Polymathic Monthly - Issue #49: A Different World, Remote Control, and Healthy Buildings

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Polymathic Monthly

September 26 · Issue #47 · View online

A curation of articles, tech, books and innovation strategy to enrich your career and personal lives.


Still wondering about the summer that was supposed to be the renewal and quite disappointed at how the things we thought had changed for the good went right back to ‘normal’, and the things that weren’t great (an overworked and underpaid populace) don’t seem to be changing in any way. But, as an optimistic realist, we can only go forward and upward from here. I hope.
A bunch of books and long read articles. What else did you expect? :) Enjoy!

  1. In a world where anyone can build the technology required to address customer issues, because of a level playing field, brand will be the defining factor of who ‘wins’. In Play Bigger, Al Ramadan introduces the idea of ‘category design’ as how the next group of breakout companies will dominate their markets.
  2. Containing the most devastating first few chapters of any book I’ve read, Ministry For The Future by Kim Stanley Robinson, plays out our current climate change reality into a future state. Reading sometimes like a collection of scientific research and geoengineering ideas mixed in loosely with a story, what makes the book work is the hopefulness I took away from it.
  3. Short sweet witty afrofuturistic Remote Control by Nnedi Okoroafor is the perfect book for a cross-country plane ride. 
  4. Talking To My Daughter about the Economy or How Capitalism Works - And How It Fails by Yanis Varoufakis was such a simple explanation of Capitalism that I struggled with it. But that was its strength. And, considering the author was the Greek Finance Minister during the financial crisis, there was a tinge of the leftist views that would have normally undermined the message. It works this time though. 
  5. If you’re a regular listener of the ‘Hidden Brain’ podcast then some of the stories in Useful Delusions by Shankar Vedantam will be familiar. What is less familiar, and at the center of the book, is this narrative of how much the little lies we tell ourselves keep us sane. There are a lot of delusions at play in our world right now. As the author suggests, unless these delusions are hurting people (even the believers themselves) we might do well to let people be with their delusions. 
  6. As we push for more information about the exterior world around us (air quality data, water quality data, weather data, flood dats, etc) we ignore the fact that we spend over 90% of our time in buildings. Even more so since the beginning of the pandemic. From running the main institute focused on this, Joseph Allen has ‘designed this category’ and narrative around Healthy Buildings. A shorter read is the downloadable report on what constitutes a Healthy Building
  7. John Maeda’s newsletter is simple in delivery but always shares some new ways to think about some of the tech trends going on around us. He extracts the non-obvious from what’s obviously going on around us. His 2020 book, The Laws of Simplicity, follows that same formula. Another short but good read.
Articles
  1. ‘What kind of sound should this thing make when it does a particular thing? and ‘who makes it?’ are two questions that open the door to this fantastic 2011 episode of 99 Percent Invisible that takes us into the ‘Sound of the Artificial World’.
  2. Cloud Kitchens are all the rage in this our pandemic induced food-delivery driven world we live in. But what happens to a neighborhood when a cloud kitchen opens up next door?
  3. A lot of people in tech or startups know this but it’s still stark to read that ‘your favorite startup might not have made the product it sells’.
  4. Frank Ocean is an example of (as Michaele Coel said during her award acceptance speech) ‘not being afraid to disappear to see what comes to you.
  5. We know ‘Simple Systems Have Less Downtime’ but for some reason we live our lives seeking out and adding complexity.
  6. Considering all that’s going on around us, have we entered a new phase of planetary history? Pair with ‘Ministry for the Future’ above.
  7. Reading through ‘A people’s history of Black Twitter’ confirms that when I grow up I will still study anthropology. 
  8. [Longread, 45mins] Cast and crew of ‘A Different World’ look back on an industry influencing show. 
Do let me know what you’re reading and, as always, thanks for reading!!
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