Dense Discovery - 87 / How bad are we really?

What the human being is best at doing is interpreting all new information so that their prior conclusions remain intact.

– Warren Buffett


Featured artist: Thomas Hedger

Dense Discovery
Dense Discovery

Welcome to Issue 87!

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Last week, Dutch Historian Rutger Bregman – best known for his ‘Taxes, Taxes, Taxes’ speech and his book Utopia for Realists (which I can recommend) – published an excerpt of his new book. It’s an uplifting, true story about a group of boys stranded on a Pacific island for fifteen months. (Spoiler alert) Rather than turning violently against each other, as depicted in the novel Lord of the Flies, the boys managed to support and depend on each other, inspiring a hopeful, positive view of human nature.

In his new book (see below), Bregman argues that our default assumptions about human nature are overly biased towards negativity. Over centuries, this bias cultivated a belief that we simply can not get along; that most humans are inherently selfish and greedy.

In this short clip, Bregman says that making more positive assumptions about human nature is quite revolutionary: If you ask the question ‘Who benefits from this cynical view of human nature?’, the answer is quite simple: it is those in power. Because if we cannot trust each other, then we need them, then we need the generals and the monarchs and the kings to keep us in check. It’s an argument for hierarchy. And this is why the argument I make in my book – that people are actually pretty decent – is a really dangerous idea. If you really think it through, it means revolution. It means we can organise a society in a completely different way. And it’s also the reason why throughout history, those who have advocated a more hopeful view of human nature have often been persecuted. [Edited for brevity]

Just thinking about the movies and TV shows we watch, the novels we read, the news we gobble up, the stuff we share online – the assumption that people do bad things and can’t be trusted drives almost every story we’re told, fictional or real. I think Bregman is really onto something here. I haven’t read his book yet, but his provocations to think more deeply about human nature could not have come at a better time.


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Causal →

Visualise numbers

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‘Hand-drawn’ diagrams

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Indie Mag of the Week


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Humankind →

A hopeful history of human nature

“It‘s a belief that unites the left and right, psychologists and philosophers, writers and historians. It drives the headlines that surround us and the laws that touch our lives. From Machiavelli to Hobbes, Freud to Dawkins, the roots of this belief have sunk deep into Western thought. Human beings, we’re taught, are by nature selfish and governed primarily by self-interest. Providing a new historical perspective on the last 200,000 years of human history, Humankind makes a new argument: that it is realistic, as well as revolutionary, to assume that people are good.”


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Overheard on Twitter

Me (waking up): What day is it?
Brain: Day.
Me: But which.
Brain: Laptopday.
Me: Ugh. Fine.
Brain: Can we do a Napday instead?
Me: Yes.



Food For Thought

The Pitfalls and the Potential of the New Minimalism →


I don’t think I’d describe myself as a minimalist, but I do share some of the ideas behind the new focus on simplicity. This piece puts the values of minimalism into question, rightfully criticising it as a superficial, self-centred diet version of capitalism, and suggests a more thorough alternative. “The worst versions of life-style minimalism frame simplicity not as a worthy end in itself but as an instrument – a tool of self-improvement, or of high-end consumption, or of self-improvement through high-end consumption.”

First Things First – 2020 Edition →


I know, I know – we need fewer manifestos and more people walking the walk. But it’s worth reiterating that design needs an urgent rethink of its priorities. Based on an original declaration from 1964, here’s what that overhaul may look like. “We market unhealthy body images and diets; products and apps that propagate social isolation and depression; the consumption of unbalanced food systems; we sell pills to pop, tiks to tok, and a scrolling feed that never stops… and then the desire to consume it all over again and again. Yes, commercial work has always paid the bills, but many designers have let it become, in large measure, what designers do. This, in turn, is how the world perceives design.”

To Run My Best Marathon at Age 44, I Had to Outrun My Past →


Lots of folks have shared this already because it’s a great read for anyone interested in running. A story of a marathon runner that breaks a new best in his forties and learns a lot about his father along the way. I enjoyed all the little nuggets of wisdom spread throughout this piece: “Running was the rare sport where you mostly competed against yourself. You could learn without having to lose.”


Aesthetically Pleasing

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Some lovely type-driven branding for construction company AR2.

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9 Eyes is a Tumblr with an eclectic collection of weird and wonderful moments caught by Google’s Streetview cars.

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Follow Yuki Kawae for maximum Instagram zen.

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There are some lovely details in the brand new Forever Grotesk, “celebrating a desire to keep just a tiny bit of the spirit of the original meaning ‘Grotesque’ alive for years to come”.



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The Week in a GIF


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Older messages

86 / You and I are not a virus

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

I think the reward for conformity is that everyone likes you, except yourself. – Rita Mae Brown Featured artist: Estudio Santa Rita Dense Discovery Dense Discovery Welcome to Issue 86! View/share

85 / The deep-dive purchase questionnaire

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

It's easier to desire and pursue the attention of tens of millions of total strangers than it is to accept the love and loyalty of the people closest to us. – William Gibson Featured artist:

84 / On the design of beard trimmers...

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We have an economy where we steal the future, sell it in the present, and call it GDP. – Paul Hawken Featured artist: Julian Frost Dense Discovery Dense Discovery Welcome to Issue 84! View/share online

83 / Are you hibernating or wide awake?

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

The only thing that will redeem mankind is co-operation, and the first step towards co-operation lies in the hearts of individuals. – Bertrand Russell Featured artist: Brad Cuzen Dense Discovery Dense

A quick thanks and hello!

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