How do you teach a superhuman cyborg on Mars?
Lese die deutsche Version hier.
2019 was a turbulent year for me. A rollercoaster of emotions, but a takeoff for my thinking. I would like to take a closer look at what surprised, impressed and influenced me.
This year I have covered more than 50,000 km and gathered a large number of impressions in the process. Topics from everyday life (nutrition, success, money, gratitude, etc.), the past (history of money, of Europe, ...) and the future (genetic engineering, artificial intelligence, education) have been on my mind. Next year my focus will lie on tutoring, Coding Forest and building up resources.
Facts and figures
Since some of you keep asking me what I am doing all the time, here is a short list of my highlights and the bigger events of this year:
- Thanks to my dear ex-girlfriend I was required to move back home to my parents. (At this point a big thanks to my parents. It is not self-evident)
- Together with Wim Hof and 500 other people I took an ice bath in Munich.
- For the first time, I traveled completely alone: 4 days Budapest. There I met an inspiring group called "Budapest Personal Development & Psychology Group" . Until long after midnight we sat and exchanged ideas and experiences.
- Alexander Meile introduced me to the world of theatre.
- I extensively raced the Tesla Model 3 around the curves. Terrific car!
- Faster. Harder. Scooter. Together with a team from the Strada Del Startup we tested an idea for the scooter market. However, the project did not become a passion project of mine and I withdrew from it.
- The film "Elsewhere. Alone in Africa" has increased my anticipation of my journey tenfold.
- 10 men, 3 days, one hut. A men's weekend with the topic "How do you get on in life?"
- 5 days Electric Love Festival
- 31 102 km, 12 new languages, 11 countries, 9 flights, 3 months, one backpack - my first backpacking tour through Southern Europe and Southeast Asia. Photos and routes can be found on Polarsteps.  I will go into more detail about some parts later.
- The timing of my return was perfect to take over my new apartment.
- Since I'm back here, I've found my place as a tutor, I'm developing a game or rather a whole learning platform for learning programming and I'm helping European companies to master their digital appearance together with Carlos.
So, now you know the facts. More exciting is what I have learned this year and how these events have changed me.
As you know, a year ago I was still working on the question of how to solve the "congestion problem" in Linz. Today I am thinking about what the future of humanity will look like, how we will solve our climate problem, how the perfection of many technologies will change our lives and how we will prepare ourselves and our children for such a world.
I would now like to explain in more detail how this dramatic change in my way of thinking came about:
The biggest change came clearly on my journey. I read eight books, talked to many different people and observed the world around me - I tried to see the world through the eyes of other people and cultures.
Already on my second stop in Nice, I got to know a very interesting person - Theodor, the Greek from America. For nine days we got up in the morning together, talked all day long and went to sleep in the evening. He is 38 years old and a much-traveled man. He was born in America but spent much of his childhood in Greece and in holiday camps in Italy.
He speaks fluent English, Greek, and French. Even some German. He sees the world quite differently than I have seen it.
From travel tips to finance, history, politics, cooking and the grand questions of life, we skipped no topic. This set my intentions for the whole trip: To get to know cultures (How do people think? What is important to them? How do they see the world?), to learn about the world (How does local politics work? What is the economy like?) and to figure out my own place in the world (What do I like? What don't I like? How do I want to live?).
Spain and the South American guests showed me a relaxed, open and appreciative way of dealing with each other. Madrid and Lisbon have brought me closer to art.
In Lisbon, I also saw how quickly the life of an entire city can change. In the earthquake of 1755, nearly the whole city was destroyed.
Even if we have a very high average life expectancy, it often turns out quite differently in individual cases. This should not depress us, but let us be a little more appreciative of our time.
The cultural shock in Vietnam was very big in the beginning. All of a sudden I was in a city with almost twice as many inhabitants as my whole country!
I still don't like this crowding effect to this day. Too much, too loud and too impersonal. But knowing how it feels helps to better understand the behavior of the people there.
Furthermore, Vietnam has made me appreciate our European privileges much more.
Clean tap water; going out to eat without getting sick; medical care; improved roads and public transport; schools without surveillance cameras to protect students from teachers; free access to education; employment protection; unemployment benefits; functioning property rights; etc.
But we must not rest on our achievements. Current trends in our European upbringing, politics, and economy are not very competitive.
All the social benefits mentioned above only work as long as there is a strong economy that produces enough tax revenue. According to the Audi slogan "Vorsprung durch Technik" we have built a good industry. But now it is under increasing external pressure.
Tesla is the leading company for cool self-driving cars. Asia is also building better and better cars and buses.
Robert Halver, Head of Capital Market Analysis at Baader Bank, accurately says that we must not only talk about our climate targets ideologically but also enable companies to earn money with them.
We won't be able to set up a new Facebook in Europe, but we could use our pioneering role in climate protection as a new opportunity. We can certainly take advantage of the positive sides of capitalism and provide important incentives with the right subsidies.
We also need to value and defend our prosperity more. The trend towards privatization must also be considered critically.
China is buying up more and more companies in Europe. They would certainly be willing to pay a lot of money for our water. However, this is where all the red flags have to be raised! In South America, for example, many regions already have dried up rivers and therefore many families no longer have any drinking water. The reason for this is the huge avocado plantations.
Furthermore, I see a danger for the water price if it can be traded like a commodity on the stock market. With rising temperatures, water is becoming an increasingly valuable resource.
We all need it to survive, so it is important that the supply remains in public hands.
Outside Europe, I have also noticed much more military action and patriotism. I asked a Norwegian I met in Da Nang if he was worried that we might be attacked soon.
He replied calmly and asked me what the reason would be. War was mostly driven by the desire for more power, but with the weapons we have today, a war would be highly destructive and would not change the balance of power much.
Today most of it is about economic power. A global company like Google or Alibaba has much more influence than most governments. As mentioned earlier, China is investing massively in companies in Germany, but also in Africa and other countries. I don't want to make any bogeymen out of this. I just want to draw attention and make people think twice.
We must not make the naive mistake of thinking that because we have done so well in the past, things will simply stay the same in the future.
Dealing with information
Information has become by far the most valuable commodity in our modern times. The more a company knows about its customers, the more valuable it is. So using this data correctly is an important skill.
Everyone should know what our data is used for, how we are observed and what impact this has on our lives. Such education does not come through annoying cookie banners or hundreds of pages of privacy statements.
Children need to be educated about such issues. The school cannot be the only scapegoat here. School is not a magic bullet. The parents have to make their contribution here as well. But for this to work, politicians, parents, and teachers must be educated first.
Educational offers must be created that are understandable for everyone. Offers where the excuse "I don't understand anything about technology" is not valid.
Yes, not everyone knows what cookies are. The explanation "An HTTP cookie […] is a small piece of data sent from a website and stored on the user's computer by the user's web browser while the user is browsing" from Wikipedia doesn’t help either. Nobody even needs to understand, because tomorrow the technology may be called something completely different.
Yet, what everyone can understand is that online companies often know when a woman is pregnant before she does, due to her consumer behavior, and that this information is used to sell her overpriced baby products.
Personalized advertising is not bad per se. As a customer, I usually get the right product for my needs and as a young person, I don't see advertising for trips for the retired. It also offers great advantages for companies, because the marketing budget can be used in a more targeted way.
I think, however, that people need to know about it in order to decide for themselves whether it is the product they need or whether they are being manipulated.
Everyone should also have the opportunity to decide whether they want to use products that analyze their behavior and pass it on to the company, or whether they want to use analysis-free alternatives. This choice, however, is based on the assumption that the person knows that such mechanisms are in place and that there are alternatives.
Citizens must also be taught to check their sources carefully. There is a lot of half-knowledge, scare tactics and false facts circulating in our society. Read one sentence here, made an observation there, draw the wrong conclusion and unintentionally triggered a shit storm. This is what happened to an American in 2016. 
Not only election campaigns are often full of false facts, but also everyday topics. Food and health are a prominent example. Fast-food chains, fitness studios, food supplement manufacturers, the pharmaceutical industry and many other people have a great financial interest in these topics.
In the last century, the tobacco industry has spent a lot of money on advertising that has made the masses believe that smoking is healthy. Today everyone knows how harmful it really is. In the case of e.g. health, however, this behavior continues.
Everyone should learn to pay more attention to where information comes from and what the intention or interests of the source are. Even with scientific studies, one should check who is financing the study and what the key message is. Often individual parts of a study are taken out of context and misquoted.
Distinguishing real facts from false facts is as much a skill as lifting weights. Just like a muscle, you can also train this. The Internet has given everyone a voice. Perfect if used wisely and responsibly. But a danger for anyone who listens without thinking.
As is well known, our own point of view is the closest to us. It is often difficult to put oneself in the shoes of others. One spends his whole life with himself and his own beliefs. One's own environment is usually chosen so that it thinks and speaks similarly. The algorithms on the Internet also learn to know our preferences and then present us exactly what we would like to see and hear. It takes a lot of willpower and energy to question one's own opinion.
Da Nang is a wonderful city with great people. Prosperity is also growing, but this presents a challenge to the people. They change from typical motorcycles to flashy cars. This trend is only just beginning.
I suggested in the English Café to learn from the mistakes of all other cities and now take the chance to build a functioning public transport network. Oh, boy, was I met with resistance.
From my perspective, it was obvious to adopt a global pioneering role, avoid traffic jams and protect the environment. I grew up with smelly cars and annoying traffic jams. I have a European climate protection perspective.
The locals, on the other hand, told me that public transport is for the lowest class of people. They can finally afford a car, so they don't want to take the bus. Their car is a status symbol and it makes them feel superior when they drive around the city in it. It was no different for us 50 years ago.
My arguments that modern traffic solutions (magnetic levitation trains, subways, electric buses, etc.) could be created have not changed anything. "Politics has to do it and they won't do it" was the answer.
With the big, global (but also with the small) problems that we have to deal with in our lifetime, we must not forget the perspectives and needs of others.
Christmas in shorts
On December 24, 2019, I was sitting on the balcony in shorts and a T-shirt, enjoying my lunch in bright sunshine. Sounds nice, but I find it alarming. Exactly 20 years ago at the same time of day, we had -4°C and even snow. 
Much has already been done this year on the subject of climate change. At least in the media. It's getting more and more attention. There is still a lack of effective implementation. There is still a lot of misinformation on this topic as well.
Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft, not only supports medical and sanitation projects in Africa with his Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, but also invests heavily in research and development in the production of renewable energies.
He defines the five major sectors with agriculture, electricity, industry, transport, and household (air conditioning, heating, cooking) because these are the largest producers of greenhouse gases. 
He also believes that people will not suddenly stop using fertilizer, constructing houses or flying airplanes. True to his innovative image, he sees the solution in new technologies.
What fascinated me, for instance, was the progress of nuclear energy. In the past, bad decisions were made and in most people's minds, it is now a subject of fear. In the meantime, however, the mistakes have been recognized and better reactors can be designed. Today we have the computing power to simulate and test these designs in the worst conditions.
Moreover, nobody points out that most nuclear power plants are based on designs from the 1940s when the development of this technology was still in its infancy. Today's designs use physical laws to make a nuclear meltdown impossible. Even the waste from the old power plants can be reused. 
Gates goes on to say that these are all positive developments, but that we need to do a much better job of informing people about the challenges we face. Solar panels are good, but we also need to hear a lot more from trucks, cement and cow farts.
The EU also gives reason for hope. In the 2020 budget, 21% (an honorable 35.4 billion euros) has been allocated to climate change projects. 
The species that became God
Yuval Noah Harari describes in his books the history, the present and the future of our species. A worthwhile read. He is a top author when it comes to incorporating different perspectives. He argues objectively and fact-based; clarifies what we know and what we only assume by estimation.
In his outlook on the future, he calls the next stage of human development Homo Deus (Latin homo = man, Deus = God). We make the step to this stage through technical progress.
Either we improve organic life through genetic engineering and medicine to such an extent that we become superhuman (immortality, increased muscle power, increased IQ, etc.), combine organic with inorganic life (cyborgs, see bionics) or create completely inorganic life (intelligence in electronic systems, "artificial intelligence").
He points out the dangers. What happens if there is a division of humanity into “normal" people and superhumans? He not only points out the social challenges but also asks how other species are affected. We are already at the top of the food chain and have exterminated many animal and plant species or adapted them to our needs.
Nevertheless, we still do not have a consensus on the meaning of our existence. His concluding words in Sapiens: "Is there anything more dangerous than dissatisfied and irresponsible gods who don't know what they want?"
Our lives are already determined by algorithms. It will certainly not get any less in the future. What skills are needed in a world like this?
Gerald Hörhan repeatedly addresses this question and comes to the conclusion that digitization is increasingly making people lose their ability to think. They can no longer do mental calculations and blindly follow the navigation system against a one-way street.
He says just like muscles that we don't use, the brain will also degenerate if we neglect it. I agree with him that our educational system must change.
Diligent and good teachers must be highly respected and well paid. Students must be taught to think, not to learn by heart. 
In my opinion, we can use the power of algorithms to our advantage and use them for better learning. I will test and develop my vision with Coding Forest.
Money, Money, Money.
Money talks. Trade has made a lot of things possible. Unfortunately, one does not learn how to use it in school. I've been studying the subject for some time. The book "The Richest Man of Babylon" offers a good introduction and explains the basics with illustrative examples.
The banks have been busy and have created complicated financial instruments that hardly anyone can understand. Most of these systems are intentionally kept complex so that things can be disguised, or quite simply so that people will lose their money.
The more I study the subject, the more I appreciate the basics. A core rule of Warren Buffet, the world's most successful investor, is to never invest in something you don't fully understand. If you look at his track record, you will understand that this rule makes sense. He missed a lot of profits because he didn't invest in Google or Amazon, but he also avoided a lot of risks because these technology investments are highly risky.
I like the principle of investing only in what you can see. Sure you can invest in start-ups in a faraway country with a rosy outlook, but how much influence do you really have on its success? Can you control the progress and the results? Do you know the local customs and all the risks?
In Vietnam, I was encouraged to open an outsourcing company. Sounded tempting at the time. A programmer earns about $5 per hour in Vietnam. In Europe about twenty times that.
On closer inspection, though, the disadvantages clearly outweighed the benefits. The developers are on the other side of the world, speak only broken English, have different concepts of quality, the government is communist and gives foreign entrepreneurs a hard time, the energy supply is unreliable, there is no state health insurance, corruption is vital. These and many other reasons have prevented me from doing it.
A sole life
I have found that traveling alone has many advantages. I was mostly in hostels and in big cities, so I was pretty much always surrounded by people.
As I only stayed a few days in one place at a time, I naturally wanted to make the best use of it. This short time period forced me to decide much faster if I wanted to talk to certain people or not.
The first impression is sometimes deceptive but is usually enough to know whether the person across is interesting. In the first month, I actually met always the same kind of people in every hostel. The majority were tourists who came for partying and drinking. After I had the same conversation for the tenth time - where are you from, where are you going and where are we drinking today - I decided to keep my mouth shut.
I certainly found some interesting people to talk to, but most of the time my books, exhibitions, city tours, or locals entertained me better.
I consider myself a sociable person and therefore I wanted to meet as many people as possible. But I realized for myself that it is better to be alone than to spend my time with the wrong people.
Health is not everything, but without health everything is nothing
This is what the Salzburg rapper Dame sings in his song Low Life. The healthy person has a thousand wishes, the sick person only one. The one who has no time for his health will later need a lot of time for his illnesses.
Of course one wants to help. To do more. Get more done. But one must not forget oneself. The body can compensate for a long time, but after that, it happens quickly and the house of cards collapses. In order to be there for others in the long term, one must first look after oneself. What do you want to give if you have nothing?
Healthy egoism is part of a healthy life. Prioritizing yourself also helps others.
Gary Vaynerchuk always says the twenties are the years to eat sh*t. Theodor, on the other hand, says why not use this time to learn how to cook good food? I see why Gary says this, but I agree with Theodor.
If one moves out and learns to stand on his own two feet, one should also think about the right nutrition. The right food can prevent many diseases and therefore save a lot of money.
Eating the first oversalted meals is an important experience in my opinion. You learn to concentrate on the taste. It boosts your self-esteem when you learn a new skill. The huge amounts of waste make you think about our society.
Food is also a great way to get to know different cultures. I fell in love with the dishes in Greece and Turkey.
To find out what you like, what you stand for and what is important to you, trial and error is the best thing above all. Simply try everything that interests you in the slightest.
In order to make progress in your favorite field, you have to learn to say no. When I came back from my trip, thousands of possibilities were waiting for me. Everyone wanted a chunk of my time. I soon realized that I cannot do everything. I had to say no to many things.
From another point of view, however, every yes is automatically a no to everything else. My focus in 2020 will be on tutoring, Coding Forest and building resources. I want to become even better at explaining and learning what really matters when teaching.
With Coding Forest I want to create a modern way to learn how to program. It must be comprehensible, appealing and straightforward. Resource building is certainly meant materialistically, but also knowledge to use my existing resources better.
Further questions and ideas
The current century is probably one of the most exciting times to live. Will climate change wipe us out, or are we already god-like enough to reverse the damage? If we have found a technical solution, are our politics and community strong enough to implement it?
How will we deal with the digital superpowers in the future? Do we continue to allow the monopolization of entire economic sectors?
What will our life look like once we have colonized Mars? Will we manage to do so?
Will we soon be able to improve our physical abilities through genetic modification? What will it feel like when we connect brains directly with each other and "feel" each other's thoughts directly?
Will the power pendulum soon swing back to the east? Will our life elixir water become a luxury good?
How do we prepare for such an uncertain future? What do we teach the next generation? How do we communicate these values?
The future is more uncertain than ever before. There are a lot of unanswered questions. Many of these issues interest me. However, I would like to limit myself to a part of them and use my strengths in them. Finding creative solutions to difficult problems fulfills me.
So how do you teach a superhuman cyborg on Mars? I do not know, yet. But it will be exciting to find out.
Compared to my thoughts a year ago, a lot has changed, but this is just the beginning. Many topics are new to me and I still have a superficial perspective.
I hope I have also given you something to think about. Send me your opinion or your current questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This letter summarizes my current views. I would like to discuss each of these points with you. I am also happy to receive suggestions for other topics that I have completely missed.