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Note 77: Progress is not inevitable
Elections, Apple, courtyard, bacteria
We had elections in Nigeria this past weekend. As is sadly too familiar, the process was rife with reports of rigging and results tampering. So even with the announcement of a president-elect, at least one candidate promises to contest results in court.
I didn’t get to vote because Nigeria unfortunately has no such options available for those of us in the diaspora. But amid all the drama, it’s made me glad to see the way young people have been active through the elections, especially considering that I’ve lived through a time in Nigeria of apathy that infected even the youths.
But I’m also grateful that the process is improving, however slowly: despite all the issues in our last elections, I think it’s fair to say that rigging has proved more and more difficult, and people are also more and more invested in monitoring for it, in a way that makes me really proud. We saw two new systems deployed for voter accreditation and election result viewing, both of which had issues, but also made exposed previously invisible issues.
Overall, then, people were more invested and the process was more transparent. Even with all the issues, that’s nothing to sneer at. We may not be where we’d like to be yet, and we may even be moving very slowly, but we are moving, and that’s something.
As I’ve come to learn, once you realise progress isn’t inevitable, you don’t take it for granted, however little.
So, I published an essay about Apple as a company that uses "humility as a business model”—which is a quote from one of my favourite tech business analysts. (Yes, that’s something I follow—you didn’t know?) It was the difficult essay I talked about last week. The challenge was, while Apple makes products 2 billion people love, there’s a lot of people who feel strongly against them, friends of mine included.
It’s important to me to write respectfully even of people I disagree with, and although people sometimes feel disrespected anyway, I at least wanted to satisfy myself that I’d done my best to be fair. At least one friend still found it disrespectful (we did talk about that, though), but feedback has overall been more positive than I expected.
Here’s how the essay opens:
Why is Apple so successful and their products so popular?
The common narrative around this question is some version of “Apple customers are sheep” or “Because people will buy anything with an Apple logo on it,” or “Because people want to be cool, and Apple has a cool brand.” All nice, tidy answers, and all misguided. Because underneath them all is an unspoken but flawed assumption: the assumption that most people are stupid.
It’s an assumption that permeates everything from politics (“most voters are ignorant”) to the arts (“the average person has no taste to speak of”). And it’s somehow come to be a widely accepted narrative about the world’s biggest company. But it’s a narrative that couldn’t be more wrong.
Read the whole thing here at the link below:
Making space for a courtyard
I read this beautiful essay this week, from Cabel Sasser (who is part of a couple of guys who make this beautiful device) about making space for the “courtyard” in the things we do. The courtyard is a metaphor for things that with more aesthetic than utilitarian value. I love the idea that not everything has to be functional—sometimes it’s okay to enjoy something simply because it’s enjoyable. It’s how children play, after all, and that’s something worth carrying with us into adulthood.
But the focus of the article is that building this stuff in is work and takes effort, and yet it’s worth it. Cabel writes:
I think about the time it takes. I think about how you can’t see them from the street, and it’s really only a treat for the people in this complex. I think about how much better they make my life.
He closes with:
Whatever you’re working on right now, whatever it might be, I ask: try to leave a little space for a courtyard.
Read the whole thing at this link.
I’m not making that up. I found out about this from One Foot Tsunami. Apparently some German scientists discovered a new active ingredient from Pseudomonas bacteria that might be useful as a natural pesticide. So they decided to… Well, I’ll let them tell it:
"The lipopeptides kill so efficiently that we named them after Keanu Reeves because he, too, is extremely deadly in his roles," Götze explains with a wink.
And I hope your weekend is, too.
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