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.

non-solution to a non-problem

There wasn’t apparently a problem for this solution. And demagoguery had a great time instead. 

Full-Hybrid cars do not need plugs. And they save a substantial amount on gas and emissions. 

Plug-in full-hybrids neither need plugs. And they save a substantial amount on gas and emissions too. Yet they shine if you plug them.  

So here you have a way to break the egg-and-chicken dilemma of infrastructure. First you legally enforce the exclusive sales of full-hybrid cars. Secondly you legally enforce the exclusive use of plug-in full-hybrids for fleet and company-owned cars. And infrastructure will develop of its very own market demand.

But it never happened. Perhaps the trail of money would tell why. Who would benefit of such course of action? Patent holders perhaps? For sure the health of us all. But our health is sometimes difficult to monetize. In the short term. 

skimming the fatty thick layer of management

in the last decades, secretary jobs like taking dictation, transcribing, or calendar up keeping among others, have been displaced by technological advances in personal computers. Today we envision a future where yet more assistance will be provided by AI.

But often the future does not stick to our plans. Same as we still wear jeans and shirts and not synthetic suits like Captain Kirk, it may as well be that the future will choose its own avenue. I do not mean AI will not disrupt our work environment, or even send us one day all home to read books, play computer games and drink coffee all day long. But other changes may come along or even before that, that we would never have thought of.

Companies and corporations of all sizes have some things in common: they all have entrepreneurs and visionaries, experts, and the power house… and middle managers. I envision a future where new advances in technology will free us from the middle management; the thick fatty layer between and around the power house that dampens vision and passion coming in, and power coming out.

Maybe the blockchain will become an effective Agile/SCRUM backbone that will enhance a direct link between the top and the bottom, maybe graph-databases will give raise to the neuronal corporation, maybe something else.

the United Cities of the World

Looking at the accounts of the referendum and elections in 2016 in UK and the USA, you can observe clear indications of the poignant division of vote between populations in large cities and populations in the countryside. Not a new behaviour, but due to the significant global impact of these two instances I come to think that the time to tackle this situation is now due.

Considering that dwellers of large cities around the globe seem to have more in common than with each of their countrymen, a possible political development where cities bundle in a (UCW) United Cities of the World state of sorts seems not far fetched. In this scheme, country boundaries would be drawn around cities and not around countries and airports bridging large cities would not any more be international but domestic airports.

Incidentally we see an emergence in the significance of Mayors of large cities as being more autonomous, having more political impact and possibilities to cater to their citizens that national presidents have with their countrymen.

With these premises in mind, it strikes me that the governance of an hypothetical UCW ought to be more effective and more coherent than the governance of the USA or the EU. Ultimately, would enable a parting from partisanship and the raise of a government that executes closer to its citizens.

Such a new world order would mean a new division of wealth and infrastructure. We may come quickly to the impression that this would create a new global over wealthy state and let a near bankrupt countryside behind. Yet this does not necessarily have to be the outcome. Cities need all goods be imported from the countryside, but also need to sell high value products and services to those people outside the boundaries of the UCW.

Is it perhaps henceforth the next empire in earth one made of dwellers of large cities, with a common English language, a common libertarian and democratic ideology, and a mingling of all races and backgrounds? Distributed all over the world but all being a single ‘us’.

the collateral of offer and demand

The underlying mechanism of offer and demand certainly brings to society ever better value for less cost. We tap at the ingenuity of entrepreneurs and engineers to reach ever more efficient ways to produce utility, convenience, and comfort.

By its nature, the offer is usually consolidated in the hands of a few groups, where demand is distributed and not organised. Accordingly, the sole driving force of the demand is to receive more (perceived) value for less cost. In response to this behaviour, the offer has a few ways to produce ever more appealing products and services:

  • first by using ingenuity,
  • secondly by creating a higher perceived value of a not so intrinsically valuable good
  • and thirdly by abusing of surrounding environmental elements.

The first way is basically what I would tag as technological progress. The second, marketing excellence and the third pillage: the surroundings are there for the grabs! And often only protected by the integrity of entrepreneurs and engineers, alas not always.

Once ingenuity reach its limits as per the technological and scientific knowledge base of the present time, and products’ perceived value do not let be inflated any longer, it is only logical that entrepreneurs and engineers will find ways to resource to abusing the surroundings. Surroundings being several possible entities: environment, nature, minority groups, neighbours…

Looking at the newspapers we can see, now and then, portrayed cases of such third way. For instance the recent VW emissions issue or the damaging pesticides for bees.

What it is left for us all to consider is how can we exercise our freedom of choice in a way that keeps the pillagers on check. In our role as demand, yet distributed and uncoordinated, we are responsible of our actions and their consequences; Being able to discern within those products and services that trespass to pillage ought to be our ultimate aim.

Verschlimmbesserung

So many of our attempts to improve things bring unforeseen problems in their wake. The word modestly admits how seldom progress moves in a linear manner.

Alain de Botton, The School of Life

The German minister of transportation has single-handed suddenly approved the introduction of XXL-Lorries in Germany. Likely this will roll-out in the rest of Europe—otherwise it would be meaningless. Officially, the measure is meant to reduce CO2 emissions.

I am returning to the recurrent question whether the language forms our actions. I see no possible end to this action where the environment will be better off. The market of goods transport will quickly rebalance this sudden increase of 30% load per driver and…

the winners will be:

  • Car/Truck-makers
  • Motorway contractors
  • Amazon

the losers will be:

  • the environment
  • all of us who will feel threatened by behemoths on wheels in our cities, towns and roads
  • communities and cities that will have to repair and enlarge junctions, accesses, roads

…under this considerations, I do not understand how this could be a political decision.

A political decision would be then to spur the industry—as opposite to hone the lobbyists—to come up with creative solutions like smaller-than-today-driverless lorries. Or as it is already being researched, trains of lorries with a human driven head lorry and autonomous followers.

baby boomers aplenty

Not too far in the future an inrush of retirees will take leave from their workplaces and will join the lines of the well deserved retiree status thus creating a significant drain in the public reserves of every developed country.

Those left to keep the wheels of industry spinning are less, earn less and spend less than the affluent baby boomer generation. Incidentally contributing less to the public chests. Moreover, the next generation that is now joining the workforce is, and will be, yet less affluent.

Is then society and economy in the developed first word fated to stress and a slowdown? Possibly. Maybe not though. Here comes ingenuity at play.

We, the afterwave, have blossomed in the age of computers, and into the age of social media. If shadowed by the previous lot yet sprouts of new thinking are breaking through and reaching now maturity. We can possibly grow over this bleak scenario with our new tools and skill sets.

We have an oncoming huge supply of experienced, wealthy and healthy women and men that if not in general proficient in the intricacies of computers and Internet, they use them at a more or less effective degree. And many would rather sporadically undertake activities of social and economical significance than spend the whole day chasing a golf trolley. And we have the means to help them choose over a variety of ways to spend their time in a way that has an impact to our society and economy.

Some like cooking and would cook for her/his younger single and busy neighbor. Some like building furniture or restoring it and would enjoy giving the wardrobe of the neighbor a new life. We have often neither the time nor the money to keep up with all our needs and would gladly take an offered hand at an affordable cost. And eat healthy, use our furniture longer and with pride, discover how our children’s imagination is spurred with lovely cut and painted cubes and that they can show their appreciation to the makers of their toys a flight of stairs above or two houses up the street.

The list has no end, and we have the ingenuity and potential to make it happen. The sooner the better.