May 12, 2020  |  permalink

The Big Rethink: The How, What, and Where of Work

On May 12th, I hosted the sixth episode of The Big Rethink: Cities After COVID-19, NewCities’ Webinar series on how the virus has impacted cities. Joining me along with 500+ attendees were Canadian Union of Postal Workers president Jan Simpson, Googleplex architect Clive Wilkinson, Cisco’s public sector chief growth officer Munish Khetrapal, and Jamira Burley, head of youth engagement & skills at the Global Business Coalition for Education. Click to watch the replay above; the episode description is below.

In the context of COVID-19, the term ‘essential’ has gone beyond defining indispensable activities and labor during a time of crisis and entered the realm of Orwellian doublespeak. The pandemic has only accelerated a much larger conversation being led by market forces, the development and accessibility of technology, and other mega-trends about what is essential –and by definition, non-essential– about work in cities.

On this episode of The Big Rethink, we take a deep dive into the how, what, and where of the future of the urban workforce. We’ll discuss the dissonance in naming workers as essential whilst not providing protections or a living wage, why the Fourth Industrial Revolution requires skills-friendly cities, and whether the modern brick-and-mortar office will itself soon be deemed as non-essential.

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May 06, 2020  |  permalink

The Big Rethink: Beyond Megacities — Rethinking Density

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On May 5th, I hosted the fifth episode of The Big Rethink: Cities After COVID-19, NewCities’ Webinar series on how the virus has impacted cities. Joining me along with 500+ attendees were former Bogotá mayor Enrique Peñalosa, placemaker and author Jay Pitter, and URBZ co-founders Rahul Srivastava and Matias Echanove. Click to watch the replay above; the episode description is below.

Location, location, location. Repeat twice daily to justify some of the most troubling trends in modern urban development. We use location – and the idea that there’s a scarcity of lively, walkable, employment-rich city centers – to champion density as simply good urbanism, while rarely stopping to consider what “density” really means. The pandemic has revealed the stark contrast between density sheltering affluent residents in locations with an abundance of amenities, and crowding designed to trap forgotten residents on the peripheries of cities — density that’s deadly. Future-proofing our cities after COVID-19 demands a more nuanced conversation than heralding the triumph of the mega-city. Grappling with the densities of banlieues, favelas, slums, and legacy cities requires understanding how these places actually work, acknowledging what they lack — adequate housing and healthcare, both contributors to the spread of disease — and helping residents help themselves.

On this episode of The Big Rethink, we explore density’s role in the pandemic and how to better protect marginalized residents on the edges — the ones who were out of sight and out of mind until they started dying. We’ll discuss what constitutes good urban density, how to prioritize vulnerable populations, and whether COVID-19 could mark a turning point toward more polycentric urban development.

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May 06, 2020  |  permalink

CoMotion Podcast: What’s Next for EVs and the UAE

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Episode 64. Outlook on EV Adoption. (Above) Greg Lindsay sits down with John Voelcker, a provider of global auto industry analysis, and Loren McDonald, content marketer and EV analyst, to discuss the rapidly approaching future of electric vehicles across the world. Greg also chats with Jonah Bliss about how the EV ecosystem will fare during and after the coronavirus crisis.

Episode 63. Micromobility in the UAE. (Below) Greg Lindsay sits down with Dheeraj Bhardwaj, CEO of Arnab Mobility, to discuss how his company is bringing micromobility to the United Arab Emirates. Greg also chats with Jonah Bliss about the plummeting prices of oil, airlines, and used cars, as well as how cities are continuing to react to the ongoing lockdowns.

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April 28, 2020  |  permalink

Inoculating the Planet: Life After COVID-19

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While the world awaits a vaccine, how will we inoculate our cities, workplaces, homes, and families against another pandemic? For example, how will fluid organizations balance the mental- and physical health of employees with new remote/office work hybrids? Will social distancing kill mass transit and ridehailing in favor of driving alone — or will cities turn streets over to cyclists, scooters, and pedestrians?  How will deliveries, “dark kitchen,” and automation threaten to turn retailing and restaurants inside-out, threatening main streets, mom-and-pops, and real estate as we know it? And where will millennials — now the victims of a second financial crash — choose to raise their children, “Generation C?”

Drawing on my research and foresight work for NewCities, CoMotion, the Atlantic Council, MIT’s Future Urban Collectives Lab, the Bloomberg Philanthropies, and dozens of recent interviews, I have a new, hour-long virtual talk (and hopefully in person soon!) on how the pandemic and resulting economic crash will alter the trajectory of our lives for decades to come.

Please get in touch to book me for your next virtual event. Let’s invent the future together.

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April 26, 2020  |  permalink

reSITE Day at Dezeen’s Virtual Design Festival

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For the last two years, I’ve had the privilege of curating Prague’s reSITE, one of the best cities- and design conferences around. I’m pleased that five talks and discussions from last year’s edition — reSITE REGENERATE — will air April 27th as a full day of programming during reSITE Day at Dezeen’s Virtual Design Festival.

In the new reality shaped and defined by the coronavirus pandemic, there is renewed urgency to rethink our urban environments and public spaces. reSITE will present the thoughts and work of five sets of guests who met in Prague last fall to share their thoughts on both the rebirth of cities and the generations of people living within. I’m gratified that rather than feeling as if they belonged to the “before,” they are more relevant than ever with cities’ in the pandemic’s grip. Here’s the lineup (all times EDT).

6 AM: Ravi Naidoo on Creating a Better World Through Creativity
In his opening keynote, Ravi Naidoo, founder of Design Indaba, speaks to, and questions the noble purposes of design. He believes that design is an ultimate toolkit to reimagine the 21st century, capable of enhancing democracy, elevating cultural identity, improving the quality of life and being of service to people. Hear how the South African think-tank, do-tank brings about the idea of a better world through creativity by finding uncanny solutions to foster affordable housing, safer cities, and environmental, social and economic change.

8 AM: Marianthi Tatari on Building Human-Centered Smart-Cities
UNStudio’s Marianthi Tatari (above, right) believes technology still can be an ally in humanity’s struggle against the most pressing issues of today. Her talk at reSITE REGENERATE features the projects of smart neighborhoods in which technology plays a key role across all scales in order to create a living environment that is continuously adapting to the needs of its dwellers.

10 AM: Chris Precht on Reconnecting Architecture and Agriculture
Chris Precht believes architecture has always been driven by fictional stories that subsequently have had a detrimental effect on the natural environment. His own projects seek to synthesize the two biggest polluting industries—architecture and agriculture—in order to create a type of sustainable building that would bring the sense of nature back to our cities. He imagines a world where cities are designed to give back space to nature and reconnect our lives back to our sources of vitality.

12 PM: Bianca Wylie on the Power of the Collective
When corporations are beginning to sound a lot like governments, it is a critical time to rebuild, empower and trust our institutions in order to keep the roles straight. Bianca Wylie, “the Jane Jacobs of smart cities,” (above, left) has made waves in the urban design world for speaking out against digital surveillance in public space. She cast a spotlight on the implications of data mining by private companies and the commoditization of the data gathered from citizens in public spaces. According to Bianca, it is specifically city institutions that should be the bulwarks of democratic resistance to hegemonies of both national governments and big corporations.

2 PM: East Meets West with Beatrice Leanza, Jee Liu, Jamie Wallace + Yoko Choy
reSITE invited Yoko Choy, (below left on the screen) the editor of Wallpaper* China, to discuss recent regenerative developments with London-based studio WallaceLiu and curator Beatrice Leanza (below right on the screen). They cover the differences between working in western countries and China and the challenges it brings. How should we build and design for the next generation? And what values are being changed in the process of regeneration? Drawing on the simple premise of our times - that it is not economic to keep on building - this discussion brings together a myriad of perspectives from architects, a curator and a journalist who work on both sides of the world.

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April 21, 2020  |  permalink

The Big Rethink & CoMotion LIVE

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As part of their efforts to grapple with coronavirus pandemic’s catastrophic effects on cities, their economies, and most of all the victims of the disease and their families and communities, NewCities and CoMotion – the sister organizations of which I am director of research and strategy, respectively — have sprung into action.

For the next five weeks (and likely beyond), NewCities and I are hosting The Big Rethink: Cities After COVID-19, a weekly live Webcast exploring the pandemic’s impact on a different aspect of urbanism each week. The April 7th premiere on the future of public space starring the architect Jeanne Gang, sociologist Richard Sennett, and Los Angeles chief design officer Christopher Hawthorne attracted more than 2,000 participants from 76 countries. The second episode, on how public transit can bounce back after the crisis, attracted more than a thousand.

Please join us on Tuesdays at 12 PM EDT, for the remaining episodes:

April 29th: The Wellbeing Imperative

May 5th: Beyond Megacities: Rethinking Density

May 12th: The How, What, And Where of Work

May 19th: Climate and Decarbonization

May 26th: Lessons for Greenfield Megaprojects

Simultaneously, CoMotion has launched CoMotion LIVE, its own weekly series exploring the pandemic’s impact on various aspects of urban mobility. The most recent episode — “Is Sharing Dead? What Micromobility 2.0 Will Look Like in Post-COVID Cities” — is embedded below; visit CoMotion News to register for future episodes.

Please watch this space as we continue to cover the pandemic’s impacts on cities around the world and develop new formats for convening urban leaders virtually to collaborate on how best to move forward after the immediate crisis.

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April 19, 2020  |  permalink

The CoMotion Podcast: Coronavirus Editions

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The CoMotion Podcast continues with a new format and new episodes pegged to the coronavirus pandemic, covering what it means for ridehailing drivers and micromobility companies as well as public transit operators — the subject of the second episode of The Big Rethink & CoMotion Live, hosted by yours truly. Catch up on the latest episodes:

Episode 62. (Above)  Greg Lindsay sits down with Ivo Cré, Director Policy and Projects at Polis, to talk about how the pandemic is changing the face of mobility in cities, and how those areas are adapting to this new way of life. Greg also chats with Jonah Bliss to discuss how the world is already thinking about reopening global economies, and how the auto industry is having, and will continue to have, serious financial woes.

Episode 61. (Below) Greg Lindsay sits down with Tiffany Chu, CEO and Co-Founder at Remix, to learn what sorts of trends she’s seeing in cities regarding all facets of mobility. Greg also chats with Jonah Bliss to discuss the coronavirus’ continued effect on the world of mobility.

Episode 60. (Bottom) Greg Lindsay sits down with Harry Campbell, Founder & CEO of The Rideshare Guy, to get some real insight into how coronavirus is affecting gig economy workers like rideshare drivers and delivery people. Greg also chats with Jonah Bliss again, to discuss the pandemic’s continued effect on the world of mobility.

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March 31, 2020  |  permalink

NewCities: When a Pandemic Goes Viral

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What a difference a month makes. My March began with a family Spring Break trip to Disneyland – today it ends with our third week in cozy self-quarantine amidst the steadily mounting severity of the global coronavirus pandemic. With my travel grounded for the foreseeable future and NewCities’ events postponed to the fall, my colleagues and I have turned our attention to how cities will emerge stronger from a crisis that calls urban density into question – and have recruited an all-start list of contributors to help.

Titled “When a Pandemic Goes Viral,” this installment of NewCities’ Big Picture series explores the urban implications of the virus:

• Saskia Sassen asks whether cities are at war – not only with the virus but with unmanageable complexity: “We have increasingly lost control over a rapidly growing range of innovations and conditions. We are on the other side of the curve. Most of us, cannot see or understand, or grasp this. But we also know that across the globe –from the people of the Sahel to Minnesota’s farmers—many in the new generations can see what we can no longer recognize. And they are telling us: Enough!”

Richard Sennett warns against the impulse to tighten surveillance to tame the virus and the incentives to either dismiss the threat or panic.“This is a time to fear the opportunity the pandemic offers the ruling powers, to reject the theatre of panic staged in the media, and to affirm the power of civil society in the city.”

• State of Place’s Mariela Alfonzo offers a ten-point plan for citymakers on how to revitalize public space once “social distancing” is over. “Here’s how I think we should regroup, rethink, retool, and rebuild per our roles as citymakers – as those whose job, and purpose, it is to spark joy by creating places people love…not just despite global crises, in spite of them.”

• Eva Hagberg reflects on how the virus has taken the city from us, and rendered architecture almost meaningless in the interim: “And so for the good of our cities, for the faith that urban life will eventually roar back, we are quarantining. We are returning to architecture as its most basic form, a type of shelter that will not protect us from the storm, nor the virus. But it will demarcate something. The time before we cared. The time now.”

You can read the entire series – with new installments daily – right here.

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March 31, 2020  |  permalink

The CoMotion Podcast Returns

The CoMotion Podcast returns with a new format just in time to cover the COVID-19 pandemic. This week’s episode kicks off with a quick review of the week’s highlights (and lowlights) in mobility with CoMotion director of marketing and media Jonah Bliss, followed by an interview with Paul Comfort, Vice President of Business Development at Trapeze, to discuss how transit agencies are pivoting to stay solvent during these troubled times. Listen above.

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March 09, 2020  |  permalink

What happens to the gig workers first eventually happens to the rest of us.

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CNN’s Luke McGee has a thorough analysis of just how badly the urban precariat class of gig workers – who have no option for working from home, no recourse for not working, and no social safety net – will get screwed by coronavirus. While many other sharp voices are in the piece examining their plight and what cities and governments should do about it (single-payer healthcare would be a damned good start), McGee asked me about the longer-term effects, and I obliged:

Second, what will consumers prioritize? Will they be perturbed that gig workers who might carry a viral infection are driving them around or delivering their food? Or will they be more annoyed at their convenience being disrupted?

And given the normalization of worker dehumanization, what level of sympathy will wealthy customers have for gig workers on the breadline?
This creates a problem for the firms who made this type of work and service possible in the first place, and for the way of life in the world’s towns and cities that have come to rely on them.

“The major metropolises in the global north and south depend on this huge pool of informal workers,” says Greg Lindsay of NewCities. He explains that a trend in “superstar cities” over the past 30 years has been poorer workers being pushed out to make space for wealthy “knowledge workers.”

“Certainly, the gig workers suffer [and] the knowledge workers suffer personally from inconvenience,” says Lindsay. “The bigger question is how the model changes in the future. Uber was working on automated cars and other companies are working on delivery robots and drones. Will this viral outbreak see renewed drive to automate the services industry?”

Views on this vary. While Harper says “investors are more likely to hire and fire a cheap disposable worker than you are to invest in more productive technologies,” Lindsay believes that “companies might see gig workers as the weak link in the chain and work out how to get rid of them as knowledge workers find it easier to work from home and come into contact with fewer people.”

All of which raises the prospect of a future where poorer gig workers are slowly squeezed out of work by machines and driven out of city centers by living costs, meaning the suburbs becoming more populated and vulnerable to outbreaks like Covid-19. Meanwhile, wealthy knowledge workers could live in clean cities with other wealthy people, being waited on hand and foot by robots.

“If you think for 10 years people have been waiting for autonomous cars, this outbreak might shift focus to autonomous everything else as people become scared to death of being around other humans,” says Lindsay.

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About Greg Lindsay

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Greg Lindsay is a journalist, urbanist, futurist, and speaker. He is the director of applied research at NewCities and director of strategy at its mobility offshoot CoMotion.  He is also a partner at FutureMap, a geo-strategic advisory firm based in Singapore, a non-resident senior fellow of The Atlantic Council’s Foresight, Strategy, and Risks Initiative, and co-author of Aerotropolis: The Way We’ll Live Next.

» More about Greg Lindsay

Articles by Greg Lindsay

Fast Company  |  March 2020

How to design a smart city that’s built on empowerment—not corporate surveillance

URBAN-X  |  December 2019

ZINE 03: BETTER

CityLab  |  December 10, 2018

The State of Play: Connected Mobility in San Francisco, Boston, and Detroit

Harvard Business Review  |  September 24, 2018

Why Companies Are Creating Their Own Coworking Spaces

CityLab  |  July 2018

The State of Play: Connected Mobility + U.S. Cities

Medium  |  May 1, 2017

The Engine Room

Fast Company  |  January 19, 2017

The Collaboration Software That’s Rejuvenating The Young Global Leaders Of Davos

The Guardian  |  January 13, 2017

What If Uber Kills Public Transport Instead of Cars

Backchannel  |  January 4, 2017

The Office of the Future Is…an Office

New Cities Foundation  |  October 2016

Now Arriving: A Connected Mobility Roadmap for Public Transport

Inc.  |  October 2016

Why Every Business Should Start in a Co-Working Space

Popular Mechanics  |  May 11, 2016

Can the World’s Worst Traffic Problem Be Solved?

The New Republic  |  January/February 2016

Hacking The City

Fast Company  |  September 22, 2015

We Spent Two Weeks Wearing Employee Trackers: Here’s What We Learned

Fast Company  |  September 21, 2015

HR Meets Data: How Your Boss Will Monitor You To Create The Quantified Workplace

Inc.  |  March 2015

Which Contacts Should You Keep in Touch With? Let This Software Tell You

Inc.  |  March 2015

5 Global Cities of the Future

Global Solution Networks  |  December 2014

Cities on the Move

Medium  |  November 2014

Engineering Serendipity

New York University  |  October 2014

Sin City vs. SimCity

» See all articles

Blog

July 04, 2020

Inoculating the Planet: Cities After COVID-19

July 04, 2020

CoMotion MIAMI Live: Ford’s Mark Kaufman

June 15, 2020

Navigating the Noise: Coming Back to Mobility

June 15, 2020

CoMotion LIVE: Life After Lockdown — Learning From Asia’s All-Delivery Future

» More blog posts