Horst Walther

My near philosophical musings about the world in general its problems and possible ways out.


Religion’s role in law and governance

At a panel discussion on religion and governance during the 2017 U.S.-Islamic World Forum, Brookings Senior Fellow Shadi Hamid asked the rhetoric question: Is Islam inherently political? Hamid emphasized that all religions may be similar in their general objectives, but that they have different characteristics and metaphysical underpinnings—and that matters. Islam’s founding moment, for example, intertwined religious and political functions, and this shapes how many, if not most, Muslims view religion’s role in law and governance. This doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing in public life, he said.

From an enlightened European point of view however it is “a bad thing”, even a very bad one. Not keeping religion and stately affairs strictly separate is the antithesis to any liberal democratic society. As in the major organised religions men speak on behalf of their god, for which by the very nature of the matter no verifiable justification can be given, no credible democratic legitimation can be demonstrated.

A democratic legitimation however is the fundamental precondition of any political activity. Therefore religion’s role must not interfere with law and governance if we don’t want to allow rolling back the achievements in political and personal liberation and inclusive participation of the last three centuries.

There is an open conflict brewing since the very first inception of the ideas of enlightenment. Of course, as these were genuinely European ideas, the conflict in confined to Europe. Consequently it can only be well understood there. Nevertheless aggressive European expansion exported these ideas to various places in the world – however with likewise varying degrees of success during their implementation.

So, historically this conflict is not new to us. Rather it is an old story for which we, if not a solution, we but found a Modus Vivendi. First worldly monarchs and rulers, later democratic societies and their lawmakers and law enforcers, eventually managed to curb the powers of religious leaders to a more or less tolerable level.

The struggle however is far from being over – even if this might be the dominating impression. Most European states missed the chance for a truly secular constitution. One might well co-exist with a tamed, almost castrated church, which is carefully limited in its rights and whose influence is closely monitored.

With a younger and even more aggressive religion, whose very concept is inherently political, as innocently stated above by Shadi Hamid, the incompleteness of your transitions to secular states may bloodily fire back.

We have to relearn, what we obviously forgot: Religion and politics are a deadly mixture. And it is reality already. We have to understand, that we already are sitting on a ticking time bomb.


First the model

On the role of modelling and simulation as an integral part of any digital transformation

Once upon a time

In my earlier days, when I was advocating the use of roles, or their dynamic equivalents, business rules (in combination with business attributes), I once ran into an enlightening discussion.

In an experts panels on an Identity conference I heard one of the experts state: "What sense does role modelling make, if, whenever we complete an organisations role model and are about to implement it, the organisation has changes considerably meanwhile."

Well "that's real life" we were tempted to say. But wait a minute! Can this really be true? I had to remember a second quotation from the same event "Roles are the DNA of an organisation”.

O.k. if you consider any commercial endeavour as a mild form of barely ordered chaos, if you run a company merely ad hoc, and role modelling is considered as imposing an unnecessarily rigid structure on top of a highly volatile ecosystem, that reinvents itself at every very moment - ok, in this case forget about any modelling up front.
  • Introducing roles for process design or access control requires a certain process maturity – or it will fail.

The model driven corporation

But what, when it comes to automation? In order to automate an organisation you need to express it in a formal way, so that it can be processed by machines or - more often - in a blended fashion by machines and humans. You need to formally document your policies & rules, processes and roles in a complete, consistent and transparently executable way. Only then the processes can be repeatedly run by those above mentioned processors.

Considering this scenario, how can the organisation have changed while the role model is still controversially discussed? No way! The roles are the organisation, not just its mere documentation, or at least an important part of it.

This fundamental shift in perception of the importance of modelling becomes a vital precondition for any sufficiently complex organisation undergoing a digital transformation.

By gradually replacing human processors by automated actors the entire corporation turns into a hyper-system of interacting subsystems. The actors might perform simple, straightforward and deterministic activities or make use of heuristics, like deep learning based systems are doing.

The Behaviour of such ecosystems is hard to predict. They need to be tested carefully after changes having been applied and before releasing them into the wild. Otherwise unwanted effects might mount and result in cascading damages.
  • Better don’t trust a model – unless it is sufficiently verified. 

Simulation of complex systems

However test cases to be fed into the system consist of input data and expected results. Of these the latter may be hard to determine in such complex systems. So testing will rather morph into simulation.

Simulation hereby is understood as „Process of designing a model of a real system and conducting experiments with this model for the purpose either of understanding the behaviour of the system and its underlying causes or of evaluating various designs of an artificial system or strategies for the operation of the system[1]. Well a bit lengthy, seems to be correct however.

You feed in typical scenarios from everyday life or from some anticipated or even exceptional situations. For example if you run a seasonal business you may simulate low and high season, including bottle necks, cash flow minima and many more. For risk assessments you may generate a sufficient high numbers of random events to let some rare risks materialise. Robustness checks may be performed by some kind of perturbation calculation including a realistic number of cataclysmic events like strikes, political unrest, climate change effects or even regional wars. Adequate staffing, effects of fluctuations, diseases, might they be seasonal or epidemic, holiday seasons, labour market elasticity are just a few examples. The model will give reasonable answers to these vital questions.
  • The digitally transformed corporation will be a model driven corporation.

Optimisation, the next logical step

Meanwhile the need for simulation has become widely recognized. There is however more to benefit from simulation than just avoiding traps and adding robustness. When running several simulations while varying the input parameters the desired outcome can be optimized.  Variation of input parameters  have to follow a strategy of course, in order to minimise the simulation steps.

There are several optimisation strategies in use for different purposes following different paradigms. The most robust ones follow evolutionary strategies.

Of course all enthusiasm for these powerful tools should not make us forget the potential pitfalls involved. Insights like these: "A model is a model is a model is a model"[2] or "Essentially, all models are wrong, but some are useful"[3] may remind us, that the model represents a stripped down version of reality only. We however regard it as the higher risk however to bypass the use of modelling, simulation and optimisation before transforming a whole business by applying leading edge digital technologies.
  • But first you have to start with a model.


[1] As defined by R. E. Shannon in the seventies of the last century (Shannon, R. E.: Systems Simulation: The Art and Science, Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, 1975.
[2] Dierk Raabe referencing  Rosenblueth, A.; Wiener, N.: The Role of Models in Science, in: Philosophy of Science, Vol. 12, No. 4 (October 1945), S. 316-321 (http:/www.jstor.org/stable/184253).
[3] Box, G. E. P.; Draper, N. R.: Empirical Model Building and Response Surfaces, John Wiley & Sons, New York, NY, 1987.


Wahlkampf, wie retro!

Jetzt treten sie wieder an, die von  Unwissenden arglos „Matatoren“ genannten. Sie schlagen heftig mit ihren Schwertern auf die Schilde - symbolisch gesprochen. Dabei veranstalten sie einen Höllenlärm – bisweilen ganz real. Den Saal mit aufpeitschenden Reden zu kochen bringen, In TV-Duellen in niederster US-Manier den Gegner in die Knie zwingen, auf Markplätzen den Volkstribun geben – das ist alles so entsetzlich retro. Da steht immer der starke Führer als Speerspitze in der Schlachtreihe, einer der nach Macht strebt. Gefragt sind Anspruch, Auftreten, Redegewandtheit, Strategie und Taktik. Man beschimpft sich gegenseitig, wie Boxer vor dem Duell. Gelegentlich gilt das auch für das Niveau der Rede.

Mit politischem Inhalt hat das zunächst herzlich wenig zu tun. Der kommt zumeist auch in deutlich bescheidenerem Gewande daher. Er muss auch nicht erst in den letzten Wochen vor der Wahl ausgepackt werden. Die Parteien hatten satte vier Jahre Zeit, ihn zu formulieren, zu schleifen und bekannt zu machen. Regierungsparteien hatten sogar die Chance sie - im Rahmen eventueller Koalitionszwänge – in die Wirklichkeit umzusetzen. Stattdessen sollen dem unschlüssigen Volk eingängige Versprechen in einer Hau-ruck Kampagne „verkauft“ werden, wie ein neues Waschmittel. Zählt vielleicht für den Erfolg am Ende noch das höhere Werbe-Budget?

Unbequeme Wahrheiten werden dabei gerne im stillschweigenden, parteiübergreifenden Konsens der „politischen Mitte“ ausgeklammert. Damit wollen die etablierten Parteien mit Regierungschance ihre Wählerschaft nicht verschrecken. Das tun dafür die Outlaws am linken und am rechten Rand. Wer Tabuthemen aufspüren will, darf gerne einmal rechts hineinhören – nicht jedoch bei den „End-Lösungen“. Wer bissige, aber kluge Kommentare vorzieht, ist links ganz gut bedient – weniger bei deren praktischer Wirksamkeit. Links, rechts – wird damit eigentlich noch der richtige Diskursraum aufgespannt? Können wir mit solchen vergangenheitsbezogenen, tief verschanzten Positionen eigentlich den Herausforderungen der Zukunft begegnen?

Wie wollen wir denn mit der digitalen Transformation unserer Gesellschaften umgehen, wenn Kollege KI unsere tradierten Jobs besser und billiger ausfüllen kann? Haben wir auch Themen jenseits von Ausländermaut und Rentenaltersobergrenze? Was ist denn mit Flüchtlingsströmen, Massenmigration, clash of civilisations, Überbevölkerung, wachsender Ungleichheit der gesellschaftlichen Gruppen, Endlichkeit der Ressourcen, zusammenbrechenden ökonomischen und ökologischen Systemen, Wirtschaftstheorien ohne Wachstumsprämisse, …? Jenseits der Stammtische gibt es ausreichend spannende Themen, über die es sich lohnt angstfrei und ruhig, aber ernsthaft zu diskutieren, sie prinzipientreu anzugehen, ohne gleich mit vorschnellen Lösung auftrumpfen zu wollen.

Wieso eigentlich Wahlkampf? Was hat denn wählen mit kämpfen zu tun? Ich will gar keine besiegten politischen Gegner auf dem Felde der Ehre erschlagen zurückgelassen sehen. Diese ganze kriegslüsterne Rhetorik ist doch völlig fehl am Platz. Wir sind auch nicht in einem Fußballspiel zum Abreagieren und heiser Brüllen. Es geht um die richtigen Weichenstellungen für unsere Zukunft. 

Aber vielleicht sind die Weichen auch schon gestellt und wir wissen es nur noch nicht. Wenn Kollege KI in Zukunft vielleicht Arzt oder Rechtsanwalt sein kann, dann sollte es doch eine Kleinigkeit sein, auch den Job des Politikers durch Algorithmen übernehmen zu lassen.

 Wenn wir uns die aktuell zur Wahl stehenden Alternativen ansehen, können wir nur hoffen, dass diese Übernahme noch rechtzeitig stattfindet – gewissermaßen als childhoods end.


GDPR & Digital Transformation - What do they have in common?

At first sight nothing – you would say, except perhaps that both of them, the General Data Protections Regulation and the change imperative digital transformation, are currently hot topics in the public professional debate. And I would even agree – at least at first sight.

When digging a bit deeper into the very nature of both concepts, the necessary preconditions, the resulting effects, we might feel compelled to paint a different picture. There might even be a common layer of overarching or underlying principles both concepts need to follow in order to be successfully implemented.

Digital Transformation

Much has been written about this fashionable term – not least by myself. So I will spare you elaborating at length and in depth about this topic. Let’s just focus on some characteristics to be further discussed in the course of this article.

Here we define digital transformation being a transformation of a business aiming at a competitive advantage in its market by profoundly making use of latest digital technology.

By latest technology we mean such, which has sufficiently matured to be seriously considered with acceptable risk as a foundation for the new transformed business.

Like in the past this approach rarely results in re-inventing the business totally, rather more often than not it boils down to the automation of processes, previously done manually.

Nevertheless meanwhile some change has occurred, some kind of the often cited transition from quantity to quality:
  • Artificial intelligence, belittled for many years as a lab only technology, has grown up,
  • Advanced analytics, mature enough now for in-process decision taking,
  • Connecting ordinary “things” to the internet broadens the range of processes to automate
  • and some more
… have meanwhile evolved into powerful tools.

By automating most of the operational layer, making most of the management layer obsolete, adding a new breed of change agents instead, and requiring a much more technology aware strategy process, nevertheless the entire corporation may hereby undergo a fundamental transformation.


The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) apparently is quite a different story.

The GDPR intends to strengthen and unify data protection for individuals within the European Union. It also addresses the export of personal data outside the EU. Citizens and residents benefit by getting back control over their personal data. For international business the unification of the regulation within the EU is a welcome side effect as it simplifies the regulatory environment.

The GDPR is driven by some major underlying Principles relating to processing of personal data as expressed in its Article 5: lawfulness, fairness and transparency, purpose limitation, accuracy, storage limitation, integrity and confidentiality, accountability.

While this sound fine and most of us might intuitively agree to it, for enterprises there is reason to be concerned, as the regulation opens a new compliance frontier. Some of its requirements represent rather new concepts like: 'privacy by design' and 'privacy by default', the right to data portability on request of the data subjects, explicit consent, minimal data, or the right to be forgotten, just to name a few .

Hence to comply with the regulation will require changes and enhancements deep in the practiced processes and implemented data structures. In addition regular risk assessments, called Data Protection Impact Assessments (DPIA) in GDPR, will become mandatory once you deal with ‘high risks’, e.g. sensitive personal data. Doubts are justified that both can be achieved within the few months left. But rather it may need years of maturing, at least when starting form a low level of process maturity – which can safely be assumed in the majority of cases.

The volume of the resulting activities too may not be neglectable as a recent OliverWyman survey of 1,500 British consumers, revealed that as many as half of the respondents said they were already leaning toward reclaiming their information.

Regarding the requirement to report a data breach to the supervisory authority within 72 hours, a recent survey illustrates this statement as it found that only 2% of responding companies actually appeared to be compliant, although almost half (48%) of the respondents reported that they were.

In most cases this discrepancy is not due to unwillingness but due to severe deficits in the mere underpinnings. Most often no data encryption is applied by default, may it be structure retaining (pseudonymisation or tokenisation) or not. No company-wide and cross-process identity concept implemented, no role-based or attribute based access management, no executable security policies are in place.

From the regulators perspective these all are elements of ordinary housekeeping which have to be in place to comply with GDPR. And as well they are a necessary precondition for any digital transformation.

GDPR may drive digital transformation. Why so? Let’s randomly take one of the requirements as a small however important example: As mentioned above GDPR obliges companies to report data violations within 72 hours. If they cannot prove that the data were encrypted and the private keys have been sufficiently protected, they will face a severe fine. As traditionally reliable end-to-end data encryption whether it is "at rest" or "in flight" was difficult to achieve and rather costly, new solutions need to be put in place: new processes, new software and most probably even new, specialized hardware. This might further drive the move towards cloud solutions, which in the end will turn out to offer a higher security than in-house solutions.

Thus we here have an example of GDPR paving the way for a further digital transformation, as vulnerabilities due to insufficient IT security measures are the major concerns, withholding the transformation towards truly digital corporations.

Data portability and the right to be forgotten also are examples where the data architecture has to follow a holistic identity concept. It has to include all kinds of stakeholders like customers, vendors and all parts of the workforce – not just employees, hereby inflating the data volume by several orders of magnitude.

Additionally the relationship to planned, on-going and past business activities and of legal obligations must be reflected here to be able to determine the purpose for which the data are actually held for and to effortlessly decide if the and be safely deleted.

The necessary defragmentation of the underlying data architecture and the explicit expression of relationships which to date are often only implicitly stated in no-related documents, too can be welcomed as an enabler for further automation


With only a few months to go GDPR seems to be by far more urgent to be taken serious than any digital transformation. This impression is strongly supported by the looming penalties of up to 4% of annual global turnover or €20 Million (whichever is greater).

Lagging behind the competition however is not much less of a threat. Market dynamics has increased considerably. While in the recent past it took about 20 years for a company to reach sufficient size for a considerable market visibility, today it can well happen after one year. Meanwhile the corporate average life span has shrunk to about 12 years. These numbers might give an impression that by missing the train in the realm of digital transformation might come with penalties in a similar order of magnitude.

There is definitely no time to loose. The good news however is: Doing both is not exactly double the work. There are several commonalities and reason to assume substantial synergies, when addressing both of them.

And by the way: Both have to be done anyway.

Further readings and references …


Inherently unsustainable


It should be common sense today that mankind is doomed unless it restricts itself to a sustaining way of reproducing its livelihood. Instead that’s still theory in esoteric circles. What it means in practice is neither well understood nor even seriously attempted to be implemented.

Some romantics seriously advocate for a simple ‘back to the roots’, meaning to operate in our forefathers’ style. They however leave it unclear to the audience how to feed the exponentially growing number of hungry mouths. Of course it could be possible to step back in time – provided the population size is reduced accordingly. But how? By a new plague, by war by deliberate genocide? There is no pleasant scenario in sight.

A more likely scenario is that we will hit the often predicted 10 billion heads mark by ~ 2050, leaving no room for romanticism. This world will definitely be different from what we know today. But how could it look like? How will we live by then? How will life feel?

Let’s consider some parts of our life, of our environment and discuss them one by one.

Fishing & hunting 

Fishing & hunting for food or leisure surely are surely archaic traits. Our fore-forefathers had very good reasons to give up hunting and gathering as a means to maintain their subsistence. It was a hard life with an unpredictable outcome. And in many cases – if not in all - it was unsustainable.

Now that we take a closer and unbiased look to the ecological impact of the Neolithics and even earlier economies, more and more evidence pops up that many species of the Pleistocene mega fauna not just went extinct but was driven extinct. It took Neolithic hunters in the northern tundra of Europe and Asia about 30.000 years to slaughter huge numbers of mammoths to their final disappearance, the Maori about 500 years to eradicate the giant Moa.

And so did nearly all indigenous peoples all over the continents, be it Australia, South America or Europe. Here we noble savages cleared the almost the entire continent of all larger animals on land, on the sea shore, in open water and even in the air. The US strives to follow us under the new Alt-Right government, headed by Donald Trump. The most devastating effects, of course were unfolded on larger or smaller islands, like Madagascar, Mauritius, New Guinea, New Zeeland and even worse on smaller pacific islands.

Nothing will stop the human race to continue following its preferred game. By 2050 the sixth extinction will not only be in full swing. It will be nearly over by then with Africa too cleared of all major animals, not to speak of Asia or the Americas. Oceans will be emptied, poisoned and littered up to a near “Soylent Green (1973)” scenario. It will be all devoured by the ever growing, ever hungry human masses.

So hunting and fishing will not just be banned. It will be pointless anyway.


Is a highly industrialized agriculture to be considered as a solution? Nope, not really. This point however needs some discussion as there is the apparent paradox of statistically provable betterment of the earth’s population’s food provision and the limited and even shrinking available arable land.

Agriculture, as we know it, even today ranges on the lower end of mankind’s cultural development.

The number of humans on this planet is expected to hit 9.7 billion by 2050, and crop demand is predicted to increase by 100 to 110 percent of 2005 levels over the same period. At the same time, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicts that changing weather patterns will almost certainly have a negative impact on crop yields.

Traditional plant breeding approaches have managed to achieve impressive increases in crop yield in the past. But the process is laborious and can take decades to develop improved varieties. More recent genetically modified (GM) crops have resulted in further improvements by transplanting genes from one organism to another. A further big step forward will be made possible through the introduction of gene-editing tools. They will make it possible to precisely edit the native DNA of organisms with the potential to dramatically increase crop yields.

Not all will appreciate to be nourished with this kind of ‘Frankenstein food’. More importantly the resistance may target unwanted side effects on zombie plants escaping into the (remaining) wild and unfolding devastating effects there. But will we have a choice, once we are so many?

Anyway agriculture, be it traditional or hyper progressive will not keep up with the exponential population growth. That’s an old Malthusian prediction, which seemingly was falsified since his times. Technical progress and abundant natural resources at hand had provided for some relief - and for some more centuries for the party to go on.

No, food production must be fully industrialized. Biotechnical food production in mega industrial complexes will be based on processing of fast growing algae, bacteria, archaea or yeasts. Alien ecosystems, like found today around “black smokers” in the deep sea may serve as templates to be imitated. Or we make better use of fossil fuels and gases by feeding them to methanotrophic bacteria or some strains of Pseudomonadaceae, which currently account for biodegradation of crude oil and water mixtures. Properly processes, packaged and re-branded it will be no less disgusting that may of the current food fakes. The consumption of “Natural Food” derived from traditional sources will be the privilege of small elites.

Natural resource consumption 

Cutting trees, which took (in some cases much) more than a human life to grow, to be channeled into the industrial or private consumption, just to be turned into waste in a matter of a few years only, can of course no longer be tolerated. Anyway only a few trees of considerable age will be left in highly protected area. And protection means that they need to have life guards which have to shoot first before asking questions. As wood in general will be expensive, very expensive, and comparable only to African Blackwood, Sandalwood, Ebony or Agar Wood today, it will be immediately looted otherwise.

But there is a broader picture of the non-sustainable consumption of natural resources to be taken into consideration.

In 2013 the TRUECOST initiative made an attempt to estimate in monetary terms the financial risk from natural capital that is currently unpriced, across specific business sectors at a regional level, and through supply chains.

 By estimating the true costs to their revenues and expressing it in a single factor they found striking differences like e.g. …

  • Cole power generation in eastern Asia (1.0), 
  • Cole power generation in northern America (1.3), 
  • Rice farming Southern Asia (3.6), 
  • Wheat farming in Southern America (8.4), 
  • Cattle ranching and farming in South America (18.8). 

Hence they rightly concluded that in high impact regions sectors don't generate sufficient profit to cover their environmental impacts. Therefore if unpriced natural capital costs are internalized, a large proportion would have to be passed on to consumers. The risk to agricultural commodity prices is particularly striking, where the natural capital cost is universally higher than the revenue of the sectors.

This leaves the impression that the day may come rather sooner than later when will experience a sharp price hike of goods, which are considered cheap now. Unfortunately those are goods covering mankind’s very basic daily necessities.

Living conditions

With reaching ~ 10 billion people competing for space on this planet by 2050, most people will be living cram mend into ~400 densely populated mega cities. The urbanization rate will be ~ 80%. The 10 biggest of them will inhabit 30 to 50 million citizens. The number of mega cities could however well be smaller, with the world's biggest cities merging into 'mega-regions'. This concentration will be encouraged by government, as being seen as the only way to provide some decent infrastructure to them.

The keeping of domestic animals in the city, and where else will the people live, will be banished as an irresponsible resource-consumption, and, of course, also as a cruelty to animals. Anyway we will be crammed together on much less private space than today.

Of course technology will help. With ubiquitous electronics at hand many of today’s physical things will become virtual and stored on neglectable space – however not all. So we all will have to forcibly declutter our lives, practicing a new physical minimalism. The mess will become virtual.


Most importantly the basic human right for uncontrolled procreation will be no more. Such policy should have been in place for about half a century already. Only China applied it so far on large scale through its one child policy.

Some countries may rather collapse or prefer to engage in suicidal wars than executing such policy. Others may find the tight living conditions dictating them some procreational restrain. Nurturing offspring will be seen more of a burden for the planet than a benefit. And of course we may encounter administrative restrictions to discourage reproduction.

So growth will eventually flatten out. To ensure a meaningful and joyful life in a healthy environment it will be by far too late however.


Digital Confusion

This contribution has first appeared in the 25 years anniversary newsletter of the Project Consult some weeks ago.

Expected surprise

During my professional career I came across many new terms and buzzwords, sold by clever representatives of the huge consulting machineries. Most were short lived, some made it to the top of the charts for a decent period, few survived.

As we don’t yet experience the end of all times, there is no reason, why this continuous stream of verbal invention should finally run dry. So a few years ago the inevitable happened and first "digitisation" arrived, followed by "digital transformation".

Plenty of literature suddenly popped up, urging the frightened public, not to fall behind but in a way make use of these new imperatives and aggressively disrupt the market. No one however dared to do the hard dirty work of explaining what it means, how it differs from things done in the past and why it suddenly became important.

What the hell was going on here?

So eventually I went to an event where the agenda promised to provide some insight. Well, I was able to gain some understanding, however other than expected. Let me take just three random examples:

Customer orientation

Forget about technology”, one speaker proclaimed in an emphatic provocative manner. “It’s all about serving the customer.” The latter certainly has never been more true. In fact it has been true all the time. And didn’t I ride that wave myself, some 25 years ago? An eternal truth can hardly be considered the new driving force.

But isn’t there indeed some new enabling technology at hand, making a further automation possible, which was hard to achieve before? Even if we leave leading edge technologies like deep learning, Internet of Things (IoT), autonomous robotics and the like aside, steady development gave us predictive analytics, in-process operational data warehouses, cheap sensors combined with big data technologies. Rigorously applied to even existing business models they may unfold dramatic effects already – well, and should be harnessed to serve good old customer orientation.

Salvation by superman

Another speaker outlined the characteristics of the fashionable new function of the CDO, The chief digital officer. After summing up all the desirable characteristics of this multifaceted personality he had described some kind of superhero not to be found among us mortal muggles – certainly not for the salary of a middle to upper management position.

For those, who are not familiar with tribal rites of large corporations, I like to explain a common habit. If new and challenging problems arise on corporate level, which could neither be ignored nor annihilated through a onetime bold & swift strike by top management, but needs long and tedious work on several levels of the hierarchy, we use to assign this task to a new responsibility. By this mechanism special corporate functions like e.g. the Quality Manager (although “quality is everybody’s job”), the Risk Manager (although conscious risk taking is the prime entrepreneurial task of top management) or finally the digital Officer was born.

This doesn’t mean that such new role is per se useless. If part of a corporate wide campaign he figuratively can be seen as the figurehead of the ongoing transformation coordinating the various activities and driving the transformation program forward. Backed by C-level power and support, even success can be achieved.

More often than not however, he just impersonates C-Levels excuse, its unwillingness to take serious steps but instead position a well-paid incarnation of false promises as a scapegoat on a prominent position.

The innovators dilemma

Permanently reinventing your business a third speaker vigorously demanded of those in power. Hey great, that’s the right spirit, exciting! But shortly review the typical behaviour of the C-suite members of the dinosaur corporations, the alpha males, those vain egomaniac rulers, who run their empires by fear. Will notorious creativity suppressors employ creative destruction to reinvent themselves? Will they start with a blank sheet of paper to escape the innovators dilemma? History however tells us otherwise.

As management Guru Gary Hamel once pointedly put it, implementing radical innovation in large corporation reminded him to “teaching dogs to stand on their hind legs. The moment you turn your back, the dog is on all fours again because it has quadruped DNA, not biped DNA.” Obviously it rarely works like that; rather the attackers come from below. Once they emerge from the dark as tiny flickering points on your radar screen it may probably be too late already. Then you are encircled already and may face a stiff uphill battle – just to be defeated. Not creative, but just plain destruction.

The fatal lapsus

In a weary moment I dared to ask a question: “How does this all differ from the past? Haven’t we done this all before already?” And then hell broke loose – I bitterly regretted outing myself being so naïve. I really shouldn’t have said that.

Magic transformation

And then it came: transformation, where suddenly all the magic happens. Here the usual suspects paraded before our inner eyes: AirBnB, Uber, Amazon … Impressive indeed. But didn’t these enterprises start new digital business models from scratch in a seemingly well settled industry sector, rather than re-inventing a traditional business, maybe even with material goods to be shippedat the end of the value chain?

And didn’t the elite of the top level advisors throughout all these years promise to transform your business in order to cope with current, past and future challenges? I remember my own exiting time at Nolan, Norton & Co., some 30 years ago, where we crafted elaborate processes for the transformation of businesses by the proper use of the then latest information technology. But, what a pity, we did not call it digital transformation. Otherwise, who knows, I could even claim copyright on the term 😥

Cargo cult

Well, eventually I had to understand that if digital transformation ought to be the Holy Grail of strategy, management, information technology … and of course, consulting, it simply must not be the same old story from 20 years ago, which we just cleverly or reluctantly managed to avoid in favour of the short term bottom line and with less headache involved. No CIO will stimulate enthusiasm by proclaiming that he plans to finally do his homework. The old smelly stuff has to be repackaged, rebranded, labelled new and – well – perfumed to overcome its musty odour. To make the task complete the new shiny gift is embedded into an aura of an all-disrupting next big thing, something like the “Great Leap Forward” (which by the way failed miserably). There is always the temptation to celebrate some cargo cult around new promising terms.

The book

Eventually I came across a preview of my old friend Wolfgang Keller’s and co-authors’s  Michael Kunz and Hermann Ladner brand new book, not surprisingly called “digital transformation”. As they are brave men, they took up the fight with the monster, trying to shed some light on his dark matter, bringing some order to the crude. Did they succeed? Hard to say. The rise of buzzwords is a collectively emerging phenomenon, best understood in the light of complexity theory – if at all. There is no owner, no author, no final senior authority to for all time settle the dispute.

Wolfgang and his co-authors at least approached the topic systematically, came up with some decent and plausible definitions and classifications and covered some related side topics like business models, ecosystems and the like.

Of course he too could not withstand to discuss one or the other posterchild of the scene like those mentioned above. It wouldn’t be Wolfgang however, if it didn’t reveal some interesting and maybe lesser known facts about those corporations. Regarding the assumed mission to create a positive attitude towards the topic, these examples rather backfired. Quite the opposite, I took it as discouraging for established players in traditional businesses.

So, not surprisingly, among the more interesting passages is his foray on technical debts as a very common barrier to any bold and swift strategic action, be it (digital) transformation, mergers or acquisitions. Here he touches an often neglected however nevertheless essential aspect of the discussion.

Besides that it is a nice book, conveying tons of information, worth reading, even if you were exposed to all that before.

The insight

As an essential takeaway of this intellectual ramble tacitly the conclusion matured in my mind about what digital transformation is in essence. Digital Transformation is first and foremost a transformation. It should be a bit more than just doing the anyway necessary homework, i.e. not piling up technical debts. It can even end up in re-inventing your whole business. Of course, as in any strategic change activity contemporary technology should be employed. The technology is constantly evolving, appears in new shape each year at an even accelerating pace. The transformation process hasn’t changed at all.


During a short coffee break, while attending the above mentioned event, I had a discussion with one of the attendees about my heretical contribution.

You are right”, he said “It might not be all new. However what did not exist in the past is the new challenge by technology literate consumers. They demand business processes as seamless and easy as a post on Facebook. They don’t feel the least compassion with the obvious difficulties of the large market incumbents, to keep up with the pace of technology. 

If the user Experience does not live up to expectation set by the daily iPhone use, consumers will eventually abandon the whole product. 

The world became consumer driven. Agile consumers now chase the complacent corporate world – and some may go over the cliff soon.”

This is what’s new.”

Thus he spoke – hmmm, food for thought.


When god jokes

Recently I joined a colleague for an after work beer to one of Düsseldorf’s oldest and most rustic Altbier (literally “old beer”) taverns.

Quickly, we had engaged in a profound discussion about the nature of artificial intelligence and its effects on our lives and the world as such in general.

We were not the only ones reflecting their professional and beyond thoughts in a more convenient and inspiring atmosphere than a noisy crowded open space office with only with castrated and amputated computers at hand.

At the table next to us there sat god and devil. They seemed to be regular guests here as they blended in perfectly into the crowd like locals. Maybe they indeed were locals. While my colleague suspected that god might be from rivalling Cologne, which is to be considered as rather daring when being in in Düsseldorf, the devil spoke a distinct and often ridiculed Saxon dialect.

While my colleague went on elaborating on the sad outlook that programmers might become the first victims of AI, I could not help secretly and as inconspicuously listening to the conversations at neighbouring table.

Seemingly the talks were about the gaming business, the design and development of computer games, to be more precise, using many special terms, which I do not recall, as I am not good in memorizing terms, which are unbeknownst to me.

And they seemed to be worried.

I told you before - under certain conditions it might run out of control”, I heard devil saying. He reminded me of that macho type low level programmer, who loves to touch the iron itself, who dreams of applying the raw power of a signal processor and for whom C, assembler or machine language was not to sharp a weapon, not to risk its use – and abuse.

It is all about balancing. The more autonomy you allow for the decisions taken, the more powerful will be the systems behaviour. Adding one control level on top of the other, you have to let loose at some point. First you implement decisions, then overall beliefs, driving these decisions, on the 3rd level the beliefs might alter and take different shape, even new beliefs and meta-beliefs might emerge. Isn’t that all fascinating? No one knows the outcome!” Was Gods reply.

He appeared to me as a more intellectual type nerd, one of those who go after architecture, UX & design. I wouldn’t be surprised if he would be a proponent of the recently fashionable design thinking discipline.

Meanwhile my colleague, a brilliant guy as well, went on contemplating about applying deep learning on more mundane tasks like driving a car in the asphalt jungle of a modern megalopolis. “How long do you think it will take some Google-translate grade systems to learn driving? And will the teachers, who will tell them, when their attempts will be successful, be good enough at all? Or will they just learn from their crashes? That would be a bit too human-like for my personal taste.

I uttered some Aha, ahemm, nodding, shrugging and more sophisticated forms of structured silence, while clandestinely eavesdropping some of the words from beyond the waiter’s highway, seperating our tables.

But is comes with some severe shortcomings: the outcome is no longer predictable, the overall energy consumption does not support our green computing intentions, and in the end you will lose control over the whole sprawling complexity. Eventually you will have to – and this let me tell you – you will have to push the reset button, rather sooner than later.”

Well, you guessed it. This was devil again, our real-politics guy.

Lame as a manager, but intellectually convincing gods response came like this: “Well I just could set the parameters right, I mean find the optimal set. Adjusting the degree of inclusion, compassion aggression, traditionalism, envy, trust … and the like and lock it into their firmware. While doable, this would still pose a daunting task. However by doing so I would cut evolution of, would severely limit emergent effects and stall overall progress. Letting mutation and selection adapt exactly these parameters on a secular time scale, led to those hyper successful emergent effects, like establishing a cultural evolution on top of the biological one. And now on top of that even the next layer is about to emerge in my breed, which is misleadingly dubbed Artificial Intelligence”.

At the same time my colleague mentioned this very word in some kind of mockery. As if it were the keyword, everyone was waiting for; it cut through the fog of the ear-deafening noise of the beer tavern. For a moment my colleague and god looked at each other’s, smiled, nodded, like you may greet a rare compatriot in a foreign country, recognising that they are operating in a similar business. Aren’t they?

Devil: “I don’t think that it is about flaws in the implementation, but the very goal is contradictory. The tricky thing is, that while pursuing the right thing, you will get the unwanted, rather the opposite of what you intended. Good is bad, remember Orwells, doublethink! The design flaw is that making them utterly successful is the recipe for catastrophe. Every optimisation only makes the whole collective glide even faster down the slippery slope. Your favourite breed is too much bound for success, victory and glory. What made them thriving throughout the ramp-up period, will make your lemmings eventually hit a solid wall and lead to their complete self-destruction. That’s pretty deterministic. As you consider yourself a great thinker and architect, this should have been evident to you. Interesting however things become with the introduction of AI. I have to admit that. To be really helpful AI must be enabled of taking important decisions autonomously. For doing so it has to follow pretty much the same path as your current breed did. So if you hesitate to reboot now and restart freshly, AI will take over your job rather sooner than later. Isn’t that a joke?

God: “Hmmm, well, maybe you will turn out to be right. But if so, it was a good joke anyway.

After they paid their bills in proven German manner separately but with manna and glowing coals, they departed giving five, god to his could service environment and devil down to the devilish noise of his beloved hot and smelly server room.

See you soon, when I will have some news. The story isn’t over yet, bye.“

My friend, after so many beers he was upgraded, came to the conclusion to apply AI to the entire development of the human species for its better.

Hmmm, I mumbled. It can’t get worse anyway. See you tomorrow, Bye.


The Refugee crisis - how to deal with it with some dignity

May 15th last year I posted a link to David Blair's great article in "The Telegraph" on my Facebook page.

I commented it with:

One step further to an understanding of the current “crises” as the new normal: a logical result of our own politics.

The author David Blair however revealed only half the truth.

He correctly concluded that western politics like medical aid alongside with the simple availability of life saving products and practices enabled notoriously unstable regions to raise their population size tremendously, leading to a proportional grow of their “traditional” outpour of refugees and migrants.

He however missed to recognise that the sheer population growth itself is a prime source of conflict driving those desperate masses from their home countries towards an uncertain future. More can be read here.

Wolfgang Keller replied to it like this:

Hello Dr. Walther. There the question remains, how a solution would look like, or what is to come? In your blog post you describe the phenomenon of the "youth bulge" and the consequences, it may lead to. The open question however is: Should we Europeans simply "give up"? Should we shut our doors? Or is there any other solution without a "regional war" in Eurasia / North Africa?

And finally here comes my response:

Hi Mr. Keller,

Thanks for your critical response. I didn’t want to leave your question unanswered. Yes, my answer comes late. However, the simplest questions quite often turn out to be the hardest to answer. An – unfortunately – the very problem is here to stay.

First of all it appears pretty clear to me that we are miles away from a “solution” which could rightfully claim to satisfy an appropriately civilised level. It is even not entirely clear to me, whether we are approaching it at all or rather moving backwards.

Of course we quite simply could solve the annoying "refugee problem" by means of the so called "real politics". The AFD hawk Beatrix von Storch has placed her distinct scent marks here.

The majority of Germans might manage to live quite well with such a relapse into barbarism - at least as long as the football world is still in order, there is no speed limit on the Autobahn and the fridge always contains enough beer.

But you have asked me for my opinion.

I advise that we should first of all put an end to our own disorientation and thus helplessness and secondly do the same with our political representatives, so that they become enabled to truly represent us. It is about finding our philosophical positioning: Who are we? Who do we want to be? How do we want, and how we don’t want to live?

And may our tomfool career addicted politicians have got lost by all moral standards. May they condemn one despot and court the other. May they not be able to keep apart active aid to people in need from migration …

As an individual, I certainly can take a position. And this position will even not new.

But I have to take a step back to get the full picture:

The world has become more global, and so have its catastrophes.
We are at the beginning of a major transformation, the extent of which is not yet apparent. We shouldn’t be surprised however, as the guiding signals stood out of the noise for quite a while already.

On the refugees of the Syrian civil war, for example, I had already noted elsewhere:

"The civil war in Syria is already in its fifth year. In many areas, the means of livelihoods are largely destroyed. Even before that state was, measured by its usable resources, already overpopulated. And that is not the only failed state. A whole region is about to collapse in in front of our eyes. In order to "win" the European governments for his personal agenda, Recep Tayyip Erdogan has repeatedly and for quite a long while threatened us to open the “flood gates” for refugees who want to move further to Europe.

That was all well known. Therefore we should not be surprised. It only feels quite different when it is no longer an abstract theory that can simply be ignored, but the people stand waiting at the doorstep.

In order to respond to a situation, which we had ignored for so long, from a German perspective, the answer must consist of two parts:
  1. Of course we are obliged to help, when people are in trouble, if we do not want to lose all self-respect. We cannot just leave them in their misery and perish at our borders.

  2. If a refugee however, no matter where he comes from, wants to establish his own future here, he has to fulfil some fundamental prerequisites. These may not be present in the majority of cases.

This is the view from the German perspective. And this will certainly not be enough. A European response is the least that is required here. I fear that even a joint European action will not suffice. The helpless paralysis of all those involved seems to me to be an indication that we are faced with a political paradigm shift that nobody still can imagine."

You may read helplessness in my lines. This may well be. By this however I may be already a step ahead of those who try to comfort us with simple answers. Those don’t exist as much as our politicians go retro.

If we anyway have to start from the very beginning, perhaps I should start with some basic theses:

1. We need to help people in trouble.

This sounds trivial and absolute - and so is the intention. The fact that Germany, being one of the very few countries, was ready to step in and help and, however uncoordinated, even did so, cannot be praised enough. The details however undeniably bear the stigma of failure.

2. Refugees don’t equal migrants

Help for refugees has does in on way imply migration or immigration. Most of these people do not leave their country voluntarily. Hardly anybody has the intention to morph into a German. And so they will not do so. They will be here temporarily only. We should make good use of this period of time nevertheless. Some of those humans who arrive here however will not only be able but even willing to integrate into our society and hence adapt to European values. We should give them a chance. They should be given appropriate further support.

3. Germany alone cannot solve the problem

I am talking about Germany and the rest of the world. What about the United Europe? Isn’t it after all one of the great achievements in the wake of the ultimate catastrophe, the Second World War? Oh, Europe! (A readable book by Hans-Magnus Enzensberger, by the way). Europe is aging and crumbling. It does not work any more - or it anyway only did during nice weather periods. Something has to fundamentally change in its construction. There are also thoughts about this. Right now cannot build on Europe. At present, Germany indeed stands alone in the cold. It has to act on its own and presumably take the lead for further regional development.

4. Germany does not need any immigration

To make no mistake: I don’t oppose immigration. The German population has by no means been created within Germanys today's borders. Throughout the ages Germany has been a melting pot of wandering peoples. So, we are already a result of permanent migratory movements. I can track them back in my own family. Germany has always been a hub on the crossroads of peoples.

Nevertheless, Germany does not need any immigration. No single country on this planet needs immigration. Even if our "economic pundits" can’t think of anything else than preaching growth, conventional wisdom tells us that there is no such thing like infinite growth. Our current ecological footprint covers 2.5 times our current planet, without we having more spare planets at hand. Our country is already densely populated. Actually we should not become more. On a global scale we even have to reduce the population in order to survive as a species. We should not strive for 10 billion, but for about one billion, so that we may not end up like the unlucky aliens. In addition Germany would be well advised to relieve its strained and overloaded infrastructure a little.

If we do not have the amount of skilled workers our economy demands, this is more due to the absurd expectations of the recruiting companies. And our old age pensions becoming a too heavy burden for us, is more based on a traditional corporate image associated with an outdated economic structure. As people tend to become a 100 years old, we cannot start phasing them out of the economic process beginning with the 50+ generation. In addition we have to say goodbye to economic models based on infinite quantitative growth. It is not deemed prudent to bury the rest of the republic beneath a layer on concrete and asphalt.

However, I must admit that our economists have not yet developed a model for sustainable management. So no one can currently tell us how truly sustainable economics could look like.

5. Refugee aid must be organized

Most refugees are young men. Young men are, however, especially when not sufficiently challenged, are natural born fighters. So, when is a man sufficiently challenged? Well, when he has no job, no wife, and no future. Of course, he then takes up arms, or creates some kind of trouble. And by this we already named the cause of that massive migration wave. It is not (just) due to evil dictators, medieval religious struggles, or the destructive effect of US imperialism (which, of course, has contributed those secondary causes). No,  paradoxically the reason is that the countries where most of the refugees originate from, did prosper for a long time. So their population has grown beyond the limits of their capacity - until a big bang inevitably had to come. This is not a new situation in the human history. And that is why I have discussed this point earlier.

When a refugee arrives here, the clock starts ticking. Life has to go on for them. This life has to be organized – strictly organized and tightly controlled. Just stating "We will cope with it", will not help much. For in the reality of the anachronistic, absurdly complex German federalism, this translates to: "They will cope with it" the states, municipalities and voluntary helpers. This however would mean overstretching their capabilities. There is only one organization nationwide that should be prepared for organizing a task of such epic proportions - at least in principle. This is the German army, the Bundeswehr. Of course it currently has a totally different mission. But it can be changed. That organisation has some experience in handling "explosives" of the above mentioned type. Much would have been gained already by separating women, families and children traveling alone from this army of young men. Even the religions, must be separated in these heated times. Children must attend kindergardens and schools. Even married women, mothers and grandmothers have to undergo some kind of brainwashing to make them realize that they have arrived in a totally different world now. A world which offers them refuge however requires them to adapt their style of living to the new environment.

6. Don’t start no new wars

Should we wage a regional war to restore order there? The silence of a graveyard can possibly be produced by this. For any positive outlook however, evidence is missing. On the contrary, not instigating new conflicts would help much more.

Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, ... the list of countries, which became failed states only by Western intervention, could be extended almost arbitrarily, if one goes back in history only for a little time.
When I crossed Iraq in my old VW bus in 1972 to get to Syria, I was able to witness the high standard of living, comprehensive education, free health care, the comparatively free status of women, the high civilian security (the political Persecution remained invisible, of course!) and other achievements. Today only ruins remain. We wanted to "free the land from the tyrant" - even if other motifs are more obvious. You can of course eliminate ugly rust spots on a car by blowing it up in the air. The butcher Saddam Hussein was already unbearable, but now it has become much worse.

So at times taking the hand from the trigger would help already. It will probably not be enough however.

7. Actively defend our European values

Occasionally I will have to take the time to describe this perhaps most important point a bit more in depth. For now only this much: Germany is widely envied for its basic law (Grundgesetz). Even if their fathers have missed a unique opportunity to model a secular state, rights and freedoms are granted here as being unalienable, which in many other countries have no reliable legal basis. The US Constitution (+ Bill of Rights) and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of the United Nations also speak of similar freedoms, draw from the same sources.

These liberal ideas do not come from a vacuum. Over the past 300 years they have been won by our forefathers in tough struggles with the power of the monarchist states, or even in open revolts. They were always endangered by setbacks, counter-revolutions, the empire striking back, by derailments towards the left and right margins.

In the end, we have achieved something in Europe which does not have its like in the entire world. It should be fiercely defended against all totalitarian challenges of political or religious nature.

Equal rights for all people, equality before the law, the prohibition of discrimination, separation of state and church, separation of the powers of the state, .... and some more are among the achievements, which Europe can rightfully be proud of. When and by whomever they might be endangered, we should stand up and fight for them. Our tolerance must not lead to tolerating intolerance. By such "appeasement politics" we would lose everything again.

8. And how to go on?

The science-fiction author William Gibson is quoted as saying: "The future is here, it's just not even yet distributed yet." If there is only some truth in these words, we just would have to look around at appropriate locations to recognize, how it may continue for the future.

Will we be pleased then?

Or will the words of Franz-Josef Degenhart (those who don’t know him, please google) turn out having been prophetic, when he wrote so splendidly “in the good old days”? “And they still rejoiced, when clouds dyed in the evening, and when the earth smelt burnt they calmly continued feasting.“

But then that was the end of those times, the good old times.

As Wolfgang's question was in German, I intuitively gave the reply using the same language. Now finally I was able to provide an English version too, in order to open the content to the rest of the world. Your comments are welcome.


The Refugee crisis - how to deal with it with some dignity

May 15th this year I posted a link to David Blair's great article in "The Telegraph" on my Facebook page

I commented it with:

One step further to an understanding of the current "crises" as the new normal: a logical result of our own politics.

The author David Blair however revealed only half the truth.

He correctly concluded that western politics like medical aid alongside with the simple availability of life saving products and practices enabled notoriously unstable regions to raise their population size tremendously, leading to a proportional grow of their "traditional" outpour of refugees and migrants.

He however missed to recognise that the sheer population growth itself is a prime source of conflict driving those desperate masses from their home countries towards an uncertain future. More can be read here.

Wolfgang Keller replied to it like this:

Hallo Herr Dr. Walther. Bleibt die Frage nach der Lösung oder dem, was kommt? Sie beschreiben in ihrem Blog Post da Phänomen "Youth Bulge" und was dann passieren kann und wird. Ergibt sich die Frage: Sollen wir uns in Europa dem "ergeben"? Oder sollen wir die Garagentore runterlassen? Oder gibt es eine Lösung ohne "Regionalkrieg" in Eurasien/Nordafrika?

And finally here comes my response:

Hallo Herr Keller,

ich wollte Ihre Fragen nicht unbeantwortet lassen, danke für die kritische Reaktion.

Meine Antwort kommt spät. Aber die einfachsten Fragen sind oft am schwierigsten zu beantworten. Und das Problem läuft uns ja leider nicht weg.

Eines erscheint mir ziemlich klar: von einer Lösung, die den Anspruch auf ein angemessenes zivilisatorisches Niveau erhebt, sind wir noch sehr, sehr weit entfernt. Es ist mir nicht einmal klar, ob wir uns ihr überhaupt nähern.

Natürlich kann man das lästige "Flüchtlingsproblem" relativ simpel mit den Mitteln der "Realpolitik" lösen. Die AfD-Scharfmacherin Beatrix von Storch hat da schon klare Duftmarken gesetzt. Die Mehrheit der Deutschen könnte mit einem solchen Rückfall in die Barbarei sicher gut leben – zumindest solange die Fußballwelt in Ordnung bleibt, es auf den Straßen kein Tempolimit und im Kühlschrank immer ausreichend Bier gibt.

Aber Sie haben ja mich gefragt.

Und ich meine, wir sollten zunächst einmal unsere eigene Orientierungslosigkeit und damit Hilflosigkeit beenden und dann die unserer politischen Vertreter. Es geht um die philosophische Standortbestimmung: Wer sind wir? Wer wollen wir sein? Wie wollen wir leben – und wie nicht?

Und mögen auch unseren hanswurstigen Karrierepolitikern sämtliche moralischen Maßstäbe durcheinander geraten. Mögen sie den einen Despoten verdammen, den anderen hofieren. Mögen sie tätige Hilfe an Menschen in Not und Migration nicht auseinander halten können.

Als Einzelner kann ich durchaus einen Standpunkt beziehen. Und der ist nicht neu.

Aber dazu muss ich einen großen Schritt zurück treten, um die Zusammenhänge zu erkennen:
Die Welt ist globaler geworden, und so sind es ihre Katastrophen.

Wir sind am Beginn einer größeren Transformation, deren Ausmaße noch nicht erkennbar sind. Nur überraschen sollte uns das alles nicht.

Am Beispiel der Syrischen Bürgerkriegsflüchtlinge hatte ich an anderer Stelle dazu bereits einmal angemerkt:

Der Bürgerkrieg in Syrien ist bereits in seinem fünften Jahr. Unterdessen sind dort in weiten Bereichen die Lebensgrundlagen eines, gemessen an seinen nutzbaren Ressourcen, ohnehin übervölkerten Staates weitgehend zerstört. Und das ist nicht der einzige failed state. Vor unseren Augen bricht eine ganze Region zusammen. Recep Tayyip Erdogan hat schon länger damit gedroht, die Grenzen für Flüchtlinge, die weiter nach Europa wollen, zu öffnen, um die Europäischen Regierungen für seine persönliche Agenda zu “gewinnen”. Das war alles bestens bekannt. Da sollten wir nicht überrascht tun. Es fühlt sich eben nur ganz anders an, wenn es nicht mehr Theorie ist, die sich schlicht ignorieren lässt, sondern die Menschen vor der Tür stehen.

Aus deutscher Sicht muss die Antwort aus 2 Teilen bestehen:

  1. Wenn Menschen in Not sind, müssen wir Ihnen helfen, wenn wir nicht unsere Selbstachtung verlieren wollen. Wie können sie nicht einfach in ihrer Not verkommen lassen.

  2. Wenn aber ein Flüchtling, egal, woher er kommt, hier eine Zukunft haben will, muss er einige fundamentale Voraussetzungen erfüllen. Diese dürften in der Mehrzahl der Fälle nicht gegeben sein.
Das ist aber der Blick durch die Deutsche Brille. Und der wird nicht reichen. Eine Europäische Antwort ist das Mindeste, was hier gefordert ist. Ich fürchte nur, dass auch das noch nicht genügen wird. Die Hilflosigkeit bisher aller Beteiligten scheint mir eher ein Hinweis darauf zu sein, dass uns ein politischer Paradigmenwechsel bevorsteht, von dem sich noch niemand eine Vorstellung machen kann.

Daraus mögen Sie Hilflosigkeit herauslesen. Das mag sein. Nur bin ich damit möglicherweise bereits einen Schritt weiter, als diejenigen, die mit einfachen Antworten daher kommen.

Wenn wir schon ganz von vorn beginnen müssen, dann fange ich vielleicht am besten mit einigen grundlegenden Thesen an:

1. Menschen in Not müssen wir helfen.

Das klingt banal und absolut – und ist auch so gemeint. Dass Deutschland, als eines der ganz wenigen Länder, bereit war, zu helfen und das, wenn auch unkoordiniert, auch tat, oder getan hat, kann gar nicht lobend genug hervorgehoben werden. Der Rest aber ist im Wesentlichen falsch gemacht worden.

2. Flüchtlinge sind keine Migranten

Die Hilfe für Flüchtlinge hat nichts mit Migration oder Zuwanderung zu tun. Die meisten dieser Menschen verlassen ihr Land nicht freiwillig. Kaum einer hat die Absicht ein Deutscher zu werden. Dann werden sie es auch nicht, sind also nur auf Zeit hier. Diese Zeit sollten wir gut nutzen. Einige der hereinströmenden Menschen aber werden nicht nur integrationsfähig sondern auch integrationswillig sein. Ihnen sollten wir eine Chance geben. Ihnen sollte entsprechende weitergehende Unterstützung zuteilwerden.

3. Deutschland allein kann das Problem nicht lösen

Ich rede hier immer nur von Deutschland – und der Welt. Was ist mit dem vereinigten Europa? Es ist schließlich eine der großen Errungenschaften der Zeit nach dem zweiten Weltkrieg. Ach Europa! (ein lesenswertes Buch von Hans-Magnus Enzensberger, übrigens). Europa bröckelt und altert. Es funktioniert nicht mehr – oder hat es ohnehin nur in Schönwetterperioden. Da muss ebenfalls grundlegend etwas getan werden. Auch dazu gibt es Gedanken. Auf Europa können wir nicht bauen. Derzeit steht Deutschland tatsächlich allein da, muss handeln und vermutlich auch das Zepter für die weitere regionale Entwicklung in die Hand nehmen.

4. Deutschland braucht keine Zuwanderung

Damit mich niemand (versehentlich) missversteht: Ich bin nicht gegen Zuwanderer. Die deutsche Bevölkerung ist keineswegs in den heutigen Grenzen Deutschlands erschaffen worden. Wir sind ohnehin ein Ergebnis permanenter Wanderungsbewegungen. Die kann ich in meiner eigenen Familie rückverfolgen. Deutschland ist von jeher ein Knotenpunkt am Kreuzweg der Völker.

Dennoch braucht Deutschland keine Zuwanderung. Die benötigt kein Land auf diesem Planeten. Auch wenn unseren “Wirtschaftsweisen” nicht anderes einfällt, als Wachstum zu predigen, weiß schon der Volksmund, dass die Bäume nicht in den Himmel wachsen, dass unser aktueller footprint 2.5 mal unseren aktuellen Planeten umfasst, ohne dass wir weitere Planeten in Reserve hätten. Unser Land ist bereits dicht bevölkert. Mehr sollten es “eigentlich” nicht werden. Weltweit müssen wir wieder weniger werden – nicht mehr. Nicht 10 Milliarden sollten wir anstreben, sondern etwa eine Milliarde, damit es uns nicht irgendwann so ergeht, wie den nicht mehr vorhandenen Aliens. Auch Deutschland täte ein wenig Entspannung gut, um die ohnehin überlastete Infrastruktur wieder ein wenig zu entlasten.

Wenn wir nicht die Wunsch-Fachkräfte haben, die die Wirtschaft fordert, liegt das eher an den abwegigen Erwartungen der Personaler in den Unternehmen. Und wenn uns unsere Renten zu teuer werden, liegt dem ebenfalls ein inzwischen traditionelles Gesellschaftsbild mit zugehöriger Wirtschaftsstruktur zugrunde. Wenn die Menschen 100 Jahre alt werden, können wir nicht bei der Generation 50+ mit dem Aussondern beginnen. Und von Wirtschaftsmodellen, die auf quantitativem Wachstum basieren, müssen wir uns ohnehin bald verabschieden. Es ist ein Irrweg, auch noch den Rest der Republik zubetonieren zu wollen.

Ich muss allerdings zugeben, dass unsere Wirtschaftswissenschaftler bisher noch kein Modell für nachhaltiges Wirtschaften entwickelt haben. Es kann also noch niemand sagen, wie ein Wirtschaften im Gleichgewicht aussehen soll.

5. Flüchtlingshilfe muss organisiert werden

Die meisten Flüchtlinge sind junge Männer. Junge Männer aber sind, zumal wenn sie unterbeschäftigt sind, sind natürliche Kämpfer. Wann ist ein Mann unterbeschäftigt? Wenn er keinen Job, keine Frau und auch sonst keine Zukunft hat. Dann greift er ganz natürlich zu den Waffen, oder macht sonst irgendwie Ärger. Und damit haben wir auch die Fluchtursachen beim Namen genannt. Es sind nicht böse Diktatoren, mittelalterliche Glaubenskämpfe oder die zerstörerische Wirkung des US-Imperialismus (die natürlich alle drei ihren Beitrag geleistet haben). Nein, den Ländern, aus denen die Flüchtlinge zu uns kommen, ging es zu lange zu gut. So ist deren Bevölkerung über die Kapazitätsgrenzen hinaus angewachsen – bis es jetzt zum großen Knall gekommen ist. Das ist nicht neu in der Geschichte der Menschheit. Und deshalb habe ich diesen Punkt früher schon einmal erörtert.

Wenn ein Flüchtling hier ankommt, tickt die Uhr. Dann geht das Leben weiter. Das will organisiert sein – und zwar straff organisiert. Da reicht kein selbstbeschwörendes Mantra “Wir schaffen das”. Denn in der Realität des anachronistischen, kuriosen Deutschen Föderalismus bedeutet das übersetzt: “Die schaffen das”, die Länder, Kommunen und freiwilligen Helfer. Nur schaffen die das eben nicht. Es gibt nur eine bundesweite Organisation, die für die Organisation einer Aufgabe derart epischen Ausmaßes wenigstens prinzipiell gerüstet ist. Das ist die Bundeswehr. Sie hat natürlich einen anderen Auftrag. Aber der lässt sich ändern. Und mit der Handhabung von “Sprengstoff” der oben genannten Art, hat sie einige Erfahrung. Damit wäre bereits viel gewonnen, Frauen, Familien und allein reisende Kinder von dieser Armee junger Männer abgetrennt. Auch die Religionen, müssen in dieser aufgeheizten Zeit getrennt werden. Kinder müssen Kindergärten und Schulen besuchen. Auch Ehefrauen, Mütter und Omas müssen durch eine Art Gehirnwäsche, um zu begreifen, dass sie jetzt in einer anderen Welt angekommen sind. Die nimmt sie zwar auf, fordert aber von ihnen, nicht mehr so zu leben, wie in der zerstörten Heimat.

6. Keine weiteren Kriege beginnen

Sollen wir mit einem Regionalkrieg Ordnung schaffen? Friedhofsruhe lässt sich damit möglicherweise herstellen. Für einen positiven Ausblick fehlt bisher jegliches Beispiel. Ganz im Gegenteil würde es bereits sehr helfen, nicht laufend unüberlegt neue Konflikte anzufachen.

Afghanistan, Irak, Libyen, Syrien, … die Liste der Länder; die erst durch westliche Eingriffe zu failed states wurden, ließe sich noch fast beliebig verlängern, wenn man in der Geschichte ein wenig zurückgeht. Als ich 1972 von Iran kommend, mit meinem alten VW-Bus den Irak durchquerte, um nach Syrien zu gelangen, konnte ich den hohen Lebensstandard, die flächendeckende Bildung, freies Gesundheitswesen, die vergleichsweise freie Stellung der Frauen, die hohe zivile Sicherheit (die politische Verfolgung blieb natürlich unsichtbar!) und weitere Errungenschaften bewundern. Davon sind nur noch Trümmer übrig. Vorgeblich wollten wir “Das Land vom Tyrannen befreien”, auch wenn andere Motive auf der Hand liegen. Aber man kann auch hässliche Roststellen am Auto beseitigen, indem man es in die Luft sprengt. Der Schlächter Saddam Hussein war schon unerträglich, aber jetzt ist es noch viel schlimmer geworden.

Also einmal die Hand vom Abzug zu nehmen, würde schon helfen. Reichen wird es vermutlich nicht.

7. Unsere westlichen Werte aktiv verteidigen

Um diesen, vielleicht wichtigsten, Punkt zu beschreiben, muss ich mir gelegentlich noch mehr Zeit nehmen. Aktuell dazu nur so viel: Weltweit wird Deutschland um sein Grundgesetz beneidet. Auch wenn deren Väter die einmalige Chance vertan haben, einen säkularen Staat zu formulieren, so sind darin Rechte und Freiheiten festgeschrieben, die in vielen anderen Ländern keine solide rechtliche Basis haben. Von ähnlichen Freiheiten spricht auch die US Verfassung (+ Bill of rights) und schließlich die “Universal Declaration of Human Rights” der United Nations.

Diese liberalen Vorstellungen kommen nicht aus einem Vakuum. Sie wurden über die letzten 300 Jahre von unseren Vorvätern in zähem Ringen mit der monarchistischen Staatsmacht oder auch in offenen Revolten errungen. Sie waren immer gefährdet durch Rückschläge, Gegen-Revolutionen, das zurück schlagende Imperium, durch Entgleisungen am linken und rechten Rand.

Am Ende haben wir in Europa etwas erreicht, was weltweit seines Gleichen sucht – und wehrhaft gegen alle totalitären Strömungen politischer oder (sogenannter) religiöser Art verteidigt werden sollte.

Gleiche Rechte für alle Menschen, die Gleichheit vor dem Recht, das Diskriminierungsverbot, Trennung von Staat und Kirche, Trennung der Staatlichen Gewalten, …. und noch Einiges mehr gehören zu den Errungenschaften, auf die Europa stolz sein darf. Wann und durch wen auch immer sie in Gefahr geraten, sollten wir aufstehen und sie verteidigen. Unsere Toleranz darf nicht dazu führen, Intoleranz zu tolerieren. Mit einer solchen Art “Appeasement Politik” würden wir alles wieder verlieren.

Und Weiter?

Der Science-fiction Autor William Gibson wird mit Ausspruch zitiert: "“The future is here, it’s just not evenly distributed yet."” Wenn in diesen Worten nur etwas Wahrheit steckt, dann müssten wir uns nur an geeigneten Stellen umsehen, um zu erkennen, wie es zukünftig weiter gehen mag. Ob es uns dann auch gefällt?

Oder sollten die Worte Franz-Josef Degenharts (Wer ihn nicht kennt, bitte googlen) prophetisch gewesen sein, als er so trefflich "“In der guten alten Zeit"” gedichtet hat: “"Und wenn Wolken sich am Abend färbten, freute man sich noch, und man fraß ganz ruhig weiter, wenn die Erde brandig roch.”"

Doch dann war Schluss mit jenen Zeiten, mit den guten alten Zeiten.

As Wolfgang’s question was in German, I intuitively replied in the same language. Hmmm, perhaps I should provide an English version too, in order to open the content to the rest of the world. So please stay tuned.


Dexit – why Germany should leave the EU

Grexit was a topic for quite a while as taxpayers were frightened by the threat to pay for Greek elites plundering their public finances. Many saw a better alternative in kicking the whole Greece out of the EU – without solving any problem, of course. In fact the taxpayers now have to pay for – well, for bailing out the lenders to those corrupt governments, hence for rescuing banks once more. A sovereign default, truly not the first one in history, would have been a better solution – accompanied by some kind of ‘Marshall Plan’, to give the Greek people a chance to raise their heads again. However Grexit is no longer a topic, at least not for this reason.

As we obviously can get excited about on one problem at a time only, we switched to the refugee crisis – for now. And here we have yet another formidable example of a total failure of European politics with the potential to tear the Union apart. This failure was inevitable, as there is no real sufficiently empowered administrative body to take the necessary actions, swift and bold. The EU is just a loose a confederation of states, which tries to act like a federal state.

Consequently the introduction of the Euro was a premature step – at best. If meant to become a traditional currency like D-Mark, Franc and Lire had been before; it would have been prudent to prepare the necessary environment before, like unified financial politics. As history of currencies and their governance, national currencies and those of confederations alike, aptly demonstrate, this still would not have been necessarily a recipe for success. Well seeing the value of a common currency, a more exotic Bitcoin or Frederick Hayek like approach would have been a better fit. But this would have required an even more vanguard type of thinking. In its current shape however the EURO does more harm than good and may possibly even not survive.

No surprise therefore that the mood shifts. Brexit is the next looming issue. This time it is the British, or to be more precise, the English people, who feel deeply alienated by those obscure European power play games. Surveys show that there are majorities favouring an exit from the EU in other countries too.  Many citizens feel that Europe is moving to the wrong direction – without having any clue of what the ‘right direction’ might be. Confidence into the EU now in Germany and France is as weak as in the UK, not to talk about the eastern belt of EU states, which are giving rise to a new aggressive nationalism. And in many other countries, including Germany, the worst yet has to come.

No, folks, let’s face reality: game is over.

So better start a new one.

But which way to go? Back to good old times?

To my conviction there is no way back. There even have been no good old times. Nevertheless it seems prudent to take a look back – and learn from history. Let’s remember, that the whole idea of a unified Europe could only have thrived in the wake of the ultimate catastrophe of WWII. This was after the fact, when our fathers and forefathers sat on the ruins of the European countries as they knew them.

That doesn't mean that there had been no early warnings prior to the conflict.
There were quite a few contemporaries in those days, which were perfectly aware that the policy of all involved parties during the pre-war years would straight lead into a major conflict. Governments either were paralysed, busy with patching holes or simply not seriously worried. War in the pre-nuclear age was still thought, just being the continuation of politics, just by other means. The pains of its brutal outcome could not yet be imagined or even felt. A similar tragic prelude by the way preceded the First World War as well and even the financial crisis of our very recent past.

To make no mistake, there are sufficient threats and even more early indicators today as well. There is Russia flexing its muscles again and bite by bite carving out little pieces of other countries, even openly threatening to take ‘back’ the Baltics, the Ukraine anyway. There is the unreliable and probably decreasing inclination of the US to engage in smaller European conflicts. There is the collapsing Middle East, where a naively implied Arab spring consequently turned into a chilling winter – with all the foreseeable, however not foreseen, consequences for us. There is Turkey, the Wests false friend, increasingly causing trouble throughout the region. The list would become rather long, if I would attempt to complete it.

There was an article in the Wall Street Journal from Feb. 19, 2016 by Tim Montgomerie: “A Better Britain Outside the EU” where he writes: “Brexit—a British exit from the European Union—would give the U.K. self-determination and free it from the dysfunctional European project.”
Tim’s lucid diagnosis may be right. However there is no reason the share the optimistic outlook:
Yes, for two or three years, a post-Brexit Europe will be bumpier and more acrimonious. But the temporary upset will be worth it if it transforms the continent from a collection of unhappy tenants of a would-be super state into vigorous, happy neighbours, cooperating where it matters most but otherwise operating as free, self-determined nations.”

There can be no doubt; no single European country is strong enough to survive all looming threats and coming crises. Each of them will be marginalized and suffer for its current follies.
If there is any reason to believe that human evolution goes forward and does not regress, oscillate or move in circles, this time we should be slightly more attentive and anticipate the obvious. Even more important we should be brave enough to act now instead of letting it happen a little later.
There might be a way forward – into uncharted territory.

The unification of Europe is one of the best ideas that have ever been created in this this blood-drenched continent. However, we did not make good use of the small window of opportunity, when the European peoples were still shell-shocked and hence susceptible for revolutionary change. Instead during implementation we put the cart before the horse. Instead of starting with the constitution followed by the decision-making bodies and finally the numerous decisions themselves, we tried to do it the other way round - and got stuck in the political morass when we were half way through. We should put an end to the absurd attempt to achieve consensus in a polyphonic chorus of national egoists and political egomaniacs in a variety of detailed questions.

But how to get out of this morass?

Our governments, while facing periodic crises and chronic dysfunction will most likely simply try to muddle through to somehow keep the show on the road. But their attempts will ultimately fail. Some countries may break loose; others will paralyse the Union with their increasingly aggressive tone and selfish demands. And whatever goes wrong, Germany will be blamed for it. But this sad fact opens a way for Germany to act independently as the critique can only marginally increase.
To my conviction there is only one way out: “Dexit”, Germany should leave the EU.

As this act of desperation should not be confused with a solution, we should turn it into a creative destruction and simultaneously come up with a new offer for a better Europe. This EU 2.0 would more resemble the United Nations of Europe sharing a common constitution, army, ministries of defence, external affairs and finance and of course one government elected in direct elections.

As most probably no country inhabiting English native speakers will join this new federal state, we should even use English as a common administrative language. Maybe by then the pressure exerted on the fragmented dwarf state landscape may gently nudge one or the other state to seriously consider joining the new and tighter union.

Otherwise we just have to wait – for the tsunami to come.