Clean Growth: From Mindless Development to Design Mindfulness

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I’ve written this White Paper, called Clean Growth: From Mindless Development to Design Mindfulness for Design Innovation Scotland. It’s the first in a series whose aim is “to stimulate thought and debate about…radical solutions to real-world challenges”. The intended readers are regional economic development professionals and policy makers.

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With the iBorg in New York

The May edition of Doors of Perception Report (our monthly email newsletter) is now available
here

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Call from system: Chill !

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Mobile phones tend to be personal devices and Intel plans to take that further – a lot further.
Researchers Margaret Morris and Farzin Guilak are developing “mobile therapy” – a system of just-in-time personal coaching, by the system, that is triggered by physiological indicators of stress.
Mobile Heart Health, as it’s called, uses body sensors to help people “tune in to early signs of stress, and modulate reactivity that could potentially damage their relationships”. Breathing visualizations and “cognitive reappraisal cues” appear on your cell phone when a wireless ECG detects deviations from your baseline heart rate variability.
The only flaws I can see in this otherwise elegant project are first, that’ll I’ll be tempted to use my handset as a club on someone when it starts flashing cognitive reappraisal cues at me like that.
And second, my heart will literally explode the first time a cellphone tells me to calm down.

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New York: bat hunting

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Conditions for my talk on Monday were sub-optimal: there was a typhoon *and* a high-energy dispute between students and The New School, parts of which were occupied recently. [Fond memories: I, too, was a revolting student once; during one sit-in I became a dab hand at coooking chicken and rice in a dustbin for 200 people. Luckily, Monday’s typhoon meant there was no picket line – and in the event we had a great turnout].
On Thursday I hope to go bat-hunting in Central Park

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How to be global, and great, without traveling

While I’m away, would you help me promote these new editions of my book? In The Bubble has now been translated into French, Italian and Portuguese – and I’d appreciate your support in three ways:
a) buy-and-send copies for all your French, Italian and Portuguese-speaking friends around the world;
b) tell everyone you know, who speaks those languages, that these editions are now available;
c) send me the name and postal address of journalists, bloggers and thought-leaders in those languages to whom you think I should send a free review copy. (john at thackara dot com)
Here, first, is the French edition translated by Anne Despond-Barre and published by Marc Partouche for Cite du Design Editions.
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Next is the Italian edition translated by Niels Betori and published by Pier Paolo Peruccio for Allemandi.
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And here, below, published by Virgilia and available from Saraiva is the Portuguese edition published by Marcelo Melo.
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Velowala: ternary thinking in practice

Naomi Klein writes in today’s Guardian that “hope alone won’t save the world. It’s time to hope less, and demand more”.

I’m not sure. I find Klein’s piece enervating. Will demanding things from mainstream politicians like Obama be more productive than waiting hopefully for them to save us? I don’t think so.

My mood is lightened by John Michael Greer. He suggests that the time may be ripe to change the question.

“Oversimplifying reality into two rigid categories is probably the most pervasive source of failed thinking in the modern world”, he writes.

“Rather than limit ourselves to a choice between two unpromising alternatives – “capitalism” and “socialism” – why not look at different frameworks, such as distributism.

Distributism. Right.

Having paused to find out what distributism is, or was I return to find Greer writing about another novelty: the Druid notion of ternary thinking.

“The basic practice is that when you encounter any classification of the world into two and only two sides (we call this a binary), think of a third option that isn’t simply a compromise between them. With practice you get very good at noticing the blind spots that make binary thinking seem to make sense. Yes, you can then go on to look for a fourth, fifth, etc.!”

So I need to practice ternary thinking.

Well, it’s market day here in Ganges so my first practice session will be to ponder, as I transit between the cheese stall and the bread stall, how much our market is embryonic of a “distributist” economy – and what might be added to make it more so.

My first stop in looking for ideas will be Velowala. One of my all-time favourite websites, I now realize that Velowala is an amazing source of ideas for budding distributist entrepreneurs:

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My plan to save the city of Nice $250 million

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This blog first proposed the replacement of trophy buildings with street art back in 2002. In a piece called “Trophy buildings are over” we argued that because they are conceived as spectacles, so-called signature architecture would be subject to the law of diminishing returns: the novelty would wear off, and buildings conceived as tourist destinations would be hard to sustain.
The modest size of the adoring horde outside LA’s $270 million Gehry (photographed above in February) would seem to confirm this prognosis.

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How they’re playing the game

Roughly once a week, I admonish myself for spending too much time reading financial blogs. “Focus on the positive,” I tell myself. “Raging at politicians and banksters is a waste of your life energy. Build an alternative reality to theirs. Go and plant a carrot”.
So yesterday I went into the real world (well, Nice) and hung out with real people doing real projects. And I was much inspired. But on the train back, thanks once again to Illargi, I accidentally stumbled across this excellent piece by Justice Litle (sic) that explains how the people who caused the mess are now making billions gaming governments’ solution to the mess.
“Tragedy is turning into farce as the real intent of the bank rescue plan becomes apparent”, Litle begins.
“Imagine, for a moment, that I have a beat-up old mini-fridge in the back of my garage. It has a coolant leak, it’s a little moldy, and it smells like stale beer, but I’m pretty sure it still works.

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Are toxic assets a reprieve for the biosphere?

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Last October I first saw this splendid inverted pyramid chart (this version has been smartened up) and put it next to another diagramme about programmed trading. I nicknamed the combination image a “Toxic Sludge Machine”. “Where we’re at now” (I wrote then) “is that systems designed to “streamline” the market have been spewing out financial derivatives which, insofar as anyone can count them, now amount to eight hundred times global GDP”.
But the financial crisis is not just the result of technology running amok. For months now, revelations of the wholesale greed and blatant transgressions of Wall Street, and the City in London, have reminded us that “The Best Way to Rob a Bank Is to Own One.” Bill Black, who wrote a book by that title, says the numbers, as large as they are, vastly understate the problem of fraud. (There’s a really terrific interview with Black by Bill Moyers, here. )

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