At the opening session of the UIST conference, the conference chair talked about East Berlin. It’s where the conference is taking place, and it’s also where he grew up.

He showed us pictures from when he was born — when East Berlin was still under the thumb of the USSR. The difference was stark. In place of the vibrant Alexanderplatz of today, we saw something very bleak and desolate.

Then he showed a photo of the Berlin Wall, in the process of being torn down. He narrated the picture with these words:

“At this time in the century when people are talking about building walls, maybe we can use this as an example. Or at least, we have a spare wall if you need one.”

Everyone in the audience cheered. It was good to hear a voice of sanity.

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