When you’re accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression.

– Clay Shirky

Featured artist: Sandra Rilova

Dense Discovery
Dense Discovery

Welcome to Issue 262!

Oct 31 2023 | Link to this issue

Software is typically sold on the promise of increased convenience or productivity, or both. If we were to believe all the clichéd marketing lingo about time-saving, our lives would now consist largely of uninterrupted leisure time.

In a recent post, Brett Scott argues persuasively that, far from making our lives easier, technology is making them faster and more discombobulated. To understand how this shift happens, Scott tells us to look at the issue from a systemic perspective:

“We don’t just live in any economy. We live in a mega-scale corporate capitalist economy, and in such a setting technology is never used to save time. It’s used to speed up production and consumption in order to expand the system. The basic rule is this: technology doesn’t make our lives easier. It makes them faster and more crammed with stuff.”

The invention of the car is a great example because it enabled us to move greater distances at much higher speeds, but didn’t fundamentally change our experience of work. The time ‘saved’ by driving versus walking was quickly taken up by more work. Fast travel by car (a high-value consumer good) quickly became the new default.

“Los Angeles only exists in its current form because of cars, which means life will be difficult there if you don’t have one. In this scenario you’re essentially held hostage by the auto industry, whose products are the very thing that have catalysed our dependence on giant megacities. Rather than acknowledge that, we lapse into a type of Stockholm Syndrome where we choose to imagine the car as a saviour that grants us our independence in that context. In reality, the car is just a minimum requirement to scrape by in a car-catalysed environment. ...”

“Each technology not only unlocks a new state of expanded acceleration (that will be hardcoded into our lives as the new basis for our survival), but will also be used as the basis for new technologies to continue that process. The vast majority of people do not experience this technology as ‘liberating’ them. Rather, they experience it as something that propagates itself around them, and something they must race to keep up with in order to not be ‘left behind’.”

The irony is that as the world around us feels hectic and more unmanageable due to technology, we turn to the very same tools for help:

“In reality, we’ll just be more burned out, which in turn will be weaponised to sell us more acceleration tech. Feeling burned out? Why not automate more? … We increasingly live a ‘just in time’ life because, at a systemic level, there’s pressure to pack in as much stuff as possible at both a consumption and production level. We’re just as dissatisfied, only busier.”

In Scott’s view, AI will have the same accelerating effect, raising employers’ productivity expectations and demanding that we all do more, faster. Because that is the gospel of innovation:

“In the mythology of Silicon Valley, and in corporate capitalism more generally, it’s believed that we expand alongside our system, and that new products are turning us into fuller expressions of ourselves. In reality, we’re biological beings with finite capacities ensnared within an economy with an acceleration drive, and its constant attempt to expand just crowds out other stuff in our lives.”

As with all systemic issues, individuals lack the agency to effectively counteract this dynamic. Still, Scott encourages us “to realise that all these things we’re told we need are just illusions generated by the numb logic of a system that cannot value anything except accumulation and profit. From that point we can strive to build balances of power to prevent the worst excesses of the situation coming out.” It’s the economy, stupid! – Kai


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Napkin →

Your best ideas

Too many ideas fade away before you can reflect or act on them. With Napkin, you collect ideas, quotes and highlights while reading. They are magically connected by topic and curated to inspire your day. As a DD reader, you get early access to the iPhone beta: Sign up here.


Apps & Sites

Wylder →

Reconnect with nature

This mobile app (I think currently only available in the UK?) prompts you with daily challenges that encourage you to go outside and explore nature. You can record special moments and discoveries on your profile and view the same of others in your network. A nature-centric social network, if you will.

Spawning →

AI tools for artists

After my musings about AI art in DD260, several readers sent in articles, podcasts and apps on the subject. One of them is Spawning – a set of tools that aims to give artists more agency when it comes to AI training models. Their ai.txt creator selectively restricts or permits the use of content for commercial AI training.

Peaks →

Circadian rhythm tracker

This iOS app uses health info recorded by your iPhone and Apple Watch to provide insights into your body’s circadian rhythm. Peaks offers helpful tips and nudges that can improve your sleep and energy levels throughout the day. Friends of DD enjoy a year of Pro for just $4.99 ($20 off). Become a Friend to access specials like this.

Fuss Free French →

Guide to learning French

A beautifully designed entry guide to learning French within a year. Come for the lovely design and strong copy, stay for the many high-quality links to word lists, videos, podcasts, tools, social media accounts and more – all supporting your journey to fluent français. Everything is free.


Worthy Five: Minda Honey

Five recommendations by essayist and memoir writer Minda Honey

A book worth reading:

In Glitch Feminism: A Manifesto, Legacy Russell asserts: “For many people who came of age as individuals and sexual beings online, the internet is not an esoteric corner of culture where people come to escape reality and play make-believe. It is reality.” If you are one of those people, you should for sure read this book.

A newsletter worth subscribing to:

Oldster Mag offers up interviews and essays on the experience of aging from, and for, folks of all ages.

A podcast worth listening to:

This is Dating lets you listen in on Zoom dates. The producers and the relationship expert hosting the podcast give each date the kind of play-by-play analysis that’s typically the domain of sportscasters.

A recipe worth trying:

In a ranking of ‘How do you like your eggs?’, the Filipino fried egg – crispy, lacy edges and golden, runny yolk – is the undisputed first place cooking technique. Taste for yourself. Don’t fear the oil.

An Instagram account worth following:

The Creative Independent posts snippets of interviews from their archives daily during the week and I’m almost always moved to repost them to my Instagram stories. Highly relatable content for creatives trying to thrive in a capitalist reality.

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


Books & Accessories

All the Living and the Dead →

An exploration of the death industry

Death is everywhere but we don’t like talking about it. Journalist Hayley Campbell dives into the lives of people who make a living by working with the dead: morticians, detectives, crime scene cleaners, embalmers, executioners. “Why would someone choose this kind of life? Does it change you as a person? And are we missing something vital by letting death remain hidden? A dazzling work of cultural criticism, All the Living and the Dead weaves together reportage with memoir, history, and philosophy, to offer readers a fascinating look into the psychology of Western death.”

The Experience Machine →

How our minds predict and shape reality

Philosopher and cognitive scientist Andy Clark builds on the theory of predictive processing – a compelling framework for understanding human cognition – to show that we “don’t passively take in the world around us; instead our mind is constantly making and refining predictions about what we expect to see. From the most mundane experiences to the most sublime, it is our predictions that sculpt our experience. A landmark study of cognitive science, The Experience Machine lays out the extraordinary explanatory power of the predictive brain for our lives, mental health and society.”


Overheard on Threads

Regifting is net positive for the world and everyone should do it without guilt.



Food for Thought

Tech doesn’t make our lives easier. It makes them faster →


In this excellent post, Brett Scott convincingly argues that technology is usually sold from a convenience perspective but often ends up making our lives faster and more discombobulated. “We don’t just live in any economy. We live in a mega-scale corporate capitalist economy, and in such a setting technology is never used to save time. It’s used to speed up production and consumption in order to expand the system. The basic rule is this: technology doesn't make our lives easier. It makes them faster and more crammed with stuff.”

Is spirituality the missing pillar of sustainability? →


For most of my life I would have described myself not just as non-religious but also non-spiritual. More recently, though, my understanding of spirituality is evolving into a difficult to describe connection and reciprocity I feel towards the rest of the natural world. In this short post, Tom Greenwood does a great job at demystifying the concept and, surprisingly eloquently, makes a case for businesses to embrace spirituality. “Satish Kumar is listing spirituality as a fourth pillar of sustainable business because he understands that unless we evolve spiritually, it won’t matter how many technical solutions we develop.”

The Other Side of Money →


I enjoyed this short personal story by Bette Adriaanse in which she reflects on her path from struggling artist to landlord and her feelings of guilt and responsibility that come with that transition. “A group of ‘Eastern Europeans’ as they were called by the newspapers, had been burgling their neighborhood. Is it too much to ask to feel at ease in the world right now as a Dutch, French, British, or American person? Maybe it is. Our shoes have been made in some sweatshop, our gas comes from Russia, our oil from Saudi-Arabia, our bank trades in weapons, our veggies were harvested by underpaid laborers, our computer parts were mined by children, our pension fund is involved in land grabbing in Africa. We are not at ease because we are harming others every day through the system we live in.”


Aesthetically Pleasing

Christoffer Relander is an expert at using double exposure photography to tell elegant visual stories. (via)

James Elliott is a Glasgow-based wood sculptor who works primarily with a chain saw.

In his Changing Perspectives series, photographer Jamey Stilling uses aerial and ground-based photography to document global renewable energy development, showing us what that transition looks like from close-up and far above. His latest series focuses on Chile’s Atacama Desert and is available in a beautiful coffee table book.

The edgy Comma Base can be seen as the missing link between serif and sans: it has half the features of a sans (no serifs) and half the features of a serif (contrast).


Notable Numbers


The damage caused by the climate crisis through extreme weather has cost $16m per hour for the past 20 years, according to a new estimate. It shows at least $2.8tn in damage from 2000 to 2019 through worsened storms, floods and heatwaves.


According to a NewsGuard analysis, Twitter’s ‘verified’ users, who now pay to have a blue check, pushed 74% of the platform’s most viral false Israel-Hamas war-related claims.


Minecraft has already been the best-selling game of all time, but now confirmed it has sold over 300 million copies. That’s well over a hundred million more than the second best-selling video game, Grand Theft Auto V, which topped out at 185 million reported sales.



Discover Out of the Clouds, a longform interview podcast at the crossroads between business and mindfulness hosted by ex fashion exec Anne Muhlethaler.

Aficionado Studio helps start-ups and companies stand out with fresh brands and compelling websites. DD readers get a free 30-min brand consultation.

World category-leaders choose 3 Sided Coin to unleash innovative products, conquer new markets, and amplify their presence. Kick-ass designs, made with love from India!

La newsletter solidaria de iHelp. We are iHelp, your solidarity crowdfunding, we keep you informed of news, ideas and solidarity trends from the world of fundraising. (Spanish)

Classifieds are paid ads that support DD and are seen by our 36,000 subscribers each week.

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