Monday, March 30, 2020

The Viral Paradox

We are faced with the viral paradox. It's a public health scourge, both terrifying and deadly. And yet its capacity to teach us much is huge, even as the death toll mounts.

In health and public health. In leadership and political expediency. In organization management and supply chain vulnerabilities. In employment economics and the list goes on. On these, I have little to no knowledge.

But on the urban front, I have an inkling of an idea: the corona virus is allowing us to run the urban planning experiment no one thought possible. What if we shut down an entire city for a day? For a week? For a month?

That question is being asked here in this country and around the globe. What can we learn from this?

Quite a lot, I suspect.

As always, when in doubt, begin with a list.
  • Air pollution/Greenhouse gas emissions. They are greatly reduced worldwide. What can we learn from this? 
  • Transportation. Single car occupancy is again the rule and public transit suffers, but roads are emptier at all times of day and travel times reduced.
  • Working from home. Everybody's doing it. By force. Is it working? Who knows. The distractions are greater, but the focused times are probably more focused. What lessons are employers learning from this?
  • Internet bandwidth.  The virus is causing a huge strain on internet bandwidth. Europe asked Netflix to stop streaming in HD, to relieve some of the. pressure. What is our capacity?
  • Digital divide. If you have access to the internet, you can continue to go to school. If you don't you can't.
  • Distance learning. This is a BIG ONE for the Boston area. With so many colleges and universities, what does it mean to go to the virtual campus? How does an MIT differentiate itself from a Bunker Hill Community College if all classes are available to all people online?
  • Density. Is density our friend or our enemy?
And that is where I begin. And end this blog post. 

Over time, this space will look at each of these areas with greater depth.