Christmas – balancing aspiration and reality


If you want to explain Christmas to an AI, you will notice some contradictions

The original meaning of Christmas is well on the way to being forgotten. We should not allow that to happen.


For me – I am a very believing Christian – Christmas was and is a very special time. It evokes this feeling of warmth and security, very special memories of childhood and family. I really enjoy it when we all come together (our family is very large) on the holidays, celebrate together, sing and tell the Christmas story. It’s amazing: we celebrate nothing more than the birth of a child. But nothing less either. Because this child has changed the world. And it is quite remarkable: we celebrate in our warm rooms with presents and delicious food that the Son of God was born in a barn in poor circumstances. Behind all the glamor of Christmas lies the importance of humility and modesty. I always resolve to live this humility in my everyday life as a believer, father, husband, friend and entrepreneur. And all too often, unfortunately, I have to accept that I don’t succeed despite my good intentions. Christmas gives me more time than any other holiday of the year to reflect on the importance of humility and gratitude. I would like to see more of this Christmas spirit in everyday life in our society these days. But the closer I look, the more I worry that this spirit is being lost.

Christmas is a time of giving and sharing, and the exchange of gifts symbolizes the joy of it. I myself love to give – although it shouldn’t be about material gifts, but about being there for others and supporting people in need. In this day and age – at least that’s how I feel – the importance of humanity is completely lost in the pre-Christmas consumer frenzy.

And suddenly there it was, this somewhat absurd question that necessarily arises if you are currently working professionally with robotics and artificial intelligence: How would you coherently explain Christmas to an artificial intelligence?

How would you explain Christmas rationally to an artificial intelligence?

For example, it is important to me that Christmas is about the importance of love and compassion. It is about treating others with warmth and affection, valuing family and friends, and caring for the needs of others. That´s why I was surprised to read that a nursery in Hamburg had filed a criminal complaint for trespassing against a man who brought a Christmas tree and presents to the premises as a surprise for the children. The reason given: The nursery objects to this symbol because it undermines religious freedom. Sounds like a contradiction to me! But even if I would tolerate this attitude – a criminal charge against the donor makes it clear that the responsible persons in the kindergarten can hardly have understood the spirit of Christmas. With or without a tree!

What has happened to the original spirit of Christmas?

At Christmas, we should be guided by the spirit of forgiveness. But what the Christmas tree symbol dispute is for some, the war of the roses is for others. There is hardly any other time of year when so many couples separate or get divorced! According to statistics from Stanford University, the days leading up to Christmas Eve are when a particularly large number of relationships break up. Yet Christmas was originally intended to be a period of peace and reconciliation, a period to reflect on the past year, your personal growth and the values that should be important to you in your life. During this time, we should at least put conflicts to rest, make up with each other and strive for harmony. This applies to personal relationships as well as to society in general. But what does the world around us look like these days? There is hardly any sign of forgiveness.

Would these contradictions cause great confusion because a time of togetherness and love is characterized by so much stress, war and anger? How do we want to describe the image of Christmas to an AI that we humans can no longer really comprehend? How do I explain to an inquisitive artificial intelligence the huge gap that opens up between all the Christmas stories and our real lives? And how do we explain it to our children?

But another question is more important: can the spirit of Christmas, as it was originally meant, be revived? I think: Yes! I am convinced that everyone can do something about it. Even small gestures help. At NEURA Robotics, we have repurposed a room on the company property into a church and now, in the run-up to Christmas, we have invited all employees to join as a group in a contemplative and peaceful Christmas atmosphere.

Christmas is an invitation to peace and forgiveness – regardless of personal faith.

Of course, the original meaning of Christmas for every Christian is to celebrate the birth of Jesus. And yet Christmas is also celebrated in non-Christian countries. All over the world, many atheist families celebrate this holiday – with an Advent wreath, a Christmas tree and all that goes with it. I know people who don´t believe in God but still go to church on Christmas Eve to watch the nativity play with their children. Why is that? Because Christmas and its symbols have become much more than just part of the Christian faith. They are an integral part of our Western culture. Christmas is a tradition! For Western society, Christmas is a celebration of love.

For me, there is something universal about the spirit of Christmas – can´t everyone in the world understand it? And wouldn´t it be desirable to use this celebration of love as an opportunity to show AI, which is learning more and more about our world every day, a different side of us? Something that the information and data from the Internet, which is a lot about violence and destruction, cannot convey? Namely, that despite everything, we long for a better world and a better humankind.

For me, the birth of Jesus shines a light of hope on this longing. Christmas reminds me that despite the challenges and problems we face, there is joy and optimism in our world and that positive change is possible. In this spirit, I wish you a Merry Christmas!


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