Saul Griffith’s S-Curves of Survival

Saul Griffith is always worth paying attention to – and his recent work at Rewiring America is no exception.

The way he breaks down the climate challenge into daunting-but-doable tasks is inspiring.

Making water heaters and kitchen appliances as appealing as Teslas is going to be hard-but-rewarding work for designers and engineers over the next decade.

As he says on his site:

I think our failure on fixing climate change is just a rhetorical failure of imagination.

We haven’t been able to convince ourselves that it’s going to be great.

It’s going to be great.

The sketched graph above is taken from Saul’s recent keynote for the Verge Electrify conference, which is on youtube, takes 12mins to watch, and is well worth it.

RIP Edward De Bono

Don’t know where my copy of ‘Children Solve Problems‘ is – probably on the bookshelf in my office that I’ve been back to once since March 2020.

It hasn’t had a lot of mentions in the obituaries I’ve read so far.

Not really a surprise, as he was so prolific, but it stands out for me.

As does the title sequence of the shows that he did on the BBC in the early 80s that I dimly remember watching with my dad (who I think had a copy of ‘Lateral Thinking‘)

From Ravensbourne’s excellent archive of BBC motion graphics:

A series of ten programmes about improving your thinking skills. Dr Edward de Bono showed that thinking, rather like cooking, was a skill which could be improved by attention and practice. The idea was to symbolically represent the scrambled brain, which then unscrambled and revealed the name of the programme. The artwork was done by hand without the aid of a computer, as this was created in the pre-digital era. The artwork was produced as black on white drawings pegged together in register. These were then copied photographically and printed in negative on Kodalith films and shot on a 35mm rostrum camera with red cinemoid gel behind the liths to add colour. The artwork had to be exceptionally precise, as if computer generated, in order not to shimmer and wobble. The glow was achieved by using a filter in the lens of the camera.

Animation artwork by Freddie Shackel.

Concept, design, art direction – Liz Friedman.

Thinking is like cooking.

Attention and practice.

Need to remember that.

RIP Edward.

Infinity Pool on Ganymede

February 2021: Jeff Bezos to step down as Amazon chief executive to spend more time on space exploration and climate emergency.

Take all your hate and all your fear with you
And blast them into the blue

Building your walls to keep them out
Building your stash to wipe them out
You staked your claim on planets new
You built your ship and up you flew
Looking back on the world below
Safe from the damage and woe
But you cannot play golf in space

Take all your hate and all your fear
Take all your hate and all your fear
Take all your hate and all your fear with you
And blast them into the blue

Platinum club for psychopaths
Draining the tank with dirty maths
Plundering all to gild the few
You built your ships and up you flew
Infinity pool on Ganymede
You took so much more than you need
But you cannot play golf in space

Take all your hatе and all your fear
Take all your hate and all your fеar
Take all your hate and all your fear with you
And blast them into the blue

Space Golf by Hen Ogledd

I’m in love with the track for a number of reasons – it sounds as if Steeleye Span had been born on a Generation Ship.

It could have only been written in these times.

The punch of some of those couplets. Oof.

Perhaps it will survive the new dark ages and be sung acapella – a ‘Gaudete‘ for the 24th Century – by our descendents in Jupiter space.

I wish Mr Bezos well, and hope that perhaps he gives the track a listen.

Platinum club for psychopaths
Draining the tank with dirty maths
Plundering all to gild the few
You built your ships and up you flew
Infinity pool on Ganymede
You took so much more than you need
But you cannot play golf in space

Bits of the city below the API

A somewhat forlorn ebike on the Thames embankment near Cleopatra’s Needle

The “Jump” e-bikes in the city of London have had Lime decals and tags applied to them in the last six months or so, as the business and physical assets have transferred over to Lime.

A former Jump e-bike re-branded for Lime
Jump -> Lime. Switching costs on a dangling tag

Matt Webb’s Thingscon keynote introduced me to the notion of “Jobs below the API” as coined by Peter Reinhardt in his excellent 2015 blog post “replacing middle-management with APIs”

As I spotted them, the Jump bikes resonated with this – a fleet of physical objects in the city that had moved from one distant company to another beneath the API, probably re-branded and maintained by humans beneath another…

Station Identification

Transformation of the Cellular Landscape through a Eukaryotic Cell, by Evan Ingersoll / Gael McGill & Digizyme’s Custom Maya Molecular Software / Biología Al Instante

Look at this. You are a city. A planet. A cosmos.

via William Gibson – his commentary adroit as always:

Nature, she’s not so simple as she looks to the nekkid eye, but lots of folks still like to understand her on the basis of the nekkid eye. Flat earth, masks do nothing, etc.

William Gibson

We are trapped in the middle world but we can see so much more when we try.

Our survival depends on it.

Another Green World / Remembering Sascha Pohflepp

From the estimable Saul Griffith’s “If I Were Secretary of Energy”:

The first thing I would do is hire a team of DOE artists in residence. We need ideas and creativity. These artists would fulfill a role similar to the NASA art program that began in 1962 which was critical to filling the American imagination with the possibilities of space travel, the adventure, the future, the wonder. In the 50 years since Earth Day, an enormous number of column-inches have been written about our deteriorating environment (and more recently deteriorating climate) but not enough about visions for what success looks like for humanity. The DOE artists-in-residence would go to work showing us what the future of cleaner electrified building stock would look like, how much cleaner our streets and air will be with electric cars and new electric transit modes, including electric flight. We’d see verdant pictures of the future of regenerative agriculture and an even more productive carbon sequestering food system that also makes more space for wildness and national park and recreation areas. You might find it odd that the first thing I’d do at DOE is make art, but this is critical, we need a shared vision of where we are going, one of abundance and success and of the U.S. winning, if we are to get the popular buy-in and acceptance we need to address climate change in earnest and at scale.

Which made me think immediately of the late, great Sascha Pohflepp‘s piece from back in 2009 – The Golden Institute.

It imagines a counterfactual history of the 1980s where Jimmy Carter beats Reagan – and the USA embarks on an Apollo/Manhattan Project scale of investment in renewable energy independence.

Sascha is remembered this weekend by friends and collaborators at this event “Pohflepp in Practice”.

I’m attending the event online as I write. The talks will be recorded and archived. As the introduction by Calum Bowden and Stephanie Sherman stated – we can’t help wonder what Sascha would have made of these strange times.

I’m sure he would have brought the curiosity and vision that Saul is searching for – with a twist of humor and criticality.

Injecting humanity and humility into the technological hubris of a possible future, while maintaining an essential central optimism – which for me was his trademark.

Paul Peter Piech in 2020

The National Library of Wales are showing an exhibition of Paul’s work until January 2021 (which means hopefully they’ll reopen in time for people to see it…)

The Creative Review has this piece on the exhibition.

I’ve written about Paul’s influence on me, and his friendship with my father before here which I think led Theo Inglis to contact me for a recollection or two for his excellent long piece on Paul’s work that has just been published at the AIGA’s ‘Eye On Design’ site.

My unedited responses to Theo’s questions for the article in full are below.

Paul was an incredible artist, activist and a wonderful friend to my dad – I’m so glad he’s getting this recognition now.

  • How did you know Paul Peter Piech?

He was a good friend of my father – who ran a small picture framers in Porthcawl, where Peter had settled. Peter came in most weeks – initially to get things framed, but also after a while to sit and chat with my dad while he worked. This was the late 80s I think, as I was still in comprehensive school. I also worked after school and weekends in a local printers, and Peter would occasionally come in there for photocopying.

  • What we he like when you knew him?

Well – at one level he was this very friendly, curious obviously intelligent old man. A bit of a Yoda figure in a way! He was also probably the first American I’d ever met! He spoke like the movies! He was very indulgent of my questions and didn’t ever talk down to me. He knew I aspired to work in graphic design at the time and was studying art, working at a printer’s after school etc. and he was very encouraging. It was also one of those things where for the first time I saw my dad talk to another grown-up and have proper debate. They’d argue (good naturedly) for hours about anyting – politics, religion, philosophy, science, art – and often Paul would get the better of my father!

  • Were you aware of his background working in advertising and did he ever talk about it?

No not at all – I only really knew of that through my Dad. Paul was more interested in talking about human rights, philosophers or art – which I think he saw as central to his ‘second career’. I only later really learned about that side of his career, unfortunately mainly in obituaries. 

  • What do you remember most about him?

I remember an incredible energy and restlessness alongside huge curiosity and kindness. I was very lucky to have met him in such a formative time in my life – and his influence on me was enormous. I don’t know if it’s down to him that I ended up living in Brooklyn and working in Manhattan twenty years later but I like to think he set me on my way.