Only those who do not seek power are qualified to hold it.

– Plato


Featured artist: Scott Balmer

Dense Discovery
Dense Discovery

Welcome to Issue 156!

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One of the essays I read for this issue (see the Food for Thought section below) offers some intriguing insights into the seasteading movement – a group that wants to establish permanent dwellings at sea, outside the territory claimed by any government, thereby creating a sovereign state.

The idea is heavily driven/funded by wealthy, libertarian technologists who say it provides “the means for rapid innovation in voluntary governance.” Critics say that “seasteads are designed more as a refuge for the wealthy to avoid taxes or other obligations.” (Both quotes from Wikipedia)

In what was a jarring coincidence, the next thing on my read/watch list was a video manual about a DIY composting toilet by Dave Hakkens. In case you don’t know him, let me tell you a bit about Dave:

Dave is an industrial designer who has become somewhat online-famous for his hands-on experiments that try to reduce pollution and promote more sustainable consumption. In his goofy, unmistakably Dutch way and with a dedication to video-document every detail, he created Precious Plastic, a global movement of people building their own plastic recycling plants and turning waste into new products. Although there are now many chapters all over the world, the original team consisted of a totally wacky collective of makers in Eindhoven, Holland.

That group of free-spirited tinkerers from all corners of the globe must have been an inspiration for Dave’s next project: Project Kamp is an ambitious attempt of establishing a permanent community of makers on a piece of land in Portugal. In typical Dave Hakkens fashion, he’s sharing every step: from purchasing the land to building a composting toilet. The scrappy and unpretentious nature of the project, helped by excellent storytelling skills, makes it a joy to follow along.

Reading about the seasteading movement and then watching a Project Kamp update right afterwards made me think that both are ‘alternative living’ concepts motivated by their dissatisfaction with the status quo. However, that dissatisfaction comes from vastly different, almost opposing views on how the world should operate and who gets to participate in making up new rules. You can probably guess which one I feel enamoured by and which one kinda frightens me. – Kai


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Dense Discovery is a weekly newsletter at the intersection of technology, design, ethics and sustainability read by over 43,000 subscribers. Do you have a product or service to promote? Sponsor an issue or book a classified.


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Huddle →

The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are

Social media today is like a George Orwell version of Las Vegas. That’s why we created Huddle to share what’s going on in your life, privately. Without the ads, followers, or whatshisface from high school. After all, that kind of stuff gets in the way of meaningful interactions and closer connections between you and your inner circle.


Apps & Sites

Tilde →

Customisable chat rooms

Tilde is a totally customisable canvas for video and audio collaboration. You can add images, documents, sticky notes or videos to the room’s background or sketch out some ideas together on a drawing board. What’s nice is that you don’t need to sign up – just create a room, share the URL and start chatting.

Platform →

Collaborative design

Working on media collateral together in a team where not everyone is equally design-savvy can be challenging. Projector wants to make it easier by providing a simple interface and a template-based approach for generating social media posts, GIFs, videos and presentations.

Basmo →

A reader’s companion

Basmo is an (iOS only) app to help you keep track of the books you have read and want to read, set reading goals, journal your reading experience and save your favourite excerpts. It’s Goodreads without the social network.

Run Your Own Social →

A guide to running your own online community

Darius Kazemi wrote this wonderful little guide on why and when you should (and when you should not) run your own social network. He covers technical details as well as topics around community management, rule enforcement and project funding. A great read if you’re thinking about starting an online community.


Worthy Five: Danial Naqvi


Five recommendations by cities PhD researcher and mediocre golfer Danial Naqvi

A question worth asking:

‘How do you engage the disengaged?’ A question of our time. For me, it works three ways: with superiors, peers and the next generation. Context matters and messaging should suit the audience, not solely our agendas.

A video worth watching:

The Helsinki Complaints Choir sings a collection of quibbles in a harmonious tune. It’s relatable content, which other cities have replicated including Chicago and Tokyo.

A book worth reading:

Thinking Like a Climate by Hannah Knox offers a new way to appreciate the magnitude of climate change by exploring how Manchester in the UK seeks to stand up to the challenge. It’s got something for everyone and bound to inspire a few thoughts about the future of the planet.

An activity worth doing:

Golf. It’s no longer a rich, old, white man’s game. I’ve played since I was seven years old. It teaches respect, honesty, manners and self-discipline. And with the right planning and management, it can be a valuable urban green space that supports biodiversity.

A newsletter worth subscribing to:

Urban Tech is a newsletter (there is a free and a paid tier) and podcast that explores the intersection of cities and technology. It is one of the few urban newsletters which delivers value and insight every week.


Books & Accessories


Meaningful Stuff →

Design that lasts

Really curious about this new book on designing products that not just last longer, but remain desirable for longer. “By what perverse alchemy do our newest, coolest things so readily transform into meaningless junk? ... Chapman shares his vision for an ‘experience heavy, material light’ design sensibility. This vital and timely new design philosophy reveals how meaning emerges from designed encounters between people and things, explores ways to increase the quality and longevity of our relationships with objects and the systems behind them, and ultimately demonstrates why design can – and must – lead the transition to a sustainable future.”


Primary Paper →

Photography magazine

Primary Paper is a beautifully designed and tightly curated indie photography magazine that offers a unique perspective on a single topic every issue. The theme of the latest issue is ‘human’ and it explores the many ways in which our humanity has been challenged and celebrated, especially in the last year of pandemic life. Friends of DD enjoy a 20% discount. Become a Friend to access specials like this.


Overheard on Twitter

Let’s be clear: there is a vast difference between diversity and inclusion and liberation and justice. One enjoys the feeling of my presence. The other embraces the fullness of my humanity.



Food for Thought

Small vehicles of Tokyo →


What a wholesome essay on the many ways Tokyo does transportation differently to other big cities. I also learned a lot of insightful little nuggets, like: “Helped by the fact that on-street parking in Japan has essentially been outlawed since 1963, Tokyo’s neighbourhood streets tend to be narrow and slow, and distinctly humane as a result. These on-street parking restrictions are accompanied by proof-of-parking laws, in which prospective car owners have to prove to the police they have off-street parking sorted before purchase.”

The disastrous voyage of Satoshi, the world’s first cryptocurrency cruise ship →


What a great story about the bizarre world that crypto-bros are trying to create in order to escape from laws, taxes and ethics. “Using their own money, they funded the first attempt at a single residential seastead, in the form of a floating white octagonal box 12 nautical miles off the coast of Thailand. Elwartowski and his girlfriend, Nadia Summergirl, lived there for two months in early 2018, until the Thai government discovered the seastead’s existence and declared it a threat to the country’s independence, possibly punishable by life imprisonment or death.”

Walking as a Productivity System →


My good friend and Offscreen co-editor Kieran O’Hare interviewed my publishing buddy Craig Mod about how he organises his long walks while writing more books and newsletters than you can shake a walking pole at. “Rather than having a singular set of goals that I try to reach, I have one, main ‘horizon goal’. To stick within the walking metaphors: the horizon is something you’ll never reach, no matter how long you walk – it’s something you keep moving towards. The horizon goal I’ve been moving towards for the last thirty years is bookmaking.”


Aesthetically Pleasing

❏ ❏

Another photography award with stunning winners and runner-ups: the 2021 Drone Photo Awards.

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The three-dimensional murals by Italian artist Peeta turn flat building surfaces into deceptive spacial art that requires a fair amount of cognitive effort to process. (via)

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The Melbourne-based Bustle House comes to life (again) through a beautiful new extension that connects it to lovely curvy landscaping.

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Noi Grotesk is not just a variable sans-serif typeface; it’s an entire type system that comes with so many alternates, ligatures and other playful features that it has its own wiki. A powerful, versatile typeface built on the back of the classic ‘Swiss’ sans-serif look.



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The Week in a GIF


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


It’s Quiz Time!

What’s the average day time temperature on the Moon?

Click on an option to find out.

22°C/71°F 106°C/224°F -44°C/-47°F