If there is such a thing as human perfection, it seems to emerge precisely from how we handle the imperfection that is everywhere, especially our own.

– Richard Rohr

Featured artist: Alev Neto

Dense Discovery
Dense Discovery

Welcome to Issue 282!

Apr 2 2024 | Link to this issue

One of the best things I read last week was The Power of Changing Your Mind, by American-Palestinian author Hala Alyan. She lays out the difficulties of fostering ‘cognitive flexibility’ as a society – the ability to remain open-minded when confronted with information that challenges our identity.

“Societally, the pathway towards normalizing changing an individual’s mind hinges upon practices of collective redemption and contrition. A society that doesn’t know how to apologize well – that doesn’t know how to forgive well – will understandably not have many blueprints for changing its mind.

America’s legacy as a nation – and the legacy of many nations – is to make firm and unwavering stances on war, to actively participate in violence and displacement, both on this land and elsewhere, then in retrospect blame the detritus on a handful of isolated, often low-ranking individuals. But if history shows that dominant narratives and entities are constantly wrong, then the true indignity is that they don’t sit with that wrongness for a beat longer than they have to.

Nelson Mandela was on U.S. terror watch lists until the aughts. Martin Luther King Jr., now praised as a hero, was considered a divisive, nettlesome figure by most white Americans during his lifetime. Slavery was a blithely legal and morally defended norm in this country until about six grandfathers ago.

We rob ourselves when we try to sanitize history, position it as though the now-lauded were always lauded, as though the dominant narrative was always in the right. If we keep positioning injustices as bygone eras, we risk not recognizing when they are unfolding in real time, in front of our very present, open eyes. This speaks to a mindset that mushrooms everywhere – from celebrities to institutions to presidents – one that resists any true reckoning, because it resists true humility.

In the realm of cognitive flexibility, without humility, it is impossible to admit to wrongness, to an attachment to a flawed idea. You become your thought, your narrative; you equate anything challenging it to a challenge of your very self.”

The Germans, of course, have a long word to describe this process of collectively coming to terms with their gruesome past: Vergangenheitsbewältigung. Despite the rise of the far-right everywhere, including in Germany, most Germans still feel a strong sense of remorse about their country’s past. Sadly and ironically, these feelings now drive unconditional support for a new oppressor and drown out any critical voices that seek to challenge this view with new evidence.

To remain open to the possibility of being wrong, Alyan points to a certain cognitive dissonance that we should all learn to embrace:

“The task, impossible at times, is to dialectically hold two uncomfortable truths: that people who have been exposed to indoctrinating narratives most of their lives are not at fault for that, and that they are simultaneously responsible – assuming exposure to free information and accessibility – for examining the validity of those narratives. To consider what voices and historical perspectives have been offered, hold them up to the light, and evaluate their truths.”Kai


Become a Friend of DD today →

With a modest contribution of just $1.83 per month, you’re not only helping keep Dense Discovery going, you can also turn off all ads in this newsletter, receive special discounts, get access to the DD Index (a searchable catalogue of past issues) and a range of other benefits. Plus, it removes this message.


Dense Discovery is a weekly newsletter with the best of the internet, thoughtfully curated, read by over 36,000 subscribers. Do you have a product or service to promote in DD? Find out more about advertising in DD.


Become a Better ThinkerSPONSOR


Refind →

Loved by 450,000+ curious minds

Subscribe to this free email course that will teach you how to be a better thinker in just ten days. Anne-Laure Le Cunff will guide you through, one link per day in your inbox. Subscribe for free.


Apps & Sites

Refrakt →

Indie photo sharing

A wonderfully minimal, self-funded platform for storing and sharing photos – free of ads, recommendation algorithms and ‘attention stealing’. I love the emphasis on building an independent, sustainable business. More of that, please! Friends of DD enjoy 20% off the first year of Premium. Become a Friend to access specials like this.

ButterDocs →

Docs for writers

ButterDocs promotes itself as ‘a Google Docs alternative specifically for writers’. Features include: being able to lay out the structure of your writing on a Kanban board, inserting notes into your text that include connecting tags, and having access to a AI assistant for research directly within the app.

Godspeed →

A to-do app built for speed

If you navigate mostly through your keyboard, this is the to-do app for you. Everything is controllable via text/key input. For example, just add ‘in 3h’ to set a reminder in three hours. The app (macOS & iOS) comes with the usual features you’d expect from a modern to-do manager: cloud syncing, shared lists, labels, smart filters, etc. Friends of DD enjoy 20% off the first year. Become a Friend to access specials like this.

Vivaldi →

Another browser alternative

After mentioning the Brave browser here last week, some of you pointed me to some not-so-ethical aspects of that company and its CEO. That made be try out Vivaldi, another browser based on Chromium. Vivaldi is extremely customisable and offers decent privacy features. Its UI feels less polished, but it’s still a great alternative to Firefox. (I’m also intrigued by ‘ungoogled-chromium’ which is a simple Chromium fork with all Google-related services removed. Unfortunately there’s no easy way yet to keep it updated.)


Worthy Five: Patricia Stark

Five recommendations by co-creation enthusiast and lecturer Patricia Stark

A piece of advice worth passing on:

A life hack from the brilliant Adam Lawrence, a master of co-creation: to prevent sticky notes from curling, tear them off gently from left to right instead of pulling from bottom to top. This keeps them straight on the wall and easy to photograph.

A recipe worth trying:

I love the recipes by Berlin-based Sissi Chen a.k.a. @eatinginberlin. Her Hot Oil PB Noodles is the best easy-to-make soul-food!

A book worth reading:

The Mom Test by Rob Fitzpatrick is a concise and engaging book that propels you into meaningful conversations effortlessly. A must-read for any situation.

An activity worth doing:

Playing the card game Brain Spin. I met the inventor Frankie Abralind years ago at a conference in Berlin and ever since, it is my go-to group activity that sparks laughter while activating both sides of your brain.

A phrase worth knowing:

‘Experts by experience’ refers to people, patients, students etc. who have, based on their personal experience, a vast knowledge in a specific area, which is of high value to science and society. We should simply listen to each other more often.

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


Books & Accessories

What If We Get It Right? →

Visions of climate futures

I really like what Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson has to say about climate action. Her TED talk offers some of the best advice on individual climate action I’ve heard. And yet, looking at the news, it’s hard to stay hopeful about still being able to avert the worst case scenarios. Her newest book, however, attempts to do exactly that: “Sometimes the bravest thing we can do while facing an existential crisis is imagine life on the other side. This provocative and joyous book maps an inspiring landscape of possible climate futures.” (Pre-order only, out in September 2024)

Edible Economics →

Economics explain through food

Ha-Joon Chang makes economic concepts easier to digest by plating them alongside stories about food from around the world. Edible Economics serves up a feast of bold ideas about globalization, climate change, immigration, austerity, automation, and why carrots need not be orange. It shows that getting to grips with the economy is like learning a recipe: when we understand it, we can adapt and improve it – and better understand our world.”


Overheard on Twitter

“Your honor I don’t know what contempt is but I’d love to be held.”



Food for Thought

Homes on steroids: how Australia came to build some of the biggest houses on Earth →


A good read about why our homes here in Australia – but also pretty much everywhere in the industrialised world – keep growing in size despite the fact that they house fewer inhabitants than just a generation or two ago. “In 1960, our average new homes measured about 100 sq metres. By 1984, it reached about 162 sq metres. Now, it’s more than 230 sq metres. In the 1930s this home of mine, which today feels barely able to contain a family of four, housed the White family – a household of 11.”

The Power of Changing Your Mind →


A wonderful read that highlights the challenges and complexities involved in changing deeply held beliefs, especially when influenced by identity protective cognition and propaganda. Writer Hala Alyan elegantly draws the connection to the Palestinian struggle and how our views require regular reflection to be on the right side of history. “The notion of narrative complexity can sometimes be intentionally curated by politicians, educators, even media outlets: for instance, the issue of Palestine and Israel is often spoken of as being too complicated for outsiders to understand. This can be a clever form of silencing and erasure: the exceptional mystification of the history of the region, even when there is a sea of voices – historians, activists, journalists, Palestinian and Israeli alike – who are explaining exactly how it can be known.”

Here lies the internet, murdered by generative AI →


The negative impacts of GenAI are getting harder to ignore: Erik Hoel argues that low-quality and fake content is increasingly polluting the internet, overwhelming the algorithms of search engines and media platforms, and serving us meaningless garbage. “We are currently fouling our own nests. Since the internet economy runs on eyeballs and clicks, the new ability of anyone, anywhere, to easily generate infinite low-quality content via AI is now remorselessly generating tragedy. The solution, as Hardin noted, isn’t technical. You can’t detect AI outputs reliably anyway (another initial promise that OpenAI abandoned). The companies won’t self regulate, given their massive financial incentives. We need the equivalent of a Clean Air Act: a Clean Internet Act. We can’t just sit by and let human culture end up buried.”


Aesthetically Pleasing

Kenyan photographer Thandiwe Muriu camouflages bodies among kaleidoscopic backdrops. “Thandiwe Muriu’s work showcases Africa’s unique mix of vibrant textiles, cultural practices, and beauty ideologies. Creating surreal illusions that are not digital manipulations but rather pure photography, she confronts issues surrounding identity and self-perception.” (via)

Tokyo-based painter Daisuke Samejima paints entire panoramas in ultra-realistic detail on balls, turning them into three dimensional artworks.

Follow Costa Rican wildlife and conservancy photographer Alvaro Cubero to inject some vivid colours and natural diversity into your stream.

The variable Prophet combines warm calligraphic curves with a clean, machine-like sensibility – bridging the hand-drawn and mechanical genres.


Notable Numbers


US American smoking rates continue to plummet, hovering near record lows of 12%, down from 26% two decades ago. But tobacco is still big and profitable: relative to what consumers pay, cigarettes remain incredibly cheap to manufacture, with British American Tobacco reporting a 38% operating profit margin last year.


Google is still, by a huge margin, the web’s biggest referrer of traffic. Close to two thirds (63.41%) of all US web traffic referrals come from google.com. The next biggest referral domain is facebook.com with 3.62%.


With their heavy weight and quick acceleration, EVs tend to burn through tires about 20% faster than internal combustion vehicles do, according to consultancy firm AlixPartners. And the tires cost about 50% more.



Vastly improve your business with interim leadership in design, project management, strategy, and operations from Same Team Partners who have decades of hands-on experience,

Build your first website from scratch and actually have fun doing it in this mini course that keeps you engaged with silly jokes and zombie smashing goodness.

Make your organisation’s next website sustainable, inclusive and privacy-respecting with Dave Smyth Studio.

At Obvious, we’ve helped over 120 companies build digital products that millions of people love and swear by. We’d love to do the same for you. Let’s chat about your next big idea.

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

Book yours →


The Week in a GIF

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


DD is supported by Friends and the modern family office of Pardon.