Where it began – we can’t begin to knowing. Milan or Wuhan? But by December 2031, ten years later, we imagined a new world into being. One in which the internet-of-things embeds sensors and software to exchange data with distant devices and systems. A world in which “explorations” replace school subjects and construction procurement pivots on data that measures the cradle-to-gate embodied carbon of structures. A world in which conglomerates are built from SMEs flourishing on Amazon. What this foretells is that the 2020s are a make-it-or-break-it decade. Investing in rural broadband is the only way that the rising tide can lift all boats equally. COVID-19 has finalized that countless are in canoes. Others are clinging to debris.
Although we initially focused our climate efforts on plug loads and operational-energy consumption we continue to speed in the wrong direction; setting distant hypothetical targets and creating new loopholes with empty words. Urban renewal cannot be outside the data on GHG emissions that arise from extracting, transporting, manufacturing, and installing building materials on site, as well as the operational and end-of-life emissions associated with those materials.
Next are the considerable challenges we will face in measuring and inferring immunity. And as the world swivels on the edge of stratifying society across a novel biological divide, cultural capital will enlarge spatial and tax inequality. The ethical acceptability of COVID-19 Green Passports using varying philosophical viewpoints puts individuals and the communities they are part of at varying levels of risk. Clearly, keeping children in school is a political priority, but the key question of 2021 is whether schools can stay open. The poor certainly cannot afford the extravagance of pandemic pods.
Independent merchants on Amazon’s vast digital infrastructure have made more than $200bn in sales in 2020. And thousands already have revenues in excess of $1m a year. The market is fragmented with immeasurable opportunity for synergies. SellerX and Razor, London-based Heroes and Heyday in San Francisco – did not exists in January 2019. Investors in 2020 ploughed US1$bn into companies that are buying up brands on Amazon to build digital conglomerates. Razor’s cofounders from Berlin’s Rocket Internet see Razor as a pandemic baby.
Consolidating small traders offers a quick way to create big consumer goods brands. The merchants they target are all part of the “Fulfilment by Amazon” (FBA) programme. Instead of building brands from scratch, the new ventures are buying up the small merchants that are blossoming on Amazon. Upper90 offers debt-financing to these start-ups. The roll-ups are now benefitting from more financial muscle. They all hope to emulate two-year old Thrasio that just took on $360m in new financing and Anker that is now valued at $8bn. Amazon is the new place to build large-scale companies.
Innovating our way through the pandemic is impossible if we live inside old arcades. We must be afraid. Otherwise, we will not be brave to break out of old receptacles. What if we risked filling the slots in the timetable with “expeditions” not subjects? It cannot be that we still want to live liminal lives, neither alive nor dead, only dreaming of Finland. What would happen if students from Woodbrook Secondary decided to work on a book based on interviews with families living on Luis Street which Naipaul took to be the model for “Miguel Street”? Perhaps it may open up personal journeys. This type of pedagogy must be mapped against national curriculum goals and progress charted against national norms. And so planning expeditions that are emotional and rigorous is hard work.
At XP School in Doncaster, Yorkshire and High Tech High in San Diego, California everything is taught through expeditions and always with some degree of external involvement. These schools focus on “wellbeing, grit and emotional resilience”. Their students get a chance to create “beautiful work” for “public display”. Can mathematical expeditions be planned using the geometry of Ambard’s House? What would happen if at QRC the boys were given a design brief to design a series of geography posters for a new reading room at Stollmeyer’s Castle?
What would happen if the students at St. François Girls’ College worked on an expedition that embed the mathematics curriculum in the architecture of the porte-cochère and bays of Archbishop’s Palace? How does the roof in parts of the Stollmeyer’s castle compare with the thin sheet of corrugated concrete that semicircles over the Queen’s Hall on St. Ann’s road? Like Gaudi, Colin Laird knew that nature is built by the laws of mathematics and so what is strongest is inherently lightest and most efficient.
From Laird’s corrugated concrete roof our children can leap to Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia where they can explore the mathematics of his catenary arches, conoid-shaped roofs, tree-inspired columns with hyperbolic paraboloids at the base, honeycomb gates, diatom-shaped windows, pinnacles in the form of grasses and pyrite crystals and gargoyles depicting animals displaced by the church’s construction.
Perhaps expeditions can limit learning loss and help us to revisit the pre-pandemic ideas of persistent irregularity and unpunctuality as curious children engage their teachers and experts anywhere anytime. By 2031, the internet will be both the compass and the sea.