Issue #429
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👋🏼 Hello!

I'm back from a great work trip for just over a week to the Netherlands, my first abroad for over two years. Covid is still around, but I'm glad that we're able to get back to some sort of normality!

Hopefully, this month's Thought Shrapnel newsletter is an oasis of calm from everything that's going on in the world. It's always nice to hear from you all, so please do hit reply and say hello. I'll always reply.

Oh, and if you're in the UK/Europe, don't forget that clocks went forward an hour overnight! I can't wait until we collectively decide to end daylight savings TBH... 🕐
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💥 Best of Thought Shrapnel

Of the 27 posts I published in March 2022 on Thought Shrapnel, these were my three favourites.
Pastoral scene with cows

Challenging capitalism through co-ops and community

The glossy Instagram lifestyle is actually led by a fraction of a fraction of 1% of the world’s population. Instead of us all elbowing each other out of the way in pursuit of that, this article points to a better solution: co-operation.
There are two types of economics active in the world right now — which basically means two radically divergent varieties of economic life. The first is economics as most economists and writers see it and talk about it. The second is economics as most people live it.

Call the first “the top-up.” It’s the economics of competition and asymmetrical knowledge and shareholder value and creative destruction. It’s the dominant system. We know all about the top-up. Tales of the doings of the top-up economy are mainlined into our brains from business articles, financial analysis, stories about our planet’s richest people or corporations or nations. Bezos. Buffett. Gates. Musk. Zuckerberg. The Forbes 400. The Fortune 500. The Nasdaq. The Nikkei. On and on.

Call the second “the bottom-down.” We don’t hear as much about it because it’s a lot less sexy and a lot more sticky. It involves survival mechanisms and community solidarity and cash-in-hand calculations.

But it’s the economic system of the global majority, and this makes it the more important of the two.

The top-up economic sphere functions like a gated community in which people who have money can pretend that everything they do and have in life is based on merit, and that the communal and cooperative boosts from which they profit are nothing but natural outgrowths of that merit.


Change always comes from below — and it is in the bottom-down relationships where growth and egalitarianism can flourish. Every volunteer fire department is a community platform. Every mutually managed water system demonstrates that neighbors can build things when they need each other. Every community-based childcare network or parent-teacher association is a nascent collective. Every civic association, neighborhood or church council, social action network or food pantry gives people a broader perspective. Every collectively run savings and credit association demonstrates that communal trust can give people a leg up.
Source: Co-ops And Community Challenge Capitalism | Noema
Map of "The Buried Ships of Yerba Buena Cove, San Francisco"

San Francisco is built on the carcasses of old ships

Very cool. There’s a metaphor in there somewhere.

When the gold rush began in 1848, thousands of people sailed into California, hoping to strike it rich. The ships that sailed there were often just enough to get the crew there. Many would never sail again.

A large portion of the ships that landed in San Francisco Bay were simply left to rot as the crews they brought got caught up in gold fever. At the height of the gold rush, there were 500 to one thousand ships moored in the harbor, clogging up traffic and making the waters almost un-navigable.

The city needed land, and since most of it had already been built on, politicians devised a brilliant solution: start building on the water. The city started selling plots of bay water on the condition that the new owner would turn it into new land. So, ships were intentionally run aground and built into hotels and bars – they became part of the city.
Source: Why is San Francisco’s Foundation is Built on Old Ships from the Mid-1800s? | Interesting Engineering
Medieval Fantasy City Generator

Audrey Watters on the technology of wellness and mis/disinformation

Audrey Watters is turning her large brain to the topic of “wellness” and, in this first article, talks about mis/disinformation. This is obviously front of mind for me given my involvement in user research for the Zappa project from Bonfire.
In February 2014, I happened to catch a couple of venture capitalists complaining about journalism on Twitter. (Honestly, you could probably pick any month or year and find the same.) “When you know about a situation, you often realize journalists don’t know that much,” one tweeted. “When you don’t know anything, you assume they’re right.” Another VC responded, “there’s a name for this and I think Murray Gell-Mann came up with it but I’m sick today and too lazy to search for it.” A journalist helpfully weighed in: “Michael Crichton called it the ”Murray Gell-Mann Amnesia Effect,” providing a link to a blog with an excerpt in which Crichton explains the concept.
Source: The Technology of Wellness, Part 1: What I Don’t Know | Hack Education

✍️ The rest of Thought Shrapnel

There's other nuggets, but it's up to you to find them! Here's the other 24 posts I published:

📅 Weeknotes

  • Weeknote 12/2022 — "I’ve spent most of this week in the Netherlands which, I have to say, seems like the grown-up and sophisticated cousin to the awkward teenager that is the (dis-)United Kingdom. Every country has its issues, but I’m always impressed when I come over here at how things are set up to empower citizens."
  • Weeknote 11/2022 — "I’m writing this from a hotel room in Amsterdam, on my first overseas trip in two years. This week has largely been a preparation for going away, both physically in terms of packing, but also mentally in terms of preparing myself."
  • Weeknote 10/2022 — "For some reason, I suppose due to (post-?)pandemic malaise, I take far fewer photos than I used to. So few, in fact, that I sometimes struggle, as I am doing this week, to find one to illustrate and add a bit of interest to my weeknote. So instead, I will do without. My words will have to suffice."
  • Weeknote 09/2022 — "It’s March! Finally, I feel like a functional human being after five months (Oct-Feb) where, each year, I’ve learned to Just Get Through It. The sun is streaming through the window as I write this, the birds are waking me up each morning, and spring has sprung."

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 Mastodon or LinkedIn.

Some say he's fond of the Dutch. Others say he could do with a retouch. No-one thinks he's very butch.
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