Joan Westenberg wrote an impeccably-tuned condemnation of the injustices of societal engineering inflicted by elites via technological chasms across society. The entire essay is quotable, but here’s the gist of her observations on a roaring discontent across the globe:

That damage is the result of the elite in every sector, in every corner of society who have been content to grind down the general populace for their own selfish — and intractably large — gains. For too long, technology has sat alongside other mechanisms and failures of power, from financial instruments, political lobbying and careerism to wealth hoarding and environmental betrayal. These elements are always interconnected. And it has created a growing chasm between the elite and the general populace.

This clear and pronounced economic divide is a testament to a systemic imbalance that has long been brewing. The ever-widening gulf between the wealthy and the struggling masses is not a matter of numbers on a balance sheet; it shows a tear in the very fabric of our societies. The concentration of wealth and opportunity in the hands of a select minority has not only deepened the chasm between the rich and the poor but has also ignited a simmering sense of injustice and resentment across the broader population.

More bad news for journalism:

[Google News] ultimately does not focus on whether a news article was written by an AI or a human

This probably won’t end well.

This Ezra Klein Show episode is stellar — “How to Discover Your Own Taste”. Discussion with Kyle Chayka spans curation, taste, and aesthetics, particularly in the context of the Internet, and as an important resistance against The Algorithm that can deter true individuality.

Transcript link for the readers out there.

The Mobis e-Cornering system on the wheels of this future Ioniq 5 is the dream.

Hyundai Mobis e-Cornering system being shown on a silver Hyundai Ioniq 5, with wheels turned inward (credit: The Verge)

Another great generative AI perspective (this one from John Siracusa) about the coming foibles of creative ownership and the relationship between those creating and those consuming. Very astute approach to thinking towards the right way to frame the big question of “who made this”.

Text from linked article: “In its current state, generative Al breaks the value chain between creators and consumers. We don't have to reconnect it in exactly the same way it was connected before, but we also can't just leave it dangling. The historical practice of conferring ownership based on the act of creation still seems sound, but that means we must be able to unambiguously identify that act. And if the same act (absent any prior legal arrangements) conters ownership in one context but not in another, then perhaps it's not the best candidate.&10;I'm not sure what the right answer is, but I think I'm getting closer to the right question. It's a question I think we're all going to encounter a lot more frequently in the future: Who made this?”

Digging Chuck Wendig’s rant about generative AI and the creative arts, notably that the timing isn’t right yet for relying heavily on it (at all).

I think there is a use case for streamlining creative (in marketing, et al), but only to assist, never to replace.

Text highlighted: And my view is, at this point in time, it's clear that artificial intelligence in the arts is real problematic, and the juice is not worth the squeeze — and, further, if denying its power now gives us better agency going forward, then that's a really good thing.&10;Because certainly there is a world where Al can be used ethically, in some fashion, in our creative pursuits.&10;But today is just not that day.

Matthew Panzarino joined the startup TipTop (posted about it on The Obsessor). A more modern, integrated approach to selling electronics seems neat, yet I couldn’t get through setup — it requires a Google sign-in and Gmail scraping. Alas, it’s a red flag and a very poor UX for non-Gmail folks.

The Verge went hard with this piece about the homogenization of websites, pointing the finger at both Google and web developers everywhere. Fairly right in its assertions, but if we stop thinking about the imprisonment from search engines… just imagine the possibilities.

Piles & Piles of Books

line up of several books on a wooden shelf from various authors

Came across this article via Tracy Darnell's blog, and what an essay! A masterstroke of reflection on books that connects right into my brain-thinking.

I have new books to read, upcoming books I want to read, old books to read, and only one lifetime

Sure, you could say this about any format of media. But there's something way more visceral about the physicality of books. You can put them on shelves, pile them up on a nightstand, or optimistically smash them into your luggage. There is so much diversity in typography, images, color, sizes, and formats for books that it's a truly joyful medium to collect.

But is collecting books a problem when, as Molly Templeton admits, you don't get around to reading many of them, and instead, "think about them. Appreciating them, you might say." She "can’t wait to get lost in it. Just, you know… later." There are, alas, too many other distractions and demands of one's time, and books sometimes don't make it into your day.

Anyway, she nails it with this:

Can there be comfort in the things you’re not reading? Can they be books that are just waiting for you to find their moment? Stories you need, just not yet, like snacks you put in your pocket for later, stored up for when you really, really need them? I’m pretty convinced this is the case. Haven’t you ever picked up a book months, years, decades after it came out and found it was exactly what you needed to read just then?

Yes, there can be a comfort in the books you aren't reading, or the books you have read years ago that you probably won't read again but just maybe you might want to read again to revisit those feelings you had about it, or rather to simply meet the vibe of it. Books are magical, transporting, beautiful objects that require your imagination and literacy skills to unlock the potential of. Thankfully I've got some space still to store more of them and my partner isn't going to cast me out of the house (yet).

Love this sketch card of a classic Tom Bihn Synik bag and the things you can pack into it. Comes slotted into one of the cardholders in their equally classic Nik’s Minimal Wallet. Both amazing products for everyday and traveling uses.

Two small cards, one prominently depicted a sketch of a backpack and multiple packing items around it

You hit a certain age… and you start to think more about aging. So I’ve been savoring any article like this one from the Guardian.

Overall ➔ good to know vocabulary peaks at 65, and happiness in our eighties.

Great find from Kottke (actually a repost from a decade ago) about the Japanese artist using Microsoft Excel to paint. It’s a rather fascinating methodology, and I love the maximization of a tool within its limits.

The Economist has a fantastic focus in their latest Technology Quarterly about the pursuit of immortality.

In short, immortality is impossible, mostly due to physics and the human genome, but… extending life is very much a possibility and near-future reality.

While I rarely think about playgrounds (no kids here), from a zoning perspective and for children’s creative enjoyment, they are immensely valuable. This recent Axios article had me surfing through fond memories of running through the massive structures in Bloomington growing up.

I’m an idiot and have started curating a library of pull-tabs. If you’re into weird art, stupid gambling, dive bar culture, or all of the above, this is worth bookmarking.

close up of a stack of pull-tabs with all tabs pulled open revealing no winners inside, just lost hope

Molly Young nails the feeling of paralytic anxiety many feel when confronted with high art of any kind that draws on prior knowledge of "original" art (sure, an "allusion"), and we all wonder how exactly we're supposed to enjoy and nod at the brilliance without effectively reading/seeing/experiencing everything that is alluded to.

How to Solve the Plastics Ecosystem Before it Kills Us

This fact-laden piece by The New Yorker ("How Plastics Are Poisoning Us" by Elizabeth Colbert) spins another dark tale on plastics, the facade of recycling them, and how shitty they are to our planet.

We already know a lot of this — we collectively don't trust that plastics are being recycled (you really won't after reading this), corporations using plastic vessels and those creating them will never change their mind, and replacement materials are surprisingly less efficient or useful for plastic tasks. These are real, hardcore problems in displacing plastic.

But Elizabeth buries the lede at the bottom of the article:

If much of contemporary life is wrapped up in plastic, and the result of this is that we are poisoning our kids, ourselves, and our ecosystems, then contemporary life may need to be rethought.

Contemporary life is a ludicrously big statement. But what else is there to say? Part of what enabled the integrity of logistics for the global goods ecosystem was plastic packaging. How would we go about changing it?

Perhaps global ecosystems are a major part the problem. Maybe we need to focus more on local ecosystems, and here in the US, state-by-state or city-by-city. Let's focus more on local retail, local production, and local uses vs importing everything from everywhere. It can be an incremental, purposeful movement that starts small, but we know money is the only true lever. And by encouraging the adoption of non-plastic packaging for use in local/proximity environments, or accommodate other materials for storage/in-store shelving — especially for spoilable goods (subsidies, anyone?) — we can start to make the impact that compounds globally.

This headline had me second-guess an EV investment as my next vehicle…

replacing bumpers, fenders, doors and side panels following a collision can be more expensive because in an EV they are more likely to be embedded with sensors, cameras and other electronics costing from hundreds to thousands of dollars each… And labor charges for EVs are 50% higher

…so on the fence for either an EV or hybrid. Anyone have first-hand experience with repairing an EV?

CW&T just opened the door for orders on a new batch of their solid state watches, an eye-catching modification of the 1980s Casio F-91W wristwatch that can’t be “used” traditionally, but is fully waterproof. Worth a full read-through to understand the concept.

Love this 1980s scan of an ad for the Twin Ports up in northern Minnesota/Wisconsin.

newspaper ad from 1980s about Superior and Duluth cities

(via Perfect Duluth Day)

Evergoods' Undyed Collection is Pragmatic Sustainable Manufacturing

One of my favorite bag brands, Evergoods, has announced a new line of products under the banner “Undyed Collection”. This is terrific for a few reasons:

  • We all want to put our money where our mouth is – they started down this path with the Solution-Dyed variant for their black-clad bags, and this is a formidable advancement of this by way of not dying materials at all
  • They’ve taken a realistic approach to doing this that avoids the common trap of greenwashing – it’s a reduction of process and resources that makes perfect sense for optimizing their current manufacturing process

As they describe:

Once the kinks of solution-dyed were worked out and the program was running reliably, it seemed a natural step to replicate this dyebath-free process with regular undyed yarn. Our mill had already anticipated this and had sample yardage available in short order. We unrolled the first lots on our cutting table in Bozeman.

The dull, off-white raw material had an experimental NASA feeling to it and was somehow more interesting and nuanced than the black we had been staring at for the past year and a half. It also came with a disclaimer from the mill. “Inconsistent color quality, staining, dirt, machine oil and other defects that would normally be washed out or covered over during the dying stage are to be expected and considered unavoidable.”

And as a YKK zipper fanatic, I love this small detail about trying to work with the Japanese company to get a raw cut version of their zipper to reflect their approach for this collection:

We exclusively use YKK zippers, and while they offer a variety of finishes, some of which appear more like raw cast metal, they simply would not supply us with unfinished sliders for this project over concerns about quality and long-term performance. I guess I can’t blame them. Everyone would be bummed if the zippers got weird, and it would all end up a waste anyway. So I respect their position.

Looking forward to seeing the product drop and their photography of the new products, which happens tomorrow (August 15). It’s phenomenal to see a great brand continuing to iterate and improve their processes for the betterment of the planet while retaining integrity within reason.

Cuts right to the chase.

"I understand your frustrations that I am denying you the sweet rush of endorphins from a cancellation text. You still fondly remember that one time you were going to text me to reschedule, but before you could, I texted you first. You were let go from feeling guilty because the burden of the cancellation was on me, and that feeling is better than any drug on earth."

Fascinating global race for lithium battery recycling and closed-loop supply chains. USA is getting an injection of action from an Inflation Reduction Act clause, which should mitigate an over-reliance on China.

Another cinema rant: Khoi Vinh observes Wes Anderson like he truly is, for better or worse:

Anderson is essentially a children’s storyteller. For my money, he’s most at home when he’s telling stories through the lens of child characters

I haven’t seen Asteroid City (honestly, not planning on it). But… Barbie and Oppenheimer were fantastic.

We’re finally starting to see a contraction towards pragmatic efficiency in the VC market.

Globally, venture-capital investment in the first half of this year was $144bn, less than half of the $293bn raised by startups in the same period in 2022. Companies that do manage to raise funds are seeing their valuations squeezed.

This shouldn’t be seen as a trend — doing more with less is accelerating as a result of factors like AI usage and Wall Street favoring profitability vs unsustainable growth.