The Smartphone Trap

November 3, 2021

As regular readers will be aware, neither the Everloving nor I have ever had a mobile phone.  We are a disappearing breed, it seems, but we seem to manage our daily lives quite efficiently without being tracked by corporations and governments all day.

The fact that we are a vanishing demographic is shown by recent figures from Visual Capitalist indicating that smart phone ownership has reached saturation point:

 

Moreover, the latest numbers show clearly that the point of mobile phones is not (if ever it was) to enhance people-to-people communication but is rather to encourage you to buy more things:

 

I am sure that having a smart phone could add a degree of convenience to our lives, but the cost, for me, is just too high.


Beep Beep Beep

October 4, 2021

I was just a few weeks away from my 8th birthday when my father sat me on his knee specifically to listen to our old radio spit out some strange sounds — “Beep.  Beep.  Beep.”  Even through the static we knew we had never heard the like of it before.

On October 4th, 1957 — just sixty-four years ago — the space age began with the launch by the Soviet Union of Sputnik, the first man-made satellite.  I’m sure the surprise in the US was far greater than we felt in Europe.  We Europeans were already terrified of the power of the grey beasts just a few hundred miles to the east of our cozy nest in West London.  It seemed to many that Russian tanks could overrun Europe at any moment, and the technological genius of Sputnik simply confirmed our anxiety.

But again, there was always that secret spot inside that reveled in the fact that a European power had beaten the Americans into space.  And for my socialist grandfather and his cadre of friends, it was yet another sign that the Workers’ Paradise was superior in every respect to the Mickey Mouse- and Doris Day-loving capitalists.

In the end, I’m sure this had little to do with the ultimate end of the Cold War.  The costs of the space race were minuscule compared to the economy-shuddering trillions spent on the arms race by both sides.  But without Sputnik and all that followed, we would be a very different and more distanced world today.


The Long Lens of History

September 5, 2021

I’ve already lived through several generations of photography. My parents had a little Brownie box, and then I graduated to an SLR; we all had Polaroids of one kind or another, abandoned for digital a decade back; and now we have digital-SLRs and telephone cams of extraordinary clarity.

Of course, this sequence is just the latest in the surprisingly long history of photography. While the work of Fox Talbot and Dageurre from the 1830s and 1840s is quite well known, the latest thought is that experiments could go back a further generation, to the 1790s.

A print, “The Leaf”, due for auction, is now thought to be connected to Thomas Wedgwood and Henry Bright who were experimenting with “solar images”. Humphrey Davy (famous as the inventor of the miners’ safety lamp) wrote about these images in 1802.

Jill Quasha is the photo dealer and expert who bought “The Leaf” in 1989 as she was building the Quillan Collection, a group of world-renowned photographs that Sotheby’s sold (without the leaf print) for almost $9 million on April 7. She said that it was still too early to say exactly what type of research would be conducted on the image. Tests could include those to determine the age of the paper and to identify the chemical makeup of any substances on the paper. “I think it has to be done quickly and efficiently and with the least amount of damage to the photograph,” said Ms. Quasha, who added that she hoped the research could be completed within six months so that the print could be put up for auction again with a more iron-clad, and perhaps stunning, provenance. (As a Talbot, it was estimated to sell for $100,000 to $150,000; if it is determined to be older, it could bring substantially more.)

Interesting stuff for those us who follow cultural beginnings.


I Love Colour

August 29, 2021

I love colour. I try to show this is in my art work and photographs with varying degree of success. The always valuable Creative Report brings me news of a new book called “The Atlas of Rare and Familiar Colour” that really intrigues me.

The shelves of the Forbes Pigment Collection, based in Harvard University’s Art Museum buildings, are organised mostly by hue. The effect of this “curious chromatic ordering” ensures that the archive resembles “an installation exploring the very nature of painting”, as colour historian Victoria Finlay writes in the foreword to An Atlas of Rare & Familiar Colour, a new book that catalogues highlights from the collection. Published by Atelier Éditions, the Atlas features images by photographer Pascale Georgiev of a handful of the collection’s 2,500 rare pigments and examines their material composition, providence and application …

Violet de Cobalt

Many of the colours are rare and some are unlikely to be made ever again. Finlay writes that Indian Yellow, for example, originally came from the urine of cows that had been fed mango leaves, while Mummy Brown – as the name suggests – really was collected from the mummified bodies of ancient Egyptians (and was still available in London in the 1920s, courtesy of Roberson).

Wonderful stuff!

 

 


When Paper Meant Something

August 6, 2021

I doubt that many of us give any thought at all to the papers and paper products that we use in multiple ways all day. Paper is ubiquitous and therefore almost invisible. But it wasn’t always so.

Gabriella Szalay has written a fascinating piece for The Recipes Project website in which she describes various attempts in the early modern period — when commercial paper was made from expensive linen rags — to make paper out of all sorts of other materials — wasps’ nests, for example, and poplar seeds, pine cones and green algae from rivers.

A good read.

 


A Truly Brave Man

April 12, 2021

The first hero that I remember having was Duncan Edwards, the Manchester United footballer who was killed along with many others in the team in the Munich air crash of 1958.  The second was Yuri Gagarin.

Sixty years ago today, Yuri Gagarin entered history as the first human being in space. A few years earlier, just before my 8th birthday, my father had taken the time to get me interested in the Soviet Union’s feat in putting Sputnik into space. I was entranced and remained an avid follower of the space race for decades. I followed the Russian dogs going up, and Gagarin’s flight was the obvious next step.

It wasn’t revealed for forty years that the cosmonaut ejected from the capsule before it crash-landed, parachuting to earth. And it was definitely sad for Gagarin that he was thereafter too valuable to put at threat and so he was never allowed to return to orbit. No matter.  That first flight was a glorious triumph for mankind!


Reason #237 NOT to Use Facebook

April 5, 2021

After the Capitol insurrection of January 6th this year, Facebook announced that it was suspending all political donations for at least a quarter while “we review our policies.”

But Popular Information has learned that just 44 days later, Facebook donated $50,000 to the Republican State Leadership Committee (the RSLC):

“In addition to supporting the election of legislators that are pushing measures to restrict voting, the RSLC is directly encouraging state officials to make voting more difficult. The group supported a version of the Georgia voting legislation that was even harsher than the measure that ultimately became law. The RSLC supported ending no-excuse absentee voting in Georgia and completely banning drop boxes …

Facebook also suggested its pledge suspending political donations for 90 days only applied to the Facebook PAC and not to direct corporate contributions, which is how it sent $50,000 to the RSLC. But Facebook did not explain why, if it believed as an organization that political contributions should be suspended for 90 days, political contributions from its corporate funds were any different than political contributions from its PAC. “

See other reasons not to use Facebook.


First We Take Mars Then The Earth

February 18, 2021

I am a space cadet. I grew up in the 1950s and 1960s during the early days of space travel. I remember Sputnik and Yuri Gagarin, the first landing on the moon, and I have followed the travels of the Voyagers into the void. It has fascinated me for decades. Today I watched live as NASA landed their Perseverance rover on Mars, and saw the first pictures come through a few minutes later. As usual, I felt a strong emotionalism as I considered the brilliance of the human mind.

I am also well aware of the billions upon billions of dollars that have gone into the space program, billions that could have been spent to deal with the serious problems we have here on earth. Those billions of dollars have been expended on training and technology and software and building teams well beyond anything we could have imagined in the days of the Mercury or Gemini projects.

We cannot get that money back but I do believe that if we concentrated our efforts and built sophisticated teams in the same way that NASA has, we could solve many of the earth’s worst problems. I am not a technological determinist; in fact, I would choose to use as little technology as possible (though much would be inevitable). What I am thinking of here is developing teams rather than machines, problem solving brains trained and resourced to cope with the devastating effects of “civilization” on both planets and people.

If we can solve the trillions of problems that beset us on the way to Mars, it must be possible to solve the problems we have here on earth. It just takes the will to do it.


Language Exposes An Up-Coming Breakup

February 2, 2021

In a fascinating piece of social science, researchers at Princeton University have analyzed the language used on social media posts by those going through a romantic breakup. They discovered that:

“Language markers can detect impending relationship breakups up to 3 mo before they occur, with continued psychological aftereffects lasting 6 mo after the breakup. Because the language shifts are also apparent in subreddits (forums) unrelated to relationships, the research points to the pervasive impact personal upheavals have across people’s social worlds.”

The researchers studied 1,027,541 posts from 6,803 Reddit users who had posted about their breakups.

“Signs included an increase in I-words, we-words, and cognitive processing words (characteristic of depression, collective focus, and the meaning-making process, respectively) and drops in analytic thinking (indicating more personal and informal language). The patterns held even when people were posting to groups unrelated to breakups and other relationship topics. People who posted about their breakup for longer time periods were less well-adjusted a year after their breakup compared to short-term posters. 

The ubiquity and accessibility of social media in western culture, especially, is making study of the written corpus a valuable new tool in social science. However, you can be sure that intelligence agencies and corporations are also analyzing us in the same way. Just like with mobile phones, convenience always comes at the cost of privacy.


Toilet Paper

November 29, 2020

A propos of nothing else that I write here, I thought this piece from Business Insider was a fascinating look at toilet paper and how it became an obsession during the early days of the pandemic:

I have often said that, along with electricity, the flushing toilet is an absolute requirement for modern life, and this “accessory” stands proudly beside it.


At Last — An Alternative to Plastic Packaging

November 17, 2020

The thing about plastic is that the damn stuff is absolutely essential to the way we live our lives today, especially when it comes to packaging and protection throughout the food chain. “A key advantage that plastic brings to food packaging is that it prevents oxygen from getting into contact with the food,” explains Christophe Jordan, Managing Director of the Translucent Paper business at Arjowiggins. “This ensures maximum freshness throughout the supply chain right through to the point of consumption.”

The other thing about plastic is that it is barely if ever degradable and so the detritus ends up in the sea, in landfills, inside animals, and everywhere we care to look. We need something that works as well as plastic but without the downstream pollution.

Arjowiggins has announce the creation of a material they call Silvicta which they claim “provides a more effective barrier to oxygen than plastic, as well as a barrier to mineral oils and fatty foodstuffs.” Moreover, “Sylvicta is entirely recyclable, compostable, and marine biodegradable, thanks to being manufactured from renewable raw materials supplied from protected forests … Unlike other such products on the market, the manufacturing process does not use harmful chemicals to achieve its translucency and functionality. “

Sounds good if the press release is to be believed. Let us hope it gets onto the selves as quickly as possible.


We Have Seen The Future — and it Zooms!

October 15, 2020

Just read a fascinating article at Forbes about how Zoom wants to become the operating system of the future or, rather, an entire infrastructure service provider.

“In an interview, Zoom CEO Eric Yuan said … ‘Zoom is not a meeting anymore, it’s more like a people-centric infrastructure service. We can play online games, we can do so many things not like it used to be, where we talk or [use it] for business communications.”

As their next move to capture this space, Zoom has just launched Zapps,

“a feature that connects other apps directly in Zoom. By clicking a button at the bottom of Zoom’s interface, workers will be able to pull up Slack chats, Box or Dropbox documents and other tools from a range of productivity apps without leaving a Zoom room … In addition to Zapps, Zoom announced several other new projects at its annual customer conference on Wednesday, including the public beta of OnZoom, a platform and marketplace for online events that provides tools for hosts to schedule, sell tickets and promote events, and guests to search available events, buy tickets or make donations. 

In a world where we seem to be moving away from offices and have become quite comfortable with the paraphernalia of remote relationships, I can see Zoom being a key innovator — at least until it becomes big enough for Jeff Bezos to be interested in buying it out.


They ARE Watching You

October 5, 2020

I wrote this in the summer of 2013. The situation has only gotten worse.

* * * * * *

If you were at all unsure about just what the US NSA was tracking about YOUR life, then this long and detailed report in the Guardian should set you straight.  They can and do track everything every one of us does online.  Without warrants.  Without overview.  At the whim of individual monitoring officers.

“A slide entitled “plug-ins” in a December 2012 document describes the various fields of information that can be searched. It includes “every email address seen in a session by both username and domain”, “every phone number seen in a session (eg address book entries or signature block)” and user activity – “the webmail and chat activity to include username, buddylist, machine specific cookies etc” …

“One document, a top secret 2010 guide describing the training received by NSA analysts for general surveillance under the Fisa Amendments Act of 2008, explains that analysts can begin surveillance on anyone by clicking a few simple pull-down menus designed to provide both legal and targeting justifications. Once options on the pull-down menus are selected, their target is marked for electronic surveillance and the analyst is able to review the content of their communications” …

“Beyond emails, the XKeyscore system allows analysts to monitor a virtually unlimited array of other internet activities, including those within social media. An NSA tool called DNI Presenter, used to read the content of stored emails, also enables an analyst using XKeyscore to read the content of Facebook chats or private messages” …

“As one slide indicates, the ability to search HTTP activity by keyword permits the analyst access to what the NSA calls “nearly everything a typical user does on the internet”.

Anyone NOT worried about this is simply putting their head in the sand.


Beep Beep Beep

October 4, 2020

I was just a few weeks away from my 8th birthday when my father sat me on his knee specifically to listen to our old radio spit out some strange sounds — “Beep.  Beep.  Beep.”  Even through the static we knew we had never heard the like of it before.

On October 4th, 1957 — just sixty-three years ago — the space age began with the launch by the Soviet Union of Sputnik, the first man-made satellite.  I’m sure the surprise in the US was far greater than we felt in Europe.  We Europeans were already terrified of the power of the grey beasts just a few hundred miles to the east of our cozy nest in West London.  It seemed to many that Russian tanks could overrun Europe at any moment, and the technological genius of Sputnik simply confirmed our anxiety.

But again, there was always that secret spot inside that reveled in the fact that a European power had beaten the Americans into space.  And for my socialist grandfather and his cadre of friends, it was yet another sign that the Workers’ Paradise was superior in every respect to the Mickey Mouse- and Doris Day-loving capitalists.

In the end, I’m sure this had little to do with the ultimate end of the Cold War.  The costs of the space race were minuscule compared to the economy-shuddering trillions spent on the arms race by both sides.  But without Sputnik and all that followed, we would be a very different and more distanced world today.


The Scythe, Modernity, & the Crash To Come

August 29, 2020

For those of you who are keen on fighting back against the tyranny of modern technology, you could do a lot worse than read Dark Ecology” by Paul Kingsnorth.  It is a fairly long piece (by internet standards) but worth every minute you spend with it.

Each summer, Kingsnorth teaches the use of scythes in England and Scotland and in this article he uses the scythe as a surrogate for other simple tools when compared to modern machinery.  He explains the delight one gets in using a scythe, but remarks that most people use brushcutters these days:

“Brushcutters are not used instead of scythes because they are better; they are used because their use is conditioned by our attitudes toward technology. Performance is not really the point, and neither is efficiency. Religion is the point: the religion of complexity. The myth of progress manifested in tool form. Plastic is better than wood. Moving parts are better than fixed parts. Noisy things are better than quiet things. Complicated things are better than simple things. New things are better than old things. We all believe this, whether we like it or not. It’s how we were brought up.”

He really hits the nail on the head when he confronts critics who claim that he and those like him are simple-minded back-to-the-earth idealist dreamers:

“Romanticizing the past” is a familiar accusation, made mostly by people who think it is more grown-up to romanticize the future. But it’s not necessary to convince yourself that Paleolithic hunter-gatherers lived in paradise in order to observe that progress is a ratchet, every turn forcing us more tightly into the gears of a machine we were forced to create to solve the problems created by progress…

Critics confuse “a desire for human-scale autonomy, and for the independent character, quirkiness, mess, and creativity that usually results from it, with a desire to retreat to some imagined ‘golden age.’ It’s a familiar criticism, and a lazy and boring one. Nowadays, when I’m faced with digs like this, I like to quote E. F. Schumacher, who replied to the accusation that he was a ‘crank’ by saying, ‘A crank is a very elegant device. It’s small, it’s strong, it’s lightweight, energy efficient, and it makes revolutions’.”

Kingsnorth looks closely at the “green movement” of the last century, noting how badly it failed:

“The green movement, which seemed to be carrying all before it in the early 1990s, has plunged into a full-on midlife crisis. Unable to significantly change either the system or the behavior of the public, assailed by a rising movement of “skeptics” and by public boredom with being hectored about carbon and consumption, colonized by a new breed of corporate spivs for whom “sustainability” is just another opportunity for selling things, the greens are seeing a nasty realization dawn: despite all their work, their passion, their commitment and the fact that most of what they have been saying has been broadly right—they are losing.”

Worse, he says, we now have neo-environmentalism, often described as simple “ecopragmatism” but which is “something rather different” as described by the PR blurb for Emma Marris’s Rambunctious Garden: Saving Nature in a Post-Wild World, one of the movement’s canonical texts

For decades people have unquestioningly accepted the idea that our goal is to preserve nature in its pristine, pre-human state. But many scientists have come to see this as an outdated dream that thwarts bold new plans to save the environment and prevents us from having a fuller relationship with nature.

Or, as Peter Kareiva, says:

“Humans degrade and destroy and crucify the natural environment, and 80 percent of the time it recovers pretty well.” Trying to protect large functioning ecosystems from human development is mostly futile; humans like development, and you can’t stop them from having it. Nature is tough and will adapt to this: “Today, coyotes roam downtown Chicago, and peregrine falcons astonish San Franciscans as they sweep down skyscraper canyons. . . . As we destroy habitats, we create new ones.” Now that “science” has shown us that nothing is “pristine” and nature “adapts,” there’s no reason to worry about many traditional green goals such as, for example, protecting rainforest habitats. “Is halting deforestation in the Amazon . . . feasible?” he asks. “Is it even necessary?”

Kingsnorth responds:

“If this sounds like the kind of thing that a right-wing politician might come out with, that’s because it is. But Kareiva is not alone. Variations on this line have recently been pushed by the American thinker Stewart Brand, the British writer Mark Lynas, the Danish anti-green poster boy Bjørn Lomborg, and the American writers Emma Marris, Ted Nordhaus, and Michael Schellenberger. They in turn are building on work done in the past by other self-declared green “heretics” like Richard D. North, Brian Clegg, and Wilfred Beckerman.”

Kingsnorth argues that these neo-conservatives are misunderstanding the problem, probably deliberately:

“What do we value about the Amazon forest? Do people seek to protect it because they believe it is “pristine” and “pre-human”? Clearly not, since it’s inhabited and harvested by large numbers of tribal people, some of whom have been there for millennia. The Amazon is not important because it is “untouched”; it’s important because it is wild, in the sense that it is self-willed. It is lived in and off of by humans, but it is not created or controlled by them. It teems with a great, shifting, complex diversity of both human and nonhuman life, and no species dominates the mix. It is a complex, working ecosystem that is also a human-culture-system, because in any kind of worthwhile world, the two are linked.”

“The neo-environmentalists, needless to say, have no time for this kind of fluff. They have a great big straw man to build up and knock down, and once they’ve got that out of the way, they can move on to the really important part of their message. Here’s Kareiva, giving us the money shot in Breakthrough Journal with fellow authors Michelle Marvier and Robert Lalasz:

Instead of pursuing the protection of biodiversity for biodiversity’s sake, a new conservation should seek to enhance those natural systems that benefit the widest number of people. . . . Conservation will measure its achievement in large part by its relevance to people.

There it is, in black and white: the wild is dead, and what remains of nature is for people. We can effectively do what we like, and we should.”

He looks at the future through the eyes of the past:

“Look at the proposals of the neo-environmentalists in this light and you can see them as a series of attempts to dig us out of the progress traps that their predecessors knocked us into. Genetically modified crops, for example, are regularly sold to us as a means of “feeding the world.” But why is the world hungry? At least in part because of the previous wave of agricultural improvements—the so-called Green Revolution, which between the 1940s and 1970s promoted a new form of agriculture that depended upon high levels of pesticides and herbicides, new agricultural technologies, and high-yielding strains of crops. The Green Revolution is trumpeted by progressives as having supposedly “fed a billion people” who would otherwise have starved. And maybe it did; but then we had to keep feeding them—or should I say us?—and our children. In the meantime it had been discovered that the pesticides and herbicides were killing off vast swaths of wildlife, and the high-yield monoculture crops were wrecking both the health of the soil and the crop diversity, which in previous centuries had helped prevent the spread of disease and reduced the likelihood of crop failure.

It is in this context that we now have to listen to lectures from the neo-environmentalists and others insisting that GM crops are a moral obligation if we want to feed the world and save the planet: precisely the arguments that were made last time around.”

“What does the near future look like? I’d put my bets on a strange and unworldly combination of ongoing collapse, which will continue to fragment both nature and culture, and a new wave of techno-green “solutions” being unveiled in a doomed attempt to prevent it. I don’t believe now that anything can break this cycle, barring some kind of reset: the kind that we have seen many times before in human history. Some kind of fall back down to a lower level of civilizational complexity. Something like the storm that is now visibly brewing all around us.”

This is a sad pass we have come to.  Humanity has been too clever by half.


De-Twitterification

May 28, 2020

For about a decade now, I have lived and died on Twitter. It has been my main source of breaking news, the place I feel most comfortable to debate, and a platform for my political and personal propaganda.

If there was an AA meeting for Twitterers, I would be saying about now: “My name is Jak and I am a Twitter addict. I have been clean and sober for seven days…”

At the end of last week, I finally decided I was ready to write another book. I started work on it, and discovered — to my shock and horror — that the constant breaks I took to check up on my Twitter feed were interfering with my writing flow. There were times when it stopped me completely. As I got more and more annoyed, I made a promise to myself that I would not visit Twitter at all last Friday and for the entire weekend to follow.

I did that, and managed to pull together more than thirty thousand second-draft words on my project by Sunday night. I was happy and a lot more relaxed than I have been in a long time. So I kept going.

It is now Thursday evening, I have managed to continue avoiding Twitter (though the temptations have been strong) and I have a pleasing sixty-thousand words completed and ready for editing.

There is a long way to go on this book project and right now I am in no mood for Twitter to regain its prevaricating hold over me.  We’ll see if I can maintain this sobriety for another few weeks.


The History of Typography

May 20, 2020

This is a wonderful animated history by Ben Barrett-Forrest that I was directed to on Twitter some years ago now.


Zooming In On The Cash

May 15, 2020

For all of the security concerns, the China concerns, and the techno hiccoughs, Zoom is coining it when it comes to corporate valuation.  As shown in this chart from Visual Capitalist, it is now more valuable than the seven largest airlines in the world.

What this really shows is the flippancy of stock markets.

The full article has a lot of detail comparing these industries.  Well worth the view.


A Truly Brave Man

April 12, 2020

The first hero that I remember having was Duncan Edwards, the Manchester United footballer who was killed along with many others in the team in the Munich air crash of 1958.  The second was Yuri Gagarin.

Fifty-nine years ago today, Yuri Gagarin entered history as the first human being in space. A few years earlier, just before my 8th birthday, my father had taken the time to get me interested in the Soviet Union’s feat in putting Sputnik into space. I was entranced and remained an avid follower of the space race for decades. I followed the Russian dogs going up, and Gagarin’s flight was the obvious next step.

It wasn’t revealed for forty years that the cosmonaut ejected from the capsule before it crash-landed, parachuting to earth. And it was definitely sad for Gagarin that he was thereafter too valuable to put at threat and so he was never allowed to return to orbit. No matter.  That first flight was a glorious triumph for mankind!


A New Post-Virus World Order

April 7, 2020

Many of us, I know, have been contemplating the societal changes that could come about as a result of the devastation of covid-19. This disaster, horrible though it is, is an opportunity to step away from some of the bad decisions and policies we have followed for so long.

While some of us have thought and written about the possibility of a progressive — not to say revolutionary — future (guaranteed annual incomes, medical services for all, a rebalancing of corporate-human interaction, a fostering of community, etc), Politico has been looking at a decidedly more prosaic and worrisome set of possibilities. The following is from their email of today:

Regular checkups — Singapore and other Asian countries adopted widespread fever testing in the aftermath of the SARS epidemic. After coronavirus, the same could become the norm in the U.S. Before someone enters a store, office building, school, stadium, airport or other public space, they could be subject to thermal scans to check for an elevated temperature, much like they sometimes have to go through a metal detector to check for guns today.

Tracking — China and South Korea are already using apps to trace people’s movements and record symptoms in order to track the next hotspots. Americans may have to get more accustomed to logging and sharing their movements to help officials track and contain the virus spread. Rhode Island Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo is urging residents to keep a daily log of where they have been in case they become infected. She suggested today that such logs could become a requirement for coronavirus testing in the state. “There is going to be a discussion about how to manage security and privacy concerns while meeting this gargantuan challenge of tracking sick patients in any given community,” said Dan Hanfling, an emergency room physician and vice president of In-Q-Tel, which invests in security technology.

Random sampling — Ohio and Masschussets are planning to randomly test people in order to get a better handle on case counts and virus spread. Until widespread testing is available, random testing could allow a region to track the virus spread and know when to re-impose stay at home orders.

Certifications — Germany is already creating certificates for people who have recovered from the virus, which confers on them at least short-term immunity. The certificates allow people to sidestep lockdown restrictions. If antibody testing becomes more widespread, the idea of certifying the recovered could take off here as well.

Staggered seatings and at home services — Restaurants, museums and concert venues could offer staggered seatings and shows with smaller, separated crowds. Painted lines on floors could help people appropriately space. In addition, hairdressers, manicurists and other service providers could move to home services that limit customers’ contact with one another.

More public spaces and micro-transit — Cities could accelerate new forms of transit and rethink public spaces, said Steven Pedigo, a University of Texas urban affairs researcher. More cities could build bike lanes or widen the ones they already have. Wider sidewalks, too, could help people commute without contact. Cities won’t disappear as the result of the pandemic, but they could become less dense.”

What do we think of those as the future we grow into?