The month of January is almost over and life indoors is, for most urban dwellers, looking like a very heavy object that is now too big to get rid of. Making the best of this situation seems to be the only way out and never has "indoor" infrastructure been more critical in ensuring a safe passage through the lockdown tunnel. Here are a few things that you could do before the Covid-19 times: Bad wifi at home? Go to a coffee shop with a good internet connection. Broken shower? Use facilities at the local gym. Major breakdown in your flat that significantly deteriorates living conditions? Stay at a friend's place or at a hotel while waiting for the problem to be solved. You cannot use these options anymore; at least not until the current restrictions are eased. Managing a breakdown in a household is even more difficult if it involves children. This would be like walking on a tightrope which, in addition to being thin, threatens to break at any moment. But while good indoor, and private, infrastructure is being carefully monitored by almost everyone right now, no thought is seemingly being given to the future of public infrastructure. I use the word "future" since nothing is likely to change in the very short-term (twelve months at most).
A very large portion of the public infrastructure that was built over the past thirty years or so has been designed to support an economic system based on mobility and the concentration of large groups of workers within areas that contain significant business districts (The City is a prime example of this). The pre-Covid era made the maintenance of this infrastructure an absolute necessity. Regardless of whether this infrastructure is in public or private hands, the case could be made to take reasonably good care of it just to avoid the system, as we knew it, to fall apart. But what about a few years from now? What if ultra mobility and life in offices are no longer indispensable? These features will probably still be part of future societies but to what extent? No one knows how many outdoor activities can be transferred indoor. There is a big question mark here since innovation regarding this transfer is still in its infancy. It will most definitely not be limited to Zoom and online tutorials. It is hard to anticipate what the next big thing will be when it comes to increasing indoor productivity and wellbeing. Assuming that those big breakthroughs are coming, where will the money that was previously used to maintain traditional public infrastructure go? That money must go somewhere and if the servicing of public infrastructure becomes less demanding, and potentially far less profitable, then a whole new model will have to be established. It is still too early to set up this model but if lockdowns becoming a recurring situation over this decade then this will possibly become inevitable. Perhaps this new model will lead to less waste in taxpayers' money and more efficiency in the allocation of capital. This is a lot to ask for but since the old model could not anticipate that we would need more hospitals and less transport infrastructure, there is, according to me, nothing wrong in hoping that the next model will lead to better results. After all, expecting things to improve by applying old methods is bound to fail.
My latest novel, Market Dystopia, is available on the following links:
Intro video here