Welcome to The Grey Area

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So here we go. The curtains to The Grey Area are officially lifted. The gates to the wilderness and everything that is out there are open. thegreyarea.eu is live!
I am fairly excited, to be honest. These are my first steps as Editor in Chief. My first steps as a "professional" writer. My first steps as a newsletter curator. I am fully immersed in a sea of Unknowns. And then again, I am probably learning a lot more on this journey as I go. And I am excited to see what's out there and where this takes me and us. So be patient with me and feel free to give me any feedback you have! It will be highly appreciated.

What is The Grey Area? The place itself is a place to live the unknown, to experience the in-between, to get comfortable with the not-knowing. The website will be a place for different people to share their thoughts about what they deem being out there in the Grey. This newsletter is my personal collection. Of articles from our site, but also from all around the place. I will give you recommendations of long reads and other cool and noticeable stuff from this place called internet. And I will also give you stuff the offline world provided me with. Like, oldschool, books on real paper...

Because it all feels a bit unreal after all the effort that went in this project, I thought for the beginning we would share with you exactly that question: What is reality? Don't worry, no blue and red pills are involved, this is no commentary on the Matrix. Although it did give me a strange urge to rewatch the movie.

So I invite you, completely drug free (or not), to take your first steps in the Grey Area and join us and me on this journey. Enjoy!

What we wrote

Is this the real world? Is this just fantasy? - Perception, Reality and Hallucination as a Group Effort

Is this the real world? Is this just fantasy? - Perception, Reality and Hallucination as a Group Effort
I watched a TED talk lately. The British scientist Anil Seth used his time on stage to talk about the Neuroscience of consciousness. Consciousness, according to him, consists of two parts: the experiences of the world around us and our conscious self. We take in experiences with our senses who send electrical signals to our brain. That goes on processing the signals into perceptions. But can the brain see, hear, feel? No. So the brain makes educated guesses of what this feeling, that sound, that vision might be. This is how optical illusions work: They play with the fact, that our brain guesses – and sometimes these guesses are wrong.

But how does the brain come up with guesses? This is where our conscious self comes in. Perception comes as much from without, the sensory input, as from within, our best guesses so far. And then he said this: “In fact, we're all hallucinating all the time, including right now. It's just that when we agree about our hallucinations, we call that reality. “

And I was quick to think “Wait a second…” I was totally ready to fight him to the ground in my head. But what about facts?, I thought. What about science? Then I suddenly lost my battle armor and collapsed like a soufflé …

I consider myself being part of the more neurodiverse group of humans living on the planet. How my brain works, thinks, comes to conclusions is not necessarily how other people get there. I need to know exactly all the dots included in the game. Otherwise, things “just don’t make sense to me”. I consider this a superpower. For two reasons: First, I am intrinsically and endlessly curious to figure out the whole chess game. Second it also allows me to look at the world from a different angle. I would say that is what makes me a good consultant and coach.

Why is that? Well, I perceive the world differently than most humans. And this realization is exactly where the armor fell. Because what I was just getting ready to fight against is exactly the thing that makes me so good in what I do. I had a hard time, as a kid and teenager to fit in. I still did not fit in when I became an adult, but I didn’t try so hard anymore. Still, I was great at justifying what I did and why I did it. So, when I heard Anil Seth’s talk, my first instinct was to fall back exactly to that experience, that filter. But what changed my mind?

When perception is created in the brain, whose constant work it is to filter unnecessary information, then our understanding of reality also results from our different filters. Our perception defines how we experience things. But also, experience shapes our filters. And our experiences make up our future actions. So, what I agreed to do when I justified myself was to agree to a totally different point of perception. While most of the world is not willing to open up their minds to other forms of perception, they instead ask us to narrow down ours. When we have a unique perception, it’s called hallucination. When we have a set of overlapping perceptions it’s called reality.

So, what am I saying here? Am I finally admitting I am crazy and mad? Or am I changing sides, and do I agree that conspiracy theorists are right to believe in what they believe? Well, not exactly. Let me get on a short side note on conspiracy theories: We are indeed fast to condemn conspiracy theorists as the crazy mad people who go around not believing what we as a collective have deemed reality. But the difference lies in what these people deem “not real”.

I do strongly agree with science and the way science works. Scientists say they have found evidence by testing hypotheses over and over again and a certain theory has been proven right. This is what we consider a fact. And the scientific community also has agreed to consider facts as such, but just as long as somebody improves the theory or proves it wrong. Science does not claim a fact to be right 100% of the time or forever once proven right. It is just a fact under all the knowledge humankind has available at this point in time. Conspiracy theorists scratch at that very basis of our scientific belief. Which has nothing to do with a different perception, but with not believing in facts.

In fact, scientists have already successfully experimented with the hypothesis that there can be more than one reality. In the world of physics, a reality is defined as a state where universal facts exist and where observers can agree that they exist. With experiments in the field of quantum mechanics, scientists could show that these prerequisites could hold true for more than one event at the same time. Both events could coexist. Reality is now based on the viewpoint. Agreeing on one objective reality could be a concept of the past very soon. But what makes up reality then?

So back to the topic of consciousness. I am not immune to the reaction to judge my perception as the only one that could possibly hold true. The fact that I wrote this article as I did is proving that I am not. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have anything to write about. But what I am indeed saying here is that we should open up our thinking to different forms of perception. Perception, following the Cambridge Dictionary definition, is “an awareness of things through the physical senses”. And as science knows by now, we all perceive things differently. We see colors differently, we label smells differently, we have differently developed senses of tase, we feel things differently. When talking, comparing, finding agreements of perceptions, we blur out a great deal of input.

The information doesn’t fully get into our system. We are in a state of Not Knowing. The good news is: Everybody is in that state of Not Knowing. The bad news is: Not everybody admits that. When we admit that our perception might be flawed it makes us vulnerable and it can be uncomfortable. But it gives us a chance to be open for other perceptions. How can we complete the picture we have in our heads? How will we change it?

If we listen to other perceptions, we open ourselves up a whole new world of sensations, experiences and realities. Yes, plural realities. Maybe there really is no such thing as objective reality and we have to get comfortable in the discomfort of different viewpoints. Anil Seth ends his talk with the following statement: “With a greater sense of understanding comes a greater sense of wonder, and a greater realization that we are part of and not apart from the rest of nature. There's nothing to be afraid of. Nothing at all.”

What others wrote

No text I ever write just comes out of my brain from some form of abyss. I am not that genius creative. I read a lot of stuff that forms my opinion. Not all of it makes it into my articles. Some things are just a brain tickler. So I will share good pieces with you, so maybe they also tickle your brain.
Yes, there is something like gender-targeted marketing. Obviously. And it's used to sugar coat stuff and sell it to women or toughen it up and sell it to men. Stereotypically. Looking at care and surveillance, this could be distinguished between "watching out for" and "watching over". Is a baby monitor a surveillance tool? Is a FitBit? Now think of a further distinction. "Caring for" a child that's alone in the other room, versus "caring about" the general well being of a person, as for example health insurances do. The latter might be the reason for public outcry - while the first one is seen as basically a necessity. But does it make the surveillance less intrusive?
In this piece, first published in the Real Life Mag, Autumm Caines makes a compelling case about how entangling unethical surveillance technology and care ethics around gender stereotypes makes us committed to surveillance
There are two forms of curiosity: The d-curiosity, for deprivation, is sparked when we think we need to fill a gap in our knowledge. The i-curiosity, short for interest, in contrast comes to action is we want to learn something just for the act of learning. We don't want to reach a knowledge goal, we rather want to go on a journey to knowledge.
Judson Brewer explains, how we learn for the fun of learning when we tap into our i-curiosity - and this can help us overcome anxiety. We are in this perfect state of openness and we engage with our natural space for wonder.
Humans are ambiguous and unpredictable animals. But still, Machine Learning efforts aim to predict human behaviour for a society as a whole. But how far can we really take that?
Abeba Birhane says: We best don't take it very far. These systems are very good to "sort, categorise and classify". But are we humans really just patterns that can be picked up by a computer and processed? In her paper, published in "Artificial Life" she points out how Machine Learning can't predict what is happening at the edges of societal behaviours, outside the norms and stereotypes. Taking the use of this technology could harm those, who do not fit the pattern.

A word from...
Erica Keswin

"The book to read is not the one that thinks for you but the one which makes you think" - Harper Lee
This month I read the book "Bring your Human to Work" by Erica Keswin.
The Age of Digitalisation that we live in is a fast-paced world, offering us with tools that allow us to focus more and more on optimisation. But the true competitive advantage lies in the human connections we can build. The Corporate world seems to have understood that. Right now it all seems to be about authenticity. "Be real" they say. "Be yourself" they say. "Find your tribe with us or our brand". But for many companies, this is merely a marketing label they put on their door. As soon as you are through that door, we're back to normal business - numbers, optimisation, output.
With this well-researched book, Erica Keswin shows how we can create workspaces that combine the best of human connection and the perks of digitalization. What you get from her insights is nothing less that the key to a better world - better connections, inclusive leadership, better cultures.

The Good News

I am a big space nerd. I have always loved to look up to the stars and dream about what's out there. I rarely miss the launch towards and landing on another planet. I can even make them real watching parties. One of my favourite TV series is one about a time travelling alien that journeys the universe in a blue Police Box.
Obviously, I am not alone with this passion. But Elizabeth Norman, a 7-year-old girl from Leicester now made headlines by raising NASA's attention after launching her own rocket from the back of her garden. They offered her to send a personal item to the Moon - and she decided to send a sticker as her contribution of the first ever time capsule that will be sent to moon at the end of this year.
That's it for this month.
Thanks for reading the first Edition. And please let us know what you think of the newsletter thus far. All feedback welcome!
We actively want to bring in colours, not just lighten the place up! We want to create the space, where ideas from other dimensions are included, where thoughts outside of the black and white realm find a touchpoint with the spectrum. We want to explore possibilities how our society can be a better one when we don’t fight the unknown but embrace it with open arms and a curious mind. It is an offer to think differently. It’s an offer for different views, opinions and insights so that the “One Size Fits All” story of technology becomes a range of various stories that show us the immense beauty of digitalization.
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