feedback’ at counters: emoticons where we still are asked to ‘assess how people perform’. Now we have machines by which we can assess how other machines ‘behave’: how did you like the automatic self-check-in?

This links well to what I wrote earlier: marrying a robot.

The legal dimension of such ‘marriage between humans and robots’ is actually in the perspective of legal doctrine a fascinating question … ridiculous? not imaginable? The real problem with self-driving cars is … exactly the same – the need to redefine the legal subject and include a ‘body’ that is so far not capable of holding rights. Frightening? Sure, to some extent. However finding an answer may also open a way to redefine ‘rights of nature’ – a discussion we are pursuing in many Latin-American countries, in particular in Bolivia … – indeed, now the question seems to go beyond the differentiation between behaviour and action a sit had been posed earlier, with reference to Hannah Arendt. Now we are challenged to search for higher for higher forms of both, behaviour and action.

Especially as we can now move back to the question of spaces and spatial (not least urban) development. On of the core problems is that under the condition that requires everything has to be measurable, standardised everything has to be as well appear as reification, even more so: is reification and by this it is made tangible. What is more, this reification is on the one hand individualised as only as act of individuals who are ‘trading’ reified ‘things’ the social is constituted. What is more, the ex-ante-inclusion of social considerations into this relationship would actually make it impossible to function in the required way. This means not least that little profit coming from these individual relationships is better than large profits from social engagement. This is one of the explanations (admittedly amongst others that are not less important) that we find the global pressure on prices – the all-presence of ‘cheap stuff’, the need for the generalisation of the common law of business balance as matter that pushes all of us – well, the majority – downwards.

However, there are indications of limits having been reached, pushing to some new forms of bringing things together. ‘complete individualisation’ and ‘complete commodification’ are striving for their exoneration, for re-socialisation and de-commodification: at this stage it is about the socialisation of private space, not more, and not less: the shopping malls as destination of the outing; the coffee shop as living room and office – its flagship supposing that everything is

Crafted by hand and heart

where one can

Make every sip more rewarding

… and of course it is a place where the contradiction is life, stands at the core: the very person and hand and heart driven service offers that you can

Pay with your phone. And do so much more.


Such ‘imagined communities’, these changing cultures of coffeehouses, are now taking over even the traditional small nests of the old cultures, the nests of resistance as for instance the probably strongest defenders of the national coffee bar tradition and there are many other of these ‘communities’ now: other coffee companies, restaurants that change the concept of self-service towards self-production, the DIY.

And they are also emerging in other areas: the various ‘communities’ as and, allowing all of us putting us under pressure, establishing a climate of ‘digital self-monitoring – the self-tracing in cybernetic capitalism’[6], and also giving us the feeling of moving in a space of discourse where we are

… invited you to participate in the comments on his draft paper …

To view the paper and comments, please follow the link below:

Writing about this topical field – topical on the sense of current, it also in the understanding of dealing with a subject matter – is difficult as it is again and again dis-tracted into looking at the details: the dying system still being able not only to maintain but even to gain. Perhaps there is really not more in it? Let’s wait and see …



[1]            Arendt, Hannah, 1958: The Human Condition; Chicago/London: University of Chicago Press: 156; with reference to Das Kapital, HI [Marx-Engels Gesamtausgabe, Abt. II, Zurich, 1933], 698

[2]            ibid.: 43

[3]            ibid, 41; see then also pages 159 ff., the chapter on The Exchange Market.

[4]            see Herrmann, Peter, 2014: Indicators – More than Evidence and Maths; in: Kondratieff Waves: Juglar – Kuznets – Kondratief; editors: Leonid Grinin (Russia), Tessaleno Devezas (Portugal), Andrey Korotayev (Russia); Volgograd: ‘Uchitel’ Publishing House

[5]            Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von, 1806: Faust I, Vers 1972 ff; English translation

[6]            Simon Schaupp, 2106: Digitale Selbstüberwachung. Self-Tracking im kybernetischen Kapitalismus’; Verlag Graswurzelrevolution, 160 Seiten, ISBN 3939045292

Missed opportunity – or Io e Caterina

Topics in the headlines change – though in some cases it is only about names and institutions.

‘Migration’ for quite a while the dominant topic had been surpassed by BREXIT, pushing the GREXIT to a somewhat historical stage, though they apparently catch up again with T May-gie – may be Theresa May, the potential Iron-Lady the II, will once be known this way.

Headlines changes and so do names – or we may say we still find the old names in the headlines, though roles and positions change: Isn’t it a historical irony that Mr B is not only invited by Goldman Sachs for a bit of work, but that he is invited

to advise the bank on the U.K.’s negotiations to leave the European Union

(Sure, asylum policies need to be changed – so he may find a place in the UK …)

Well, from his previous experience he knows at least potentially enough about the European crisis – though it may be that he missed talking to people saying good-bye.

Be it as it is, there is another thing that keeps my mind busy these days – and it is going a bit back in history. The long way back leads to Narcissus, the bit shorter way to part of the history some of us still know too well – it leads back to Hitler, Truman and Adenauer:

There were three fathers of the division of Germany: Adolf Hitler, because the division was essentially a result of World War II and the German genocide. Harry Truman, as he commenced the Cold War against Communism to avoid that the US-war boom would enter into a recession and developed West Germany as loyal province of the United States in Europe. Germany was divided and in addition the exercise terrain for the troops had been secured by the NATO. Konrad Adenauer, who secured with the Federal Republic that for part of Germany the ‘western model’ – he vilified the other part of Germany as ‘Soviet Zone’ and in 1952 he – as well as the United States – declined the offer of the Soviet Union to German unification: ‘It is better to have half of Germany under complete control than having a limited control over the entire Germany’.[1]

Or in other words:

It is better to have a western-democratic FRG than to have a unified neutral Germany.

In the medium-term – or we may say, one of the possible medium-terms – we may look at Lisbon and the pronounced strategy striving for Europe to be the most competitive region.

Without doubt, such classifications, periodisations and emphasis of any historical incisions are always problematic. But paradoxically the closer look at single events and individuals frequently allow us to understand the larger picture.

1987 Maggie T. contended that

there is no such thing as society

and with this she recognised very well where society was going: a utilitarianism led, competition based understanding of society: individuals being responsible for their greatest happiness and not allowing to keep in mind even the slightest notion of the aim: that it should and would be greatest happiness for all. One can and has to say a lot against the classical utilitarians as for instance put forward by Bentham and Mills; but one has to acknowledge that they wer at least loyal to the vision of ‘such thing as society’ and that it would be there forever due to notions of solidarity and responsibility and morality.

And it also meant  that at least in their vision the

bellum omnium contra omnes

was rejected.

Then it could even be translated into a vision like

Better a cooperative Europe, controlled by all instead of a competitive Europe in the interest of s few.

We barely find a discussion that makes this link of conservatism – the link between human beings as individuals and nation states as patriam populum et proprium suum, the fatherland of its own people and property – explicit …, and it seems not to be changing with fatherlands being increasingly motherlands.

And part of this constellation is easily overlooked – for instance also by Juergen Habermas, writing

The Union is put together in such a way that basic economic decisions that affect society as a whole are removed from democratic choice. This technocratic emptying out of the daily agenda with which citizens are confronted is no fate of nature but the consequence of a design set out in the treaties. In this context the politically intended division of power between the national and European levels also plays a role: the power of the Union is concentrated there where nation state interests mutually block each other.

This is of course not wrong – but it is only half of the truth, and committing the other half makes it possible that nationalists reemerge: the other half clearly is: power, in the Western-European countries as power of a minority over the majority … – the sentence

‘It is better to have half of Germany under complete control than having a limited control over the entire Germany’

gets another meaning here than just being concerned with the relationship between two countries – and in the 60s and 70s Juergen knew this too well.


Many thoughts had been employing my mind the last days and weeks – reading Camus’ L’Étranger and living a bit like Simmel’s Stranger, remembering Hegel’s Cunning of Reason and facing the Curse of Unreason, the Eclipse of Reason as so we depicted by Horkheimer. But also may others. After talking the one day with Yi about The Other Dimension, I stumbled upon a film-clip about robots: somewhat funny, somewhat frightening. One aspect that caught my special attention: the robot saying to somebody ‘Pleased to meet you’. My question is not ‘can the computer be pleased’ my question is: ‘Did we degrade ourselves to such a low level, did we programme ourselves in that way WE ARE THE ROBOTS?

And this is how we programme students, to be better business-people and better politicians of the future and … smilingly greeting

Pleased to meet you

before they wipe out the lives of real people, taking about BREXIT, though not asking if is

actually the real topic.

Indeed, a missed opportunity, and I still do not see the debate on a

better a cooperative Europe, controlled by all instead of a competitive Europe in the interest of a few.

But I found one sentence in the video on the robots that caught my special attention. The celebration of one of the successes, namely the machine

being able to follow the leader


Something else caught my attention, not least these days while the academic world is busy with marking and deciding about the future of lives (spending so much time for administration instead of allowing us to be together with students, learn from each other, work together for a common future).

I recently mentioned the article, dealing with the envisaged future of universities as fun-parks. There is one sentence in the article of which the meaning is easily ignored:

You are also defining the higher-education experience in a way that has nothing to do with academic rigor, with intensive effort, with the testing of students’ boundaries and the upending of their closely held beliefs.

So, the alternative to fun-park is drill and Nuremberg Funnel?

I am excited by those students who come to me after the exams – not to as for a change of their marks, but to ask for more time needed to develop understanding, for gaining trust in a lived and livable future. And I feel ashamed working within a system that does only allow time for competition, offering little time for the real fun:

Man only plays when in the full meaning of the word he is a man, and he is only completely a man when he plays.

This is what the robots cannot do – and this what a competitive robot, ops, a competitive Europe surely cannot offer.

The digital game should never been mixed up with the digitalisation of the player.[2]

And the religion should remain in the church and not enter crusade into the life again – by occupying our thinking ….

And so we have to do the thinking ourselves …, and find the right action


[1]      Es gab drei Väter der Teilung Deutschlands: Adolf Hitler, denn im Wesentlichen war die Teilung eine Folge des Weltkrieges und des deutschen Völkermordens. Harry Truman, denn um die Kriegskonjunktur in den USA nicht in eine Rezession münden zu lassen, begann er den Kalten Krieg gegen den Kommunismus und entwickelte Westdeutschland als loyalste Provinz der USA und Standbein in Europa. Deutschland wurde geteilt und der Truppenstationierungsplatz über die NATO zusätzlich abgesichert. Konrad Adenauer, der mit der Bundesrepublik für einen Teil Deutschlands den westlichen Weg sicherte, den zurückgelassenen Teil als Sowjetzone diffamierte und 1952 – wie auch die USA – das Angebot der Sowjetunion zur deutschen Einheit ablehnte: „Lieber das halbe Deutschland ganz als das ganze Deutschland halb’.

[2]      Watch the eyes, minute 3.28 – sure, all after the initial order at 1:42: don’t speak

The other dimension

The other day I was sitting together with a friend, chatting about human and artificial intelligence and the calculability of everything. We talked about Her and life emerging Ex Machina. Emotions – they play a role, and we have, can, should simply enjoy them. That moment, I could not agree more, did not want to think about rationalising every single step, did not want to stop enjoying the moments, loving the people when they are lovable and showing the anger  when anger is appropriate … – Isn’t it finally true?: Wer denkt, ist nicht wütend.  Here for the first part of the Docu in Theodor W Adorno, Der Bürger als Revolutionär.

The less revolutionary version coming to mind is the one we know from Einstein:

Falling in love is not at all the most stupid thing that people do — but gravitation cannot be held responsible for it.

wisely popularised as “You can’t blame gravity for falling in love”.

Love or show anger …, carpe diem and give the answer …


Anyway, a few days later a headline hits the news, informing that a

Tesla driver dies in first fatal crash while using autopilot mode

Surely a sad occurrence, but what makes it remarkable for me here is a sentence I find in the article, saying that

America’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has opened an inquiry into the accident.

It leaves  me with a silly question. As sociologist I know that that NHTSA is an institution, following administrative and juridical rules, without “human intelligence”, reflecting law that is without consideration of right. As driver of a car I know that there is no point in asking the truck and trailer; and the sky …, it does have as many answers as it lacks having limits. So, at the end it may then be the driver of the truck who may be be blamed for being, for taking the freedom of being in the way of artificial rules …


Part of the limitations of artificial intelligence, in its excess child of bourgeois enlightenment, is surely that it established a certain inability to think unity as matter of contradiction. To take it from Adorno’s Dialectic of Enlightenment

Bourgeois society is ruled by equivalence. It makes the dissimilar comparable by reducing it to abstract quantities. To the enlightenment, that which does not reduce to numbers, and ultimately to the one, becomes illusion.

There is surely some Madness of Sincerity of which I learned again – finally

Men are never convinced of your reasons, of your sincerity, of the seriousness of your sufferings, except by your death. So long as you are alive, your case is doubtful; you have a right only to their skepticism.”

It may then be that The Fall comes before The Stranger.