No matter how isolated you are and how lonely you feel, if you do your work truly and conscientiously, unknown friends will come and seek you.

– Carl Jung

Featured artist: Philip Lindeman

Dense Discovery
Dense Discovery

Welcome to Issue 239!

Permalink to this issue

I’m very fortunate to have a handful of new trees, some grass and public seating bookend the street I live in. One of my favourite times of the day to be out on my balcony is dusk, because when the sun starts setting and the hustle and bustle of the city subsides, a group of Indian myna birds, attracted by that greenery, playfully chirps and flies between the trees. The tweeting draws out neighbours, too, and creates a beautiful moment of connection through nature in an otherwise man-made environment.

An increasing body of research tells us that interaction with nature is associated with better body and brain health. Birds play a particular role in this, in part because they are some of the only animals able to venture into highly developed areas and give out calls audible to the human ear, providing a direct link to the natural world.

The pleasure we get from encountering nature can be explained through the biophilia hypothesis, the idea that humans have an innate affinity for life and living systems: “Human preferences toward things in nature, while refined through experience and culture, are hypothetically the product of biological evolution.”

This theory is guiding academic work but also urban and architectural design. For example, there is solid evidence that having a window looking out to living plants helps speed up the healing process of patients in hospitals. In educational settings, exposure to nature seems to help kids focus better, feel less anxious and improve memory.

It’s fair to conclude then that we need nature. But does nature need us? Probably not. Clive Thompson calls this the biophilia paradox: “Biophilia is asymmetric. We have biophilia, but nature doesn’t have ‘anthrophilia’. In fact, it’s the opposite: If humanity were to vanish tomorrow, the remaining plants and animals would set about rapidly reclaiming all the asphalted-over world we’ve created.”

There is a tragic irony here: our modern existence is largely incompatible with our biophilic need for nature. Our attempt to be closer to nature often comes at a cost to nature.

“We humans should be living a little more densely, to give nature more space away from us. Meanwhile, to satisfy our biophilia, we should be designing more nature into these denser human environments – using everything from an increased number of street-plants to town parks to ‘living walls’ on houses, and buildings that use more natural materials. … We need plants close to us – and far away from us. That’s the biophilia paradox.”Kai


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We make it easy to have meaningful conversations and collaborate anytime, anywhere. Unlike others, our open-source platform combines the power of discussion with real-time chat and gives you complete control of your data.


Apps & Sites

Tella →

Advanced screen recordings

Tella has come a long way since I first mentioned it in DD two years ago. The new macOS app allows you to record your screen and your webcam independently – neither the video of yourself, nor the Tella app will show up in the screen recording. Once you’re done, the video is automatically uploaded for sharing, but you can make further edits online.

Vacation with an Artist →


This is such a great idea: want to learn how to dye garments, make jewellery or restore old furniture? Why not learn the craft from an experienced artist and combine it with a vacation? It definitely beats buying crappy souvenirs.

Portal →

Immersive sound experience

There are quite a few ‘ambient sound apps’ out there. Portal promises high-definition visuals and ‘dynamic spatial audio’ to help you sleep, focus or breathe. I’m not entirely sold on the many health benefits used to promote these apps (a simple walk outside, without tech, has proven more effective for me), but I do occasionally enjoy the nature sounds to help me fall asleep. Their new macOS app brings that experience to your desktop, too. Friends of DD enjoy 20% off premium. Become a Friend to access specials like this.

You’re Getting Old →

Your age in perspective

No better way to feel old than to look back at all the stuff that happened since you were born. This quirky little app puts your age in a demoralisingly frank perspective.


Worthy Five: Simone Stolzoff

Five recommendations by former IDEO designer and author of The Good Enough Job, Simone Stolzoff

A concept worth understanding:

The term ‘Vocational Awe’ was originally coined by librarian Fobazi Ettarh and refers to the belief that certain workplaces – schools, nonprofits, hospitals, etc. – are ‘inherently good, and therefore beyond critique’. Too many industries rely on their perceived righteousness to cover up exploitation.

A quote worth repeating:

“Commitment is healthiest when it is not without doubt, but in spite of doubt.” Rollo May points to something I’ve learned to be true: doubt is something to manage, not avoid.

A question worth asking:

“If you could get what you supposedly want, but you couldn’t tell anyone about it, would you still want it?” A mentor of mine, Robin Sloan, once asked me that question, and it helped clarify my intrinsic motivation.

A book worth reading:

I loved The Immortal King Rao by Vauhini Vara, a speculative fiction epic about a society where government becomes privatised, and citizens start referring to themselves as ‘shareholders’. It’s one of the most soulful tech-adjacent books I’ve ever read – and was just named as a finalist for the Pulitzer.

A recipe worth trying:

I love the texture of the tomatoes cooked two ways in this cherry tomato couscous salad.

(Did you know? Friends of DD can respond to and engage with guest contributors like Simone Stolzoff in one click.)


Books & Accessories

The World for Sale →

Commodifying earth

With a compelling title, this is a book about the money and power behind the natural resources that enable global commerce. “It is the story of how a handful of swashbuckling businessmen became indispensable cogs in global markets, enabling an enormous expansion in international trade and connecting resource-rich countries – no matter how corrupt or war-torn – with the world’s financial centers. The result is an eye-opening tour through the wildest frontiers of the global economy, as well as a revelatory guide to how capitalism really works.”

The Good-Enough Life →

Striving for enoughness

Perhaps as a companion to the ‘post-growth living’ books I recommended in recent DD issues, this book encourages us to abandon the race to the top and our obsession with greatness, and instead find contentment in the good-enough life. “By competing less with each other, each of us can find renewed meaning and purpose, have our material and emotional needs met, and begin to lead more leisurely lives. Alpert makes no false utopian promises, however. Life can never be more than good enough because there will always be accidents and tragedies beyond our control, which is why we must stop dividing the world into winners and losers and ensure that there is a fair share of decency and sufficiency to go around.”


Overheard on Twitter

Do dogs understand elevators or are they just like ‘Ok it’s time to get into the world changer’?



Food for Thought

A belief in meritocracy is not only false: it’s bad for you →


An excellent debunking of the idea/ideology that the rewards of modern life – money, power, jobs, university admission – should be distributed according to skill and effort. “In addition to being false, a growing body of research in psychology and neuroscience suggests that believing in meritocracy makes people more selfish, less self-critical and even more prone to acting in discriminatory ways. Meritocracy is not only wrong; it’s bad. ... Meritocracy is a false and not very salutary belief. As with any ideology, part of its draw is that it justifies the status quo, explaining why people belong where they happen to be in the social order. It is a well-established psychological principle that people prefer to believe that the world is just.”

The internet isn’t meant to be so small →


Bemoaning the new and romanticising the past can be rather tedious, but I largely agree with this piece that critically highlights the deliberate and engineered shrinking of the internet by entrapping people in highly commercialised, monopolising social networks where everyone is constantly jostling and crowding. “It is worth remembering that the internet wasn’t supposed to be like this. It wasn’t supposed to be six boring men with too much money creating spaces that no one likes but everyone is forced to use because those men have driven every other form of online existence into the ground. The internet was supposed to have pockets, to have enchanting forests you could stumble into and dark ravines you knew better than to enter. The internet was supposed to be a place of opportunity, not just for profit but for surprise and connection and delight.”

End-of-life dreams →


A fascinating story about a hospice doctor researching a phenomenon called ‘end-of-life dreams’ where dying patients report dreaming of deceased loved ones as a sign of their own imminent death. “As patients approached death, their dreams increased in frequency and their content changed. Earlier in their time in hospice, patients reported dreams about living friends and relatives; as the patients approached death, the dreams were mostly filled with deceased family and friends. It was also clear that the dreams involving family members who had already died provided the most comfort.”


Aesthetically Pleasing

Ryan Newburn is an American photographer based in Iceland taking incredible landscape and ice cave photos. He runs his own guided photography tours around the island nation.

There is so much material warmth in the generous timber and sepia-toned interiors of CosyCo Coburg, a renovation of an old Californian bungalow just north of where I live.

I’m admiring the macro photography of insect and plant life by Barry Webb. You can find his latest series about slime moulds on his Instagram page.

Gradient connects the constructed features in sans-serif styles with playful handwriting; and its new cousin Gradient Comic rounds its edges for a less sharp, more friendly appearance.


Notable Numbers


France’s national Plan Vélo aims to train an entire class of school children nationwide – or about 800,000 kids – per year in cycling readiness by 2027. Launched in 2019, the program received a boost with €250 million invested in cycling in 2023 alone.


Feminist groups in Mexico are aiding abortion seekers based in the US. One group is dealing with 200 to 300 calls from the US every day.


A mathematical modelling study estimates that COVID vaccines saved 19.8 million lives in 185 countries and territories between Dec 2020 and Dec 2021.



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