We see faces where there are none. We see patterns where there is only chaos. When we are tasked to produce a series of random numbers, the result does not pass the simplest quality criteria we would demand from computers. In a complex world, we fall back to things we know, concepts we understand, and patterns we have engrained. But: It is brave to acknowledge ‘I don’t know’ – there is no shame in unintentional unknowingness. There is always time to learn. And it’s courageous to think outside the box and propose the unusual. However, this is not to be confused with refuting the consensus. And it does not equate to ignoring or denying the facts. Unfortunately, a non-negligible proportion of society does not seem to be aware of this difference. Instead of arguing in the realm of reality they spread lies. Instead of acknowledging the unknown they act as the keepers of truth. And surely: the other side does the same, however, with another truth. How can such a split society regenerate and reclaim a common truth?
a single error,
one last breath,
machine gun terror,
reign of death.
endless war clips,
Sons with guns are
Little time has passed since I wrote about peace. And here we are, shaken by war – it has been a rude awakening. The mind is trapped in a not so distant country while the body remains comfortably at home. The war is close now and, as it seems, this makes all the difference. Back then I asked myself: Would I fight? What for? The questions keep lingering, flare up, and sink down again. I don’t want to fight. I cannot fight. But then again, the mind is made for adaptation. Many men over there were probably thinking the same a few weeks ago. And in presence of such blatant failure of the human race we still wonder what the great filter might be.
Heavy rain takes turns with strong gusts of wind. I protect the camera, quickly wipe the lens, take a single shot, repeat. From time to time the sun brightens the clouds directly above. And then again, everything is covered in thick fog and sight decreases to only a few metres. Tourists stop in the car park, wait for a few minutes, and leave again. I am lucky that my significant other patiently waits in the car while I battle the weather. There is little chance to check how the photos look – since my camera isn’t weather sealed, I am more concerned about protecting it. The trees around me dance in the wind, characters of long forgotten legends, rooted deep, and yet it seems as they are moving with every step I take: From the lonesome warrior, to the sheltered child, to the ancient sage.
Triviale Maschinen haben nur einen Zustand: Sie liefern auf denselben Input immer den gleichen Output.
Heinz von Förster
The quote could be vaguely transcribed as ‘Trivial machines have a single state: Given the same input, they always produce the same output.’ In contrast, for non-trivial systems the output not only depends on the input but additionally on an inner, possibly unknown, state of the system. This inner state evolves with every given input and, thus, the same input can lead to different output. In other words: the output may seem random to an observer as it also relies on the complete history of inputs processed by the system, reflected by its internal state.
Using this bipolar framework to describe actual systems can be challenging: When I type 2+2 in my calculator it will always yield 4. It’s apparently trivial – until the environment acts upon it and the batteries run out, the circuit board becomes corrupt, or the display breaks. If my bike would always give the same output when I start pedaling, I would be much more satisfied and my local bike shop would go out of business. If computers really were trivial, a whole lot of IT assistants could look for a new job right now. Systems decay over time, they are error prone, they are subjected to the very same universe we are.
Another approach might be to not consider it as a binary decision, but a continuous scale of triviality where systems are ranked based on their robustness. In a probabilistic sense, the calculator is rather trivial as it gives the predicted output in a quantifiably large majority of cases. In contrast, living systems are on the other end of the scale and highly non-trivial since they exhibit wildly different behaviour in seemingly similar situations.
However, when system are ranked on such a scale of non-triviality, problems arise: How should I work on this very laptop when I assume that it could fail me anytime? If I would admit its non-triviality, I couldn’t work in the first place because it could give any output, independent from the keys I am pressing. This example seems a little daft, but when transferring it to human interactions, the exact same applies: How should I communicate with my colleague about work issues when assuming that the output will be determined by a non-trivial living system? How should I forward instructions if the output is uncertain anyway? How could I coherently speak with my partner about serious topics when my input has potentially little effect on the output?
We constantly trivialize the non-triviality around us. We do so because it is necessary. When I am typing in my calculator I expect a correct result. When I am asking a question to a friend, I expect to get an answer. Not because the answering system is trivial, but because I have to assume it is in order to ask the question in the first place. We trivialize machines, we trivialize humans, the reactions of strangers, friends, and partners. And if the output is unexpected, we don’t blame our foolish assumption of triviality, but we blame the system itself. And the scale isn’t really one that describes the non-triviality of systems, but rather a scale of how much an observer trivializes systems.
Where does this lead? Potentially nowhere; there might be other, potentially more useful, distinctions to draw. But when drawing this distinction, I am wondering in which cases it might be wise to begin to acknowledge the non-triviality of systems.
This post is rather provocative – the judgement of its seriousness is left for the reader.
Way too fast, no breaks, a wall of bricks ahead. That’s how the climate crises can be described. Unprecedented floods, soil dried out for years to come, dying forests, 10 years in a row with highly increased temperatures, glaciers melting at unprecedented speeds. North-west Germany will become significantly smaller, the question is not if it happens, but when it happens.
And out there, some honorable organizations and non-profit associations fight. They fight against the crises, against politics, and for our planet. They try to find some breaks, to dampen the impact, to bypass the unavoidable. Fridays For Future, Extinction Rebellion, 80000 Hours, the list goes on and on. What they do is important and could be our last hope for an ordinary future. But there is an inherent assumption to their philosophies, silently hiding, rarely talked about, let alone discussed, but critical as no other.
They not only fight for the planet, they fight for us, for the human race. They assume that the we, humanity itself, should be saved as well. That the continuation of our species is inherently good. An assumption that is not grounded in any observable truths, but originates from a pure instinct of self-preservation. From the urge of dominance and feeling of supremacy that seemingly has been inherent to our species for a long time now.
Extinction Rebellion is branded as radical and drastic for what they do. They are disregarded as being over the top. But what if they are not radical enough? What if this underlying assumption is just plain false? The fight for both things at once, humans and earth, is impossible. It might be that these goals are diametrically opposed. Since our species has been expanding, it has eradicated everything on its rise. Why should it stop? How should it stop? The planet won’t generate new resources. The change of human nature will be too slow. It just might be that this planets only rescue is the downfall of us. If earth should be saved, maybe we are already heading in the right direction: Way too fast, no breaks, a wall of bricks ahead.
A periodogram estimates the frequency spectrum of a time series. It’s a decomposition of the signal into its single frequency components. An overview of the rate of recurring events and their power. Weekends bring joy. Ends of month bring money. Mornings bring mourning. Sometimes delight. Seasons introduce change. Adventures approach with holidays. Family reunions come every second year. Resolutions once a year.
Adventure time has just passed and the 1 year frequency approaches with all its power. There was a time long ago on an island far away where I understood what is going on in this formula. Right now, I have no idea. Maybe it’s time to start revisiting long forgotten knowledge. Maybe with some fixed frequency. Maybe, at least, with undetermined infrequency.
Peace is comfortable. Conflicts only appear in the newspapers – neither in our streets, nor in our reality. But out there is war. And with every day we keep ignoring the climate crisis it comes closer. Climate refugees knock on our doors right now – and there will be more. And even though the conflicts haven’t even reached us yet, I am not fighting for what I believe: Basic human rights. The right to use our only chance on life. A chance that we could provide rather easily right now. Instead, I repeatedly choose comfort over action. Security over uncertainty. Every life lost in the Mediterranean, at the British Channel, at the Polish border, is lost forever. And even worse: the tide may turn. When it’s not a handful, but millions who seek shelter, water, food. Will there be a time where we have to defend what we have? Where we have to flee ourselves? So, sometimes, I engage the thought: Fight, flight, freeze? What is it worth fighting for? Would I fight? And why not now?
This topic deserves a longer post, I guess. But there is little time (another excuse to not fight right now…). Anyway, I like this selection of photos. Although they are from two different walks at two different lakes around here, they fit together: The combination of light and dark, the muted colors, the mood they reflect – nature during these early winter days. White and black, peace and war.
Happy endings are pleasant. They are comfortable. They are liberating. They are desired. The good overcomes the bad, the mission is successful, there are flowers, firework, and love. People want happy endings. And sometimes, I do as well. It’s easy going and fun. All the hard pain pays off, the characters I rooted for achieve what they deserve, the reading experience is exhilarating. The ring gets finally destroyed, Voldemort is gone for good, and all the rest lived happily ever after. These stories are, and stay, fairy tales.
But, most often, those stories are not the ones that inspire me the most. Instead, it’s the other kind. The ones that do not end well. The ones that end how most things end: In chaos and hardship, and without loved ones. The stories that feel real. And it’s not because they do not portray happiness. It’s because how they portray happiness. In fairy tales, the happiness only comes in the end, after all bad is gone. But without an happy ending, the happiness has to be portrayed in between. During the struggle, despite the struggle, because of the struggle. They teach courage and perseverance. These stories are the ones that move me, move my heart, that have the potential to cause real change. Because there is no ever after. There is only now to find happiness.
It’s less than a year ago that I started this little project, and what an adventure it has been. What I hoped to be, proved to be true indeed: This is way more fun than social media. I care little about how many people engage and whether you like it (although I am very glad about the positive feedback of some of you!), but instead I can focus on what I want to create.
While I did not really had any idea about the written content of the blog when I started, I knew that there will always be photos. Of nature, animals, landscapes, birds, trees, whatever I might encounter. But I didn’t knew how many – by now, it’s already above 1000!
1000 impressions, 1000 compositions, sometimes interesting, sometimes boring, but, with every picture, I could learn and improve. And behind the 1000 shared photos, there are at least fifty times that many, deleted long ago, or sleeping on my hard drive. I am looking forward to the next 1000 images…
In the meantime: Thanks to everyone who is reading these entries, thanks to everyone who is enjoying the pictures, thanks to the few who are following this little undertaking.