Be ruthless with systems, be kind with people.

– Michael Brooks

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Featured artist: Magdalena Kaczi Kaczanowska

Dense Discovery
Dense Discovery
 

Welcome to Issue 105!

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Mark Boyle no longer owns electronic devices. In fact, he doesn’t use electricity or running water or money. Daily life in his cabin consists mostly of tasks that ensure his basic needs are met. In between, he writes letters to friends, socialises with neighbours, learns how to play an instrument. But before you conjure up some romantic image of #CabinLife, Mark points out the complexity of living simply:

“This way of life I have now adopted is often called ‘the simple life’, but that’s entirely misleading. It’s actually quite complex, made up of a thousand simple things. By contrast, my old life in the city was quite simple, but made up of a thousand complex things, like smartphones and plug sockets and plastic.”

This is the story of a man who detached himself from society to find out what life has to offer once the comforts of modern life have been stripped away.

“I had no idea if unplugging from the industrial world would mean I’d lose all touch with reality, or finally discover it.”

I shared his essay with several friends and family members, curious to find out what their reaction would be. (By the way, there is a German and a Korean version, too.) Some described him as “extreme”, “eccentric”, “weird”. Mark’s lifestyle is clearly unconventional when seen through the lens of contemporary life – that’s kind of the point he’s making.

We accept as ‘normal’ staring at screens for many hours a day, longing for meaningful connections to others, and working in jobs that treat us like a commodity. Meanwhile, Mark is out there in the forest foraging for lunch. What’s extreme?

Whatever you make of him, escapists like Mark provoke questions about the choices we make in the name of progress, such as: are we trading simple things that make us feel alive and useful with complex things that create a kind of comfortable dullness?

“What I think people mean by ‘the simple life’ is the uncomplicated essence of it all, and, yes, there is a timeless simplicity to it. I’ve found that when you peel off the plastic that industrial civilization vacuum-packs around you, what remains couldn’t be simpler. Healthy food. Something to be enthusiastic about. Fresh air. A sense of belonging and aliveness. Good water. Purpose. Intimacy. A vital and deep connection to life. The kind of things I did without for too many years.”

Kai

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Video Collaborations for Creators SPONSOR

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JAMM →

Visually lightweight and blazing fast video for work

What if you took the best parts of Zoom, Houseparty and TikTok to design a fun, lightweight and super-fast video for work experience? Meet Jamm – the #1 collaboration app for creative teams to easily brainstorm, spontaneously huddle, and provide updates wherever they are.

 

Apps & Sites

Tweak New Twitter →

A calmer Twitter

This Chrome/Firefox extension adds a whole bunch of sensible features to your Twitter web experience: stay on the chronological timeline forever, move Retweets to a separate timeline, remove sidebar content (Trends, Who to Follow), and a lot more.

Blush →

Customisable illustrations

Blush is a growing collection of stock illustrations with an interesting twist: each illustration is totally customisable. A character illustration, for example, can be changed from male to female to gender-neutral, clothes and hairstyles can be swapped, accessories added, etc. A neat idea to take advantage of affordable stock visuals without making them all look alike.

Tweek →

Weekly to-do app

This simple, web-based to-do list gives you a weekly view of your tasks. Easily move them around, colour-tag them, or drag them to your ‘Someday’ stack. It comes optimised for printing too, if you prefer a weekly planner on paper. Reminds me of good ol’ Teux Deux.

No Meat Today →

Meat tracker

This iOS app is a playful habit builder to help decrease your meat intake. The idea is that creating a log of meat-free days will make the eventual transition into a vegetarian diet easier, if that’s your goal.

 

Worthy Five: Chenda Bunkasem

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Five recommendations by AI Research Engineer and DJ/Producer Chenda Bunkasem

A Twitter account worth following:

Mean Squared Error, comprised of 3D graphics, human computer interaction, and virtual reality research that kicks ass.

A recipe worth trying:

This spiralised zucchini pasta with avocado pesto: zero carbs, mega healthy, delicious.

A newsletter worth subscribing to:

fwd: Economy by the MIT Technology Review provides really insightful forecasts on innovations that are changing how the future might look.

A concept worth understanding:

Ikigai, a Japanese philosophy based on the importance of finding one’s purpose in life.

A place worth visiting:

Angkor Wat, the mystical ancient temple that inspired Tomb Raider and that some believe had been built by aliens. Laser technology revealed a lost city which you can explore in this amazing virtual exploration project.

 

Books & Accessories CONSUME RESPONSIBLY

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2021 Planner →

Sustainability journal

Designer Julie Joliat just released her smart, beautiful planner for 2021, combining a calendar with practical sustainability advice: “Each week of this weekly planner focuses on a theme and invites you to complete a project in order to learn to live in a more sustainable way. These fun exercises are depicted in a playful way through a miscellanea of beautifully illustrated facts, recipes, quotes, games, charts, and informative texts.”

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Atmos →

An exploration of climate and culture

Atmos is a biannual magazine curated by “a growing ecosystem of adventurers, creatives, and journalists dedicated to pioneering progress around the world”. A lot of their excellent stories are also available online. The latest issue – Flourish/Collapse – investigates the end of the Anthropocene: “Nature is a delicate balance of expansion and collapse, flourish and famine, growth and decay. Have human beings permanently disrupted this cycle, throwing the wheel off its axis, or are we just paving way for the next species to thrive? Is it still possible for us to return to a point of flourishing without collapse?”

 

Overheard on Twitter

Golf is so weird. Huge swathes of landscape culled and privatised because men are too scared to just ask their friend if they want to go for a walk.

@tomhouslay

 

Food For Thought

A Very American Suicide →

Read

A short post that perfectly encapsulates the selfish idiocy of the anti-mask protesters in the US and everywhere else: “I am the only thing that matters; what I want is the only thing that it is valid to want; what you want is so unimportant that is is not worth discussing. I see you, but I am not convinced that you exist in any significant way, except as a potential blocker to what I want.”

What the ‘meat paradox’ reveals about moral decision making →

Read

Modern life is riddled with cognitive dissonance. One particularly interesting area is our diet. I’ve always been fascinated by the fact that we treat pets like family members but butcher and eat other animals. “One way to make meat-eating seem acceptable is to dissociate it from the animal it came from. Grauerholz argues that we do this by ‘transforming animals, which are loved, into meats, which are eaten, so that the concepts of “animals” and “meats” seem distinct and unrelated’. We call it ‘veal’ instead of baby cow, ‘ham’ instead of pig, ‘game’ instead of hunted wild animal. We pack our dead animals in pretty packages – physically, verbally and conceptually distancing ourselves from the real origin of our food.”

New Zealand Has a Radical Idea for Fighting Algorithmic Bias: Transparency →

Read

New Zealand is leading the way yet again, this time on algorithmic transparency. A new charter introduces some common sense rules and principles on how government implements algorithms: “Agencies that sign the charter make a number of commitments. For instance, they agree to publicly disclose in ‘plain English’ when and how algorithms are used, ensure their algorithms do not perpetuate bias, and allow for a peer review to avoid ‘unintended consequences’.” [Possible paywall]

Emergency on Planet Earth →

Read

This is a very extensive, extremely well researched Google Document with pretty much everything you need to know about the climate emergency, covering very basic questions, effects, tipping points, and required actions. I decided to include this document after, once again, witnessing the US media doing a totally abysmal job at connecting catastrophic fire events to the climate emergency, keeping too many people uninformed.

 

Aesthetically Pleasing

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UK-based 3D motion designer Matt Taylor creates playful and dazzling animation loops.

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More beautiful, intricate pixel art, this time by Riyadh-based artist Khaled.

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I absolutely love this tiny apartment renovation project, combining two of my favourite materials: plywood and terrazzo. The one-of-a-kind benchtops were made by Annie and her dad “using broken shards of stone and marble sourced from all over town, and even off-cuts from her parents’ kitchen – ‘so I will always have a little bit of my family home right here in my house.’”

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BC Falster Grotesk replaces several arches of its lowercase letters with sharp diagonals giving the family a novel character and a modern appearance.

 

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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.