LATK#4 – Miss Understanding (VIDEO)

Why one group of people does not get what an other group of people says

Miss Understanding

This episode is in English.

We live in a divided time. There seem to be two groups of people that have very different perception of reality. Most likely you are yourself member of one of these groups. Most likely you never consciously decided to be in one or the other group, it just happened. And most of your friends happen to be in the same group.

Your family: not so much. Like most people, you have family members, that are in the other group, you know, whom I am talking about: it is that uncle/sister/nephew that you avoid talking about politics/religion/life, because he/she never gets it. And you never get, what he/she says.

This podcast explains why.

And as a bonus it will let you see how humankind will develop.


Music by Jim Avignon / Neoangin and Ilja Pollach, Cologne.


This video was also published as a podcast. You can subscribe to my podcasts here:


LATK#4 – Miss Understanding (ENG)

Why one group of people does not get what an other group of people says

Miss Understanding

This episode is in English.

We live in a divided time. There seem to be two groups of people that have very different perception of reality. Most likely you are yourself member of one of these groups. Most likely you never consciously decided to be in one or the other group, it just happened. And most of your friends happen to be in the same group.

Your family: not so much. Like most people, you have family members, that are in the other group, you know, whom I am talking about: it is that uncle/sister/nephew that you avoid talking about politics/religion/life, because he/she never gets it. And you never get, what he/she says.

This podcast explains why.

And as a bonus it will let you see how humankind will develop.


There is also a video of this podcast available. It includes the slides from the original talk.

Music by Jim Avignon / Neoangin and Ilja Pollach, Cologne.


Why the question ‘good or bad’ is bad

This text is also available in German.

Most of the time, when I weigh up arguments, when I think loud about things like how the real estate market is developing, people immediately ask me: “Is that good or bad?” It seems to be an incredibly interesting question whether something is good or bad. And then I think to myself: But if that’s such an important question, why do people ask me? People should ask someone who has a clue. It might be best to ask someone who knows how the future will have developed. Someone who looks at the present from the future, so to speak. I have no idea, I’m just thinking.

I consider and weigh up the arguments, precisely because I want to find out how things actually will develop. I can only imagine, I can’t really see the future, obviously, because I am in the present. So I am sitting in the present and think about how the real estate market will develop in the future. What I absolutely don’t want, is to distort the image that I can see of the future with my wishful thinking. So I try to take a look as neutral as possible. Not judging if something is good or bad.

Yes, sometimes I do have an opinion. I think the rents should be bla, because blaba. But if I wish for the future (“I think the rents should..”), then it is only probable that I arrange the arguments in such a way that the future that I wish for appears most probable. And even if I’m aware of the problem, it doesn’t help at all, because this shifting of the arguments is done by the unconsciousness by itself. There is nothing I can do about it.

That’s why scientists, when they want to find out something, conduct double-blind-experiments. It is proven that a researcher who has an opinion unconsciously influences the result. More than that: it doesn’t even matter whether the researcher has an opinion or a preference, the mere fact that the one who conducts the experiment, knows the result increases the probability that the result of the whole examination is wrong.

Once it was believed that a horse could calculate. Experts tested the horse for years. That was before the double-blind-experiment was known. If you have given the horse a calculation task, for example: How much is 3+9? Then the horse would scratch 12 times with his right hoof. But the horse could not calculate at all. The horse could only read the faces of the human experimenters well, and they were the ones who could calculate.

So if I want to know how the real estate market will develop in the future, then I don’t want to spoil the result with my opinion – that would be stupid!

So I try to have no opinion when thinking, when weighing up the arguments and just not to consider whether one or the other is good or bad.

And arguments usually work in a way that one argument builds on the other. It’s like a house of cards, where one card supports an other card and that way layers are build on which even more layers stand. Only that the cards are not cards, but arguments. And if that works well and you get a stable house of cards that you have glued together with a lot of good information (because only good information makes the glue that really holds) then you can finally stand on top of the construction and look into the distance and see the future.

This means that I want my information to be correct (as information is the glue that holds the arguments together) and I want my arguments to be correct, i.e. the cards that make up my tower. So I don’t want to manipulate a card consciously or unconsciously, pull it longer or shorter, because that would make my tower crooked and I would see some nonsense from its top, but not the future – if the tower holds at all and doesn’t collapse already because of the many crooked arguments.

That’s why, in any case, I don’t want to form an opinion when I think about something. And certainly not, after I have only considered the very first argument and have at most reached level one. I still want to put many more arguments, many more cards, many more levels on one another. Whether something is good or bad? So the question that most people ask right at the beginning – it can only be judged anyway if you stand on the finished tower and look down. When the tower has grown out of arguments. Only from there, i.e. from the top of the tower, can you really judge whether something is good or bad.

Translated with the help of

Warum die Frage ‘gut oder schlecht’ schlecht ist

There is also an English version of this text available.

Meist, wenn ich Argumente abwäge, wenn ich Überlegungen ausspreche, zum Beispiel darüber, wie sich der Immobilienmarkt entwickelt, dann fragen mich die Leute sofort: “Und ist, das nun gut, oder schlecht?”. Es scheint eine wahnsinnig interessante Frage zu sein, ob etwas gut ist, oder schlecht. Und dann denke ich mir: Aber wenn das so eine wichtige Frage ist, warum fragen die Leute dann mich? Die Leute sollten jemanden fragen, der Ahnung hat. Am besten also jemanden, der weiß, wie sich die Zukunft entwickelt haben wird. Also jemand, der quasi von der Zukunft aus, auf die Gegenwart schaut. Ich habe keine Ahnung, ich überlege doch bloss.

Ich überlege und wäge die Argumente ab, doch gerade weil ich herausbekommen will, wie sich die Dinge in Zukunft tatsächlich entwickeln werden. Weil ich in der Gegenwart hocke und wissen will, wie es in der Zukunft ausschaut. Das kann ich mir aber nur vorstellen, wirklich sehen kann ich es nicht, denn ich befinde mich ja in der Gegenwart, nicht in der Zukunft. Ich sitze also in der Gegenwart und überlege, wie sich der Immobilienmarkt in der Zukunft entwickelt. Und damit ich mir die Zukunft ja nicht schön oder hässlich sehe, versuche ich einen möglichst neutralen Blick, der möglichst nicht durcheinander kommen soll, von meinen Präferenzen und Wünschen.

Ja, manchmal habe ich auch eine Meinung. Ich finde die Mieten sollten bla, weil blaba. Aber, wenn ich mir die Zukunft wünsche (“Ich finde die Mieten sollten”), dann ist doch nur wahrscheinlich, dass ich die Argumente so anordne, dass die Zukunft am wahrscheinlichsten erscheint, die ich mir wünsche. Und auch, wenn ich mir des Problems bewusst bin, hilft das gar nichts, denn dieses hinschieben der Argumente macht das Unbewusstsein von alleine. Man kann nichts dagegen unternehmen.

Deshalb machen Wissenschaftler, wenn sie etwas herausbekommen wollen, Doppel-Blind-Versuche, weil bewiesen ist, dass ein Forscher, der das Ergebnis kennt, unbewusst das Ergebnis beeinflusst. Es ist dabei sogar egal, ob er eine Meinung hat, eine Präferenz, welches Ergebnis eintreten soll. Allein, dass der Wissenschaftler, also der, der die Untersuchung durchführt, das Ergebnis kennt, erhöht die Wahrscheinlichkeit, dass das Versuchsergebnis falsch ist.

Einmal hat man geglaubt, dass ein Gaul rechnen kann. Experten haben das Pferd jahrelang getestet. Das war, bevor man den Doppel-Blind-Versuch kannte. Wenn man dem Gaul eine Rechenaufgaben gegeben hat: Zum Beispiel: Wieviel ist 3+9? Dann sollte der Gaul 12 mal mit dem rechten Huf scharren. Doch der Gaul konnte gar nicht rechen. Der Gaul konnte nur gut die Gesichter der menschlichen Versuchsleiter lesen, und die waren es, die rechnen konnten.

Wenn ich also wissen will, wie sich der Immobilienmarkt in der Zukunft entwickelt, dann möchte ich doch keinesfalls das Ergebnis mit meiner Meinung versauen – das wäre doch blöd!

Also bemühe ich mich, beim Nachdenken, beim Abwägen der Argumente keine Meinung zu haben und eben nicht zu überlegen, ob das eine oder andere gut oder schlecht ist.

Und meist funktionieren Argumente ja so, dass ein Argument aufs andere aufbaut. Das ist wie bei einem Kartenhaus, wo man eine Karte mit einer anderen Karte abstürzt und Ebenen baut, auf die man noch mehr Ebenen stellen kann. Nur, dass die Karten keine Karten sind, sondern Argumente. Und wenn das gut läuft und man ein super-stabiles Kartenhaus hinbekommt, das man mit ganz vielen guten Informationen verklebt hat (denn nur gute Informationen ergeben den Kleber, der wirklich hält) dann kann man sich am Ende auf seine Konstruktion stellen und von dem Turm in der Ferne schauen und die Zukunft sehen.

Das heisst, ich will, dass meine Informationen stimmen (Informationen sind der Kleber, der die Argumente zusammenhält) und ich will, dass meine Argumente stimmen, also die Karten, aus denen mein Turm bestehet. Ich will also auf keinen Fall eine Karte bewusst oder unbewusst manipulieren, länger, oder kürzer ziehen, weil das meinen Turm schief machen würde und ich von seiner Spitze irgendeinen Quatsch sehen würde, bloss nicht die Zukunft – wenn denn der Turm überhaupt hält und nicht schon aufgrund der vielen schiefen Argumente in sich zusammenkracht.

Darum, will ich mir, auf jeden Fall, keine Meinung bilden, wenn ich irgendwas überlege. Und schon gar nicht, nachdem ich erst die allerersten Argument bedacht habe und allerhöchstens eine Ebene geschafft habe. Ich will noch viele Argumente, viele Karten aufeinanderstellen. Ob irgendwas gut ist oder schlecht? Also die Frage, die die meisten gleich am Anfang stellen – berurteilen lässt sie sich ohnehin erst, wenn man auf dem fertigen Turm steht und hinunterschaut. Wenn der Turm aus Argumenten gewachsen ist. Erst von dort, also von der Spitze des Turmes, lässt sich wirklich beurteilen, ob etwas gut ist oder schlecht.


You can only understand sex if you have sex – right?

Opening talk at Docmedia at Film University Babelsberg, June 21, 2018

People often think that the best way to understand a situation is to be in the situation. This is in fact false. When being in a situation, the personal angle on the situation becomes so convincing that it suppresses other, very often more meaningful perspectives.

When I grew up, I was told that there are things, that are true. People might not be able to see them, but they the are true nevertheless. And I was told, that there is a truth to everything. This meant, that you can either be right or you can be wrong. A politician can either be right, or wrong. Every opinion can either be right or wrong, you just have to drill deep down and then you can recognise the truth.

This was in fact all false.

Truth is, that truth does not exist.

So let’s better get rid of the word truth altogether and reframe the sentence: The reality is, that truth does not exist. This new sentence might sound similar. But it is not the same. Reality is not truth. Reality is, what we agree on – for the moment.

Think of a table. We can agree on a table. This is the reality that we now share between our monkey brains. But one million years ago, if this table would have existed, there was no-one there, that would have understood it, as a table. And in one million years from now, if this table still exists, it is very, very unlikely that it will still be thought of as a table.

It is very handy to live in a reality that is shared with others. And it is actually very painful, when this shared reality slips away. If you ever broke up with a person you loved – you know.

Not only with people, you are close with, shared reality comes in handy. If you are hungry, it is great, if you live in a shared reality, where you can exchange a 2 Euro coin for a sandwich.

So reality is not something that is already there, and we just have to find it, it is rather something, that we have to agree on. So how do we agree on reality? How does that work? How is reality built?

We agree on reality by sharing stories between each other.

We build reality by telling stories. Story-telling might not be the only tool to build reality, but it is the most powerful. It is the tool, that human apes developed the furthest.

It is not that you tell a story and then it is. For Reality to be, it needs to be shared between our monkey brains.

If I tell the story, that I own billion Euro, that would not change my financial status. But if I manage to convince everyone relevant around me, that I own one billion, then I would live the life of a very wealthy human ape.

This is a trick that some master very well. They use the trick to create reality the way they want it to be. And if the image of President Donald Trump comes into your mind now – yes this is an excellent example.

President Donald Trump is a magician that is able to create reality out of thin air. As long as enough people let him. As long as enough people chime in, to his reality.

So here we are, and I could now talk about the responsibility of media producers. So many of you – my friends – are media producers, storytellers, reality creators.

But I would like to talk about another angle of storytelling.

Exploring reality.

Storytelling is not only a tool to shape reality, it is also a tool to explore reality. And we do that all the time. Because we do not just tell stories, we also listen to stories. And you, as a producer of a narration, you do that. Before making a film or an i-Doc, or an article, you read books, articles, you listen to people. You take in other stories to get a better understanding of reality, before you express your vision of reality, yourself.

This is, what I am most interested in, in my work: To get a better understanding, how the world works, what reality is. To observe and to explore the world. And that means to explore the way we tell stories.

The edges of reality.

I am especially interested in the edges of reality. The borders of reality. So something is within the borders of reality and something is outside of those borders. Of course – the things that are outside of reality, we can’t see them, they are invisible, unthinkable.

But what is interesting, is that these borders of reality are not fixed. They change over time. There are things, that were not part of the shared reality in the past. But they became part of it. Things unthinkable in the past suddenly pop into existence. We live in a time, where it happens all the time, that, not too long ago unthinkable things, just pop into reality. 1000 years ago this was very rare.

Bacteria. Totally outside of the shared reality of human apes for the very most of their existence. Then suddenly, they became thinkable, measurable, and we could even make them visible.

As soon as something becomes thinkable, it is more likely to become visible, hear-able, touch-able, smell-able, feel-able.

Reality is a cloud.

The territory of reality changes its shape over time. New things become part of reality and others drop out.

Things that have dropped out, were part of reality in the past, but they are not any more. These things that are not part of reality any more, are difficult to see, because they are now invisible, only indirectly we can notice them. From evidence we find, we are able to tell, that they must have been part of the shared reality, in the past. When we find temples of ancient gods for example we know that these gods must have been part of the shared reality of the people in the past.


A microscope is a tool, and when it was invented and pointed at an edge of reality, a new reality became visible and reality expanded. This new reality, quickly became part of the shared reality. The findings of the people, that were the first to look through microscopes, are now taught in school.

You can also use a camera and point it at the edge of reality, learn new things and thereby expand reality.

Storytelling is a tool.

Like a camera is a tool. Like a microscope os a tool. Tools that allow to do two things:

  1. Explore reality and thereby expanding it – making reality wider
  2. communicate reality and thereby solidifying it

Expanding reality.

What is the best practice, if you want to expand your understanding – the premise to expand reality? You want to observe something from a perspective as neutral as possible. So what does that mean – neural?

You need to have a perspective like someone – who is not in the situation.

Let me give you an example. When I have a tense discussion, a fight with someone, often I get angry or emotional. That is not a good receipt to get a good understanding for the situation. Later, after my mind has calmed down, I usually get a better understanding of the situation. I know what I could have said, and usually I also understand the other person. Unimaginable for me, when I was in the situation.

This is a practise, an exercise.

In the beginning, when I got together with my later wife, we had intense fights. Fights so intense, like I had never experienced in previous relationships. But with every fight, we learned something about each other. Every fight became a learning experience. This is something I had also not experienced in other relationships. It was, because my wife taught me a trick: to get yourself out of the situation, while you are in the situation, so that you can look at the situation from a different perspective. And from this different perspective, I could see two people in a situation with each other, two people that I loved and I suddenly was able to understand them both.

Observer outside.

Storytelling can be a tool for better understanding reality, but only, if you are an observer that is outside the situation. If you are inside the situation, you are an actor. You have to deal with all your confusing feelings, but you do not get a better understanding for the situation itself.

You might get a better understanding for yourself. Yourself being in this particular situation, which makes it convincing, and you might think that you have a better understanding for the situation, but in fact, you are furthest away from understanding the situation itself.

This is how stories are told today: exciting, emotional, they try to create empathy.


The way we tell stories now – the current CONTEMPORARY STORY FORMAT is a result of the hyperlinear way of storytelling, that was only possible, after the invention of film.

Expanding vs. solidifying.

In the the beginning, when film was invented, people using cameras, were explorers of reality. And by exploring reality, they expanded it. But then, they started to edit what came out of their cameras. And by editing it into a fixed narration, that never changes, even if you looked at it a 1000 times, they explained reality and thereby solidified it.

This became more and more the focus of media makers: To explain reality. And by explaining reality you solidify it.

The computer changes the way we tell stories.

We have now new ways of narration, that became possible, with the computer. With the help of the computer, we can now create rich media narrations, that are not fixed. That expand reality, not solidify it. With the help of computers and the internet, we can collaborate with other brains. And that way, we can use the help of these other brains, to explore the edges of reality better.


I happen to work at a TV news broadcaster. This is how TV was done in the past and is still done, today: There are – actually just a few – people, who go out into the world and explore reality (mainly using cameras). Then they return to the TV-station, edit their material and explain to the audience, how the world works. The TV-station is an institution, that does a very tiny bit of exploration and a lot of explanation. A tiny bit of expanding and a lot of solidifying reality. That practice is rooted in old TV technology. Before the internet it was not possible to do it in another way.

Future media institutions.

Now things can be done differently and we can already see new institutions appear. And these new institutions might replace the old ones. Institutions, that focus on exploring and understanding reality. The media-institution of the future is less of a broadcaster, and more of a university.

People working at these new institutions go out, explore reality, and they take back what they found. Up to this point it is not much different from how it is done traditionally. But then they discuss their findings with others – with the audience – and they ask the others – the audience – for advise. They document the whole process and make it available. This way of working, is far less focussed on the end-product, but much more on the process.

The mindset of media-makers today is: think about the audience, think about what they want.

The mindset of media-makers in the future will be: think about the audience, think about what they can do for you – for getting a better understanding of reality.