Rabbit Holes 🕳 #9
From multisensory climate change, to reimagining cities with DALL-E, an unproductive bubble, and "ferming"
Rabbit Holes 🕳
This is Rabbit Holes #9. Get ready to dive into 5 perspective-shifting ideas and stories (+ a genuine tool recommendation at the end). Let’s go:
👃 The Multisensory Consequences Of Climate Change
👁️ Making climate change (& action) more personal by focusing on the intimacy of climate change, the multisensory experiences. 👁️
I came across a super interesting series by Grist exploring the “intimacy of climate change”. When it comes to increasing awareness and finding better solutions to climate change there are lots of little things within this series that can spark innovative ideas or reframing.
“It’s easy to miss the intimacy of climate change — with so much focus on big system changes, we don’t always recognize the small ways it can affect our daily lives.”
”More than 80 percent of the planet’s population lives under light-polluted skies. More than a third of the world, around 2.5 billion people, can no longer see the Milky Way. That pollution has far-reaching consequences that threaten all our senses: from the loss of familiar creatures that live for the night, to unique interpretations of our position in the world.”
“Mosquitoes need tepid, still water in which to lay eggs and develop, and such conditions go hand-in-hand with warm, wet air. […] The increase in average temperatures is also shifting different species of mosquitoes northward, which has implications for both welt-ridden skin and the spread of disease.”
“But loons, like so many other birds, are threatened by climate change. Rising summertime temperatures and warmer lake waters may eliminate important swathes of their habitat, and elevated precipitation is putting their nests at greater risk of flooding. As a result, loons’ songs are in danger of fading from many parts of the world. Similar consequences are playing out for iconic songbirds — and other vocal animal species — everywhere.”
”[…] somewhere between my ancestors and me, we stopped teaching children to identify a plant by name, to pick it out of a patch of other plants, to know when it grows, what it smells like, and which parts of it are medicine, poison, or food. […] Foraging has been lauded as essential to being in tune with one’s environment; the keystone of eco-conscious eating; and the path to ingredients of “true quality and integrity […]”
”Gasoline forms part of the backdrop of American life, so ubiquitous it often goes unquestioned. It’s the type of fossil fuel that people handle most intimately. […] Its potent scent […] is hard to ignore. Catching a whiff of gasoline takes me back to my childhood […]. The aroma is linked with summertime memories of road trips, jet ski rides, and classic cars.”
Read more → Grist
🎨 Reimagining Cities With DALL-E
👁️ Often, people need to see it to believe and embrace it. Previously, it was tricky to create images that showcase what could be. Now, with tools like DALL-E it becomes so easy that even kids can do it. 👁️
In my last issue, I talked about the power of visuals to help us envision a new, positive future. This amazing story links to that:
Brooklyn-based artist Zach Katz has been using the DALL-E AI system to reimagine cities as friendlier spaces for pedestrians and bikes and generate support for change.
“In July, artist Zach Katz fed the second version of the AI system, called DALL-E 2, a Google Street View image of the block he lives on in Brooklyn, New York. The 28-year-old former open-street activist selected the pavement and parked cars as aspects to remove and then typed in how he’d like them replaced — by a “strikingly beautiful cobblestone European pedestrian promenade, with an ornate stone water fountain and children playing.”
Within a few seconds, DALL-E had given him its take on the redesign. It looked pretty great:”
“Katz [then] created a Twitter account and started posting his creations. It blew up. He now has a backlog of hundreds of requests coming from all over the world, from Thailand to Canada, asking him to redesign streets with the AI.”
“Visualizing things is the most powerful way to effect change,” Katz said. “Before, to make renders of a street, it’d cost hundreds if not thousands of dollars and take days or weeks to produce.”
Read more → Bloomberg
THE UNPRODUCTIVE BUBBLE
👁️ The current bubble (or near-bubble) smells like peak capitalism. A decade of cheap, liquid money hasn’t helped us find and empower truly beneficial tech and innovations. Next? Another step towards rethinking the core incentive structures. 👁️
Economic bubbles have been around for centuries. Despite causing lots of damage, one silver lining that usually comes out of a bubble is that they at least leave us with something useful: new technologies and profitable companies. For example, the 2000 Dot-Com bubble left us with e-commerce, web and news content and fiber optic networks.
“This is less true with the current bubble […][as it] has produced few profitable startups and involved few if any new digital technologies, nor technologies involving recent scientific advances, and thus it is unlikely that much that is productive will be left once the dust settles. […] The startup losses are also much larger than in the past suggesting that fewer of today’s startups will still exist in a few years than those of 20 years ago.”
“[…] As of March 15, 2022, there is not a single new U.S. startup in the top 100 companies for market capitalization, a situation that did not exist in previous decades, when companies such as Microsoft, Qualcomm, Google, and Facebook reached the top 100 within 14 years of their founding. More worrisome, there are only three new startups within the top 300 companies for market capitalization.”
“Of the 133 publicly traded ex-Unicorn startups that I analyzed, 23 now have greater than $1 billion in cumulative losses and another 36 have greater than $500 million. This means that 69 of the 133 ex-Unicorns, or more than half, have greater than $500 million in cumulative losses.
“Similar problems exist outside the United States, with many ex-Unicorns having similarly large cumulative losses in China, India, and Singapore.”
“None of the virtual reality, augmented reality, smart home, drones, eVTOL (electric vertical takeoff and landing), blockchain, or AI startups have profits nor even large revenues.”
I mean, to be honest: it’s a shit-show! As the author of the piece describes at the end: VCs pump and dump startups and cash in their fees; there is always a greater fool in the market (i.e. someone who will pay a higher price); academic scientists need to adhere to the “publish or perish” hamster wheel and thus don’t actually achieve those breakthrough tech innovations anymore; and everyone jumps mindlessly on the next buzzword and tech hype (NFT, metaverse,….) without asking the question: “is this actually better than what we already have?"
Read more → National Development
+ Another article that links to this → How Silicon Valley Failed To Fix Transportation
🧸 The Real Toy Story By Michael Wolf
👁️ As we are (and need to) rethink supply chains, is it important to be close - both in a physical and emotional sense - to where the products one buys come from? 👁️
“This series gives a new perspective to the work that goes behind those toys you buy with the ‘Made in China’ label attached. The tedious and mundane work of people slaving away in a factory that we never, ever think about is brought up close and personal to us in this series. We are faced with the actual hands that assemble that plastic action figure your child will forget about in 30 minutes.”
Read more → SLR Lounge
From Farming To “Ferming”
👁️ We’re moving from conventional farms to labs whether via fermentation, lab-grown meat or indoor/vertical farming. And in various areas, we are discovering the importance and potential of microbes, especially fungi (by the way, there are more microbial species on Earth than stars in our galaxy). 👁️
“Fermentation, essential for making sourdough bread, beer and cheese, has been around for centuries. But advances in the science of fermentation are helping researchers decouple animals from the proteins they produce.”
“Specifically, “precision fermentation” is helping food scientists grow ingredients found in animal products without the need for a traditional farm. Instead, the scientists isolate the specific ingredients, then multiply their cells in brewery-style tanks. The result? Animal-free eggs, milk and meat that are biologically similar to animal products.”
“Experts say these developments will help close the gap between plant-based products and their animal-derived analogues, making them nearly indistinguishable in taste and texture. […] These products, alongside lab-cultivated meat, could appeal to flexitarians or to occasional consumers of plant-based products who haven’t been sold on the taste so far, enabling more consumption of meat alternatives.”
“A recent study in Nature found that replacing just 20 percent of global beef consumption and other grazing livestock with “microbial proteins,” or those made from fermentation, could cut annual deforestation in half by 2050.”
Read more → New York Times
🔨 Tool Recommendation
As promised, a little extra this time as I have a really cool tool recommendation for you. If you are a researcher like myself and you ask yourself how I do research, you might wanna check out Glasp.
With Glasp you can basically highlight text within articles as you read them while Glasp saves everything for you conveniently in one place. You can add tags and Glasp then clusters your insights automatically. And you can then also quickly copy-paste your highlights and also share them with others.
But the best part is that you can see and use the saved highlights of others by following them or by following tags - thereby also discovering really cool stuff. Aaaand you can follow popular creators (e.g. newsletter authors) and explore their work through the highlights of others - here is a cool example.
I think it’s amazing! So, if you are into this stuff, definitely check it out: Glasp
That’s it for this week!