The discussion about Facebook

There is something fascinating happening at the moment. It is the debate about Facebook. However, it is about something quite different than the question of whether Facebook is good or bad or even whether the new communication media are good or bad in themselves.

We can currently observe an important step in the development of the new communication media. It’s just not that obvious, because this process is being negotiated by people who speak as if it were a question of good or bad. Sometimes it sounds as if the new communication media have reached a point where they may not be able to carry on. As if the downfall of Facebook or something is imminent. The way it is reported, one could get the impression that the system is on the verge of collapse. This is not the case. In the hearings that take place in the US Senate, for example, the example of the tobacco industry is referred to again and again, where a branch of industry knowingly accepted the suffering of millions of people in order to make a profit. Even if the comparison is obvious, it is not particularly helpful, because unlike the consumption of cigarettes, the negative effects of the consumption of new communication media are offset by much more and much stronger positive effects. What is true for the new communication media as a whole is probably even true for Facebook itself.

FB is not as bad as most can surely understand if they are willing to follow the following reasoning:

The negative effects of FB are offset by many positive ones. I think anyone who uses FB can see that. Who uses FB despite everything that most have to criticise about FB. So what is to be criticised is counterbalanced by something else. And for most people (all those who continue to use FB) this thing is bigger than everything that is admittedly negative about FB. And this thing that stands opposite the negative is the positive that FB has.

Of course, it could go badly for FB and FB will be broken up in the course of the discussion. But that would certainly be the most dramatic thing that could happen. The long-term trend that the new communication media are becoming more and more important will not change at all.

What we can observe is simply how, with a large share of the public, mistakes in the system of the new communication media are being illuminated and the prerequisites for correcting these mistakes are being created. No more, but also no less.

TV is Easy (e)


A few years ago, I pitched a TV show format together with a friend of mine at a festival in Barcelona. That means we were allowed to present our idea to television producers from all over Europe. The event was set up like a competition with a stage, audience and everything. Our idea was one of four. I think we came last. Afterwards, a few people from the audience came up to us and said that the project had been the best …(*)

I have to say, I didn’t understand for a long time why our idea wasn’t accepted, I think it really had the potential to move the world forward through television (and the internet).

A TV producer I hung out with a few months later at another festival explained it to me:
No matter what show is produced on TV, it always has an element, like a spice that must not be missing from any dish, a spice that every TV show tastes like. Anything without this element doesn’t stand a chance. Audience research has found beyond doubt that no show can succeed that doesn’t have this element. As beautiful as your project is, it lacks this element.

What is that element? I think it’s important that every time you watch a show on TV, or hear a conversation about a TV show, or read about a TV show, you should recite the following to yourself:

The viewer in front of the TV should always feel superior to those who are being paraded in the show.

I think everyone should know that, because it explains a lot. Not only in terms of television.

(*) …and way ahead of its time. I’ve been hearing that at regular intervals for twenty years. There’s probably some truth to it, but if that’s the case, then I can say from my experience that those who are too far ahead of their time don’t change anything 😉

 

Nonsense

Bogenwerfer

What is the most important thing in the world, I am asked, and I don’t have to think long. The most important thing in the world is obviously nonsense.

I love sense, I’m always looking for sense and whenever I get hold of something that could be sense, I look at it closely. Whatever thought I grabbed, I hold it up in front of my eyes and study it in depth. In the vast majority of cases, however, I have to realise, “damn, that’s nonsense again!” And then I throw the thought away, somewhere, with all the other nonsense. The nonsense that apparently makes up the whole world.

Every now and then I find sense and of course I don’t throw the sense away. I put each sense in a jam jar, with a pretty label with a name I’ve thought up for the sense, and I put the jam jars neatly in my jam jar cupboard. Every now and then I unscrew one of the jars and enjoy the enchanting smell, which triggers a strong feeling of well-being in me. Sometimes, however, I notice that an old sense has gone bad and I throw it away.

And so I spend my days looking for some sense to put in jam jars. I already have many jam jars, maybe a few hundred. They are all in the cupboard, I wouldn’t even know if I could list them all.

But as I said, sense is rare, most of it is nonsense. The world is made of nonsense and only now and then does a little sense grow on it. But nonsense is obviously more important. Nonsense is the stuff the world is made of. Sense is only the exception. It’s nice somehow, but it might not be useful for anything.

Opinion makes blind

When I say, “I don’t have an opinion on anything,” people usually laugh and say, “But you have an opinion on everything.” Most regular readers of my blog seem to share this view, at least that’s what I infer from what those who do comment say.

It would be more correct to say: “More and more often I succeed in not having an opinion”. Because I can only have no opinion about something if I focus. It is impossible to be concentrated on everything. So it’s only selected things that I don’t have an opinion on, for example the things I write about in this blog. I don’t write (at least not anymore) about things I mean. Instead, I try to describe the things I see. Even if I myself disagree, even if they don’t fit my own thinking. Because I no longer give a damn about my opinion.

I have no opinion on everything that is important to me and on which I have concentrated since I learned not to have an opinion.

On everything else I still have an opinion and it is on most things.

Having an opinion seems to be the default mode of the human being, and that to the extent that the human being develops language. Language is opinion. This would also explain why opinion can be expressed so well in language, while no opinion is so difficult to express in words, and why no opinion expressed in words leads so reliably to misunderstandings.

Since I started to look at things increasingly without opinion, I see more and more. Because I not only see what I mean, but I also see what I don’t mean. And I see what I don’t mean as real as what I do mean. So I can no longer deny what I don’t want to see, nor do I want to. Because the world is much bigger and truer when I perceive not only what I mean, but also what I don’t mean, don’t think, don’t want to perceive.

And every time I succeed in seeing what I don’t mean just as well as what I do mean, opinion becomes more and more irrelevant, uninteresting, undesirable. Because opinion collapses the world to the section of one’s own opinion.

No opinion allows to see much more.

The future will be interesting

Fire

Climate change is a wonderful problem, because climate change is pushing humanity with great force further in a direction it has always been going.

Humankind will have a manifold more energy at its disposal than ever before. Humans are the only animals that have systematically learned to tap energy beyond their own muscle power. This has enabled the human being to do things, to think things, to attain consciousness, like no other living being on this planet.

Most of the energy available on earth comes from the sun. Without the sun, the earth would be an ice-cold planet. Fossil energy is nothing more than coagulated solar energy, created over millions of years. It is relatively easy to collect this coagulated energy and release it again. Humans have managed this trick by harnessing fire. It is much more difficult to collect energy directly from the sun and make it usable, because you have to redirect the solar energy from day to night, from one place to another. This requires technology that could only be discovered and developed with tools that required enormous amounts of energy to produce and operate. To be able to harvest and store the energy of the sun, you not only need the energy it takes to build solar, wind or hydroelectric plants, distribution and storage systems, you need a million times more energy to be able to conceive these technologies in the first place. In this sense, one could say that in every single wind turbine there is embodied energy that has been released at all times in human history.

We have not wasted fossil resources, we have used them to get to a new level. We are now able to become independent of the energy that is lying around clotted on the earth.

Non-coagulated energy from the sun and energy from the splitting of the atom has opened doors for humanity to much more energy.

And what is the point of all this?
I have an opinion on that: it is the energy that humanity needs to get closer to understanding.

It is only the last sentence that I would like to discuss.