Sentiers No.24

Decentralization, cities, data, Kottke, wood, and zone rouge

Thanks to everyone who reached out this week with super positive feedback, I’m especially interested in knowing what you like / are most interested in, and welcome to the new subscribers.

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Why Decentralization Matters
Chris Dixon with one of the better decentralization articles I’ve seen. In most cases writers concentrate on philosophical reasons why decentralized is better or on the ‘sin’ of GAFAM. Instead, Dixon concentrates on how those networks are more enticing draws for developers and entrepreneurs, how they are more neutral and how cryptonetworks could then be the next stage of the internet.

The lesson is that when you compare centralized and decentralized systems you need to consider them dynamically, as processes, instead of statically, as rigid products.


Cities
The City That Remembers Everything
Geoff Manaugh weaves James Joyce, Gorgon Stare, surveillance, smart cities and connected toys into an uncomfortable potential future for our cities.

“I want to give a picture of Dublin so complete that if the city one day suddenly disappeared from the Earth it could be reconstructed out of my book.” It is literature as 3-D point cloud: a total model of the metropolis and an infinite archive of everything that takes place inside of it.

11 core principles for Sharing Cities
I love this list of principles which covers many aspects of healthy commons, civic abundance, global cooperation, and hybrid solutions, among others.

“There is not enough physical or environmental space for everyone to enjoy private luxury… Private luxury shuts down space, creating deprivation. But magnificent public amenities – wonderful parks and playgrounds, public sports centres and swimming pools, galleries, allotments and public transport networks – create more space for everyone, at a fraction of the cost.” Civic abundance should include public schools, spacious squares, expansive walkable cityscape, extensive bikeways, lending libraries, Fab Labs, pocket parks, coworking spaces, cultural centers, child care co-ops, food pantries, and more.

(I know of the current or former trendiness of some of the above but done right, they can be positive inclusions in cities.)


Data is the new lifeblood of capitalism – don’t hand corporate America control
I wasn’t aware of this maddening aspect of the Nafta negotiations. As the author mentions, “the audacity of these demands is impressive.” And a striking contrast with the European GDPR coming into effect.

The most recent example is Nafta: representatives from the US, Mexico, and Canada just concluded another round of talks on renegotiating the treaty. American companies are lobbying for changes that would deregulate data across the three countries.


Last blog standing, “last guy dancing”: How Jason Kottke is thinking about kottke.org at 20
Good interview with the quasi legendary blogger. (I mean, look at his about page!)

I don’t really think of myself as being a writer; I think that’s a label reserved for people who actually know how to write better than I do. How I think of my job is: I sit down and I’m lucky enough to read about interesting stuff all day, and to try and figure it out enough that I can tell other people about it.

I’ve said roughly the same thing to a couple of people this week. I’m called ‘editor’ on various projects and I can write but I’m much better at (and interested in) curating great ideas and assembling them in something like Sentiers.


You can actually ban the Nazis
Some good policies at Medium and how Twitter should take notice.

Years of outbursts from hate group after hate group have forced these companies to realize that the laissez-faire attitude they’ve leaned on for so long doesn’t actually work, but rather, makes the entire thing rot from the inside. But the fact that platforms won’t fully commit to managing the content that people spew on these platforms leaves a vacuum of confusion and hypotheticals, which generally (like all things nowadays) lead to conspiracies and misinformation.


Wood
Plyscraper city: Tokyo to build 350m tower made of wood
A projected 70-floor tower made predominantly of wood with just 10% steel.

A New Material Called “Superwood” Is Just As Strong As Steel

Scientists at the University of Maryland reported last week that they’ve discovered a way to treat wood to make it 12 times stronger than natural wood and 10 times tougher.

Dan Hill initially drew my attention to wood structures years ago, through his work at the Helsinki Design Lab and the Low2No project. You can have a look at some of his thinking in last year’s excellent essay The New Forest.


Miscellany
++ “Found the setting of the surreal horror I’ve always wanted to write – the Zone Rouge in France; restricted areas where, after WW1, human life was deemed impossible for at least 700 years

++ “Many people think the car replaced the horse. Not the impression one gets watching traffic from before the automobile.” (Fun video of a tram ride in 1902)

++ Polynesian seafarers discovered America long before Europeans, says DNA study

Now startling new DNA evidence promises to complicate the story even more. It turns out that it was not Columbus or the Norse — or any Europeans at all — who first rediscovered the Americas. It was actually the Polynesians.

++ A state-run wireless network isn’t a crazy idea, just ask Mexico

++ A potentially powerful new antibiotic is discovered in dirt

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