Five Reasons For Serious Optimism Right Now

In spite of the fact that we are being perpetually bombarded by warnings these days, on social and conventional media, that we are on the precipice of biological, political, economic and environmental collapse, there are sound reasons to believe that we will quite possibly — likely, even — survive it all, and perhaps even emerge (much!) better off once we do.

Paris, or New York? There’s little difference, these days. © Anthony Fieldman 2020

I am as guilty as anyone of swinging wildly between pessimism and optimism on any given day. It’s beginning to dawn on me that the more I tune into social media or the news, the more depressed, or angry, I feel. But when I ignore those things for even a few days, focusing instead on relationships, the energy of the streets (in some cities, anyhow), and non-topical, universal issues of entrepreneurial, cultural and philosophical creativity, then I become buoyantly optimistic, and I tune in to the amazing things going on in the world, in spite of what the doomsayers would have us believe.

Here are five current reasons for some serious optimism.

1. We Are A Civilization In Transition

Author and columnist Tom Friedman said it first to Chris Cuomo on CNN just a month ago, speaking to the inanity of the argument about fossil fuels. “It’s over,” he said, rattling off a series of facts that supported this conclusion. The United States is “in transition,” he said countless times, referring to the shift from extraction to renewable energy sources, pointing out the telling fact that Exxon Mobil was just booted out of the Dow Jones Industrial Average, to be replaced by Salesforce. Viewed another way, an Industrial Age company was supplanted by a Digital Age one.

“The Stone Age didn’t end because we ran out of stone,” Friedman deadpanned. “It ended because we invented metal tools.”

He shared the fact is that it’s now less costly in many (most?) places to produce and purchase clean energy, and that 72% of new electricity generation in 2019 worldwide came from renewables, he pointed out, not because of altruism, but because it was good business. Both of these things presage the end of terrestrial destruction and the dawn of clean power.

The Levelized Cost of Energy (LCoE). Source: Lazard

Who leads that charge remains to be seen. If the United States continues to bury its head in the sand — at least, politically — then other stars will rise to take their place. Friedman opined, “I don’t want to go from a country that imports oil from the Middle East to importing clean energy efficiency tools from China; and miss the whole thing because we are not in transition.”

Recent research by Stanford University has concluded that in just 20–40 years, the entire planet could be run by renewable energy, alone.

Right now, among nations, Iceland leads the pack with 99% of its energy generation being renewable, followed by Norway, Kenya, Uruguay, Sweden, Germany, China, and the UK. Though the US produces just 18% of its energy from renewable sources, it is a figure that has roughly doubled in the past 20 years alone, and is rising quickly.

Regardless, as goes the planet, so goes the nations.

If you’d like to read more on that subject, I wrote a piece in October titled In Transition for An Injustice! Magazine, here.

2. In Hard Times, Creativity Skyrockets

By March, the entire planet was writing obituaries for city living — no single place more than New York. “It’s untenable! Unsafe! Mayhem!” “People are fleeing in droves!” “The city is dead; no one will ever live in one anymore.” “It’s just too dangerous.”

By April, I’d had enough of this Chicken Little mentality. I wrote a counter-obituary for NYC, saying in essence that people were being reactive, and woefully overreacting; that they were ignorant of both data and history; and that instead they were falling prey to their own misgivings of city living, and feeding their justifications for leaving theirs, now that they no longer had to commute for their jobs.

Gotham © Anthony Fieldman 2016

These people, I am firmly convinced, were not long for city life before the pandemic.

The numbers tell a clear story, through the 1918 pandemic that killed 675,000 Americans (in a population of 103 million — less than a third of what it is now); through the Great Depression — the single largest economic collapse in the nation’s history, still; through two World Wars that stretched a nation to its limits; and through “white flight” after the Second World War, when an entire demographic — the dominant one — did actually flee in droves, birthing the suburb while relegating cities everywhere to those who couldn’t afford to leave them. Through all of these catastrophes, New York City increased in population. In fact, the only time in history that it didn’t grow larger — meaning, attract more people than fled, or left, it — was the five-year period between 1969 and 1974.

More interestingly, during that time, when the city lost 800,000 jobs and its crime rates were higher than at any other time, it was simultaneously, I’d argue, the single most culturally creative period in New York’s history. There’s no surprise there. As an artist surrounded largely by artist friends and versed in art history, I know turmoil and scarcity to be catnip for creative inspiration, and output. As I wrote in that article:

“There was CBGB’s, founded in 1973, birthing the careers of Patty Smith, Blondie, the Ramones. Max’s Kansas City, which hit its fever pitch in the 70’s as home to art powerhouses Andy Warhol, John Chamberlain, Robert Rauschenberg, Larry Rivers, Robert Smithson, Donald Judd, Richard Serra, Dan Flavin and Donald Judd. Literary icons William S. Burroughs and Allen Ginsburg, and musical legends Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground, came of age at that time. Then, there was Studio 54, created in 1977 — the single most legendary nightclub in history. The list is too long to include here, but everybody who was anybody was there, sometimes naked on horseback, at The Greatest Party on Earth. Owner Ian Schrager said it was like “standing on stardust”, and it left glitter that could be found months later in attendees’ clothing and homes. Finally, there was the Bronx. As a 2012 The Atlantic article described the era, “Kool Herc, Afrika Bambaataaa, and Grandmaster Flash hot-wired street parties with collaged shards of vinyl LPs.” They invented the first real, ultimately global, new music genre, in ages: Rap. Its influence on the world of fashion, music, language and culture is perhaps the biggest cross-cultural phenomenon to come out of New York in 50 years — maybe 100. And this was the 70’s. The article goes on, “The New York Dolls stripped rock ’n’ roll to its frame and wrapped it in gender-fuck drag, taking a cue from Warhol’s transvestite glamour queens. Bruce Springsteen and Patti Smith, both bussed in from Jersey, took a cue from the elusive Dylan, combining rock and poetry into new shapes.”

Outside the famed Ear Bar in Soho, NYC 1970's

I’d be lying if I said that some part of me — and not a tiny one — isn’t excited to see what creative output results from our current malaise. If the city falls on hard enough times, I’m sure it’ll be spectacular.

3. Economies Will Be Reset , And More Accessible

At the same time as businesses are decimated and retail economies reel or fail altogether, another phenomenon is emerging that benefits those who are otherwise unable to participate. When NYC first shuttered its vitrines, wrapping buildings — Christo-like — in plywood as it feared a level of civil unrest and chaos that never emerged — twice now — something strange happened: low-income residents of the city’s “outer boroughs” — the places that many of them were forced to move years ago, as gentrification priced them out (or forcibly removed them) from their former homes — returned to the streets, to reclaim the night. Adolescent boys skateboarded down unthinkably empty Fifth Avenue. Large families of working-class families ambled up and down that same famed stretch of real estate gold, feeling welcome, for the first time, after generations of economics-fueled exclusion. And real estate, the ever-more-out-of-reach asset that drives many (most?) people to move at all from their homes, is showing signs of weakening again, as it did in the 80’s when I moved here, and again during The Great Recession. At both of those times, as now, those to whom the city was inaccessible found a way to muster their way in and participate. Alphabet City; the Meatpacking District; these were places one didn’t go, unless one wanted drugs, transvestites, or to risk one’s safety for a drink.

Taking back the night on Fifth and Fiftieth © Anthony Fieldman 2020

American economist Jason Barr produced a fascinating graph for a 2018 article on Gotham City (New York’s alter ego), which demonstrates that the city’s net migration rates are inversely proportional to the cost of real estate.

© Jason Barr

The point here is that one group’s loss — of richly priced real estate, luxury food and beverage outlets, and expensive consumer goods storefronts — is another group’s gain, in whatever more accessible counterparts replace these, even in the short term. So, whether the current economic churn is a good thing or a bad one is frankly a matter of where you find yourself economically in that argument — whether you’re here for the luxury, or for livability. Fire sales may not be good for shareholder return, but they’re a bonanza for those who wait all year to spend hard-earned pennies on something for their families, or homes; and who yearn to feel welcome and supported in their own front yard.

4. The Car Is No Longer King

This is one of my favorite outcomes of our current attempt to save commerce. Like other places where parked cars have owned the streets for a century, and where an inspired mayoralty has seen the potential to reclaim them, and furthermore has the bravery to act on these insights — these cities are looking a lot like Paris, of late.

REUTERS/Andrew Kelly/File Photo—August 14, 2020

In New York City, any food establishment with frontage onto a street (aka ALL of them) has the right to petition exclusive use of this real estate, on the street, gratis. Within no time, more than 10,000 of the city’s restaurants — nearly half of them — applied for, and received, a permit to operate on the street, as long as they meets certain safety criteria.

The results are spectacular.

Never before has a city moved so quickly to reclaim the streets from automobiles that no one likes, and which grind movement to a halt, to re-gift them to pedestrians who can suddenly dwell and socialize into the night without smelling exhaust, or looking out for their safety, or staring at a wall of vehicles, or listening to the incessant honking, engaged in a futile attempt to goad others into moving, on gridlocked streets.

It reminds me of the seismic shift in bars eighteen years ago, when Mayor Bloomberg banned smoking. Not only did fewer bartenders die that year — and every year since — from secondhand smoke, but desperate new parents began bringing sleeping babies to bars in their Bugaboos, to steal a quick drink; the rate of underage (<18) smoking in the city dropped by half — from 17% to just 8.5%, in the ensuing ten years; more than 10,000 premature deaths due to smoking were avoided, according to the city’s Health Department; and the only losers were the dry cleaners, who were no longer scrubbing nicotine from nightwear.

Today, with regard to what amounts to a “ban on cars”, of sorts, the current mayor of NYC has made street dining a welcome permanent change. Meaning, the car is no longer king. Long life the pedestrian!

5. A Change Is Gonna Come…

This last reason for optimism is the most seismic in reach. Just yesterday, I wrote a brief synopsis of why there is a case for deep optimism about the world, why 2020 may be remembered as the best year in memory; and gave voice to where we’re headed. That’s because we are in the midst of a life-altering shift right now, spurred by two chief forces: the Digital Revolution, and a global pandemic from which no corner of the hyperconnected Earth is being spared. It’s rare — maybe a handful of times in the last thousand years — that a “Great Reset” occurs. It happened following the Black Death; The Renaissance; the Age of Enlightenment; the Scientific Revolution; and most recently, the Industrial Revolution. Each of these presaged the end of then-prevailing systems of governance, exchange, tools, awareness and even identity for those alive. Each one empowered the next stage of human development, even at the high cost of rampant mortality.

The Black Death, during which a quarter of the planet perished, including half of Europe, brought about the fall of the feudal system, and the first taste of true power, and self-determination, for the peasant and working classes.

The Renaissance produced an enormous expansion of cultural experience to those outside of the ruling elite, seeding a humanistic understanding of the world while also advancing science, medicine and technology.

The Age of Enlightenment compelled us toward ideas of freedom, equality and tolerance, leading to the overthrow of entrenched governments (France; the US) and a further advancement of “people power”.

The Scientific Revolution led to the demystification and quantification of the world — seeding the Industrial Revolution that followed, as mankind began to remake the world in its image, through principles of discovery, empiricism and invention.

So here we are, once again in that too-rare period when external forces — because it is always external forces that are required to help us overcome our entrenched tendency toward inertia — have unmoored us from our bedrock. That bedrock is comprised of the institutions we have created to coax, orchestrate and attempt to align the actions of nearly eight billion human beings. And as far as this has taken us, our institutions are still lacking in adequacy and responsiveness to human need. One of these — economics — has directly or indirectly caused many or most of the ills that we now have an opportunity to repair, and rethink: human rights abuses; planetary disfigurement; dishonest and increasingly inept rulers; the consolidation of power, to the point where just a handful of people own as much as nearly half of mankind; a health system that lavishes attention on the rich while ignoring the needs of people you could argue need it most; inequality in every conceivable measure; an information pipeline whose content is driven by market share, and thus ignores what matters in favor of what sells; and pervasive, Industrial Age educational systems that are woefully inadequate to prepare the next generation of Digital Age workers, or to even understand what that might look like.

With regard to this last point, I’d like to focus on just one arena of transformation, and in doing so, bridge our last leap with the present one: the education and organization of the human work force. That is, how we will train, grow and safeguard our own future thriving; how we will organize ourselves in order to secure it; and how we will decide to reward those who contribute, with consideration for those who cannot, more than we have, historically. That’s because the past century has accelerated a trend that began when Industrial Age machines supplanted the human body as the primary unit of production; and continued as Digital Age algorithms superseded the human brain in both speed and linear complexity, in solving problems we’ve pondered for centuries, and now have adequate tools to begin solving.

So, where does this arc lead, if metal completes its bid to replace muscle, and silicon makes human brainpower risible, far beyond the embarrassments faced by chess’ Grandmasters? Is a Universal Basic Income (UBI) for the emerging “useless class” that luminaries like Yuval Noah Harari is convinced is around the corner a foregone conclusion for human thriving? Will machines and algorithms become our new feudal lords? Or is there more in store for humans than ensuring that our non-living masters are well-oiled and networked, at least until they can handle those jobs on their own, without us?

Well, dystopic futures notwithstanding (Metropolis; Terminator; Blade Runner…) humans are as busy as ever, and critically, with regard to the point I wish to make, have made the leap from subsistence activities toward leisure ones. By many measures, that is excellent news. That is, we are in mid-transformation from a species trying to survive, into one managing our excesses. Our activities, more and more, are aimed at distracting ourselves from our own boredom, by inventing things to soak up our time, and our dollars.

That trend will likely continue.

So, what’s the good news? Well, the one thing that most experts will agree on is that AI will have a hard time replicating the erratic and illogical patterns of the human mind, not the least of which are our emotional urges, and our complexity. So, until that happens sometime down the road, and humans are as comfortable cozying up to Pris from Blade Runner or entrusting Alita from Battle Angel with our secret fears, humans will continue to be employed in fulfilling human desires and needs. That is, our value will be in administering to the human psyche, and whatever it fuels.

Pris—the Replicant (cyborg) from Blade Runner

Which is where the twin forces of mobility and access begin to rewrite both education and work.

Once the Digital Age matures, humans will no longer be considered just units of production. Rather, we will be considered agents of creative insight: inventors, all, aided and stretched by AI-fueled machines there to execute our visions. Anyone with an Internet connection now has access not only to software with which to program whatever we dream up, but also to the machines that manufacture those things, thereby turning ideas into products that further extend our individual and collective reach, or that simply bring joy to our lives.

Seeding a form of rapid innovation, digital — or clean — manufacturing is now so accessible that anyone with a Wi-Fi connection and an extremely remedial knowledge of coding and web design can create and sell anything to anyone else on the planet, provided by have a Wi-Fi connection, virtual money and a courier service. 3D-printed everything, from chocolate to eyewear to weapons to houses, are just the starting point. A new “cottage industry” of micro-manufacturing, made-to-order and one-off creations has emerged, at little to no premium, because labor is no longer the limiting force in its creation. There are machines for that! Services abound, too, turning homes into hotels, or cars into taxis, to highlight the obvious successes in AirBnB and Uber.

They’re not alone. It goes far beyond these things. I wrote just yesterday that 90 percent of the data in the world has been generated in the past two years. All of this — 100% — is on the Internet, along with a fair bit of the “old” knowledge, too, from the prior 5,400 years of human data capture.

What do you think this augurs for our collective education?

We are just at the infancy of a wholesale rewriting of a knowledge-based economy. It’ll likely take the hybrid form of conventional teaching, now being beta-tested online nearly everywhere, with students across the globe sequestered in their homes, and as legendary institutions like Harvard, MIT and Berkeley, Cambridge and Stanford, among countless others, open their doors to the public at large, for free, with the introduction of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). There are literally thousands of these, right now, on the Internet.

MOOCs today © Anthony Fieldman 2020

Conventional and new models of degree-granting — a designation that is increasingly vestigial in the “post-prestige” era — abound online, now. The contributory and prohibitive costs of real estate, housing, travel, commuting, textbooks and ancillary college costs — not to mention limiting factors like class size and scheduling — have all in mere months been severely reduced, as education moved — and will continue to flourish — online, and as a mix of live and pre-recorded sessions, supported by robust online discussion forums, supplant older models of delivery and discourse.

TED Talks, Rebel Wisdom and countless other platforms are now supplementing — and in the very near future will ultimately supplant — the classroom.

The economics of doing so are clear. A class size of 300 paying $75,000 in annual tuition nets an institution the same income as 300,000 globally connected students paying just $75 for the same material, without incurring the attendant costs I listed above.

Meaning, it’s more profitable.

New models of economics — who funds what, and how — will mean that a poor child anywhere in the world can conceivably have access to the same coursework as the elites in their “ivy towers.” All they will need is a (shared) Wi-Fi connection.

This possibility promises — provided that the right values guide its institution and development — to finalize the democratization of our education, from the villas to the slums. As I mentioned, the true price of entry is access to the Internet. Once in the door, the entire world — every single thought and insight collected in human history — will be there, waiting to be plumbed, and leveraged.

Already, “levelers” like the Khan Academy are pushing academic content out globally, using YouTube as a host and their own website to track progress and practice exercises. Their stated mission, “To provide a free, world-class education for anyone, anywhere,” provides tens of thousands of mostly K-12 courses, given in over three dozen languages, and has made significant inroads for those with little to no resources.

Sugar Labs — the successor to Nicholas Negroponte’s One Laptop Per Child initiative, back at MIT’s Media Lab, in 2005 — coordinates volunteers from around the world who are passionate about extending educational opportunities to children on their online educational platform. Their own platform, the Sugarizer, is a web-based portal that aggregates content from many places, including the Khan Academy, to create huge repositories for students and teachers alike. Interestingly, Sugar Labs’ content can be downloaded and held offline, rendering spotty Internet connections less of a barrier for those on the fringes of economic development.

All of these things feed directly into a much-newer phenomenon about a mobile global workforce. I forget exactly where I read it, but to paraphrase it, someone recently wrote that “As work goes remote, the available talent pool to any business has gone from a 35-mile radius to one spanning the globe.”

They’re more right than they may know.

Work. The Assemblage NYC. Photo: Business Insider

When, just ten months ago, the global workforce went remote, a Great Migration began, as people realized that without even a dip in productivity, they could recover control over their schedules, and never commute to the office again.

And so yes, cities are emptying, though these are mostly refilling with transplants from other cities that they’re leaving, as people realize that their choice of domicile is no longer beholden to their place of work. And so preferences related to climate, culture, space, nature and economics are now driving the decision for some to decamp.

Even if the city were to shrink in population, why is that a bad thing? A 2% decline in demand for services leads to a right-sizing of these things, or better yet, a dip in attendant costs. Economies are ecosystems: the cost of rent drives the demand for salary, the price of goods and the cost of local services, whether earned or spent. So as one aspect of the ecosystem changes — say, the price of real estate, due to reduced demand — accordingly, everything else will have to adjust, or fail. Meaning, these things are dynamic.

And to say it again, the decimation of the luxury goods market — temporary or otherwise — is not a bad thing for everyone.

Let’s take the concept of work to the next level — to where I believe it is headed. Today, there are startups like Remote Year, where one can pay for a service similar to that offered by travel agencies, but on steroids, where the logistics of securing a home, finding work, participating in cultural immersion and setting up your IT while abroad — over the term of an entire year — are all taken care of for you, thus allowing the client base to buy into a nomadic lifestyle that is essentially the adult version of a year abroad. Digitally tethered gig economy workers can now pop into an exotic locale to live, work and play, remotely. Apart from the time zone issue, a video call taken in Ulaanbaatar or one in Cartagena is no different from taking it in suburban New Jersey, or Guelph, apart from the excitement factor.

That’s what people are buying.

My friend Charlie, fueled by an insatiable curiosity and entrepreneurial mindset, decamped with his own family a solid year before COVID descended. He, his wife and their two young children — one a teenager — left Toronto for a year abroad, which they divided equally between Japan, Italy, Morocco and Bali. They settled in the last of these for a second year, thereby merging their kids’ need for an education with their own ability to work, in a novel expatriate community, the kind of which are now popping up elsewhere, anchored in this case around an innovative place called The Green School.

The Green School, Bali, Indonesia
The Green School, Bali, Indonesia © Widi

Part neighborhood, part community, and entirely forward-thinking, the Green School seeks no less than “an education revolution”. Focused on food production, environmental stewardship, global citizenship, inter-generational collaboration and a commitment to lifelong learning, their literally wall-less schools are as much incubators for next-gen humans as any I’ve heard of.

Charlie, for his part, has found new, equally entrepreneurial collaborators there, which makes sense where any new model of ‘old things’ is being tested. The innovator and early adopter communities thrive on advancing paradigms. Charlie’s no exception. So he and his family have landed in the middle of the future, today. They’re trading on the same basic things that the more forward-thinking co-working communities elsewhere do, by availing themselves of Digital Age connectivity to do business with other gig workers, for only as long as it makes sense to. No more, or less.

Work (Paris terrace)
Work (NeueHouse Madison Avenue)
Work (NeueHouse Bradbury)
Work (Industry City, NYC)

The future of work is increasingly indistinguishable from the Internet itself: a network of resources to be called upon when needed, then put aside when they are not.

The enormous (positive) impact this has on the cost of entry for business incubation and operations cannot be overstated. By remaining nimble as an independent contractor of “homeless” business enterprise, we can focus on finding the best resources anywhere, negotiating an acceptable price for one another’s time and services, and dissolve transactional relationships just as soon as one wishes to, without the inflexibility, the hierarchy, or the commute.

The good working relationships will continue to flourish, while the bad ones are cast aside. It’s all about fit.

As more and more of us enter the service or knowledge economy, the need to be tethered to manufacturing equipment will continue to diminish. Through the Internet, we can send files to the people who still do, negotiating the manufacture, supply chain, retail and distribution from wherever we happen to be. Etsy is just one great example of this force at work. Amazon is another. In fact, Amazon’s supply chain — and employment — has doubled during the pandemic, adding 500,000 jobs in the past 10 months alone. We are fast approaching a time when we will have no idea where what we buy comes from, nor will we care, as long as the interval from time to purchase, and the convenience for returns, is within the tolerance of our growing impatience.

But what about those who do not have an entrepreneurial mindset, and who still want the security of a paycheck? Or the companies that still want to “own” their assets — human and real estate — and insist on colocation and time spent “on site”?

While to some of us, these things seem like vestiges of an Industrial Age mindset — limit trust, micromanage and control their hours — not every company is ready to leap. They, too, like everything else on Earth, follow the bell curve — the “normal distribution” of ideas.

Well, with few exceptions, like some aspects of healthcare, manufacturing and construction, to name the three biggest, on-site work will never again be a full-time gig. That genie is out of the bottle. The rise of workplaces on demand, either by subscription or by per-use fee, is growing. Today, one third of the work force is made up of independent contractors (ICs). That’s industry-speak for self-employed. Companies like Convene, whose tagline is, “We create your best day at work, wherever it happens,” cater to this phenomenon for ICs and large companies alike. Convene will not only find you a workspace, it’ll also host your meeting, order your meals, lavish you with concierge-like service and offer you access to events programming that only members of their ‘community’ may benefit from, to boot.

These will become more common.

I can recall the time when my first major employer — a dominant architectural practice — first brought email into the office as a new productivity tool. In the first day of its release, a memo was sent out quickly by the partners, forbidding employees from using it for anything other than replying to them, and warning that if we were caught doing so, we risked being fired.

I wish. How nice that would be to get half of my day back, from email hell.

Well twenty-eight years later, similar fears recently played out, when the global workforce (less essential workers) was sent home, to wait out the pandemic. Employers feared that with so many distractions, productivity and quality would suffer. At home, would employees lose focus? Goof around? Get too distracted? Cheat on their timecards? Be able to self-regulate, beyond the gaze and guidance of their supervisors?

The answers are all a resounding NO. My own company, across 24 office and 1,600 people, hasn’t missed a beat. We did forensics on ourselves. One third of employees are now working longer hours, because their new flexibility allows them to organize their lives organically, balancing work, family and other obligations or interests with more control and flexibility than they had when they sat for an eight-hour block, staring at a screen, being told to be productive. Moreover, the commute is gone, allowing most of us to bank time formerly spent sitting in traffic or on crowded transit, and put it to better use. And you’d never know, just by looking at our financials, that anything had appreciably changed since last year. Yes, there are fewer jobs overall, and more “reversals”, as clients’ own cash flow has ebbed; but holistically, our workforce is no less capable of delivering quality work from their basements, kitchens or weekend-turned-weekday homes than they were when we all sat together in an antiseptic, fluorescent-lit office.

In all, I’d be lying if I said life isn’t better for those who are still employed, myself included.

Ours is a conventional business. We are at the center of the bell curve. The same is being seen elsewhere. We are at least as productive as we were when we were stuck in an office.

The pandemic has accelerated our inevitable digital transformation, from rigidity to nimbleness, dramatically.

Final Thoughts

There is GREAT reason for optimism today.

We are already well into our transition from resource-depleting fossil fuels to clean energy systems that will drastically reduce the destruction of the biome on which we rely to survive, and allow us to begin repairing the damage we’ve caused to it — and ourselves — as we learn once again to live with the land, in lieu of against it.

We are also in a period of concentrated creativity, as the necessity borne of global economic losses births invention, even while fortunes flag for those impacted. The rapid pace of innovation and ideation is unlike anything we’ve ever seen; and the hardship we are experiencing now will lead us to reinvent what it is to find fulfilling work.

Moreover, the city will thrive, as it always has, through thick and thin. In fact, they will transform for the better, as people once again take center stage, while arteries designed expressly for motor vehicles are transformed into greenways and people places, reversing a century of bad urbanism, and making cities better places to live.

The “cost of entry” in those cities may well also reverse dramatically, not only in the short term, but over the long haul. That’s because not only are hard times conspiring to squeeze the market, but the fact that we can now work from anywhere means that the pressure on real estate caused primarily by the mandate to be at work five (or seven) days a week is, for the first time in human history, no longer a driver.

And finally, a rebooting of what it means to be educated, empowered and ultimately productive is already well into the early stages of its own chrysalis: how we learn, what we learn, where we learn it, who has access, what it’s for! and what we do with a globally connected, informed and entrepreneurial species. All of these things will empower us in ways we never have been. We will emerge as a global network of humans doing what we do best: dreaming, testing, discovering and transforming, as the illogical, emotional creatures that we are, leading us to places hitherto limited only by our own imaginations absent the powerful tools we now have to turn those fantasies into inspired realties.

We are at the threshold of the new.

These are exciting times.

Architect | Photographer | Writer | Polyglot | Windmill Jouster | Nomade Civilisée.

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