Istanbul 2017

When I was invited to give a keynote talk at Istanbul University and being member of a jury for an international documentary award, I was hesitant. Turkey’s president Erdoğan and his supporters are currently doing everything to get rid of democracy. People in Turkey that dare to criticise this, lose their jobs, many are put in jail, it is a frightening development for the future of Turkey as well as Europe.

By traveling to Istanbul and publicly speaking, would I somehow help to whitewash or normalize what is going on? On the other hand, would it help to reject my invitation and not exchange ideas with people? Who are this people? They could be collaborators with a political movement, that I deeply disagree with. They might. But I don’t know, because I never met them. And if they are, if they are collaborating with the system, is it really helpful to not get into a conversation? I don’t know.

I asked three people for advice, who live in Turkey. Their vote was 2:1 that I should go. Also I was terribly interested to get a first hand impression of how things have changed since I was the last time in Istanbul, 7 years ago. So I decided to go, together with my partner.

When I told friends in Berlin, everyone had an opinion. I should be really careful with what I say publicly. Actually my talks are about film making and storytelling. Most people think that the the reality shapes the way we tell stories, but my point is that it is the other way around: reality is the result of our stories. One consequences of my argument is that there is no truth, and the consequence of that is that there is no god. “You should be careful, to say such things”, my friends in Berlin said, “and you should also think about the consequences, your words might have for the people that invited you.”

Hmm. I think you get on slippery ground when you start to think for other people. And when you start to not say things, that you would say, but you think others might not like it. But what is it exactly, it that others don’t like. And where exactly is the border? What can you still say and what what not? You can only guess. But what is that guesswork based on? In my case – not much more than stereotypes. The bits of information that I get from Turkey amidst a stream of information that I constantly get from places all around the world. I have the feeling I know, but I generally know, for sure I don’t know enough.

All these thoughts in mind I traveled to Istanbul.

Being at a film-festival as an official guest is always very interesting. There are cool people from every direction coming to such a venue. As an official guest, you get introduced to those interesting people, which is especially great for me, as I don’t like to introduce myself.

It started right at the airport Istanbul, when we were picked up. We entered a fascinating discussion that would last for days with another guest that was picked up with us. The people that worked for the venue were great, as well. People that work for film-festivals are a special breed of people, it seems, if the festival is in cooperation with an government broadcaster in a wannabe-totalitarian regime or not.

At the opening “cocktail party“ only lemonade was served. Why on earth was it announced as cocktail party? After I lost my shyness on stepping on other people’s toes, this became a source of numerous jokes. This festival was a dry film festival. During the days of my duty as a member of the jury I did not leave the Hilton for three days. I had more juice than it is healthy and swayed from buffet to buffet, going to bed early. We were a group of six watching and discussing the films, seated in a circle. The jury meetings felt like group therapy sessions. the Hilton like a sanatorium – the Magic Mountain, while the world around falls apart, unnoticed.

Mentioning the absence of alcohol in a private conversation became the litmus test of figuring out, where the person stands, in regards to the system. “Oh, of course you can get alcohol, let me order you a glass of wine” was one of the two reactions I got and I learned that people close to the system said that. With others mentioning the absence of alcohol would open a conversation about how the country had changed in the last years.

Things look normal but tension can be felt everywhere. I gave a talk at a time-honored university. Wonderful place, after my talk friendly applause but no Q&A.

I gave a second talk at the festival. This was more of a presentation of the Korsakow software, but as always, when I present the software, I also talk about its philosophy. The audience was like a sponge, eager to take in what I had to say about new ways of constructing reality and new ways of thinking. This time there was a Q&A and the questions were great.

Istanbul still feels to me like a European city, and I now think it was a big mistake that Europe was not more welcoming to Turkey. If Turkey would now be a member of the European Union, it would not walk the path it seems to be doomed to take now.

Many people I talked to (the ones who did not immediately want to prove to me that alcohol is available) are very pessimistic. Many of them have a plan to leave the country. “The decision is taken, already,” someone said, “Turkey will become like Iran.”

One thing I can’t let go of: There is no law in place to get rid of alcohol, there is not even an order. People behave in a way, that they think pleases the authorities. It is not the power that demands that. It is the people thinking that the power likes it, and therefore paving the path for the powerful, teaching the powerful how to go further.

Trump Travel

When I saw this White House video celebrating the recent trip of Donald Trump my char dropped. Like so many times before, when I saw Donald Trump media productions. Is Donald Trump a magician that performs again and again tricks to twist reality? Is he a mad man who is able to convince other people to believe and support what he sees? Or is he opening a window to some kind of parallel universe?

I felt I had to add an other layer of intormation to the original video.

Tim Harford talking about Korsakow without knowing

I am very exited about this talk and conversation with Tim Harford. From my viewpoint he describes the benefits of Korsakow, and Korsakow thinking. For sure he does not mention it and most likely he has never heard about Korsakow, but:

Decisions

There are no wrong decisions and there are no right decisions.

Decisions are taken in small fractions – too small to be relevant.

When you zoom in to a moment in time, where a particular decision is taken, there are always decisions before that moment. Earlier decisions, that led to the moment when this decision was possible, and before that were lots of other moments, when small decisions were taken. Lots of micro-decision so to say. And every micro-decision had alternatives. When was the exact moment, when George W Bush decided to go to war against Iraq? For sure not when he went down the aisle in the White House towards the podium, where the cameras were waiting. So when did he take that decision? You could go back in time further and further, maybe “the real” decision was taken by someone before Bush. Whatever moment you would want to identify, there were decisions taken before that, that were necessary to create a world in which the next decision was in the space of possibilities.

But we agree, there was a decision to go to war. But what we mean with “decision” is basically a cluster of micro-decisions, stretched over a longer or shorter period of time.

Why is this important?
We speak of a decision and we are used to conceptually nail it down to a point on a timeline. The logic of the timeline (in this talk I called it “Hollywood logic”) suggests that a decision, once taken, can not be changed (because it is in the past). But if you think of paths instead of decision-points – you can always adjust a path, even without leaving it, as the path is created while you are moving. Even after Bush declared the war, he could have changed the path at any point in time, after he has observed that the direction taken, leads into misery.

But the audience (trained in Hollywood thinking) does not appreciate politicians changing their mind once they made “a decision”. Because of that politicians feel like they have to stick to their decisions. Politicians seem to spend a lot of energy on ignoring observations, because they don’t want to look like they took a wrong decision.

In a world, where the concept of a decision does not exist, you can not take a wrong decision. You can easily adjust your path when you feel you are getting into hot waters. That goes for politicians and of course for everyone else. As observation shows, the weird concept of decision-points on a timeline – with each decision with potentially scary consequences – makes it had to adjust paths, leads to bad results and makes people miserable.

The simple way out: Look at it like that: Every moment holds many possibilities – whatever decisions you took in the past.