2021-11-22 6 min read


Notes, 2021-11-22.

I have worked in software for as long as I can remember. About 7 years ago, I got an itch to move into something more tangible and solve a problem I had: making fashionable shoes that fit wider feet. But ultimately, my moral compass would not allow me to continue this exploration given it would mean I personally would be responsible for adding to environmental pollution and climate change (not to mention working through legal loopholes given that I was on a H-1B visa).

If I was a true radical, this would have been the time to go back to my country and work on disassembling the local systems that make adding to environmental pollution the default option for anyone engaging in manufacturing. Instead, I decided to continue working in the tech sector. I chose this pragmatic option because I really wanted to stay in the US, and I rationalized that working for a tech company that was earnest in addressing environmental pollution would be easier on my conscience. And, I started engaging in a deeper study of how the systems that make our world came to be.

It will take a lot more to ease my conscience, though - especially knowing some people do not have the privilege of my pragmatism. So while I try to use my money, power, and privilege to support those who do not have the same, I also hope to join them someday on the other side.

-Divya Manian

The most clicked link from last week's issue (~9% of opens) was Joel Telling and Neil Patrick Harris' 3D printed picture frame collaboration. In the Members' Slack, we've been talking about the benefits of heat pumps, the state of the [cough] smart cities movement, and the perverse fact that Kaizen foam actually *slows* the pace of continuous improvement.

Your #1 reason to join The Prepared as a Member today: Skyler is back organizing our Members' Holiday Book Exchange, which was *so* much fun last year. Your #2 reason: to join in with the Reading Group as it gets ready to read How Buildings Learn, Stewart Brand's seminal text on how physical infrastructure adapts to changing use.

Planning & Strategy.

  • In 1976, anticipating dramatic job losses, shop stewards at Lucas Aerospace gathered ideas from workers and published what is now called the Lucas Plan, which lists 150 socially useful products that Lucas Aerospace could work on - instead of weapons of destruction. The plan included hybrid car engines that cut CO emissions by 80%, portable kidney dialysis machines, and road/rail cars.

    The Lucas Plan itself was influenced by a GM strike organized by 400,000 United Auto Workers in 1970, which itself included a demand to come up with a plan to mitigate air pollution caused by the machines that the workers made.

    The direct democracy exhibited by the Lucas Plan was extraordinary. These days, we see more benevolent but radical founders doing similar things with their companies (see Dr. Bronners and Chobani), not only working on socially useful products but also ensuring workers get a fair wage and reducing their impact on the environment. As the Lucas Plan says, “there is something wrong about a society which can produce a level of technology to design and build Concorde but cannot provide enough simple urban heating systems to protect old age pensioners who are dying of hypothermia.”

Making & Manufacturing.

Maintenance, Repair & Operations.

Distribution & Logistics.

Inspection, Testing & Analysis.


Clock time is not what most people think it is. It is not a transparent reflection of some sort of true and absolute time that scientists are monitoring. It was created, and it is frequently altered and adjusted to fit social and political purposes. Daylight savings, for instance, is an arbitrary thing we made up. So is the seven-day week. “People tend to think that somewhere there is some master clock, like the rod of platinum in the Bureau of Weights and Measures, that is the ‘uber clock,’...There isn’t. It’s calculated. There is no clock on Earth that gives the correct time.”

A detailed technical breakdown of the photography of Soy Cuba that pioneered innovative lighting of Black skin tones.

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