Things I learned this week #34

Things I Learned #34

We’ve made it to the Easter weekend. Spring has arrived here in London, which is to say it was 20 degrees C earlier this week and this morning it was 0, windy, and overcast. This time a year ago, my mental state was dominated by COVID-19 (something I barely even think about now), but that also lead me to notice the beauty of spring for the first time. I’m normally more of an autumn person. My wildflower seeds have started to come up, my tomatoes have been sown, and I made an asparagus risotto this week (largely so I could drink white wine while cooking, al la my middle-aged housewife dream).

  • This product search duopoly: I try and keep things pretty fun and light hearted here. Find some irreverent fact about a victorian butterfly hunter, you know. But I’m also interested in tech and business as a force for good and change (and therefore also as a point of stagnation of source of moral evil). The past couple of years have seen increasing calls for big tech firms, like Amazon and Google, to be disassembled. They have so many resources available to them that they stifle market forces and creativity by being able to undercut any competitor, and subsidise initially unprofitable efforts in some areas (e.g. logistics) through their massive profits in others (e.g. cloud computing and advertising). As a case-in-point, approximately 60-70% of people who need to find a product online will start their search at either Amazon or Google. The problem for small businesses then becomes about discoverability and visibility: how do people find them. So they go to advertisers. Who are the advertisers: Google & Facebook (and most commonly, Amazon). Amazon will allow businesses to advertise on their platform, and compete against their own products. This hardly seems fair or right, but it does sound hella profitable. (source).
  • This Victorian butterfly collector Margaret Fountaine (1862–1940) lived in England and was a wealthy and independent woman who amassed a collection of some twenty-two thousand butterflies, and a million pages of personal journals. Despite her immense contribution to entomology (the study of insects) and lepidopterology (the study of butterflies) her contributions are largely noted as an assistant or amateur. This is, of course, entirely unrelated to the fact that she was a woman, and therefore unable to participate in the meetings of these societies. In 1897 Fontaine became a member of The Royal Society, though her contributions to science remain largely under-appreciated and rarely spoken about, namely because they are neither professional nor amateur. If you get the chance, read about the life Fontaine read: travelling across Europe (and the British Empire) to collect samples and view other butterfly collections. (source)
  • This imaginary designer Nikolay Ironov is a Russian designer but is also an AI. Ironov had created static and animated logos and logos for various clients (here’s their portfolio of work): they’re a real mix of geometry and typography. I quite like them. The AI was created and maintained internally within the Art. Lebedev Studio, but kept completely isolated. That’s why it was given a human name, and was introduced to the team as a remote employee - even getting its own employee page. It’s quite a cool concept but also a little terrifying - I’m sure all of Ironov’s colleagues weren’t super pleased to find their work has been outsourced to an AI. (source)

What I've had on rotation

-Something New Justice by Justin Bieber (pop, 2021). After 2020’s frankly insulting Changes, this new album from Bieber is a breath of humanity and honesty. The album doesn’t rush but it’s poppy, it’s perhaps a bit laboured in its expression of love and gratitude for his wife but it’s a good album. (links) -Something Old Ocean Avenue by Yellowcard (pop punk, 2003). I went back this week to try and find some good grunge and rock from the ‘90s but ended up getting stuck on this album. I’m not regretful, and Nirvana can wait for me. Probably related to my We The Kings re-listen that I mentioned last week. I’m not even really sorry, early ‘00s emo music is in my bones. (links)

Cool articles

  • Squark Notes #7 (newsletter) by Susan Fowler Rigetti. Rigetti is a writer and refugee from tech (she’s the woman who ousted allegations of sexual abuse from Uber’s CEO). She posts a newsletter every six-to-eight weeks, and it’s worth a subscribe. This edition contained the advice to write more than one thing at once. Or, if you’re any kind of creative: always have multiple songs, poems, paintings, side hustles, whatever. I can butcher her sentiment, but she does it far more justice: “when someone has one thing and only one thing is that nothing ever happens with it. Sometimes it’s because that one thing simply isn’t good. Sometimes that one thing is really amazing, but it’s not the right time or place and things just don’t come together in the right way”
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