Disclaimer: I work in Google's Policy Team, developing multistakeholder cooperations for internet governance & policy themes, hence I want to point out that all the opinions and ruminations on this blog are mine, not Google's.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Refelctions 2005

As i got some quite positive feedback regarding my "informational present: Max' very late virtual XmaX mail 2005" mail, I decided to also share it with the readers of this blog:


As everybody knows, this time of the year tends to be rather hectic and full of celebration, so I took me till now to find the time to think and contemplate about last year. After reflecting about what influenced me 2005, I am happy to share some influential brainfood, services and entertainment I digested:

Topics of my Life


As some of you know, I did a course on ecology (sustainability & development) at the United Nations University. I was not too impressed with the doomsday messages send out by the specialists; especially the scientific ‘forecasts’ which paint a horror picture intended to make everybody believe: “Shit, we have to invest everything in stopping the destruction or we’ll all die”. I am not saying I am anti-environmentalist (quite the contrary), but I am sick and tired of this pessimistic and dystopian approach. It creates fear and hate similar to the killer-bees hysteria featured in michael moore’s bowling for columbine.
Now I found “The Sceptical Environmentalist” by Bjørn Lomborg. “Lomborg criticizes the way many environmental organizations make selective and misleading use of scientific data to influence decisions about the allocation of limited resources. The Skeptical Environmentalist is a useful corrective to the more alarmist accounts favoured by green activists and the media.” The book had quite an impact and caused lots of debate when it first came out in 2001. I invite you to assess the quality of his arguments and the critique brought forward e.g. at http://www.lomborg.com/sample%20chapters.htm or http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bjorn_Lomborg

Deliberative democracy is (in my understanding) the idea that it only makes sense to ask people to vote on something once they have spend a reasonable amount of time informing and discussing a theme (Compare wikipedia’s entry: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deliberative_democracy). There are various very innovative online projects with the goal to promote citizenship and improve democratic processes. Check http://www.deliberative-democracy.net/ or http://cdd.stanford.edu/

Cyberspace & Ethics

The first (and only) paper my catalan boss gave me was: The Global Superorganism: an evolutionary-cybernetic model of the emerging network society (click here to download). I really liked it and together with Living with the Internet Ethics in the Noösphere (see attached) it was the beginning of a very rewarding line of though about values and ethics in cyberspace. I spoke on ethics and citizenship in the 21st century at the UN world summit on the information society and in the aftermath I read Hacker Ethics (by Himanen, M. Castells, and Linu(x)s Troval) the book provoked me to come up with some ideas on paradoxical ethics and I attach the short (still draft) reflections I jotted down (please ask me to send you this doc personally). The topic ‘values and ethics in a post-modernist, hyper-capitalist society’ has become my passion and I would love to hear your ideas and critique!!! (Some other interesting sources on the mirror world in cyberspace: the psychology of cyberspace (John Suler, Ph.D.) http://www.rider.edu/~suler/psycyber/psycyber.html, resource centre for cybercultur studies http://www.com.washington.edu/rccs/, Building Blocks for an Internet Sociology - Albert Benschop- http://www.sociosite.net/websoc/indexE.html)


The PROPHET, is a short book, written in 1923 by iranian Poet Kahlil Gibran. It deals with the meaning of life (love, work, children, etc.) in a very profound spiritual and poetic way, while being far from creating a dogma or making you feel uncomfortable because of the great father who controls your being – it is a spiritual book that talks about values without having them supervised by an omnipotent chief http://www.columbia.edu/~gm84/gibtable.html

The life of Pi by Yann Mantel - amazon: “an endless blue expanse of storytelling about adventure, survival, and ultimately, faith.” A great book with a slight touch of too much fantasy, but in the end, when the riddles are solved, it all makes sense.

Movies 2005

  1. 2001: A Space Odyssey

This movie, shot 10 years before my birth, deals with one of the most concrete paradoxes today: Does technology help humans to reach a higher stage of evolutionary development or are we more and more lost in a technological world where machines take over more and more fundamental processes. The movie is more like a theatre play and even though basic interpretation is not too hard I strongly recommend to see http://www.kubrick2001.com/ which features a 10min. flash movie explaining the plot and symbols.

  1. Sin City
    The best comic conversion ever. A new style of movie. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0401792/
  2. Bin Ich Schoen & Erleuchtung Garantiert
    German people having trouble with love and identity.” http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0144106/ & http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0177749/ (These movies are relativley hard to find. Netfix has them!)
  3. Estacion Central

Excellent, heartbreaking movie about two lost souls (a boy and a grany) in brasil. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0097294/

  1. Samsara
    A spiritual love-story set in the majestic landscape of Ladakh, Himalayas. Samsara is a quest; one man's struggle to find spiritual Enlightenment by renouncing the world. And one woman's struggle to keep her enlightened love and life in the world.
    What is more important: satisfying one thousand desires or conquering just one...” http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0196069/

Just from last night: A great german documentary on the UnaBomber an American terrorist, who carried out several bombings and was portrayed by the media as the psycho-maniac prototype. The movie (which starts in selected german cinemas on 13.1.2006) casts a new light on Ted Kaczynski who had been a participant of the legendary CIA/Harvard/MIT LSD experiments. The “manifesto on Industrial Society and Its Future“ in which he explains his motivation and proclaims a revolution contra technology, is a radical negative perception of our state of society and as such a good counter-extreme to Lomborg’s optimism à read the English version at http://www.thecourier.com/manifest.htm .
„Ein Roadmovie zwischen LSD-Kybernetik und Technophobie. Der Film von Lutz Dammbeck beleuchtet die Faszination für jene positive Vision einer globalen Vernetzung, in der Welt- statt Staatsbürger leben, durch das Prisma des Negativs. In einer Genremischung aus Lap-Top-Roadmovie und kriminalistischer Enquête demonstriert er, wie Kybernetik, Systemtheorie, Psychologie und Militärprogramme vernetzte Maschinensysteme hervorbringen, indem er die Argumentation der Technologie-Gegner des "Freedom Clubs" durchspielt.“ Jens Hauser Februar 2004 Die Deutsche website des films is unter www.t-h-e-n-e-t.com zu finden.

Useful Services

  1. Skype www.skype.com

As long as you have a good internet connection you can talk to all other skype users for free and call (basically) the whole world for about 7-15 cent per minute. I used it extensively to call my family and friends from japan – IT WORKS! In this context I would like to refer to the position paper on internet governance I developed for www.kdun.de à there we call for free communication as a fundamental right on the internet http://www.uno-komitee.de/en/documents/internetgovernance.pdf

  1. BitTorrent
    BitTorrent (which as far as I know is the same system as emule) is a file sharing system that is truly peer2peer. You download a client (e.g. http://azureus.sourceforge.net/ ) and then use one of the plenty search engines (e.g. http://isohunt.com/)
  2. JOT – www.jot.com – the easiest wiki service on the net
    At JOT you can have your own little collaborative, really easy to use and maintain wiki (webpages which you and everybody you want can update via a super intuitive what-you-see-is-what-you-get interface). Just sign up for the trial, which gives you full functionality with a limited (pretty high) number of pages and users.
  3. Brithday Alarm www.birthdayalarm.com/
    You ask your friends - per mail - to enter their birthday and birthday alarm sends you two reminders per email.
  4. Pandora – your personal radio stations – www.pandora.com
    You enter the name of an artist you like, they play songs form related artists. The clue is that you tell the station what you like and dislike, enabling the machine to get closer and closer to playing only songs you like.
    (In case you have finished your 10 hours free trial and you live outside the US and thus can not legally buy the service, you can follow this link http://www.macromedia.com/support/documentation/en/flashplayer/help/settings_manager06.html and remove the cookie which lets you start the 10 hours over again.)

  1. Widgets http://widgets.yahoo.com/
    Widgets are little applications that run on a transparent layer on your desktop. They are mostly ‘funkey’ not really necessary but for people who care about style and have a fable for cool things, go and check them out. The idea is to get rid of that task bar and put the only really constantly relevant function – the clock – in a much better looking transparent widget. There are tons of designer watches, characters like zoitberg from futurama and other little apps like a local weather forecast etc.

German Stuff

Die folgenden Hoerbuecher koennt ihr gerne von mir zugeschickt bekommen oder einfach den entsprechenden torrent suchen und selbst runterladen.

  1. Kaeptn Blaubaer
  2. Faust
  3. Die Bibel
  4. Der Untertan
  5. Perry Rodan

Fuer alle die ihr english/franzoesisch/deutsch/spanisch aufpolieren wollen kann ich nur http://www.spotlight-verlag.de/ empfehlen. Die zeitschriften dieses verlages bringen artikel zu aktellen themen, setzen einen grundwortschatz voraus und erklaeren die jeweilis wichtigen spezial vokabeln/ausdruecke des themas. Ausserdem gibt es audio-streams und vokabeltrainer.

Und wenn ich schon dabei bin empfehle ich noch das meiner meinung nach beste deutsche gesellschafts- und wirtschaft-ohne-zahlen:-)magazin www.brandeins.de

Philosophie ist ein schweres geschaeft, aber ein fruchtbares hobby. Auf den folgenden seiten kann man eine wortgewaltige menge an metaphysischen mp3 vorlesungen und vortraegen runterladen http://audiothek.philo.at/modules.php?op=modload&name=Downloads&file=index , http://www.audioreader.de/Material/Material.htm , http://timaios.philo.at/wiki/index.php/Tonarchiv_(T)

I wish you a powerful 2006 and hope we get the chance to catch up


PS: Some thoughts on informational presents:

Logically, the fact that I do not pay (lose anything) changes the whole practice and value of giving a present, as the gift is neither unique, nor personal, nor expensive. So, is it worth anything? I believe it depends on what the giver thinks when addressing the gift to a friend (am I advertising, promoting or giving a gift) and whether the recipient feels the good intention as well as the quality of the informational gift – and this perception depends hugely on the interest in, and opinion about the giver. Thus, I hope you have a good time surfing the sites, watching the movies and perhaps reading some of the texts I recommend.

PPS: In case you are interested what I am doing and going to do

Professionally: In 2005 I will do the hands on research for my PhD thesis in which I write about how entrepreneurial spirit – in my definition the will of people to create/shape reality – is practiced in universities. Thereby I will compare the teaching, research and institutional entrepreneurial activities in 4 very distinct universities. In order to do these case studies I will spend the first 3 months in Barcelona, the next 3 in berlin, and the next 3 (hopefully) in London and then come back to Barcelona to do the last case and then concentrate on the analysis and writing for the better part of 2007. (For the truly interested I maintain a wiki where I try to document the research http://entrepreneur.jot.com).

Privately: I am still as motivated as always – so, no matter whether sport, party or heated discourse, I intend to be there for you J

PPPS: The central leitmotiv of my approach is ACTION (aka. deed, participation, creativity, empathy and pro-activity) the following is a pregnant quote from Goethe’s Faust which beautifully captures the epistemology from thought to action (German original below):

"In the beginning was the Word!"
Here now I'm balked! Who'll put me in accord?
It is impossible, the Word so high to prize,
I must translate it otherwise
If I am rightly by the Spirit taught.
'Tis written: In the beginning was the Thought!
Consider well that line, the first you see,
That your pen may not write too hastily!
Is it then Thought that works, creative, hour by hour?
Thus should it stand: In the beginning was the Power!
Yet even while I write this word, I falter,
For something warns me, this too I shall alter.
The Spirit's helping me! I see now what I need
And write assured: In the beginning was the Deed!

Geschrieben steht: »Im Anfang war das Wort!«
Hier stock ich schon! Wer hilft mir weiter fort?
Ich kann das Wort so hoch unmöglich schätzen,
Ich muß es anders übersetzen,
Wenn ich vom Geiste recht erleuchtet bin.
Geschrieben steht: Im Anfang war der Sinn.
Bedenke wohl die erste Zeile,
Daß deine Feder sich nicht übereile!
Ist es der Sinn, der alles wirkt und schafft?
Es sollte stehn: Im Anfang war die Kraft!
Doch, auch indem ich dieses niederschreibe,
Schon warnt mich was, daß ich dabei nicht bleibe.
Mir hilft der Geist! Auf einmal seh ich Rat
Und schreibe getrost: Im Anfang war die Tat!

Faust by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe


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Philippe said...

Hey man,
As a matter a fact Khalil Gibran was Lebanese...
More on Gibran at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kahlil_Gibran

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