"Truly great thoughts come from the heart!“: A Christmas story about War, architecture, politics and “artificial intelligence“


But it happened at the time that ... "ChatGPT" conjures up some Christmas story out of a hat? Certainly not with "pisa"! Because when it comes to quality and soul, no "artificial intelligence" ("AI") can replace people. It's like Christmas: that quiet moment when our soul touches our heart. Where the bells ring sweetly: Happy Xmas! War is not over! 😱

Straßburg: The "Christmals Capital" Picture: Guy-Pascal Dorner

But it happened at that time that ... Joseph from Nazareth, belonging to the Christian majority in his home town conquered by the Jewish state of Israel in 1948, could not (any longer) set off for Bethlehem in the West Bank, where the Palestinian Muslims rule. Especially as there is war again!

Faith requires religious tolerance

Oh, if only everyone agreed with Ignaz Heinrich von Wessenberg (1774-1860): "As long as God tolerates different forms of religion ⛪🕌🕍, it is clear that he demands the same tolerance from the different religious believers towards each other." But Wessenberg was even a thorn in the Pope's side: because he was too reformist, Pope Pius VII dissolved the diocese of Constance (one of the largest dioceses in the D-A-CH region), which had existed since 585, in 1821 in order to prevent Wessenberg from being elected bishop. He almost became bishop of the new diocese of Freiburg ("Religion should not be the servant of the hierarchy, but the hierarchy the servant of religion"), but the Pope persisted. Wessenberg went into politics, to Karlsruhe, to the Baden Assembly of Estates.

From the "Christmas capital" ...

Which brings us geographically (and still entirely without "AI") closer to one of the two crystallisation points of Christmas, war crimes, politics and architecture: Strasbourg. "Schdroosburi" - as the Alsatians say - is not only the undisputed political "Capital of Europe" (seat of the European Parliament and the Council of Europe), but also the "Capitale de Noël", the capital of Christmas. By no means just a marketing coup, but with a serious, cultural-historical background: the Christmas tree 🎄 - who invented it? That's right: the Alsatians! So without Strasbourg, no "Oh Christmas tree ..." And when it comes to "Christkindelsmärik" (Christmas markets), Strasbourg can also boast true records: There are eight(!) Christmas markets this year in the old town alone (including the one for tourists around the cathedral, the traditional one on Place Broglie and the one with the striking Christmas tree on Place Kléber). More information about the Strasbourg Christmas markets in 2023 can be found here. A visit is definitely worthwhile, especially for you construction planners, as Strasbourg offers a unique urban panopticon: the historic old town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1988, with many pretty half-timbered houses, the cathedral and the romantic tanners' quarter "La Petite France". Right next door: the Neustadt, built in the 19th century when Strasbourg was under German administration, in the historicist style, also a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2017. And then there is the European Quarter, a European Heritage Site since 2015. In addition to the European Parliament (in charge: "architecturestudio") and the Council of Europe (architect: Aukett, Art & Build) as well as the "Europapalast" (architect: Henry Bernard) and the "ARTE" headquarters (Struhk Architeckten), which are jointly used by both institutions, the European Court of Human Rights (architect: Richard Rogers), which is responsible for human rights violations concerning the member states of the Council of Europe, is also located there. Israel is not (yet) a member, but has been an observer in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe since 1957.

... to the place of the Christmas event

This brings us (still entirely without "AI") to the second crystallisation point of Christmas, war crimes, politics and architecture: the Middle East, where the biblical Christmas story 🎅 is set. A Muslim ☪️ country since the collapse of the Eastern Roman Empire (apart from the ultimately failed attempts at conquest by the Christian crusaders), Nazareth and Bethlehem (the pivotal points of the biblical Christmas story) have been the scene of many human rights violations since the realisation of the Zionist idea of a Jewish state 🕎 on Palestinian territory. Politics has failed to this day (first and foremost the British as a colonial power, then the UN and ultimately, unfortunately, the peacemakers Yasser Arafat and Shimon Peres/Yitzchak Rabin). There is war again 😱! People are suffering again! People are dying again! Yes, the world is still watching (idly?) what is happening in the "Holy Land" (unlike in the case of Ukraine?). We all hope for peace 🕊️ - but how many of us really believe in it? Faith 🙏 may move mountains - but does it also create peace? Speaking of "faith": "I believe that all architecture that appeals to the spirit is still the work of an individual", the controversial architect Le Corbusier (1887-1965) is said to have said.

Architecture vs. religious faith

Two examples from Bethlehem and Nazareth show that architecture and religious faith do not always harmonise, especially in the "Holy Land" ...

1. Bethlehem (without which Christmas would not even exist) - actually a twin town of the "capital of Christmas", Strasbourg 😉 - has (although predominantly Muslim!) the oldest preserved and continuously used church in the "HolyLand" with the Church of the Nativity (above the presumed birthplace of Jesus). However, the way in which Christians treat each other regarding the use of this place of worship was and is by no means sacred. As early as 1757, regulations had to be made: The main altar and the side altars on the right "belong" to the Greek Orthodox Christians, the side altars on the left to the Armenian Orthodox Christians, and the Roman Catholics were left with the Epiphany altar and the star under the altar of the Nativity, the St. Jerome's Grottoes and the square to the left of the church, where they were allowed to build their own church (today's St Catherine's Church). But even in the recent past, Armenian Orthodox and Greek Orthodox Christians (2007 and 2011), allegedly even priests, fought in the Church of the Nativity.

2. In the1990s, the city administration of Nazareth planned to use the upcoming millennium and the pilgrimage visit of Pope John Paul II to Nazareth for an urban renewal project ("Nazareth 2000"): Nazareth was to be given a central square that would be visually dominated by the Basilica of the Annunciation adjoining it to the north. On this square: the tomb of Shihabad-Din, Saladin's nephew. Muslims demanded the construction of a mosque on the planned square instead and successfully campaigned for it in local politics.The foundation stone for a mosque was actually laid (despite some riots between Christians and Muslims), but then Israel imposed a construction freeze - untiltoday.

Valuable building culture touches the human soul

Cut. Back to Europe. Where Alsace ends, in Ronchamp, you will find the Notre Dame du Hautchapel (UNESCO World Heritage Site). You architects all know it, because this icon of brutalist architecture was designed by the aforementioned Le Corbusier. And that brings us to "AI" 🤔 ... Floyd E. Schulze has impressively demonstrated what "AI" can "do" with high-quality architecture (also using the example of the Ronchamp chapel) (the"Deutsches Architektenblatt" (publisher: Bundesarchitektenkammer) reports on this in the current December issue). Not all "AI" results are successful. And yet the anxious question? Will "AI" replace the valuable work of you building planners at some point? Probably no! It will change what you do and - when it comes to planning mass-produced living space - it will take over your work. But it will still be the case that for high-quality architecture or more complex construction planning, you will be in demand as people with specialist expertise. Perhaps even more so than now; after all, someone will also have to check whether what the "AI isplanning" is realistically realisable and complies with legal requirements. What's more, valuable building culture touches our human soul; "AI" cannot deliver this kind of quality. Only you building planners can do that: inside👍

"AI"and the danger of deliberate/unconscious manipulation of our society

Of course, "AI" not only affects architecture, but our entire society. Our humanity as a whole. This is because significant parts of "AI" can now be used by anyone at any time and free of charge. Especially when it comes to text generators such as "ChatGPT" or image generators such as "Midjourney": sometimes you get quite useful results, but sometimes you get "fake news" or simply digital rubbish.

The difficulties here ...

1. We all often no longer know what was created using "AI" and what was written by humans (using our own minds). It's no longer "just" about schoolwork, but also about the (multimedia) global dissemination of information. This opens the door to the deliberate (think Russia) and unconscious (caused by sloppiness or incompetence) manipulation of us all ... ☹️

2. In the case of illustrations generated using "AI", such manipulation is even much more difficult to recognise. Even if the first publication (e.g. via social media) is labelled "AI-generated illustration", this is usually quickly lost in the avalanche of multimedia postings. However, because illustrations are the most impressive means of conveying information for us humans, the risk of intentional or unconscious manipulation is all the greater.😨

3. Even if we know that a piece of content (text and/or illustration) was created using "AI", this does not mean that this content is factual. It would be fatal to simply accept this content as "correct" without scrutinising it. BUT: It takes time and effort and requires a certain amount of general human knowledge to (be able to) filter out the correct results. If necessary, the sources used must be verified (this is actually a journalistic task). And even if the facts are correct, it may be that the "AI" omits certain facts (deliberately manipulated or simply ignored) that would be important for understanding the overall context or categorising information 😧.

4. What "AI" cannot do at all: linking (only seemingly) completely unrelated topics (as you are experiencing here in the "Christmas story" 😜).

5. Up tonow, "AI" has relied on the content that we humans have published independently and created with our own minds. At the latest, however, when we humans publish less and less or nothing at all of our own because we only use "AI" for everything, then "AI" will at some point generate its content exclusively on the basis of "AI" 😵

"AI" elves with glittering coats of binary code

Who knows, maybe one day, instead of the biblical Christmas story, we will all only know the story of the lonely toymaker Otto, who was visited by a mysterious "AI" elf with a glittering coat of binary code, who guided Otto through a virtual world in which he experienced the joy of other people because he shared his handmade toy with other people ("the real magic is not in the material, but in the heart"). That was actually the summary of a "Christmas story" as spit out by "ChatGPT" when I entered the two terms "AI" and "Christmas story". Yes, the Christmas message somehow fits in with the Strasbourg motto this year: "With a trembling heart", but the framework story ... well, in this case a nice fictional story, which - because the biblical Christmas story is still present - almost everyone recognises as a fictional story. But what if we had no idea about Christmas at all? Then perhaps we would believe that this is the "real" Christmas story. Who knows 🥴 ...?

"AI" can do a lot, but not everything!

In any case, the fact is (and this is now again completely without "AI") that you as construction planners, just like us at pisa Versicherungsmakler GmbH as your partners in terms of "risk protection", cannot and must not completely shut yourselves off from "AI", but we also do not run the risk of becoming superfluous in our professions just because "AI"exists. "AI" can do a lot, but not everything.

The Christmas message: It's up to the individual!

It's still true: people 👨👱 make the difference! Without us humans with our manyabilities, our networked thinking, our (shared) humanity, our enthusiasm and our sweat and our (shared) responsibility for other people (or to put it in Christian terms: without our charity♥️), our human existence would be completely useless. Therefore - and this is the Christmas message: "If I spoke with the tongues of men and of angels, and had not charity, I should be as sounding brass and a tinkling cymbal." (1 Corinthians 13:1) Or I would be a dull "AI" 😜. But because that's not me, but Guy-Pascal Dorner, on behalf of pisa Versicherungsmakler GmbH, I would like to wish all construction planners, all our clients, all partners, all insurance people and everyone else in the world a Merry Christmas from the bottom of my heart: Merry Christmas!

On the wishlist: a "Peace of Jaffa 2.0"

May the light of God be proclaimed to us all - and now it gets religious for a moment 🙄: "Night, more than light night. Night brighter than day! Night brighter than the sun in which the light is born", wrote Andreas Gryphius in the Baroque era. May the "enlightenment" also reach people everywhere who are at war, including in Ukraine and the Middle East. We wish the latter asecond "Peace of Jaffa" from the bottom of our hearts. This "Peace of Jaffa" 🍊 once regulated the ownership of the "Holy Land" between Christians and Muslims: the Christians were given back Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Nazareth. The Muslims kept the Temple Mount in Jerusalem with the al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock; however, Christians were allowed to hold services there. In return, the Muslims were granted freedom of movement in the area around Bethlehem and their own jurisdiction under a cadi in Jerusalem. Plus point: the "Peace of Jaffa" was negotiated without bloodshed 🩸. Unfortunately, this was in 1229(!): Hohenstaufen Emperor Frederick II (HRR), a universal scholar ("stupor mundi") of Swabian-Sicilian origin, who spoke fluent Arabic and only reluctantly allowed himself to be persuaded to join the "Fifth Crusade" by the Pope (who had banned him from the Church, thus excommunicating him), negotiated the "Peace of Jaffa" (rumour has it that he did so while playing chess ♟ with Sultan al-Kamil, who incidentally was in theological dialogue with Francis of Assisi). Jaffa, today part of Tel Aviv, was thus the scene of a peace treaty that is still unique in the history of the Orient and the Occident. It would be a sign from God and/ora sign of common sense 🗣️ if Jews and Muslims were to conclude a peace "Jaffa 2.0". For as the Greek historian Herodotus (around 450 years before the birth of Jesus!) knew: "No one in his right mind prefers war to peace; for in the former the sons bury their fathers, in the latter the fathers bury their sons." Nothing has changed in this respect, even in the age of"AI".

Give Peace a Chance!

Therefore,at this point and at the end of the story, an appeal to all (fellow) people in the world 🌍: Give peace a chance! So that we can really all live in "Peace ☮️ on earth". Yes, indeed: "Truly great thoughts come from the heart 💓" (Ignaz Heinrich von Wessenberg). May the selines have reached your heart. אני רק באתי כדי לאחל לכם חג מולד שמח. عيدميلادمجيد. Merry and blessed Christmas.

On behalf of the entire team at pisa Versicherungsmakler GmbH 👍

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