Letter to the Editor

We’re back in, we’re back at the Russian border!

When the struggle against the nuclear power station in Whyl [Baden-Württemberg/southern Germany] took place around the year 1975, the pirate station “Radio Verte” was created. The songwriter Walter Mossmann composed a song with the words “... for in these dark times truth is dying by the centimetre, that’s why we must spread it ourselves, what the eye does see, the heart can grieve over!”1
In the meantime it’s dying by the metre. Recently I’ve become a subscriber to your newspaper and now I’m better informed, in a Swiss-neutral manner, without NATO language regime. Your editorial staff who help their readers to find one’s way through the great flood of lies deserve the highest praise.
Now I want to introduce myself as a reader: Born in 1927, I’m 92 years old. When I was 16, we were taken right away from our schooldesks to join the anti-aircraft unit in order to fill up the gap at Stalingrad. In 1945, as a seventeen-year-old infantryman I witnessed the end of the war nearby Berlin, the capital of the Reich. Mid-April I deserted and set off for the adventurous way home to South Baden, which took me three months.
I was spared imprisonment in Sibiria but, after escaping over the Iron Curtain, in the supposedly free West I found myself in dreadfull US captivity. The prisoner camp’s commanding officer let us feel –cling together, swing together! – that he was understandably no friend of the Germans.
I risked the life endangering escape through the barbed wire fence which was lit up by searchlights. Those who were caught were shot, weeks after the capitulation! We were not “Prisoners of War under the Protection of International Humanitarian Law” but were regarded as “Disarmed Enemy Forces”. At that time I got to know the “Americans” as people who are not very particular about the International Law .
Somebody who – like me – hoofed it through bombed-out cities of course agreed to the call “Never again”. “Never again – at least not straight away!” Erich Kästner2 is supposed to have added.
And now we find ourselves again in an unwanted but well-known situation: wars are blatantly planned even at highly dangerous times of nuclear arms – an incredible process! And we, the Germans, we’re back in, we’re back at the Russian border.
This is the “gratitude” for Gorbatschev’s almost undeserved concession to us Germans. I’m ashamed of that and I feel like Heinrich Heine3: “If I think of Germany at night, just puts all thought of sleep to flight!”
Where are the opposing voices of great warners? They don’t live anymore, those who have experienced the war and I don’t see any successors of their stature: Erich Kästner, Heinrich Böll4, Karl Jaspers5 the latter calling for the observance of our “Grundgesetz” [German Constitution], the bedrock of our freedom. And Bertold Brecht6, who warned that in comparison with today’s wars the previous ones would have been child’s play. And then, just after the war there was Wolfgang Borchert7 with his call “Then say ‘No’!” and the terrifying vision “If you don’t say ‘No’ what may happen then.” Where are our politicians who say “No”, like our former minister of “defence” von der Leyen. There is no “No” to be heard, the mood before the great storm.

Ernst-Udo Kaufmann, Mülheim/Baden, Germany

Notes of the translator:
1    variation of the proverb “what the eye does not see the heart cannot grieve over”
2    Erich Kästner: 1899–1974; German writer, publisher, script writer and author of satirical shows; pacifist and author of socio critical and antimilitaristic essays; his work was forbidden under the nazi regime
3    Heinrich Heine: 1797–1856; one of the most important German poets, writers and journalists of the 19th century; was critical of the political situation, hence forbidden to publish, therefore went into exile to Paris
4    Heinrich Böll: 1917–1985; one of the important German writers of the post war era; critical reflections about the young Federal republic; involved in the anti-war movement of the early eighties
5    Karl Jaspers: 1883–1969; psychiatrist and philosopher of international significance; critical and important voice in regard to the atomic bomb and the development of German democracy .
6    Berthold Brecht: 1898–1956; influential german author of dramas, libretti and lyrics; worked in the German Democratic Republic; was a socialist
7    Wolfgan Borchert: 1921–1947; one of the best known authors of the post war era in Germany; mainly anti war short stories
(Translation Current Concerns)

AI and other monstrosities

AI – short for “artificial intelligence” – is on everyone’s lips. Rightly so. Because there is a lot at stake, possibly the end of our being human. I’m not exaggerating. It is the founding fathers of “AI” themselves, who call for utmost care. Woe betide, when experiments get out of control!
The very term “artificial intelligence” is in principle absurd. The very fact, the abbreviation “AI” is prevailing, is suspect. The term “AI” logically assumes that there is also a natural intelligence. Therefore, opposed to each other are intelligence and pseudo-intelligence.
The latter term commonly identifies the absence of intelligence. Computer “intelligence” is, if you like, a kind of “narrow-gauge intelligence”. That means: It only works on the basis of two simple signals: 1 or 0, yes or no. That is all it is able to do, albeit with dizzying speed. In this respect, it has long dwarfed the capacity of the human brain. However, on closer inspection, there is not more to it. It is common knowledge that – in contradiction to this – intelligent behaviour goes hand in hand with a certain deliberateness, with careful consideration.
Imagine that you have an interlocutor in front of you who could only answer your sincere questions with a yes or no. I know: I am simplifying, but in principle, that’s what it is all about. From a “being” that can answer only with yes or no, we spontaneously assume little intelligence. Yes, in the curative pedagogical sense one would have to speak of idiocy, a form of heightened imbecility. “AI”, as judged by what intelligence actually means, does not mean anything other than infinite stupidity. Moreover, this is exactly where the risks should not be underestimated. Woe betide, if things are set free! In fact, “AI” carries with it the danger of getting out of control in the near or distant future. For neither heart (ethics), nor sense, let alone reason, are to be associated with “AI”. In view of this, to speak of progress appears downright grotesque.

Daniel Wirz, Zug

(Translation Current Concerns)

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