28 Lessons, Bird Architects, Dementia Village and How to Draw Anything
#40 of 10+1 Things| 📍Delhi |11° C
⚡ Welcome to #40 of 10+1 Things!
I hope you still remember me!
My sincere apologies as it's been over 3 months since I've published anything. A lot of things changed over the course of the last two months and I felt it was fair to take a break from writing rather than compromise on the quality. As some of you might know, I was working from home ever since the pandemic started, and to be frank I was caught up in a comfort zone. In late August I had this feeling of moving out of the comforts of home and exploring new opportunities. Luckily I got an exciting opportunity at a research organization where I would be working on energy system models that are crucial in the energy transition toward a zero-carbon economy.
Even though this meant that I had to shift my base to Delhi, I decided to take up the opportunity as it is at the intersection of the energy transition, writing, sustainability, and data, things that I'm really passionate about. So officially I have now relocated to New Delhi, the capital city of India, and am done with all the hassles of settling. So if you're based in Delhi, please shoot me a reply and I'm excited to meet you in real! Also, I'm grateful that so many of you wrote to me during my absence and I'm slowly in the process of replying to all of your emails(close to ~200!).
Without further ado, here are 10+1 Things worth sharing:
💡 28 Lessons
I turned 28 last month and I thought of reflecting upon various lessons I've learned over the last 27 years in a short blog post. Last year I did the same when I turned 27 and the article was quite popular. I scribbled these lessons over the course of the year when I encountered some problem or had a sudden thought. It's really interesting to see how my perspective and philosophies change over time as I meet more people in life or read more books that are eye-opening.
🔋 Unanswered Battery Question
As the whole world is looking to electrify vehicles and store excess energy produced by renewable resources, the demand for batteries has never been this high. But what we often miss during these conversations is on what to do with these batteries once they are old. Unlike traditional lead-acid batteries, the lithium-ion batteries used in electric vehicles cannot be recycled in the conventional way of shredding. Currently, it costs more to recycle a lithium battery than to mine the lithium required to make it. It is important to recycle these batteries as producing one tonne of lithium requires a whopping 2.2 million liters of water along with the environmental concerns relating to mining. Sadly, even though EVs help in reducing CO2 emissions, indirectly the carbon footprint of the batteries used in it are quite high.
🖌 How to Draw Anything
What do you think of the image above? When Andrew watched a vibrant sunset in Seattle, his imagination started running and he wanted to create something that looked like it came from science fiction. In his words, he envisioned "a massive, alien object hovering over a long-abandoned Seattle, with a burning orange sky, and buildings overgrown as nature reclaimed the city". In an interesting article in his blog, Andy has listed down the steps he followed to create the above image using Stable Diffusion. If you don't know what it is, it is a machine-learning-based model/tool that converts text into realistic, high-resolution images. Through a series of prompts, Andy was successful in achieving what he envisioned. This clearly is an example of where art is moving into and literally, anyone can draw anything using these machine-learning-based models.
Here's the final prompt he used to generate the image:
“Digital Matte painting. Hyper detailed. City in ruins. Post-apocalyptic, crumbling buildings. Science fiction. Seattle skyline. Star Wars Imperial Star Destroyer hovers. Birds fly in the distance. Golden hour, dusk. Beautiful sky at sunset. High-quality digital art. Hyper realistic.”
🍎 What Did Mary Know?
Imagine a girl called Mary who is a brilliant neuroscientist and a world expert on color vision. But unfortunately, Mary was born in a black-and-white room, thus she has never seen any colors in her life. But through monochrome books and tv programs, she has taught herself everything there is to know about color vision. She knows the structure of the eyes, the wavelengths of light that stimulate the retina, and everything about color. One day Mary escapes her room and happens to see a red apple for the first time. Did Mary learn anything new when she saw the apple? Since she already knows about all biological and physical parameters related to color and vision, what new has she learned? If Mary has learned something new, we can conclude that there are some things that we cannot capture with scientific explanations. This story is the basis of a thought experiment called the 'Knowledge Argument' proposed by philosopher Frank Jackson. This experiment is intended to argue against the notion of physicalism- the idea that everything in this universe is physical.
💻 Starter Tab
I've been using a free tool called Starter Tab that lets you create a dashboard for your browser with all the handy information you want to access. It is a free tool and runs on your browser as a tab. All you have to do is to configure your tiles based on your preference and the information is stored locally in your computer, thus you own the data. It is a free service and the developers are actively developing it over time. My personal favorite is the minimal day planner which lets you add your tasks for the day easily. I'm also in love with the Strava and hacker news integrations, two of the platforms that I use a lot! Nevertheless, a great product and I suggest you give it a try.
🚴 The Bicycle Thief
Chicagomag in an interesting article has shared the story of Tom Justice, a cyclist who was once chasing an Olympic Gold. But over time Tom's commitment to cycling lapsed and he ended up partying. His Olympic dream soon slipped away due to his lack of discipline and he started exploring ideas to substitute his gratification for cycling. Soon he started robbing banks and eventually got addicted to drugs. Eventually, he was spotted by an officer who found the trail to Tom by identifying his custom-made 12-speed orange bike. Over time he had robbed 26 banks and stolen $1,29,338. He pleaded guilty and was eventually sentenced to prison for 11 years.
🧵 Plant-based Eating: Good or Not?
Personally, I love eating meat but I'm always concerned about the environmental impact of the meat industry. I'm also a bit skeptical about the nutritional value of replacing existing diets with plant-based food. I was researching about it and found this interesting thread by Friso where he has distilled this topic based on his bachelor thesis. In his study, he wanted to see what nutrients you can get if you replace the existing meat-based diet with a plant-based one. In a nutshell, based on his research humans are not made for eating high volumes of plants. Also since soy is a major content of the majority of plant-based meat substitutes, there are hormonal concerns relating to it. From a nutrient perspective, plant-based eating is less effective.
P.S.: I understand that this can be a sensitive topic if you're vegan or support a plant-based diet. Please take his studies with a grain of salt and use them as a base for further research for your conclusion. Happy to have a conversation if you are having a conflicting opinion!
📚 What We Owe the Future
I'm currently reading the book titled 'What We Owe The Future: Million-Year View' by William MacAskill. Chances are that you already know about this book as the book has been recommended and featured by multiple creators and influencers. The book revolves around the topic of 'longtermism', an idea that positively influencing the long-term future is an important moral priority of our time. On the grand scale of things, humanity as a species is in its infancy. There are far more humans to be born on earth than the ones that are living or dead. So it is important that our actions of today should ensure the happiness and well-being of that vast number of humans that are about to be born in the future. This book was an eye-opener for me and has motivated me personally to work on problems that would help future generations.
An interesting quote from the book so far:
We may not see longtermism’s biggest impacts in our lifetimes. But by advocating for longtermism, we can pass the baton to those who will succeed us—those who might run faster, see farther, and achieve more than we ever could.
//Resurfaced using Readwise(It’s FREE!)
Last edition's recommendation: Masala Lab
📷 Bird Architects
This week I'm exploring an art project titled 'Assimilation' by Dillon Marsh on the weaver birds of the Kalhari desert in Southern Africa. Social weaver birds are highly social birds that build enormous communal nests housing hundreds of birds. But due to the scarcity of large trees in the area, these birds build their nests on the telephone poles that cut across the desert. Over time these nests become quite heavy and outgrow their ability to resist gravity. This project is yet another one that showcases the fascinating relationship between humans and the environment, and also nature's creative adaptation.
“For me, this phenomenon highlights the fact that humans are not the only creatures capable of creative adaptation. We are using natural resources to our benefit, but in return, nature is also capable of using us to its advantage. I feel that this is a humbling realization, and it can help us better appreciate the world around us.”
🎬 Dementia Villages
I've enjoyed watching and learning about Hogeweyk, a planned Dutch village intentionally designed to cater to the needs of its 180 residents who have severe dementia. The model of care is dubbed as 'Dementia Village' and is getting adopted across the globe. Residents are kept in a group of 6-7 people to mimic the atmosphere of a family home and each resident is given a private room to stay in. Public places are given distinct features for easy recognition and residents are free to move everywhere. A number of design choices such as brightly colored floor tiles, carpeted floors, large cutlery, and handrails everywhere are chosen to ensure the quality of life of the residents. As the proportion of old people is at an all-time high, there is a steep increase in the number of people with dementia. Even though these spaces are found to be effective, ample funding is required to run these expensive institutions.
❓ World of Fake Reviews
This last section of the newsletter explores a thought I had, an idea I'm exploring, a dream I experienced, or something interesting that I observed:
The photo you see above is from the box of a stupid product I purchased from Amazon in India. I bought the product after seeing the good reviews, but clearly, all those reviews were fake thanks to this clever strategy by the seller. Everyone who left a positive review wanted that cashback and made an impression that the product was good. I tried talking to Amazon customer support but they do not seem to care and I do not have any proof as the seller/company has ensured to not put any of their logos or numbers to be on the safer side. This has left me wondering, can we trust these reviews anymore? What can Amazon do about this? Are there any services to ensure the genuineness of a review? If not, is there any scope for the such tool?
Would love to hear your thoughts on the same!
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That’s 10+1 Things for the week.
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The right book for the right person is not enough. It needs to be the right book, for the right person at the right time.
About the fake reviews, amazon should immediately ban such sellers. I got one stupid product and i regret spending 2k INR on that. It doesn’t work at all. And people out there were like raving about it.
I add my agreement to Sharif's worries. Longtermism is a poorly conceived concept. One doesn't starve the present in order to feed a future that may never come to pass. We cannot predict future states of affairs in a complex phenomena like human society even ten years out, much less one hundred years, and a thousand years out is beyond the predictive power of even concatenated exascale computers. So to take resources from the present's limitrd supply to address illnesses that may never arise whether we tend to them or not, is sheer folly.