Link About It: This Week’s Picks

Architecture from Manhattan to Svalbard, protest art, artificial intelligence, cannabis laws and more from around the web

Yaara Nusboim’s “Alma” Therapy Toys

Israeli designer Yaara Nusboim created these wooden therapy toys in collaboration with child psychologists for kids to work through various struggles (including trauma) during play therapy. This kind of treatment was developed by psychoanalyst Melanie Klein some 80 years ago, and encourages children to express themselves through play rather than conversation—offering a comfortable distance for them from whatever issue they are facing. Nusboim says, “The therapist can observe the choices the child makes—which toys they pick, the way they play, the concept of the game—and through them the therapist can learn about the child’s mental and emotional state.” But the designer found that this type of therapy was still relying on generic toys, and she wanted to create something more effective. After working with seven child psychologists over the course of a year, Nusboim made a set of tactile toys out of maple and silicone, each of which can be interacted with in a number of ways. “All of the dolls are open to interpretation, which will depend on the child’s backstory and the treatment method,” she says. Find out more at Dezeen.

Svalbard’s “Doomsday” Seed Vault to Get a Snøhetta-Designed Welcome Center

Preserving some 986,243 seed species, in zero degrees Fahrenheit, the Svalbard Global Seed Vault protects the legacy of Earth’s fauna. For those who’ve long dreamed of seeing the site themselves, a visitor center known as The Arc is set to open in 2022. Design firm Snøhetta will lead, and their vision is two-fold. First, a mirrored, modernist main building (on a suspended timber frame, so as not to heat the permfrost) will house a cafe and an experiential Arctic World Archive installation. The show-stopping second building swirls toward the sky; inside, the design evokes the experience of standing in the vault itself (and will be kept at 39 degrees Fahrenheit). There will also be a heated conference center within. Read more at Fast Company.

Extinction Rebellion’s Sinking House Protest

Coinciding with Extinction Rebellion hunger strikes, a partly submerged home—symbolizing where rising water levels could reach if they were to go unchecked—floated down the Thames in London on 10 November. Using the collective’s trademark “non-violent civil disobedience,” the single-family home is an “SOS to the government on climate inaction,” the group states. Though the placement was chosen as a central spot to attract views and ultimately awareness, ER organizers insist that they aren’t blowing the potential stakes out of proportion: “under new sea level rise projections, Stratford, Barking and Dagenham and large swathes of South and West London, East Anglia, Essex and Kent will be underwater by 2050,” Rob Higgs, who created the piece, tells Fast Company. Read more there.

The World in 50 Years Survey

Organized by Quartz, the “The World in 50 Years” survey polls some of the world’s brightest, boldest (and controversial) thinkers across a number of industries on topics pertinent to our future. Questions range from “Who will run the world?” and “What will our most valuable resource be?” to “What will we eat?” and “How will we die?” and teeter between literal and philosophical. Almost every answer expands beyond a one-word reply and they vastly differ—it seems we collectively run the gamut of optimistic to hesitantly hopeful to cynical. Read remarks from Anousheh Ansari, Bill Nye, Darnell Moore and others at Quartz.

A Bill to End Federal Marijuana Prohibition Clears Key Vote

Marking the first time a Congressional Committee has approved a piece of legislation that would end the federal prohibition of marijuana (and adjacent iterations) in the USA’s history, the MORE Act (the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement Act) passed with a bipartisan vote of 24-10 today. Now that it’s passed the Judiciary Committee, the act will be presented to the House, wherein representatives will have the opportunity to push the bill forward or terminate it. As NORML (a national organization in favor of legalization) explains, this bill isn’t a watered-down iteration of what millions have hoped for: the bill “would remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act and impose a minor excise tax on the legal cannabis industry to pay for the expungement of criminal records,” and “provide pathways for opportunity and ownership in the emerging industry for those who have suffered most,” NORML Political Director Justin Strekal says. In the days leading up the vote, NORML facilitated the relaying of 60,000+ messages of support from constituents across the country. Read more there.

Robots Learn Problem-Solving From IKEA Furniture-Building Simulations

In order for robots to service humans more broadly, they’re going to be required to master more complex tasks at smaller scales. Right now, many of the most effective robot assignments involve “muscle,” like moving large car parts from a conveyor belt to a model. Humans are always called in to complete the final touches, though. Researchers at University of Southern California thought of a particular way to teach robots (at least in simulations, for now) how to approach “a multifaceted problem that can teach the machines a multitude of lessons”—in this instance, building IKEA furniture. Humans know that building IKEA furniture can be challenging, but for robots, disassembled furniture is a puzzle that allows them to master careful movements through repetitious reinforcement training with seemingly endless variability. Read more at Wired.

The Cooper Union’s Student Work Collection Highlights Early Work From Star Architects and More

An expansive, free online database, The Cooper Union’s Student Work Collection contains projects from 1,500+ of the institution’s graduates—as well as those from its Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture. This public archive includes (text, audio and photographic) components from roughly 4,500 projects, stretching back to the 1930s, many of which were unpublished. Many of the school’s celebrated alumni, Elizabeth Diller and Daniel Libeskind included, have work featured. Read more at Architectural Digest.

The Initiative for Indigenous Futures on Artificial Intelligence

From the sixth (and most recent) installment of NYU ITP’s academic journal Adjacent, entitled Old/New/Next, senior editor Gabriella Garcia’s essay “There Is No ‘Artificial’ Intelligence: A Conversation with the Initiative for Indigenous Futures” seeks answers to two questions: what makes something “artificial” and how do we determine “intelligence?” Garcia references the MUTEK Montreal electronic arts festival and a symposium by members of Initiative for Indigenous Futures. IIF co-founder Professor Jason Edward Lewis and Lakota performance artist Suzanne Kite address everything from machine learning, programmed emotions, and the implementation of white supremacy in AI. Observation thus far has been that biases are entrenched in the algorithms coded into our technology—and now is the time to make change. Read more at Adjacent.

Farewell to Snowboard Pioneer Jake Burton Carpenter

Founder of Burton Snowboards, Jake Burton Carpenter has died at 65 years old from complications relating to cancer. In 1977, Carpenter left NYC for Vermont to develop what was then inventor Sherman Poppen’s rudimentary snowboard. Four decades later and the Burton name (by now making much more than boards) is synonymous with winter sports. Carpenter pioneered the sport, lobbied for snowboarder rights at resorts and helped to elevate it to Olympic levels. “He’s like the cool dad of the sport,” award-winning snowboarder Shaun White told the New York Times in 2015—a sentiment many in the snowboarding community share. Read more at The Washington Post.

Link About It is our filtered look at the web, shared daily in Link and on social media, and rounded up every Saturday morning.