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+ Books that got me thinking the most in 2021 (#376)

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Hi, it's David, your diligent curator, with a new selection of great things to read, watch and listen to. I'm glad you're here.

Welcome to 2022, the third (and hopefully last) year of the pandemic, and the twelfth (and definitely not last) year of this newsletter. To kick off the new year in style, you get to read the Weekly Filet as if you were a Premium member for all of January.

As a reminder: The Weekly Filet is completely independent and ad free — paying members keep the lights on for everyone. In return, they get the extended version of the newsletter, with 5 recommendations and a set of instant-gratification links. If you like what you're getting in January, please consider supporting me with a membership.

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1. Is science fiction holding back climate action?

New year, same old problem: The planet is heating, and we need to fix it, fast. I found this an interesting take, from the BBC's Climate Question podcast: How can fiction — the collective narratives we create through novels and movies — help with climate action? It explores how science fiction has often used climate catastrophe as a storyline without going into what caused it. Thus the story becomes «a battle against a foe instead of a battle against our habits».

BBC World Service - The Climate Question, Is science fiction holding back climate action?
Death, dystopia and apocalypse: has fiction and film got climate wrong?

2. What we know about Omicron, pt. 2

One thing is clear by now: The latest SARS-CoV-2 variant makes cases skyrocket across the globe. Apart from that, we're still piecing together what Omicron means for the weeks and months ahead. As in mid-December, for a measured and concise update, I recommend a series of tweets by The Financial Times' John Burn-Murdoch. Clear wherever possible, with caveats wherever needed. The only way to really make sense of what's happening.

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Everything below is usually reserved for Premium members. Enjoy!

3. ​​Earning to Give

An interview with a guy who got rich off cryptocurrencies is just about the most boring thing imaginable. Unless it's not about the getting rich part, but about giving it all away again. I found this conversation between Sam Harris and Sam Bankman-Fried, mostly about effective altruism, surprisingly insightful.

Sam Harris | #271 - Earning to Give
In this episode of the podcast, Sam Harris speaks with Sam Bankman-Fried about effective altruism.

4. 100 ways to slightly improve your life without really trying

I'm on the fence whether I think this is worthy of a recommendation. I've looked at it multiple times and can't decide whether it's useful-and-charming or mostly cheesy. I'll let you be the judge (but by all means, don't accept advice #17. You either load your dishwasher properly like a decent human being, or you've completely lost control over your life.)

100 ways to slightly improve your life without really trying
Whether it’s taking fruit to work (and to the bedroom!), being polite to rude strangers or taking up skinny-dipping, here’s a century of ways to make life better, with little effort involved …

5. Books that got me thinking the most in 2021

I've managed to read (and listen to) quite a few books this year, and would recommend most of them. If you'd like to see them all, here's my digital bookshelf, and here's a list with a mini-review for each. But to help you pick one or two for yourself — these are the books that got me thinking the most, and keep resonating:

  • The Life You Can Save, by Peter Singer. On the moral obligations of anyone who earns more than they need.
  • The Scout Mindset, by Julia Galef. On how to always keep an open mind.
  • How to Blow Up A Pipeline, by Andreas Malm. On the necessity of a more radical climate movement.
  • How to Measure Anything, by Douglas W. Hubbard. On the value of approximations, and why you should never accept that something cannot be measured.
  • Radical Candor, by Kim Scott. On giving feedback that truly cares and that is effective.

This year, I plan to read a bit more fiction. Your recommendations are welcome: What are great novels for someone who usually prefers non-fiction?


What else?

  • Equally fascinating: Looking down from the International Space Station. Looking up to the International Space Station.
  • Who needs self-driving cars when science comes up with...*checks notes*...self-driving fish?
  • Be like Bob, he works long hours.
  • Interesting tool to play with: How long until {country x} catches up with {country y}'s current GDP?
  • «It’s fine to be a perfectionist, I suppose--so long as you remember that the point of life is learning to live with imperfection.» — Pico Iyer

Thanks for reading. I hope you found something that looked interesting to you. Have a nice weekend, I'll see you next Friday!

— David 👋

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