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– Dennis Leigh


Featured artist: Somewan

Dense Discovery
Dense Discovery

Welcome to Issue 151!

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This and next week I want to share two pieces that are helpful in gaining a less human-centric perspective on the world. It’s a little dark, but I hope you’re up for it. (I also include the pieces in the Food for Thought section of each issue, as some readers will probably skip the longer-than-usual intros.)

My vague memories of being taught basic evolutionary biology in high school mostly consist of the March of Progress illustration and the conclusion that over time we’ve evolved to become the most intelligent species. That in the evolutionary race we came out on top and therefore we run this place now. Proof? We compose symphonies and launch rockets. The rest of the living world is all up for our taking because we’re it – the superior species with only one evolutionary path: forward and upward. (Quite literally: space is often described as ‘the next human frontier’.)

That assumed superiority is deeply entrenched in many modern societies. But thanks to the multiple ecological crises knocking on our door, a growing chorus of voices is pleading with us to reconsider our self-centred hubris.

In The Ideology of Human Supremacy, Jeremy Lent paints a pretty staggering picture of a world dominated by homo sapiens:

“An accumulation of studies around the world measuring the declines of species and ecosystems indicates that overall we’ve lost around ninety [90!] percent of nature’s profusion. We live, [the writer] Mackinnon observes, in a ‘ten percent world’. Those of us who gain sustenance from the sacred beauty of nature sometimes like to think of it as a temple. But, as Mackinnon notes, ‘a greater truth should be foremost in mind: Nature is not a temple, but a ruin. A beautiful ruin, but a ruin all the same.’ It’s rather stunning to consider that all this destruction has been carried out by a species that has been around for less than 0.01 per cent of life’s history; a species that makes up just 0.01 per cent of all life on Earth as measured by biomass.”

Unlike previous mass-dying events in Earth’s long history, the current one was initiated by a single species.

“It may be the Sixth Extinction, but ... a more apt name would be the First Extermination Event. … Ultimately, it is the ideology of human supremacy that allows us to maltreat animals in factory farms, blow up mountaintops for coal, turn vibrant rainforest into monocropped wastelands, trawl millions of miles of ocean floor with nets that scoop up everything that moves – while glorying in the Anthropocene, claiming that nature only exists to serve human needs. Because it’s all around us and almost never mentioned, human supremacy is easy to ignore – but once you recognize it, you see it everywhere you look.”

Once that switch has been flipped – once we “see it everywhere” – the idea of a hierarchy with us at the top takes on a different meaning. It suddenly has a lot in common with the concept of white supremacy which is “understood as a form of violence that inflicts suffering on others while simultaneously damaging the perpetrator by binding them to a system of brutality”.

So is the bleak conclusion then that we should all feel guilty about our existence? Well, no. As Jeremy stresses towards the end, destruction at this scale is not an inherent human behaviour. It’s the result of “a specific ideology with origins in the Western worldview that desacralized nature, turning it into a resource to exploit”. I think we can all guess what he’s referring to. Quoting others, he says calling our age the ‘Anthropocene’ may be a misnomer. A more appropriate title might be ‘Capitalocene’.

I recommend you read the whole piece for a (potential) perspective shift.

As a supplemental read and an eye-opening reminder that our Western-centric views of ‘nature’ are immature and not fit for purpose, this message by indigenous leaders makes clear that we lack even the right language to talk about our reliance on and co-existence with the rest of the natural world.

Next week I’ll share a piece on how our belief in being the most intelligent species misinforms our discourse on artificial intelligence. – Kai


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Science for people who give a shit

From climate to COVID, AI to agriculture, and biotech to public health, our world is rapidly changing. Get smarter, feel better, and drive systemic change with our free weekly newsletter – the vital news, deep analysis, and Action Steps you need – in just 10 minutes.


Apps & Sites

Glass →

A new photosharing app

Glass is a new online community for sharing photos. Currently only available for iPhone and to people with a beta-invite, the service wants to be what Instagram is not: a distraction-free, non-addictive, non-competitive environment for sharing and talking about photos.

DDG Email Protection →

Remove email trackers

Privacy-focused search engine DuckDuckGo launched a new tool to remove email trackers. First, you create a new email address for signing up to newsletters. Emails sent to that address will forward to your regular inbox, with tracking pixels removed.

My Mind →

Visual bookmarking

A bookmarking tool with a refreshing design. Your Mind is a place for dumping notes, tasks, images, articles, products and other things you come across while browsing. An intelligent search feature helps you retrieve them.

Loud Numbers →

A data sonification podcast

“Data sonification is the process of turning data into sound. [Loud Numbers] takes it a step further by turning those sounds into music.” Describing it sounds very abstract, but once you’ve listened to an episode – most of them around 15 minutes long – you get hooked pretty quickly and want to know what data they’ll ‘sonify’ next. Some great storytelling before each song, too. I recommend starting with the first episode.


Worthy Five: Morgan Baker


Five recommendations by game designer and accessibility specialist Morgan Baker

A video worth watching:

‘I’m not your inspiration, thank you very much’ by Stella Young. With her infinite wisdom and witty humor, Stella teaches us one of the core components of ableism, and accentuates the need for a perspective shift on a societal level.

A saying worth repeating:

My father once told me, “You are not your work.” And I’ve carried this quote with me throughout my games career. Sure, we can be passionate about the things we do and love our jobs. But your work is only a small part of your whole self, and it does not define your worth.

A concept worth understanding:

Universal Design, which means creating products, services, and spaces that are accessible to all people, regardless of age, disability, or other factors. It’s applicable to so many mediums, from pedagogy to game design, all the way to civil engineering and medicine. Understanding the 7 Principles of Universal Design will not only enhance your career, but elevate your understanding of how the world works.

A book worth reading:

Being Heumann by Judith Heumann and Kristen Joiner is a story of fighting to belong in a world that wasn’t built for all of us. It shows us the history of disability rights, where we currently are, and where we need to go next.

An activity worth doing:

Learning sign language. With over 40 million Americans with hearing loss, the Deaf community is massive. Learning sign language will open the door to a whole new community and rich culture. Plus, you can talk to people through windows and underwater!


Books & Accessories


The Atlas of AI →

The hidden costs of artificial intelligence

When I first heard about this book earlier in the year, I thought it’d be a pretty dry, academic read for people in the AI field. This interview with the author Kate Crawford changed my mind. I’m adding this to my (long) reading list. “Crawford reveals how AI is a technology of extraction: from the energy and minerals needed to build and sustain its infrastructure, to the exploited workers behind ‘automated’ services, to the data AI collects from us.”


We Need to Talk About Money →

Personal ups and downs wrought by money

A recommendation by a Twitter friend who said she expected a more practical guide about money, but walked away with something very different and much more valuable. This book is a candid personal account by author Otegha Uwagba – “a vital exploration of stories and issues that will be familiar to most. This is a book about toxic workplaces and misogynist men, about getting payrises and getting evicted. About class and privilege and racism and beauty. About shame and pride, compulsion and fear.”


Overheard on Twitter

Unravel from toxic individualism. You do nothing by yourself. Your whole life is a collaboration.



Food for Thought

The Ideology of Human Supremacy →


I talk about this piece in my opening notes above. A sobering clarion call to reconsider humanity’s superority complex. “There have been five mass extinctions of life in Earth’s history, caused by cataclysms such as volcanic eruptions or meteorite impact. Scientists warn that human activity is now causing species to go extinct at a thousand times the normal background rate, and that if we continue at this rate for a few more decades, we will have triggered the Sixth Extinction. Leading experts in the field, such as biologist E. O. Wilson, predict that half of the world’s estimated eight million species will be extinct or at the brink of extinction by the end of this century unless humanity changes its ways.”

The invisible addiction: is it time to give up caffeine? →


A non-judgy, insightful read about our obsession with coffee – some history, some science and the author’s personal experience of going caffeine-free for a while. “Few of us even think of it as a drug, much less our daily use of it as an addiction. It’s so pervasive that it’s easy to overlook the fact that to be caffeinated is not baseline consciousness but, in fact, an altered state. It just happens to be a state that virtually all of us share, rendering it invisible.”

Pedagogy of the Decolonizing →


If you want even more of a perspective shift, this talk by Quetzala Carson on the challenging nature of the dialogue surrounding colonial violence is a real eye-opener. It took me the first few minutes to settle into the talk’s energy (being comfortable with being uncomfortable, to borrow from Quetzala’s language), but it’s well worth a watch. “Quetzala explains the tenets of colonialism, how our normative narratives are built, and also shares some strategies on how to engage and combat colonial violence with compassion.”


Aesthetically Pleasing

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The material rawness of this beautiful rammed earth house is such a great fit for its surroundings, even with its overly generous size. I love an honest material palette that doesn’t hide its natural imperfections.

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3D artist Filip Hodas explores “the decay of pop culture” in his work.

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Sydney’s Story Cafe cleverly incorporates story-telling into its branding, sharing short tales or light-hearted provocations through its packaging that are meant to start conversations and connect people over coffee.

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Sometimes is “a timeless serif integrating contemporary aesthetics to classic form” that works particularly well in medium and large sizes.



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The Week in a GIF


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It’s Quiz Time!

What is a septuagenarian?

Click on an option to find out.

A person in the 7th generation of a family tree A species that usually produces 7 offsprings A person aged in their 70s