Artificial Intelligence and Jeopardy with Greg Lindsay
Episode 5612th October 2022 • Construction Disruption • Isaiah Industries
00:00:00 00:49:30

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As our world grows and evolves, technology and humanity intersect in complex and often unexpected ways. Artificial intelligence is a prime example, as it improves alongside human understanding, making a powerful partner in work and play. We’ve already seen AI create art, write stories, and win at chess and Jeopardy. Who knows what the future holds?

 

Futurists like Greg Lindsay interpret the web of humanity and technology to predict the state of the world in the next five, fifty, and five hundred years. Greg is a journalist turned futurist, bringing a critical eye to issues like transportation, mixed reality, housing, and urban planning.

 

In this episode, Greg discusses solutions for affordable housing, troubling traffic statistics, worldwide responses to the pandemic, the air travel boom, and his experiences living across the globe.

 

For more on Greg, visit his website greglindsay.org, connect with him on LinkedIn, or Google him for more information on his work.

For more Construction Disruption, listen on Apple Podcasts or YouTube


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This podcast uses the following third-party services for analysis:

Podtrac - https://analytics.podtrac.com/privacy-policy-gdrp
Chartable - https://chartable.com/privacy

Transcripts

Greg Lindsay:

:

It will be interesting to see to what extent we might see the equivalent of like gig work in the construction industry right now. There's a startup out of MIT called Mosaic, where they are attempting to use machine learning to take blueprints and basically create the equivalent of IKEA instructions, self-assembly instructions, so that you could have less skilled or cross-trained workers to increase worker productivity by having it being less hyper-specialized.

Todd Miller:

:

Welcome to the Construction Disruption podcast, where we uncover the future of building and remodeling. I'm Todd Miller of Isaiah Industries, manufacturer of specialty metal roofing and other building materials. And today my co-host is Ethan Young. How are you doing, Ethan?

Ethan Young:

:

I'm doing pretty good, Todd. How you doing?

Todd Miller:

:

I'm doing well also. So I thought of you a lot the last couple of weeks. Ethan is our content writer, but he also gets involved with some graphic design and other areas of marketing for us. And one of his projects a few months ago was the development of a, basically a sales presentation to promote our products. A lot of times it's used in the home with homeowners to show them our products. And the last couple of weeks I have had the opportunity twice now to sit in on a salesperson who was using the presentation that Ethan was instrumental in developing to present our products. And I have to say, it was just a phenomenal presentation. And then, you know, a lot of that is due to to you, Ethan, and other members of our team who worked on it. But a lot of it is due to the fact that it was done on what we call the Ingage platform. And Ingage is kind of something I commonly describe as PowerPoint on extreme steroids, but it just creates this beautiful presentation that is fairly interactive. I mean, it just offers a lot of hidden information you can quickly pull up and take people through. And just an incredible presentation. I don't know why everyone in sales who has to present isn't using Ingage. But kind of curious Ethan, can you just give us a quick overview of what Ingage is and what it does?

Ethan Young:

:

Yeah. So Ingage is a sales presentation software like you said, Todd. And I think really the biggest strength of it is the, kind of that great strong baseline it gives you where you can just have your information, kind of plop it in. And they have a lot of high-quality templates, they have a lot of high-quality features that are easy to implement. So you get something that's a lot stronger and a lot more visually powerful than a PowerPoint that doesn't rely on, you know, kind of themes. It's a lot easier to implement for most people and it also works a lot better with video and audio and photos. It's a lot easier to integrate. I'm sure anyone who's worked with Word or PowerPoint or anything knows how fun it is to try and get images to play nicely. So Ingage does a good job of that. So like you said, it is really, it's a really strong software, really powerful software. And it's something I do think a lot more people could benefit from, not just in the home improvement space where we've seen it mostly.

Todd Miller:

:

Well, it's fantastic and created a great presentation. So kudos to you and other members of our team, and it was just really enjoyable to sit there and actually see it be used and see how quickly homeowners in this case just enjoyed watching it and waiting to see what was next and kind of oohing and aahing over the beautiful imagery that was pulled up. So good stuff. Well, I have to tell our audience, I'm very excited about our guest today. Greg Lindsay is our guest and he describes himself as an urbanist and a futurist. He is the author of Aerotropolis: The Way We'll Live Next, which led to a refined focus on the future of cities, mobility, work and innovation. He study, speaks, and writes extensively on the intersection of cities, innovation, immigration, climate change, demographics, transportation and a favorite topic for all of us these days, even the pandemic. Greg is a senior fellow for Applied Research and Foresight at New Cities, based in Montreal, and he is also Chief Communications Officer for Climate Alpha, an AI-powered analytics platform for the real estate, asset management, and insurance industries. Greg, thank you so much for joining us today.

Greg Lindsay:

:

Thanks so much for having me today. It's a pleasure.

Todd Miller:

:

Well, we're looking forward to it. So kind of interesting, your degree is in journalism. Kind of curious what fueled your interest and drive to do what you do today? And I'm curious amidst your work with looking out to the future, do you still see yourself as a journalist in the midst of that?

Greg Lindsay:

:

That's a great question. I don't know how many journalists you have on here, you know. I mean, I see it, my career, my focus on things is I have two core skills, one of which is storytelling, which I think a lot of journalists have and the other one's pattern recognition. I mean, you know, no self-respecting futurist calls himself a futurist, we practice foresight, among other things. But the difference between a journalist and a futurist is that a futurist doesn't have to quote three sources. They could just simply look at the landscape and say, like, this is what's emerging. And sort of that's what led me over there is this, you know, looking at, again, the last couple of years, the pandemic alone, the acceleration of change, whether it's climate or whether it is the technological and commercial acceleration that happened during the pandemic. All of those things, you know, basically makes journalism ever harder and makes futurism ever easier when it comes to projecting that. That's why I sort of ended up there. Yeah, do I still consider myself a journalist? Well, now that I'm now that I'm helping my friend Parag Khanna launch his new Climate Alpha startup, which you mentioned, I'm now doing outreach to all of my former journalism colleagues to ask them to cover us. So I think I've crossed over officially to the dark side of no return there to come, so. But it's still a good time.

Todd Miller:

:

Very interesting.

Ethan Young:

:

When we were doing some research on you, we found that you're actually a Jeopardy champion and you beat Watson one time. Can you tell us a little bit about that?

Greg Lindsay:

:

Sure. Yes, I would say one of these days I'll do something that pushes that down to the second graph of my obituary, but not yet. Yeah, I'm a two time Jeopardy! Champion. I was on the show in 2008, which was a good thing because in 2010 is when IBM started recruiting past contestants to train its then nascent AI Watson to play Jeopardy as a test of basically language processing and recognition. And so I was fortunate, every journalist who ever got on the show immediately emailed IBM because they wanted to write the story, and I didn't end up writing it. Although I am in Steve Baker's book Final Jeopardy, about the creation of Watson. And yeah, it was really fascinating. It was fascinating on multiple levels. I played against it and went three and oh against it. I have a nice little crystal plaque from IBM, you know, attesting to my victory. But it was interesting, you know, it's been over a decade. And, you know, we now sort of take it for granted about how human/AI interaction works. I mean, we're now in this era of like, you know, the incredible prompt art that's coming out where, like, AIs are like, you know, Meta just released literally yesterday, a tool that now can do animations based off prompts. But ten years ago, more than ten years ago, you know, it's sort of the whole question about how humans and AI would interact. And I was inspired when I was playing against it by Garry Kasparov, of course, with Deep Blue, its predecessor playing chess, and Kasparov had spent a lot of time playing tandem chess, which is humans and AI chess computers play against other humans or against other computers. And the point was, is that the combination of a human and AI was better than any human or better than any AI by itself. And that was really revelatory. And so it was really fun playing Watson in Jeopardy because it didn't play like other humans. And it forced you to evaluate like, what is the right decision to this? And I guess the point of the story is that AI is really interesting because it forces us to reassess first principles about why we make decisions the way we do, because it doesn't care about tradition or the right way of doing things or any of these other things. It simply cares about what it evaluates is the best move. And so I think would be very interesting to sort of see how that affects basically how organizations are run, etc., where suddenly you're confronted with an alien intelligence that doesn't really care what you think about it, to say the least. So we could explore that further. But it was very interesting to be confronted with that, in the context of a game show, no less.

Ethan Young:

:

Yeah, I'll just make one big point, then we can move on. But I really like that idea of tandem because I think a lot of the times with AI, one of the biggest limitations it still faces is context and understanding context. You know, I think it can do what it can do with the data we give it. But if we can have a human that can work with it, can help it apply that you know, vast resource then that's a really interesting idea actually so.

Greg Lindsay:

:

It's a whole fascinating thing about in terms of you know, I'm just thinking about this now my friends who are artists and you know we're now seeing the emergence when it comes to like prompt art, like the emergence of like prompt marketplaces, prompt engineering. Like, you know, I have a friend who's like, who teaches an art school and she's doing an entire class on fakes and forgeries. And so, you know, like there becomes a whole question of like, what is authentic art in the age of AI? And like, you know, we're already seeing these debates about yeah, you know, it's really interesting that, you know, we constantly redefine what human intelligence is by what AI's can't do. And so now we're going to see this when it comes to art, like authentic art will be the kind of art that only humans can do, you know? And it'll be interesting, you know, Jeopardy will be the only authentic game that only humans can play, perhaps. We'll, we'll figure it out. But it gets back to these kinds of things in terms of when it comes to art, drawing, what it means for, you know, again, for architecture and urban planning. I'm having coffee next week with a with a young artist named Zach Katz, who has a great Twitter account now called AI Generated Streetscapes. And so basically taking these prompts and are inviting people to reimagine streets across the United States and the world to put in bus lanes or cycling or taking out roads. And yet we're debating something we're debating here at Cornell Tech, where I have a new fellowship about like, how will this change urban planning or how will this change architecture where like literally anyone can have an AI produce their vision of where they should live or what it should look like. So, you know, I pity the professional architects who are now going to have clients coming in with, like, elaborate AI-rendered imagery and then trying to recreate it.

Ethan Young:

:

Yeah, I think, you know, that kind of beautiful array of possibilities sometimes can be met with harsh reality. Unfortunately, a lot of policy and stuff get tangled up with that. But it is, I think that is a really exciting prospect.

Todd Miller:

:

So I'd like to hear a little bit about your work with New Cities and Climate Alpha. What sort of work do they do, who they do it for? What's your involvement there?

Greg Lindsay:

:

Sure. Well, an example of life coming at you fast, I would say. I was in Montreal for several years during the pandemic, working at New Cities as their sort of Director of Applied Research. And then I have moved back in the last month to New York. So now I'm here. I'm coming to you live from Cornell Tech University on Roosevelt Island. So here I'm doing a yearlong fellowship for them on the Metaverse Metropolis. I am basically starting to research how augmented reality will play out in cities. Because if you remember Pokémon Go from 2016, speaking of games.

Todd Miller:

:

Oh, yes.

Greg Lindsay:

:

Pokemon Go inadvertently killed a lot of people, or at least on paper, we know. We know based on an interesting set of projections by a pair of researchers at Purdue University, looked at the fact that traffic crashes went up 50% around Pokestops in the first five months of the game. And so they looked at injuries and property damage and they did a sort of straight line extrapolation for the entire United States. And if that straight line held up, then like 30,000 people would have been injured playing Pokémon Go in just the first five months. So it raises some really key issues about like, you know, if we start laying information at scale over the built environment without appropriate guardrails and standards in place, we could start to see a lot of unintended consequences. And that day is going to come sooner rather than later because Apple, of course, rumored to be working on its realityOS headset, Meta is going to drop the Meta Quest Pro in basically a handful of days. Mark Zuckerberg just posted a demo where it like shows him fencing in a blended reality environment. So like, I'm very eager to get my hands on this headset now and and yeah, and like, I'm thinking about a time where, like, you know, you can imagine that people are now literally living in separate realities where someone's playing Harry Potter in one headset and the next person over is doing The Avengers and someone else is doing Star Wars. And, you know, will they be compatible? How will they use the public realm and infrastructure and all these sorts of really interesting questions that cities haven't grappled with because they are dealing with the pandemic and everything else. So, you know, that's the kind of thing where I'm hoping to get together, you know, technology officials and public servants and others to start thinking through some of these implications and ideally speccing out some standards to make sure, like, the street is always the street and the Golden Snitch or the Millennium Falcon should not fly into it and invite you to follow. That's that's my sort of baseline there. So we can talk about more about that. And then Climate Alpha is, you know, again, is the start up my friend Parag Khanna. Parag and I go way back he's an urban geographer, has written multiple bestselling books. The last one was called Move, which was all about forthcoming human migration. And the foundation of Climate Alpha goes back to a paper that he and I wrote together. Well, paper is generous, an op ed that we wrote together almost ten years ago called Where We Live in 2050. And, you know, we sort of just sort of gut instinct worked out arguing that, yeah, that people will migrate to places with a combination of good governance and climate resilience. And so he moved to Singapore, betting on one half of the equation and I moved to Montreal betting on the other half of the equation, you know, a place with cold climate and lots of fresh water and all those sorts of things. And now basically he formed Climate Alpha, hiring data scientists and bringing together data sets where we're trying to build out a tool that will allow investors, maybe everyday people, to figure out where they should move in a world of increasing climate and other risks. And obviously, you know, as Hurricane Ian has blown through Florida, $67 billion in estimated damages there and now is going to hit South Carolina. Like these are the kinds of things to be thinking about. I mean, you know, I was reading all these stories about the lack of flood insurance in Florida and also like how Cape Coral has exploded in size since the last hurricane went through. One of the things we're trying to do at Climate Alpha is helping investors, helping steer them towards the next opportunities where to build in more climate resilient areas of the Pacific Northwest or the Great Lakes versus just like, you know, depreciating their assets in South Florida very slowly. Everyone else is focused on risk, like we want to focus on like where to go next. So that's the idea we just officially launched a few weeks ago and are out there recruiting our first customers. Now we've done work with Lennar, America's largest homebuilder, and some others in terms of thinking about where the next few decades of American growth will be very near.

Todd Miller:

:

We had a past episode of the show where we interviewed a couple of meteorologists with Monarch Weather Consulting, Katherine Prociv and Crystal Egger. And, you know, we talked a lot about that and how climate change and and changing weather patterns was going to impact where we want to live and so forth. So good stuff. Well, it's kind of interesting as I look through your history, you have lived and worked in a lot of major cities: New York, D.C., Boston, Toronto, Montreal, Los Angeles. You've been all over the place as you have lived in those cities. Is there any city that stands out, as, I guess I'd say, doing the best job of living into the future versus perhaps one that is really challenged by the future?

Greg Lindsay:

:

Oh, man, that's a great question, I don't know. It depends, I mean, there's no "the future," I guess, is what I would say. It's like, which futures do we want? I mean, I really enjoyed living in Montreal, you know, particularly during the pandemic. There's a children's rhyme there, not too big, not too small, just the size of Montreal. And it's a 4 million person metro area. And but it has that sort of like core of like, you know, classical European urbanism and the old port. And then I lived in Westmount, which was a Scottish neighborhood traditionally. And I mean, I mean, one of things that Montreal does well is like, you know, they've done major investments in cycling and other sort of public infrastructure to make that sort of, you know, livable, urbane, walkable, human-scale city. And number one, I really liked that in terms of living there. And number two, you know, it suited my preferences really well when it comes to Montreal as a place where traditionally, instead of living to work as we do here in New York, now that I'm back in that they very much work to live. And part of the reason I moved to Montreal was having a lot of the soft social infrastructure that I felt was missing in America, particularly, it comes to parenting children. There, there's just simply cultural norms about children being able to go play in parks. There's parks everywhere. There's a lot of children's infrastructure invested there. I was inspired to move there basically because I wanted to be in a place where I did not feel so claustrophobic. and confined when it came to my children. That worked out pretty well. In terms of like in State cities. I mean, you know, it's fun being back in New York. Big and dirty and smelly and like, you know, having a few years away really gave me perspective on this place of. It still feels very much I'm still very much like E.B. White. You know, anybody who lives anywhere else is kidding themselves. But yeah, I mean, you know, it just it also underscores and this came through in the pandemic as well, that, you know, New York, I think other American cities do a very poor job of both benchmarking themselves against their their global contemporaries, but even having open communications. Like, you know, watching New York sort of flounder through the pandemic, when they could have gotten when the mayor of New York then I mean, de Blasio, when he was in office, could have gotten on the phone with the governor of Tokyo or like, you know, the head of Seoul or these other global megacities that were doing great work. It just never occurred to them. So I don't know. So it is interesting, we say cities living in the future. I mean, you know, I don't know over romanticize or orientalize East Asia, but like know but you know Tokyo and Seoul did amazing work in terms of just simply living with the virus during the pandemic and having rational systems in place. And yeah, I mean, we could argue about whether you still I mean, they've since relaxed their standards a bit as opposed to mainland China. But, you know, but those those are the kinds of places that I was most interested in, even though Japan still relies heavily on fax machines. So, you know, again, they're not a super high-tech society. I guess the last cities I would mention during the pandemic I followed was the European ones, Madrid and Milan and others, which used that as an opportunity to again install more bike lane infrastructure, to rethink cars, to move towards a combination of remote work and work from home. This idea of the 15-minute city that Paris tried to popularize during the pandemic, I thought was really interesting, like using using a large majority of remote workers to live a smaller life closer to home and reduce commuting and live like a city of villages. I thought was a really interesting concept and I don't know, it obviously has its problems in the sense of you still need service workers to commute from the urban periphery. So I guess as a way of wrapping this up, is the real cities that will be the winners of the future are those that can build affordable housing. It all comes back to that. We're seeing, all we've watched through the entire pandemic is first cheap money and now tight money rippling through when it comes to lack of housing affordability. And yeah, you know, I've come around to the viewpoint of economists that, you know, as we see in the United States, as we've seen, people flee high cost coastal metros to Nashville and to Boise and now to Spokane. And like smaller and smaller cities, it's going to end somewhere. It's going to end with those metros that can build affordable housing. And that goes back to Climate Alpha and a sense of like, I hope it's in places that have really good climate resilience and other resilience because those are the people where we need. Those are the places where we need to steer people.

Todd Miller:

:

Wow, that's incredibly insightful. Love that. Well, I want to talk more about housing in our built environment, but I'm also kind of curious because I know you often get asked about your thoughts on transportation. Obviously lots of talk these days about converting to electric vehicles and other clean energy. Curious what your thoughts are on that. What will be our most practical methods of transportation down the road?

Greg Lindsay:

:

Well, I mean, the most practical ones are the ones we already have, you know. I mean, again, living in New York, you know, so it's sort of obvious. But like we have because we have 40% of all public transit trips in the States and like it's obviously the numbers are way down. I mean, yeah, I mean, you know, the most practical ways of getting around are still, I'd say I feel like I'm preaching like an urbanist here, but are still like it's public transport and then obviously walking and cycling. I do think, you know, if we want to talk about a cutting-edge form of transportation, the rise of the electric bicycle, I mean, that's mostly happened in Europe there. German and French households, you know, have an explosion of it. You know, for listeners, having written an e-bike, like I would recommend you do it, it's like it's like riding a horse, almost like having this thing under you that, like, wants to propel you forward with like minimal effort is really incredible. And in Montreal, you know, I mean, there I've used their protected bike lane network. You don't have to wear a helmet. And yeah, being able to like go up, you know, literally go up a mountain on an e-bike and not break a sweat and not have to really strain yourself is a really transformative thing. And like, you know, so yeah, it will be interesting to see what, what cities really adopt that. I mean, you know, again, in Europe it's, you know, Amsterdam and Copenhagen and now Madrid and Milan and others. But I think that was really powerful and and was something that was, you know, a good alternative to the car. In the States and everywhere else, like, yeah, it's interesting. It's really fascinating to watch electrification of vehicles happen. I mean, I was just reading today like, you know, Ford and I think Buick of GM and others are like laying down ultimatums with their dealers that like you have to get with us or turn in your franchises, like we're doing this. And obviously we just saw Porsche just have its big IPO, like they're electrifying as well. So it's interesting to watch, you know, the interest and also the huge amounts of money being deployed to to propel this. But downside of electrification is like the supply chains just don't exist. I mean, you know, obviously we saw with the IRA in the States like, you know, Senator Manchin like demanding that America build out the supply chain because otherwise China dominates it. And he's right to an extent. So, you know, and yeah, I mean, we've already sort of seen, you know, rising prices of lithium and other metals because we just simply don't have enough mining going on. So it'll be interesting to see how bumpy that transition will be because I mean, it's a good thing net positive, but it's going to be difficult to get all of that online. And then also, like, you know, it still doesn't solve problems of like, you know, traffic fatalities, which went up hugely during the pandemic and things like brake pads and other stuff there. So obviously, given the rise in oil prices and what's happened there, it's certainly is certainly a net positive for the world. But particularly like I was just reading a whole discussion just the other day about whether we have finally last reached peak oil in a good sense, in the sense of like oil usage will permanently decline now because so much electrification will happen that will just simply use and consume less oil. What's bad about that? I can't think of any any negative cases about having less oil dependance. So I don't know. So I'm curious to see how that works out whether but I think there's a really historic opportunity here to like change the form factors. And I hope we do that, too. And just a the final note here, given the rise of delivery, it's really interesting watching Amazon and others like put in these huge orders for electric vehicles, electric delivery vans. But also Amazon is working with cities in Europe like London and others that have congestion zones or low emission zones where they're deploying electric cargo bikes and sort of deployment hubs. And I know those are the kinds of things I'm really interested in. And then we could talk about robotics as well, because that's a whole other revolution. Now, like the autonomous car is a lot less interesting to me than the autonomous delivery bot and all the other kinds of form factors that are made possible by that.

Ethan Young:

:

So I got a chance to visit Italy this summer, which is my first time being overseas, and it was really interesting to see the transportation over there. As someone who's mainly lived in Ohio where it's, you know, just cars all the time for everything, you know, a lot of Vespas, a lot of bikes, like you said. And I did see a lot of delivery bikes running around with pizzas or whatever else on the back of them. That's a very common thing over there. So I've seen some sentiment on the Internet about how can we kind of make a reality like that more possible for the United States is a feasible. So I do think it's interesting to see that we're kind of getting closer to that maybe, but I don't know. It seems like there's still a lot of hurdles to get to that point in most of the U.S.

Greg Lindsay:

:

Yeah, I mean, it goes it goes back to land usage and that sort of thing is interesting and changing. I mean, but more significant than electrification maybe for like changing vehicle type is what California just did, where they've signed, where Governor Newsom just signed into law, the fact that new developments near transit stops no longer have to have parking minimums. Like if you throw out parking, I mean, developers, I'm sure, will love that because it lowers their construction costs on the project. But yeah, I mean, you know, now you don't have this sort of vehicle dependency or it's not automatic. Like those are the kinds of changes in like land use that have to go in tandem with like changing the vehicle types as well, you know. Until then, yeah, if you build a city for cars, like people are going to have cars driving them for sure. So it'll be interesting to see like if other states follow that lead or how else the built environment might change too.

Ethan Young:

:

Yeah, and it was it was kind of interesting when I was over there, you know, you just walk everywhere. It's totally different from, you know, I drive for a five-minute drive now and we walked twenty or twenty-five minutes. But, you know, nearly everything was close. We stayed in Florence, so nearly everything we wanted to do was within, you know, reasonable walking distance. It was a definitely a bit of a culture shock. But interesting though.

Greg Lindsay:

:

Those dormant muscles. I know man, it's amazing. I'd say one of the one of the best things about smartphones or if you have an Apple Watch today is like being able to like, oh, wow, I actually walked 25,000 steps today in Venice, this is wild, yeah.

Todd Miller:

:

So I think I heard you say and I'm embarrassed. I did not know this, that traffic fatalities were way up during the pandemic. Is that what I heard?

Greg Lindsay:

:

Yeah, that's correct. The Q2 numbers just came out where they actually slightly declined. But yeah, I mean, traffic fatalities soared during the pandemic even with, you know, I mean, obviously fewer vehicles because we weren't commuting, but people drove faster, more recklessly. I mean, there's lots of theories on this, but yeah, I think I saw in the first half, what was it? I forget the exact time period. But you know, I think in the second half of 2021, they were up 17% alone. So yeah, we like a lot of the gains that were made by Vision Zero and other policies that cities adopted to basically make streets safer for pedestrians were completely thrown out the window with the pandemic. Another example of like, you know, sort of all the best intentions being made moot. And again, that goes back to like my metaverse thing in the sense of like, you know, like I want the cities to be ready. That if this happens, that all of their best efforts in protecting people aren't thrown out the window because of a completely unintentional technological thing. So always important to make plans. But yeah, it's it's one of those things, you know. Just related to the driving, I mean, I think it's sort of tangential there that there's an annual survey of mayors called the Menino survey after former Boston Mayor Thomas Menino. It's like over 800 mayors across the country where they asked about them about their most pressing challenge. And, you know, while a lot of us were talking about remote work and what it means for, you know, for downtowns, all sort of thing, the last poll, the mayors overwhelmingly talked about the fact that their constituents were traumatized by the pandemic, just the sort of ongoing like mental fallout of the whole thing and how it was manifesting. And I think a lot of the problems America has right now is just like the fact that, like, we're all kind of traumatized after two years of that. It was a really intense experience. And I'm definitely in the camp of like wanting things to go back to normal. Like, I like being back normal, flying and traveling and being in the world and talking about these things again. But yeah, but we're not normal, so I don't know, we can, we can talk a bit about that, but I think the driving goes back into that. I think people like really embraced risk or it was like all the rules were suspended and and yeah, it's, you know, there are some tragic consequences that come with it, too.

Todd Miller:

:

Wow. Yeah, that's interesting because I mean, I just remember so much when the lockdowns first started and, you know, our business kept going and, you know, I'm driving to work, driving home, and I'm not seeing any cars on the road. Yeah, I probably was maybe a little bit more reckless as a result. I don't know, it's interesting. So let's kind of switch and talk about our built environment a little bit. Most of our audience is folks who are in design and construction. So I'm kind of curious, you know, if you took someone today and dropped them 5000 years down the road into a different city, and I know you talked about this migration perhaps toward more weather-resilient areas. I think that's very interesting for me. I'm just happy if you dropped me next to a taco stand and I'm happy, but I'm kind of curious, what do you think might surprise people the most down the road? If you take and drop them into 50 years from now or 100 years from now, what might surprise them about where we live, how we live?

Greg Lindsay:

:

I don't know. Well, it's funny you say 50 years. So here, I'll tell you a story to start with. This is back in 2017, I was hired or brought in by a team of architects, some friends of mine. We were all tasked with imagining the coastlines of New York and New Jersey in 2067, so 50 years out. This was for the Regional Planning Association, which is a coalition of business interests in New York that does like once in a generation plan. So they picked the site of the George Washington Bridge and they're the ones who helped create downtown Brooklyn and these kinds of things. So we started like, you know, the architects did their thing and they produced these beautiful renderings. And we and what we did is we sort of imagined I guess it's about your point is, is, you know, we imagine that like as much as you might want people to not live on coastlines because of hurricanes like Sandy, the 10th anniversary, which is coming up. You know, people want to live there. People, people, Americans are independent people. And so we started to imagine, like what might like amphibious housing or infrastructure look like? What if, you know, what if instead we think of a coastline, what if it becomes like a zone again? Like the indigenous peoples of America did where they would migrate back and forth depending on flooding. So, you know, so we imagined communities that like yeah, that had your homes that were built to flood part of the year. We imagine this as a fun thing. I imagine we would build new forms of housing around Jamaica Bay where JFK is like, you know, that could that could ultimately resist the flooding, but some would be designed to flood. And and here's the funny part, the reason I tell the story is, is that the whole future that I designed for this was kickstarted by Hurricane Hermine destroying Lower Manhattan in September 2022. So we skipped H and went to I. Turns out Hermine sputtered out over the Atlantic. But those are the kinds of things I'm thinking about again, like the, you know, the financial implications of this, too, of like what might happen in terms of how we would build it. So, you know, and so in this future, President Zuckerberg in 2024 actually institutes the the construction of a lot of this housing. But I don't know it'll be very interesting. This I mean, there's some really interesting work being done in like making homes more fire-resistant to new material construction. I'd be curious in 50 years whether we see a lot more 3D printed housing or whether like whether those attempts to sort of build technological advancement. I mean, I certainly defer to you guys in terms of what you're seeing there, but it is really remarkable of like, you know, the wood frame housing, you know, and the fact that many, many startups like Katara and others have tried to wring productivity out of the construction industry and have failed. It will be interesting to sort of see how that might change. The other startup I thought was really interesting in terms of how we might see it in 50 years is, you know, it will be interesting to see like to what extent we might see the equivalent of like gig work in the construction industry right now. I bring this up in the sense of there's a startup out of MIT called Mosaic where they are attempting to use machine learning to take blueprints and basically create the equivalent of IKEA instructions, self-assembly instructions, so that you could have less skilled or cross-trained workers to increase worker productivity by having it being less hyper-specialized. It'll be very interesting to sort of see how software gets brought to bear on the requirements and the standards of that. They're working as a general contractor in Phoenix, so they're out there building housing there. So I don't know. Those are some of the thoughts I have. You know, it comes back to like, you know, it'll be interesting to see like how the materials change, how the construction techniques change and yeah, and like those sort of sense of like legal requirements advance as well. But, but yeah, I mean, I'm just sort of hopeful that again, that we'll see the rise of more construction in places like Buffalo and the other parts of the Great Lakes where we build cities that are designed for populations twice their size today, like how do we retrofit all that infrastructure? Like how much of that can be saved? I mean, ten years ago, there was a lot of interest in Detroit about all all of those dilapidated homes, like really curious to see, like what the future of retrofitting looks like and what can be brought to bear on, you know, half-built or half-destroyed housing, I guess you could say.

Todd Miller:

:

Very interesting. And we've had a couple of guests in the past have talked about 3D printed housing and also about various types of panelized housing and some amazing stories they have there in terms of both resiliency and affordability. And I know that in our own community and we're just here in Midwest Ohio, the biggest problem here is a lack of affordable housing for, you know, what I would call more, you know, lower-end type housing. It just doesn't exist. And so your observation earlier that, yeah, the city that comes up with the way to provide affordable housing is going to have a lot of growth and a lot of opportunities for new members and so forth. Any thoughts as far as what that affordable housing might look like? I mean, perhaps it will be 3D printing or something.

Greg Lindsay:

:

The New York Times just did a piece on the now-vanished starter home, like 1400 square foot three bedroom, one or two-story starter homes don't exist. Like, I feel we could untie this knot all day. I mean, it is, and it's interesting to see, like, the problem is getting worse, not better, in the sense of like multiple scales. Like I look at Chicago, for example, I grew up south of Chicago. And, you know, my friends moved into the classic two flat there, which is like, you know, apartment above the ground floor living space and, you know, classic way of like building housing equity there where you rent out the apartment part of it to pay your mortgage. The two flat is vanishing in Chicago because either they're being torn down because they're too far gone, dilapidated in the poor neighborhoods, or they're being converted into single family housing in the wealthier ones. Like that sort of widening inequality of housing. So I think of that one in terms of like the typology that we do have for affordable housing are vanishing because you just get this sort of striated market. And then yeah, and I think also like the fact of like, you know, the rise of single family rentals, which I think is like a policy that needs to be investigated heavily in the sense of like watching all this sort of corporate money go into it and taking. You know, I mean, corporate investors in multifamily housing is a very old thing as an asset class. But, you know, if we're going to say that, you know, that owning your home is your path to building wealth and your path to like a middle class, you know, middle class existence in the United States. But then we're not going to actually allow you to buy a house, that becomes really problematic. So I am curious about like what happens there because, you know, we see like, you know, not just, you know, large investors like Blackstone, but lots of mom and pop investors buying up and creating networks of single family rentals. So, you know, I don't know. I thought I saw this great stat by Ryan Dezember of The Wall Street Journal that, you know, that there was an estimated like 3.3 million households that would have bought homes but are instead in single family rentals because they can't afford it otherwise. And so, I don't know, we need to think through the policy challenges of becoming a nation of renters. But yeah, what that housing looks like, I don't know. I mean, it goes back to obviously land costs in those most expensive cities.

Todd Miller:

:

Sure.

Greg Lindsay:

:

You know, I don't know. I mean, that's why I think it's interesting to see what California has just been passing with this new slate of bills to make it easier to build and putting that market right out there. I mean, I also think and this is, you know, my politics on this, like, I think we should be doing all of the above. So I think we should like loosen the reins on governments basically being allowed to build housing again. I mean, the United States decided it didn't want to do social housing, but like governments can borrow money for dirt cheap. So, you know, there's like on city-owned land, perhaps they want to keep that and actually start building their own housing and take out really low interest loans and do that particularly now that we have like 6.7% mortgage rates, which, you know, will very much bring our housing market to a halt intentionally.

Todd Miller:

:

It's going to change things.

Greg Lindsay:

:

Yeah. So there needs there needs to be a lot of done. Like we need to figure out like every bottleneck in terms of housing construction and just basically demolishing it fast as we can. Public, private, and everything in between.

Todd Miller:

:

So it's been about ten or eleven years since you had published your book, Aerotropolis: The Way We'll Live Next. And as I recall, you know, that was sort of focused on that we would live around these hubs, maybe around an airport or something. Am I understanding that correct, and is that still how you think things may play out?

Greg Lindsay:

:

Well, that was the most literal version of it. I mean, you know, again, during the pandemic, you know, I was thinking about the fact that I had written a book about cities, globalization, air travel. And for a while there, all three were looking pretty shaky. But it is interesting how air travel, in particularly, has rebounded so quickly after the pandemic. Like people want to move. I mean rise of revenge travel and all this other stuff and even business travel, you know, people tire of Zoom pretty quickly there. So it's interesting to see that go back. But no, I mean, you know, yeah, the literal version was, you know, cities and hubs being built around airports. But, you know, I was mostly interested or even more interested in places like Dubai and others like, you know, the rise of these of these global cities that were more connected to places on the other side of the world than they were like the areas around them. And I feel like that trend hasn't dissipated as much, you know. Yeah, it's still like the notion of like, you know, having accessibility to travel and hubs and having, you know, that desire to get back on planes. I think one of the parts of the book that stands out to me the most today is like I actually coined like the law of connectivity, which comes from the fact, like, you know, ten years ago, talking to Cisco executives, they were I mean, they've been pushing remote work and video telepresence for decades now. And even they were saying that, like video conferencing will not replace travel. Like, you know, you'll see an explosion in video conferencing. We're doing this now. But every video meeting, every new connection that's formed because of that dirt cheap cost of a video call creates a tiny percentage chance that you will then eventually get on a plane to go meet that person face to face. And so, you know, so basically, you know, if we've seen video conferencing go up 1,000,000%, it will lead to a 10% rise in air travel, perhaps. And so, therefore, like the long-term health of air travel, you know, given no other constraints, is actually quite healthy. And it's interesting watching, you know, for example, the Saudis, you know, are building their whole, you know, massive $500 billion city Neom from scratch, which was supposed to be 100 miles long and, you know, a thousand feet tall in the entire length. What doesn't get discussed is like they're going to build a massive aerotropolis air hub next to it. They're going to start a new airline to fly people in, like they realize you can't just build the city of the desert, you got to suddenly connect it to people. So it is interesting sort of seeing these experiments play out. The biggest thing for me, I guess, when it comes to aerotropolises is like, you know, the book ends with China and like the idea of a billion middle class Chinese people flying all around the world. Watching China become the classic middle kingdom that has closed itself off to the world again has been something to behold, and I still not sure how we're going to process that shock of like if China truly becomes an enclosed world unto itself, again, Cold War style. So I don't know, we'll see. But yeah, I'll tell you this quickly. I mean, when I realized it was before the pandemic, but like, it's hard for us here in the States to really understand what's happening when it comes to air travel, because so much of it is like in South Asia. Like it's Indonesia and the Philippines and all these places, cities that are growing that we've never heard of on islands. So you can't travel by car or by train from place to place. And I remember it was in 2019 I was flying from Shanghai to Bangkok on Air Asia, and like I was trying to sleep because it was an early morning flight and the whole party was this a giant cocktail party like the whole plane, like everyone was just chatting excitedly. They were going on vacation in Bangkok. And I just occurred to me like, right, this is what the world looks like. This is the real world. Like they're just discovering how much fun this could be. And air travel is a thing for us that is like the worst thing we can do.

Todd Miller:

:

So very interesting. Well, a lot of our audience members we believe, are younger folks in the construction/design fields. Any particular advice that you would have for them?

Greg Lindsay:

:

Yeah. You know, I mean, I guess the first piece of advice that jumps out because we were discussing Watson earlier is is yeah, I mean to me, it's always a question of like keeping tabs on how tangential fields and advancements play out in your career and how you can leverage that. I mean, I know in my own career path, like I've just basically slalomed from opportunity to opportunity. Like I know there's a longer discussion here, but like I believe in serendipity over strategy in the sense of like simply being attuned to like what's happening and being able to follow opportunities as they arise versus being like, this is the plan. So I would definitely encourage all listeners to like think more that way. And it was a book I never wrote, sort of engineering serendipity, like how can we actually create more fertile organizations and stuff to see opportunities come up? But you know, I mean, I guess I come back to like thinking about like I like seeing the rapid advancements happening there in terms of like working with machines to visualize and think about things like whether it's GPT 3, which is the language prompt. I wrote my first short story recently with an AI together, and it was absolutely wild. Like, you know, I'm not a fiction writer. It was for an assignment. I had the AI write all my dialog because I don't, really I'm terrified of like putting words in people's mouths, being a journalist. So yeah, so like I understand like what it was like to work in tandem to prune the text and then at the end to generate more and like massage it. That was really interesting. And yeah, again, having that kind of like a sparring partner and like learning like how these technological advancements are happening and how it relates back to your own field, I think is one of the more important things we can do. Because we're all encouraged to like specialize and keep tabs on our own fields. But if you can harness ideas from other fields, like that just makes you so much more valuable in terms of wandering in new ideas and things for other areas. So that's what I would do. I would encourage listeners to spend more time just being curious and like playing with toys and other fields. And that includes like VR in the metaverse as well. I mean, architecture and construction have been using VR for a while now to do renderings and walk inside environments. And it's funny watching the rest of the world like wake up to this. Like architects are way ahead of that curve of like understanding, building, digital twins and things like this. And I think there's a lot more opportunities there as that becomes more mainstream.

Ethan Young:

:

That really plays in nicely. I recently read about this concept, which I think I've heard about before. It's a being a T-shaped thinker where you have a broad base of knowledge that you can kind of pull from or be interested in. Curious, like you said. And then kind of that leg of the T is the you know, you have a very specialized field that you're skilled, intelligent, and you developed a lot of skill in. That way you can apply that, but you still are curious and you can move around and you kind of see a lot of different fields. So I think that's perfectly like like what you said. And it's something as a writer like you mentioned, GPT 3, it's interesting to think about the kind of ramifications of that will have in the future, all the myriad different ways that's going to affect my writing. And I like to edit things. So maybe, you know, in the future, maybe I just edit the AI's writing instead of writing. And so it's interesting to see how that will play out, but I appreciate the advice, I think.

Greg Lindsay:

:

Yeah, well, it's one thing. We better get good at or figure out how to add value to that so the AI doesn't do it for us, you know, otherwise, like.

Ethan Young:

:

Yeah, that's true.

Greg Lindsay:

:

You press the button and it's doing it there, you know. So, so yeah, it is a question of like, you know, I think it will be, I think it will be a big philosophical challenge for all of us going forward. Because, you know, I mean, for the last ten years, like discussions around AI have been about like, you know, it'll replace the truckers, right? We'll have autonomous trucks and like it'll replace relatively low-skill professions. And now we're suddenly see it manifest in writing and art. And like high-skill creativity is being displaced first. Like it totally changes the states of this, you know. Although that said, I do think like, you know, again, the highest growth thing or the one thing that can't be replaced is like empathy and care. And yeah, I mean, you know, I have two young boys, and like my ten-year-old has like a really high emotional quotient. He's very good, very good at making people feel good. So I always joked he's gonna be great in commercial real estate. Like, you know, really, really high empathy and making people feel great about the things you just sold to them. I think that'll be a valuable human skill you can't replace.

Todd Miller:

:

Wow, that is interesting to think about is, what those invaluable skills may develop to be in light of AI and tech. Very interesting, good stuff. Well, we're getting close to wrapping up the end of our time here. This has been great, very interesting. Love to do it again some time. But is there anything we haven't covered today that maybe is popping through your mind that you would like to to share with our audience?

Greg Lindsay:

:

That is the best question. I end every interview with what should I have asked you but didn't? That is good practice there for podcasts and others. I think we covered the two big ones that occupy my mind, which is the sort of the rise of the metaverse and then that, and I mean, I guess, you know, it's interesting in the sense of like, you know, it'll be interesting to sort of see with mortgage rates this high and like what the tightening of money about, like how that changes American's preferences again. Like, you know, during the pandemic, I was saying about this the fact that like, you know, I mean, two things jump out at me. One, we've seen the same polarization in where Americans choose to live like everything else. Like there's red and blue America and that's widened. But Americans overall, like, showed a preference for having larger homes and having that sort of space during the pandemic. I'm very curious about whether that snaps back a little bit about whether people want to be around other people again and having closer amenities and those kinds of things. I mean, that's certainly where I make my living or what I'm interested in, moving back to New York. But I hope that we don't become a more isolated nation as a result of the pandemic, where people just sort of like want to stay in their larger homes, spend more time mediated by screens, like, you know, we need do a better job of making reality as interesting as the virtual worlds we've created. So I don't know. That's like the big, the big concern that jumps out of me these days. But yeah, are we ready for lightning round here? As a trivia champ, like, you know, I want some game show antics on this podcast.

Todd Miller:

:

We are, indeed. And I don't know if we have designed our questions too much to feed that, but we're going to try. So our listeners know we do have something we call our rapid-fire questions. These are seven questions, some may be a little silly, some may be a little bit more serious. All Greg has to do is provide a quick, short answer to each one. Our audience needs to understand if Greg agrees to do this, he has no idea what we're about to ask. So sounds like you are up to the challenge of rapid-fire.

Greg Lindsay:

:

Bring it. You know, I'm a certified Jeopardy champ. Let's do it.

Todd Miller:

:

Good. Well, we will alternate asking the questions. I'll ask the first one and then we'll go from there. So question number one, if you had to eat a crayon, what color would you choose.

Greg Lindsay:

:

Peach.

Todd Miller:

:

Peach, goodness that is a common-sense answer.

Greg Lindsay:

:

It smells sort of like the fruit. Maybe it would taste okay. I don't know.

Todd Miller:

:

The thing that's always surprising is, most people we've asked that question before, not every time, but several times. Most people know exactly what color crayon they would eat, whether they've ever thought about it before or not. Okay. Question number two, Ethan.

Ethan Young:

:

This is a little bit more of a hardball one. What would you most like to be remembered for after you're gone from this earth?

Greg Lindsay:

:

Dang, I would like to be remembered for having made a real positive change in people's lives, I guess. I believe with that, with my metaverse project. I hope that this project ends with like actually having cities come together and write some standards that become part of the software. It would be amazing to feel like that I played a role in helping create something that literally save people's lives. So I hope that project turns out that way.

Ethan Young:

:

I think that's really admirable.

Todd Miller:

:

Very good. Question three, what is your bucket list vacation?

Greg Lindsay:

:

Oh, wow. I have done my bucket list vacation and would do it again. The two that come to mind. I honeymooned in Tokyo, two weeks in Japan, which was incredible. Having the ability to say no expense spared, my favorite city to visit. And the number two is, which I do for fun, is to go with my architect friends to the Venice Architecture Biennale. So, you know, drinking with architects on the Grand Canal and like in the most crazy city I've ever been, like Venice is the place where, you know, you go through a tiny little corridor and you emerge and see the most beautiful church you've ever seen in your life. And then you do it again five minutes later. So, yeah, I've had a chance to go back on several occasions and that's still atop my bucket list to keep going.

Ethan Young:

:

Venice is pretty special. We did get a chance to go there for a couple of days. It's very unlike anything else, I'll say that. I'll agree with you on that.

Todd Miller:

:

Next question, Ethan.

Ethan Young:

:

What was your first car?

Greg Lindsay:

:

My first car, which my mother bought for me when I was 16, was a 1971 Volkswagen Beetle. So it was fun. I had beetles as a kid. And so, yeah, it was like, I just remember my parents each having one and, and it was fun. I mean, going back to like also just like, you know, a car that you could repair or take to like, you know, you could change your own oil. It's really fascinating like having something that analog. And yeah my my version of that today is I have a 1984 Porsche 928 S that stays at my mother in law's and same sort of thing, like it's awesome to be behind the wheel of something that analog in this day and age. So I don't know it's like like riding a horse.

Todd Miller:

:

Next question. So other than a relative, who is the person who is regularly a part of your life whom you've known the longest?

Greg Lindsay:

:

Wow, let's see. So if you take relatives off the table, I guess you have to go back to, like, closest friends. Not super close, but I was out in Denver visiting my oldest friend, who is my kindergarten crush. Shout out to Kelly Haley. You know, we don't, we stay in regular touch. But like, it's amazing to like, I don't go back that far with somebody who's also, you know, she moved to Denver. I moved to New York. And just yeah, seeing her family and her life and the first time I saw her post-pandemic was like flying into Chicago, and she happened to be there. And I had a group of friends and they all sat around, said, So what brings you to town, Greg? I'm like, I'm here to see you guys. Like, I really just like flew in for a day to see my friends because it was not a given thing that we would see each other again during the pandemic. So I try to prize my oldest friends that way.

Todd Miller:

:

Very cool. I remember you made me think of something. Back when I was in kindergarten, a little girl, and we sat at tables. A little girl across the table from me reached across and kissed me. I didn't know if I was going to get in trouble or what was going to happen as a result of that. But we all survived. Okay, let's see. I think the next one's up to you, Ethan.

Ethan Young:

:

If you had to pick a nickname for people to call you, what would you pick? That's kind of a tough one.

Greg Lindsay:

:

That's a good one. You can't pick your nicknames. I guess that's my response to that one.

Ethan Young:

:

Yeah, I mean, that's the thing, yeah.

Greg Lindsay:

:

Can't pick your nicknames. I've never had one I really like, so. So, no, I wouldn't go that one. No, next question.

Todd Miller:

:

Final question then. Okay, what statue was erected inside the Vatican walls near where this person was locked up in 1633?

Greg Lindsay:

:

Now, for those of you who are listening at home, this was the question I got in Final Jeopardy my first episode. The subject was the Vatican, which I remember thinking like, I was actually raised Catholic, I was an altar boy. So I'm like, Well, this is good. I can work with this. And Alex added unscripted to that question you just sort of paraphrased there, obviously a change of heart. So I knew the answer right away, or I intuited right away that it's Galileo who was in prison and sentenced to house arrest for heresy. And yeah, the third place contestant got it right and I got it right. And then the defending champion, she just overthought it. Don't overthink it kids, your first impulse can be your best one. That set me on my way to being a multi-Jeopardy champion. So thank you for bringing that moment back. I like to quiz people on that myself.

Todd Miller:

:

Very cool. Google's an amazing thing.

Greg Lindsay:

:

J Archive. For those of you listening, yeah, the J Archive has every episode of Jeopardy. You can go back and relive anywhere, any episode you want.

Todd Miller:

:

Well, I do want before we close out, to recap our success, or lack thereof, on challenge words. My word was taco, which was I was able to work in. Ethan, your word was?

Ethan Young:

:

It was myriad, which I did get in there, I think.

Todd Miller:

:

You did get in, I heard that.

Greg Lindsay:

:

And mine was a gigantic fail.

Todd Miller:

:

So you did not have that? Oh, goodness gracious. I forgot your word, I have to admit, I'm like, Oh, what was Greg's word? So you could have said anything at this point, and the host would have said, Good job, Greg. Well, this has been good. What a pleasure, I've really enjoyed this. So for folks who may want to get in touch with you or learn more about what you do, what's the best way for them to do that?

Greg Lindsay:

:

That's good. I'm like everybody else, I'm on LinkedIn. You can find me out there, Greg Lindsey. I'm the guy with Climate Alpha and then also I'm at greglindsay.org. So you can sort of see my list of upcoming speaking gigs and whatever I managed to post there as well. And I'm around the Internet. Google is a heck of a thing, so you can find me.

Todd Miller:

:

Well, we will have all your information in the show notes as well. So thank you again. This has been great, very informative and enjoyed it a great deal.

Greg Lindsay:

:

My pleasure. Thanks for having me, gentlemen.

Ethan Young:

:

Yeah, thanks.

Ethan Young:

:

Todd Miller: And I want to thank our audience for tuning in to this episode of Construction Disruption with urbanist and futurist Greg Lindsay. We encourage you, please watch out for future episodes of our podcast, we have more great guests on tap. Don't forget to leave a review on Apple Podcasts or YouTube. Until the next episode, change the world for someone, make them smile, encourage them, give them hope. Powerful things that we can do to change the world one interaction at a time. Until the next episode of Construction Disruption, this is Isaiah Industries signing off. God bless and take care.