What should we read? Well before a pandemic threw us into full post-apocalypse mode and locked us in with our phones and computers, we already lived in an age of information overload. And now, on top of it all, add the disproportionate time that we spend connected, the obvious fact that we need to know what is going on in our immediate future to act upon it as members of humanity, and the uncertainty that makes us think and feel like we need to know a lot more than we actually do… plus the unreliability of the sources. We skip from bit to bit of data and opinions and that has a toll on our mind, our energy, and our ability to process further information. Instant gratification is like a drug, and it is one that leaves us drained after abusing it.
If that wasn’t enough, then we have the added pressure of making the best out of these times, being productive and bettering ourselves. Even if we are starting to see that all of that is an endless rabbit hole that is sinking us into unknown and overwhelming waters, how do we pull ourselves out?
There are many answers and you know most of them. Turn down your devices, go for a walk (if you can) or for a glass of water (alternatively), or have a long chat with a loved one. One quote by T. S. Eliot, however, comes to my mind. “Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?” One of the things that we really need is to be able to focus our attention on something that we know is worth our time and actually immerse ourselves in it.
Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?T. S. Eliot
Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?
So I decided to add my two cents to society and I’ve put together a list of resources you can put your time and energy guilt-free and even get something out of it. Long enough to stop you on your tracks, short enough to be cost-efficient (nobody has really taken all those online courses we signed up for, right?). Some of them are giving you sound and scientific information about the global pandemic, some are thought-provoking, some are uplifting, and some are there just to be experienced or for the sake of pure joy. The whole of them is a curated trip that you probably won’t be able to read, watch and listen to in a single day (or will you?), but will leave you back in a deck of calm and satisfaction. So go ahead, put this article in your bookmarks, make yourself a cup of tea, coffee, or an old school, close all the tabs in your browser and mute your phone, and let me tell you why I think each one of these resources is worth your time:
1. Long read: “A chance to catch a breath”: Danielle Pender on why we should avoid the pressure to create
This might be the single most important link in this whole post. Yes, you can imagine what it is about. Yes, you have been told before. And in the back of your mind, you know you still have to grind for survival. But what if you shouldn’t? Let me tell you something about the author of this post. She can’t afford to catch said breath. And still, it might be just the thing to do. Give it until you get to the bottom of the article to make a decision on your own time.
2. Long read: Gates notes: The scientific advances we need to stop COVID-19
All right. This is the obvious one. Or maybe not all that much. Variations of these ideas have been posted, reposted, quoted, misquoted and misinterpreted all over the Internet. Here is the succinct, direct, state-of-the-art original post from the man itself. It’s not the gospel, but it will save you loads of time, and you will end up with a good idea of the global situation and the science surrounding, it from one of the people in the world with more resources at his disposal. Cost efficiency at its best. Discussion and critical thinking are encouraged, this is the best place to form an educated opinion and jump wherever you want with it from there.
3. Long read: The Atlantic: How the Pandemic Will End
Spoiler alert, this guy doesn’t know how the pandemic will end. Nobody does. But this is one of the best analyses I have read and a thorough exploration of possible scenarios. Rigorous, multifocal, and just plain full of common sense, it will give you a good idea of future developments. The thing about the end might be the hook, but the really interesting thing is the whole journey of how we are going to get there. And, hey, it gives you the option of listening to it instead of reading it if it suits you better.
4. Long Read: City Journal: A Coronavirus Vaccine Is Coming, And It Will Work
Now, there are thousands of science bits we could be adding to our COVID-19 mental library. How to choose the right one? Let me give this one to you and your mental health, we really need to hear good news. And the best part, it’s hard science and we get to understand a lot more of how viruses work, down to RNA and medical development. Yes, there are many, many things that might go wrong and we should be aware of them, but here is one that will very likely go well.
5. Long read: Electronic Frontier Foundation: How EFF Evaluates Government Demands for New Surveillance Powers
And now that we have the bases covered, here is the first shift. What happens after all of this. How do we manage it, how can governments do so and what should we have an eye on? I have been following the EFF for years to keep an eye on all things related to privacy and Internet policy and freedom. Some of their initiatives have an impact on your daily life and protection even if you don’t notice it, like HTTPS Everywhere. Then again, that doesn’t mean I necessarily agree with everything they say, but it’s a vantage point to form an opinion. In the topic of this particular article, I know I would gladly trade some privacy for some security, but how much is too much? Nobody knows the perfect equilibrium trade-off, but they are asking all the right questions. Those ten safeguards to government surveillance (you need to scroll -or read- down a bit) are worth keeping in mind.
On privacy vs security, nobody knows the perfect equilibrium trade-off, but they are asking all the right questions.
6. Long read: TIME: Jose Andres
And after such a heady read, it’s time to lift up the spirits again. José Andrés, celebrity chef and philanthropist was on the cover of TIME magazine a few weeks ago, and if you didn’t read the whole thing then, I wholeheartedly invite you to do it now. It is amazing and necessary to know too the extremes people can reach on the good side and how in these apparently desperate times, some people are still being able to reach out. We may not have the massive resources that he has (and resilience), but it will fill you with joy to read about his foundation. And hey, it might actually have a project near you that you can collaborate with. Or just read, refill on hope and hop on to the next point.
7. Read a book
Hey, you saw that coming, right? Here is the twist: the Internet Archive has made 1.4 million books temporarily available for everyone. It is your moment to find that one you could not get a copy of and get on with it. Or browse for some inspiration. Here is the link for your perusal and enjoyment. But should you be using this make-do library? Here is an article in the Smithsonian Magazine on Why the National Emergency Library Is So Controversial. I give you both, you choose your own adventure.
8. Immersive experience: American Research Center in Egypt is giving virtual tours of conservation sites
Speaking of adventures, I told you this was a trip, didn’t I? I don’t know if you ever wanted to travel the world like Indiana Jones as I did as a kid, but I’m positive you would give anything to travel to an exotic and exciting location instead of to your fridge for a moment. Loads of cultural associations are giving all sorts of great streaming services ranging all the spectrum from science to art, but the key here was to avoid overloading, wasn’t it? I’m quite sure an immersive virtual tour in an ancient Egyptian tomb will make you both focus for a bit and feel like you have used your time beautifully. It’s definitely unique.
9. Website: NASA at home
In the same line, let’s expand our trip to the furthermost frontiers of the universe. I had to link to literally the whole website of NASA at home. I’ll keep it short, it’s worth the time, period. But if I had to choose one thing, it should be the podcasts. I’m super excited to listen to a good bunch of them. The good thing about them is that you can listen while you do other things and it keeps you entertained whilst still giving you a sense of time well spent. They are light-hearted and fun. Do we need some banter around us, and hey, it’s NASA, right?
A word of caution about the overload though… don’t try to scoop it all in. Just randomize.
10. Series: The midnight gospel
And talking about podcasts and random things, this is the conjunction of both. It is a match made in heaven and if you haven’t been hooked on the podcast fever lately, don’t worry, it’s actually a TV series. Or is it? Now we are getting to the pure escapism part of this list and if you have made it this far, you deserve a treat. Basically, this is a generalist podcast to which the team of Adventure Time decided to add crazy animation on top. But of course, you don’t get just about any podcast to make a Netflix show with Adventure Time animation, do you? The result is groovy, dark, fantastic and very surreal, but oddly makes sense.
And finally, if we are up for random, let’s get it good. Pure unadulterated madness. This simple, plain-looking web will lead you every time to a new, maybe interesting, maybe useless website. Some variations of this have been in my bookmarks for (eh-hem) decades, but this one has the most interesting database at the moment. I reminds me of ye olde Internet when we found things that did not make sense because everything was not perfectly algorithm-controlled, and it was fun. That website is definitely not worth your time… You’re welcome.