We live in the age of digital transformation. Almost everything in human life is affected by it. The dynamics of development are breathtaking. By creating a digital world, we have created a new world which is hard to resist. In the digital age, there are undreamt-of possibilities. However, we do not need to be skeptical of technological progress to have reasons for considering digital transformation one of the biggest challenges of our time. We need to shape it, remaining critical observers of developments by asking what it means to live a life in the digital age.
Modern telescopes allow us to have stunning impressions of the universe in which billions of galaxies, even more suns and numerous planets exist. Planet Earth has become quite ordinary. Do we need to feel small and irrelevant, though, in the face of such grandeur? And is it not a misunderstanding of the progress made in cosmology, if this progress makes us lose respect for nature without which life is inconceivable? It cannot be wrong to view our planet in the context of cosmic dimensions, even less so if our new understanding of the universe motivates us to understand more of Planet Earth itself.
Some love it, others see dangers once people start to employ the term ‘home’ (Heimat). The same is also true for the concept of globalization which has ceased to be widely accepted as promising. However, there is no reason to deny oneself the right to a rational discourse on home and globalization. Given that majorities find the concept of being at home somewhere an important aspect of life, societies should at least be ready to debate the meaning of home in public discourses. Of course, the same is true with regard to globalization which needs to be dealt with both critically and unbiasedly.
Health is both freedom from impediment, namely disorder and illness, and being at liberty to act. We tend to understand the importance of health only when it is lost. For this reason, the question arises as to the kind of status health can have as long as it comes naturally to us in our everyday lives. Moreover, happiness is something we can make the subject of reflection since happiness does not require us to live a life absent of unhappiness. We should start to reflect on health and happiness before we feel forced to do so.
Following the Age of Enlightenment in the 18th century, the sciences began upon their triumphal advance. Such a historical view, however, neglects the fact that the principles of enlightenment and science are worshiped only by those who believe in them. Religious world views still shape the conditions of private lives; they establish public expectations and sometimes skepticism towards the sciences. Conversely, scientific insights shake the articles of faith and offer reasons to view things differently. How do we deal with this tension between religion and science?
Physics tells us that time is relative and, as a dimension, intrinsically connected with space. The distinction between a past, a present, and a future is meaningless from such a perspective. While such an understanding enriches our physical approach to the universe, the question arises as to what is left then for an ethical understanding of time. There is indeed a connection between how we conceive of time in our everyday lives and how we conduct our lives. The question of what time is becomes something ethical, when we inquire about the connection between time and life. Whoever doubts the meaningfulness of such an approach, ought to be open at least to the question of why we should not cultivate the ethical understanding of time.
Politics is the process of shaping human coexistence. In democracies, we are used to the idea that the responsibility for this lies with political parties. While a political system provides a legal framework for private and public affairs, citizens are nonetheless required to contribute to making coexistence and communal life possible. It is certainly important to ask to which degree we must responsibly play our roles as members of a political community. If democracy presupposes a political culture, we need to understand what such a political culture is and how we can keep it alive.
We feel entitled to distinguish between being lonely and being alone. Not everyone who is lonely is alone. And not everyone who is alone will feel lonely. From such a perspective, being alone is nothing bad, whereas being lonely appears to be depressing. From a societal point of view, though, being alone also appears to be depressing, given that societal life means being together with others. However, are we really to leave our understanding of being alone to such a societal perspective? And should we not cultivate being together with others as well as being alone?
This squirrel has achieved everything it has dreamt of. It can even sit without a chair when it wants to enjoy the view. Obviously, this squirrel has managed to lead a quite successful life. Bildung (i.e. humanistic formation, cultivation, and development) and career, though, did not play a role here. We humans do not have it as easy as the squirrel. What, for example, is Bildung when faced with a working life that requires us to specialize? And what are education and professional training, if one’s profession cannot be one’s calling in each and every case? Moreover, in the digital age we need to understand and master a new job market.
The question of who we are is a basic question of human life. We can broadly ask this question with regard to mankind, even though identity is also the identity of individuals: who or what am I? Once we understand identity from this point of view, we can debate the connection between identity and responsibility: in which sense do we need to have an identity in order to be capable of being responsible and acting responsibly? And is it not also true that we are responsible for our identity? Indeed, we should not presuppose that identity is always a given. It is at least worth reflecting on identity as something we are responsible for.