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Rabbit Holes 🕳 #20
From degrowth holidays to the 'capitalism is broken' economy, our addiction to concrete, the fast-foodification of everything, and the question: who cooked adam smith's dinner?
Happy New Year Everyone! 🥳
I hope you had a great start into the new year!
Quick overview of what you can expect from this newsletter in 2023:
I want Creative Destruction to become the (!) space for new perspectives and ideas!
By that, I mean that this newsletter should ideally become the thing you read to truly detach yourself from the dominant narratives and get out-of-the-box, perspective-shifting viewpoints and ideas that help us all build a better world. And according to the little poll I did in my last 2022 issue, this is also what many of you enjoy most about this newsletter. 😉
Rabbit Holes will get slightly bigger
I want Rabbit Holes to become this curated list of links and snackable insights for all sorts of new, mind-blowing perspectives and ideas. So the new format will still highlight snippets from five interesting content pieces – I will try to keep these a bit shorter, though – but then it’ll also have 2-3 tiny, new sections. I am still experimenting a bit with what these 2-3 new sections will ultimately focus on. In today’s Rabbit Holes it’s a meme and a quote of the week. Any feedback is very much welcomed!
One Deep Dive per month
The Deep Dives are all about connecting various dots and patterns. They are quite work-intensive, but from the data and feedback that I get from all of you, I can see that the more time I invest in these, the better, more positive feedback they get (Pleasure Activism is still my favorite 😊). So, I’ll try to write one deep dive per month going forward. The format of these will be a bit open-ended though: some more visual, others more text-heavy.
That’s it! Or at least all I am ready to share with you for now 🤫. So, enough of the housekeeping stuff! Let us now finally dive into this week’s Rabbit Holes:
Rabbit Holes 🕳
As always, 5 perspective-shifting 🤯 ideas that I’ve come across lately:
#1 / 🥳 Holidays Are Degrowth
Kicking off the new year feels great – new year, new beginning, am I right?! But it kinda also feels like getting back into the never-ending, burnout-inducing rat race of productivity, growth, and information overload. This article here reminded me of a phrase I recenly overheard somewhere on LinkedIn: “rest is resistance”.
“Have you ever thought to yourself, why is it that most of us love the end of the year?”
“The reason we enjoy the holiday season is because of their anti-capitalistic nature.
While some would argue that holidays are actually monuments to rampant consumerism, they would be mistaking the peripheral veil capitalism has opaquely wrapped-around the spirit of these annual gatherings for its core essence. Things slow down, people gather and celebrate convivially the fruits of our labor. We give instead of take. We share instead of steal. We forgive and forget. We need not lose sight of the true meaning of a holiday, where we socially waste our time together to eat, drink, and be merry.”
#2 / 😪 Demoralization & The Capitalism Is Broken Economy
This ‘the system is broken’ narrative seems to get ever more pervasive. And while that’s a common characteristic of times of economic distress and recessions, this time it somehow feels different. The call for a paradigm shift feels bigger and louder.
“[…] What if people weren’t lazy — and instead, for the first time in a long time, were able to say no to exploitative working conditions and poverty-level wages? And what if business owners are scandalized, dismayed, frustrated, or bewildered by this scenario because their pre-pandemic business models were predicated on a steady stream of non-unionized labor with no other options? It’s not the labor force that’s breaking. It’s the economic model.”
“[…] the hospitality labor force, like so many in the educational and higher ed and non-profit and public service and childcare and health care labor force, isn’t just exhausted, or burnt out. They’re demoralized — which is different than being lazy or temporarily burnt out — and that was true even before the pandemic.”
“Demoralization is what unites the underpaid, pandemic-unemployed worker, the adequately-paid, Covid-essential worker, and the more-than-adequately-paid, WFH knowledge worker […].”
“In truth, this isn’t the YOLO Economy so much as the “Capitalism is Broken” Economy — with an accompanying “great reshuffling,” as my friend Michelle Legro dubbed it, facilitated by the safety nets of UI, student loan pauses, moving in with family members to facilitate care, and/or accumulated remote work savings.”
#3 / 🍔 The Fast Foodification Of Everything & Peak Sameness
Generative AI has its super interesting advantages (check out my own experiments with ChatGPT). But the downsides, well… are extremely worrying. But hey, maybe the tsunami of mediocre content that’s about to hit us will finally wake us up and reorient our attention towards the stuff that’s truly unique and valuable.
“AI will lead to a fast-food version of the internet.
I’ve written about this in the past — how a culture of sameness will hold us back, and the businesses who create unique community experiences will win. There is a movement away from monolithic experiences like McDonalds that feel the same nearly everywhere you go to brands that we feel connected to and signal who we are.
In a world where artificial intelligence is creating the majority of content we consume (whether we realize it or not), the overall content quality will go down. It will be consistent, but mediocre.
The internet will look and feel very different due to the influx of AI content. Very fast-food like. Look and feel like real food, but not good for us.”
#4 / 🏢 Our Addiction To Concrete
Sometimes I feel like nobody (even climate activists and scientists) is talking about the construction industry and its impact on climate change and biodiversity. This very long article gives you a mind-blowing overview of the consequences of our addiction to concrete.
“[…] like anything that becomes ubiquitous, now we hardly notice it.”
“Most of humanity now lives in cities made possible by concrete. The majority of buildings, from skyscrapers to social housing, are made of concrete or contain large amounts of it. Even buildings made from steel, stone, brick or timber are almost always resting on concrete foundations and are sometimes masking an unseen concrete frame. Inside, concrete is ceilings and floors. Outside, it is bridges and sidewalks, piers and parking lots, roads and tunnels and airport landing strips and subway systems. It is water pipes, sewers and storm drains. It is electricity: dams and power plants and the foundations of wind turbines. Concrete is the wall between Israel and Palestine and the Berlin Wall and most other walls. It is “almost anything,” wrote the architect Sarah Nichols in an essay this year, “almost anywhere.””
“The mythical power, permanence and strength of concrete — its ability to protect us from what is dirty and dangerous — still lingers in the public imagination: a magic liquid rock that could be poured to create shapes and forms that were possible in no other material. Stone takes nature millions upon millions of years to create, but we do it in a few hours. Mankind, it seems, has harnessed the geological forces of deep time.”
“But, as Vyta Pivo, an assistant professor of architectural and urban history at the University of Michigan, told me over the phone, “Concrete is none of the things we were led to believe it is.” She explained: “Our addiction to concrete is not just a scientific or technological issue, it’s a deeply cultural issue. This idea of concrete as a miracle material was actively pursued by people in positions of power. In the U.S., for example, manufacturers and companies created movies, booklets and magazines. They trained people to go into rural areas and teach people how to work with cement and use concrete in all kinds of daily applications. It was a real education project to teach us how to accept concrete into our everyday environments. So it wasn’t that concrete was necessarily the best or most obvious or cheapest. There were certain actors who made it that way.””
“We find ourselves on a treadmill of dependency on a material that is slowly deteriorating from the moment it is first poured. While much of the Global South is embarking on a century of construction, the built environment of the Global North is destined for the monumental challenge of maintenance, demolition and, in the worst-case scenario, ruination.“
#5 / 🍛 Who Cooked Adam Smith’s Dinner?
I just ‘love’ how deeply flawed all the early economic theory was (and is). It’s super fun reading these old concepts….or it would be funny if they weren’t the actual foundation of our current economic system….😅. I mean just read any quote or explanation of the “invisible hand” by Adam Smith and try not to smirk or laugh. 😂
“Adam Smith was brilliant. He also remained a bachelor his entire life, and he lived with his mother for most of it. He obsessed incessantly over how goods were produced and men acted in the marketplace, and answering the questions he had launched the field of economics as we know it. But, he missed a key consideration in “the fundamental question of economics.”
‘Adam Smith only succeeded in answering half of the fundamental questions of economics. He didn’t get his dinner only because the tradesmen served their own self-interests through trade. Adam Smith got his dinner because his mother made sure it was on the table every evening.’ [Katrine Marçal]
Smith coined the term “the invisible hand” that has become so widespread in economics. But, it turns out the real invisible hand may have been the one that put the dinner on his table every night for his entire life — his mother’s, whose efforts and labor were uncounted in his equations and went uncompensated. Not until we take economic man off his pedestal, and add the feminist perspective to economics, will we be able to begin addressing some of the real underlying structural problems in our workplaces, economy, and society.”
🖼️ Meme of the Week
💬 Quote of the Week
That’s it for this week!