The drugs of the future will be computers. The computers of the future will be drugs.

– Terrence McKenna


Featured artist: Union Haus

Dense Discovery
Dense Discovery

Welcome to Issue 111!

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One of several take-aways from my recent reading of Active Hope is a new understanding of power dynamics. The book picks up a concept that came out of the business management world almost a century ago: the idea of ‘power over’ versus ‘power with’.

The traditional notion of power and leadership – in politics, at work, in society at large – is about command and control. People at the top make decisions that those on the lower tiers of the ‘power hierarchy’ obey. This model is driven by compliance and authority (and patriarchy, see below) – it’s about power over other people.

This model of domination is being challenged by younger generations who are much more interested in and motivated by co-operation and participation. We want to make a difference by influencing and shaping the decision-making process. It’s an expression of power with other people.

The difference here is between ‘being in power’ and ‘being empowering’. The two rarely go together. In fact, people in power hardly ever make us feel empowered. It’s often our co-workers, our friends or like-minded individuals who motivate us and get us engaged in an issue. That’s the positive message of Active Hope: despite the climate collapse hanging over our collective heads, working with others is an opportunity to feel more empowered, not less.

Obviously, we won’t completely abandon the old power model anytime soon, but understanding the difference between ‘power over’ and ‘power with’ is also helpful in choosing partners, friends, employers, and presidents. Is the source of their motivation to compete and control or to collaborate and contribute? – Kai

Dense Discovery is a weekly newsletter at the intersection of tech, design, sustainability, and culture read by over 36,000 subscribers. Do you have a product or service to promote? Sponsor an issue or book a classified.


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Literal →

(Soon to be) the best place to discover books

We’re building Literal to let you share the most impactful moments of your reading and discover books loved by people you care about, but... we’re not quite ready to launch yet. In the meantime, you can check out the Dense Discovery shelf with some of the books mentioned in this newsletter.


Apps & Sites

Typora →

Markdown editor

A powerful, yet minimalistic writing app that converts your markdown into formatted text in real time – available for Windows, Mac, and Linux.

Monote →

Bookmarking for products

Monote is a bit like Pinterest but for products. Via a browser extension you save products in your Monote account, then organise them with lists and additional comments.

Treecard →

The debit card that grows trees

The good folks behind Ecosia (the search engine that plants real trees with your ad clicks) are launching a new, free debit card that uses some of the merchant fees to plant trees. It’s unclear what countries the card will be available in, but I assume they’ll start with parts of northern Europe.

Good Grief Festival →

A virtual festival of love & loss

Happening this weekend: an event dedicated to dealing with grief. 45 talks, 20 workshops with over 100 speakers. Check the Grief School page to find a topic you’re most interested in. I’ve just registered for the Grieving for our Planet event.


Worthy Five: Amit Gupta


Five recommendations by Sci-Fi writer, optimist, and wanderer Amit Gupta

A book worth reading:

I have two short stories instead: Andy Weir’s The Egg is one of the reasons I write short fiction now – incredibly short and poignant. And then there is Ken Liu’s Paper Menagerie – you will feel this one in your heart.

A question worth asking:

Do you have to do the things you’re doing?

A concept worth understanding:

Nonviolent Communication. The name is a bit woo-woo, but I’ve read the book twice and recently started a review group with friends. It’s made difficult conversations so much better.

A Twitter account worth following:

Let me share a social media strategy instead. If I’m reluctant to add to my media load because it’s already heavy, I miss new things. And if I won’t cut something off because of FOMO, I’m stuck in a rut. It’s a trap. So instead, follow and unfollow on impulse. Nobody will care and you’ll be better off. Change your diet every day.

A recipe worth trying:

Make your own seitan. (Many recipes online.) It’s so much easier than you think, cheaper than buying it, and you can flavour it however you like.




The Innovation Delusion →

The case for care and maintenance

A new book that tells the story of “how we devalued the work that underpins modern life – and, in doing so, wrecked our economy and public infrastructure while lining the pockets of consultants who combine the ego of Silicon Valley with the worst of Wall Street’s greed. The authors offer a compelling plan for how we can shift our focus away from the pursuit of growth at all costs, and back toward neglected activities like maintenance, care, and upkeep.”


Wise Charlie →

Explore mental models

Another deck of cards to get your brain going: “Mental models are big ideas from big disciplines, like business, psychology, science, engineering, and more. An understanding of the key concepts from different disciplines will help you ask the right questions. If you want to be a world-class thinker and a better leader, you must develop a mind that can jump boundaries from one discipline to another.”


Overheard on Twitter

I say ‘no worries’ far too much for someone who is approx. 94% worry.



Food For Thought

The End Of Empathy →


Quoting research, Hanna Rosin argues that the way we offer/experience empathy has changed in recent decades, ironically making us more selective about who ‘deserves’ it. “The new rule for empathy seems to be: reserve it, not for your ‘enemies’, but for the people you believe are hurt, or you have decided need it the most. Empathy, but just for your own team.”

Privilege, power, patriarchy: are these the reasons for the mess we’re in? →


Australian journalist Jess Hill with a brutally honest assessment of the way the patriarchy has instilled a ‘power-over’ default in our society. “Patriarchy positions all people on a scale of entitlement to power and control: men have power over women, some men have power over other men, white people have power over people of colour, heterosexuals have power over LGBTQI, rich have power over poor, adults have power over children, all people have power over nature, and so on. Within this system, it is not individual men who have the most value, but men (and some women) who embody patriarchal traits of maleness: control, logic, strength, competitiveness, decisiveness, rationality, autonomy, self-sufficiency, heterosexuality (and – critically – whiteness).”

Why Silicon Valley needs to be more responsible in Africa →


Well, Silicon Valley needs to be more responsible everywhere. But as the tech world scrambles to capture the ‘African market’ (or rather African minds), US tech giants have a particular responsibility to not repeat the many devastating mistakes of the West’s colonial past. “As we speak, millions of Africans continue to access social media, where incitement to hate circulates, with very little, if any, moderation. This normalization of hate speech online is in total violation of most local laws, and it threatens decades of stability and progress for peaceful coexistence on the continent.”


Aesthetically Pleasing

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Frank Moth creates “nostalgic postcards from the future using the collage technique in a struggle for humility and eternity”.

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Stunning shots by Norwegian photographer Øystein Aspelund of his travels along the M41, known more commonly as the Pamir Highway, a road traversing the Pamir Mountains through Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan in Central Asia.

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Back in 2016, Japanese artist Motoi Yamamoto created two installations made of salt, with one of them being “an intricate maze of carefully-placed salt lines, forming a complex arrangement of delicate matter that snakes through the architecture of the space”.

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FS Meridian is a rhythmic sans serif font. “Its rounded forms veer and extend, creating unexpected humanistic shapes – while the straight terminals remain reliably rigid.”



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