Invention, strictly speaking, is little more than a new combination of those images which have been previously gathered and deposited in the memory; nothing can come from nothing.

– Sir Joshua Reynolds

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Featured artist: Ben Sanders

Dense Discovery
Dense Discovery
 

Welcome to Issue 132!

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Hearing the word ‘future’ usually evokes stylised images of a world that is temporally disconnected from ours and looks drastically different. It’s filled with autonomous cars, humanoid robots, but also windmills and indoor farms – technological inventions that happen at some point between now and then and transform everything.

Thanks to science fiction, fantastical media reporting, and some smart corporate marketing, we have accepted a common narrative of the future in which we have no agency. It’s a future that happens to us, not one we have a hand in creating.

If I learned anything from interviewing futurists and ethicists over the years, it’s that this notion of the future is not just wrong, it also makes us compliant and malleable. The future – they all caution – is not defined by some abstract, external event or invention; the future is made by each of us, every single day.

Mwiya’s recent tweets encapsulate this really well:

The notion that [the] future is a commons, and one that is best cared for in the present, is both fantastically thrilling and nerve wracking. Stewardship of the future is one of those things that’s non-deferrable. You carry the yoke, now, today. You build it now, today.

Thrilling because each day’s efforts compound. Eventually leading to a better future. Nerve wracking because deferring progress also compounds; building an inactivity debt that requires a lot more effort to undo before any progress can be achieved. Everything compounds.


Our present (in)actions ‘compounding’ into the future we will get – that’s a great way to think about what lies ahead. No other issue makes this clearer than our climate (in)action dilemma: it’s the difference between fanciful zero emission pledges for 2050 versus implementing strong emission reduction laws today.

There is no decoupling of the now and then. What you and I do, demand, reject, work on, and vote for today determines the future we get. – Kai

 

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Apps & Sites

Sidekick →

App-focused browser

This Chromium-based browser allows you to pin certain apps to the side of your window, making them more accessible and giving them notification abilities. It also promises increased tab suspension and memory management which should help with energy/battery use.

Timo →

Task and time tracker

Timo combines task management (i.e. a to-do list) with a simple time tracking feature that records how long it takes you to get those tasks done.

Something Spaces →

Fill empty spaces with art

The somewhat ambiugous Something Spaces project wants to fill ‘unused’ spaces with art. One of those spaces are new browser tabs: their plugin shows you a different piece of art every time you open a new tab. Other projects include an embed code you can use to inject art into your website’s 404 error pages.

A People Map of the US →

Origins of the most Wikipedia’ed people

This data visualisation project by The Pudding replaces city names with the names of people that they are most associated with on Wikipedia, ranked by pages most accessed. It’s a fun way to learn more about celebrities, history and US geography at the same time.

 

Worthy Five: Dave Radparvar

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Five recommendations by entrepreneur Dave Radparvar

A question worth asking:

‘What do you hope will be said about you in your eulogy?’ This question is a great framework for identifying the values that are important to us, instead of the shorter term desires that tend to motivate us.

A concept worth understanding:

‘Kintsugi’ is the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with gold and highlights the pottery’s storied history, rather than hiding it. The pains of our past do not need to leave us broken; our scars can become a gilded reminder of our resilience.

A book worth reading:

Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man has a rhythm that transported me. It shines a light on personal identity, politics, and the conscious and unconscious biases that contribute to systemic racism.

A word worth knowing:

‘Nooshijoon’ is a Farsi word that roughly translates to ‘may it nourish your soul’ and is primarily used in relation to a meal, like ‘bon appétit’. I also like using it in other contexts, like before a meditation, a dip in the ocean and other soul-nourishing activities.

A newsletter worth subscribing to:

Reconsidered is a biweekly newsletter at the intersection of business, sustainability, and social impact. It’s concise, well curated and fun to read. I may be biased because I love everything about the writer. (Quite literally – she is my wife.)

 

Books & Accessories CONSUME RESPONSIBLY

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Futureproof →

Staying human in the age of automation

I follow New York Times tech columnist Kevin Roose on Twitter and have a lot of respect for his work. In his new book, “Roose rejects the conventional wisdom that in order to succeed in the age of intelligent machines, we have to become more like computers – hyper-efficient, data-driven workhorses. Instead, he says, we should focus on being more human, and doing the kinds of creative, inspiring, and meaningful things even the most advanced AI can’t do.”

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Think Again →

How to rethink, and enjoy being wrong

I just added Adam Grant’s new book to the top of my fiction reading list: “Why do we refresh our wardrobes every year, renovate our kitchens every decade, but never update our beliefs and our views? Why do we laugh at people using computers that are ten years old, but yet still cling to opinions we formed ten years ago?”

 

Overheard on Twitter

Listening to 2 hours of waterfall audio at 3x speed so I become tranquil faster.

@ShariaUncle

 

Food for Thought

Climate Anxiety Is an Overwhelmingly White Phenomenon →

Read

An important angle to the discussion about how to deal with climate anxiety that I hadn’t previously considered: “Exhaustion, anger, hope – the effects of oppression and resistance are not unique to this climate moment. What is unique is that people who had been insulated from oppression are now waking up to the prospect of their own unlivable future.”

On the Future →

Read

Alicia Kennedy critically reflects on tech innovation in the food space and wonders whether the “imperialist paternalism” approach of the West offers a future the rest of the world signed up for. “We know what the planet needs, and it’s the radical restructuring of land use. We know what the people need, which is self-determination around farming for the Global South, as well as for the Black, brown, and Indigenous people upon whose land the United States and other nations settled. Instead, we’re getting steaks made in a lab. Who asked for this?”

Our Quest for Circularity →

Read

This is obviously a company blog post written by an employee, but still, you have to admire Patagonia’s ongoing dedication to pushing sustainability boundaries in the ‘fashion’ industry. Inspiring stuff. “So if materials cause pollution and energy causes pollution, but a business still needs to provide products to the customer, the obvious (albeit, less capitalist) solution to getting closer to circularity seems to be: Make less stuff. Do we need a Better Sweater® 1/4-Zip in 18 colors? ‘I’m of the mind where we need to trim down our line. Get rid of the most polluting products and go beyond massive assortment,’ Hendricks [Patagonia’s senior manager of environmental responsibility] says. ‘I come at it from the activist side. My role is to challenge things. Other people challenge that, and hopefully we meet in the middle.’”

Monocle’s digital decency manifesto →

Watch

I’m not much of a Monocle reader, but I do like their ‘digital decency manifesto’ – some ground rules for “a more dignified relationship with all things digital [in order to] be a little kinder and more cautious online.”

 

Aesthetically Pleasing

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It boggles the mind to think that these images are drawn by hand, with a ballpoint pen! Magically brought into existence by ultra-talented Oscar Ukonu, a 27-year-old, Lagos-based artist.

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The bold exploration of colours, shapes, and patterns by graphic artist Matt W. Moore is right up my alley!

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These are not renders but photos of a mirror placed in the middle of Australia’s Lake Eyre. Surreal.

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Factor A is a functional geometric grotesk that comes with fun ‘twist’: a large choice of alternates, “enabled by the concept of the hand-drawn loop”.

 

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The Week in a GIF

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