It is hard to imagine a more stupid or more dangerous way of making decisions than by putting those decisions in the hands of people who pay no price for being wrong.

– Thomas Sowell


Featured artist: Mariana Mikitiuk

Dense Discovery
Dense Discovery

Welcome to Issue 196!

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I can’t recall how many times I’ve now touched on the topic of individual versus collective action when it comes to the many global issues of our time – not just climate change but social, racial and environmental justice more broadly. Figuring out where our own responsibilities lie and how we can attain a sense of agency in the face of such enormous, systemic challenges is constantly on my mind.

That’s why it was such a delight to read adrienne maree brown’s short essay Murmurations: Returning to the Whole. Crediting her mentor, she writes beautifully about the important internal work that is required to help us grapple with the questions above.

“We must transform ourselves to transform the world.” This is one of the key tenets of her approach. It’s a clarion call for each of us to hold ourselves accountable, to be “an individual practice ground for what the whole can or cannot do, will or will not do.”

One of the first steps towards internal accountability is to develop an assessment of why the world is as it is. This requires us to identify and abandon misinformed beliefs and myths that were instilled in us from a young age.

“Some of us know there is no supremacy amongst us as a species. Some of us know humans aren’t meant to be the center of creation. In the same way we had to evolve our thinking from the sun orbiting Earth to the more humbling truth that we are one of many planets orbiting the sun, we must remember (or learn) that the Earth is not designed only for us humans to consume and destroy. We must recognize it is meant to serve all the biodiverse species who walk and fly and swim and form mountains here. …

“The fragmentation that has resulted from colonial constructs of race, gender, class, and power has wounded many of us so deeply that we identify more with the wound than with any experience of wholeness or oneness. Because we identify with the wound, we fight against each other over differences that don’t need to be battles. We opt in to these constructs, often without conscious choice.”

Given that the myths we were born into are the source of so much devastation, the next step towards accountability requires healing and recognising what that healing actually means and feels like to us individually.

“I believe healing is the victory that actually moves us beyond oppression. And that healing isn’t a fixed state, but rather an embodied state that is cultivated with ongoing practice. If you’ve been developed as a traumatized, numb, selfish, or harmful person, healing is evidenced when, under pressure, you are able to stay connected, stay present, stay interdependent, and be accountable for harm. …

“I know I am in healing dynamics with others when I can fully be myself, without feeling pressure to wound myself with contortion, dishonesty, or overextension. How do you know when you feel healing in yourself, and in your relationships?”

If this sounds a bit nebulous or even hippie-dippie to you, I would recommend also exploring the work of Dr. Robin Wall Kimmerer (DD171) and Jeremy Lent’s writing on the ideology of human supremacy (DD151). Together with brown’s call to focus on internal transformation, they offer powerful provocations to interrogate long-held opinions that define our view of the world and, more importantly, of ourselves. – Kai


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New: the Anti-PopupSPONSOR

Polite Pop →

Ask for emails politely

Most websites are noisy with chat bubbles, disruptive popups, and video ads.

Your website isn’t.

You need an email collection widget to match.


Apps & Sites

Scrintal →

Visual note-taking

An interesting new app that tries to make complex note-taking and researching more visually approachable. With Scrintal you can grab excerpts from documents and connect them or group them with other notes. Of course, collaborative features are built in too, so you can work on large pools of notes with others in real time.

Buttondown →

Indie newsletter platform

I featured Buttondown in DD before but I’m happy to promote it again: it’s a joy to see developer Justin Duke build a successful indie alternative to the big, corporate newsletter platforms. If you run a small-to-medium-sized newsletter, Buttowndown deserves your serious consideration. Friends of DD enjoy a 20% discount for two years. Become a Friend to access specials like this.

Ventusky →

Detailed weather maps

Created by a Czech meteorological company that focuses on weather prediction and meteorological data visualisation, these detailed weather maps are beautiful and quite mesmerising to watch. Also available as apps for mobile.

The Sound of Colleagues →

Office ambience

For those that like working from home but also miss having other people around, turn up The Sound of Colleagues to emulate office vibes. Can’t work with them, can’t work without them.


Worthy Five: Christopher Butler


Five recommendations by designer Christopher Butler

A question worth asking:

‘What feels out of reach right now?’ is a question worth asking anyone you know. Its answer will give you something important to do.

A saying worth repeating:

Redirect the effort you put toward what you make public to what you keep private. What you do share will have a better foundation and a greater impact.

A video worth watching:

Jerry’s Map is a brief tour of a life’s work in world-building as art. When I feel uninspired, it restores my sense of imagination, awe, mystery and play. Watch it and tell me that ‘The Void’ doesn’t give you chills.

A podcast worth listening to:

The Engines of Our Ingenuity is a daily ~5 minute thought-zap about human progress that has been running for over 30 years.

A piece of advice worth passing on:

Rosie Spinks wrote: “There is a... relief... in admitting that your ambition is no longer that useful.” I’ve wasted a lot of energy on personal ambition. But achievement never assuaged a feeling that my work isn’t necessary. The world may not need another thing, but it does need another person who derives value from elevating others. I’ve learned that I’d rather be forgotten by a thriving world I helped create than remembered by one drowning in its own self-absorbed dysfunction.


Books & Accessories


How the World Really Works →

The basic facts that got us here

Perhaps in contrast to my intro, here’s a more conventional, science-based approach that tries to explain how we ended up here: author Vaclav Smil wants to establish a few ground rules – a set of base facts – that help explain our current moment, our predicament and our opportunities. “This book explains seven of the most fundamental realities governing our survival and prosperity. From energy and food production, through our material world and its globalization, to risks, our environment and its future, How the World Really Works offers a much-needed reality check – because before we can tackle problems effectively, we must understand the facts.”


Design Emergency →

Designing a better future

I’ve become sceptical of writing that paints design in broad strokes, highlighting only its potential for good. From the sound of it, this book falls into this category but I’d be keen to hear (in the comments?) from anyone who read it. Does it offer a balanced critique of design in action? Design Emergency tells the stories of the remarkable designers, architects, engineers, artists, scientists, and activists, who are at the forefront of positive change worldwide. Focusing on four themes – Technology, Society, Communication, and Ecology – Alice Rawsthorn and Paola Antonelli present a unique portrait of how our great creative minds are developing new design solutions to the major challenges of our time, while helping us to benefit from advances in science and technology.”


Overheard on Twitter

I wonder if 50 years from now we’re going to look back at how we’ve redesigned our world around computers with the same regret that people look back at how we redesigned cities around cars.



Food for Thought

How to Be Healthy in a Dopamine-Seeking Culture →


It seems that our modern lives are all about experiencing joy now but feeling crappy later. This piece taught me a great new phrase to describe our addiction to insta-gratification: ‘evolutionary mismatch’. “In many areas of our lives, things that are not as satisfying now tend to be more satisfying and leave us better off later. If living a good life in ancient times of scarcity was about seeking fast-reward, lower-effort goods, then living a good life in modern times of abundance is about seeking slow-reward, higher-effort goods. Scientists call this the evolutionary mismatch – when strategies that were once adaptive to a species become harmful. ... Once you become aware of the evolutionary mismatch, you start to see it everywhere. Overcoming it is key to being grounded in an increasingly frantic and frenetic world.”

The way we view free time is making us less happy →


Our work culture is so deeply ingrained in us by now that we apply the productivity mindset to our leisure time. Free time is increasingly viewed through the ‘getting things done’ lens: “The way we chase top-notch leisure experiences has made recreation more stressful than ever. High expectations may clash with our experienced reality, making it feel anti-climactic, while trying to concoct the best vacation or leisure experience ever can fuel performativity. In her 2011 research paper, Keinan first posited that some consumers work to acquire collectable experiences that are unusual, novel or extreme because it helps us reframe our leisure as being productive. By working through our experiential checklist instead of seeking simply to enjoy the moment, she writes, we build our ‘experiential CV’.”

Murmurations: Returning to the Whole →


As I write in my intro, this essay by adrienne maree brown about the important internal work we all have to do deeply resonated with me. “Given the time on the clock of the world, how do we need to transform ourselves to transform the world? How do we need to be? How do we need to grow ourselves in order to both spark and cultivate the kinds of species’ evolutions we want to see? What do we need to practice? This, to me, is the work of internal accountability. We are cultivating within ourselves a transformative practice that helps us heal from what the world has been, while generating what the world will be.”


Aesthetically Pleasing

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I love the look of these drawings of classic modernist facades, interiors and other geometric compositions by Studio Sander Patelski.

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Von Wong is an installation artist that is most known for his travelling Giant Plastic Tap that raises awareness of plastic pollution around the world.

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Almost missed last year’s World Nature Photographers Awards. A stunning collection of photographs, as always.

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FK Roman Standard is a neutral serif typeface (in variable weights), inspired by newspaper typography giant Times New Roman – and it combines beautifully with FK Grotesk Neue.


Notable Numbers


A new study on e-bike use shows that people who purchased an e-bike increased their bicycle use from 2.1 to 9.2 km per day on average, representing a change in bike as share of all transport from 17 to 49 percent.


Total global military expenditure increased by 0.7 per cent in real terms in 2021, to reach $2113 billion. The five largest spenders in 2021 were the United States, China, India, the United Kingdom and Russia, together accounting for 62 per cent of expenditure.


On average, 52% of Africa’s youth population want to emigrate. In Nigeria and Sudan, it’s three quarters of the population while in Angola and Malawi it’s two thirds. Compared to the same study from 2019, there is a 22% increase in the number of youth saying they would like to move to another country.



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