The Case for Abolishing Elections

+ What if we completely changed our criteria for what's worth our time and money? (#424)

This has been quite the week, for me personally. We launched the Klimalabor (climate lab), a project at Swiss indie publisher Republik I've been working on since autumn. The climate lab's mission is to explore and develop what's needed for journalism to step up in the climate crisis — working closely with the community and anyone interested. Blowing past our expectations, more than 3000 people signed up on the first day alone. It's great to see so many people willing to engage with the climate crisis and the role journalism has to play in it. I'd love for you to check it out and join. If you are interested, but don't understand German, please reach out to me directly. I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Klimalabor der Republik — machen Sie mit!
Die Klimakrise ist hier. Die Lage ist ernst. Was tun? Das Klimalabor der Republik ist ein Ort für Austausch und Experimente. Melden Sie sich jetzt an.

1. The Case for Abolishing Elections

What if we replaced elections with a lottery to pick a set of lawmakers who are truly representative of the population they serve? At first, it sounds absurd, because we're so used to elections being a core part of democracy. On second thought, it makes a lot of sense. But as you start thinking about how this would actually work — not so much the lottery, but what follows after — things get tricky. This piece does a good job of explaining the idea and going into the weeds with what it would entail and examples of how it has been tried and tested.

→ Related book recommendation: Against Elections, by David Van Reybrouck

2. Generrated

This is extremely fascinating and a great way to get a glimpse into the creativity of artificial intelligence. Five themes — a representation of anxiety, an astronaut, the discovery of gravity, a horse, someone gazing at Mount Everest — turned into images by artificial intelligence in a myriad of ways: in the style of famous painters and photographers, as company logos and app icons, as movie posters or New York Times front pages from various decades, as Disney characters and bronze statues, and many, many more.  

Generrated: 7,480 images generated with DALL•E 2 prompts
An image/prompt reference and inspiration resource containing 7,480 images generated using DALL-E 2

3. All Quiet on the Western Front

I'm a little late to this, but after seeing it last week, I cannot not recommend it. I remember reading the book as a teenager, and while I couldn't remember a thing from the plot, I still remember how I felt reading it. And what a powerful movie adaptation this is. None of the heroism that usually comes with war movies. Just the horror of war in all its explicit and subtle ways. Content warning: violence, lots of violence.

All Quiet on the Western Front | Official Trailer | Netflix
All Quiet on the Western Front tells the gripping story of a young German soldier on the Western Front of World War I. Paul and his comrades experience first...

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4. Concrete Built The Modern World. Now It’s Destroying It.

It quite literally laid much of the foundations of the world as we know it, it has been (and continues to be) a «great emancipator in poorer parts of the world». However, it's also one of the biggest emitters of carbon emissions so we need alternatives, fast. This is the story of concrete. (An interesting fact: In the 1950s and 60s, the Swiss poured more concrete per capita than any other country.)

→ If you like in-depth profiles of materials our modern world runs on, I bring you from the archive of the Weekly Filet: Sand, Steel, Cardboard.

Concrete Built The Modern World. Now It’s Destroying It. | NOEMA
A growing chorus of architects argue we have to build differently with concrete — which contributes to global warming and environmental destruction on a scale that’s hard to fathom — or perhaps abandon it altogether.

5. A Restaurant Critic on the Year that Changed Him Forever

I didn't think I'd be interested in hearing a conversation with a restaurant critic, let alone stay hooked for 45 minutes. In the end, it's about not about haute cuisine at all, but a deeper question: What if we completely changed our criteria for what's worth our time and money?

A Restaurant Critic (Ours) on the Year that Changed Him Forever
A conversation, over dinner, with Pete Wells, The New York Times’s “food sheriff.”

What else?

A slender crescent Earth, taken on November 21 1969 by the crew of Apollo 12 on their way home. North is up. A sliver of the Pacific Ocean is visible. Throughout the year, I will end each newsletter with an image of this amazing series, a true reminder of the beauty — and fragility — of the planet we live on. Credit: NASA, edited by Toby Ord.

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

— David 👋