20% of German population feels threatened

(Picture: The euro is a wrong design. Part ways with the Euro!)

In short this is what happens now in the German society. Each and every one of those who recently voted for the AfD—a populist party who came from nowhere and became the third political power of Germany—feels in one or another way threatened. In a wide range of strata, from existential fear to loss of buy power, everyone feels the sting of fear and anger.

Many people have temporal jobs and hardly can start families. Others have difficulties to find a decent place to live in the ever more expensive big cities. Some cannot anymore afford a series 5 BMW and have to get along with a series 3 or a series 1 instead. And some yet feel fear that their culture may be lost to the ever-increasing influx of foreigners in the country. Each and everyone would fully agree with, and feel comforted by one of the hundreds of slogans that the AfD has been flooding the streets with. Yet they are, taken as a whole, contradicting and nonsensical. Not to mention that the party would be incapable of ever attempting to govern, may things had gone amiss in these last polls.

This scenario is an ever-growing trend in the first world. The world is complex and the structures of the past will not solve our problems of today, and even less the ones of the future. Our natural reaction to change and novelty is to duck out, look at the past with nostalgia and try to revert to the old good times. But they are gone for good.

Today can not be measured with the tools of yesterday any more. The world has gone past the linearity into the exponential rate of change. We either grow up to this new speed of change or we decay in a fireball of fascism and death.

we do take decissions, or we don’t?

In the advent of an efficient global network of transportation and ubiquitous communications, we have experienced an unprecedented explosion of abundance and choice. My father remembers, as he was living in Spain under Franco, that little more than one paper and two TV channels were all what was. The offer of products and services was neither more diverse than that.
But for all these possibilities, we often have a very narrow field of choice. Be that we cannot cope with such diversity or that external circumstances dwindle our choices. We often find ourselves like canoeing down a river: rather following the stream, with but little drifts left or right.

Recently I decided to grow a beard and soon came the point when I had to buy a beard trimmer. It is in such cases—when I have to reach out of my usual market scope—that I realise how difficult it is to choose. When you do not even know if such things are still sold in brick-and-mortar shops and naively start navigating the Internet. Which, to start with, means navigating the subset of internet within the bubble of influence of Amazon. It wasn’t without will that I found a local maker—in these days this would extend to mean anywhere within my country. Yet if I wouldn’t have made a point of it, I would have ended buying a product from Panasonic, Samsung or similar makers that populate the most search results.

At last I still slipped in my awareness and ended up buying the thing through an internet shop, although finding a retailer in my neighborhood was two clicks away. I am sorry, dear retailer. I regret it now. I hope you are still there the next time I need something. And I regret the most if any part of my money ended at Amazon. That devouring monstrosity of a company who owns the majority of office space in Seattle.

It is startling how narrow the choice of a car becomes for the average—and not so average—german. Or what choices we realistically have when we want to buy a new smartphone in a market dominated by two or three companies that stand like palm trees in a desert—here the desertification was of the making of those companies though. How difficult is to find local groceries, or better said, how easy has become to find groceries that, despite their short age, have seen more of the world that we will probably see in our lives.

There is a danger in the comfort of not exercising will when we buy products. Slowly but constantly we are giving power to a few individuals, who despite not being elected politicians, they are amassing more factual power by the day. Every product we buy has become a small ballot. And those ballots we still call ballots, are only damning our best people, our politicians we entrust our future, to play a x-iteration of Doom: a dark dungeon plagued with powerful villains and no real chance of success. Hence it should not surprise us when one day not too far, we have to question if democracy, as we know it since Greece invented it long ago, is still workable. Or maybe we have to understand that in Democracy 2.0 every purchase is a ballot.

We are already seeing this coming.

cities meeting the AI behind the steering wheel

We face a lengthy journey of thirty years until technology will be able to guarantee autonomous driving at SAE level 5 (no steering wheel, no pedals). This forecast set by Chris Urmson is as of today probably an accepted source at large in this matter. 

We recently witnessed a feat that was projected for a decade in the future, and yet it is now history: the defeat of man vs. AI in a game of go.

Even if we may very soon reach level 4 (human may be required to take control), still the ultimate challenge for AI on the road is the complexity of the urban landscape, mostly of its dwellers. This will likely limit the scope of autonomy in vehicles in the next decades. Or… maybe this is precisely the fact that will spur the speed of evolution… Harken to me now!

Will people still want to take the steering wheel to drive the last bit of their journey deep into the city? Or will they prefer to stop at a park-and-ride and do the last bit in the subway. Or on foot.

Could it as well be that cities and autonomous vehicle AI will meet at a near point in time and in convenience, such as traffic being funneled throughout only a few streets leaving all others free to citizens on foot?

Not even bicycles allowed, on-food isles in cities would be the final dream of urbanists, a paradise in earth for citizens and an utopia that can be real, just by the power of convenience. 

Picture credits: SAE International