Fantastic Planet – A 1973 movie revealing hidden truths about the human mind and human condition

A friend recommended me the old sci-fi classic Fantastic Planet (link to the whole movie). This movie and its reception hold the key to understanding a lot of human behavior and functioning around dissociation, trauma, and human sexuality. It’s a great example of how mindful awareness and investigation help to understand something that possibly millions of humans who watched the movie did not fully piece together. I invite you to watch the film before reading the text.

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Measures for more diversity in computer science

Intellectual people predominantly populate academia, natural sciences, and computer science. This makes sense and serves society as a whole; you need to do abstract thinking detached from emotions to find objective truth, flaws in your or others’ thinking, logic errors in your computer code. If you do study computer science, the goal of your computer science institute and professors is usually primarily to teach and train this intellectual mind, this abstract and logical thinking. That’s what makes you a computer scientist after all. I came to realize after a couple of years of studying computer sciences that all the lectures, exercises, research I was spending most of my waking time on were training a very narrow part of my human mind. My human experience relies on a much broader repertoire of modes of thinking and parts of my mind in everyday life. You have emotions, empathy, fear, wants, and needs expressed in the non-intellectual and non-abstract subconscious parts of the mind. These things make up the majority of experiencing being alive. But studying computer science focused me on a tiny part of my human mind, the abstract, intellectual, logical thinking. I was trained by spending and understanding this mode of thinking during my studies. It’s interesting to think about what effect this has on my mind if I spend so much time on a part of my mind that has so little to do with everyday human experience and satisfaction.

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Does it make you feel more alive – A personal framework for approximatively evaluating ethics of technology as a user as well as technologist

I subscribe to the notion that ethics is entirely rational and maps to game theory. Ethics is about the principled resolution of conflicts of interest between autonomous agents under conditions of shared purpose when playing long games. [1] With this in mind, it is crucial to model incentives and their consequences for systems to evaluate ethics. On the most general level, we can take the goal of avoiding suffering as the shared purpose of all humans on earth. Additionally, maintaining the global civilization might be another high-level goal. Technologists with the ability to create and change technological systems should do so ethically by considering these goals and projecting the impact of the system they create into the distant future. Making this difficult, the complexity of networks of human and non-human entities interacting through technology on a global scale has become overwhelming. Additionally, technology changes at such a fast pace that national and global elites cannot anticipate its full impact anymore, leading to increasing randomness in societies trajectories without anyone being able to formulate and implement a coherent plan projecting them into the future. Therefore it is even more critical that technologists evaluate the ethics and impacts of their actions, especially given the enormous leverage that computer technology offers.

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Creating a FreeCAD 3D view inside Jupyter Notebooks - GSoC 2020

Accidentally while creating a lamp I ended up learning FreeCAD. FreeCAD is an amazing open source CAD program. It still amazes me that people created this for free in their spare time. The software is still in it’s alpha version and is far from perfect as you can tell by the current release version number 0.19 and the heated discussions around how soon a 1.0 release could be reached. Still it’s very usable and once you get the gist of it you can create powerful and complex designs. FreeCADs approach to CAD is a parametric design. That means that you specify shapes with parameters. E.g. you base the 3D shape on a 2D drawing. The geometric figures of the 2D drawing - circles, recatangles, lines - are all constrained with parameters. Then you create a 3D shape out of your 2D sketch, for example by extruding it. And every step is based on certain parameters that can reference previous parameters. It’s basically visual programming. Is FreeCAD NP-complete? Probably, but that’s a topic for another time. Anyways. The parametric approach allows you to easily modify your design at any time just by tuning these parameters. For example with my lamp design the number of aluminium bars is a parameter I can simply tweak at any point in time. All the relevant details depending on this number will be automatically recomputed by FreeCAD. This gives great flexibility and allows for fast customization.

Google Summer of Code (GSoC) is a program run by Google that gives stipends to students who over a period of three months implement an open source project with a mentor organization. Among the organizations are well known ones like Arduino, Ruby or Wikimedia. But there are also more niche organizations that are not so widely known. The great part about GSoC is that students apply for specific projects, so you yourself determine how exciting the thing you work on is if you get accepted. This and the work from home aspects are definitely something a lot of internships can’t offer. For me it started with seeing the potential of first designing a parametric lamp and then creating a custom web page where you could change the parameters to your liking and see a live 3D rendering of the changed lamp. Then you just download the 3D files and 3D-print the lamp. I was heavily inspired by the card1o cover generator created with OpenSCAD. After some research I realized that something comparable to rendering OpenSCAD in the web browser does not exist for FreeCAD yet. I already knew about GSoC and to my suprise FreeCAD was one of the open source organizations taking part in GSoC 2020.

The result from printing the cover generator customized card1o badge cover. It's such a cool experience to customize something so effortlessly and to then have it in your hands. Unlike designing everything you don't have to think a about it too much, but you still feel more connected to the end product since it has a personal touch. That's the experience I wanted to create for my lamp design.

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HPI Startup Bootcamp

This year and last year I was lucky to be part of the HPI Startup Bootcamp. To my suprise my team won the first time I took part (link or it didn’t happen) and last year at least got a spontaneous made up prize because the jury liked the idea so much (can I has link plz). But enough humble or not so humble brags. I wanted to condense what I have learned there into a text hopefully giving you guidance on whether to attend and what to expect at such an event aside from late Roman, decadent catering. The learnings are a combination of the practical bootcamp experiences as well as the accompanying lecture called IT-Entrepreneurship.

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Travel tips – learn from my mistakes

I love travelling, every now and then I have the privilege to be able to travel abroad for a longer period. In my case that usually has been about a month. And things go horribly wrong. On the one hand it means I learn something on the other hand it means things like burning 700 Euros for no other reason than being utterly stupid. Therefore I compiled this compact post about how to do things right from the beginning.

Do you even prepare bro?

Preparing a trip is something I’d rather avoid doing, it’s just not any fun. I once was asked by a guy on the street if he could crash my couch. As it turned out he was travelling without anything. No money, no plan, not even a backpack. He was basically homeless, just with a drive to explore the world, which made all the difference. All he had was his T-shirt, pants, shoes and most importantly: His willingness to leave his comfort zone.

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