Uber logic

Berlin Kreuzberg. It’s a sunny Sunday afternoon and I’m riding my bike past one of those new, chic, cool coffee shops when I notice someone who’s also on a bike. A young man with a full beard, as they are currently in fashion. He’s riding a bright red-orange Jump rental electric bike. Jump is actually Uber. And Uber is one of the companies that is currently transforming the taxi industry worldwide. The man with the full beard is turning into a cobbled side street. He calls out “Uh, Oh!” and I see that the rear wheel of his bike is flat.

I wonder a little at first and as I continue to cycle more and more, whether the young man realises that it is not good for the bicycle at all when you ride over cobblestones with a flat rear wheel. With a normal bicycle he would probably hardly get any further, but with electric drive it obviously works, even if it seems to be unpleasant. The bicycle is an expensive bicycle and the rear wheel is surely heavily damaged after the torture. Only an idiot would do that to his own bike, but it is a rental bike. While I’m still thinking about whether it frees the young man from being an idiot if he destroys a rented bike, our paths cross again. The young man drove on another route in the same direction.

I speak to him and ask first if he is aware that the bicycle would suffer. The young man is well aware of this – ‘they’ have certainly priced that in, is his first answer; and as if to prove that he is capable of even more complex thoughts, he asks back whether I know what kind of company Uber is, and he gives the answer himself: an exploiting company! And he doesn’t think it’s OK, that I aproach him so morally.

I have neither sympathies nor antipathies towards the Uber company and I say this in my defence. I am just always amazed by the logic with which people think. And when the chance presents itself, I sometimes ask.

That would be too exhausting for him now and if I could please go on and leave him alone.

I understand that, I don’t feel that way myself, but I understand that it is exhausting when one’s own thinking is put to the test. Even well-educated and well-combed young people who live in the most pleasant parts of the world without any great worries find it difficult. That’s what I keep finding out with my questions.

 

How to change your mind

Television alters thinking. Religion alters thinking. Books alter thinking. Music alters thinking. Images change thinking. Conversations alter thinking. Meditation alters thinking. Observations alter thinking. Closing one’s eyes alters thinking. Taking in food alters thinking. Fasting alters thinking. Feeling alters thinking.

Everything alters thinking. Thinking is based on the exchange of electrical signals between nerve cells. Nerve cells that are connected via synapses. Nerve cells, which arise and disappear, connected by synapses, which also arise and disappear.

The nerve cells connected by synapses are like the molecules on the water surface of a lake, stable enough that a water strider can walk on them. But there are never ‘the very same’ molecules on the water surface. The molecules are in constant exchange with the surrounding water molecules in the lake. It is a constant dance of the molecules, in which always others come to the surface to be immediately replaced by others. As if one were standing on a gravel path and the stones under one’s feet are permanently exchanged.

The synapse connections between the nerve cells in the brain are the paths of thinking. The paths on which the thoughts walk. But the paths are in constant change. Paths are being trodden or are drifting. They never remain exactly the same.

(( More spectacular, although much rarer, is the idea or realization – the discovery of a completely new path, a completely new connection. The younger one is, the more frequently it occurs, logically, because there is not yet such a pronounced road network of thoughts. This occurs with everyone over time. ))

People tend to ask, “Is that good or bad?”
Is it good or bad when the ways of thinking change?
The answer is the same as to most ‘good or bad’ questions: It is not good or bad: it is.

Being aware that everything changes your thinking, that everything you absorb consciously or unconsciously changes you, enables you to influence what you absorb, what changes you. Becoming more conscious at the same time gives others less possibility to manipulate you as they would like you to.

Of course one cannot choose everything that comes into one’s head – into thinking. But you can influence it. The first steps are to remember again and again that everything you take in influences your thinking and thus your perception of the world.

A very smart friend once said to me: “I have always read an incredible amount, probably thousands of books in my life. That was everything, literature, non-fiction, but also crime thrillers, trivial and any kind of junk. But it’s strange, I used everything, even the greatest nonsense, at some point to get my insights.”

“Sure,” I said, “because all you put in your head is the material you think with. What other material should you think with?”

But not all material is equally good.

And unlike earlier times, when people couldn’t get enough information, today we live in a time when we are confronted with an overwhelming mass of information.

There is better information and worse information.

We can improve our thinking by learning to be more aware of what we let into ourselves.

 

autopilot

I have been using an autonomous system for quite some time. I get on my motorcycle, go whereever I want to go and focus on what is currely on my mind. These are mostly complicated things that take all my attention.

Especially when I’m driving a route I’ve driven before. Only when I drive a new route, every now and then the autopilot calls for attention to ask if it should turn right or left. The autopilot does the rest. Including occasional arguments with other motorists when I’m in Berlin.

Meanwhile my brain is busy with something else. Podcasts from the New York Times for example, the Washington Post or Sam Harris.

Riding the motorcycle is done by the autopilot.


Excerpt from “Codonaut – Where do we program ourselves?”, a Korsakow film about artificial intelligence. Go to codonaut.de to see the film.

Language

Words are the bits and bytes in which we humans exchange information. Language is the operating system of our thinking. What cannot be expressed in words cannot be shared and will sooner or later be forgotten.

What cannot be said in sentences makes no sense and, if it does not at least rhyme, will also be forgotten.

Only the things that happen to fit into words and language get preserved.
Only the things that happen to fit into word and language are all that surrounds us.


Excerpt from “Codonaut – Where do we program ourselves?”, a Korsakow film about artificial intelligence. Go to codonaut.de to see the film.

Man is a monkey

One day there was a monkey paw lying in front of me on the table. It took me a moment to realize, it was my own hand. At that moment I became aware: I am a monkey – with a monkey’s brain.

The monkey brain explains many things. Much of what I cannot understand, even if I think about it for a long time. Like a dog that’ s too stupid to take off its own dog leash. A dog leash is an unsolvable problem for a dog. No matter how clever the dog may be.

My fellow people: Also all monkeys. That also explains a lot. For example – how they drive cars. And that doesn’t mean that they don’t drive well. On the contrary. Drivers are impressed by well-trained monkeys who steer madly dangerous machines around. Only rarely do accidents happen. And when an accident happens, usually not much happens. Bumpers, safety belts and airbags ensure that nothing bad happens to the monkeys. Then the monkeys get out of their cars, tap around on their mobile phones and a little later a police monkey arrives to secure the scene of the accident and scatter white powder that absorbs the liquid that has run out of the cars.

Insurance companies handle the damage. This is impressive: monkeys came up with all this. It is a complex system of inventions, rules and precautions all serving one purpose: That the monkeys are all right.


Excerpt from “Codonaut – Where do we program ourselves?”, a Korsakow film about artificial intelligence. Go to codonaut.de to see the film.