Freitag, 17. März 2023

The chance that there will be any permanent ice left in the Arctic after 2022 is essentially zero

 "The chance that there will be any permanent ice left in the Arctic after 2022 is essentially zero"

How did this prediction by Harvard climate scientist James Anderson in 2018 published in my favourite media outlet Forbes turn out?

Arctic Ice Cover March 2023 (NASA)

This NASA graph with data up to 2023 shows the current ice cover pretty much in the middle of the years 2012–2023.

What do we learn from that?

  1. Check for the track record and do not read media that is regularly wrong
  2. Immediately ignore what one single scientist says; to speak with Nassim Taleb: “Science is great, scientists are dangerous”
  3. Do not support catastrophism. It is most likely not true and harms reasonable steps to approach the fact, that we indeed have a climate change problem.
Trust in science and media is lost (because we constantly amplify the extremists and naive one-trick-pony activists) and we indeed inflicted large harm to our society, albeit not necessarily the one these people are warning us from — think of the Energy disaster in Germany, Europe and in many other developing countries as a consequence of the large scale mistakes made by countries like Germany.

Mittwoch, 22. Februar 2023

Endless Wonders in Reflexion

 “An animal is a model. Any organism is a model of the world in which it lives. One way to understand this is to imagine a zoologist presented with the body of an animal she has never seen before. If allowed to examine and dissect the body in sufficient detail, a good zoologist should be able to reconstruct almost everything about the world in which the animal lived. To be more precise, she would be reconstructing the worlds in which the animal’s ancestors lived.”

Richard Dawkins writes this in an article in 1995

Richard Dawkins

But let's now combine that thought with Melvin E. Conway, How do Committees Invent?

“Roughly speaking, we have demonstrated that there is a very close relationship between the structure of a system and the structure of the organization which designed it.”

In other words: the small mirrors the big, the big drives the small and the small drives the big, as the big is constituted by the small(s). Endless wonders in reflexion.

Dienstag, 21. Februar 2023

The Case Against Education

“My best guess says signaling accounts for 80% of education’s return”, Bryan Caplan

Maybe I was wrong believing that current universities are in major trouble, because their quality of research and most notably education is dropping from a low level to a dismal one. As the argument goes: that narcissistic wokeists took over universities — in a follow up of post modern destruction of clear and reasonable thinking — and joining those who never had interest in teaching anyways. Now, as they mostly succeeded, universities are so broken that their value proposition for society and companies drops towards zero.

Richard Feynman. One of the extraordinary scientists
of the 20th century who was also an outstanding teacher

I do not disagree with this assessment in principle, but if Bryan Caplan is right with his signalling theory, quality of education was never a big issue to start with. Signalling is, according to his assessment, about 80% of a degree of most kinds. Now, if this is true, then it does not make a substantial difference if wokesters damaged education even further and thus push the signaling proportion to 90% or 95%. The educational value was barely a given beforehand either.

“Frankly, most econ professors practice a variant of the old Soviet adage, 'We pretend to teach, they pretend to learn.'”, ibid

Actually the opposite could be true: now you do not only signal that you make it into and through college, you also signal that you have the “right” values and believe in the enlightened religion. 

A practice we thought we removed during enlightenment as it were. But who cares?

Well. Reality might care. 

As physics will put an end to airy ideas of a de-materialised economy and energy transition — as if materials and laws of physics would not count any more, since we got the iPhone, the same must be true for signaling on a larger scale. If the signaling theory is true, we waste extraordinary amounts of resources into nonsense, which clearly cannot be sustained indefinitely. At one point in time, reality catches you. We currently observe who the “green” energy bubble is bursting — largely because of massive incompetence by those who drove it (NGOs, research centres, politicians), we are stuck in stagnation as far as building and maintenance of old fashioned infrastructure goes and we loose ourselves in idiotic political disputes that solve no real world problem.

Biology and medicine will simply not work much longer in any reasonable way, should we decide not to know what a woman is. Not to mention, that at one point in time the majority of women will realise that decades of hard earned rights are chopped away in benefit of radical fringe and honestly, stupid ideas. And don't get me started on indigenous and alternative mathematics and physics.

In practical terms: either corporations will call the bluff and will not hire candidates especially with degrees from (elite) universities any longer, but people who actually know what they are doing, or other nations where the king still wears clothes will overtake us. Overtake us in terms of economic prosperity, human rights and living standards. And fast.

Dienstag, 31. Januar 2023

Kritische Reflexion der Wissenschaft nach der Pandemie


»Wer sich „nicht auskennt“, soll die Schnauze halten. Die Frage ist: Wer bestimmt, wer sich auskennt? Jan Böhmermann? Sascha Lobo?«

Es freut mich, dass jetzt endlich kritische Artikel in der breiteren Diskussion zum Umgang mit Wissenschaft während der Pandemie erscheinen. Dieses Zitat ist aus einem Artikel in der Berliner Zeitung, geschrieben von Jan David Zimmermann. 

Im Gegensatz zur Selbstwahrnehmung vieler Wissenschafter, war »Covid« eine Niederlagen von Wissenschaft und Politik, sowohl einzeln als auch im Zusammenspiel betrachtet. Das Problem geht allerdings weit über Covid hinaus, und reicht im Vorspiel Jahrzehnte zurück. 

»Die Wissenschaft tritt im Szientismus als Heilslehre auf und die Experten sind letztlich unsere Priester. Wer aber den Priester hinterfragt, der hinterfragt auch Gott. Und das darf natürlich nicht sein.«

Ähnliches beobachten wir seit längerem bei anderen wesentlichen Themen wie dem Klimawandel.

»Corona hat einmal mehr klargemacht, wie willfährig akademische Institutionen sich mit den Vorgaben des Staates, der Politik synchronisieren und wie stark auf Universitäten und Akademien Konformismus und Duckmäusertum vorherrscht.«

In der Tat. Universitäten sind zu dysfunktionalen Organisationen geworden, in denen qualitativ hochwertige Wissenschaft und entsprechender Diskurs zum Nebenthema geworden zu sein scheint. Dies ist keine österreichische oder europäische Frage, sondern ein internationales Problem.

Es bedeutet natürlich nicht, dass keine Wissenschaft mehr gemacht wird oder dass es keine neuen Erkenntnisse mehr gäbe. Aber gemessen am Aufwand, an der explodierenden Zahl der Wissenschafter und der Zahl der Publikationen, ist das Ergebnis gelinde gesagt bescheiden, wenn auch nicht überraschend. Nicht bescheiden hingegen, sind viele Vertreter von Wissenschaft, die sich in die Öffentlichkeit drängen, Politik und Wirtschaft beraten und dabei immer häufiger mehr Schaden als Nutzen anrichten.

Auch eine weitere Beobachtung in diesem Artikel ist zutreffend:

»Corona hat einmal mehr klargemacht, wie willfährig akademische Institutionen sich mit den Vorgaben des Staates, der Politik synchronisieren und wie stark auf Universitäten und Akademien Konformismus und Duckmäusertum vorherrscht.  
Die kritischen Experten-Stimmen hingegen waren fast alle emeritierte (also pensionierte) Universitätsprofessoren oder „Aussteiger“ aus dem Wissenschaftssystem und nunmehr weitgehend unabhängig von Universitäten, Pharmafirmen und wissenschaftspolitischen Graben- und Machtkämpfen.«

Auch ich habe große Schwierigkeiten, qualitativ hochwertige und relevante Gesprächspartner für meinen Podcast an Universitäten zu finden. Die interessantesten und relevantesten Beiträge stammen in der Tat zumeist aus der vom Autor genannten Kategorie. 

Keine guten Vorzeichen für die nächsten Jahrzehnte für die Universitäten, aber eine Menge Potential für neue und bessere Ansätze!

Mittwoch, 25. Januar 2023

Energy Predictions 2040s

My energy predictions in Jan. 2023 for ~2040:

Under the assumption, that the majority of western and industrialised countries do not experience an economic and social collapse and that we do not let hundreds of millions of people die in the developing world (due to malnutrition and lack of affordable energy) in the next two decades:

  • The current and coming global energy and food crises is largely a result of extraordinarily bad political decisions over the last 20 years.
  • Large scale wind and solar are dead on arrival. There will be projects, the vast majority will not be profitable, highly subsidised and continue to destabilise electrical grids. Investments in large scale wind and solar will turn out to be neither economically nor ecologically useful.
  • Energy storage with batteries and other technologies, hydrogen economy and the like will play no relevant role in the next 20 years.
  • Rooftop solar will be extended and be useful in some cases and enhance energy resilience for the wealthy at a high cost.
  • Coal will continue to grow, at least for the next decade.
  • Countries that now invest heavily in oil and gas exploration and most importantly in nuclear energy will be the ones surviving the coming energy crisis. 

Montag, 2. Januar 2023

Recursive Troll Saving Intellectual Freedom at Stanford!

Theodor Kittelsen
Forest Troll

Stanford university published a document with the intention of “elimination of harmful language”. Reading this document, it seems rather obvious that the goal of universities is no longer diversity of (clever) thinking, civilised and polite, but hard debate and rigid intellectual standards. It is policing of language, censorship, establishing a regiment of intellectual fear and enabling power grab activism opposed to thoughtful academic exchange and progress.

Fortunately, Stanfords chapter of woke-religion did not realise that some troll played a joke on them. The last paragraph on the first page says clearly and in bold letters:

“Content Warning: This website contains language that is oxensive or harmful. Please engage with this website at your own pace.”

So. If you are a true believer and true woke worshipper, you will not read beyond that paragraph, because it could harm and potentially traumatise you. (Especially at a university, where you were trained not to think for yourself, but follow administrative orders!)

Everyone else, who is still moderately sane, does not read e-mails from administrators in the first place. So, in fact, no one at Stanford will know which words not to use. 

Bravo to the recursive troll!! 

Update Jan. 8, 2023

Good news: Stanford university evidently figured out that they were trolled and backs away from their list. 

Freitag, 30. Dezember 2022

»Die Freiheit wird eine Episode gewesen sein«

“Capitalism is disappearing, but Socialism is not replacing it. What is now arising is a new kind of planned, centralized society which will be neither capitalist nor, in any accepted sense of the word, democratic. The rulers of this new society will be the people who effectively control the means of production: that is, business executives, technicians, bureaucrats and soldiers, lumped together by Burnham under the name of ‘managers’. These people will eliminate the old capitalist class, crush the working class, and so organize society that all power and economic privilege remain in their own hands.”

and later:

“Power can sometimes be won or maintained without violence, but never without fraud, because it is necessary to make use of the masses, and the masses would not co-operate if they knew that they were simply serving the purposes of a minority. In each great revolutionary struggle the masses are led on by vague dreams of human brotherhood, and then, when the new ruling class is well established in power, they are thrust back into servitude.”

James Burnham ist ein einflussreicher Ökonom des 20. Jahrhunderts. In seinem 1941 (also zu Beginn des zweiten Weltkriegs) veröffentlichtem Buch The Managerial Revolution findet sich eine Einleitung von George Orwell. Diese beiden Zitate stammen aus diesem Vorwort (Thoughts on James Burnham) und beziehen sich sowohl auf das Buch The Managerial Revolution als auch auf The Machiavellians. Ich vermute also, das Vorwort wurde in den späten 1940er Jahren geschrieben.

George Orwell
Die Weitsicht dieser Aussagen scheint mir bemerkenswert zu sein. Wir erleben die Endform dieses Manegarial Power Grab nun in Echtzeit über soziale Medien, in der Dysfunktionalität der alten Medien und der Macht pseudo-progressiver, tatsächlich aber in der realen Politik hochgradig regressiver Eliten, die die Management-Ebenen der meisten Konzerne und Medienhäuser bestimmen. Am deutlichsten sehen wir diesen Konflikt aktuell in den USA, aber auch in Europa, wo auch das Scheitern nahezu jeder relevanten politisch strategischen Entscheidung auf diese Mechanismen rückführbar scheint.

Byung-Chul Han hat den letzten Teil des vorigen Zitates in seinem Buch Psychpolitik — ganz am Anfang — in diesen wunderbaren Worten zusammengefasst (aus meiner Sicht, ich weiß nicht, ob Han Burnham gelesen hat):

»Die Freiheit wird eine Episode gewesen sein. Episode heißt Zwischenstück. Das Gefühl der Freiheit stellt sich im Übergang von einer Lebensform zur anderen ein, bis sich diese selbst als Zwangsform erweist.«

Aber nicht alles ist verloren, jedenfalls nicht für alle. Wer sich aus der Unterschicht anstrengt für den gilt nach Orwell/Burham:

“If it is to stay in power a ruling class must constantly admit suitable recruits from below, so that the ablest men may always be at the top and a new class of power-hungry malcontents cannot come into being. This is likeliest to happen, Burnham considers, in a society which retains democratic habits”

Dienstag, 13. Dezember 2022

ChatGPT — caught in infinity

Everyone talks about the potential of ChatGPT. Rightfully so, in a way. The delivered performance is quite extraordinary.

However, what is the source of the texts generated? Human text.

What will happen, once the amount of ML-generated text becomes larger than human generated text? Then we will see a self-referential loop. What will be the systemic consequences of that?

Grüner Wasserstoff — die nächste energiepolitische Fehlentscheidung Deutschlands?

Was ist das Potential von Wasserstoff als Energiespeicher beziehungsweise Energieträger für die »grüne Zukunft« und Energiewende? Michael Liebreich hat eine sehr interessante Zusammenfassung geschrieben, die sehr differenziert auf verschiedenste Anwendungsbereiche eingeht und sich mit zahlreichen anderen kritischen Analysen deckt. Ganz kurz zusammengefasst würde ich folgende Aspekte hervorheben:

Wasserstoff wurde im 18. Jahrhundert von Henry Cavendish entdeckt und dargestellt.

Erhebliche staatliche Investitionen in die Wasserstoff-Wirtschaft sind aktuell im Gange, besonders Deutschland und Japan stechen hier hervor. Der japanische Premierminister wird zitiert:

“Japan aims to commercialize an international hydrogen supply chain by producing hydrogen in bulk at low cost in countries blessed with bountiful renewable energy resources coupled with marine transport infrastructure.”

Der deutsche Kanzler Olaf Scholz betont die Kollaboration mit Kanada und der deutsche Wirtschaftsminister Habeck mit Namibia und Südafrika:

 “In August he and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau flew to Newfoundland and Labrador to sign an agreement to “create a transatlantic supply chain for hydrogen well before 2030, with first deliveries aiming for 2025”. As I write this, German Economy Minister Robert Habeck is on a five-day trip to Namibia and South Africa to secure hydrogen supplies.”

Diese und ähnliche Projekte versprechen sowohl ökonomisch wie ökologisch kontraproduktiv zu sein, wie sich nach der weiteren Analyse herausstellt:

  • Transport von Wasserstoff macht ökonomisch nur über Pipelines Sinn, denn auf das Volumen bezogen ist die Energiedichte viel zu gering. Mit einem Faktor von 2,5x dem Volumen im Vergleich zu Flüssiggas ist anderer Langstrecken-Transport weder ökonomisch noch ökologisch sinnvoll. Dazu kommen erhebliche technische Probleme aufgrund der benötigten niedrigen Temperatur.
  • Andere Formen des Transports wie als Gas unter Druck, in Metallschwämmen oder LOHCs sind entweder noch unwirtschaftlicher oder schlicht technisch (trotz jahrzehntelanger Forschung) nicht machbar.
  • Der Transport über Derivate wie Ethanol oder Methan kann für bestimmte Industrieanwendungen sinnvoll sein, für Energieproduktion aufgrund der enormen Verluste nicht. 
  • So scheint auch die Herstellung von Ammoniak für die weitere Energieerzeugung aus »erneuerbaren« Quellen wie Wind (wie offenbar zwischen Deutschland und Kanada angedacht) bestenfalls ein grünes Feigenblatt zu sein. Es treten dabei energetische Verlust in der Größenordnung von 80% auf; vermutlich mehr, weil der entstehende Ammoniak nicht leicht direkt verbrannt werden kann und weiteres Cracking erfordert.
  • Selbst für die Produktion von Dünger dürften diese Verluste nur wenig Sinn machen. Dazu kommt, dass industrielle Verfahren wie das Haber-Bosch-Verfahren zur Produktion von Ammoniak kontinuierlich gefahren werden müssen, was die Nutzung von unzuverlässiger Stromproduktion von Wind und Sonne ohne Backup kaum sinnvoll erscheinen lässt. Diese Verluste müssen ebenfalls berücksichtigt werden.
  • Die Anwendung in Flugzeugen ist ebenfalls aufgrund der niedrigen Energiedichte pro Volumen bestenfalls für Kurzstrecken oder Privatjets denkbar. Auch die Logistik der Treibstoffversorgung für Linienflüge ist de facto prohibitiv.

Kurz gesagt: das Versprechen, dass Wasserstoff als »grüner« Energiespeicher eine wesentliche Rolle in der Zukunft einnehmen kann ist mit großer Vorsicht zu genießen. Transport scheint bestenfalls über Pipelines sinnvoll zu sein. Das schließt Transport aus Amerika oder Afrika auf absehbare Zeit aus. 

Die aktuellen deutschen Projekte in dieser Hinsicht sind daher vermutlich eine ähnliche Fehlentscheidung wie die Energiewende der letzten Jahrzehnte.

Ein weiteres, wie mir scheint, wesentliches Problem, wird in diesem Artikel allerdings gar nicht erwähnt: Wasserstoff ist selbst als Klimagas zu bewerten, wie dieser Nature-Bericht darlegt:

“the release of one ton of dihydrogen into the atmosphere corresponds to the emission of nearly 13 tons of CO2 equivalent.”

Wenn also Wasserstoff-Gas bei Produktion, Transport oder Nutzung in die Atmosphäre entweicht, was besonders bei Transport mit Schiffen zu erwarten ist, so hat eine Tonne Wasserstoff etwa denselben Effekt wie 13 Tonnen Kohlendioxid. Die Frage ist also: wenn wir ein Wasserstoff-Energiesystem in großem Maßstab planen — das schon aus den oben genannten Gründen wenig effizient ist — wieviel verlieren wir zusätzlich durch Leckage von Wasserstoff an »grünem« Potential?

Weiters stimme ich der Ansicht, dass E-Autos ökonomisch sinnvoll sind, keinesfalls zu. In dieser Überlegung stecken weder der enorme Ressourcenbedarf für Batterien (und die daraus folgenden Preiserhönhungen), noch die hohen Stromkosten in Europe, als Folge der Fehler in der Energiepolitik der letzten Jahrzehnte. Der Aspekt der Umweltzerstörung aus diesem Ressourcenabbau der für Batterien und »erneuerbare Energie« notwendig wird, ist auch nicht in die Analyse eingepreist.

Eine andere sehr interessante — und im Effekt vernichtende — Analyse des deutsch-kanadischen Wasserstoff-Projektes findet sich im Decouple Podcast.

Donnerstag, 8. Dezember 2022

Mangelnde (wissenschaftliche) Bescheidenheit schadet unserer Gesellschaft

Karl Popper (1992)

Was mir in den letzten Jahren bewusst geworden ist — und es ist eine für mich sehr verstörende Erkenntnis. Nicht nur haben wir erhebliche Qualitätsprobleme in vielen Bereichen der Wissenschaft, gepaart mit schlechter Effizienz. Was aus gesellschaftlicher Sicht noch schlimmer ist: viele, wenn nicht die meisten Wissenschafter scheinen unfähig zu sein, selbst abzuschätzen, wie wahrscheinlich Aussagen sind die sie treffen. Wie sicher ihre Behauptungen sind, oder umgekehrt gesagt: wie wahrscheinlich es ist, dass sie falsch liegen.

In den meisten Fällen ist die Zuverlässigkeit ihrer Aussagen wesentlich niedriger als sie selbst es für möglich halten. Aus dieser Überheblichkeit folgen schwere gesellschaftliche Folgen. Denn es hält sie nichts davon ab, mit diesen (übertriebenen) und nicht fundierten Überzeugungen in die Medien zu gehen, mit Politikern, Entscheidungsträgern und Podcastern zu sprechen und diese zu beeinflussen. 

Mit einer falschen Sicherheit zu beeinflussen.

Dabei macht es einen großen Unterschied, ob wir es mit einem Problem zu tun haben, wo es tatsächlich gute Evidenz und Kenntnis gibt, oder ob wir unter hoher Unsicherheit und Risiko agieren und entscheiden.

Auch das Übertreiben von Problemen ist nicht hilfreich, weil es Politik zu extrem teuern und falschen Entscheidungen führt.

»Wissenschaft könnte man als die Kunst der systematischen und übertriebenen Vereinfachung bezeichnen.«, Karl Popper, The Observer (August 1982)

»Das Schlimmste – eine Sünde gegen den heiligen Geist – ist, wenn die Intellektuellen es versuchen, sich ihren Mitmenschen gegenüber als große Propheten aufzuspielen und sie mit orakelnden Philosophien zu beeindrucken.«, Karl Popper, Auf der Suche nach einer besseren Welt (1987)

Montag, 7. November 2022

H2N2 Impfstoff in drei Monaten — im Jahr 1957

Wir sind heute zu Recht stolz, wie schnell wir in der Lage waren, einen Covid-Impfstoff zu entwickeln. Aber wir unterschätzen die Leistungsfähigkeit der Nachkriegs-Generation. Bedenkt man, wie stark sich unser Wissen und unsere Technologie weiterentwickelt haben, scheint es geradezu atemberaubend, mit welcher Effizienz und Produktivität damals gearbeitet wurde:

Im Jahr 1957 bricht eine H2N2 Pandemie in Hong Kong aus. Der erste kurze Bericht war am 17. April 1957 in der New York Times zu lesen. Am 26. Juli, etwas mehr als drei Monate später, beginnen die ersten Impfungen gegen das Virus in den USA.

Niall Ferguson beschreibt dieses Beispiel in seinem hervorragenden Buch Doom.

Maurice Hillman (ca. 1958)

Der Impfstoff wurde unter der Leitung von Maurice Hilleman entwickelt, der in seiner Karriere mit über 40 Impfstoffen zahllosen Menschen das Leben gerettet hat. Damals konnt die Produktion wohl nicht in gleichem Maße skaliert werden wie das bei Covid der Fall war, aber die Leistung vor 65 Jahren ist kaum hoch genug zu schätzen.

Montag, 3. Oktober 2022

Getting Nothing Done

Getting Things Done in the Past

!German Speakers — Listen to the podcast episode!

It took ten years to build the Suez Canal in the middle of the 19th century, the same time it took to build the Panama Canal in the beginning of the 20th. 

Panama Canal

The first pipeline was built in the US by Byron Benson in the US. The pipeline was 180 kilometer long:

"They had to surmount very significant and technical difficulties. First, no one had ever built a pipeline this wide. They proposed a 6-inch diameter of pipe. Second, they were building through the Allegheny Mountains which required going up and down very steep valleys and building in the total wilderness.", Britannica

This pipeline was build within one year from 1878 to 1879.

The construction of the Empire State Building is one of the most amazing success stories: With 443m height, it was the largest building in the world until 1971. The construction was done in 18 month from 1930 to 1931.

Empire State Building at construction time

The Manhattan Project in the 1940s managed to build a nuclear bomb — at a time when the scientific foundation of the field was not yet fully established — within three years. The Hoover Dam in the 1930's was finished in five years, the Golden Gate Bridge (built around the same time) in four. And it took the US eight years — from 1961 to 1969 — to put a man on the moon.

Hoover Dam

In Austria, the first Wiener Hochquellenleitung, the first Vienna Mountain Spring pipeline was built in the 19th century in four years. It had a length of about 100 km and the grand opening was done by Kaiser Franz Joseph I in 1873. The massive hydroelectric power plant, Kaprun, was built directly after the devastations of World War II, in eight years between 1947 and 1955. 

Fountain on Schwarzenbergplatz in 1873, where
Kaiser Franz Joseph celebrated the opening of the 
Vienna Mountain Spring Pipeline

And most impressively: during the 1970's, through the Messmer plan, France built 56 nuclear reactors within 15 years, many of which still deliver reliable and carbon-free electricity and are key to our energy survival this winter in Europe.

French Nuclear Power Plant

But surely we must be much faster today, given all the innovation we have achieved since?

China has indeed seen similar achievements more recently. The Three Gorges Dam was built in eight years, and the Hong Kong–Zhuhai–Macau Bridge, with a 55 km-length, the longest open-sea fixed link in the world, was built in nine years.

Three Gorges Dam

But when we look at the infrastructure and building projects of recent years in Europe and the US, the picture looks all but rosy. Just a handful of examples: the construction of Elbharmonie (a concert hall in Germany) took nine years to complete, and the cost exploded from €200 million to nearly €900 million. To put this into context: we needed the same time to build a concert hall, as our forefathers needed to build the Panama or Suez Canal. More importantly though, there are probably thousands of concert halls around the world to serve as precedence, whereas the Panama Canal was a construction unprecedented at the time.

Speaking of run-of-the-mill projects, take airports around the world: there are roughly 500 in France, Germany and the UK, 900 in Argentina, 14,000 in the US, even 17 in Antarctica. One would be forgiven for thinking we know how to build airports by now. And yet, the building of the Berlin airport took 14 years and created massive cost overruns. It is not even clear whether it can ever be operated economically. 

This is not only a German phenomenon: while we built the first mountain spring pipeline for Vienna of 100km length in the 19th century in four years, the Semmering-Basistunnel, a tunnel project in the mountains close to Vienna, with a length of 27km, is under construction since 2012 and is supposed to be finished in 2030, after 18 years of construction. When Finland undertook to extend one of its nuclear power plants, the Olkiluoto Block 3, the schedule and cost estimations were constantly overrun. Current estimates put its completion at this year (2022), after 17 years of construction. To put this into context: France built not one but 56 power plants in a shorter time.

In terms of energy supply we even seem to go backwards: opposed to the grand promises of “Energiewende”, Germany is burning more coal today than it did in the last years

Can these be dismissed as mere freak examples? A recent New York Times article suggests otherwise: 

  • The construction of the Honolulu rail transit with a length of 32 km started with an estimated cost of $125 million per km — $4 billion in total. And if this initial estimate in 2006 was not crazy enough for building a railway, the cost estimation now stands at more than $11 billion, with a planned completion by 2031. Should this estimation hold, it will have taken 25 years to finish a rail track of 32 km with a cost of  roughly $350 million per km.
  • In 2008, California started a high-speed railway construction to connect Los Angeles to San Francisco with  estimated costs of $33 billion. Construction was due to finish by 2020, in 12 years. Current estimates place the project completion in 2033 and the costs at $100 billion. 
  • The New York East Side Extension was planned to commence in 2006 and finish in 2011, with a budget of $2.2 billion. It now stands at $11 billion, with the completion estimated for December 2022.

Joseph Schofer, a Northwestern University civil engineer quoted in the article says »In the world of civic projects, the first budget is really just a down payment”, and Ronald N. Tutor, chief executive of Tutor Perini, a California firm that is building some of the nation’s largest projects, confirms that “All the major projects have cost and schedule issues”.

And as a last rather astounding example: in San Francisco the building of a public toilet was finally cancelled, after the planned toilet was estimated to cost $1.7 million.

Luckily the software world is all efficiency and innovation!

We could theorise that there is something particularly difficult about building infrastructure in the real world and that it becomes harder every day. But surely in the virtual world of software everything is fast, smooth and efficient, with one innovation overtaking the next. Or is it?

The term software crisis was coined in the 1960's and the situation has not improved since. Contrary to our perception that information and communication technology (ICT) is moving fast and reinventing itself all the time, this is not true behind the scenes. Just some examples for illustration. All of these issues are, on an engineering level, comparable to building the Golden Gate Bridge with such serious flaws that would cause it to collapse a year later: 

Not only do we suffer from a dramatic lack of quality in our ICT infrastructure,  but we are also facing enormous maintenance costs and a large number of failed IT projects. One of the largest failures in Europe in the last years (but by no means the only one) was the SAP transformation at Lidl which was terminated after €500 million were sunk in the project.

Such incidents occur frequently. The bottom line is: we do not seem to have our ICT systems or infrastructure projects under control, which leads to security issues, data breaches and — more to the point of this article — massive cost and schedule overruns within the IT projects, but also increasingly bleeding into other infrastructure projects.

Why this is of utmost importance

The capability to build essential infrastructure like railways, bridges or nuclear power plants quickly and in reasonable quality is fundamental for a modern society, especially one that is facing a number of severe challenges. Should we, for instance, have serious intentions to decarbonise our economy, we need one Messmer-plan-like nuclear build after the other. And that at least at the level of speed and quality that France delivered in the 1970's and 1980's. 

We have to move fast on multiple fronts: 

  • restructure our energy infrastructure
  • onshore manufacturing again 
  • de-globalise  supply chains to a certain degree
  • modernise agriculture by utilising biotechnology, vertical farming, etc. 
  • maintaining and rebuilding infrastructure that we have neglected for decades.

All these activities could be a net positive for our economies and environment, provided that they progress reasonably fast and efficiently.

While classic economic liberals and environmentalists usually do not have much in common, but many seem to share this idea, that we can quickly improve our situation through innovation, and the implementation of entirely unproven or speculative technology. One side might be thinking of machines that suck carbon out of the atmosphere and of creating economic growth by floating the market with innovations; the other of Rube Goldberg-like machines distributed over continents that allow wind and solar power to replace fossil fuels, and build a hydrogen economy along the way.

Both are betting on technology that is not yet available or entirely unproven. This bet is off the table, if our capabilities to innovate and even to build conventional infrastructure is not on par with expectations.

Contemplating  causes

While we huddle in teams, attend design-thinking workshops and run extensive stakeholder consultations to debate even the slightest risk that could in theory occur in any given undertaking, important progress and transformation in the outside world seem to be standing still, and real existential risk building up. Why is it, that we don't seem to be getting many important things done any more, at least not with reasonable efficiency?

I believe that there is — as in all complex problems — not a single cause, but a number of intertwined ones. I will try to outline some factors that I believe  to contribute substantially. Yet, please consider it not an exhaustive analysis , but rather a call for discussion. 

I would welcome any comments that agree or disagree with these observations. 

1 Digitisation Disappointment and General Stagnation in Research and Technology

I find it quite remarkable, even if this is not sufficiently discussed in public, that although digitisation was promised as a booster for productivity, the opposite seems to have happened. Several prominent experts have written and spoken about this phenomenon, among them Tyler Cowan, Robert Gordon, David Graeber, and Peter Thiel.

Robert Gordon remarks that productivity gains between 2004-2012 were on the lowest point since the end of the 19th century, which is remarkable, considering that this was the time when digitisation accelerated. 

Tyler Cowan writes:

“the low-hanging fruit has been mostly plucked, at least for the time being. […]  The Great Stagnation continues and indeed worsens, driven by an increasingly dysfunctional politics.”

Gordon's article and Cowan's book are both around ten years old, but not much seems to have changed since. The Covid pandemic and the current energy crisis only appear to have worsened the problem. Even before the crisis, other critics told the same story. Peter Thiel  in a conversation with Eric Weinstein in 2019 said:

“stagnation started in the late 1970s, with exception of digital technologies; even within Silicon Valley things seem to slow in the last 7 / 8 years” and “I don’t think the Truman show can go on for longer than a decade”

Until now the situation has not shown any signs of improvement. Even the anarchist activist and influential public intellectual David Graeber surprisingly seemed to agree with Peter Thiel's assessment, in his book Bullshit Jobs as well as in a discussion with Peter Thiel in 2020 (Where did the Future go?):

“the pace at which scientific revolutions and technological breakthroughs occur has slowed considerably since the heady pace the world came to be familiar with from roughly 1750 to 1950 […]  and in most wealthy countries, the younger generations can, for the first time in centuries, expect to lead less prosperous lives than their parents did.”

Finally, I would like to quote Nicholas Bloom, who describes the fast decline of scientific performance over the last decades:

“research effort is rising substantially while research productivity is declining sharply. […]  it takes around 13 years for research productivity to fall by half. Or put another way, the economy has to double its research efforts every 13 years just to maintain the same overall rate of economic growth.”

So, getting nothing done is also a phenomenon in science, albeit with a different spin. I assume that the stagnation we experience and described here is a contributing factor. I believe it is driven by two factors: (1) the low hanging fruit are plucked and new technology is much harder to come by and (2) we are experiencing a fast degeneration of research quality, hiring and promoting of scientists at universities due to bureaucratisation of research, massive flaws in science funding, and lack of critical exposure of scientists to the real world. 

“Academia has a tendency, when unchecked (from lack of skin in the game), to evolve into a ritualistic self-referential publishing game.”, Nassim Taleb

Sabine Kleinert and Richard Horton write in a Lancet commentary:

“There is clearly a strong feeling among many scientists, and not only Nobel Prize winners, that something has gone wrong with our system for assessing the quality of scientific research.”

This does not only lead to an increasing amount of irrelevant science and science of questionable quality, it also brings a massive overhead and waste of academic bureaucracy and funding infrastructure with it:

“European universities spend roughly 1.4 billion euros a year on failed grant applications—money that, obviously, might otherwise have been available to fund research. […]  I have suggested that one of the main reasons for technological stagnation over the last several decades is that scientists, too, have to spend so much of their time vying with one another to convince potential donors they already know what they are going to discover.”, David Graeber

2 Regulations, Bureaucracy and Focus Loss

It seems obvious that as a society we need to regulate certain technologies that can have dangerous effects, and harm the environment, economy or society. But over the decades, regulation and red tape have become more and more extensive with increasingly dubious results. Regulating complex topics is very hard, and rarely done well. Gerd Gigerenzer provides examples of financial regulations to illustrate this point:  

  • Basel 1 (1988): 30 pages, calculations could be done with “pen and paper”; 18 pages primary law in the US — was allegedly too simple
  • Basel 2 (1996): more than 300 pages (did not stop the financial crisis of 2008)
  • Basel 3 (2009): more than 600 pages; more than 1.000 pages primary law in the US; consequences of these regulations are hard to understand and require specialised firms

The idea that complex problems need overly complicated regulations seems to be a fundamentally flawed one. More and more complicated regulatory frameworks help large market players and keep startups out of the market, they also allow experts to find esoteric holes that can be exploited and are counter to the original intentions. Far from making things safer, they often make things more complex and less safe, slowing down progress dramatically.

“Indeed much of the work of investment banks in my day was to play on regulations, find loopholes in the laws. And, counter-intuitively, the easier it was to make money.”, Nassim Taleb, Skin in the Game

Marc Andreessen also talks about stifling stagnation and describes this phenomenon with the example of two major political projects of Richard Nixon's:  One was the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to regulate the environmental impact of corporations, and the other was Project Independence — the Nixon-era nuclear roll-out programme. Analysis showed back then what we also know today, that nuclear energy is the cleanest, safest and best technology for producing energy. Based on this, 1,000 reactors were supposed to be built until the year 2000 in the US. That did not happen. “We got the regulation and stagnation but not the reactors.” Andreessen concludes.

David Graeber describes in The Utopia of Rules stagnation in our society and progress, but also a more unexpected consequence — computers became amplifiers of bureaucracy:

“The Internet is surely a remarkable thing. Still, if a fifties sci-fi fan were to appear in the present and ask what the most dramatic technological achievement of the intervening sixty years had been, it's hard to imagine the reaction would have been anything but bitter disappointment.  […] 

Computers have played a crucial role in all of this. Just as the invention of new forms of industrial automation in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries had the paradoxical effect of turning more and more of the world's population into full-time industrial workers, so has all the software designed to save us from administrative responsibilities in recent decades ultimately turned us all into part or full-time administrators.”

And finally Graeber writes in Bullshit Jobs:

“The most miserable thing about box-ticking jobs is that the employee is usually aware that not only does the box-ticking exercise do nothing toward accomplishing its ostensible purpose, it actually undermines it, since it diverts time and resources away from the purpose itself.”
and maybe very important for the considerations here:
“much of the reason for the expansion of the bullshit sector more generally, is a direct result of the desire to quantify the unquantifiable. To put it bluntly, automation makes certain tasks more efficient, but at the same time, it makes other tasks less efficient.”

So, did we use computers to automate the wrong things? To maximise distraction, support unnecessary bureaucracy while at the same time harming our capability to get things done?

3 Fear-driven Management and Juridification of Society

All this goes hand in hand with what I call the rise of fear or liability-driven management, which blossomed with the steady rise of the managerial / administrative class. In my experience there is often a substantial difference in decision making between founders/entrepreneurs and professional managers. The first group is deeply invested in their company, by definition holds in-depth knowledge (otherwise the company would not have survived) and makes active decisions, that is with mid- and long term prospects of the company in mind, driven by facts, taking risk. 

The managerial class on the other hand, more often than not, has a different priority: themselves. The question of management is reframed from: what is best for the company to how do I survive the next years while maintaining this salary and this position (or higher). As a consequence, decision making tends to be passive, risk-averse (as far as their own risk is concerned). This leads to an over-reliance on legal and professional consulting, which not only costs a lot of money but more importantly throws a spanner in the works.

“The final victory over the Soviet Union did not really lead to the domination of the market: More than anything, it simply cemented the dominance of fundamentally conservative managerial elites-corporate bureaucrats who use the pretext of short-term, competitive, bottom-line thinking to squelch anything likely to have revolutionary implications of any kind.”, David Graeber

Hand in hand with this trend of defensive and risk-avoiding decision making goes a juridification of society. As mentioned above, regulations get more and more complicated, old rules are hardly removed but new one are constantly added. As the Austrian lawyer Lukas Feiler explains in a talk:

“The interesting puzzle really is, how did we end up with such a complex legal landscape, when we all agree that it is simplicity what we would need. […] Moreover, politicians act on problems of the past. […] It is, as if politicians are driving a large truck by only looking into the rear mirror.”

So it seems, not only are we making our legal system unnecessarily complex, we also react to problems of the past, slowing progress down, while overlooking the actual risks of the future.

4 Specific Loss of Capability to Build Large Projects

And finally, after the more abstract considerations, we have witnessed a de-industrialisation of Western nations, which has even been lauded by pundits of different political affiliations. Market liberals saw it as an efficiency measure, and environmentalists were happy to get rid of heavy industry. The former did not consider that short-sighted efficiency measures had to be paid back with high interest rates in the future. The latter overlooked that we merely exported our polluting industry to other nations and more importantly, our know-how with it. If we don't maintain and build certain industries any longer, if we do not train new engineers, we will lose the capability to build related large projects.

The good news is that many of the successful and fast projects from the past were built without a lot of prior knowledge. So, with enough determination, there should be no reason why it should not be possible to quickly rebuild this capacity again.

As far as ICT is involved, we got entangled in a complexity trap. Over time, we improved our skills to make software, but we did not use these skills to build software better, but to constantly build more complex software that actually overburdened us. This is a serious problem, because software is the digital nervous system of our society and also of modern infrastructure. Having lost control over large parts of this digital infrastructure must have harmed large infrastructure projects in one way or another.

What next?

Firstly, I would like to test, debate and discuss the observations made in this article and would welcome your comments. Secondly, the fact that we experienced these achievements in the past shows that we are capable of building large infrastructure fast and reliably. We might have lost that now but a better understanding of the reasons could bring us back to where we were. This is the good news. The bad new is, if the Western world will not do it, other nations will, to our disadvantage. So as a next step, more concrete ideas have to be developed on how to improve the situation. I think solutions will have to consider the following aspects:

  • Ensure that managers and politicians have skin in the game
  • Reward risk taking to a certain degree, not defensive decision making
  • Decidedly remove unhelpful bureaucracy and red tape
  • Rethink science funding fundamentally
  • Aim for generic and simple, not complex and specific legislation (or rules in general, this also applies to corporate processes and the like)
  • Allow failure, iterate, while paying attention. Keep going and adjust with new learnings

Final Remarks and Possible Objections

One possible objection to this article could be that I am cherry picking examples. The examples I have found seem to be too common to dismiss as exceptions to the rule. The New York times article also points to the same findings. But if you believe otherwise I would be interested in receiving your comments. 

One could also criticise that the historic projects are not really comparable to modern ones, given that the working conditions during the construction of, for example, the Panama or Suez canal 100 or 150 years ago were certainly not up to modern labour-standards. Yet, even with complying with modern labour standards, shouldn't we be easily able to compensate the potentially slower progress of non-exploitative methods of working with supposedly vastly superior technology, equipment and computers?

It is also important to note one constraint in my selection of examples: I explicitly did not choose examples of modern undertakings that are especially innovative or have not been achieved so far (though hyped by some and dismissed by others), for example uploading the brain into the computer, colonising Mars, nuclear fusion power plants or the like. One could easily argue that these types of projects are inherently much harder than building a canal or a dam. 

In this article I am referring only to construction scenarios that we have done repeatedly in the past like dams, railway lines, bridges, opera houses and even nuclear power plants. For context, globally about 450 nuclear power plants are in operation today, and even more were built in the past or still under construction. So I chose infrastructure projects that are the opposite of new, and existing everywhere around us already.

One last note: The projects I have highlighted in this article were not selected because they are necessarily useful or ethical, but only for their engineering and management prowess.

Donnerstag, 22. September 2022

Propaganda is what the other guys do

»Lippmann believed the government should install a “board of impartial experts”—scientists, statisticians, doctors, and so on—who could serve as “independent givers of fact.” They would report directly to the elected officials, who could develop policies based on reality and reason. Then, these policies would be sold to voting citizens through the very best “education,” or what became known as public relations. 

Walter Lippmann ca. 1920

Propaganda is what the other guys do. According to Lippmann, a properly functioning democracy depends on a benevolent elite to determine our society’s best courses of action and then use whatever media tactics are at its disposal to “manufacture consent” from the public.«, Douglas Rushkoff. Survival of the Richest: Escape Fantasies of the Tech Billionaires 

Nothing new under the sun? Walter Lippman and manufacture consent was discussed ~1922 — exactly 100 years ago.

Montag, 5. September 2022

Climate Change is Over

Climate Change is Over. Not in the real world, it is not, but in the public eye and politics. Western industrialised countries face a severe hit by inflation, recession and exploding energy prices. The consequences are not yet fully felt by average people, but they will, latest after this winter. Should the conflict with Russia not change dramatically over the next months, we will see large numbers of people whose moderate wealth will be gone in half a year. They will be barely able to pay their energy bills, food prices are rising and industries are closing. This will likely kick off a feedback loop of unemployment combined with rising prices. Even though most German and Austrian media decide not report week long and large scale farmers-protests in Holland, protests all over Europe and the US   will be harder to ignore. 

Let's hope that I am wrong about this prediction.

What will be the consequence for »climate change«? In the last decades, climate activism was largely a western elite project that never really took off, even though it got a lot of air time. Nations that actually count: China, Russia, India did barely participate in the conversation, the poor countries in Africa were on occasion bullied into submission to their disadvantage.

In Europe and the US it was fashionable to be »for climate« as long as there were no real costs involved. At least no costs that were easily seen or experienced by those elites. One apocalyptic message followed the next, albeit mostly not backed by science. »Follow The Science« was the slogan from people who neither understood what science actually is and who followed only that part of science they liked. 

More importantly activists and many politicians did not understand that there is not one biggest problem — climate — but that we actually face a number of potentially catastrophic problems. Climate change is one of them, but probably not among the top three. Nuclear weapons, pandemics (especially considering the developments in synthetic biology), collapse of infrastructure that supports or modern society (energy, IT, supply chains) would be my top three.

Many still do not understand that »problems« like climate change are not problems you can solve. Even the word problem is a misnomer. They are dilemmas (or polylemmas, to be precise). Any action that mitigates the one tends to create issues in others. They require skilled political navigation not to improve one and create a worse problem on the other side. We were really bad at that in the last years: the energy crisis in Germany (and Europe) is a a consequence of an incompetent attempt to change the energy production in Germany too fast and in the wrong direction. This lead to an energy mix that does not work in a modern society and a geopolitical dependency on Russia on top of that. 

Obviously war itself can be a consequence of resource and energy problems. War or conflicts among nations that include the US, China or Russia — as we see now on all fronts — increase the risk of nuclear exchange. And after an nuclear war, climate change will be the least of our problems. And the risk of such an exchange we increased!

A lot of other compounding factors could be mentioned: people should not eat meat in Europe (when the developing world increases their meat consumption steadily) and should buy organic products, which are a wild mixture of reasonable ideas with esoteric nonsense and practices that increase the environmental impact or collapse, if applied globally. On top of that, climate activism got entangled with one sided political aspirations (»against capitalism«). This is activism at its worst: once you are »against climate change« you had to be automatically »against capitalism« (in its crudest form of critique). This is hardly a winning strategy you will find societies stand behind.

Sensible environmentalists warned for a long time from this type of strategy. Climate actions that (1) have no real effect because major nations are not participating but (2) ruin the wealth of participating nations and (3) are driven by obscure political ideologies will backfire. They work as long as they are a useful moral grandstanding tool for educated elites (»educated« in the sense of, having passed our higher-education system) and companies that can put a pledge on their yoghurt. As soon as systems are actually collapsing due to these inept measures, climate change is over. No one wants to hear that they should protect »the climate« when they are jobless and cannot pay for their energy bill, as far as the lower class is involved. For the middle class, the fact that flying to Greece, London or New York, and a number of other recreational activities are off the table, should be sufficient to suffocate their aspirations. Now it would be the real deal, not just virtue signaling. 

India, China and many other countries Africa and Asia are learning the lesson by observing Europe and California: the richest, and (at least on paper) most capable nations entirely failed with their energy transition: they got poorer, are on the verge of collapse and did not even show a noteworthy effect (check the carbon intensity of the German energy production of the last five years):

Electricity Map, last five years

Climate change is over. It was never really on the table in China, India, Russia or Africa, soon it will be off the table in the US and Europe. This is obviously not a good thing.

How should we go forward?

The situation is bad for Europe and the US, but not necessarily globally. We learned how not to do an energy transition. We have to stop listening to the inept branch of environmentalists that dominated the scene over the last decades. I think environmentalism is supposed to tell a story, where human flourishing is not an afterthought at best. We have to talk about resilient societies, urban communities with high living standards (for instance due to fewer cars and better local supply), affordable and reliant energy, which is incidentally also low carbon, especially nuclear. We should discuss diversification of supply chains, thus bringing jobs back to Europe and the US, without becoming xenophobic. Now is also the time to kickstart new industries like vertical farming, lab grown meat (not veganism!), improve our capabilities in genetic engineering to reduce the impact of agriculture on the environment. 

This is also the chance for Europe to (1) have a real impact on climate and environment globally while (2) saving its economy. We can show (and sell the tools to) the world how to make tasty lab grown meat, nuclear reactors that scale from container ships to cities, create modern agricultural practices that adapt to changing climate while producing more with a smaller footprint (without the esoteric stuff we see today in  many organic practices), build vertical farms, show how liveable cities without reliance on cars could look like, to mention just a few examples.

We have to show the world that we can live well while at the same time reducing out impact on natural systems, not trying to reduce the impact while destroying societies. A very ambitious goal, but one with a chance to succeed, opposed to what we currently do.

Update 22.09.2022 

United Kingdom: Mr Rees-Mogg (business secretary of Liz Truss) said: »In light of Putin’s illegal invasion of Ukraine and weaponisation of energy, strengthening our energy security is an absolute priority[…]«

Update 13.12.2022 

... and the German electricity production emissions keep getting worse.

In the last month Germany produced electricity with nearly 800g CO2 per kWh. France about 120g. 6,6x more Emissions than France after twenty years of “Energiewende”.

Sonntag, 21. August 2022

Deutschland hilft Südafrika beim Kohleausstieg — um die Kohle selbst zu importieren

Noch vor kurzem erklärte die deutsche Energiewende-Politik voll Stolz: Deutschland hilft Südafrika beim Kohleausstieg. Es wird von einem Modellprojekt gesprochen. Ein Modell des Scheiterns, wie sich schnell herausstellt.

Kohle-Bergarbeiter in Südafrika (UN-Photo)

In maximaler Hybris wurden gleichzeitig die besten Kernkraftwerke der Welt in Deutschland heruntergefahren und weiter in Wind und Solar investiert. Jedem Energie-Experten war zu diesem Zeitpunkt klar, dass damit eine »Energiewende« weder ökonomisch noch ökologisch und schon gar nicht geopolitisch zu schaffen ist. Solar und Wind sind Energieträger extrem niedriger Energiedichte und Zuverlässigkeit. Sie benötigen große Flächen, große Mengen an Ressourcen, sind äußerst komplex in ein Stromnetz zu integrieren und  müssen mit einer Flotte an konventionellen Energieträgern hinterlegt werden um eine stabile Energieversorgung zu gewährleisten. 

Daneben hat es Deutschland weiters versäumt für die notwendigen konventionellen Energieträger — sprich Gas — eine zuverlässige Versorgung zu gewährleisten. Auch davor haben politische Experten seit Jahrzehnten gewarnt. Die Folgen der gefährliche Abhängigkeit von russischem Gas sehen wir in den Folgen des Ukraine-Krieges deutlich.

Nur ein Jahre, nachdem Deutschland Südafrika beim Kohleausstieg »geholfen« hat gibt es in Südafrika nun Strom-Blackouts. Was aber noch viel perfider ist: der Kohle-Export aus Südafrika nach Europa und Deutschland vervielfacht sich. 

Mit anderen Worten: während Deutschland versucht seine Energiewende-Ideen in alle Welt zu exportieren (vor allem in Entwicklungs- und Schwellenländer) greift man selbst sofort die Gas- und Kohle-Vorräte der Welt ab — weil es aufgrund genau dieser Politik im eigenen Land eine Krise gibt.

Die Länder, die man moralisierend belehrt hat, haben jetzt Blackouts und können die eigene Armut mangels Energie nicht abschütteln, während man sich in Deutschland explodierende Preise für Kohle und Gas (noch) leisten kann.

Wer diskutiert diese wirtschaftliche, politische, ökologische und moralische Niederlage in Deutschland? 

Paradigm shifts and the reaction of the scientific establishment

The three stages of reactions of outsiders rolling up a traditional scientific field. Or in the terminology of Thomas Kuhn: a paradigm shift is hitting normal science, as described by James Gleick with reference to Benoit Mandelbrot:

Thomas Kuhn (1973)

Stage 1: Who are you, and why are you interested in our field

Stage 2: How does it relate to what we have been doing, and why don't you explain it on the basis of what we know?

Stage 3: Are you sure it's standard (mathematics)? Then why don't we know it?

Sonntag, 31. Juli 2022

Despair tends to stoke fanaticism

 »The elites talk of the end of the world when we talk of the end of the month.«, Joel Kotkin & Hügo Krüger

If we do not solve this dilemma, we will get nowhere. Cloudy ideas and wishful thinking will backfire and in the end we have neither a clean environment nor a functioning society. This is true for developed and even more so for developing countries:

»The environmental impacts of the energy ban are rarely considered. Up to 40 percent of the African continent still relies on deforestation for its basic energy needs with nearly four million hectares of forest being cut down every year.«

»During the IPCC Glasgow conference, India’s prime minister Narendra Modi said that India will not address climate change until 2070« and Xi Jinping does not even participate at the COP26. What does that mean? Whatever is decided at these conferences is pretty much worthless.

And yet, we continue this type of talking shop, seemingly without understanding that no one (of relevance) is interested in the one dimensional point of view of Western activists. It will lead nowhere, except damaging our societies without effect for climate or nature.

What is the alternative?

Dienstag, 5. Juli 2022

Brexit Tales

As often discussed in the last years. There were a number of very good reasons for Brexit and a number of very good reasons against Brexit. However, these reasons were rarely exchanged due to a joint failure of political culture and media incompetency in the UK and even worse in Germany and Austria (probably in the rest of Europe too, but I can only judge the media discourse in these two countries). 

There were clearly no so called »rational«, hard arguments as the nonsensical economic predictions of both sides suggested. In a highly complex situation none of those are worth anything. Predictions are moot. 

It was a judgement of values and expectations. For instance: do we have trust in the capability of the EU in political and economic terms? Do we believe that the Euro was established and is governed in a reasonable and trustworthy manner?


If you answer these and similar quesions with no, you clearly want to be the first leaving the sinking ship, not the last. Current German and European performance in terms of energy and economy indicates that the British sceptics very well might have been correct.

Zum Abschluss...

Es freut mich, dass Sie sich die Zeit genommen haben, mein Blog zu lesen. Natürlich sind viele Dinge, die ich hier diskutiere aus einem subjektiven Blickwinkel geschrieben. Vielleicht teilen Sie einige Ansichten auch nicht: Es würde mich jedenfalls freuen, Kommentare zu lesen...

Noch ein Zitat zum Schluß:

"Ich verhielt mich so, als wartete ein Heer von Zwergen nur darauf, meine Einsicht in das Tagesproblem, zur Urteilsfindung von Gesellschaft und Politik zu übersetzen. Und nun stellt sich heraus: Dieses Heer gibt es nicht.

Ganz im Gegenteil erweist sich das kulturelle Getriebe als selbstimmunisierend gegen Kritik und Widerlegung. Es ist dem Lernen feind und wehrt sich in kollektiver Geschlossenheit gegen Umdeutung und Innovation.", Rupert Riedl, Evolution und Erkenntnis, Piper (1985)