See all human behaviour as one of two things: either love, or a call for love.

– Marianne Williamson

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Featured artist: Andrei Nicolescu

Dense Discovery
Dense Discovery
 

Welcome to Issue 155!

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As those who’ve followed DD for a while will know, the notion of individual vs. collective action to bring about change is a topic that comes up regularly, usually when I’m frustrated about the slow pace of climate action. Judging by the number of replies and comments I receive every time the subject comes up in DD, it’s clearly something you also think a lot about.

The lobbying and PR efforts by certain industries to undermine meaningful action is pretty well understood by now. For too long, they got away with passing the buck to individuals on so many critical issues and that has to stop. However, that doesn’t mean all individual action is without merit.

Scrutinising our individual consumption choices can help us better understand the complicated, interconnected nature of our modern lives. And even though the limits of what we are able to change quickly become apparent in the face of systemic issues such as climate change, there is a sense of meaning and agency to be found in that process. Ezra Klein describes it quite well in his show’s latest Q&A episode:

Don’t think about consumption – even your consumption – as ‘individual’. Think of yourself as a node for social, political and moral contagion.

I don’t think my personal decision to not eat meat is that important. On the scale of the global animal trade, it’s meaningless. But I caught my veganism from my wife. Other people have caught veganism or vegetarianism from me. And it’s in that way that individual attitudes ladder up to social attitudes, and then to social and political change. ...

So taking seriously the ideas and morals and views of individuals, that’s not a different sphere than what ends up happening in politics. And it’s not just individual – all of the stuff catches. And it is why I’m a fan of people not being quiet about the way they try to instantiate their political ideals in their individual lives. I think that a lot of the value of the choices we make is in our willingness to try to use those to change the choices other people see as normal for them to make.


This rings true based on my own anecdotal evidence. My being a vegetarian has led to many conversations with friends and family that, over time, prompted attitudinal adjustments and in some cases behavioural change. I would never take all the credit but I certainly was one of several ‘nodes’ in their social circle that, in this instance, normalised not eating meat.

That’s why individual action does have a role to play: it can provide the social license required to enact change. Even if progress feels sluggish or nonexistent at times, as we all just learned, the effect of contagious spread can seem worlds away until it suddenly isn’t. – Kai

 

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Build Your Library SPONSOR

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Literal →

Build your library & discover new books

“We’ve been hard at work over the past year building a new home for our books online. A place where we can track what we’re reading and discover books through the people we trust. We’re still invite-only but you can sign up with my invite link above.” – Piet, Literal Co-founder

 

Apps & Sites

One Time Secret →

Send self-destructing passwords

Ever needed to send someone a password but wanted to make sure it’s deleted after they’ve seen it? One Time Secret generates a unique link that displays a password (or any other secret message) once and is then automatically destroyed.

Super Agent →

Cookie popup remover

If Super Agent works as advertised, it should be a built-in feature of all browsers: you set your cookie preferences in this browser extension once and it then applies them to the websites you visit – and automatically hides cookie popups.

WaterBear →

Streaming platform

With hundreds of feature-length documentaries, short films and inspirational media from NGOs, WaterBear is a free (no ads either) streaming platform “dedicated to the future of our planet”. The videos aim to improve our collective understanding of issues related to climate change, biodiversity, sustainability, community, and diversity.

Bartosz’ Deep Dives →

Interactive technical explainers

Bartosz Ciechanowski creates long explainer articles on physics, math and engineering, and includes fun, interactive elements to play with. Some highlights include the Internal Combustion Engine, Light and Shadow, Earth and Sun, and (his latest post) Naval Architecture. Support his work on Patreon.

 

Worthy Five: Favour Borokini

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Five recommendations by tech policy and ethics researcher and enthusiast Favour Borokini

A video worth watching:

Aryana Rose’s A Love Not Meant For Me is an evocative, masterclass in storytelling. I find myself cycling back to it almost annually due to Aryana’s vivid, impassioned descriptions. It reminds me of the universality of human experiences, and how sometimes the right way to love is to let (love) go.

A Twitter account worth following:

Visakanv has hacked ‘social-ing’ on social media. If there’s such a thing as ‘god mode’ on Twitter, he’s attained it. Apparently, decency and being relatable draws people to you. Who knew?

An activity worth doing:

The do-ings of be-ing by yourself; soliloquies, heavy sighs, fictional dialogue enactments, trips to mental (in every sense of the word) fantasy wonderlands. Get into your mind and make room for yourself in its cool, shadowy recesses.

A piece of advice worth passing on:

To be happy (is to) be unashamed. Pursuing the important things requires some willingness to go all out and commit to your identified goals. Be happy, be unashamed.

A book worth reading:

In A Grief Observed, C. S. Lewis describes of the turmoil of grief and the helpless fragility and indiscriminate rage of the reluctant, yet believing believer in the face of bereavement. It was the only book I could read in the wake of the loss of my mother this year. I learnt and was justified to think: it is okay to be angry, even at (g)od.

 

Books & Accessories

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Exponential →

Bridging the gap between tech and society

Offscreen alumni Azeem Zahar, who is known to many for his excellent newsletter, just published his first book examining the implications of the gap created between technology (that’s developing at an exponential rate) and society (which is adapting at an incremental pace). “In Exponential, Azhar shows how this exponential gap can explain our society’s most pressing problems ... and sketches out how we can harness the power of tech to serve our real needs.”

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The Ideal City →

The future of urbanisation

Rethinking a lot of established ideas around urban development and public infrastructure will be essential in adapting to the challenges of a changing climate and a growing population. The Ideal City explores “the ambitious actions and initiatives being brought to life across the globe to meet tomorrow’s demand in clever, forwarding-thinking ways. From pedestrian infrastructure to housing, the book uncovers what is being discussed at the forefront of urbanism through expert essays and profiles.”

 

Overheard on Twitter

White people of a certain age love to tell you they are unfollowing you because they view every interaction through the lens of customer service.

@vinn_ayy

 

Food for Thought

The Dangerous Ideas of ‘Longtermism’ and ‘Existential Risk’ →

Read

I had no idea how morally flawed the Effective Altruism movement is. Some of the evidence in this piece even points to white supremacy thinking. “Even if billions of people were to perish in the coming climate catastrophe, so long as humanity survives with enough of civilization intact to fulfill its supposed ‘potential’, we shouldn’t be too concerned. In the grand scheme of things, non-runaway climate change will prove to be nothing more than a ‘mere ripple’ – a ‘small misstep for mankind’, however terrible a ‘massacre for man’ it might otherwise be.”

Never mind going electric, where will we park? →

Read

A brief look at the many other challenges that await us once we’ve managed to electrify all vehicles. “The Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) warns that, rather than improving air quality by lowering exhaust emissions, [incentives to switch to electric vehicles] risk making highways far busier and even slower – as people buy so-called ‘zero-emission, guilt-free’ vehicles.” With cars becoming ‘guilt free’, we’ll likely see a lot more vehicles competing for space in cities and clogging up roads.

‘Why Am I Not Rich & Famous?’ – the Delusion of Our Times →

Read

A slightly ranty reminder of how much our moral values (especially those of younger generations) are influenced by pop-culture and social media: “We’re no longer driven by values, morals, loyalty, or family, we’re driven by what the media emphasizes. What’s the overarching theme of all media? Celebrating the rich and famous. Our culture cares about winning, and that’s the only thing that matters. ... 99% of what you see on TV is fake. ‘Reality’ shows about people’s lives are fake. Vlogs on YouTube are fake. Posts on social media are fake. When I say fake, I don’t mean it’s all a lie. I mean that it’s not a depiction of reality. A snapshot of someone’s life on Instagram tells you nothing about that person’s actual life. That’s how we should treat all those things: As pure entertainment, not as inspiration for life.”

 

Aesthetically Pleasing

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There are some great shots in this list of winners of the 2021 Annual iPhone Photography Awards.

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If you want to escape your western-centric graphic design bubble, follow the talented Mohamed Samir for some gorgeous Arabic type and poster design inspiration.

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A smart branding system for architecture studio CUMULUS that’s built around a dynamic “typographic word cloud”.

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Loggia is an impressive, elegant display typeface with lots of interesting ligatures and alternates, perfect for branding projects.

 

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The Week in a GIF

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Reply or tweet at DD with your favourite GIF and it might get featured here in a future issue.

 

It’s Quiz Time!

What was the original name of Google’s patented search algorithm (now called PageRank)?

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