In the five-plus months that have passed since the U.S. declared a country-wide state of emergency due to COVID-19, we have all had to adapt in some way or another, to change our shape to match our new vessel. These changes were made rapidly, even under duress, and they were shaped and enabled by technology in a way like we have never seen before, ever.
The fundamental difference between this moment in history and all others, between this pandemic and others, between this recession and others, is that we now have the ability to choose what the “new normal” will look like when we emerge. Technology has given us the tools to change the way that we work, live, and congregate in such a fundamental way that they will never go back. Until now, we have always had to revert to our old ways after a major world event like this one.
That meant working and living in dense urban cores, typically near ports, rivers, and rail lines. There are a lot of obvious benefits of this system. It provides a bevy of advantages from banking to dining to health care to emergency and public services. With almost everyone forced into the same city streets, it gave a sense of shared civic identity and commonality. But now we stand at the edge of the end of this type of human organization.
What is happening now will force us to create a completely new normal, much as we did with another life-changing event that happened 29 years ago this month.