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<nettime> Edge 71: Wake-Up Call for Europe Tech - Frank Schirrmacher

     [orig To: (Third Culture Mail List)]

"Nobody knows, you can't find out, and you don't have to ask permission."

July 10, 2000

Edge 71

(9,642 words)

Wake-Up Call for Europe Tech
By Frank Schirrmacher

The European intelligentsia is entering the 21st century in silence,
stubbornly or clumsily avoiding the issue. It is easy to imagine one
of these intellectuals, fumbling over a new word-processing package:
the infuriation at this "not coping", the alleged lack of "technical
know-how," the antipathy (often justified) which sets in at the
slightest whiff of leads and sockets. All this also characterizes
prevailing attitudes to the revolutionary paradigm shift itself. The
new age didn't come to us Europeans in a flash of inspiration, it
came as a "retraining program": from typewriter to computer, from
computer to Internet.

Clifford Pickover, Geroge Dyson, Stewart Brand, Dave Myers, Sebastian
Schnitzenbaumer, Kai Krause, Jason McCabe Calacanis respond to Frank
Schirrmacher's"Wake-Up Call for Europe Tech"


Wake-Up Call for Europe Tech
By Frank Schirrmacher

Inroduction by John Brockman

On May 23rd, the German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung
published Frank Schirrmacher's manifesto "Wake-Up Call for Europe
Tech", in which he calls for Europe to adopt the ideas of the third
culture. "Europe," he writes, "should be more than just a source for
the software of ego crisis, loss of identity, despair, and Western
melancholy. We should be helping write the code for tomorrow."

Schirrmacher is a publisher of the newspaper, and his manifesto, a
call to arms, is the beginning of a effort by FAZ to publish articles
by and about third culture thinkers and their work. His goal: to
change the culture of the newspaper and to begin a process of change
in Germany and Europe.

Schirrmacher's program, a departure for FAZ, has been covered in the
German press and has caused a stir in German intellectual circles.
FAZ has played an important role in shaping German culture, and that
has meant, until now, culture with a capital "C".

In a few short weeks since publication of his manifesto, Schirrmacher
has brought the ideas of Bill Joy, Ray Kurzweil, V.S. Ramachandran,
Patrick Bateson, James Watson, Craig Venter, among other notable
thinkers to the forefront of public discussion in Germany, while also
initiating a collaboration between FAZ and Edge, the first product of
which was the recent simultaneous publication in English and German
of David Gelernter's manifesto, "The Second Coming."

- JB

FRANK SCHIRRMACHER was born in Wiesbaden in 1959. He studied German
and English literature in Heidelberg, Philosophy and German at Clare
College in Cambridge (UK) and obtained a PhD.

In 1989 he became head of the arts and science department of the
Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, one of the most influential German
newspapers. He has been one of the publishers of FAZ since 1994.

Among others: Member of the Goethe-Instituts, member of the cultural
advisory board of the Expo 2000 and of the Herbert Quandt-Stiftung,
Bad Homburg. Newsweek has named him one of the leading Germans in the
21st Century .

Wake-Up Call for Europe Tech
By Frank Schirrmacher

NEW YORK. Blink and you will miss something. More so than any
previous generation, we are taken by surprise virtually every week by
technological and scientific innovations, and Europe has nothing to
say about it. J. Craig Venter decodes the human genome and the public
treats it as nothing more than a case for the Patent Office. Our
growing dependence on data networks is only discussed when systems
are brought to a standstill for a day by the love bug.

With the blessings of the U.S. public, the American theoretician and
computer expert Ray Kurzweil prophesies that within our lifetime,
computers will exceed human brain power. In Germany, hardly anyone
knows his name. This may be partly because his bestseller The Age of
Spiritual Machines appeared in German last year under what could pass
for the parody of an outdated title: "Homo S@piens."

The European intelligentsia is entering the 21st century in silence,
stubbornly or clumsily avoiding the issue. It is easy to imagine one
of these intellectuals, fumbling over a new word-processing package:
the infuriation at this "not coping", the alleged lack of "technical
know-how," the antipathy (often justified) which sets in at the
slightest whiff of leads and sockets. All this also characterizes
prevailing attitudes to the revolutionary paradigm shift itself. The
new age didn't come to us Europeans in a flash of inspiration, it
came as a "retraining program": from typewriter to computer, from
computer to Internet.

This may be why many European intellectuals equate current
developments with previous technological adaptations made after the
invention of the automobile or the refrigerator. In this they are
certainly mistaken. Ray Kurzweil may be wrong when he predicts that
over the next 20 years, bio-, nano- and computer technology will
bring greater changes to the way we live than the entire 20th
century. But it is definitely worth talking about, especially in
these times of tech-conscious, "green" government. But we just keep
on fumbling with our leads and plugs and sockets, while people
elsewhere are busy programming our future.

"Europe has stopped thinking," proclaims Jaron Lanier, "but it has
supplied the software." In his view, it will not be long before all
the questions Western philosophers asked themselves, all the
questions of being, illusion and consciousness, begin to be asked by
computers. "And when they do, they can use the software written by
Kant and Heidegger."

Jaron Lanier is one of America's cyber-gurus, a player in the new
intellectual scene which Europe has still barely discovered. Yet this
discovery will be essential if Europe is to wake up to the new
century. Years ago, Lanier invented the term "virtual reality" and
built a reputation on spectacular software programs. Now, he is
reconstructing ancient Egyptian music. "We will make something
audible as it was once heard by the Pharaohs - a classical case of
reverse engineering."

Lanier is convinced that technical evolution is in the process of
creating artificial intelligence. But such an intelligence will never
stop despairing over programming errors. Immanuel Kant, Arthur
Schopenhauer and Friedrich Nietzsche are no more than bug-infested
versions of human consciousness. "Philosophers," he says, "have
subjected humankind to constant beta-testing of their software."

It is amazing to what extent the new century's technological elite
reaches back into the distant past. Bill Gates collects Leonardo da
Vinci and copyrighted art, telling us something about how he sees
himself. J. Craig Venter, who cracked the genome, imitates
Christopher Columbus' voyage of discovery in a one-man yacht. Ray
Kurzweil, the technological revolution's influential commentator (and
owner of countless patents) lets his computer invent new Shakespeare
poems for him. Daniel Hillis, who created the super computers, is
constructing a mechanical watch designed to run for 10,000 years,
which he refers to as "my own little Stonehenge." And finally, there
is Nathan Myhrvold, "the brain of Gates," who coordinates
comprehensive expeditions on the life of the dinosaurs.

"Since 1970," Myhrvold explains, "computers have increased their
performance by a factor of one million," a development he expects to
continue at the same speed for another 20 years. To make that quite
clear: a factor of one million means the difference between a year
and 30 seconds. In other words, today's new computer requires 30
seconds for a task which would have taken a year with an older model.
In the year 2010, computers will require 30 seconds for a task which
would take a 1970s computer one million years. Maybe this explains
his journeys to the land of the dinosaurs. According to Myhrvold:
"We're going through a second evolution." He believes future
generations will have as little understanding for our concepts of
time and space as we have for those of the Middle Ages. As an
assistant to Stephen Hawking, Myhrvold witnessed the birth of A Brief
History of Time and a new cosmology. "In the past," he says,
"astronomers built tools, and now the bio-computer experts are at
last building their new tools."

In Myhrvold's view, the combination of genetic engineering and
computer science will trigger a tremendous revolution. Based on the
AOL/Time-Warner model, he predicts that small biotech companies will
buy out huge pharmaceuticals groups. "Their dimensions will certainly
go beyond what I am capable of imagining." At this point, it's worth
reminding ourselves of Myhrvold's dimensions: the former assistant to
Stephen Hawking became a billionaire as Microsoft's key research

In the 1950s, many who traveled to Paris did so to see Jean-Paul
Sartre holding court in a cafe or arguing with Albert Camus. Anyone
entering the lobby of the Waldorf-Astoria on May 19 would have seen
only a 40-year-old and a 30-year-old. "Does it know what it is?" asks
the 40-year-old. "It's still a baby;" the younger man replies.

The 30-year-old is Ben Goertzel, who has attracted talented people
his own age from around the globe to his company to create artificial
intelligence for the Internet. The 40-year-old is Nathan Myhrvold,
and he gives Goertzel exactly 15 minutes to shape his destiny: "When
we raise our baby, we won't talk to it about trees and flowers and
teeth, as these are things it will never know. We will talk to it
about files and MIDI sequences and shapes, as these are things in
which we ourselves and the baby have gathered experience."

This encounter is like the meeting between two artists, the elder
celebrity and the rambunctious youngster. The finishing touch would
be if Myhrvold were to ask Goertzel what he was working on, as Goethe
once asked Heinrich Heine, and Goertzel were to reply: "a version of

According to Myrvhold, genetic engineering and the development of
artificial intelligence are the two main obsessions of America's
scientific elite. In a text available on the Internet, he illustrates
the limits to this project. One example he gives is the number of
permutations possible with 59 objects - only slightly more than a
deck of cards. Calculating the complete set of permutations for 59
objects would require 10 to the power of 20 permutations, roughly
equivalent to the entire number of protons and neutrons in the

"Europe has stopped thinking," says Lanier without a trace of malice.
Later he adds: "Maybe we'll all go mad over here."

These are young men reciting the development of artificial
intelligence to young billionaires like a poem. Scientists such as
Daniel Hillis, who first built the world's most powerful computer and
now a mechanical watch which might still be ticking away in a world
without humans. Hillis, whom Marvin Minsky lists among the most
important scientists of our time, built parallel computers which
simulate evolution. His machines were so powerful that the U.S.
government banned the sale of his company Thinking Machines to a
Japanese group in the interests of national security. And where did
the theoretician of "artificial life" end up? "Until recently I was
at Disney, but I resigned," he says. "It was a great experience. But
it was just a transitional phase on the way to creating artificial

Ray Kurzweil speaks of an age of "spiritual machines." And indeed, at
technology's cutting edge, a movement has grown up that is as
spiritual as it is materialistic. Like every movement, it has its
profane sides. Asked how this profanity manifests itself, all the
representatives of the movement without exception name Bill Gates. As
if he was an ideological traitor, the Stalin of the computer age. But
these are minor battles. "We are all part of it when Microsoft is
broken up," says Lanier: "Broken up into its component parts."

The way he says this, it sounds like: "Reduced to its skin and
bones." The new reality just over the horizon will have as much in
common with Windows as a monitor does with a windowpane. What then?
"To grasp the scale of this revolution, think of the everyday
things," recommends Hillis. Unlike Myhrvold, he is not yet a
billionaire and is founding a new company: "Think of visits to
administrative offices, schools, universities, libraries or doctors.
In a few decades, all these things will no longer be as we now know

Over the next few months, to ensure we are informed slightly in
advance, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung will be running a series
of articles by the theoreticians of what John Brockman has dubbed the
"third culture." Europe should be more than just a source for the
software of ego crisis, loss of identity, despair, and Western
melancholy. We should be helping write the code for tomorrow.

May 23 © Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 2000 All rights reserved.
Reproduction in whole or in part is prohibited.


George Dyson, Stewart Brand, Sebastian Schnitzenbaumer, Dave Myers,
Clifford Pickover, Kai Krause, Jason McCabe Calacanis respond to
"Wake-Up Call for Europe Tech" by Frank Schirrmacher.


From: George Dyson
Date: July 6, 2000

Don't forget that we upstart Americans owe this whole digital
business to G. W. Leibniz, hardware and software alike. In 1679,
while exploring the powers of binary arithmetic, he imagined a
digital computer in which binary numbers were represented by
spherical pellets, governed by a rudimentary form of punched card
control. "This [binary] calculus could be implemented by a machine
(without wheels)," he wrote, "in the following manner, easily to be
sure and without effort. A container shall be provided with holes in
such a way that they can be opened and closed. They are to be open at
those places that correspond to a 1 and remain closed at those that
correspond to a 0. Through the opened gates small cubes or marbles
are to fall into tracks, through the others nothing. It [the gate
array] is to be shifted from column to column as required." In the
shift registers at the heart of all electronic computers, from
mainframes to microprocessors, voltage gradients and pulses of
electrons have taken the place of gravity and marbles, but otherwise
things are still running exactly as Leibniz envisioned (in Germany)
in 1679.

What better way to place ourselves between the digital past and
future than to build a working model Ğ 321 years later Ğ of Leibniz's
machine, on tennis-ball scale? It would take millions of tennis
balls, and hours to perform the simplest of calculations, but a few
miles of clear plastic shift registers, accumulators, and some
gravity-fed input-output would make visible the invisible workings
that govern so much of our existence today.

[Leibniz, De Progressione Dyadica, Pars I," (MS, 15 March 1679),
published in facsimile (with German translation) in Erich Hochstetter
and Hermann-Josef Greve, eds., Herrn von Leibniz' Rechnung mit Null
und Einz (Berlin: Siemens Aktiengesellschaft, 1966), pp. 46-47.
English translation by Verena Huber Dyson, 1995.]

GEORGE B. DYSON is a leading authority in the field of Russian Aleut
kayaks ìthe subject of his book Baidarka, numerous articles, and a
segment of the PBS television show Scientific American Frontiers. His
early life and work was portrayed in 1978 by Kenneth Brower in his
classic dual biography, The Starship And The Canoe. Now ranging more
widely as a historian of technology, Dyson's most recent book is
Darwin Among The Machines.

From: Stewart Brand
Date: July 6, 2000

That's an endearingly almost random sample of ideas and thinkers. As
good a way to dive in as any.

Germany does seem more alert than most to some of these questions.
They've translated my Clock of the Long Now, and two German video
teams are filming the development of Danny Hillis's Clock and the
ideas around it.

STEWART BRAND is founder of the Whole Earth Catalog, cofounder of The
Well, cofounder of Global Business Network, cofounder and president
of The Long Now Foundation. He is the original editor of The Whole
Earth Catalog, Author Of The Media Lab: Inventing The Future At Mit,
How Buildings Learn, and The Clock Of The Long Now: Time And
Responsibility (MasterMinds Series).

From: Sebastian Schnitzenbaumer
Date: July 6, 2000

Schirrmacher's article is interesting, although a bit biased, since
it fails to include the new economic spirit in Germany and the people
who are driving it. As you know, the 1968 Generation is currently the
biggest problem. As youngsters these people were in revolt against
the post-Nazi regime in Germany, and they definitely did a great job
of moving us away from the past. Today these people are in power, but
because they were always against power, they make the worst CEOs,
managers, etc.

These people are against the concept of optimism for the future and
believe that any form of pride, patriotism or team spirit is a
manifestation of the devil himself. Today they're a royal pain the
ass: inflexible, negative, blind.

A very good example is the bureaucracy in Germany. Considering
themselves to be the "last line of defense" against the Nazi Regime
in the 50s, 60s and early 70s, the 1968 Generation felt that they had
no alternative but to fight the old order. A lot of them became
themselves, "infiltrating" the system and changing it from the
inside. Others became terrorists.

The reality is, though, that after securing power by making the long
and tiresome walk through the institutions, the 1968 Generation
really didn't change things a lot, except in making things even less
efficient because of their lack of management talent. And since it
took them so long to get there, they're all really "burned-out" and

Members of the 1968 Generation are blind because they fail to see
what's really going on with the younger European generation, which is
very different. Today's younger generation combines the best of both
worlds: the idea that not every technological innovation is
necessarily for the best, as well as the ability to become movers and
shakers, to become entrepreneurs, to make things happen together.

The next generation, which I represent, is solving the same problem
that the 1968 Generation faced from a very different angle. My
company, Mozquito Technologies, has just signed a deal with the
Bavarian government to put all government forms online. And all I did
was found a company with friends, raise money, and develop a
technology together in a team. This whole process took us just two

This technology will now make it possible to interact with the
Bavarian bureaucracy without physically having to go to a government
office, wait for hours in ugly rooms, fill out silly forms by hand,
talk to those frustrated 1968 Generation guys. We're not making them
obsolete, but at least we're providing an alternative path. These
government officials will soon find themselves to be in competition
with online forms, their digital counterpart. They're losing their
status of being omnipotent and irreplaceable.

In order to achieve this, did we have to fight? No. Did we have to
throw away our lives and infiltrate the system from the inside? No.
We've prevailed with a smile, silently, without much talking. And we
had a great time doing it.

SEBASTIAN SCHNITZENBAUMER is CEO of the Munich-based Stack Overflow
AG which specializes in innovative client-server solutions for the
Web. Their flagship product - the Mozquito Factory - is the world's
first XML-based XHTML authoring tool, enabling developers to use
tomorrow's Web technologies today.
From: Dave Myers
Date: July 6, 2000

One aspect of the technological revolution that Americans are now
researching and debating - and that Frank Schirrmacher and FAZ may
wish to engage as well - is its social consequences. For example,
does the Internet, while connecting people with kindred interests,
also facilitate social isolation and risk of depression?

Robert Putnam engages this issue in his new Bowling Alone , and I
track various social trends during the technological age in my own
The American Paradox: Spiritual Hunger in an Age of Plenty.

DAVID G. MYERS is the John Dirk Werkman Professor of Psychology at
Hope College and author of The Pusuit of Happiness, and most
recently. The American Paradox: Spiritual Hunger in an Age of Plenty.

From: Clifford Pickover
Date: July 6, 2000

The Frank Schirrmacher article "Wake-up Call for Europe Tech" is an
interesting one. I believe he is suggesting that European
technologists are not pursing the fractal edge of the known and
unknown as much as American technologists are. In short, he appears
to suggest that European technologists are less creative than their
American counterparts and are not speculating as much about the
philosophical implications of future technology. If this is
Schirrmacher's point, and if this is true, it would be fascinating to
determine various correlations between such technological creativity
(TC) and other societal factors. Aside from more obvious economic and
political indicators, are there other correlators of TC? For example,
does the percentage of science-fiction books sold in a country
correlate with TC? Does the number of people who bought Frank
Tipler's The Physics of Immortality correlate with TC? (I mention
this book in particular because I heard it sold quite well in

Can we directly infer TC by counting the percentages of ""
readers in each country? I hope to track country of origin for
readers of the "Pickover Report" at to infer TC.

Here's a question to ask of the Edge readers: "What are viable
correlators of technological creativity in a society?" Who knows Ğ
maybe we will find a direct correlation of TC with readership of
mind-numbing SF authors such as Greg Egan, Robert Sawyer, Neal
Stephenson, or Stephen Baxter? Or maybe there is a correlation with
the religious makeup or age demographics of a country, or the
percentage of people speaking English, or some other odd factor.

When I asked colleagues why Europe might have less TC than America,
they made three controversial points:

1) "Europeans deliberately poke around the edges of current
technology because they lack the lash of being eaten alive (laid off)
if some other company beats the company they work for."

2 "The measure of success in America is the height of the pile of
dollars accumulated. This is less true for Europeans."

3. "The European response to American innovation is frequently an
attempt to apply brakes: 'No gene-engineered frankenfoods.' 'No
information unless you pass oppressive privacy rules.' 'The Internet
is an American imperialist plot to infect all countries with the
English language.' 'Let's only send snail mail instead of e-mail,
which gives a competitive advantage to American companies.' Perhaps
Americans are more willing to beg, borrow, or steal ideas that work
than Europeans are."

I don't know I agree with all of these points, or if they are
relevant, but they seem to be on peoples' minds.

CLIFFORD PICKOVER is a research staff member at IBM's T. J. Watson
Research Center, in Yorktown Heights, New York. He is the holder of
more than a dozen patents dealing with computer interfaces, and he
has written some twenty books on a broad range of topics, including
Time : A Traveler's Guide, Surfing Through Hyperspace : Understanding
Higher Universes in Six Easy Lessons, Black Holes : A Traveler's
Guide, Future Health : Computers and Medicine in the 21st Century,
Keys to Infinity, and The Science of Aliens.

From: Kai Krause
Date: July 6, 2000

Euro Muse and Ponder

What Schirrmacher is describing is important and timely. I have lived
between the continents somewhere in the middle of the Atlantic for 25
years. Born and raised in Germany I left at age 19 and have been
intertwined with computers and Silicon valley since the inception of
personal computers. When in Europe, I found myself on stages and TV
shows wildly gesturing to the audiences about the coming revolutions,
the PC, and later the Web. The West- East lag time in the 80s would
easily be measured in years, even as late as the mid 90s hardware and
software prices would typicallys be tripled by the time they reached
end users. Now in "the Zeroes" the visible delays have been
minimized. Sure, it always will take a couple extra months before The
Matrix hits DVD in German, but no more so than it takes half a year
for the Playstation II to migrate from Japan to the US. That doesn´t
seem to ruffle the feathers of the American consciousness or make
them feel inadequate. A stroll down Akihabara will teach any American
that there are such quirky last vestiges of cultural imperialism
expressing itself in a communal smirk.

And while I completely agree with Schirrmacher´s general poke at old
encrusted layers, I can´t quite subscribe to the notion that the
American version is all that its cracked up to be. There is a huge
gap between the cutting edge digerati and the common man. Cutting
from Danny Hillis to Billy Bob Hillbilly can bring you to the edge of
insanity. A cross country trip and a random stop at any random gas
station in anytown can easily let you lose all faith in mankind.

There have been plenty of times where I was certain it´s time to
reboot this planet and hope for Earth 2.0 to be better. It has never
been this great and it has never been this bad.... The landscapes are
cut up beyond all repair, kind of a molecular entropy getting more
chaotic by the week. The frequencies are globbed with more and more
and more of nothing. This is not the space to whine about the ever
obvious dot coma we are in and anyway you are the choir and beyond
being preached to.

The point in question was that Europe with all its encrustedness has
also endless amounts of beautiful crust on its bread, for starters.
As a bicontinental drifter and now living in a space that is in parts
1000 years old I do have many thoughts on the question.

Surely there is kind of a Germanic-depression lingering. The school I
went to was older than the entire US. The generation of the teachers
had gone through one or several wars. Everyone´s parents and uncles
were still talking about the post-war time of extreme restrictions.
America has never even had a war invade on its soil. Or rebuild all
of Chicago after it was bombed out entirely. The first generation of
Germans that is no longer completely pummeled by the communal guilt
and depression of that era is just now emerging.

The weather isn´t as everblue, there is a 24bit high resolution gray
that sets in. But suddenly now I find it kind of soothing. Its light
out until a quarter to 11pm. I muse and ponder...

There has always been a focus on completeness, depth and details
which I am very glad to have inherited and refer to as my "Mercedes
Benz genes". What may be described in a superficial manner as an Urge
for Cleanliness is to me just an expression to get things right and
follow through to final details. This may have its side effects but
is in principle a very laudable trait. Much that I see in Germany is
an absolutely beautiful attention to the small minor aspects.

The building I am in high above the Rhein river has hundreds of such
details that would make modern architects shrivel up...that could not
possibly be done in this age. Free hanging staircases out of bevelled
wood, stone steps leaving a central free column for a bellrope, a
chapel built underneath a meeting room and over an archway...and all
that as Beethoven was turning deaf, Chopin wrote some piano concertos
and Brahms was busy not being born yet. In California, sneezing the
wrong way will dent the neighbors sliding glass doors from Sears.

The waiter at the local restaurant has learned "waitering" in a three
year apprenticeship, waiting to become a Meister at his craft. In
L.A. I have yet to meet a waiter that wasn't more focused on a script
than the fishfork, or one that could even identify one.

And such are the intellectuals on the scene here. They are not as
loud and colorful. There aren´t as many billionaires to buy
Leonardos. But they do go to the local "Kneipe" which is not the same
as a "pub" since they don't just drink beer, real beer at that by the
way, but they discuss and debate and argue and engage. The local
village here by the Rhein river has barely a couple thousand souls
and yet there are places that serve food after midnight and dancing
till 5 am, when just in time the local bakeries open for breakfast.
Did I mention the bread?

The Cultural Scene in a town like Cologne easily matches anything in
the US anywhere. There are more museums, interactive art shows,
theaters, plays, children and senior citizen events, classical
concerts, ballet and multimedia events than you are likely to find in
a city 15 times its size like LA. Aside from that, going to a
midnight Vernissage in LA would let you take your life into your
hands...I brought a dozen US designers and programmers with me and it
was amazing to see their reactions and wonder. As I used to say it in
various debates and keynotes in the US: "in this damn puritan fake
society you can´t even show a nipple, unless someone is cutting it
off with a razor blade at the time, then it´s ok..." And that was
before I saw a wrestling event.

This place here has had 16:9 widescreens for a decade. Driving an
S-class at 270 km/h on the Autobahn will make 55 mph on the way to
Vegas feel like a very sad joke. I have had navigators in every
rental Beamer and Merc since 98. My cellphone was half the size of
the model "back home". I take a train, it comes every 12 minutes and
it is on time. The fast ones go 220 km/h. I took my kids on an Amtrak
to up the coast. LA-SB is 4 hours, three times the time by car.

Germany has comics that are ever bit as wild and witty as a Robin
Williams, if not more so. There is machine gun speed and wit like
"Otto" but also deep political satire like "Hüsch" and hundreds of
shades between. Never heard of them...? Well its no wonder. The
reason is simple: this stuff simply doesn't translate. Its like
watching a Woody Allen movie in Irian Yaya or east Shanghai: without
the voice and the New York context, it just loses everything. There
are plenty of people that are, seriously, "World Famous" in Germany.
Every bit as entrenched in the local culture alas, they cannot be
exported. What strikes me as sad though is that this simple insight
itself is not exported and the lack of English speaking German
Standup Comics leads to this implied notion that the entire
population is somehow stern and tough and worse yet "humorless". This
is, to use a technical sociopsychpathological term, complete bullshit!

The point of non translation, both in language and therefore in
awareness, is made with the implied statement that there are plenty
of extremely creative people here, amazing artists, literate thinkers
and innovative spirit at every level and in every shade of meaning.
Its just that you may have never heard of them and maybe in some
cases never will.

Its not all roses of course. IPO fever has hit the Neue Markt and
there are now plenty of rambling etailers with b2b speeches about
sticky eyeball solutions. The American LHF disease ("low hanging
fruit") has rampaged through the ranks.

The "Old Money" also has "Old Knowledge". They are endangered
species. Count von Suchandsuch can´t count on anyone to drag him onto
the web. The schools are in dire need of new generations of teachers
with new methods, tools and guidelines

The creative young spirits don't have the structures that built
Silicon Valley.... in Silicologne Valley they are only beginning to
talk about Angel investors and penny options for all early team
members. Starting a corporation will set you back 50,000 Euro
immediately: three students in Prague and 2 professors in Tyrolia may
already fumble. But as I sit with the Chancellor discussing these
stumbling blocks I sense that they are keenly aware that everything
is about to change. They WANT to embrace that change. They KNOW that
they don't know...

As I arrive here, in love with the notion of an ancient castle with
monstrous walls and inside all plasma screens, digital monks
meandering about, I cannot help but feel more at home than I do in my
actual home of Santa Barbara.

There is something in the air, I used to explain to the Germans about
California, and I didn't mean the smog. It is that "anything is
possible", that you are reduced to the essence of what you bring to
the party and if its good, you will succeed.

That as the American Dream appealed to me in my twenties. The twists
of that and the shades of the American Nightmare appall me in my
Forties. Still I am an Optimist, but I am lost between these worlds.
I don't feel either German or American. Albert spent a considerable
amount of time in the end thinking about a world government. Having
felt a Citizen of the World all my life, I believe that the future
incarnations of the Ultroid Web will get us there faster than any
political structural changes. I do see a chance for a completely new
kind of "digital democracy" so to speak, where all the ants in the
ant hill suddenly have direct access to every aspect of their culture
as well as each other.

The differences should not be between the US and Europe. They are
between individuals that want to bring about change for the better
and the ones that don't, both here and there. We have more in common
than in difference.

Don´t label several hundred million people with that much history in
their jeans as "they stopped thinking". Maybe they should start
talking a bit more about the fact that they are thinking. I´ll
mention it to them.

Schirrmacher did too, and I am grateful for it.

KAI KRAUSE, born 1957 in Germany, has a doctorate in philosophy, a
masters in image processing, a patent for interface concepts, a Clio
for the first StarTrek movie and a Davis Medal by the Royal British
Photographical Society. Time magazine selected him as one of the 50
most influential thinkers of the next decade. His software was used
for the Oscars and the Mars Mission, Issey Myake clothing and Playboy
logos, an Absolut Kai ad and a few others. He wrote some filters for
Photoshop, stuff for kids and programs to play with landscapes and
human figures and then took the whole thing to Nasdaq in 95 for a few
hundred million.

He is currently building a research lab in a castle on the Rhein
river dubbed the Byteburg for applied innovation in all fields, as
well as an Incubator for startups with the German government in a
second castle near Cologne. He loves "Go and Gödel, Bach and
Billiards, Escher and eclectic food. Tea and Tivo, new gadgets and
old books, museums and symphonies"

From: Jason McCabe Calacanis
Date: July 7, 2000

The United States, Legos, and Innovation

Frank Schirrmacher's dispatch on the state of thinking and execution
in Germany doesn't surprise me. While I'm not an expert on science,
it does seem from my pedestrian perspective that the United States is
clearly pushing the dialogue, as well as the envelope, on important
topics of our time like nanotechnology, artificial intelligence,
robotics and the human genome. Topics which are, and will continue
to, converge in our to time.

As for my personal focus (the Internet), I get the sense that
Germany, along with all of Europe, is suffering from a general mental
block, or perhaps sympathy pains, with regard to Internet
development. When I speak with Internet entrepreneurs outside of the
United States, the distinct feeling I'm struck with is that they
believe that what has happened in the last five years in the United
States is the gospel in regard to the dot-com world. As such, the
prevailing thinking is to build knock offs of businesses that have
worked in the United States Internet market (think: EBAY for Germany,
EBAY for Spain, etc.), as well as financial models (i.e. angel
investors, incubators, stock market roll-ups, etc.).

What non-U.S. markets have to realize is that the U.S. dot-com market
is like some warped house of mirrors inhabited by a freak show.
Figuring out why was worth billions and is now worth $50
million, or why the market rewards B2C one day and B2B the next, is
like trying to figure out who's who when you've stumbled into the
house of mirrors and you're looking at the reflections of the bearded
lady and the world's smallest man after drinking three martinis., Europe's biggest and shortest-lived dot-com play to date, is
a result of buzz-word copycat thinkers mirroring the worst of U.S.
dot-com models: raise lots of money, spend tons of it on advertising,
and sell products at a loss in hopes of making it back in volume.

Sure Europeans need to study the United States market, but most
importantly, they need to look at the core values of the Internet and
evaluate them for themselves in relation to their market and culture.
Every child in the United States plays with Legos at some point in
their childhood. They are one of the longest and best-selling toys
ever, and hail from a tiny, yet innovative country (Denmark), with a
population that is a fraction of the size of the United States. That
is how European dot commers need to think Ğ Ian Clarke's advances
with Freenet could be the first example.

JASON MCCABE CALACANIS is Editor and Publisher of Silicon Alley
Daily; The Digital Coast Weekly, Silicon Alley Reporter and Chairman
CEO, Rising Tide Studios.


John Brockman, Publisher & Editor

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