The difference between misery and happiness depends on what we do with our attention.

– Sharon Salzberg

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Featured artist: Camilo Huinca

Dense Discovery
Dense Discovery
 

Welcome to Issue 103!

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“When did the future switch from being a promise to being a threat?” This question by writer Chuck Palahniuk stuck with me when I first read it. So much so that it ended up in Offscreen.

Thinking too far into the future can feel like a precarious exercise these days. But that’s exactly what the aptly-named Long Now Foundation wants us to do. Through an impressive body of work that includes essays, podcasts, and workshops, the Long Now Foundation hopes to make urgently-needed long-term thinking more common. To get you started, I’d like to share one article that had a big impact on me.

The essay Six Ways to Think Long-term illustrates the ‘tug of war’ between the current short-termism (found in everything from politics to digital media) and the kind of long-termism required to keep existing. Here are just three of the six fascinating concepts explored in this piece:

First, it proposes that we develop ‘deep-time humility’ – an appreciation for the fact that the two hundred thousand years that humankind has graced the earth is a mere eyeblink in the cosmic story. Quoting John McPhee: “Consider the earth’s history as the old measure of the English yard, the distance from the king’s nose to the tip of his outstretched hand. One stroke of a nail file on his middle finger erases human history.”

Solving complex issues calls for transformational change that we need to initiate, but we might not be around to reap the benefits of. This kind of action requires ‘cathedral thinking’ which is “the practice of envisaging and embarking on projects with time horizons stretching decades and even centuries into the future, just like medieval cathedral builders who began despite knowing they were unlikely to see construction finished within their own lifetimes.”

If we are to think long-term, we also need to build an awareness for ‘intergenerational justice’. Think about the following numbers: “Around 100 billion people have lived and died in the past 50,000 years. But they, together with the 7.7 billion people currently alive, are far outweighed by the estimated 6.75 trillion people who will be born over the next 50,000 years.”

We can learn so much from indigenous cultures in this area. Native Americans have a beautiful, yet simple approach called ‘seventh-generation decision-making’: community decisions take into account the impacts seven generations from the present. Can you imagine a principle like that applied to modern politics?

Here in Australia, indigenous people generally see themselves as temporary custodians with an obligation to care for the land until the next generation takes over that responsibility. As such, land can not be owned, but the land owns us. Custodianship promotes a long-term, intergenerational relationship with time. Compare that to our ownership model which defines land as a resource that can be controlled and exploited, without any regard for who or what comes after us.

There are many ways to tackle our existential crisis, but I think they all require us to change our perception of time – or, as the essay puts it, to become ‘time rebels’. – Kai

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Apps & Sites

P2 →

Simple project coordination

From the makers of Wordpress, P2 is a new platform to communicate and collaborate without the complexity of larger project management or real-time messaging software. I haven’t tried it myself and the landing page is not very descriptive, but it looks like a more minimalist and free (?) alternative to other asynchronous collaboration tools.

Clover →

Text editor & task manager

Still in closed beta, Clover promises a new writing experience, combining a traditional text editor with more action-oriented features such as task management and note-taking into one lovely-looking app.

TBR →

Human book recommendations

TBR is a quarterly book subscription service that either sends you three books in the mail or three book recommendations per email. Importantly, the recommendations are not based on an algorithm but are compiled by real humans. You first tell ‘expert bibliologists’ about your reading habits and they then select books that they think you may enjoy.

The World Transformed →

A festival for political education

Almost missed this one: The World Transformed is a UK-based political movement that wants to see the transformation of today’s society into one based on economic, environmental and social justice. Their annual (digital) festival starts tomorrow (Sept 2nd) and hosts a huge variety of talks, courses, workshops and discussions. Topics include: ‘How can we build power in a feminist way?’, ‘Structural racism 101’, ‘Urban Utopias: searching for the city we want to live in’.

 

Worthy Five: Anne-Laure Le Cunff

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Five recommendations by entrepreneur, writer and neuroscience student Anne-Laure Le Cunff

A concept worth understanding:

Time anxiety is the fear of wasting your time – the obsession of spending your time in the most meaningful way.

A video worth watching:

What is Happiness? by Will Schoder is 46 minutes of pure intellectual joy. Every single frame is a celebration of curiosity.

A recipe worth trying:

Fish bread! It has virtually no carbohydrates and tastes great with cream cheese.

An activity worth doing:

Taking smart notes is a great way to improve your creativity.

A phrase worth knowing:

My favourite expression is ‘Fail like a scientist.’ Everything is an experiment, every failure is an opportunity to learn.

 

Books & Accessories CONSUME RESPONSIBLY

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Little White Lies →

A magazine for movies lovers

Little White Lies is a bi-monthly print magazine committed to championing great movies and the talented people who make them. It launched all the way back in 2005 and it certainly influenced my own indie magazine journey. With its newest, 85th issue, Little White Lies continues to publish movie reviews and other critical writing on film-making using their signature illustration style. A true OG of the indie publishing world, still going strong after 15 years.

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The Story of More →

How we got here & where to go now

A recommendation from a DD reader: scientist, writer, and teacher Hope Jahren with an “essential pocket primer on climate change that will leave an indelible impact on everyone who reads it”. The reader’s review: “a sobering yet accessible and empathetic introduction, a gentle yet jarring dipping of one’s toe into the water on climate change.”

 

Overheard on Twitter

It blew my mind when someone said, “Stop thinking about this year as the warmest for the last 100 years, but the coolest one for the next 100.”

@leschwartzberg

 

Food For Thought

Drowning in plastic →

Read

What a powerful visualisation of the almost 1 million plastic bottles that are purchased around the world every minute. Don’t miss the graph at the bottom showing how much (or how little) a difference our recycling efforts actually make.

Futurist Reviews Futuristic Movies →

Watch

This was fun and more insightful than I expected: “Futurist [and Offscreen alumna] Amy Webb fact-checks futuristic scenes from movies including Blade Runner 2049, Gattaca, The Matrix, Ex Machina, WALL-E, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Total Recall and analyzes their probability, craft, and execution.”

The Truth Is Paywalled But The Lies Are Free →

Read

This smart piece goes into the economics of content and makes an interesting case for a ‘universal public knowledge database’ – a central source where all content is freely accessible. “We can’t afford to keep our reach to those who like us so much that they are willing to pay money to listen, because then the free bullshit wins.”

The Social Dilemma trailer →

Watch

A compelling new documentary is hitting Netflix in early September: “The Social Dilemma is a powerful exploration of the disproportionate impact that a relatively small number of engineers in Silicon Valley have over the way we think, act, and live our lives. The film deftly tackles an underlying cause of our viral conspiracy theories, teenage mental health issues, rampant misinformation and political polarization, and makes these issues visceral, understandable, and urgent.”

 

Aesthetically Pleasing

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Add some living colours to your Instagram feed and follow flower artist Azuma Makoto.

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An amazing Twitter thread with the world’s most beautiful libraries.

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Using a custom-made dynamic optical guidance system, local masons in Greece constructed this stunning façade. The highly articulate brick walls demonstrate how Augmented Bricklaying combines the advantages of computational design with the dexterity of humans, supporting an entirely new way of fabrication. Make sure you watch the video.

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HK Kontrast is a rigid geometric serif typeface best used for headlines, titles, and display. Philippines-based foundry Hanken offers lots of experimental typefaces, many of them for free. Check out their full catalogue.

 

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The Week in a GIF

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Email or tweet us the URL to your favourite GIF and we might feature it here in a future issue.