We make lots of decisions with recourse to scientific evidence. Α great lot we also decide based on cost - benefit and market considerations. Truly, turning our back to science and market instruments, as has often happened in the past, has only resulted in all sorts of disasters.
All this aside, there are still lots of our choices that are subjective in their essence. That are decided upon just because we so like. With no theory to back our decision. “Would I prefer to spend my money on a summer vacation or on a new car?” There is no scientific rationale behind any possible answer to this question. It is a matter of pure and subjective choice.
Choices in the western world are constantly increasing. And lots of people consider this rapidly increasing and diversifying spectrum of our choices as indicative of prosperity if not happiness. Yet, what happens in collectives such as societies? “Shall we support the poor or fund a new bridge?” How do we get along with all these many, ever increasing and often conflicting subjective choices?
My point in this book is that for all who love individualism but also do not consider living in isolation, outside society, there is one tool that carries the best potential to moderate this subtle balance between individualism and citizenship.
The tool is called democracy. It is unique in moderating the relationship of individuals within collectives. It is unique in just that. It is no indication of any people wisdom. It does not necessarily result in more justice. These are just some of the mythical aspects often attached to it; non existing, as typical for all myths.
Democracy is a pragmatic tool to manage collective decisions in an optimal way. Just as markets are a pragmatic tool to set prices and manage economic transactions. There is no ethical element in either of these two instruments. They are our best ever tools to manage our choices and our economic transactions, respectively. Nothing beyond that.
And there are several reasons, which I here try to investigate, to rediscover and make the most out of democracy. Even more so, as I identify as a European, one who fervently subscribes to the unfolding EU project.
Mandelbrot himself summarized it as: "beautiful, damn hard, increasingly useful. That's fractals." He also expanded the definition to: "A fractal is a shape made of parts similar to the whole in some way."
Fractals are the meeting point of Mathematics (Mandelbrot) and Art (fractal Art, Julia Art). Of the anarchy of Art and the order of Science. Of the predictable and the outlier. Of the simple and the complex.
Fractals are just like life. They can be simple of they can be ornate. Short or long. No doubt they come in a great variety. To this only there are all the same: you get lost in them, you get dazzled by them. Maybe you languish or you despond among them, you feel tortured in their whirls. Till, at some moment, you realize you are back to the initial shapes. To the first moments. Of them, of you.
You smile then, at how short distances truly are.
DOUBLE BLACK GREEK COFFEE is a short story, a true fractal transposed only in time and space. A story about the grand illusion: That something can be lost, when in fact it is only awaiting to show up again at the very next turn of time.
I feel thankful to all its actors. To Anne, George, Charis. To all of them. To those who I still see today and to the others. Those lost in the fractal, without ever being truly lost.
Stray light! You breathe unchecked in the dim, buried memories of our brighter days. Of days long past. Days of childhood serenity, of innocence and teenage romance. Our seditious reserve in our never-ending struggle against darkness.
And Ileana’s and Orestes’ last hope. They live in darkness, each their own. Sometimes, but only seldom, a ray of light penetrates it, inciting an indistinct aura around them. But only briefly though; for it soon fades and they are quickly returned, blind, to the vast, dark kingdom. To the sublime mercy of the king of darkness who rules there. Invincible, vicious and mean, one day he lost his temper, scowled and glowered and admitted,
“I don’t know when it appears; it wouldn’t if I did, I’d blot that out too. I don’t know when that light will appear any more than you know why you wound up here.”
That’s what he told Orestes one day, who suffered and wondered where he’d gone wrong, what mistake had landed him, blind, in this dark kingdom. And then the king, cruel and glum, determined to snuff out the faint hope born from his confession, added,
“That light lasts but a fraction. Don’t get your hopes up. It lasts very little and it’s called… it’s called… stray light.”
The present myth is moulded around the fraction of time this strange light lasts and culminates in the encounter of two large, dark constellations, Ileana and Orestes, and the tectonic collision between them. With the ascent of both upon the cross. Until they descend therefrom, and see the great light at last. Following a course similar to Christ’s Resurrection.
Ileana was just a friend. I never met her in person, we only corresponded. Ileana was tragically lost during her struggle for freedom and light.
I deliberately thought up this Ileana here different. Different only on the outside though, which is rather unimportant, even if a rough sketch invariably strikes the eye as shabby. I kept at her core the same passion the other one had. And I made her a winner, on the crimson and luminous path of the sun.
Let her tell the other Ileana that, if she ever runs into her.
A fierce encounter, at a point in time, between Orestes, who is returning, and Thaleia, who is departing. The unavoidable and traumatic separation of two mythically strong human beings, that life, possibly also the gods, appear to move in opposite directions. Between the two, is their common friend, the uncertain but wise, compassionate Harry, the chorus. He stands in the vortex of the great return of later day Ulysses (Orestes) and the eternal pilgrimage of Alexander (Thaleia). Harry attempts to mediate, to tame and to reconcile the cosmic vehemence of their orbits. He, alone, succeeds in solving the riddle of the rain.
We come and we go. We depart and we return. Like the gods. To the cycle of life, in the shadow of the sun.
Every year the EU commits an amount of around €12 billion to fund so-called framework programmes (FPs), which aim at supporting research and innovation (R&I) activities in the EU. The first question is: Do we really need this investment? My answer is a firm yes and I will shortly only argue on the rationale of publicly funded research and innovation. A second question is about whether this investment yields the maximum return and, if not, what may be needed to optimise it. Answering this question is the principal aim of this book.
I conceive R&I as a ladder comprising four rungs. Definitions, where the cognitive bricks of R&I are laid out. Strategies, where the main directions and objectives are defined. Operations, where key tools in pursuance of the strategies are designed. And, at the bottom, measurements, where the broad evaluation of the overall R&I activity is carried out. There are strong and consequential links between all these rungs; any reform introduced at any one of them will need to be accounted for and followed up in all those below it. Consistent with this principle, I start the discussion from the top rung, definitions, and descend all the way down to the bottom of the ladder.
Will the reforms I suggest along the innovation ladder suffice to challenge the current innovation deficit of the EU with regard to the US and the Far East? I doubt it. My attention here is drawn to the publicly funded R&I and this constitutes only a small part of the overall innovation activity in the EU. Though I am confident that some of the conclusions reached in the book are more generally relevant and applicable, my focus is not on innovation as a whole but on its publicly funded part, and especially the part supported by the EU FPs for R&I.
I believe that innovation is to the great benefit of private and public sector stakeholders alike. Although conflicts of interest between them may arise, I see no inherent antagonistic relationship. This, however, does not mean that private and public interests are always by default aligned; therefore, all the four rungs of the ladder of the publicly funded R&I need to be so erected as to maximise the public value they generate in the EU. This is a key premise that underpins the approach of this book. Finally, this public value, as I will emphatically argue, in the era of globalisation and the unfolding fourth phase of the Industrial Revolution, may also extend well beyond the EU to the global community, creating a wealth of opportunities and challenges awaiting to be harnessed. This is something I will consistently explore and highlight as its potential may have somewhat escaped our attention and scrutiny.