Nobody knows what's happening

+ The future of the future. The FT's Taylor Swift. How people around the world laugh online. (#470)

And just like that, another year has almost passed. This is the last regular issue of 2023. However! Do not, under any circumstances, miss next week's issue, with the ✨Best of 2023✨ and a special announcement coming your way 🤫.

In the meantime, this is what I found on the web this week that I think you'll find worthwhile.

1. Nobody Knows What’s Happening Online Anymore

This essay captures the state of the internet in the year 2023 quite well. More people than ever are using it, more content than ever is being put online. And yet, it's experience is becoming ever more fragmenting, challenging the very notion of popularity. Key quote: «We live in a world where it’s easier than ever to be blissfully unaware of things that other people are consuming. It’s also easier than ever to assign outsize importance to information or trends that may feel popular but are actually contained.»

Gift Article: Nobody Knows What’s Happening Online Anymore
Why you’ve probably never heard of the most popular Netflix show in the world

2. 1,374 Days — My Life With Long Covid

The beauty of this visual essay is hard to bear given the grave story it tells. Then again, it adds a new layer, quite literally adding texture to a topic that is so hard to grasp for people lucky enough not to be affected. (Gift link so you can read it without a subscription.)

Opinion | 1,374 Days: My Life With Long Covid
Chronic illness has a way of picking apart your mind and breaking your heart.

3. ​​FT Person of the Year: Lars Fruergaard Jørgensen

From the top of your head: What's the most valuable company in Europe? Chances are you had no idea (I hadn't). While TIME Magazine picked the world's biggest pop culture icon as their person of the year, the Financial Times took a very different path: the CEO of...well, that most valuable company. A profile worth your time. (If I were him, my business card would now read: The FT's Taylor Swift.)

FT Person of the Year: Lars Fruergaard Jørgensen of Novo Nordisk
The Danish company’s drugs for obesity could have a profound impact on healthcare, society and our relationship with food

4. Climate summit shifted world view on fossil fuel

A surprisingly hopeful African perspective on the UN climate summit that ended last week. «COP28 was a major step forward. It will be looked back on as a significant moment in the history of humanity’s attempt to shift our trajectory from one heading for climate breakdown, to one powered by clean, renewable energy that ensures a prosperous and safe future for all.»

Climate summit shifted world view on fossil fuel
The global transition away from dirty energy needs to be funded.

5. How different languages laugh online

To end on a light note: All the different ways people signal laughter in text messages around the globe. Put a big smile on my face.

How different languages laugh online
Laughter is universal, but lol is not.

What else?

  • For my fellow fans of the NYT Connections game. Here's my own take: 16 African countries, can you figure out the characteristics to group them in 4 groups of 4.
  • The best science images of 2023
  • The "Ship of Theseus" Wikipedia article has been edited 1792 times since it was created in July of 2003. At present, 0% of the phrases in the original article remain. (source)
  • Trolled by a bookstore
  • That's just crazy: Among the 75 billion land animals raised for food around the world, 18 billion died prematurely on the farm or became food waste.
  • «I find for myself that my first thought is never my best thought. My first thought is always someone else’s; it’s always what I’ve already heard about the subject, always the conventional wisdom. It’s only by concentrating, sticking to the question, being patient, letting all the parts of my mind come into play, that I arrive at an original idea.» (from here)

The Future of...the future

In time's vast expanse,
Tomorrow's seeds sprout unknown
Futures yet to dance.

The Haiku is produced using ChatGPT, the illustration is made with DALL-E. Apart from formal instructions, the prompts are as simple as "The future of...x".

This concludes my little experimental series on how artificial intelligence imagines the future. You can see the entire series with 20 haikus and illustrations here.

A gem from the archive

It’s one of the most ubiquitous gestures, but who invented the High Five?

From the archives: The wild, mysterious history of sports’ most enduring gesture -- the high five
Back in 2011, ESPN The Magazine hunted for the true origins of the high five. The search for truth led to a sobering end.

Thanks for reading. I wish you a nice weekend and hope to see you again next Friday!

— David 👋