• Brussels, Berlin, Europe

Foundation Metaverse Europe Position Paper on Metaverse and European Sovereignty by Dr. phil. Martin C. Wolff (Original in German, automatically translated version)

The core competence of a Digital Sovereignty

There is a moral obligation to use artificial intelligence. If these technologies make our daily lives easier, reduce suffering and increase happiness, and help us facilitate and improve institutional missions in the church, schools, government and wherever else, then we need to use them. Their use requires competence. There is no alternative to the acquisition of competencies. Competence is also the only means of eliminating worries. Without this competence, any ethical claim towards the subject area will also fail. This competency includes a deep non-technical understanding of objects, contexts, and modes of operation. In the same way that language acquisition is accompanied by the acquisition of cultural competency, exposure to digital mechanisms, processes, and tools shapes an understanding of the digital sphere.

Bringing the technical mind to reason in order to derive competence from worry.

Now it is a popular sport in this country to take a critical view of technological progress. With a worried expression, people think meaningfully about what problems industry, pharmaceuticals, modern agriculture, television, the Internet or computer games bring. The latest permanent guest on this list is artificial intelligence, the up-and-coming offspring of the already suspect digitalization. Now, we humans have always dealt with innovations in two ways: Mostly with prohibitions. Or with the actually desirable form: the acquisition of competencies.

Regrettably, the acquisition of competence is seldom demanded in lieu of requests for prohibition. And even more rarely, however, is it sought by those who demand it. This is particularly remarkable for a time when it has never been so easy to acquire skills in the history of civilization: YouTube and newspapers, magazines and television, books and entire libraries available online, dozens of people whose phone number or email address you have to call or write to with a simple question: “Can you explain…?” or “Can you tell me where I can find something on artificial intelligence?” Not to mention the dozens of meetings, lectures, evening events, conferences and workshops. Maybe you just do some research via Google for a few hours.

It’s a simple and classic educational idea: if a topic causes such concern, then acquiring competence on that topic is the only option. Unfortunately, persisting in worry seems more widespread. It is also easier, as an old pastoral wisdom knows: “Suffering is easier than solving”. While “concerned citizens” have become a meme, the same applies here: “But why do you see the mote in your brother’s eye and not perceive the beam in your own?” The acquisition of competencies as digital education, digital literacy, algorithm competence, or whatever, is always demanded only for others: for children and students or especially affectionately for the particularly vulnerable educationally disadvantaged fellow human beings. But what about those who demand it so loudly? What is to prevent a highly educated, interested and responsible public from applying these demands first and foremost to itself? And what might that look like?

Digital hermeneutics

A little more than a hundred years ago, it was natural for the educated middle classes to learn Greek and Latin. Certainly not because they are such useful languages. On the contrary, all criticism is aimed at the lack of benefit and reveals a very pointed understanding of benefit. Nor did defense counsel attempt to justify this time-intensive acquisition of skills on the basis of utility. So why did they invest so much time and resources in these competencies?

Of course, on the one hand, because many authoritative texts are written in Latin: from the foundation of the Roman Empire to the first version of the Civil Code in 1900, not for nothing called the 10th edition of the Digesta. But also not because people wanted to talk in Greek or Latin afterwards. But because one developed a deep, fundamental understanding of the historical, social and societal contexts. It doesn’t make you smart for another time, but forever:


Language acquisition has the special magic of opening up completely new spheres of thought. The first time laughing at a joke in another language defies logic and opens up worlds. It is an expansion of consciousness, similar to philosophy, mathematics, music and art. One taps into thinking horizons and patterns, the ability to network and connect content. They also mean the extremely useful competence of grasping complexity by combining the most diverse kinds of information and knowledge worlds in one’s mind. A hint of this magic still lies in the concepts of the “trivium” and “quadrivium,” the ancient self-understanding of understanding the world. In the 20th century, biology and physics, chemistry and economics were added, in the the 21st century the digital fields of knowledge.

What is inherent in these educational approaches is the magic of understanding. They are competencies that make people understand what was previously misunderstood. Like a Google Maps of thinking, they allow navigation, make connections, find shortcuts, and recognize supposedly disparate or contradictory things as one. This is how the mind is led to reason. We have a word for this art of understanding: hermeneutics. This doctrine of understanding, like the hermeneutic circle, speaks to why learning is always difficult and painful. But it was always worth it afterwards: You can, know and understand something that simply wasn’t there before. Pain avoidance, on the other hand, leads to incompetence and learned helplessness. And one understands beyond the subject matter how theology, for example, represents a cultural hermeneutics: Understanding one’s own identity, church and impact history, along with the entire catalog of bundled life wisdom from Bible stories, along with their contemporary updating through application to the current living world: climate and sustainability are a preservation of creation, provenance and postcolonialism are modern atonement and mortification for the sake of a higher justice. They become understandable through education, history, diversity.

This is the only way to actively derive social innovations from technological and technical innovations. It is curiosity, the nucleus of humanism, the unstoppable and uncorruptible curiositas,fire and torch of human inquisitiveness, which leads, opens and cultivates civilizations into the still unknown dark spots. To it we owe the legitimation of modern times as well as the inconceivable cultural treasures whose heritage is entrusted to us as a civilization. The worries and fears are nothing but the whispers in that same darkness, and it has only: “It is hopeless: stop! Give up!

In fact, as a culture and a society, we are still at the beginning: Beyond the GDPR, legislation does not know any significant legal achievements that take these upheavals into account. And data protection seems more like the individual ethical fig leaf with injunctive relief than any serious constructive or even optimistic hope for the future. On the one hand, it adequately accounts for an interconnected phenomenon in that the law does not limit itself. But then it is inward-looking, restrictive and protective. It performs a reversal of the burden of proof: the change must justify why it is good. Instead of curing erroneous developments, they are to be fundamentally prevented. Despite all the claims to the contrary, it can be soberly stated: Decisions don’t lie – and Europe’s lagging behind now allows us to speak of a digital developing country.

Digital sovereignty requires digital competence

The only sensible way to deal with being overwhelmed by innovations is to acquire competencies. First with himself. Then with others. This is the demand for digital hermeneutics as an educational subject that can eventually be used as a curriculum in schools and universities. However, before we know in detail what all goes in, we have to go through it ourselves. By painstakingly wresting content from ourselves in the foreign field and struggling for understanding. In this effort there is also the decisive, but from the outside invisible, realization of what the decisive hurdles and contents are. Once captured, we laugh and enjoy new spheres of thought, gain language for the new things and can explain them to others. Only when you can explain something, you have understood it. There is no more room for grief-stricken speculation with anxious reminders, they become superfluous; after all, one is oneself meticulously informative about the necessities, possibilities and fields of action. One suddenly becomes concrete, where before one remained in speculative worry and kept conjuring up “ethics” magically.

We are still at the beginning as a culture and society, an especially good reason to finally start. For 40 years, established institutions have looked with inherent arrogance at the fruits of the hippie movements from Palo Alto and its neighbor, Silicon Valley. But instead of curiously taking up these developments and asking questions of them, worries are conserved. Always with the connotation of emphasizing one’s own importance as the guardian of the Grail of ethics. After forty years of neglect, these same old established institutions are surprised and downright offended to find that developments don’t just stop; that the Internet doesn’t just go away. On the contrary, digital developments now permeate all areas of life. The broad, massive protests against the reform of copyright law and the storms against the Basic Data Protection Regulation were met with complete disenchantment. And still the old institutions, meanwhile belatedly, hardly think of more than demand for “ethics”. Still no acquisition of competence in itself, the people and the processes. The penetrating confrontation in and with the object is still missing, it still remains a seemingly sublime pondering about it from a distance. Ethics, however, grows from competence and from competence alone: first the competence, then the ethics.

Who, then, if not the sovereign?

So now it’s about education and new processes. To understand and create frameworks. It’s not like this stuff is going unregulated. People have always voted with their feet when there was nothing else. And the user numbers speak for themselves. For this, it does not matter whether technology is discussed as salvific or destructive. Whether Artificial Intelligence was associated as a Terminator and Blockchain was celebrated as a liberation from banks. Although artificial intelligence means only software, the transitions are disruptive and trigger major changes. While connecting technologies can tie everything together, it can also be reckless, and without a clear sense of purpose, accountability for impact can be lost. Technization can create an unpleasant living environment that leaves people powerless and unaware. Social media is an example of how emotions can dominate communication and how moral structures can be built on subtle patterns of theodicy and fighting evil. Self-reference can be provincial and people can be blinded by national myths.

So where is the Sovereign Action that takes these great desiderata and fills them into curricula, processes, and reforms? Where is the next fundamental revision of the Civil Equality Code along the lines of the 1900 reforms?

All of these are major projects involving considerable investment, which the modern sovereign state was actually once invented to manage. An excellent opportunity for this sovereign to reinvent itself here. This requires platforms and discourses, but not summits that remain inconsequential: rather, debates that leave the participants with new categories, ideas, and options for action – beyond the old wonder weapon hopes of blockchain, quantum computing, and AI. But rather the small-scale discussion and writing of instructions for companies and authorities.

Such a place rightly bears the name Metaverse: The combination of manifold possibilities with a clear regulatory framework and value concept. The opposite of arbitrariness is not concern, but responsibility. Responsibility means answering someone; someone from other milieu, industries and departments; from other stove-pipes and horizons of experience. Quite fundamentally, responsibility holders with other horizons. Here I see the Metaverse Europe Foundation in a very prominent function and role. It is not beholden to any party, country, or industry. But of the thing. It feeds its understanding and role from the subject matter, it invites across platforms, and it doesn’t side with monetization or the worriers. But asks:

  • How do we implement the very acute progress in the sense of all shareholders who are actively shaping?

The Foundation does not need to win election campaigns in order to make promises of salvation. Instead, it improves the quality of the questions and the concrete developments by clearly emphasizing: Europe decisively represents the great achievements of civilization, which shape law and order, norms and customs.

From moderate privacy to the responsibility of science and the healthy tango of regulation and free enterprise to the spiritual foundations that manifest themselves in art, culture and education. So we’ve already invented the wheel, now we’re getting computing machines rolling.

On the core topic of European sovereignty with Martin C. Wolff

Dr. phil. Martin C. Wolff works as an entrepreneur and scientist in Berlin. Since 2016, he has been teaching at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin and at Beuth Hochschule für Technik on philosophy, digital economy and ethics in the digital age. He publishes in economic and scientific publishing houses.

He completed his studies of various humanities and social sciences, business administration and law in Berlin, Hagen and Freiburg with a master’s degree. After training as a communication trainer and martial arts training, he trained police and law enforcement officers in communication, de-escalation and mission-related self-defense at the Berlin Academy of Administration from 2004-2014. With his dissertation “Seriousness and Decision” he developed a basic philosophical theory of conflict. He holds a master’s degree in philosophy and a master’s degree in supervision and pastoral psychology.

He has been on the CNSS board since 2016 and its chairman since 2019, as well as the director of the International Clausewitz Center (ICZ) at the German Armed Forces Command and Staff College since 2021.

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