Schlagwort-Archive: Metaphor

The tide – the ideal metaphor for far too much

We are perpetually racing around the sun at over 100,000 km/h. Simultaneously, the Earth is rotating on its axis at over 1600 km/h – and we feel nothing. However, the Earth’s rotation and the constellation of the sun and the moon regularly create perturbations that put the oceans into oscillation. Those who have visited the oceans’ coasts could observe the wave that is slopping around the world. The tidal range, the strength of ebb and flood, is additionally influenced by weather conditions. The water level fluctuates by up to 15 meters, depending on the region. And then there is the great flood – a story passed down in various cultural circles. The flood sets the starting point for a new time after everything undesired is flooded and disappeared in the water masses. The flood has become a synonym for far too much due to its abundance.

A closer look reveals some interesting points of view.

  • Term
    The Earth is covered by 71% water. These 1.4 billion cubic kilometers of water are kept in motion by the sun’s constellation and the moon. The tides consist of falling water, the ebb, and rising water, the flood. They alternate twice in 25-hours. In addition, the term flood is generally used for large water masses and floods of all kinds, e.g., information flood, image flood, mail flood, request flood, goods flood, stimulus flood.
    In a figurative sense, the term stands for far too much.
  • Trigger
    Floods are caused by constellations of the sun and the moon, natural disasters, and man-made influences. Volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, landslides, or heavy rainfall result in torrential water masses in a wide variety of places. In the Anthropocene era, humanity creates damage to nature by sealing soils with urban and road construction, plants, and industrial agriculture. It creates an imbalance that leads to ongoing climate change due to the Earth’s steady warming and climate shifting. Melting ice at the polar ice caps and significant glacial regions lead to rising sea levels that threaten megacities, such as Calcutta, Mumbai, and Guangzhou, as well as Miami, New York, and Tokyo.
    In general, floods result from far too much.
  • Strength
    The water level determines the extent of a flood. Since the height of the water level in itself says nothing, a reference point is required. In the case of water, we differentiate between mean water level, mean low water, and mean high water. The highest high water is the biggest value ever measured. Besides, historic flood zones are identified. Construction activity in these areas is risky. However, after long periods without flooding, this does not deter people from building houses and streets again in these areas. A frightening example is the Fukushima region, where houses were built in known floodplains and promptly deluged again. Dam structures protect vulnerable areas as long as they are high enough. However, sea levels are rising due to climate change, requiring more extensive dam installations – until the water can no longer be kept out. The habitats of more than 250 million people, especially in the East of Asia and along the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic coast, are at risk of flooding in the foreseeable future. For the other floods (see above), levels still need to be established to speak of a flood.
    In a figurative sense, there is also a need for metrics for far too much.
  • Consequences
    The effects of a flood are not limited to the actual flooding but also include the long-term aftermath. While earlier floods were passed down through gossip, today, we see videos that show what happens almost in real-time. In 2004, the Indian Ocean earthquake, triggering a tsunami that claimed more than 220 thousand lives and was immediately in the news and on the Internet. As a result, drinking water sources were contaminated, 1.7 million people were left homeless, fertile farmland washed away, and entire swaths of land became uninhabitable. Within a year, an estimated $13.8 billion was allocated to rebuild the affected regions. Today, 300 fully automated, land-based monitoring stations provide an early warning system. Floods also threaten all types of technical infrastructure. In Fukushima, unexpectedly severe waves led to a super hazard and still radioactively contaminated landscapes in the Sendai region. In exceptional cases, floods also create habitat. The annual flooding of the Nile provided the fertile soil and moisture that this early advanced civilization needed.
    In the common parlance of far too much, floods overload and stress the people affected.
  • Meaning
    The flood has especially the meaning of far too much. This metaphor is applicable when something happens, is done or developed, is approaching, increases, or transforms. It overflows whenever the same thing keeps growing – e.g., phones are ringing incessantly, increasingly more emails arrive; decisions are requested more frequently; a message spreads virally on the Internet; a rising number of customers storm the shop; computer net use explodes; minor improvements challenge an overall system. The image of a flood is mainly used in different areas of communication – the flood of data that buries insights; the flood of informing needs that blur clear messages; the flood of demand that leads to a large number of offers; the flood of problems in which the fragmentation of interests drowns those who suffer. In most cases, floods are frightening. For this reason, the term should be accompanied by benefits: many requests are a sign of interest; mass decisions are a sign of momentum; massive amounts of data are a basis for expert analysis; multi-faceted problems are mastered with a structured approach.
    It is, in most cases, commonly true that far too much is better than too little.

Bottom line: The flood is a bad image that arouses fears with its far too much. The term can be found for thousands of years as viral memes in a wide variety of cultures. Most triggers lead to severe threats to which we can only react. In the end, a flood causes significant damage. With appropriate preparation and follow-up, these can be mitigated as much as possible and eventually overcome. The same applies in a figurative sense to the abstract floods of perception, thought, communication, and action, leading to fear and distress in those affected. This makes the flood an ideal metaphor for far too much.

The seat direction in the railroad – the ideal metaphor for temporal horizons

Let us forget for the next few minutes that we do not yet understand the phenomenon of time, although we measure it finer and finer – an atomic clock offers one second of deviation in 30 million years. Besides, time can be stretched when we move away from the center of the Earth – two atomic clocks that would have started synchronously 4.5 billion years ago would have a time difference of 39 hours, i.e., the time would have passed faster at the sea level. In everyday life, these differences are not perceived. We roughly divide time in past, present, and future. The vista from a moving train provides a good example of these temporal horizons.

In a train selecting the seat sets the perspective in and against the direction of travel as well as straight out.

  • The future
    Looking at times to come builds upon a comprehensive collection of data from which we develop scenarios through assumptions and our beliefs. As the future in Western culture is in front of us, it feels like sitting on a moving train and looking in the travel direction. You see distant places ahead, towards which you are moving and passing in the next moment. However, not everything is visible – neither all elements or subtleties nor the future states that will happen later. We anticipate parameters to the best of our knowledge, relate them to each other, and derive plausible futures. The greater the flood of data that evolves, the decision-makers feel more confident by looking into the future.
  • In contrast to the view out of the train window, the future is invisible because it is still developing. Simulations provide more or less probable futures. However, the reality often builds on upheavals whose dramatic effects no one sees coming – e.g., the introduction of the printing press, the steam engine, the computer, or the Internet. Whereas on the train, we can already foresee what is coming. There is no other chance but to estimate future facts based on preliminary assumptions derived from circumstantial evidence – with a relatively low hit rate. The best way to prepare is to shape what is coming according to your wishes. There is a higher probability that it will be similar.
  • The past
    The view into the past is full of events that have already taken place. It is like the view from the moving train against the direction of travel. It remains the look back on the already crossed landscape without the slowly disappearing details and conditions. The view into the past behaves similarly. After a short time, a patina is building up covering the objective view, if not makes it impossible.
  • For this reason, experts deal with the interpretation of the past. Contemporary witnesses and documents provide insights for this purpose. Distorted memories and misinterpreted evidence inevitably lead to historical forgery. With increasing distance, the previous events lose their significance. In the here and now, there is only the memory artificially kept alive of what happened. It is enough to understand the lessons from the past instead of striving for distorted subtleties. The extent to which history plays a role lies in the eye of the beholder – backward-looking, present- or future-oriented. It becomes dangerous when the past is misused to legitimize the present by justifying circumstances, vested interests, and new things.
  • The present
    The parallel view from the train window resembles the view onto the present. Everything flashes by you. Details blur into an unclear picture. There is no time to process the presence because it is over within a short time. Optical impressions must be 20 to 30 milliseconds apart to recognize something with our senses apart, acoustic sensory impressions three milliseconds apart. To then still perceive the stimuli consciously, we need about 20 to 30 milliseconds, regardless of the type of perception. This floods the present time with a vast amount of data. When the present starts and how long it lasts until it becomes the past is again a personal setting – from a few minutes to hours and days to the current quarter. We can no longer react to today’s VUCA world with lengthy analyses and decision-making processes but with new approaches to collaboration, leadership, and course of education – e.g., more self-organization, from top-down directions to joint decision-making and result monitoring.

Bottom line: Time is intangible. For this reason, everyone creates its own time. Simultaneously, we follow the rhythms of the clock and the calendar. Although, studies of cultures have shown that different regions have different, often contradictory concepts of time. If one considers these divergent lifestyles, then strict time schedules lose their effectiveness. This is especially true for the three time horizons: past, present, and future. Let us make the different views clear to ourselves by looking out of a moving train window. To the front, we sense the future without actually being able to see it yet. To the rear, the present fades away into a past without leaving us any concrete foundations. Looking parallel to the travel direction, we are overwhelmed by the flood of data that rushes in – the faster, the worse. It makes sense to use the respective view’s strengths to work best in the here and now. The sitting direction in the train is the ideal metaphor for the three primary time horizons.