Issue #421
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👋🏼 Hello!

Having previously published posts on Thought Shrapnel several times per week, and then curated them into a newsletter each Sunday, this new monthly rhythm feels like aeons pass between missives.

How are you? How have you been? (if you're new here, welcome!)

The UK is coming out of various stages of lockdown at the moment. Indeed, the day after this reaches your inbox, I'll be able to legally hug my parents again. Now there's a sentence I never thought I'd have to write.

"Yet let's be content, and the times lament, you see the world turn'd upside down." (source)

Since you last received one of my epistles, I've completed my #100DaysToOffload challenge, decided to check out of therapy, spent far too long deciding on which smartwatch to buy, helped celebrate our co-op's fifth birthday by launching a new website, been paid in crypto for the first time for some work we did with NEAR, and wrapped up an "outstanding" Catalyst-funded project aiming to help those claiming Universal Credit online.

I'm also continuing to post to most days. Are you paying attention to the climate emergency?

Compliments? Comments? Concerns? Complaints? Just hit reply!
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📅 Weeknotes

  • Weeknote 19/2021 — "I’ve been solo parenting for much of this week. While I’m very much aware that many people do this all the time, and that my wife couldn’t have made it easier for me, it has affected..."
  • Weeknote 18/2021 — "Coupled with a decent family Bank Holiday walk and returning to the gym, I’m starting to get back to the pre-pandemic levels of physical activity. The great thing is..."
  • Weeknote 17/2021 — "Most of my work these days is the through the co-op, which is a wonderful thing to be able to say. There was a time when we explicitly said it was something that..."
  • Weeknote 16/2021 — "This week I realised, if I didn’t know already, the value of working with people I know and trust, and who work quickly. There’s nothing so soul-crushing for me than..."

👀 Things to which I've been paying attention

I couldn't just share 10 things this month, as there's so much fantastic writing out there. So instead of just providing a laundry list, I'm categorising this section into the wonderful, weird, and woeful. I hope that works for you there should be something in here for everyone!

🤩 Wonderful

  • Just Use Email "is a site dedicated to the various ways people and small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) should just use email to manage their digital life, their business, and their productivity, all without the use of third-party tools, SaaS subscriptions, two dozen logins, and twenty different interfaces."
  • The Hologram: a peer-to-peer social technology of care — "At its broadest and most ambitious scale The Hologram is intended as an open-source, peer-to-peer, viral social technology for dehabituating humans from capitalism. Capitalism is not only an economic system, it’s a cultural and social system as well, which deeply influences how we relate to one another, how we interact, how we imagine ourselves and one another, even how we talk and feel."
  • Minimum Viable Work "means operating with the greatest degree of individual autonomy, the lowest degree of managerial overhead, and the highest levels of cooperation without coercion."
  • Dutch couple become Europe’s first inhabitants of a 3D-printed house — "Inspired by the shape of a boulder, the dimensions of which would be difficult and expensive to construct using traditional methods, the property is the first of five homes planned by the construction firm Saint-Gobain Weber Beamix for a plot of land by the Beatrix canal in the Eindhoven suburb of Bosrijk."
  • 99 Additional Bits of Unsolicited Advice — "All the greatest gains in life — in wealth, relationships, or knowledge —come from the magic of compounding interest — amplifying small steady gains. All you need for abundance is to keep adding 1% more than you subtract on a regular basis."

🤪 Weird

  • Warez: The Infrastructure and Aesthetics of Piracy — "The term ‘warez’ itself refers to pirated media, a derivative of ‘software’. The Scene is an underground culture with its own norms and rules of participation, its own forms of sociality, and its own artistic outputs. This book describes what is known about this underground culture, its operations, and its infrastructures."
  • When the Earth is gone, at least the internet will still be working"Yet, even if we discount Starlink, the change coming this decade in emergency response represents a complete revolution. The depth and resilience of connectivity is changing the equation for first responders from complete reliance on antiquated tools to an embrace of the future of digital computing. The machine is no longer stoppable."
  • Smartphone is now ‘the place where we live’, anthropologists say — "A team of anthropologists from UCL spent more than a year documenting smartphone use in nine countries around the world, from Ireland to Cameroon, and found that far from being trivial toys, people felt the same way about their devices as they did about their homes."
  • Deepfake Lips Are Coming to Dubbed Films — "There are very good reasons to be concerned about the use of artificial intelligence and neural network-powered tools to manipulate stills and videos to create situations that never actually happened or making public figures say something they didn’t (in the case of deepfakes that have spread like wildfire online). But the tools also have exciting potential for other uses—like continuing to make filmmaking more accessible and affordable."
  • Fossil hunters unearth galloping, dinosaur-eating crocodiles in Sahara — "
    Sarcosuchus imperator is one of the biggest crocodiles to have ever lived at 40 feet in length and up to 8 tons, and also resided in prehistoric Sahara. It was the first croc to be found in the region, discovered years before this new parade of reptiles. While some of its smaller cousins galloped around pursuing prey, Sarcosuchus lived in the usual croc fashion. Except that instead of antelopes or deer, it hunted dinosaurs."

🥺 Woeful

  • Creative Commons, commercial use, and NFTs "So while the letter of the CC licence is intact, the spirit is somehow broken, the CC licensed work has been used for profit without the intention of the author."
  • Stopping the Manipulation Machines — "Companies can’t be expected to reform themselves; they use dark patterns because they work. And while no laws will be able to anticipate or prevent every type of dark pattern, lawmakers can begin to chip away at the imbalance between consumers and corporations by cracking down on these clearly deceptive practices."
  • The Instagram ads Facebook won't show you — "We created a multi-variant targeted ad designed to show you the personal data that Facebook collects about you and sells access to. The ad would simply display some of the information collected about the viewer which the advertising platform uses. Facebook was not into that idea."
  • I’m not languishing, I’m dormant — "It seems to me that the reason that so many of us feel like we’re languishing is that we are trying to flourish in terrible conditions. It is spring outside — or the “unlocking” season — but it is still “Winter in America,” and, as any gardener knows, if you try to wake a plant out of dormancy too soon, it will wither, and maybe die."
  • The Nature You See in Documentaries Is Beautiful and False — "The wilderness myth is simply factually inaccurate, in the Americas and elsewhere. It has also been a real stumbling block for conservation. With wilderness set as the gold standard for nature, any human influence has come to be seen as negative by default. The myth has thus ruled out any approaches to saving nature except walling it off and keeping humans out. Trying to “save the planet” with a wilderness mindset has been all about self-exile. It offers “little hope of discovering what an ethical, sustainable, honorable human place in nature might actually look like,” as [William] Cronon wrote [in his famous 1995 essay, The Trouble With Wilderness; or, Getting Back to the Wrong Nature]."

Until next month!

Doug Belshaw
Thought Shrapnel Weekly is published by Dr. Doug Belshaw. You can connect with him by replying to this email, or via Twitter, LinkedIn, and Mastodon.

Some say he's revving up. Others say he's messing up. No-one thinks he's dressing up.
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