Changing assumptions

November 15th, 2009

Change an assumption
and save the world.

— Heinz von Foerster, 1970

Quoted after Paul Schröder who 2009-11-14 at the Heinz von Foerster Congress 09 said he found this quote several times in his notes.

Ecological recommendations

September 23rd, 2007

When ecologists advertise their recommendations to save the world this often appears to me like young lovers who are enjoying a diverse sex life but who rarely practice safe sex.
And they think that if they used condoms more often the chance of catching STDs is decreased. In fact, it is (if we trust their numbers), nevertheless, they are probably already spreading their disease.

Double bind feedback

February 12th, 2007

At the end of a lecture series (again, and again on human ecology) students were asked for feedback about the lecture series as part of their exams. In order to get a certificate, students have to hand in a written statement including critical feedback about the lecture series.

If I was in need of self-affirmation, I would just do the same. Critical thinking is all good and praiseworthy. Indeed. Please criticize! Them, me, and don’t forget yourself!

Double binds and Catch-22s might be fun as part of brain-teasers, and they build grounds for game theoretic prisoner’s dilemmas. Though, some might want to keep in mind that double binds have also long been discussed in the context of schizophrenia. As much as they are versatile means of breaking one’s personality and self-esteem they are essential not only to modern techniques of torture.

On no side’s side:
You want feedback? — You got it.

To prepare for the unknown unknown

February 4th, 2007

At the workshop “Nichtwissen in der Wissensgesellschaft” (Ignorance in Information Society), when the discussions eventually boiled down to one of the workshops focal questions — how to deal with the unknown unknownUlrich Müller-Herold gave an illustrative example:

Imagine an aircraft manufacturer has just assembled a newly developed airplane that now is scheduled for its maiden test flight. To minimize all possible risks the airplane has gone through extensive ground testing, and a highly experienced test pilot is chosen.

Still, during the maiden flight unexpected circumstances might arise. So, we may ask what can be done in advance to be able to react as appropriately as possible. For instance, one of perhaps many measures, which the manufacturer may take, is to require the pilot to be completely sober.

What a wonderful example! First, it well illustrates the problem. What can mankind do to stay sober? Second, it even points out a solution. Like we should sharpen our whiskers. Third, and most importantly, it’s flawed.

When I said to Müller-Herold that I found his example very appropriate because it was flawed he told me a story of Heinrich Böll who once calmly replied to a critic that one could reach one’s goal limping, too. (“Herr Böll, der Vergleich hinkt.” — “Ach, man kann auch hinkend sein Ziel erreichen”, here quoted after Joachim Kaiser.)

But, if mankind was not limping probably there would have never been a goal. If an example is to illustrate a flaw it does so well if it is flawed itself. And, indeed, perfectly flawed it is.

Partially right, partially wrong

December 5th, 2006

Quotes from no liars taken from an ongoing lecture series on human ecology:

In ecology, anything is partially right and partially wrong, and everything else is also partially right and partially wrong.
Markus Staudinger, 2006-11-28

And, at the end of today’s lecture:

Everything we have said here today is wrong. Wrong in the sense that it has been too short and not detailed enough, though, there is a chance to deal with it more closely.
Alexander Haslberger, 2006-12-05

The translations were done by a liar who is at liberty to quote the original passages:

Wie bei allem in der Ökologie ist es so, dass das Eine teils wahr und teils falsch und das Andere auch teils wahr und teils falsch ist.
Markus Staudinger, 2006-11-28

Alles, was wir hier jetzt gesagt haben, ist falsch. Falsch in dem Sinn, dass es viel zu kurz und zu wenig detailliert ist, dass es aber doch die Möglichkeit gibt, sich damit etwas genauer zu beschäftigen.
Alexander Haslberger, 2006-12-05

Generally, one is better off judging others. But beware of generalizations if you cannot deal with self-reference.

Claiming responsibility

November 4th, 2006

The following took place in the context of a lecture series on human ecology. One evening, after talks a speaker and friend of mine asked me how I perceive the lectures. I answered that I am thinking about responsibility. Next she wanted to know what were the results of my thinkings. I said: Responsibility.

By then we had reached the building’s exit door. She said bye, and off she was.


Dropping Knowledge

September 7th, 2006

Can a single question make change? Ask yourself!
dropping knowledge, 2006-09-07

On 2006-09-09, dropping knowledge shall bring together some 100 people from all over the world to “engage in the most pressing questions of our age”. Their answers shall be recorded, and they may become seeds of a new “knowledge portal and dialog platform” starting 2006-09-10.

Here are some of the questions which have been submitted and which are likely to be discussed:

  • Is resistance a new form of revolution? Between non-violent resistance and armed struggle where do we go? What is effective? What is the right thing to do? Or do we need a biodiversity of resistance? Is change possible without violence?
  • What is worse, death or everlasting silence and solitude?
  • Is sustainability a luxury of the developed world?
  • What is the most important unreported story?
  • Can the world ever agree on the meaning and implementation of democracy?
  • Are we ready to change anything in case we get answers to our questions?
  • Do you think anything will change by donating questions here?
  • Why do human beings agree to evil?
  • What is God’s religion?
  • Permaculture has solved sustainability, Moshé Feldenkrais has solved the physical problems of the human body, Krishnamurti has solved wisdom, what problems doesn’t the planet know how to solve?
  • What does every human being on this planet agree on?
  • What is the global definition of freedom?
  • Why am I me and not you?
  • Is there at least one basic truth, we all can agree on?
  • What is consciousness and how do we observe the observer?
  • Do you trust your government?
  • Why don’t you do something?
  • How can consciousness be increased in the world?
  • How can we discuss global problems even when we are not able to solve our local ones?
  • How does any of this affect me?
  • Why do we believe mankind is something apart from nature, and therefore, not bound by its laws?

Hugh MacLeod provides us with a first pretty ingenious answer: The untitled pyramid.

United 93. It’s time.

June 25th, 2006

At the beginning of the film “United 93” it says

It’s time.

It’s time. This is what the crusaders of ecology and sustainability keep telling us, too.

It’s time that we ask what is time.
Never forget.