(Roughly) Daily

Posts Tagged ‘development

“There is always something new out of Africa”*…

Afrofuturism is a fun and interesting subgenre of science fiction and philosophy:, but I kind of chuckle every time I see the word, because all futurism is actually Afrofuturism. Africa is literally the future of the entire world. Here is one of the two or three most important charts you will ever see:

Notice that this is the projection for total population. It has Africa just about equal to Asia by the end of the century, but if we were to look at only young population, Africa would have a clear majority here. 

“Wait,” you may be about to ask. “Are these 80-year-ahead projections really reliable? What if African fertility falls?”

And the answer is: It’s going to fall! It’s already falling fast. As countries get richer their fertility rates drop; as Lyman Stone shows, Africa’s fertility rates are dropping faster, relative to their income level, than any other region except India…

recent paper in The Lancet attempts to model how African population will change as women’s education and access to contraception (the two biggest things other than GDP that we know affect fertility) increase. They predict a population for Sub-Saharan Africa of about 3.4 billion by century’s end — only 0.8 billion lower than the UN median projection. That’s still an absolutely enormous fraction of humanity, and an even larger chunk of the young population.

Thus, the future of Africa is the future of humanity, despite the fact that Africa will experience a normal fertility transition and its population will eventually stabilize rather than explode. I don’t think people in the U.S. (or, probably, other regions) have come to grips with the full import of this.

But what happens to Africa is even more important, relative to the rest of the world, than these population numbers suggest! This is because Africa is still a mostly poor region. Economics teaches us that marginal utility — i.e. the amount life gets better when you get a little richer — is much higher for poor people. And with China and (to some degree) India industrializing successfully and seeing population growth slow, soon most of the extremely poor people in the world will probably reside in Africa.

So the future welfare of humanity depends crucially on whether Africa can make big strides against poverty — in other words, whether African countries can achieve substantial economic growth… 

The fate of humanity in the 21st century and beyond hinges on whether African countries can figure out the riddle of industrialization.

Can Africa industrialize? Noah Smith (@Noahpinion) believes that it can: “All futurism is Afrofuturism.” The full argument (and more supporting charts and data) in the complete post.

* Pliny the Elder

###

As we look to the future, we might recall that it was on this date in 1775 that an anonymous writer, now widely thought to be Thomas Paine, published “African Slavery in America,” the first article in the American colonies calling for the emancipation of slaves and the abolition of slavery.

source

“Wade tried to imagine Florida before the advent of man, but couldn’t. The landscape seemed too thoroughly colonized”*…

Island Walk, Naples, Florida

The state of Florida, in the United States, is bordered to the south, east, and west by the Atlantic Ocean, with a coastline of over two thousand kilometers in length, and is characterized by extensive areas of lakes, rivers, and ponds. Land booms during the early and mid-20th century resulted in the development of new communities and the expansion of low-density suburbia across many parts of the state, which frequently incorporated the abundant water resources, sometimes failing in their efforts.

Land-use trends throughout the state’s history have been directly influenced by the natural resources, geomorphology, and climate that exist within the state. Since 1900, Florida has seen substantial changes in land-use patterns and land cover due to significant increases in population and tourism, coincident with new development, facilitated by new railroads and highways, and inspired by an aggressive marketing campaign for new residents and visitors to come to the state…

By observing aerial images of these locations, it is possible to notice the different ways in which the urban layouts, lakes, and canals were developed and incorporated into the territorial planning of each city. Variables such as land use, the possibility of carrying out aquatic activities (such as fishing, swimming, and navigation), and the integration with other nearby navigable canals have shaped these water bodies alongside the land distribution, resulting in sinuous and winding patterns.

However, water resource management has not always been successful. Before the development of the area where the city of Cape Coral is located, in the southwest of the state, water was widely distributed on the surface and in shallow aquifers. According to Hubert Stroud, professor of geography at Arkansas State University, these resources degraded as soon as the Cape Coral developers began subdivision operations. According to Stroud, the layout, design, and construction techniques were particularly devastating for the water resources. Instead of using phased development, the area was dredged, filled, and segmented long before it was occupied. The resulting gridiron pattern of roads is interrupted by occasional sinuous canals…

Florida is a state marked by a large number of water resources, whether on the coast or inland, on the surface or underground, and many cities and communities have considered them to be key elements in urban planning, exploring their most diverse potentials. The alliance between planned cities and water resources in Florida not only reveals the curious patterns of roads and canals, seen in aerial photographs, but also the complex relationship between water and land in the context of the city, showing that water is more than just a resource for landscaping or aesthetics, it is a fundamental element in urban infrastructure…

Cape Coral, Florida

A history of Florida’s love affair with the water (with lots of mesmerizing aerial photos): “Urban Planning and Water Bodies: Florida’s Aquatic Land Cover.”

* Douglas Coupland, All Families are Psychotic

###

As we try to bend nature to our will, we might recall that it was on this date in 2005 that the “I’m Going to Disney World” commercial featuring a player (usually the MVP) on the winning team, did not air at the end of the Superbowl telecast.

The commercial has aired after every Super Bowl since 1987, except for one. In 2005, the commercial did not air, though the reason for the absence is still unclear. The NFL was still reeling from Janet Jackson’s wardrobe malfunction in 2004, and may have been leery of any advertising relying on spontaneity. Disney may have also felt that the campaign was losing its effectiveness after 19 years.

source

In any case, it returned the following year and (largely) runs still… it did not run in 2016, at Superbowl LX, but Peyton Manning went to Disneyland to celebrate anyway.

Written by LW

February 6, 2021 at 1:01 am

“The details are not the details. They make the design.”*…

It’s 2020 and our systems are failing us. We are increasingly reliant on technology that automates bias. We are celebrating “essential workers” while they are underpaid and their work is precarious. We are protesting in the streets because of policing systems that put black and brown people at risk every day. We use apps for travel, shopping, and transportation that productize exploitative labor practices. The list goes on and on.

How did we get here? These systems didn’t just emerge of their own accord. They were crafted by people who made hundreds of decisions, big and small, that led to the outcomes we see now. In other words, these systems and all of their component parts were designed. And for the most part, they were designed with processes intended to create positive user experiences. So what went wrong? Might the way we approach design be contributing to the problems we now experience?

It’s unlikely that the techniques that got us into this situation will be the ones to get us out of it. In this essay, we’re going to take a deeper look at dominant design practices — specifically user-centered design — to identify where our frameworks might be failing us and how we can expand our design practices to close those gaps.

Any framework is a lens through which you see things. A lens allows you to see some things quite well, but almost always at the expense of obscuring others. Prior to the development of user-centered design, technological experiences were primarily designed through the lens of business needs. The needs of the user were only considered insofar as they furthered or hindered those goals, but it was the bottom line that was firmly the focal point of that approach.

User-centered design (UCD) was developed in reaction to those blind spots. It advocated for a design practice that instead focused on the person using the technology, and was intended to create experiences based on an understanding of their needs and goals. As designers, we’ve spent much of the last 25 years convincing our peers of the virtues of putting user needs at the center of our design process.

This practice has produced some amazing products, services and technical innovations. And for designers who entered the industry in the past decade or so, UCD has become a default mindset and approach. By empathizing with users and designing with their needs and wants in-mind, we have strived to create products that are more helpful, more intuitive, and less stressful. Certainly many of the digital tools & platforms we use today would not have been possible without the contributions of designers and the user-centered approach.

However, like any lens, UCD also has its own blind spots, and those have played a role in leading us to our current state…

As the world grows increasingly complex, the limitations of user-centered design are becoming painfully obvious. Alexis Lloyd (@alexislloyd) on what’s gone wrong and how we can fix it: “Camera Obscura: Beyond the lens of user-centered design.

[Via Patrick Tanguay‘s ever-illuminating Sentiers]

For an amusingly– and amazingly– apposite example of inclusively-empathetic design, see “‘If the aliens lay eggs, how does that affect architecture?’: sci-fi writers on how they build their worlds.”

* Charles Eames

###

As we ideate inclusively, we might recall that on this date in 1993 (following President George H.W. Bush’s executive order in 1992) Martin Luther King Jr. Day was officially proclaimed a holiday the first time in all 50 states. Bush’s order was not fully implemented until 2000, when Utah, the last state fully to recognize the holiday, formally observed it. (Utah had previously celebrated the holiday at the same time but under the name Human Rights Day.)

220px-Martin_Luther_King,_Jr.

 source

“Home is the nicest word there is”*…

Suburban housing developments, simultaneously loathed and loved, began in the mid-20th century. Two of the major figures who built these developments were William Levitt (1907-1994) and Joseph Eichler (1900-1974), both sons of New York Jewish immigrant families. Yet the communities they created differed in one very important respect—one whose legacy endures to this day: While Levitt & Sons built “whites only” communities and refused to integrate their developments, Eichler and his son Ned fought just as hard to oppose discrimination in housing, even helping to write California’s fair-housing law…

William Levitt and Joseph Eichler both pioneered suburban development. But one fought for fair housing, while the other refused to integrate his communities: “The Kings of Suburbia.”

* Laura Ingalls Wilder

###

As we focus on fairness, we might send stark birthday greetings to Denys Louis Lasdun; he was born in this date in 1914. An eminent British architect, he is probably that countries leading practitioner of the Brutalist style. He is probably best known for his designs of The Royal National Theatre on South Bank in London, and for his work at the University of East Anglia (where, as it happens, your correspondent did time during his juior year abroad).

Royal National Theatre
Norfolk Terrace halls of residence at the University of East Anglia

source

“Our situation is unique in the annals of life, yet inscribed for all time in the logic of history”*…

 

evolution

 

A scan of the history of gross world product (GWP) at multi-millennium time scale generates fundamental questions about the human past and prospect. What is the probability distribution for negative shocks ranging from mild recessions to the pandemics? Were the agricultural and industrial revolutions one-offs or did they manifest dynamics still ongoing? Is the pattern of growth best seen as exponential, if with occasional step changes in the rate, or as super exponential? If the latter, how do we interpret the typical corollary,that output will become infinite in finite time? In a modest step toward answering such ambitious questions, this paper introduces the first internally consistent statistical model of world economic history…

[Looking back to 10,000 BCE, the author concludes that] the world economic system over the long term tends not to the steady growth seen in industrial countries in the last century or so, but to instability. The credible range of future paths seems wide.

Oh, so very wide… David Roodman (@davidroodman) goes big: “Modeling the Human Trajectory” (pdf).

(Image above: source)

* François Meyer, 1974. La surchauffe de la croissance: Essai sur la dynamique de l’évolution

###

As we take the long view, we might recall that it is on this date each year that the roughly 300 residents of a small village participate in a drawing that determines who will be sacrificed to insure a good harvest… in Shirley Jackson’s short story, “The Lottery.”

Originally published in the June 26, 1948, issue of The New Yorker, it evoked strong initial negative response; subscriptions were cancelled; much hate mail received throughout the summer; and the Union of South Africa banned the story.  It is now considered a classic of short fiction (and among the most famous American short stories); it spawned several radio, television, and film adaptations, and inspired voluminous analysis, both literary and sociological.

lottery source

 

 

%d bloggers like this: