Greg Lindsay's Blog

January 29, 2023  |  permalink

The Metaverse Metropolis: Placemaking Across Realities

The Metaverse Metropolis project continues March 21st with a free, in-person event at the Cornell Tech campus on Roosevelt Island in New York. “Placemaking Across Realities” will explore how immersive and mixed reality technologies are shaping the future of cities. The event kicks off with a fireside chat between our partners for the event — Spectra Cities and JUMP founder Ryan Rzepecki and Numena CEO Andreea Ion Cojocaru — followed by a panel discussion exploring what urban peacemakers and digital world builders might learn from each other.

Whether you’re in the XR community or just a curious bystander, I hope you’ll join us. Click here to register.

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January 29, 2023  |  permalink

The Metaverse & The City Manifesto

The Metaverse Metropolis — the primary subject of my urban tech fellowship at the Jacobs Urban Tech Hub at Cornell Tech — officially kicked off on January 24th in partnership with Amsterdam’s Sharing Cities Alliance and New York University’s School of Professional Studies Metaverse Collaborative. Together with the former’s Harmen van Sprang and latter’s Elizabeth Haas, I co-hosted a virtual roundtable drafting a shared manifesto declaring the values, principles, and goals that should guide the development and use of the metaverse in our cities.

The roster of participants hailed from Abu Dhabi, Amsterdam, Ankara, Atlanta, Austin, Copenhagen, Dublin, Düsseldorf, Eindhoven, Istanbul, Karlstad, Kyiv, London, Montreal, München, New York City, Norwich, Phoenix, Riyadh, Rotterdam, The Hague, Toronto, Utrecht, Washington, DC., and many more.

A final draft of the manifesto will be shared this spring in New York City at a conference hosted by NYU and the U.S. Conference of Mayors. But this is only the beginning.

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January 23, 2023  |  permalink

Which Zoomtowns Are Tomorrow’s Boomtowns?

Over at Climate Alpha, we’ve compiled a ranking and special report on the best places to invest in a future of remote work:

Remote work may be here to stay, but not all “Zoomtowns” are created equal. Many of the pandemic’s most popular refuges have since suffered from housing unaffordability, climate disasters, or both.

Which cities possess the right combination of resilience, quality of life, plentiful housing, and accessibility to a major metro (and points beyond)?

Using Climate Alpha’s proprietary Resilience Index™ scores and forecasting tools, we’ve identified five communities across the U.S. poised to reap the long-term benefits of a remote future, ranging from cities such as Portland, Oregon and Colorado Springs to greener pastures in Michigan, Virginia, and Kentucky.

Click here to download the rest.

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January 11, 2023  |  permalink

The Washington Speakers Bureau

I’ve had the pleasure of working with some amazing speakers bureaus — including my Canadian fave, Speakers Spotlight, and my pan-European colleagues at the London Speaker Bureau — but it’s an honor to also join the roster of the Washington Speakers Bureau, which describes itself as “the world’s foremost speakers agency” and isn’t exaggerating, given its deep bench of former heads of state, CEOs, brilliant thinkers… and now me. Please take a look at my profile and topics if you’re in the market for someone who isn’t, say, a former POTUS.

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December 31, 2022  |  permalink

Welcome to the Post-Post-Pandemic Era: 2023 Speaking Topics

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Looking to ring in 2023 with a speaker who can help you and your organization make sense of the post-post-pandemic landscape? I regularly speak to some of the world’s largest, most influential, and most innovative organizations about the future of cities, climate, AI, the Metaverse, and even the future of the future itself. Below is a list of my current speaking topics; if any pique your interest, please don’t hesitate to shoot me an email. After all, there’s no time to think about the future than the start of a new year.

The Big Rethink: Cities After COVID-19
Downtowns are done. The office is dead. Delivery is the future. At least two of these are wrong – but why? The pandemic may be over, but work-from-anywhere is here to stay. That doesn’t mean the end of the office, but whole new ways of working closer to home and together — with more fluid buildings and organizations to match. That, in turn, means rethinking who and what cities are for – forget downtowns vs. suburbs and imagine new uses for empty offices and packed streets. Behind the scenes, technology is turning restaurants and retail inside-out through deliveries, “dark stores” and automation. And above all lurks the threat of climate change and the opportunity of “the Metaverse” to transform the Internet as we know it. Drawing on his research and foresight work for Cornell Tech, Climate Alpha, and MIT’s Future Urban Collectives Lab, Greg Lindsay explores the post-pandemic landscape and explains why the future won’t be as socially-distanced as you might think.

The Metaverse Metropolis
“The Metaverse” may be the future, but what is it? While Mark Zuckerberg hopes you’ll never leave your home again, in reality the next generation of the Internet will beckon us outside, into a world in which information is everywhere — if you can see it. Welcome to the real-world metaverse, where you can change reality like changing a channel. How will this change our relationship to each other and to the world? How will these reality channels transform where we live, how we shop, and how we move through enchanted worlds? Drawing on his “Metaverse Metropolis” project at Cornell Tech university, Greg Lindsay offers real advice and lessons from the technologists, designers, and experts building this real-world metaverse.

Where Will You Live in 2050?
Nearly half of Americans were victims of a climate disaster last year — whether fire, floods, heat waves or hurricanes — with insurable losses of more than $100 billion. As people wake up to the realities of climate change — and the growing threat to their homes, livelihoods, and families — many are beginning to ask, “Where should I live someday?” Fortunately, we have answers. Combining climate science with demographics and using artificial intelligence, we can predict tomorrow’s more resilient regions. Climate change isn’t just a story about mounting catastrophes, but also opportunity — if we harness the right technologies, policies, and political will to build back better elsewhere. Drawing on his work with the startup Climate Alpha, Greg Lindsay offers cutting edge analysis and maps to explain why and where a warming world may still have shelter for us all. 

Everybody for Themselves: How to Work, Together
After two years apart, Americans have forgotten how to work together. This is evident in the ongoing tug-of-war over the office. This framing — are we better off alone or in-person? — has dominated debates about our post-pandemic destiny. But neither managers nor workers have stopped to ask what it means to be together, whom we should be together with, and how we can be together. If the overnight adoption of remote work proved many of us can work from virtually anywhere, with anyone, what’s stopping us from taking it a step further and working with, well, everyone? Because solving the challenges that lie ahead of us on the far side of the pandemic requires working together at a scale greater than any one government or company ever has. In this far-reaching new talk, Greg Lindsay explores new ways of being and working together in a world in which corporate silos have cracked open and frustrated employees have spilled out, desperate to reconnect. Drawing upon dozens of post-pandemic examples as well as his own web3 experiments in building a distributed autonomous organization, or DAO, he offers audiences a vision of what it means to be together — how, why, and with whom — very soon.

Autonomous Everything: AI, the Future, and What We Can Do About It
The robots are coming — not to steal your job, but to invent entirely new ones. Advances in machine learning, artificial intelligence, and automation all point toward an autonomous world — one in which perception, prediction, and action are embedded in machines. Autonomy will not only transform how we work, but also we how move, think, discover, decide, and deceive. What we consume — as well as how we produce, transport, and market it — may take strange new turns as robots increasingly predict, suggest and prepare to help us do it. In this wide-ranging and eye-opening talk on the promise and perils of AI, author and futurist Greg Lindsay explores how autonomy is already upending society – and how we can use it to build a better world.

Where the Robot Meets the Road
A decade ago, self-driving cars were science fiction leftover from The Jetsons. Today, Google and Tesla are leading a breakneck autonomous arms race, as the global auto industry races to build electric AVs at a cost of hundreds of billions of dollars. But a self-driving SUV may prove to be the horseless carriage of autonomy — rapidly eclipsed by new species of self-driving scooters, deliverybots, and buildings with a mind of their own. How are these technologies already transforming the way we see, understand, and get around cities? How have they helped China, Japan, and Korea mitigate the worst effects of the coronavirus lockdown? What effects will they have on where we live, work and play, and what are the opportunities and threats for automakers, technology firms, public transit, employers, and developers? Drawing upon his work with BMW, Intel, MIT, the Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Aspen Institute, and NewCities, Greg Lindsay offers a tour of future urban mobility and how they promise to transform our cities in the coming decades.

The Future of the Future
The future isn’t what it used to be. As the pace of social, technological, and environmental change accelerates, organizations are struggling just to make sense of the present, let alone spot threats and opportunities looming just over the horizon. The ability to anticipate, understand, plan for, and innovate around uncertainty has become a critical skill for designers, innovators, and strategists everywhere. As the computing pioneer Alan Kay once said, “the best way to predict the future is to invent it.” Futurist, author and NewCities director of applied research Greg Lindsay will teach a crash course in exactly that. The practice of creating futures, or “foresight,” offers a toolkit and framework for detecting signals of change, organizing insights, synthesizing possible futures, identifying potential barriers and opportunities, and designing innovative products, services or ideas that satisfy emerging needs. In addition to lecturing on possible futures, Greg is available to lead participants through a fun, fast-paced workshop in which they create futures of their own.

Engineering Serendipity
How do we bring the right people and the right ideas to the right place at the right time to create something new, when we don’t know who or where or when that is, let alone what we’re looking for? This is the paradox of innovation – new ideas don’t follow org charts or schedule themselves for meetings. Greg Lindsay describes how organizations like Google, the U.S. Military Academy, United Health Group, and the International Red Cross are “engineering serendipity.” They’re harnessing sensors, social networks, and new ways of working to break down the boundaries between new teams, discover new ideas, inspire collaboration and creativity, and to spur employee engagement, learning, and innovation. How, where, and who we work with will never be the same.

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December 10, 2022  |  permalink

What Is The Metaverse Metropolis?

The Metaverse Metropolis is a new initiative of the Urban Tech Hub of the Jacobs Technion-Cornell Institute at Cornell Tech. Befitting the Hub’s mission to improve people’s lives, train the next generation of urban technologists, and convene cities, companies, and communities to achieve better outcomes, the project aims to build a coalition of municipalities, metaverse builders, designers, legal experts, and citizens to design and deploy industry standards and best practices for public safety in augmented reality environments.

The goal is to define the metaverse equivalent of the traffic light or stop sign — clear, universal signals and infrastructure expressly designed to protect everyone in the public realm, including those in its new virtual dimensions. By starting now and working together to save lives and ground safety at the center of any real-world metaverse, we can begin to lay the foundations for a new generation of computing that is inherently urban.

What do you mean by “the Metaverse,” exactly?

This project is specifically concerned with augmented reality (AR) and “extended” reality (XR), which overlay visuals and information on the physical world through the use of headsets and handheld devices. This differs from virtual reality (VR), which typically aims to create self-enclosed worlds with their own dynamics. For example, Niantic’s Pokémon Go is an augmented reality game, using real world locations and infrastructure as backdrops, while Roblox and Minecraft are proto-metaverses inviting players to create their own virtual spaces in 3D-rendered environments.

Reflecting this divide, AR is sometimes described as “spatial computing” and the “real-world metaverse,” foregrounding the importance of physical world. This is why it’s critical to ensure cities and their inhabitants have a say in the implementation of augmented reality at scale.

Why augmented reality? Why now?

Why AR rather than VR? Consider Pokémon Go, which in 2016 briefly became the most popular smartphone app on Earth. Players chasing digital creatures stormed businesses, stampeded through parks, and erased the line between online and off-. Tragically, some chose to play while driving. By one back-of-the-envelope estimate, vehicular crashes caused by Pokémon Go may have killed hundreds and injured tens of thousands of bystanders in its first few months alone. Given a precipitous rise in pedestrian fatalities over the last two years, how do we ensure the real-world metaverse won’t make reality worse?

Why now? Because for more than a decade, cities have suffered from the unintended consequences of disruptive business models designed to wring value from urban space. Whether ride-hailing, short-term rentals, or the “sharing economy” writ large, they have increased congestion, shrank housing supply, and exacerbated inequality in favor of a fortunate few. Only after great effort did public officials learn how to regulate and partner with these startups to share the benefits and burdens of their technologies. As technology giants such as Meta (and perhaps soon, Apple) launch new XR headsets, it’s imperative cities prepare for the implications of a real-world metaverse.

What we hope to achieve

Over the next six months (January-July 2023), the Jacobs Urban Tech Hub at Cornell Tech will convene a cohort of public officials, partners, and stakeholders to explore the urban implications of widespread augmented reality hardware and software, including issues of public safety, privacy, equity, and more.

During the course of The Metaverse Metropolis, we will engage with standards bodies, industry associations, and practitioner groups such as the Metaverse Standards Forum, Responsible Metaverse Alliance, and XR Guild. While they and others are doing vital work in creating open standards and ethical practices, cities have typically not been participants in these discussions until now.

How you can help

We can’t do this alone — we need your help. We’re actively seeking partners and subject-matter experts to broaden our scope of activities and deepen the discussion next year. We’re specifically seeking partner cities and governments eager to build capacity and begin grappling with these issues now; companies eager to ensure their real-world metaverse is compatible with improving people’s lives; designers, artists, and technologists grappling with new visual languages and wayfinding for an augmented world; and activists determined to not repeat the same mistakes of previous inequitable urban technologies.

We all have a vested interest in ensuring the metaverse is safe and accessible to all — join us today to act on it.

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December 05, 2022  |  permalink

The Year Everything Returned: My Fall Speaking Update

I’m typing these words at 35,000 ft. while winging my way home to New York from Kitzbühel, Austria — the Aspen of the Tyrol — where I’ve just wrapped the busiest speaking season of my entire life with a closing keynote to Re.comm. As the world shifts to holidays mode — and I return my focus to both Climate Alpha and The Metaverse Metropolis — here’s a brief recap of where I’ve been and whom I’ve addressed this fall.

The season kicked off in September with a trip out west to speak to RE/MAX Commercial in Tucson, followed by back-to-back trips to Scottsdale and Denver, the latter for the Colorado Commercial Real Estate Symposium, which was covered by The Denver Post. From there, it was off to Chicago for Coldwell Banker Commercial atop the Willis Tower, then back to New York for the Fast Company Innovation Festival (covered here) and a panel on real estate and the Metaverse at Realcomm’s NYC CIO Property Technology Forum.

As the calendar and leaves turned to October, there was a virtual address to Moss Adams’ Building Opportunity 2022 conference (video here) then back onto the road for Lightbox PRISM in Scottsdale (covered here).

After a brief stop in NYC for the Hudson Gateway Association of Realtors Global Real Estate Summit, it was off to Portsmouth, NH for a quintessential New England fall weekend speaking to Maine Strategic HR on how the intersection of remote work and climate change might spur a demographic shift back in their direction. (That conversation was continued in The Boston Globe.)

The fall wrapped with a few final legs in Quebec — for the Canadian Automobile Association — and Houston (covered with video here) before a final sprint from Austin to Orlando for Business Facilities LiveXchange Emerging Industries 2022 (a gathering of site selection experts) and then hopping a trans-Atlantic flight to Kitzbühel, where I ran into none other than Carlos Moreno (picture below), the mastermind behind the pedestrianization of central Paris and leading advocate of “15-minute cities.” It was the perfect way to wrap the year. So, now where to?

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December 04, 2022  |  permalink

Central Houston Inc: The State and Future of Downtowns

The good folks at Central Houston Inc. — the organization championing and improving the core of America’s third-largest metro — invited me to keynote their annual luncheon on November 3rd. I was asked to help frame the opening remarks by Mayor Sylvester Turner (pictured below) and Central Houston Inc. CEO Kris Larson’s address on the state — and future — of downtown with a glimpse of what other cities are doing around the U.S. (and world). Click on the video above to watch my short-and-sweet keynote.

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December 03, 2022  |  permalink

The Riyadh Aerotropolis

My book Aerotropolis: The Way We’ll Live Next is more than a decade old but still holds up surprisingly well, despite a pandemic that grounded global air travel for nearly two years. A pair of recent data points jump out: U.S. air traffic has reached 95% of 2019 levels, defying naysayers who claimed business travel (and thus aviation) would never recover in the era of Zoom; and the Saudis taking the logic of the aerotropolis emirate of Dubai to its logical conclusion. From CNN:

As Saudi Arabia continues to develop as a tourist destination, it’s making plans for big things—specifically, one of the world’s biggest airports.

The King Salman International Airport, due to be built in capital Riyadh, will have no fewer than six parallel runways, allowing 185 million passengers to pass through annually by 2050. Built over the current King Khalid International Airport, it will sprawl over a whopping 22 square miles and is due to be designed by starchitects Foster + Partners, who have dubbed it an “aerotropolis.”

Luke Fox, Foster + Partners’ head of studio, said the airport would “reimagine the traditional terminal as a single concourse loop, served by multiple entrances.” The site will include over 4.5 square miles of retail outlets, “residential and recreational facilities,” and logistics space.

Aviation isn’t over yet.

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November 26, 2022  |  permalink

CBC’s Spark on Solutionism & Mutual Aid

Nora Taylor, host of CBC Radio’s Spark radio show and podcast, invited me on to discuss early pandemic-era efforts to organize mutual aid efforts through the same corporate productivity tools remote workers relied on to continue business-as-usual: Slack, AirTable, Google Docs, and more. I’m in good company:

Big Tech aims to solve large social issues, from housing to urban transportation. We discuss tech solutionism with Paris Marx, host of Tech Won’t Save Us podcast, author of Road to Nowhere: What Silicon Valley Gets Wrong About the Future of Transportation. And, with massive layoffs happening all over Silicon Valley, and the sale of Twitter throwing social media into chaos, is it time to rekindle the cooperatives movement in tech? Nathan Schneider, professor of media studies at University of Colorado, Boulder and director of the Media Enterprise Design Lab, talks about tech co-ops. Then, Greg Lindsay, urban tech fellow at Cornell Tech University and a senior fellow at MIT’s Future Urban Collective, talks about peer-to-peer solutions focused on mutualism and solidarity in times of crisis.

Listen to the whole episode here.

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About Greg Lindsay

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Greg Lindsay is a generalist, urbanist, futurist, and speaker. He is a 2022-2023 urban tech fellow at Cornell Tech’s Jacobs Institute, where he leads The Metaverse Metropolis — a new initiative exploring the implications of augmented reality at urban scale. He is also the chief communications officer at Climate Alpha, an AI-driven location-analysis platform steering investment toward climate adaptation and more resilient regions; a senior fellow of MIT’s Future Urban Collectives Lab, and a non-resident senior fellow of the Atlantic Council’s Scowcroft Strategy Initiative.

» More about Greg Lindsay

Blog

January 29, 2023

The Metaverse Metropolis: Placemaking Across Realities

January 29, 2023

The Metaverse & The City Manifesto

January 23, 2023

Which Zoomtowns Are Tomorrow’s Boomtowns?

January 11, 2023

The Washington Speakers Bureau

» More blog posts

Articles by Greg Lindsay

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2023 Speaking Topics

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