Discover more from Creative Destruction
Rabbit Holes 🕳️ #38
◉ The Beauty of Vernacular Architecture ◉ How Automation Affects Politics & Identity ◉ The Need for Child-Friendly Cultures ◉ Couples Therapy For You & Your Phone ◉ The True History of Patriarchy
THIS WEEK ◉ The Beauty of Vernacular Architecture ◉ How Automation Affects Politics & Identity ◉ Population Collapse & The Need for Child-Friendly Cultures ◉ Couples Therapy For You & Your Phone ◉ The True History of Patriarchy
Rabbit Holes 🕳️
As always, five perspective-shifting ideas that I’ve come across lately, plus some fun extras. Enjoy!
#1 🏗️ The Beauty Of Vernacular Architecture
This is an interesting little Twitter thread exploring the design or architecture paradigm behind those beautiful, cute old towns and cities we all love. What makes them feel more human, fun and aesthetically pleasing is a style of architecture that is defined by locality, DIY (autonomy), resource efficiency, usefulness, affordability and conviviality. It’s a great showcase of the potential of low-tech solutions for creating healthier, more communal and sustainable places.
“But how did focus on need (function) and available building materials (convenience/cost) make these old places all look so different? Such principles also underpin most modern construction, and yet cities around the world look more similar than ever.
There's a few key differences. […] What was available as a construction material varied from region to region, hence a natural variety in regional architectures. Another difference is that less globalised (and less nationalised) cultures tend to produce highly localised, more divergent styles. […] [Additionally,] there weren't as many government-imposed restrictions on how houses should be built or towns should be planned. People just got on with it...thus producing the opposite of a planned town with homogenised architecture and standardised streets. […] And, by virtue of being less planned, they are filled with personality, character, and charm.
Vernacular architecture also tends to be more human-scale as a direct result of how it was built. Such places are therefore often more suited to social integration and to community, to healthier and happier lifestyles, and all the other benefits of human-scale design. Not to mention that vernacular architecture is much more sustainable and environmentally friendly. […]
Insensitivity to local climate, ecological unsustainability, designed for cars rather than communities, badly scaled for human beings, bland and uniform aesthetics... These are just some of the problems of modern urban design which the vernacular might help us solve.”
#2 🤖 How Automation Affects Politics & Identity
We need to become more aware of the mostly ignored, negative effects of self-service technologies. Yes, they are great for improving efficiency, reducing costs and improving the customer experience (say it with me: convenience!!). But there is a massive social cost that comes with these technologies in terms of social interaction and community building.
“Automation, once hidden behind closed doors in factories, is increasingly moving into public view. Customers can pay for groceries or clothing at a self-checkout machine, order fast food from a touchscreen kiosk or even pickup coffee from a ‘robo-café.’
[…] Whether these new technologies replace jobs, relegate existing positions to non-public facing roles or create new employment opportunities, they will result in us interacting with fewer people than we have historically. […] Experiences with strangers can shape how we define our community and politics. If we no longer encounter cashiers or fast food employees, many of whom are temporary foreign workers, will our beliefs about immigration policies or minimum wage change? What do bike couriers think about bike lanes? How does a dental office receptionist feel about universal dental care, or a corner store clerk about crime rates?
[…] We [also] build our sense of civic identity and opinions about government through social interactions. […] Our social capital — which Putnam defines as the overarching belief about society that facilitates co-operation — diminishes when we lose opportunities to engage with people outside of our regular social networks.
[….] How will our sense of community and our political preferences change when we interact less with the people who work the jobs that self-service technologies replace?”
» The Conversation | A rise in self-service technologies may cause a decline in our sense of community by Blake Lee-Whiting
#3 🚸 Population Collapse & The Need for Child-Friendly Cultures
The following article blew my mind! It’s crazy how family- and kid-unfriendly our societies have become. I am thinking of car-centric cities, high costs of raising a child, incredibly expensive housing rates, politics made by and for old people, workplaces and cultures with no interest and heart for supporting employees who want to raise kids, and much more…
“Birth rates are falling much faster than many dominant narratives imply. […] Already, 115 countries representing about half the world’s population are beneath replacement [rates], and by the end of the century nearly every country in Africa is projected to have a rapidly declining population.
People underestimate how quickly this effect will be felt. South Korea currently has a total fertility rate of 0.81. For every 100 South Korean great-grandparents, there will be 6.6 great-grandkids. At the 0.7 fertility rate predicted in South Korea by 2024, that amounts to 4.3 great-grandkids. It’s as if we knew a disease would kill 94 percent of South Koreans in the next century. […] A fertility collapse takes around thirty years before it causes a population collapse, and once that happens, the collapse is inevitable. If 70 percent of a nation’s population is over age 50, and even though many of those people have almost half their lifespan left they are not going to be having any more kids.
Across the world, we see a similar phenomenon: countries explode in population as access to modern wealth expands, then drop off and begin to collapse as incomes rise and lifestyle modernization sets in. While many countries have yet to reach this crescendo, most are well on their way.
[…] Modern societies should not be asking: “Why isn’t everyone having kids?” but rather: “Why aren’t many in my community having five to seven kids?”
[…] Our economy is structured in a manner that organically identifies and maximally utilizes talent to create short-term marginal productivity. The system differentially sorts for the most potentially productive among us, and then offers them money and status to forgo other life activities that don’t create immediate productivity.
There is little that draws a person away from immediate economic productivity more than a social lifestyle compatible with good matchmaking, strong family ties, and child rearing. No one gets financially rewarded in our current system by structuring cities in a way that invites the creation of large families.
[…] But the great thing about living in a world of dying systems is that you are uniquely well-positioned to replace suboptimal systems with something superior. New growth takes root best in the decay of its predecessors. For most of the past, if you wanted to create a better future, you had to rally the troops and take someone else’s land or destroy existing systems and replace them. In a dying world, all you have to do is create something intergenerationally durable.”
#4 📵 Couples Therapy For You & Your Phone
Our smartphones are tools and should be thought of and used as such. It’s when we get into the habit of seeing them as (almost) an extension of our own bodies (our brains) that we lose control to the “attention-sucking vampire” and our experience using them becomes energy-draining.
“Here’s the truth: Screen time doesn’t matter. It’s not about how much you use your phone. It’s about whether your phone is a needy, attention-sucking vampire. If that’s the case, the only healthy screen time is no screen time. Zero. That’s why the main metric tracked by screen time apps is deceptive: ten minutes of shooting crack cocaine intravenously are still ten minutes of shooting crack cocaine intravenously.
But that’s expected: a tech company trying to cop around how much you use your devices is like a booze maker helping you track how much booze you should drink. Sure, they want to keep you alive: you are the consumer after all, and you must be around to consume.
[…] Improving the relationship with your phone requires conscious decisions. It’s like couples therapy, but for you and your tech. Sometimes you need some me-time, sometimes it’s better to break up. Sometimes, everything is great! It is, right?
Ask yourself: is your phone a helpful assistant or a demanding boss?
When it helps you to check in on your partner, to get directions, or to edit photos professionally, time doesn’t matter as much—does it?
There are better parameters to evaluate quality, not quantity, of the time spent staring at your screens:
Does this app do its job and then politely step aside?
Does it linger in your brain like an awkward party guest at 2:30 A.M. after everyone else already left?
Did I summon this app, or did it summon me via notifications?
[…] Consider that anything not honoring your time and attention is disrespecting you. Tracking for how long your attention is disrespected makes little difference.”
#5 👨⚖️ The True History of Patriarchy
Another article that blew my mind! There are so many myths and misconceptions about the origin of patriarchy which are holding us back from finding or imagining societies that champion gender equality. By realizing that patriarchy has always been about serving society’s elites, we can frame the problem differently and find new solutions.
“The word "patriarchy", meaning "rule of the father", reflects how male power has long been believed to start in the family with men as heads of their households, passing power from fathers to sons. But across the primate world, this is vanishingly rare. As anthropologist Melissa Emery Thompson at the University of New Mexico has observed, inter-generational family relationships in primates are consistently organised through mothers, not fathers.
Among humans, patriarchy isn't universal either. Anthropologists have identified at least 160 existing matrilineal societies across the Americas, Africa, and Asia, in which people are seen to belong to their mothers’ families over generations, with inheritance passing from mother to daughter. In some of these communities, goddesses are worshipped and people will stay in their maternal homes throughout their lives. […] The further we dive into prehistory, the more varied forms of social organisation we see. At the 9,000-year-old site of Çatalhöyük in southern Anatolia in modern-day Turkey, once described as the oldest city in the world for its size and complexity, almost all the archaeological data points to a settlement in which gender made little difference to how people lived.
[…] The first clear signs of women being treated categorically differently from men appear much later, in the first states in ancient Mesopotamia. […] The elites in these early societies needed people to be available to produce a surplus of resources for them, and to be available to defend the state – even to give up their lives, if needed, in times of war. Maintaining population levels put an inevitable pressure on families. Over time, young women were expected to focus on having more and more babies, especially sons who would grow up to fight. The most important thing for the state was that everybody played their part according to how they had been categorised: male or female. Individual talents, needs, or desires didn't matter.
[…] As documented by the American historian Gerda Lerner, written records from that time show women gradually disappearing from the public world of work and leadership, and being pushed into the domestic shadows to focus on motherhood and domestic labour. This combined with the practice of patrilocal marriage, in which daughters are expected to leave their childhood homes to live with their husbands’ families, marginalised women and made them vulnerable to exploitation and abuse in their own homes. Over time, marriage turned into a rigid legal institution that treated women as property of their husbands, as were children and slaves.
The lasting psychological damage of the patriarchal state was to make its gendered order appear normal, even natural, in the same way that class and racial oppression have historically been framed as natural by those in power. Those social norms became today's gender stereotypes, including the idea that women are universally caring and nurturing and that men are all naturally violent and suited to war. By deliberately confining people to narrow gender roles, patriarchy disadvantaged not just women, but also many men. Its intention was only ever to serve those at the very top: society's elites.”
🖼️ Exhibition: Sexism in the service industry
🚿 Shower Thoughts
That’s it for this week!
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