As we enter month seven of an extreme lockdown in Melbourne, I’m struggling to find the motivation to post up some travel stories. You’d think this would be a great time for me to convert the last 10 years or so of travel notes, diaries and accumulated knowledge into this blog but my motivation is just severely lacking. Instead, I thought I’d share some thought-provoking reads I’ve enjoyed over the last few years:

  1. Thermal Delight

This article (and podcast) looks at how air-conditioning revolutionised architecture, populations and politics.

“In 1960, 13% of homes in the United States had AC — by 1980, it was up to 55%. Today it’s close to 90%. In just a few decades air conditioning went from luxury to necessity, just as Willis Carrier predicted. And the ubiquity of AC has had a serious impact on how and maybe most profoundly where we live. Hot places like Arizona and Florida saw huge influxes of residents. A mass migration to the so-called “Sunbelt” changed the political map, too, as electoral college seats moved with citizens. And since a lot of these new southward migrants were conservative retirees, they voted Republican, forming a key target demographic in Reagan’s election in 1980.”

2. Estonia, the Digital Republic

Estonia has long been on the digital nomad radar. It’s the home of Skype and other ambitious digital ventures like TransferWise. In 2014, the government launched an E-Residency program allowing foreigners to participate in some Estonian services, such as banking, as if they were living in the country and encouraged international start-ups to put down virtual roots.

“E-Estonia is the most ambitious project in technological statecraft today, for it includes all members of the government, and alters citizens’ daily lives. The normal services that government is involved with—legislation, voting, education, justice, health care, banking, taxes, policing, and so on—have been digitally linked across one platform, wiring up the nation”

Moving government departments online brings extreme apprehension in many democracies, but Estonia has managed the feat using a its gover data platform, X-Road, which “links individual servers through end-to-end encrypted pathways, letting information live locally. Your dentist’s practice holds its own data; so does your high school and your bank. When a user requests a piece of information, it is delivered like a boat crossing a canal via locks.”

(Side note: TransferWise is awesome for moving money between countries – if you want to give it a crack feel free to use my referral or you can search for one from someone else online

3. Instagram face

I stopped following instagram fitness/beauty/model influencers years ago and it was one of the best things I’ve ever done. Instead I focus on travel, architecture, food and follow some good foreign cultural accounts. But when you do look at the instagram influencers you start to notice something… they all look eerily similar. This article examines the phenomenon of “the gradual emergence, among professionally beautiful women, of a single, cyborgian face. It’s a young face, of course, with poreless skin and plump, high cheekbones. It has catlike eyes and long, cartoonish lashes; it has a small, neat nose and full, lush lips. […] The face is distinctly white but ambiguously ethnic—it suggests a National Geographic composite illustrating what Americans will look like in 2050, if every American of the future were to be a direct descendant of Kim Kardashian West, Bella Hadid, Emily Ratajkowski, and Kendall Jenner (who looks exactly like Emily Ratajkowski).”

4. The New American Aristocracy

While the article is in some ways, hyper-American focused, in other aspects, the concepts can be seen in many countries around the world. It examines “intergenerational earnings elasticity,” or IGE, which measures how much of a child’s deviation from average income can be accounted for by the parents’ income, the fabulously-named Great Gatsby Curve, meritocracy and the privileges we pass down within families.

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