Rabbit Holes 🕳 #22
From the beginning of the AI era to an unoptimized life, the desire for resonance, the skin as an antidote to consumerism, and new words that help us change the narrative
I am trying to build a platform for out-of-the-box ideas that help us all build a better world. The #1 way to support this goal is to subscribe and share this newsletter. Thank you! 😊
But now, let us dive into this week’s Rabbit Holes:
Rabbit Holes 🕳
As always, here are five perspective-shifting ideas that I’ve come across recently:
#1 🤖 The AI Era Begins
I’ve been diving into GenerativeAI for quite a while now. I believe it is safe to say that this is going to be the biggest tech revolution since the mobile phone. The below is an interesting take of what’s to come in terms of personal empowerment.
“If you work in media you’ve been navigating stomach-turning change for quite some time. But the 2023 inflection feels epochal. There's something deeply transitional in the air.”
“The notion of the "consumer is in control", a hackneyed saying in the marketing world for as long as I can remember, has reached a new apex largely on account of how tech has given us superhuman control of the immediate world around us. The era of peak control is approaching, the next wave driven by an AI layer that will front-end a new wave of personal empowerment. This time, control is shifting from ‘choose what you want to consume’ to ‘what do you want to make, right now.’”
“Indeed, media’s next epoch will be defined by AI’s ability to power wholly new ways of creating and accessing information, where the machine does more and more of the heavy lifting, assembling, sorting and organizing for us. The result: interfaces to information are about to go through profound change, one with massively disruptive consequences to any owner of a media or commercial distribution point.”
“The […] important big-picture question is how this sudden ability to pluck customized narrative responses from reams of digitized human knowledge, in ways that feel indistinguishable from human interaction, represents a transition point to a new way of accessing information and what business models eventually underpin it.”
#2 🧘 The Unoptimized Life
Some unconventional thoughts on self-improvement and productivity. It reminds me of one of my favorite tales, the story of the fishermen and the tourist in which the tourist asks the (what seems to him) lazy fishermen who only fishes briefly in the morning why he doesn’t fish more, buy extra boats, outsource work to others and then get rich and happy, not having to work anymore and spending the day relaxing in the sun. To which the lazy fishermen replies “but I am already doing that”.
“Self-improvement is great and productivity is wonderful, but something about this vein of thought feels off. When I try to follow this advice, I may temporarily get more stuff done, but it comes at the expense of my soul. I feel like an obsessive-compulsive lumberjack, hyper-focused on marginal improvements in my sawing technique—until one day, as I finish my labors, I realize I accidentally clear-cut the forest for the trees. The little things we do to make ourselves better may end up draining us dry.”
“Instead, I would argue for the unoptimized life.”
“When we focus too hard on being a little better every day, we destroy the ability to be inspired.”
“[…] My success has […] happened because I’ve given myself space. I ignore all the extra things I’m “supposed to do” […] so I can pursue something called “afflatus.” Afflatus is a Latin word that refers to a sudden rush or inspiration, seemingly from the divine or supernatural. Moments of afflatus are euphoric and intoxicating. When they occur and I create output, I always end up happier.”
“I’m not advocating for a lifestyle of ease and no work. I work so, so hard to make this writing happen every week. There are always late nights and sacrifices. What I’m arguing for is the cultivation of a state of being to allow for afflatus to occur.”
“But we get so caught up in the daily grind, in the pursuit of the next step of the ladder, that we miss the point of being. I think the default state of life is that we will get filled up with small things. Whether small productivity improvements or minor inconveniences, it doesn’t matter. Either take away our chance to focus on something more.”
“I would argue for the unoptimized life because it is the one that gives us the space to do and be more.”
#3 😑 The Desire for Resonance
Hartmut Rosa is one of my favorite sociologists. His latest work is all about a new value theory that puts the concept of “resonance” – or our relationship to the world – at the centerstage. To understand the below you have to know that the German word of “bildung”, which directly translates to “education”, more broadly “[…] refers to the German tradition of self-cultivation wherein philosophy and education are linked in a manner that refers to a process of both personal and cultural maturation.”
“Modern societies are characterized by their mode of dynamic stabilization. This means that they can only reproduce their structure and maintain the institutional status quo by constantly achieving economic growth, technological acceleration and cultural innovation. This creates a 'need for speed' that requires individuals and organizations to constantly seek opportunities for rationalization and optimization. After all, it is us, the individuals, who need to grow, accelerate and innovate incessantly, i.e., to run faster and faster each year just to stay in place.
However, the incessant social pressure for acceleration and growth has an ugly flipside: It enforces a basic mode of 'aggression' towards the world (i.e. towards internal as well as external nature) and leads in turn to towering forms of alienation which quickly turn into political anger and frustration.”
“The reason for this is the fact that modern individuals yearn for, and dream of, 'resonant' instead of aggressive modes of being and relating to the world. The culturally engraved desire for resonance stands in stark contrast to the structural need for speed.”
“'Bildung', understood in a deeper meaning, is a process not of optimization, and not of acquiring skills, but of opening up the axes for resonance between self and world. Bildung, then, is the process of 'producing' resonant self-world relationships.”
» Hartmut Rosa: Between the Need for Speed and the Desire for Resonance: The Role of 'Bildung' in an Accelerated Society
#4 🧴 The Skin As An Antidote To Consumerism
If you’re into beauty stuff and like my newsletter then you should definitely check out substack by Jessica DeFino. I'm actually not into beauty stuff 🙃 but I really like Jessica's writing about consumerism. Here is a little excerpt from a recent interview of her with lots of links to her various articles.
“When you think about the current state of consumption in the beauty industry (which, for the sake of this article, includes makeup, skincare, haircare, and even things like supplements), what comes to mind?"
Jessica DeFino: I think of capitalism and consumer culture, and how we've been made to believe that we can buy our way into happiness and fulfillment. I think of how so many of the “problems” solved by beauty products are problems caused by other beauty products: scalp care to address the buildup of haircare, for example, or moisturizers to make up for cleansers that strip the skin’s natural oils. I think of how so many products exist solely to alter the appearance — often under the false, medicalized guise of “health” — and how that reinforces unrealistic and harmful beauty standards. Mostly, I think about how far we've drifted from actual beauty. Beauty is a force that exists beyond the industry of beauty. The industry has taken our inherently human desire to live a life full of beauty, and repackaged and refocused it on a narrow understanding of physical beauty. On a spiritual level (as in, of the human spirit — not the “religious” sense of spiritual), this is not the type of beauty we crave, so we're left wanting more and, conveniently for the industry, buying more.”
“What’s your advice for people looking to reduce their beauty product consumption? Where do they start? What should they look for?
Jessica DeFino: I always say that dismantling beauty standards is the key to sustainability. Western beauty standards stem from patriarchy, white supremacy, capitalism, colonialism and they reinforce racism, colorism, sexism, ageism, ableism, classism, and gender norms. They are unrealistic and unattainable by design. Things like “anti-aging,” hairless bodies, glass skin... these are all physically impossible. That serves a purpose for the industry; it keeps you in the consumer cycle forever, because in order to inch closer to meeting these impossible standards, you have to keep buying and applying products. What would happen if we decided not to buy products that dehumanize us — as in, products that promise to defy the realities of the human body — but instead focused on products that support the inherent functions of our skin, hair, and bodies? We'd buy 99% fewer products [emphasis added].”
#5 👄 Want to change the world? Start by changing your words
We’re really good at coming up with new words to describe crises and doom – like permacrisis, nature-rinsing, heatflation, or climate anxiety. But what about words or language that reframe things and help us imagine new, positive futures?
“Words wield power; they can significantly shape people, culture, and behavior.
Yet while we grow ever more aware that we live and work in a world of finite natural resources, the language we use in business isn’t helping us make impactful change. In fact, the words we use every day hold us back from creating a regenerative future, one that respects and restores the ecological systems we all depend on to survive.”
“Consider the typical language we use to talk about business success, goals, and visions. No doubt you’ve heard phrases like right to win; market penetration; ownable territory; targeting campaign; capturing value; demand; dominate the market; and first-mover advantage. You’ve probably used some of them yourself. But do you consider the assumptions that underpin this language, and whether they’re still relevant, helpful, and constructive for our work today?
All of these phrases are founded on ideas of winning and ownership, steeped in military references, colonialism, and competition. It’s an aggressive narrative, suggesting that in order for you to succeed, someone else has to lose. There is little room for partnership, alliance, or mutual success in this discourse.”
There’s an opportunity to create a language that reframes success as a communal or shared benefit and expands our idea of growth to encompass different sources of value—cultural, social, natural values as well as productive and financial ones. This is a true reflection of regeneration—the meaning that got lost amid the jostling to appear green.
Apparel company Pangaia sets a great precedent here. By describing itself as a “global collective of individuals, working together for a better future,” the business actively reframes traditional ideas of competition and success. The brand’s tagline, “Designing an Earth-positive future, together,” is rooted in notions of noncompetitiveness and alliance. In this language, success starts to become conducive to regeneration. It is shared, self-perpetuating, and restorative. Making use of eco-friendly materials, using compostable packaging, and recycling some of its offcuts are just some of the ways Pangaia translates words into action.
🤨 Interesting Stuff
🤔 The Creative Independent is a growing resource of emotional and practical guidance for creative people
📚 Livable Proximity: Ideas for the City that Cares
⚒️ The Neighbourhood Doughnut Portrait by Doughnut Economics
🖼️ Mixing Memes
That’s a wrap 🌯 for this week!
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