From here to where ? Living in academia …

On youtube a new playlist is launched, asking to where we move in academia. Occasionally it may a bit about ….

…, well lets call it a strong wish to move forward.

From personal experience, occasionally videos will be posted there, having different backgrounds, being recordings of presentations but also reflections “on occasion of” – for instance reflecting after public lecture or in connection with teaching or in the context of politics, policies, and polities – sometimes being asked for advise, sometimes not being asked though I should have been asked 😉
One of the aims is to ventilate issues that are too often left out of consideration, leaving us with complains about how bad the world is, instead of thinking about what we – in academia – really complain, analysing the reasons being developments, often also going back to our performance in academia itself and not least taking out the way forward.

In any case, it is a potpourri, a kaleidoscope and a huge variety of topics will be dealt with.

Academia Today — and also the rest of the world

Sometimes I get the impression that there all the outperforming which we are facing and which we are asked to join is best captured by Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker‘s Guide to the Galaxy. I recently found a nice version of the little story concerning the magic 42, translated here:

A well advanced extraterritorial culture strives to answer the ultimate question, namely the question concerned with the foundation of and reason behind ‘life, the universe and everything’. The supercomputer Deep Thought is built. After calculating for 7.5 million years Deep Thought comes up with the answer „42“.

Deep Thought replies to the baffled constructors that the question had not been sufficiently clear, and proposes to build an even large computer, able to find an appropriate question to which „42“ is the answer. it turns out that this larger computer is actually the planet earth.

Here the original:

Eine weit fortgeschrittene außerirdische Kultur sucht die Antwort auf die Frage aller Fragen, nämlich jene nach „life, the universe and everything“. Dazu baut sie den Supercomputer Deep Thought. Nach einer Rechenzeit von 7,5 Millionen Jahren erbringt Deep Thought die Antwort „42“.

Auf die Ratlosigkeit der Erbauer hin entgegnet Deep Thought, dass die Frage nicht präzise gestellt worden sei und schlägt vor, einen noch größeren Computer zu bauen, der fähig ist, die zur Antwort passende Frage zu finden. Dieser Computer wird gebaut und das Programm zur Suche der Frage auf die Antwort wird gestartet. Es stellt sich heraus, dass dieser noch größere Computer der Planet Erde ist.

In other words – more in the formulation of systems theory: we re producing an increasing number of empty spaces, in order to fill them with the same emptiness. And instead of really arriving at public spaces, we establish in two ways pseudo-and quasi-public places

  • by charismatisation of individuals and institutions, leading to the ‘obligation’ that being part of it is the main thing – one has to publish in THEIR vicinity, one has to GO TO the events WITH THEM, one has to know HERHIM … – name dropping as the other, i.e. personal droppings are considered to be and are made meaningless.
  • and then there is the perpetuation of this charismatic fields of hegemony: who did not read THAT, who had not been THERE, who did not know ALREADY … – All this is, of course not about the factual but the somewhat virtual. If WE write and say something, it becomes only meaningful if THEY stated it already , and if WE say something meaningful it remains an empty phrase as long as it is not quoted. – I am not talking about the gained meaning by spreading the word – that is a purely quantitative aspect and as true as it is that things we think without letting others know are equally meaningless as the most stupid things even of they are published ‘properly’. It is better to be a footnote that everybody can see than being a sapience crawling serpently in the stash. And who does not belong to this and that who-is-who-social-network, can prove a certain number of friends, fans, supporters, follower is nearly non-existent – the social-network-death, which can only be beaten by brain death.

But how much is really new and how much is really limited to the academic world?

Teaching ….

… back in the Middle Kingdom since a week, enjoying teaching learning to “walk economics”. Special fun the workshops – teaching without income (no extra pay), and learning without points (a course, the students take without points etc.).

Sometimes it is really like looking into the eyes of small children who see something amazing for the first time in their life (like a “summer child”, seeing the first snow) – so much more satisfying than looking at the faces of “adult colleagues” who only see what they supposedly know, struggling with maintaining that knowledge, and the jobs in which it is founded. – It is so nice to be witness, and it is so nice to accept again being student, opening the eyes like a small child and exploring together what I seem to know and of which I detect so much that is new.

I would not say renaissance, and increasingly hesitate to celebrate The Renaissance. There is still at least the one fact that needs to be considered: much of what had been ‘detected’ and ‘invented’, was known a long time before and just forgotten. Look for the work of Archimedes – and all those things that had been forgotten. No, the world was not flat in the earlier years – only some people made human kind believe it is flat. And so we find them today again, suggesting in ‘A Brief History of the Twenty-Firts Century’ that ‘The World is Flat’. Namesakes by accident? The one Friedman believes everybody can access everything; the other Friedman emphasing already earlier the Power of the Market.

May be journalistic masterpieces, surely not more than Sunday’s prayers, eye washing, pleading now from all sides for a moral economy, instead of clearly analysing the economy and demanding rights.

My be  I can move the rights part on tomorrow when going to Juzizhou island for a meeting.

Studying, Responsibility and Ethics

Peace cannot be kept by force; it can only be achieved by understanding.
Albert Einstein

I uploaded a series of presentations given to students of economics at 中南林业科技大学班戈学院/Bangor College CSUFT in Changsha, Hunan Province in China.

The title/subject of the course these presentations introduced is “Learning Skills” – the recommended book rather stupidifying, assuming students are naive, pursuing a formalist approach to learn – and moreover reducing academic work on the approach: “Give me an answer. We will then look for the question.” It is also the way in which we ignore what is attributed to Einstein’s wisdom, namely that
We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.
I tried in these lectures to raise awareness of the importance of questions, working towards an preliminary or introductory understanding of methodology.
And I tried also to make students aware of the need to counter the
 The lectures used in particular arts and history (and a bit of arts history) as means to delve into different aspects of the relevant topics. – Although there are a few references immediately to my Economics course her ein China, the presentation is relevant (and can be understood) beyond this.
The videos can be found here – they also show the used slides (sorry for the audio-quality – but one gets used to it after a while).
The last lecture, given shortly after the attacks in the middle of November 2015, draws particular attention on ethical aspects and questions of responsibility.
Revised versions of the slides can be found on my researchgate site at

Intelligence instead of (Skills)”Knowledge”

Books … hold within them the gathered wisdom of humanity, the collected knowledge of the world’s thinkers, the amusement and excitement built up by the imaginations of brilliant people. Books contain humor, beauty, wit, emotion, thought, and, indeed, all of life. Life without books is empty.

Isaac Asimov: Puzzles of the Black Widowers (1990)


As I’ve often said, you can shop online and find whatever you’re looking for, but bookstores are where you find what you weren’t looking for.

Paul Krugman


We Have Such A Wealth of Unanswered Questions

Craig Mello


The notion that every well educated person would have a mastery of at least the basic elements of the humanities, sciences, and social sciences is a far cry from the specialized education that most students today receive, particularly in the research universities.

Joseph Stiglitz