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  • Writer's pictureWalter Dornstedt

Uber-taxi, Uber-leben, Uber(-)Mensch

Some words are susceptible for misconception. Especially if they cover an explosive charge. When the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche coins the word Ubermensch at the end of the 19th century, and Adolf H. , a few decades later, connects that same word to the pathological-catastrophic theory of the Arian hero, the word turned toxic and became utterly suspicious. So why, in this era of the liberated gig-economy and rampant political correctness, is the Uber-mensch making a glorious return?

We are living in the age of internalized disruption and auto-corrected accelleration: bitcoin will, despite the current dip, eventually succeed and the elite places its first orders with Airbus for their Pop Up Next with which they will buzz over traffic jams. Science Fiction has become Science Fact, unfortunately including the realized apocalyptic images of an exhausted, dying planet. And including the re-birth of the Uber-Mensch! Not as a theoretical philosophical limit-concept or as a club of Germanic demigods who wants to rule the world, but as the modern man, who is clickable in the network as node, permanently available for the next job. For the ride to the hairdresser's appointment booked through Google Duplex, you reserve an Uber taxi. In that Uber-taxi is now a man, but soon no more, because then a driver of flesh and blood is too high a risk in the extremely densified and exponentially accelerated traffic grid. The algorithms of the insurers and the medico-chemical industry will have finely filtered the human being out of that system, well before a government can put a stop to it with laws and regulations. But that is future music and usually the terrain of the trendwatchers. The trendphilosopher aims to say more about our current everyday experience, about the Uber-Mensch who is born now - and about what, in neo-Nietzschean perspective, can be a more valuable alternative to this neo-liberal manifestation of the Free Man, the autonomous individual. To keep it 'on trend': which system update should you download in order for 'Man' to survive in the world, and survive in the world that is your brain?

In order to trigger the beginning of an answer, let me become more personal. I wish to believe that my life is more than just survival, is more than just 'staying alive' exactly as the BeeGees sang (although of course I secretly desire to stroll the streets of the lower East side just like Tony Manero, with my red shirt unbuttoned and proudly wearing my tight black leather jacket, turning my head confidently and unashamedly as a pretty me-too skirt passes by). Being human begins with being yourself, and preferably a self that relates to the other in a sharing way, that builds rapport with his neighbour and respects the unknown. With a goal in mind that lies within my actionable range, close to me, despite the worldly realization that my intention and orientation in the community has no meaning in the larger context. I eat less meat, fly less, live ‘greener’ and more consciously, and am, like many others with me, prepared to sacrifice. In spite of this, the projected emissions of CO2 will, according to the newly published Global Carbon Budget 2018, increase by 2.7% this year and the target of Paris (Zero CO2 in 2050) will, in the coming days at the Climate Summit in Katowice, prematurely evaporate into a tragic-comic nightmare. I do not want to be discouraged by that, and that is a persistent wish.

I also wish to believe in a human being who, in the right relation to his technological means, to the animals and the earthly materials, who elevates himself, who exceeds the limitations of the role he fulfils in the neo-liberal politico-economical universe that is our world. If it is up to the Masters of that Universe, who reside in Mountain View, Singapore and Dubai, a basic income will ensure that we will no longer have to realize ourselves as Uber-mensch in order to stay alive. The realization of this only requires an administrative-accounting exercise. It will proof to be more effective and therefore more profitable to subtly direct the produced Uber-mensch as an error-prone minion to the side-lines of the global operation, and to, ultimately, declare him redundant in a next update and deport him to a risk-free subsystem of virtual entertainment, to a place where he can mean no harm. The Uber-Mensch of today, dragging himself from taxi-ride to diner-delivery or flex office workspace, is an intermediate figure, a ghost figure in limbo. And that Man does not represent a vision of the future, but he is already among us. We ourselves are still that Man, the Man who wonders when he (yes you, Brutus!) will take his Yellow Vest from the trunk of his soon superfluous car and puts it on join the faceless protests. But the real Ubermensch is still to come!

To once again dare to think of the Ubermensch as free man, as a being free of affects, free from ideology and free from a repressing, technocratic and meritocratic moral is the beginning of another scenario. Let us, in our industry, as precursors and ICT facilitators, begin to code that story in our strategies and include in operational plans. Wanting to be an Ubermensch is a sense, a state of mind; being purposeful is a deed.

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