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Kai-Holger Brassel
Author and Software-Developer

Kai-Holger Brassel, 2023
Foto: Florian Semmler

Who have I become?

Born 1962 in Dortmund and raised in Bochum, I spent my youth in Germany’s Ruhr area. I was interested in astronomy, computers and science fiction from an early age. The novels of Mark Brandis, John Brunner, Isaac Asimov and Stanislav Lem fired my imagination – the music of ELO, Kraftwerk, Yes and Rush carried me away. I was a »special interest person«, someone who would be called a nerd today. At that time, this kind of social character was largely unknown, and so I simply considered myself an outsider. But since I played a lot of soccer, emulating my brother who is almost ten years older than me, I was at least able to score somewhat from a sporting perspective. Then, as now, I like to kick a football and see where it goes.

At the age of 17 I had earned my first money and had to make a tough and far-reaching decision:

Moped   or  PET 2001 PET?

In the first picture (1969) I'm sitting in the front of my brother's "machine" with special outfit, my oldest friend Matthias behind me. The second picture shows a PET 2001 with the “hood” open. Both about the same price, the moped promised freedom and social recognition, while the other thing could be programmed freely(!). This wasn't just a "machine" – it was an universal machine. At the time I probably was guessing the difference more than I understood it. Possibly »Personal Electronic Transactor« simply sounded more like the future to me as »Zündapp«, so I bought that computer thing. After all, people were already flying to the moon these years.

So, I learned to program and took part in science competitions. The following photos show how I met the space travel pioneer Hermann Oberth on such an occasion and my friend Ludger and me at the International Radio Exhibition in Berlin in 1981 on another.

     Jugend Forscht, IFA 81

My time studying at the just founded department for computer science at University of Koblenz was great. There were many bright minds interested, like me, in software development, AI, politics, etc., a third of whom – unthinkable of today – were women. Computer science was still so new back then that we men hadn't yet had time to dominate the field with our posturing. That was yet to come.

I made some money doing programming jobs and was able to afford an extended time of study. I was involved socially and politically, including the peace movement. In addition, as a person with »special interests,« I I wanted to know more detail about a few things like the possibility of simulating social processes with computers or what Niklas Luhmann's theory of social systems is all about. In 1992 I received my computer science diploma. After that, I developed scientific software at the University of Koblenz, TU Darmstadt, University of Rostock, and HfT Stuttgart as well as »usual« software for various commercial companies.

In 1996 my partner and I met at a conference, where else? We are living in Hamburg since 2003, where our two daughters grew up.

The above conference, which took place four years after the famous Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro 1992 was, by the way, about combating man-made climate change and its consequences. It was already clear to everyone there that this topic would not disappear from the agenda anytime. The Anthropocene had long since begun. Since then, some have tried to drive the necessary systemic and behavioral changes against the lazy crowds, with – as we know – modest success. It will require great sacrifices from future generations to cope with the world we have made so thoughtlessly.

For over forty years, apart from a few scientific articles, technical reports and many emails, I have directed my words not to other people but to computers, also in the hope of making a small contribution to overcoming the above-mentioned challenges. As my brother recently said: Everyone should make their contribution wherever they are.

I think differently about this because as animals we can move. It's high time for me to move on and add another facet to my life – that of an author.