re:publica Berlin 2017 – Love Out Loud

— beware raw cutup of thoughts on 3 days of re:publica 17 follows —


Sitting in the train from Berlin to Nuremberg I am feeling fuzzy from input and ideas buzzing in my head. My first time visit to re:publica was packed with listening to various talks trying to get a feel on what is going on outside of my family, job and everyday life.

Am I happy? Well kind of. It’s been quite a ride and provided a lot of perspective. I’m also feeling overwhelmed, like some mild depression in the face of complexity at scale. Realizing that there is no silver bullet to fix negativity, hatred and fear is humbling. Watching engagement in action is
inspiring and … is that envy, maybe? Envy for those that seem like in line with their sense of purpose. Maybe.

Slowing down after intense events I feel strained by too many interests, too little time. It’s like I can’t go fast enough while at the same moment knowing and feeling that a major take away is or should be realizing that I need to slow down.

Slowing down is what enables human connection and it is human connection that matters and runs deep in all the sessions I attended and remember as worth attending. Perspectives on tech, politics, social spaces, the internet and the dynamics of global interconnection was crammed into 3 days. It all boils down to discovering, securing and promoting human connection.

Being personal on a global scale, is what we as a species should be trying to achive. “Love Out Loud” is an imperative to try just that.

Tear down walls, build bridges and ensure equality. That is all. —@Nnenna

So I will try to reflect and connect some of the dots…

Day 1

Just the day before I stumbled upon the talk by Kübra Gümüsay that inspired “Love Out Loud”. It was personal and so I hope for some unique combination of engagement and competence with personal engagement.  Skin and integrity in the game maybe…

Starting out by listening to journalists from various countries my frame of perspective is set: Nothing is for granted, especially not freedom of speech. Absolutely especially not an ecosystem of media apt to provide a variety of valid perspectives on what is going on.

Nevertheless a line of thought I keep revisiting goes something like this:

Moving on to digital is moving on to a society of abundance. Or could be at least.
If we dared. This is not what is happening. There is a lot of fear, there is a
lot of struggle and the information revolution is being followed up by a powerful
trend to keep up or restore some hierarchy of power. Why? Because the loss of control in a
networked society scares a lot of people.

Interesting, abundance enables inefficiency which is a necessity for adaptability. But we are scared, we are scared because feedback in our global networks provides out of control dynamics. We feel the need for moderation and keep struggling with how to achieve that without loosing the benefits of networking. Freedom versus protection and control. Again.

I am moving on to one of the blockchain talks. Nothing really new here. Well I strongly feel that my impression was right in the first place. We don’t get it yet. Trusted transactions without a third party involved! There will be implications, lots of them. First of all it will be the struggle for control again. It is not only about politics as we know it, it will not only be about money as we know it.  This will be about decentralization and having machines and software participating as autonomous economical units.

And no, there is no need for general artificial intelligence to make this happen.

Back to Stage 1 where Carolin Emcke is talking about “Love Out Loud” and why she feels uneasy with the “Out Loud” part of it. A great and insightful statement against the tyranny of efficiency and for mindfulness that enables a true position that stands for itself without being caught up reacting to some immediate troubling fact or fear.

This feels like it is why I am here. A clash of perspectives, the moment of understanding that makes me think it might have been a good idea to attend a school focused less on natural sciences and more on humanism, languages, philosophy and the arts. Well there is still time to rebalance my schedule and maybe, maybe there will soon be a shift in perspective.

Wouldn’t it be interesting if technology became so convenient that we drop out of the urge to own the latest device available, to access the latest service and content silo available out there? Drop out just because the demand for fancy technology is satiated. Feels like some kind of utopia, enabling to refocus on stuff that matters.  Content with a purpose beyond marketing,
connection beyond showing off and struggling to be seen by a global audience in the false hope to feel validated if we succeed.

The afternoon is some kind of a blur. Yes, Wikimedia has been blocked in Turkey. Completely.  It’s not about specific content, it is about showing off the power to do so.

But “No restauration could stop the ideas it went up against in the first place”. Not really, delay them? Yes. But real containment? No. I can’t remember who made the point but it is valid.

So, I am out for Day 1. Let’s see my cousin and her kids to find a pillow and get some sleep.

Day 2

The day opens with myself starting to miss my small town with it’s cozy feeling of not
being a city big as Berlin. So much easier to ignore inequality when not forced
to see people sleeping under bridges, trying to sell hankerchiefs in the subway
and the like.

And yes, I did not buy this pack of hankerchiefs but I would have!

I could not know what happened at the next stop… Before the guy trying to sell them hankerchiefs by deploying them with a piece of paper about him, having no job yet trying to feed two children etc etc, returns to reclaim his stuff and move on – just before that – someone grabs the pack and leaves. Without a coin, without hesitation, without any …, well I don’t know. Come on Berlin, that’s depressing!! I should have payed for the pack, just to not have the scene linger in my mind without something positive happening.

Well, let’s get coffee and start the day with Gunter Dueck. Funny and quite some insights. I like the notion of giving names to get a grip on how to handle them. Quite some professional and useful entertainment here.

None the less my urge is to change perspectives and so I head for the laboratory talks about VR and human sensual connection. Maybe about 20 years ago I read that all the major media technologies started out and found their market as they were used for porn, well football was involved, too. Let’s see about VR then.

How is VR coming along? And yes VR and interactivity matches well to sexual arousal. The transfer of sensual and emotional connection will be optional. As it is today. Virtual intimacy. Another area where the boundaries between man and machine keeps blurring.

Is this something to fear, I don’t think so. It requires it’s own form of media literacy. I am a believer in the ability of everyone to live responsibly if given the opportunity and some support.

“Cybersex not Cyberwehr!” is fine for me. Well I cringe from the Deutsch-English-Meshup Language-Desaster but pleasure seems way more desirable than conflict.

Ah, yes I picked up the term “Teledildonics”. One never stops learning.

Ok, this was fun. Let’s get coffee and move on…

What follows is a somewhat alarmistic talk on the necessities to keep the EU and Germany from bringing online user publication into a state of being  kind of illegal but tolerated. Sorry Markus Beckedahl, but I don’t like when feeling manipulated into a position with arguments that do not hold up on closer inspection. Even if the position is worth thinking about. Using techniques from the dark side never helps to do good in the long run.

Nontheless it seems the rules we all are operating under are quite volatile and I fail to see a clear and robust line which separates us from the situation in Turkey.

Feeling kind of uneasy I follow up with man vs. machine, eratostenes and emotional trauma. Disputed content, filter bubbles, third party manipulation. Yes there will be a less intrusive device than mobile phones for augmented reality and yes there will be a dial to tune it from 100% reality to 100% virtuality.

Am I scared? No.

Am I concerned? Maybe, indirectly. We already get our grip on reality from a hybrid system of humans and machines. The slice of reality we experience without someone else processing information for us is rather small already. All the problems are current. We call it fake news and have a hard time trying to see what actually is going on. The shattering of consistent reality is mindblowing. But as long as we as individuals are in control of the slider to crank up or down reality we will adapt successfully. The battle for control is the tough part.

Listening to John Kelly was a treat. We see all the same topics human society is about, the tech is new, the scale is new, the topics are not. But we do not see. Not in a sense of understanding what going on. We lack the metrics and metaphors to understand how our socially connected global society interacts.  We lack concepts and habits to deal with information dynamics. We are struggeling to find new and practical ways to understand what is going on.

This talk is a window into how we might start to understand. Visibility of information dynamics for everyone participating is the missing step towards a new balance of power. Manipulation of information flow, automated chatbots and opinion promotion farms. It’s the backside of understanding information dynamics. Publicly available tools to visualize and provide context in order to understand. This is what we need. Desperatly, maybe.

Feels like I will be thinking about that.

I listen to Caroline Sinders from this perspective. Leveraging machine learning to battle hatespeech. Well, what is my major takeaway? It’s the term “User defined definitions of safety”. This one is deep and should be helpful for designing democratic information tools. Necessary!

Time to drop out. I don’t want to miss out on the card game of how-to-train-your-dragons, before going to sleep.

And this is Day 3

I mostly miss Katja Böhnes talk on science fiction. Sorry for that, the final minutes make me feel I would have loved it. I grab the “no walls but bridges and equality” perspective from @Nnenna and move on to Drones. Samira Hayat really drives home the point that responsibility is not with the tool but with the user. Moving on to autonomy we have responsibility transfering to the creater and engineer. Which is quite consistent with learning about Julian Oliver‘s talk and the Critical Engineering Manifesto early in the afternoon.

I wrap up by taking some notes on which talks to grab by video later on. You just can’t manage to attend all the stuff you are interested in. I also miss out on confronting politics on stage2. Judging from the tweets it was somewhere between funny, a mess and depressing. Who knows, when unable to see on his or her own.

I need to leave and catch my train. Looking forward to let ideas settle.We are fragile as a species and need to sort out networking on a global scale while keeping up the good work of at least not
blowing this planet to pieces with our nuclear capacity.

I don’t think regulation at the EU level will do the trick. I don’t think there is a silver bullet to tackle the problems out either. It’s scary when humans are scared and we are, but I can’t help believing: Technology is on it’s way to connect us person to person emotionally and without intermediaries. Empathy is personal and it is the foundation of responsible action. Hopefully this will work out fine.

My favorite quote:

Nothing justifies taking a single innocent life. It not only destroys an innocent life but innocence itself. –Samira Hayat

Thanks to all the organizers, helpers, speakers and everybody engaged.

— p.s.: find some of the talks online here and thanks for reading —


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