Ideas that don't make sense, Rory Sutherland

Rory Sutherland  (advertising exec, Oligivy) on his book exploring similar themes on why human stuff works. For instance, we brush our teeth to feel/look good, not to fight teeth holes. We buy more stuff some times when prices go up. That we are really not “rational” most of the time.


The opposite of a good idea can also be a good idea. Don’t design for average.

 It doesn’t pay to be logical if everyone else is being logical. 

The nature of our attention affects the nature of our experience. A flower is simply a weed with an advertising budget. 

The problem with logic is that it kills off magic. 

A good guess which stands up to observation is still science. So is a lucky accident. 

Test counterintuitive things only because no one else will. 

Solving problems using rationality is like playing golf with only one club. 

Dare to be trivial. 

If there were a logical answer, we would have found it.


Chimes with the study showing in the real world, people hand back wallets with money over those with no money…

I wonder what the Founder of Oligvy would have thoughts:

The book along with Messy by Tim Hartford well worth a read.

In defence of Arts Education investment

"...The returns on investment in performing arts are significant, but the strength of any country and its people is about far more than the financial wealth it generates. We must challenge the dangerous narrative that equates success with the level of a graduate’s income and which reduces education to a financial transaction. If we don’t, we risk losing the next generation of artists and all that they contribute to our wellbeing and society…”

David Ruebain makes the case for protecting arts and creative education not only because of a financial return but because of its creative and social capital. This is a move that New Zealand is trying to capture more of by setting its budget by more than only looking at GDP.

The conservatoire David leads has one of the only Circus perfoming arts schools in the UK in its federation. The teaching of this art form we may be losing due to continued cuts to arts education.

His op-ed here:

On New Zealand and non-financial capitals:

And here you can see a YT of the Circus School:

Asian American, published and tours Asia, Winnie Li

Here my friend Winnie Li shares an opinion essay about the types of narratives Western publishers/platforms expect of Asians and Asian-American creatives  - and how work can be perceived differently on the other side of the world. Touches upon identity and the narratives we tell.

“...I am glad my Korean publishers recognized the value of promoting an Asian American female author to Asian women readers, but our readerships shouldn’t be limited by race.  It is truly a shame if Western publishers perceive a problematic gap between the race of an author and the race of a book’s intended readers—because there are readers of all ethnicities in the West, and we are all capable of empathy.  And literature, after all, is meant to transcend such human particularities. As a Taiwanese American girl growing up in the U.S., I certainly identified with characters who didn’t come from a world anything like mine: Scout Finch, Holden Caulfield, Bigger Thomas. And indeed, it works the other way around. I’ve had white male readers say that reading Dark Chapter made them understand a bit better what it’s like to be a woman, who cried reading the scenes of the heroine’s experience of the criminal justice system. So if they can identify with a Taiwanese American heroine, then that’s already one step towards progress….”

Why America is called America

Why America is called America and the power of acknowledging “We Don’t Know”

From Harari’s Sapiens: “During the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, Europeans began to draw world maps with lots of empty spaces–one indication of the development of the scientific mindset, as well as of the European imperial drive. The empty maps were a psychological and ideological breakthrough, a clear admission that Europeans were ignorant of large parts of the world. The crucial turning point came in 1492, when Christopher Columbus sailed westward from Spain, seeking a new route to East Asia. Columbus still believed in the old ‘complete’ world maps. Using them, he calculated that Japan should have been located about 7,000 kilometres west of Spain. In fact, more than 20,000 kilometres and an entire unknown continent separate East Asia from Spain.

On 12 October 1492, at about 2 a.m., Columbus’ expedition collided with the unknown continent. Juan Rodriguez Bermejo, watching from the mast of the ship Pinta, spotted an island in what we now call the Bahamas, and shouted ‘Land! Land!’ Columbus believed he had reached a small island off the East Asian coast. He called the people he found there ‘Indians’ because he thought he had landed in the Indies–what we now call the East Indies or the Indonesian archipelago. Columbus stuck to this error for the rest of his life. The idea that he had discovered a completely unknown continent was inconceivable for him and for many of his generation.

For thousands of years, not only the greatest thinkers and scholars but also the infallible Scriptures had known only Europe, Africa and Asia. Could they all have been wrong? Could the Bible have missed half the world? It would be as if in 1969, on its way to the moon, Apollo 11 had crashed into a hitherto unknown moon circling the earth, which all previous observations had somehow failed to spot. In his refusal to admit ignorance, Columbus was still a medieval man. He was convinced he knew the whole world, and even his momentous discovery failed to convince him otherwise.

The first modern man was Amerigo Vespucci, an Italian sailor who took part in several expeditions to America in the years 1499–1504. Between 1502 and 1504, two texts describing these expeditions were published in Europe. They were attributed to Vespucci. These texts argued that the new lands discovered by Columbus were not islands off the East Asian coast, but rather an entire continent unknown to the Scriptures, classical geographers and contemporary Europeans. In 1507, convinced by these arguments, a respected mapmaker named Martin Waldseemüller published an updated world map, the first to show the place where Europe’s westward-sailing fleets had landed as a separate continent. Having drawn it, Waldseemüller had to give it a name. Erroneously believing that Amerigo Vespucci had been the person who discovered it, Waldseemüller named the continent in his honour–America. The Waldseemüller map became very popular and was copied by many other cartographers, spreading the name he had given the new land. There is poetic justice in the fact that a quarter of the world, and two of its seven continents, are named after a little-known Italian whose sole claim to fame is that he had the courage to say, ‘We don’t know.’...”

Amazon link to Sapiens here.

World echoing language and lacuna choices

Four observations on the power of language and lacuna.

Language can take us out of context. But, language and artistic choices will and should always reflect the wider world, when made public.

The choice to use a puppet to portray a severely autistic boy in a recent play in London has had much criticism from the wider world outside the play.*The creative decision is mediocre, but beyond that the social political world beyond the play cannot be ignored. We live in a world of metaphor and symbols.

The decision for a German CEO to use words that echo the phrase that appears on the entrance of Nazi Auschwitz, even if accidental shows a lack of judgment for the reflection it would bring to the wider  Germanic world.

The casting of a queer-phobic actor into a leading bisexual role (the Color Purple) has echoed angrily and awkwardly with queer audiences and creatives.

On the flip side, the New Zealand Prime Minster, Jacinda Ardern has evoked  “Damnatio memoriae”. In Roman times the state condemned the memory of a person and erased their name from history, it’s been done within many civilizations.

"I implore you, speak the names of those who were lost rather than the name of the man who took them. He is a terrorist. He is a criminal. He is an extremist. But he will, when I speak, be nameless."

She’s condemned the recent terrorist to no name, such that their cause and “fame” fail.

Our words and actions echo like small and major myths. If you will speak to the wider world, the world will judge what words and actions you use.


CEO blunder:

UK casting of Color Purple

No name to the terrorist.

Dementia, end of life

I met C. this week. C has known me since I was born and is now double my age. Early symptoms of memory loss have appeared. C is facing the end of life with dignity and is adamant that life as a vegetable would be no life.

I can see how the case for dementia is more complex than for other end of life states.  This long form profile and essay takes you through the story of Debra Koosed.

Her Time | Debra Koosed was diagnosed with dementia at 65. That’s when she decided she no longer wanted to live. By Katie Englehart.  Long-form read 20 -30 mins in the California Sunday Magazine.

It recalls to me the beautiful and sad moments of seeing my friend Jane Bodie and her mother, suffering dementia, the artist Sue Dunkley at her retrospective exhibition. Small poem here.

Thoughts on a life well lived.

Thought on mortality and the medicalisation at old age.

Launch of the Developer, architecture and placemaking site

“The biggest risks are the ones we never talk about… If development, design and government doesn’t join forces, unite as a powerful lobby and face the challenges ahead, we may stumble into a future in which the real value of everything we’ve built is nothing, writes Christine Murray…


The architectural press is a tidy place to be an editor. For the past 10 years, I visited buildings in the hazy afterglow of construction, between practical completion and handover. The projects were rich in artistic intention and unsullied by human inhabitation. Walking around with the architect, there was an air of celebration, because the difficult birth of the building was over.


Writing about these projects, I was often troubled by the fact that I didn’t know yet whether the building actually worked. That nagging feeling was formative in what would become The Developer – the need to look at places as they develop, from concept to decades after completion, and take the long view. With regards to successful city-making, everything about the journey counts, especially what’s there before you begin.


Plunging into the waters of place over the past few months, I’ve enjoyed meeting developers on muddy sites and hearing how on these plots of land will grow orchards of offices and homes. The scale of urban redevelopment in the UK is staggering.


Just as interesting as the stories developers have told me, however, is what they’ve failed to say.


Unmentionables in conversation often reveal our fears and their silence speaks of risks to UK investment. Brexit has been the most avoided topic. This week, at Mipim, there is magical thinking in action that if Brexit isn’t mentioned, it won’t scare investment away. The only person to bring it up was the French taxi driver.


This week, at Mipim, there is magical thinking in action that if Brexit isn’t mentioned, it won’t scare investment away. The only person to bring it up was the French taxi driver


There are other spectres scary enough to make crashing out of the EU (almost) a distraction. They also remain off the agenda…..

…Even those with major projects fronted on UK waterways don’t explain how their buildings will cope with the expected 60-fold increase in flooding. The number of floods in the UK has already doubled since 2004. The Thames Barrier will fail within 40 years – what then?


No longer a distant threat, the risk of frequent heat waves, water shortages and floods now falls within the investment timelines of major UK redevelopments completing in 10 to 30 years.


By 2030, we are expected to pass the 1.5ºC marker, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. If that seems a small or even a welcome degree of warming on an unseasonably warm, winter morning, let David Wallace-Wells’ new book, The Uninhabitable Earth, scare you. In it, he describes how seven million people are already dying of air pollution globally in “an annual Holocaust”.


No longer a distant threat, the risk of frequent heat waves, water shortages and floods now falls within the investment timelines of major UK redevelopments completing in 10 to 30 years


As the Earth warms, the risks grow: in a 2º warmer world, 150 million more people would die. Wallace-Wells writes: “Numbers that large can be hard to grasp, but 150 million is the equivalent of 25 Holocausts… It is more than twice the greatest death toll of any kind – World War II.” Within 20 years, there will be 200 million climate refugees fleeing and in search of a new home, according to the UN.


The difficulty with carbon emissions, as explained by Wallace-Wells, is that we can no longer afford to do one or two token eco-things per development as an offset – we need to do everything at once and at speed: less waste, no concrete, fewer diesel vehicles, smarter estate management, more wildlife and biodiversity, and more innovation. But in return, we get the chance to future-proof investments.


“The risk of not engaging with these debates is obsolescence or worse – the loss of the real social, cultural and financial value of our places”


In the face of immense challenge might creep an inkling of futility, but we have the power to change how and what we build.


True visionaries see opportunity in every risk, while the peril of not engaging with these debates is obsolescence or worse – the loss of the real social, cultural and financial value of our places.


In our first edition of The Developer, we come at the topic of risk from many angles – from risky procurement to the anodyne public spaces created by the risk-averse.


On the whole, placemaking has always been a risky business, volatile in the short term but resilient in the long term, with high-stakes winners and losers.


“It’s the developer who takes the bulk of the risk, if they’ve acquired the land and have conditional funding arrangements, long stop-dates and need residential units to be sold before profit can be recovered,” says Theresa Mohammed, construction litigation partner at law firm Trowers & Hamlins.


But developers are not afraid of risk, perhaps because this is a well-heeled industry – CEOs with affluent roots take more risks than those from poorer backgrounds, according to a 2014 study published in the Academy of Management Journal.


True collaboration is a refreshing concept, because the time for finger-pointing is over. As makers of place, we must take great strides and big risks together


Fear of risk might explain why nimbys dig their heels in so deep – communities have a lot at stake, too. From residents decanted from social housing to small businesses ousted from their market stalls, embracing change can be a leap of faith too far. And are we worthy of their trust?


Tackling the risks of our time will increasingly require sharing them. In an era of finger-pointing and what Paul Berg, partner at insurer Griffiths & Armour, calls “back covering”, sharing risk is a challenge in an industry where an “integrated, collaborative environment is the exception, not the rule”.


Berg says: “Where it exists, it invariably requires an insurance solution that recognises that among the team delivering the project, there is no blame, no litigation, no fault, so that between team members, there is no finger-pointing.”


This industry has a handle on charm, bluster and glib retorts, but in the age of social media activism and hyper-accountability, more thoughtful responses are now required


True collaboration is a refreshing concept, because the time for finger-pointing is over. As makers of place, we must take great strides and big risks together. This will require a search for common ground and shared goals among the whole design, development and management team, including planners, architects, contractors, politicians, investors, engineers, policy workers, developers, asset managers and end users – especially the marginalised ones.


My ambition for The Developer is to bring the whole industry together to break down barriers between our siloed professions, first at the Festival of Place on 9 July. At our events, there will be frank discussion about the future of cities and no ‘unmentionables’.


The Developer exists to unpick the key ingredients to successful placemaking and promote evidence-based findings to help us mitigate risks.


This industry has a handle on charm, bluster and glib retorts, but in the age of social media activism and hyper-accountability, more thoughtful responses are now required.


Launching The Developer is a risk, too. But I believe we need more thoughtful reporting on the user experience of our cities. The Developer is an experimental space where we can grapple with the most difficult questions as an industry and work out inspiring solutions together.”

Check out the site and the full article here.

Sorry To Bother You by danhett | a videogame about technology and journalists

Sorry To Bother You by danhett | a videogame about technology and journalists

When Dan Hett’s younger brother Martyn was killed in the Manchester Arena bombing, he embarked on a trilogy of autobiographical experimental video games about the experience and its aftermath”

Play the game:

Read insightful Guardian review:

Me: I recall making a moving poem in flash to express the grief and loss I felt, when I used my father’s old shaver (he had died in the last year, now almost 20 years ago) and I believe games and game making art both technology enabled or analogue are an important part of human expression and art.

The review around the game and Dan Hett’s work is lovely.