🌀🗞 The FLUX Review, Ep. 10

July 8th, 2021

Episode 10 — July 8th, 2021 — Available at read.fluxcollective.org/p/10

We’re a ragtag band of systems thinkers who have been dedicating our early mornings to finding new lenses to help you make sense of the complex world we live in. This newsletter is a collection of patterns we’ve noticed in recent weeks.

“As soon as we take one thing by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.”

— John Muir

📝 Editor's note: This is a special holiday edition, since this is the week of the July 4th holiday in the US and many of the FLUX team are on vacation.

⚡📚 Catalytic books

Some books are read and forgotten, gathering dust on the shelf. Others trigger a tectonic shift in our minds, marking the beginning of a new way of seeing. Here are a couple of books that did this for us. If you’re looking for a book that’s high on catalytic power, give these a try.

In Over Our Heads by Robert Kegan ties all sorts of seemingly different phenomena into a coherent framing of vertical development. Written in a compassionate voice, it acted as a powerful introduction into the adult development theory for many of us.

Finite and Infinite Games by James P. Carse is unapologetically pithy, and feels like a sequence of Zen koans at times. It might or might not be your cup of tea, but for a few of us, reading it was a generative experience — the seemingly abstract causal sequences drawn by the author tripped all kinds of interesting secondary and tertiary ideas.

The Timeless Way of Building by Christopher Alexander is probably closer to poetry than to your typical architecture book. It’s a poignant narrative about nourishing complex adaptive systems written with the passion of a true devotee. As systems thinking practitioners, we found this book’s premise deeply resonant, insightful, and not only timeless, but also reaching far beyond the prescribed boundaries of architecture. 

📺🍿 Brain food YouTube series

During holiday weeks like this one, it's always fun to kick back and watch some shows. Check out some of our favorite “brain food” YouTube series below; the videos inside run the gamut from ecology to biology to astrophysics to history to anthropology, with a hefty dose of systems thinking ideas throughout.

  • Alien Biospheres (Biblaridion) — In this "speculative biology" series, an expert world builder uses first principles from biology and ecology to simulate how species and ecosystems might evolve on a fictional alien world. The ongoing series covers many "systems-y" topics like niche partitioning, coevolution, symbiosis, convergent evolution, and universal scaling laws.

  • Crash Course World History (Crash Course) — Instead of simply listing facts, this series analyzes the key themes and systemic drivers behind over 40 periods of world history, plus how this analysis can make us better students of history. The series covers many periods not usually taught in schools, such as the Indian Ocean trading network, Mansa Musa's empire in Mali, and Latin American revolutions.

  • Futurism (Kurzgesagt) — Using Kurzgesagt's signature bird-centric animation style, this series describes some futuristic technologies humanity may one day develop, what impact they may have on society, and their ethical implications. Dyson spheres, terraforming, space elevators, designer babies, asteroid mining, and more are on the docket.

  • Human Evolution (PBS Eons)  — A team of biologists, archaeologists, and anthropologists take us on a tour of the most pivotal moments in our species' evolutionary history. The series explores how our ancestors first learned to walk, make tools, tame fire, and more; then, it shows how we spread across the planet and how we interacted with other hominid species along the way.

🔮📬 Postcard from the future

A short ‘what if’ piece of speculative fiction about a hypothetical future that could result from the forces changing our world.

// What is a positive future that could result from the forces of infrastructure under-investment, US federal government gridlock, and climate change?

The Florida of the late 20th century was built by selling a dream — a dream of endless beaches, beautiful weather, and easy living. (Miami was built on cocaine, but that’s a different story.)

The Florida of the 2020s saw that dream darken. Rising sea levels swamped and washed away beaches. More frequent and more intense tropical storms hammered buildings and infrastructure. And political gridlock at the state and national level meant deferred infrastructure investments saw ballooning costs as small problems became catastrophic ones. Insurance companies stepped in with sharpened knives, raising rates across the state. Everyone was hit, from people in their 20s just getting started to retirees living on fixed incomes. 

That’s why, in 2029, the resurgent Green Party stepped in. Fueled by environmental patriotism, crypto-faith, and a dash of White Claw, they announced several ambitious schemes. A call for GreenCorp volunteers went out with the simple promise: come to Florida to work for two years in exchange for construction training and the elimination of your student debt. The trick was that the Green Party realized that student debt can be purchased from debt collectors for pennies on the dollar. So, through shell corporations, they purchased hundreds of millions of dollars of student loan debt. The funding for these purchases came through a new “GreenCoin” — a new cryptocurrency rolled out by the party in 2025 after the debacle that was the presidential election.

The GreenCorp rolled into action, triaging towns that wanted their help. In towns projected to be sustainable in 100 years, GreenCorp built hurricane resistant complexes. In areas which would be lost to the sea and storms, they relocated entire populations. In two years, they moved 20 towns with over 150,000 people in total to new locations. And those new towns proved incredibly resilient to the megastorms of the mid-2030s. The program was so successful it created popular support for the AmeriCorps 2040 program.