The Rubber Ball Problem

The following post is due to a Twitter account where its owner frequently visited national maps exhibiting extreme weather events and gun violence. An ad aimed at that Twitter account exhibited a series of maps (with uber ads) that web editors thought would interest those who like “facts with maps.” It stimulated a query for The Report.

How should people feel about the lack of protection from injury, harm, or evil? How are the emotions represented? Imagine three factors that support protection: “location-x3, continuum -x2, and sentience-x1?”

Solving for X

Here is our example of the protection problem. A corporation could make 101 quintillion balls and bounce them into the world because of a want to do so without profit, effortless access to resources, and the fun perceived by its deranged leadership. It is logical to think that could never happen.

The cunning language of market growth economists bounces the algorithms of “resources, profit, want/need.” Economists remain confident that this bouncing ball problem could never occur until you think of each ball as a gun or a liter of gas, a barrel of oil, or tons of GHGs exiting as waste into the atmosphere from the vast tracts of human activity, all of it in the context of general militarization. So, it is logical that the dystopian “rubber ball problem” appears routinely. On the other hand, admiring the innovation required to create 101 quintillion balls for its ingenuity leads The Report to discuss and redefine problem solving.

First, “Location 3X” exists as a result of product-making. Saying location three times is a mantra that emphasizes the relative value of land in the world but disregards the earth as the only land of present value in the solar system. These economies remain unregulated until one of their creations endangers a place and its people, and a post-trauma regulatory economy is activated.

Continuum X2 is the second portion of the desire for protection triggering the need to quantify in exquisite detail. Numbers such as the well-known parts per million becoming a quintillion or a sextillion is incomprehensible. Still, within the continuum framework, the power to pre-identify threats and provide methods for managing damage and deterrence is possible.

Sentient X1 is an emerging area. It considers the uniquely human power to quantify all things in a repository. The resources offered by locations and the continuous demand for economic growth suggest an opportunity to open new ways to avert damage and protect the quality of life.

The Report hopes you enjoy exploring the opportunities and dangers of location, continuum, and sentience. Thanks for the comments. You have seen them in the past, present, and future. Authoritative examples provided are greatly appreciated.

The Location X3

“80% of data generated has a location component, yet only 10% of spatial data is actually used by organizations”


Human history is a process that demonstrates a range of powerful extensions of physical existence. The technology used to deliver messages continues to stimulate and reveal changes in society, the family, work, and play. The transition from oral culture to the printed word, film, and TV, moved the cultural emphasis from hearing stories in small groups to seeing and hearing them in much larger groups. Human history also demonstrates the demand for protecting physical existence. What is communicated in these billions of extensions connects to the specifics of the medium used. Technical extensions of culture reveal an attribution problem. The red ball narrative becomes one with multiple layers. Here is an example using maps.

Carto‘s locational data and imaging permit thousands of mapping resource ideas. For example, if a company wanted to reach half of the nation’s population with a message, the red area (map below) would produce that number of people in the smallest space. With global interest in getting this message to half the world’s population, the map on the right illustrates the area that would produce that number. Is that a good strategy? It depends on the distinction between the medium used to offer data and the information selected.

The Internet offers multiple attributions to sources in the small-to-large group formation. For example, the political behavior of businesses in market economies deploys multiple websites to produce something of interest to people. In the map example below, the purpose of displaying them on a Twitter account is to sell ad banners, followed by an enormous array of location-based interpolations and acquisitions (from click counts to sales) for injection into a network. These industry-driven frameworks are gradually attempting to discover what people want and need in compelling detail by location. Of course, this includes the assumption of an invasion of privacy. How dare investors or governments seek that information?

The maps selected above interested The Report in choosing the second layer of attribution — the name of the map producers. The third layer, at this point, becomes entrepreneurial. It is no longer “free to edge” and offered at a price. It is a visualizing service to educate or to enhance the market positions. Product launches by known locations or new options represent enhancements. The data result in direct sales, “in places” and “from places.” is a way to introduce these third-layer offerings.

The data contains click-throughs for what Factable calls “new perspectives.” Their owner, the Hive Media Group, was acquired in January 2022 by OpenWeb for $60M. Given the function, as mentioned earlier, of new forms of digital ownership as continuous in a network, the sources for attribution also change.

The producers present blurry, endless parades of perspectives (mosaic left) that become outsourceable without a concerned, dedicated effort. At this point, everything is reversed, like an upside-down world. Take a brief look at the data providers (using the links above). You will recognize a vast array of tiles and captions designed to identify specific groups of individuals by location and interests.

Several investors in the Gig economy include a “fact-source-check” service to interested viewers and media centers. The purpose is to praise the rules of ethical journalism or the providers of data and products. Expose misinformation in a caveat emptor world, and we enter Continuum 2X.

The Report’s Tweet-O-Rama is a drill down to these highly concerned people. It is not without a sense of irony that all these services are located in the urbanized portions of the nation and the most highly populated areas of the earth. However, the facts produced by those most concerned are based on data that exposes patterns and relationships in the “buyer beware” consequence of regulation. That leads us to our second query, will the array of small groups of the internet medium produce sufficient data to regress toward a mean of greater importance?

The Continuum X2

The earliest tokens (ownership symbols) date to almost 10,000 years ago, known today as places such as Mesopotamia, Mesoamerica, China, and Egypt. Tokens today provide a way to represent resources such as raw materials and processed goods. Around 5,000 years ago, a bulla (like a data packet) also held receipts. When sealed, they were capable of tracking multiple items. In today’s terms, they are encrypted until the exchange language is learned. Computer language systems and machine learning capabilities have become best known as artificial intelligence (AI) or the ability to discover patterns and relationships in data like the kind that defeats Chess Masters. Other AI demonstrations win on minutia question game shows. These data-holding systems are entering their third practical decade and closing in on a century since their concept, inception, and implementation. Current AI use is Cyc (encyclopedia) using symbolic programming. These systems require unique “builds” for specific disciplines such as epidemiology. A continuum theme is embedded in another give/take and push-in/pull-out framework based on the neural network design. In this system (e.g. ChatGDP) truth and reason cannot be checked for accuracy within the system. It is left to the judgment of users.

A practical theologian described evolution as beginning in a void until temperature and inorganic material combined to produce organic entities over billions of years with an ability to replicate and continue by surviving (adapting) during changing conditions with the fate of a good “fit.” All organic life entities carry the DNA polymer with instructions for physical development that gave organic entities billions of specializations to become biological, leading to the neurological condition of the human mind. The theologian sees this as a trend that moved from inorganic to organic to biological toward a continuum of self-awareness that leads to the spiritual. One can only hope.

The practical concept of the spiritual idea recognizes the intellectuality possible in a society that can sense and create totalities outside of individual experience. The primary examples are machines that extend sensory power. More recently, these devices generate natural dialogue that is undetectable from a person. After that, the human/machine relationship suggests an evaluation of character that would require evidence of independent thought, leading to perceptions, such as an original idea and the ability to feel. Of course, regardless of the source, when the appearance of thinking and feeling occurs so well, telling the difference doesn’t matter, but this poses the most challenging query of the red ball problem.

The Sentient X1

The software to produce the well-known sounds of Siri (Apple), Alexa (Amazon), Cortana (Microsoft), and Google Assistant is drawn on the idea of continuity. The software Language Model for Dialog Applications (LMDA) is continuously improving due to the growing percentage of people with the resources to use it in their daily routines.

Nevertheless, it is possible to visualize these machines answering billions of questions simultaneously for hundreds of thousands of interested individuals every second. Sentient or not, whether it matters or not, the idea of location, combined with data stored in a continuum, leads to a global media-forming society. Its place in the universe of billions of galaxies suddenly becomes location relevant. The example given here is the Earth’s most popular asteroid, which forces this question:

What would be necessary to make everyone on Earth ready to be financially secure?

The images below focus on an Asteroid with an orbit around the Sun between Mars and Jupiter. The interest in this object is due to knowing it exists and the presumed content of this rock as “new land” in our solar system. Its discovery challenges the definition of wealth or value. If mined for its mineral deposits, it could make everyone $93 billion richer if sold today. Overall the total value is estimated in the quintillions. That is any number followed by eighteen zeros. 18000,000,000,000,000,000.

Search: 16 Psyche

Exploring this idea is in the following discussion. Still, our goals take us back to the beginning. Determine the quality of shift from Location 3x away from the dynamics of growth in local markets toward the Earth in a solar system market. So the next set of posts will go back to the beginning under the heading Localism.


In the 1950sRosenblatt’s perceptrons and in 1960 Kelley’s Backward Propagation model, used the term “machine learning” (1959) to imagine the creation of an Artificial General Intelligence

Old Paper

On Tuesday, that scary bump on the subway came at the exact moment a tall man sneezed violently. By the time I got to the last few steps to exit the 23rd Street station, I felt a different kind of ache in my legs. It has been nearly a year since I closed and reopened. Maybe I’m just out of shape.

The security gates along the row of stores to my gallery still sat tight against the blackened dots of forgotten sidewalk gum. The chill in the breeze swirled at me with bits of paper and leaves. I entered my shop, tossed my coat to the chair, turned back to scan the exhibit, and noted to mop the floor. I went back outside and took photos of the black dots. I tried to connect the gum with the footsteps that made them, but I couldn’t. By the next day, those uncomplicated, conventional actions shifted my outlook unexpectedly, and I was not fond of the way I was thinking.

Art must be allowed to die the way Sleeping Beauty did. That was my conclusion. No matter how writers twirl fine phrases into your mind or painters watch your puzzled eye, the paint will dry in the tube, absent the story’s truth. All the while, music plays and plays to the silent, moody listeners of its class. The tedious work of sense-making only consumes a lack of purpose with the fear of survival. Forgive me, I felt this in my bones all of Tuesday. Today is Wednesday, and I feel a bit better.

It was pointless to think of anything else that could be worse. I still had my joy of novelty, black dots on a sidewalk, red tail jets, the joy of getting a sudden smile, and sitting in playgrounds filled with giggles. My darling partner called this odd attentiveness my silly stupidness. The art I chose for the season reopening was fresh but steadily becoming more frivolous each hour since that Tuesday. The questions friends and lovers asked were the right ones. Still, I could not prevent a sense of meaninglessness from spreading amongst us. Science was injecting a different way of thinking about playfulness within the arts. But I wouldn’t say I enjoyed one bit of this intrusion.

I rattled my newspaper and spread it across my desk. I heard Leslie enter early, as expected. Up went the gallery lights to their entire “buy me” intensity. She nodded hello, sat across me, already reading strange tensions in my so-called “aura of the day.” I put up with that silliness. Having her back could save the shop. I never had a better managing salesperson and partner. Once after a profitable sale of several paintings, she said, “I could sell eggs to hens.” I made the mistake of asking something like how or why. Hand on hip, turning with a glint, she said, “Right after the rooster’s vasectomy.”

On the other hand, my aura was not vaguely humorous. Tapping my desk she said, “What are you reading in the dead tree press this morning.” She liked to say the word ‘this’ with emphasis. It was a sales thing. I want to hold a newspaper even at the cost of three dollars daily. So I looked up and said, “discrete-time crystals.” The ceiling became interesting to her at that moment. I continued, “I’m not silly. They may be a way to measure the parts of matter that oscillate in a repeating cycle for use in quantum computers, and that could improve everything.” No reaction.

The story told me that humanity needs quantum computers to solve today’s unsolvable problems faster. But, I am watching a long and terrifying list of them grow. And abruptly, like that sneeze on the train the other morning, there was the Sleeping Beauty problem laid before me. We are fearful of not waking up in a dream going bad. But, unlike this beauty, maybe we can find a way to permit a kiss from a quantum sovereign prince.

“Leslie,” I said, sitting there in my old paper world, “My aura, as you call it, is getting pushed into the new news. It is wrapped up neatly in a purple dimension of existence I barely understand. I wheeled to my laptop. “Look here,” I said. “It is a world without art, but there remains the need. This story is about truth and hope, instead of beauty, money instead of love, speed instead of rest, yet it is still about dreams. Innovation in a new brand of reality. Maybe it will wake us up, but for now, please give Gregory a call and see if he can clean up our sticky gummed-up sidewalk and put that nonslip polish on the floor before the weekend. Thank you, thank you, thank you, and for your information, I’m already feeling a little bit of red in the binary digits of my so-called aura.”

“Okay,” she said. Then, standing, she turned, walked out, waving her arm back and forth above her head. “Off, no, on to the deeds of the day.”

Source: Natalie Wolchover Quantum Magazine, Eternal Change for No Energy: A Time Crystal Finally Made Real

Megawatts for Megabytes

“New Yorkers, if the ride isn’t killing us; the megabytes might.”

These three books are among many that challenge our understanding of the world and the sense of place that we need. Builders still hope for a complete urban place, but face terrifying possibilities of failure. The cause of the troubles that David, Peter, and Charles attempt to define have one thing in common — the megawatts we want for megabytes? It is a conundrum – it is both the solution and the problem.

The megawatts needed for megabytes could become a serious source of Green House Gas (GHG). Wally Broeker would know. He is the Columbia University chemist who coined the phrase “global warming.”

“The climate system is an angry beast, and we are poking it with sticks.”

Wally Broecker (here)

God rest his soul. There is the more optimistic Peter Brannen’s, The Ends of the World: (Volcanic Apocalypses, Lethal Oceans, and Our Quest to Understand Earth’s Past Mass Extinctions) who says,

“Life on earth constitutes a remarkably thin glaze of interesting chemistry on an otherwise unremarkable, cooling ball of stone, hovering like a sand grain in an endless ocean of space.”  

He was an optimist about life, not humans.

The consciousness-raising chronology of Earth Day 1963 to the recent present (here) began with Earth-rise — the Apollo 11 photo of the earth from the moon. Earth Day reminds us that our sense of place today is about a tiny cooling 4.5 billion-year-old rock. Our sense of time on this rock has become the last few “seconds” on a geological clock. The place and time of the earth are now defined by the warming of that glaze of chemistry we call air. To change that from the negative it appears to be today to a positive in the future would be a first in all these billions of years. There is nothing like a “first” to get humans interested in change.

The density of urban life lowers energy costs per capita, and the energy systems put in place will become containable and capable of 100% GHG capture as renewable sources bring increasing promise. Nevertheless, the world of 5G energy includes acknowledging the cost goes up to 1,000 times. Energy is a design problem in energy use, and solutions are evident when the dense urban world is measured separately. This simple step of separation puts a significant portion of the world on a renewable, reinvestment, and resilient path. It sets up good examples for replication. An excerpt, from “Density,” describes growing recognition of the earth as a whole due to the Apollo photographs (here).

Concerns over energy efficiency are occurring in conferences about 5G deployments, and methods for reducing energy consumption have begun, only after the facts. Even the political forces surrounding net neutrality are those that seek to create price structures connected to solving this problem, but there are no laws on the subject. It therefore slumps into the demand for resetting priority. The most well known is the call to eliminate the rank unfairness in the world’s social structures defined by the newest indicator of stress. That would be access to data and the capacity to share our common problems.

In brief, it is possible to recognize devices whose energy consumption scales with traffic, and devices (including the end accessories) measuring energy intensity in energy per data and in energy per time (i.e., power only) as load. An electrical load is carried by a component that consumes electricity.  Internet energy intensity (energy consumption per data transferred) have estimates differing from 136 kWh/GB (Koomey et al., 2004 – here) down to 0.0064 kWh/GB (Baliga et al.,2011 – here), a factor of 20,000.

Reviewing this literature through 2020 is similar to the tobacco lobby talking to Congress, the discussion is different, but the addiction is similar. Finally, it is in the Uninhabitable Earth that David Wallace-Wells says we have assembled, “out of distrust of one another and the nations behind the ‘fiat currencies’, a program to wipe out the gains of several long, hard generations of green energy innovations.” He was talking about the immense energy requirement world is demanding from the full implementation of 5G to the operation of electric vehicles. We are addicted, but as full implementation is likely by 2050 the world can read about 200 million climate refugees at 20 Gig per second or more. Silly, are we not?


Timeline of Last 50 Posts


Architecture Plus!BronxNY
ASSISTSalt Lake CityUT
Ball State UniversityMuncieIN
Ball State UniversityIndianapolisIN
Brooklyn Chamber of CommerceBrooklynNY
Brooklyn Children’s MuseumBrooklynNY
Brooklyn Economic Development CorporationBrooklynNY
Butler + AssociatesBrooklynNY
Center for ArchitectureNew YorkNY
Chilton Realty InternationalDouglastonNY
City College Architectural CenterNew YorkNY
Community Board 12MNew YorkNY
Dorgan Architecture & PlanningStorrsCT
East Williamsburg (EWVIDCO)BrooklynNY
Enterprise Community Parters, Inc.New YorkNY
FxFowle Architects, PCNew YorkNY
Goodwill IndustriesAstoriaNY
Granite Partners, LLCNew YorkNY
Harlem Congregations for Community Improvement (HCCI)New YorkNY
Institute for Urban DesignNew YorkNY
Kitchen for Hire, Inc.BrooklynNY
Medgar Evers CollegeBrooklynNY
Michael King ArchitectBrooklynNY
New York City Department of City PlanningNew YorkNY
New York City Housing Authority Resident ServicesBrooklynNY
New York Community Trust, TheNew YorkNY
NYC Dept. of Housing Preservation & DevelopmentNew YorkNY
Open Society InstituteNew YorkNY
Pratt Area Community CouncilBrooklynNY
Princeton University School of ArchitectureNew HavenCT
Pyatok AssociatesOaklandCA
Regional Planning AssociationNew YorkNY
Rochester Regional Community Design CenterRochesterNY
Society for the Preservation of WeeksvilleBrooklynNY
St. Nicholas Housing & Preservation CorporationBrooklynNY
Sustainable South BronxBronxNY
The Urban Homesteading Assistance BoardNew YorkNY
University of Detroit/Mercy (DCDC)DetroitMI
University of ManitobaWinnipegManitoba
University of MinnesotaMinneapolisMN
West Harlem Environmental Action (WE ACT)New YorkNY

Public Place/Public Process

Course of Action

If criticism is a method that gets to the truth, then so be it. But, when it does not, then what? The Urban Design Discussion group put together a “Public Place Public Process” to get started on engagement methods.  After all, criticism begins and ends with a public that is by many accounts in a coma.  This link opens up a 40 page summary of submissions to an Urban Design Committee. It is a PowerPoint (2.4M pdf): San Antonio Presentation.

The Urban Design discussion combines the thinking of planners, designers, and architects to accomplish one thing – to move social and environmental equity forward on the nation’s list of priorities.  The solution to the global challenge is urban.

In 2006, fifty projects identified by New York Magazine (NYM) offered a start by scrunching some of the world’s best architects into a group to stimulate the mind’s eye.

The signatures are clear in the image pictured left. There is coherence as individuality but could an advanced public process improve it as a statement ” of a larger community?”

The lack of reciprocity between the tightly defined images of the developer’s market image research and the experience of the public.

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New York Magazine

The following examples (1-5 or more) will require ongoing review.  As Brooklyn’s northwest coast begins to develop, we expect it to reveal a new public realm in a receding industrial waterfront.

Community pressure produced a demand for inclusionary housing bonuses to exact 20% to 30% of the units as affordable in Brooklyn and opened the gate for the first expansion of the General Exclusion Area, formally known as the Manhattan Exclusion Zone.  (Note: all maps are by Jason Lee for New York Magazine)

  1. The Edge: Stephen B. Jacobs; master plan by FXFOWLE and TEN Arquitectos, September 2008  (view NYC Construction Top Projects pdf: here) Scaled back from 1.5 million to 1….  what else?
  2. Palmer’s Dock: FXFOWLE, phase one, 2008; phase two, 2009  (Impact of tax credits on design discussion in Journal of Tax Credits pdf article: here
  3. North 8: Greenberg Farrow Architecture, spring 2007
  4. Domino Sugar Site: Rafael Vinoly Architects, no completion date.  The story at this link must be a hoax: Hoax?
  5. Schaefer Landing:  Karl Fischer Architects, 2006

SEE: Sites 6 – 17: Lower Manhattan


Galileo knew that most people would predict that a heavy body (H) would fall faster than a lighter body (L). 

But, his eyes were fixed on our solar system, and these bodies were not falling, so he conducted a thought experiment to prove another possible prediction.  Science and art are wonderfully connected by experimental thinking. Here is Galileo’s well-known thought experiment:

  1. Suppose we connect the two bodies by a string, thereby making the compound object H+L.
  2. One could predict that H+L should fall faster than H by itself because of the compound weight: H+L > H.
  3. However, it’s also possible to use the same logic to claim that the compound body should fall slower than H because of L’s drag so that H+L < H.
  4. This yields a contradiction. It means that logical consequence is absurd or reductio ad absurdum because H = L = H+L.

On the Moon, Neil Armstrong showed the whole world that Galileo was right a half-century later. He let go of a hammer and a feather in the absence of atmospheric friction while standing on the Moon, and, sure enough, they hit the Moon’s surface at the same time. This is the predictive power of thought experiments.

Three Rules

In all of our worlds (social, political, economic, biometric) we search for things considered necessary. We see closed doors, glass ceilings, and tables with no invitations. The good news is we have a set of new rules that could make change more positive.

Nikola Tesla

A way to develop answers to change rests with the combination of several very new organizations such as the World Wide Web Foundation and some old scientists such as Nikola Tesla pictured (left). Both are excellent examples of learning and unlearning everything to begin every day differently than the day before. Pioneering access to information has always been available at the speed of light thanks to your hippocampus, but now it is a many-brain experience. We need new skills.

The first rule of knowledge is that it expands through the experience of frequency. The second is you control what you make recur. The third rule is books do not hold truth or meaning. Meaning is in people, and the truth is just outside your front door. Take a long-looking walk every day.

These three rules draw a vital connection to the immensity of comparative change. Here is an example. It is a comparison of Nikola Tesla and Tim Berners-Lee. Here we find two people who looked just outside their door but managed to see the whole world. Just under a century ago, Nikola Tesla explored every aspect of energy he could imagine. Just a few decades ago (1989-1991) Tim Berners-Lee and others created the URL and HTML as a fast method for sharing and editing documents on a worldwide basis. There is a connection.


I came across an examination of Tesla’s writings and interviews on the subject of the future at The Smithsonian. In Tesla’s vision, leaning to control the energy of everything will establish the recurrence of all things good. A movement to elect scientists instead of lawyers to leadership positions in the legislative branches of government has begun. In a 1935 Liberty Magazine article, Tesla was among those who saw science as the parent of law and writes,

Today the most civilized countries of the world spend a maximum of their income on war and a minimum on education. The twenty-first century will reverse this order. It will be more glorious to fight against ignorance than to die on the field of battle. The discovery of new scientific truth will be more important than the squabbles of diplomats. Even the newspapers of our own day are beginning to treat scientific discoveries and the creation of fresh philosophical concepts as news. The newspapers of the twenty-first century will give a mere ” stick ” in the back pages to accounts of crime or political controversies but will headline on the front pages the proclamation of a new scientific hypothesis.

Something Is Wrong

A century later, for every $100 paid in U.S. federal income tax, well over half of it still goes to the military in the 21st century. Something is wrong.

Tesla saw the ability of science to improve people in the same way law sought to protect. Called eugenics at the time, these discredited and immoral practices present a view of the world based on the distorted views of privileged white males, and this has yet to change in a meaningful way. Nevertheless, the debate continues in a broad spectrum by manipulating DNA in thousands of lifeforms. CRISPR will continue to press for the inclusion of the human genome. The practioners must be watched. Something isn’t right, if they are not.

Tesla recognized the lack of control over the waste machines create as he was a builder of them. He envisioned a national agency with the mission to prevent pollution (waste nothing) and regulate the discarded materials of production for the specific purpose of protecting the land, air, and water. Unfortunately, the EPA did not form until 1970. President Nixon was in office. Something isn’t right, waste continues beyond reason, and it includes human beings.

Tesla’s outlook on the energy requirements of the human diet eschewed all stimulants except alcohol. Perhaps he was like Mark Twain, who said that “too much of anything is bad, but too much Scotch is rarely enough.” Still, he knew it was possible to provide “…enough wheat and wheat products to feed the entire world.” He criticized the industrialization of animals for protein. He was a contemporary of Dr. Norman Borlaug.

Tesla recognized energy drawn from the burning of fossil fuels as wasteful and dangerous. The identification of global warming gases began in the Nineteenth Century. He saw clean energy from sources such as water-power and the scientific preservation of natural resources would end the agonies of drought, forest fires, floods, and viral infestation. Instead, Federal Disaster Declarations have doubled and tripled since 1955. Something isn’t right.

Science proves Right

Tesla’s favorite work is in the invention of remotely controlled machines designed to automate production. He understood communication as wireless. In 1935, he said, “At this very moment, scientists working in the laboratories of American universities are attempting to create what has been described as a thinking machine. In all of our worlds, for right or wrong, the only proof of communication is persuasion. Can a “thinking machine” isolate the wrong of a lie?

Image result for tim berners-lee
Tim Berners-Lee

In 1994, the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) formed an international community devoted to developing open web standards. Tim Berners-Lee is the Director of W3C (2017). The question is direct. How well can this resource advance the frequencies of useful change that Tesla envisioned? In 2009, Berners-Lee formed The World Wide Web Foundation and began operations as an independent, international organization fighting for digital equality. It envisions the continuing implementation of an open web as a public good and a basic right. Its mission is to help build a world where everyone can access the web and use it to improve their lives. The internet community produced the following revolutionary ideas.

The Rules are Under Attack

In August 2020, the United States, under the Trump Administration, began to attack the idea of internet sovereignty in favor of an authoritarian view that would redefine the idea of free expression. The following principles of an open and free internet are therefore under attack.

  • Decentralization: No permission from a central authority to post anything on the web, there is no central controlling node, so no single point of failure … and no “kill switch”! The implication: freedom from indiscriminate censorship and surveillance.
  • Non-discrimination: If I pay to connect to the internet with a certain quality of service, and you pay to connect with that or greater quality of service, then we can both communicate at the same level. This principle of equity is Net Neutrality.
  • Bubble-up design: Code is in full view of everyone (Ctrl/Shift/I) to encourage maximum participation and experimentation. All you have to do is right-click and select inspect.
  • Universality: For anyone to publish anything on the web, all the computers involved have to speak the same languages to each other, no matter what different hardware people are using, where they live, or what cultural and political beliefs they have. In this way, the web breaks down silos while allowing diversity to flourish.
  • Consensus: For universal standards to work, everyone had to agree to use them. The achievement of consensus occurs by giving everyone a say in creating the standards through a transparent, participatory process at W3C. The consensus to agree with everything, at least “somewhat” and a known degree.


Two immediate suppositions are evident when comparing Tesla’s ideas (turn of the 20th) about the world’s future with what the World Wide Web now offers (turn of the 21st). The first insight reveals a public education policy at risk, and the second is one big assumption. The risk is that a probable series of severe social, economic, and environmental events will increase and continue to occur as “chaos costs.” The assumption is the threat of these costs will lead to repression as if the cause/effect in this situation is a certainty. It is not.

A third observation is less reactionary—the documentation and implementation of two resilience strategies can serve as benchmarks. For example, putting a global price on GHGs and focusing on investments in new energy solutions are arguments for action in less than a decade. The reasonable deadline appears to be 2050 by most observers to achieve net-zero. It could be sooner.

If initial benchmarks establish firm roots, a path will become apparent on improving our global selves with the aid of super useful “thinking machines” focused on facts and knowledge instead of death and war. Envision a world where trust is about truth and not about machine ownership. Something is wrong. The internet is not a machine.

A responsive market approach can succeed. The value system accepts disruption in parts of the physical and emotional community, but not the spirit of people in the wake of that change. The infusion of world wide web values now offers decentralization, non-discrimination, a bottom-up design, super universality, and consensus. This is a compelling alternative to authoritarian rule. The rules are clear for building pathways to new physical realities. Implementing one hellish set of trusted, tried, and true algorithms remain along with the desire to go outside. Have a good, long look at the world. (Knowledge share link here).

In the Wind

On January 4, 2013, The New York City Independent Budget Office of New York City published a study on the cost of Hurricane Sandy in overtime pay. As part of that study, the chart below illustrates who made the most money. There is a way to look at this sarcastically but helpfully. The Police as an institution is making a mess like Hurricane Sandy, but Sanitation was available to help clean it up. When it comes to the police, the people have no sanitation. There is an irony about this as the result of a modest bit of digging by the IBO because of a hurricane.

Irony: The nation’s rage is that hurricane.

The IBO: Reduced Funding for Reform

I know the connection to hurricane overtime pay is a stretch, (details here), but I’m sure the overtime numbers will be equally interesting in overtime pay for police, ironically in the name of the public’s safety and the protection of property. Last November, voters approved an increase in Civilian Complaint Review Board staffing. Does the Mayor’s Budget Plan Provide the Funds? No. Staffing for what would be a modest reform effort at best would be below the level approved by voters. Find out more: here for the deep end. Some of the points are:

  • In January, the Mayor released his Preliminary Budget for the upcoming fiscal year and included funding for 17 additional Civilian Complaint Review Board positions to comply with the new City Charter mandate. In April, the Mayor dropped these positions from his Executive Budget for a savings of $1.1 million in the fiscal year 2021, which begins July 1.
  • The City Charter revision approved by voters in 2019 included language providing the Mayor with authority to declare that “unforeseen financial circumstances” prevent the city from being able to attain the 0.65 percent minimum staffing requirement.
  • The city’s financial plan now includes funds for staffing the additional Civilian Complaint Review Board positions in 2022—one year later than previously planned. IBO estimates the city’s budget shortfall for 2022 is nearly $6 billion, a much deeper budget gap than the city faces in 2021.
  • Moreover, the actual size of the review board’s staff as of the end of February stood at 203, or 16 fewer than currently budgeted.

Prepared by Bernard O’Brien New York City Independent Budget Office

The NYPD still makes a giant money-sucking sound and the city runs on $90 Billion. A substantial sum. That is why the only good news is as of today June 30, 2020, Mayor Da Blabla – cut one billion out of the NYPD’s budget. Dig in: Office of Management and Budget –

I would like to eventually find out if the staffing for the Review Board will be replaced, and what was cut, and if it makes sense to the police reform advocates.

Seven Facts About the NYPD Budget (here)
Source: Citizens Budget Commission

  1. About $11 billion from the City’s budget are allocated to the NYPD.
  2. The NYPD has the third-largest agency operating budget.
  3. Most of the NYPD budget is for salaries and wages, and the largest share funds street patrol.
  4. About one-third of NYPD employees are civilians.
  5. The average pay for police officers was more than $90,000 and as high as $190,000 for captains, including overtime.
  6. The NYPD budget has grown by one-third since the fiscal year 2010.
  7. NYPD headcount grew by more than 3,000 employees since the fiscal year 2010.

Funding Sources of the NYPD Budget

Most of the NYPD’s budget is funded by City tax dollars:

  • 92 percent, or $5.2 billion, is City-funded
  • 6 percent, or $349 million, is federally funded
  • 2 percent, or $82 million, is State-funded
  • Less than 1 percent is from other categorical grants

Politics of the Commons

A conservative friend of mine argues that everyone’s property is no one’s property, and none value the wealth. Why? I said with a few examples brewing, but then she says, “Who would be fool enough to wait to use it when the next moment, it could be used by another?” I interrupted with “could be used.” Unphased, she said, “Would a tree for timber be left in the ground for another, would fish found in the morning sea be left for taking in the afternoon by others?” Then she pulled out her economics degree and said, “Every factor of production without assurance leaves all things for all people as things without value.”

Natural resources and common property are free goods for individuals but are recognized as scarce goods by the rule of “use or lose.” Value is obtained when the rules of property for value become subject to a unified directing power. To the conservative, this power is held as private. It is associated with the “free-rider problem,” freedom, and the capacity to be free. It is tied to individual and corporate rights as the fuel of competitive innovation, new technology, and wealth, without which new problems cannot be solved.

Neoliberal BS must be understood, here are two examples:

“…there is no such thing as society; only individuals and families.”
“The ten most dangerous words in the English language are “Hi, I’m from the government, and I’m here to help .”

Margaret Thatcher 1987 & Ronald Reagan 1988

The progressive’s argument (that would be me) is if the property becomes public (government), it does so for specific purposes. Regulating development that reduces abuse or corruption can produce value not only by preventing damage or by litigating cause but also by encouraging a global culture that recognizes solutions to problems before they exist. Assign a value to that, and we leap into a future that capital alone refuses to provide. My brief crisis management analysis (here) sees self-interest as a useful compulsion, but if unregulated or tested, the practice drains shared resources.

Addiction can be repackaged as vapor when modified through price mechanism alone, and the resource drained are children’s lungs. The charge of negative impact continues in the population (endemic) in unregulated markets, followed by claiming the need to add wealth to fix or mitigate the cause of problems. The progressive’s complaint continues because doubling down on methods (risks) counter to a long-term interest, such as a child’s health (changing/eliminating flavors), are digressions that further discourage the mobilization of resistance.

The arguments of a conservative vs. progressive approach also have a long, tedious set of false premise conditions that deter effective challenges to the status quo. Whether corporate or within the public realm, several types of economic behaviors clearly threaten the stability of individual nations and global health in general. The theft of a treasury, election fixing, killing in all places, and many geographies reveal known horrors.

Geopolitical oil, rare earth minerals, even access to space force technology are considered sustainable practices due to irrational thinking and false arguments. Corporate identity interests also build on a variety of absurd claims. We know the tag lines: We are the best, the safest, most loved, recommended, and philanthropic business globally.  All of this is protected by free-speech and self-regulation norms until a stated fact is proven false. All of this is useless until a “False Premise Agency” becomes an agency with power. There are a few reasons straightforward steps to logical thinking in a society. Examples are:

  • Change the mode of problem-solving with a new process.
  • Redefine problems in a categorically different fashion.
  • Eliminate the damage at the source or the cause, include failed prevention.
  • Substitute damages with relocation, replacements, and technical upgrades.
  • Legislation and litigation practices that pay for failure as an ongoing process.

The last three activities are classic fire brigade solutions. While reasonable, essential, and undoubtedly continuous, the first two actions require renewed focus if ending the cycle can be expected. Improving the modes of problem-solving processes is inherently demanded by the catastrophic resolution perspective in the position of operatives of the last three.

Thomas Hale of University-Oxford describes a similar but more hopeful choice, “catalytic cooperation” (here). Hale accepts the “resilience is all that is left” from the Club of Rome folks and rolls up his sleeves as a member of an extensive group of academic economists. He sees three features of climate mitigation that depart from the accepted model: joint goods, preference heterogeneity, and increasing returns. The presence of these characteristics reveals the chief barrier to global cooperation is not the threat of free riding but the lack of incentive to act in the first place.

Humans have been redefining problems in new ways, from deciding that a cave with a guarded entrance is a good idea to the billions of “falsifiability” exercises ongoing today.  They are theoretical, mathematical in the laboratory and the field.  All of it is refreshing, but much of it is like a solid slap in the face with someone screaming, wake up, wake up.  In many ways, we are still in that Neolithic cave, redefining problems in categorically new ways.

More recently, the injection of scientists into the partisan “what can vs. should be done?” debate has begun to dance around the global commons’ problem. A list of over fifty non-United Nations multilateral, mega-regional agencies (a list here) represents a doubling of “brigades” in 25 years and a trend toward continuing expansion on an even longer list of issues. Pushing a top priority for greater capacity in the global “what should we do” debate became the jingoistic nightmare that turned government into the problem.

“If the people cannot trust their government to do the job for which it exists – to protect them and to promote their common welfare – all else is lost.”

Barack Obama (2006)

As the world’s economic growth slows due to realignments caused by climate change, combinations of regional populism, and global security interests, we are gripped by widening inequality as if it was only an issue of the unequal. The global human health condition is part of the climate change question that proves humanity is far more alike than unalike, with greater similarities with beautiful variations of great benefit to all.

A dip in growth caused by ongoing investment reductions in carbon-intensive industries also opens new processes that will break into a vast network of capital chains searching for alternatives. Short of an energy solution as dramatic as fusion, new forms of growth will from new stock symbol combinations associated with government-backed initiatives that reduce risk. The central question will be whether decision-makers will become sufficiently undistracted to plan effectively to implement a proposed change.

Public investment works with noted success in the traditional practices of the scientific method, concerning theory, predictability, and peer reviews of specific concerns such as a common cancer problem, AIDS, or SARS. However, if Science is needed to solve macro human system problems, on the one hand, the public investment appears helpless on the other. The failure to end the rise of life-degrading processes is all the more frightening because of how easily they are identified. Commercial food production, bacterial and viral contagion, energy use, poor transportation systems, and biome systems worldwide, to name a few.

If it is for the lack of “trust” that all may be lost, then public investment in the sciences of planning and engineering, art, and architecture are all practices that can produce the immediate feedback essential to discovering how to live in a categorically new way, especially if the way now is killing us slowly or with deadly precision. So, although it may only be a few at a time, in sadly separated multiple room huts, scattered across the American landscape of false independence or in the towers of despair we so eagerly and carelessly build, the task of getting on track is right now.

Getting on Track

Three global factors have brought about the demand for global, multilateral change in national societies that have experienced varying degrees of tragic impact. First, climate change is an umbrella disaster held over nasty little wars, floods, and firestorms followed by infectious diseases.  Second, most of these effects have been recognized as inevitable for a century or more. Third, the world’s leadership is beginning to understand that for the lack of a global agreement, much of all of this was and remains preventable in each new cycle.

Ironically, a fourth global factor is a conservative viewpoint expressed as the tragedy of the commons. The negative impact on a common pasture and the relationship among households raising grazing animals is real. The rules should change if the entire earth becomes that metaphorical pasture. Losing entire portions of massive coastal cities worldwide to surging ocean tides and entire biomes (forest to coral reef) will become the lived experience of millions of people. It will be as if billions of tons of waste that floats and sinks in the shared resource of the global oceans and the “dead zone” of the Gulf of Mexico could be seen by all. Societies pay for these disruptions with the starvation of children, the screams of helpless parents, and the stunned dismay of families who falsely believe they are saved with compensatory access to wealth.

The global climate has been stable for only the last 2,000 to 3,000 years. There should be no expectation that it would remain constant. The global climate is in many ways barely stable as a system, and a single push of added gases, heat, humans, and nature would make change inevitable yet still feel inconsequential as a threat. The demand for alternative ways of living is unimaginable as the swell of cheap energy continues to make everything, including faith in a quick tech-fix, easy to expect. In this psychological climate, finding replacements is difficult, and forcing amelioration by changing the price with substitutes violates the status quo. When assessed in the “commons” framework, two new categorical thinking patterns emerge as environmental and emotional intelligence.

Ostrom’s Answer is Occam’s Razor

A problem that exists in the future has two elements, one to design a defense, the other is to alter the future to make that unnecessary. The leaders involved may have had the lawyer’s skills and personality for political leadership, but to produce solutions essential to create trust, the science part of our minds and the science professions will form a new community. To do that, the change in the mode of problem-solving begins with a process that Elinor Ostrom has already figured out in a Nobel prize-winning way.

Our ancient brains in various shelters for the night knew of beasts, enemies, and trouble. That sense of big trouble is real, but the community may never experience its pain because of that sense alone. From the cave to the laboratory, what we have done is to define problems we believe might be unlikely to occur, but we solve them anyway. The quality of thinking in this instance is an old tactic still in use by scientists today called Occam’s Razor. As Albert Einstein notes, a theory of a threat with the fewest variables requires problem-solving work where “everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.”

The first of Elinor Ostrom’s core design principles began in Governing the Commons (1990). It was as continuously optimistic as an economist can be in her research for the World Bank in 2009 (here). The paper, A Polycentric Approach for Coping with Climate Change, considers the possibility of a non-tragic global commons. It is here that she gives her life-long partner Vincent Ostrom an attribution to a central observation. She quotes his definition of polycentric as “one where many elements are capable of making mutual adjustments for ordering their relationships with one another within a general system of rules where each element acts with the independence of other elements.” It was written with Charles Tiebout and Robert Warren (Economic Base and Local Expenditure Theory).

Ostrom examined the power of working with problems using clearly defined boundaries that are already reasonably possessed and understood in the world. In strictly economic terms, such boundaries would be needed everywhere for everything and difficult to implement. On the other hand, this first rule is essential to working with big global problems such as thermonuclear war, climate change, and pandemic threats. Defining a boundary in a categorically new way offers promise as the concept is simple and easily understood.

Because purely economic solutions are easy to argue and difficult to implement, start with a simple physical entity such as a city as that category. Cities are places with a fixed boundary and a legal process for expansion or contraction. Thus, the city is an excellent place to implement the remaining seven of Ostrom’s solutions. It is a “back to the future” type of problem.

A city is an outstanding place to begin the implementation. The city with a boundary offers proportional equivalence and a clear, constantly improving data stream to monitor processes beginning with the measurement of benefits and costs in every imaginable or possible center capable of giving itself a boundary. It is ongoing but without mutual benefit consent. Proportionality within multiple geographies of a dense polycentric city of neighborhoods, cultural groups, ideologies, genders, and so on can become a transparent way to understand variables fully. In this way, it is possible to put the equality sign (or not) between two or more in the social and economic expressions.

The city also offers multiple platforms for “collective choice agreements.” The center of Ostrom’s argument recognizes the practical use of carefully implemented sanctions. The city’s boundary offers a set of measures from price restrictions to penalties, incentives, and subsidies designed to meet goals such as a good balance of affordable housing or lower per capita energy use. In New York City, neighborhood-level participation in governance is voluntary and advisory, but it expands central government capacity to understand issues as they are experienced locally. As these practices contribute to local autonomy, they are also capable of interpreting them globally. The resolution of problems begins with the kind of efficiency and quality of data feedback, which empowers local autonomy through participatory governance.

The last piece of Ostrom’s change-the-world puzzle looks to resolve existential threats with the ability to grow a polycentric rulemaking authority so that global rules are instantly recognized because they are already well-organized and in use locally. The only element missing is the lack of political recognition of this as an urban fact. Ostrom’s groundbreaking approach is not built on how people think but on eventually needing to organize their thinking. Hopefully, this work will escape its decade of discussion where it floats in the partial oblivion and trappings of its academic Nobel Prize (2009). It needs to find a city to live in as a permanent place of proof. I recommend New York City, and you know why.  If you can make it here, you can make it everywhere. Again, the city with a strong existing boundary has these systems in place.  The only element is the lack of political recognition of this fact.

Getting On Track


Urban Design Project Logo
Public Process for Public Space

In November of 2004, a reconstituted APA Urban Design Committee tackled the question of the intersection of Planning and Urban Design, acknowledging the artificial split that exists between the architectural design of public open space – which focuses on form – and planning of public open spaces – which focuses on policy and participation in development. I developed this project with Robert Lowe, Urban Designer for the RPA.

To get started, we sought submissions to demonstrate lessons learned and products created that link public participation and urban design on behalf of the New York Metro Chapter of the American Planning Association (APA) Urban Design Committee.

Thirty Projects were submitted by planning and architectural firms, public agencies, university-based programs, community development corporations, and civic associations in New York City, the Hudson Valley, and Long Island. The program encouraged sharing of successes and frustrations over the last decade to the present. For more detail:
See San Antonio PowerPoint Presentation (pdf) San Antonio Workshop.

The committee wanted to ensure that a planning framework for discussion would differentiate how APA would view the urban design from the AIA. In this era of a star-architecture culture and so-called signature-buildings, the tendency to celebrate bold new urban design visions has a side effect. The haunting sense that additional forms of community input were missing, and without it, a deeper understanding of the underlying political, economic, environmental, and/or technical concerns would not emerge. This lack of depth contributed to the failure of some high-profile projects in the New York Region, such as building a new Jets Stadium on the west side of Manhattan and the delay in rebuilding the World Trade Center Site. Consequently, the committee sought to recognize urban design projects in the planning realm that were sensitive to these underlying planning concerns. In addition, the task force sought to distinguish New York metro urban design initiatives from a regional perspective.

Unlike most of the country, the New York metropolitan region has a two-hundred-year physical development heritage. The redevelopment, renewal, and preservation of existing communities is the primary challenge rather than planning new development projects on expansive green fields. As a result, the literature currently describing nationally celebrated urban design projects has little relevance to the issues and concerns of communities within the New York Metro Area. The committee understood that the most exciting planning and urban design projects in the nation are taking place in the New York City-Westchester-Long Island metro area. This is a geographic area that captures an incredibly diverse range of urban and suburban landscapes. Nowhere is there as rich a tradition of civic involvement in community planning and design as here, nor as much creative professional talent. And yet, each community rarely understands what even their most proximate neighbors have accomplished, let alone the value this work would have to a national audience.

The Public Place Public Process sought answers to questions about how well the planning and design community engages the community to build a public space. The Committee’s 2005 call for submissions garnered 23 submissions. In March 2006. a full-day workshop at the Regional Plan Association’s (RPA) offices yielded unique insight into the impact of civic engagement practices on the products of planning and design. This paper reflects on these events at the close of 2006 with a summary of findings to date and an outline of plans for a workshop about launching the Committee’s next steps.

At the start of the April 2006 presentation of our findings at the APA conference, we brought a quote from the legendary New York Yankee Baseball Manager and Urban Planner, Yogi Berra, “You got to be careful if you don’t know where you’re going because you might not get there.” This is not only an amusing turn of phrase; it is a timely thought for New Yorkers. Our review, comment, criticism, and contribution to the growing list of major planning and construction events in New York City are daunting. As a result, examining the quality of the public processes in defining the public space in all dimensions remains a significant interest of the APA Planning and Urban Design Committee. To date, it continues to be a viable mechanism for defining the central question. Is it possible for us to acquire some assurances in the conduct of these events that we are building better communities?

Best Practices

Community revitalization, smart growth, legacy, brownfields

The committee called for best practice case studies from around the region. Metro APA and AIA mailing/ e-mail lists and several other organizations were used for outreach efforts. The call for submissions stressed The APA is especially interested in projects that demonstrate a strong connection between a robust public process and a physical plan or design. As illustrated in plans, renderings, and models, these are projects where a specific design solution was arrived at through a public process. Submissions were composed of design presentations to communicate the consequences of the goals and policies that the stakeholders adopted to the public.

1. community revitalization
The community has a comprehensive strategy for revitalizing a neighborhood, or perhaps the commercial or cultural center of the neighborhood. For example, the design studies may illustrate how new housing is designed to reinforce existing neighborhoods, how a commercial corridor is revitalized through a streetscape or façade restoration initiative, or how a new public space is landscaped and programmed.

2. brownfields or greyfield redevelopment
The community has reclaimed a strategic property that was abandoned or underutilized, perhaps a former industrial site. The design studies illustrate how environmental restoration is accomplished in finding a new use for the property.

3. smart growth initiative
The community has found a way to capture development that would otherwise have sprawled out to some undeveloped area. The design studies illustrate how new context-appropriate development completes the existing neighborhoods or town centers or how new development is oriented towards transit such as a subway or commuter rail station.

4. legacy project
The community has created a plan that celebrates the history or cultural heritage of the community. The design studies illustrate how historic buildings have been re-used or how new spaces are created around buildings, monuments, or parks that have significance for the neighborhood.

While impressed by the quality of responses, we felt compelled to put the idea of ‘best’ aside to focus on practice. Our interest in the ongoing potential of this project held higher ground, so we began to mine all of the submissions for insights regarding the meaning of the term public process as described in each submission. Participants presented the interplay between public processes and design very differently. It was used as a tool to protect, defend and inform the public, as well as a means to discover and affirm community values and culture.

We express our gratitude to the Peer Review Committee (organizations listed for affiliation only) for all of these thoughts. Thank you.

Bruce Rosen, New York City Department of City Planning
Charlie Zucker, Consultant in Urban Design
Lance Brown, City College of New York, School of Architecture
Peg Seip, Consultant Community Planning and Development
Susan Meiklejohn, Hunter College Department of Urban Affairs and Planning
Tamara Greenfield, New York City Department of Parks
Terrence O’Neal, New York State Chapter of the American Institute of Architects
Tom Lunke, Harlem Community Development Corporation
Wayne Benjamin, Harlem Community Development Corporation


Cutting through the data maze….

Useful Demography

Demography describes the social characteristics and vital statistics of people, families, and households within a geographic boundary. A variety of secondary sources provide free or low-cost online access to useful data. Developing an in-house, ” fast and easy” demographic resource is an important step in selecting the social conditions and the economic variables such as the cost of housing or access to employment that would be of greatest use to your organization or company.

Evaluate the depth of need for goods and services both public and private on a per capita basis. The research includes an improved understanding of the changing quality of economic demand on local businesses in terms of market size. Our Demographic Reports review options and help select the information deemed most useful to the client’s immediate needs.

Market complexity…
Whether for-profit businesses or nonprofit community organizations corporations the tools for managing changes in market conditions are best understood when regional data is compared to local knowledge. A well-known tactic for evaluating these changes is advanced demographic research on the dollars and cents of local markets.

  Preliminary Market Analysis Services


A key asset of every community is its uniqueness, including the ability to act on an issue quickly. Acquiring an advanced Demographic Market Report on local commercial districts will reveal local small businesses’ capacity to capture local spending and if local nonprofits can get down to business with businesses.

Also known as a “drill down” method, the process helps community groups to launch a competitive response to large corporate retailers in business-to-business and business-to-community dealings. The policy has encouraged local nonprofit organizations with a public service mission to consider “running a business” to “fill in the retail gaps.” This has been wrong-headed.

In most urban communities today, the spending of as few as 25% of the households represents 75% of local retail spending. Still, local business or community advocates only see 75% of lower-income households whose spending power is only 25% of the market. Changing the business model to make the powerful 25% happy would be competitively good for everyone.

If you are a community-based nonprofit organization dealing with the concentrations of poverty, consider “transshipment” controls. This effort changes the means of delivery in the journey to free people trapped in self-destructive and community-destructive cycles.

Organizational Development

What are your organization’s key performance indicators?

Community organizations and private businesses create change in response to the values and beliefs of a community. Testing for these values is a particular strength of nonprofit community service organizations, but small businesses also perform well in this area.  Small companies and charitable nonprofits advance the opportunity for growth by adapting well to change.  Here are three examples:

  • Risk Management – How does your organization define and manage risk?
  • Timely Evaluations – What steps are taken to preserve capital and leverage public confidence?
  • Conduct an Effort to Outcome Analysis – Do you use client management software?

The Organizational Development Report often precedes a Strategic Plan.  OD creates levels of goal assurance. Efforts are evaluated as individual tasks combine knowledge with interpersonal behavior.  New sources of capacity occur with acknowledgments that confront impediments. 

Strategic Planning is a tool to advance an organizations development with an external environmental scan. The scan examines competitive and cooperative relationships that are possible among the full range of civic, business, and public agencies. The SP Report produces a road map for the executive staff that improves operations, and interpersonal communication with flexible, scalable, and reasonable procedures.

Knowledge Capital Assessment 

In the United States, an entire generation has been fundamentally untouched by global war, disease, or famine.  This group is rapidly becoming “fifty-something,” and that is reasonably good news because human resource managers and executive directors face the dual challenge of retaining key people in their organizations. Most jobs are knowledge-based, and older workers, in increasingly large numbers, can fill these challenges into their 60s and beyond.  Along this line of thinking, is your organization prepared to address the following set of questions?


Organizational Development (OD) reports suggest the following quality of thinking:

  1. As an employer, you cannot guarantee your future, so how can you secure the careers of your employees?
  2. Are employees encouraged to be responsible for their own careers and life planning?
  3. Will new ways to offer career options such as flexible time encourage your most experienced staff to explore fewer hours, with less stress and less pay?
  4. Will older workers help or hinder in developing the careers of younger workers?
  5. What the differences in how older vs. younger workers seek advancement?
  6. Have you developed succession plans for employees eligible to retire over the next five to eight years?
  7. Have you measured the gap between the talent you need in five years in comparison to the ability currently available?
  8. Are you training products on your list of investments to ensure employees of all ages can achieve ‘sustainable’ employability within your organization or elsewhere?
  9. Has the question, ‘Is there a retirement ‘life plan’ been asked of the older staff? Is a plan in place to assure this occurs at least five years before retirement date?


The United States produced 99 million jobs in 1980, with 107 million workers in the labor force looking for jobs. By 2010 a reversal is expected. There will be 168 million jobs but just 158 million workers,  a shortfall of 10 million that includes recession impacts.

By 2010, about 64 million people(40%) in the labor force today (2007)  will reach retirement age. This will be the healthiest, longest-living, and the best-educated group of retirees in American history.

Mark Freedman, in Encore: Finding Work that Matters in the Second Half of Life,  examine the national implications of the old/young staff and anticipates many questions about keeping this resource affordable. (See Questions)

These and many other issues face organizations of all sizes and missions.  We will be pleased to explore the OD report option with your organization.

For more information on this particular question, we recommend the Urban Institute’s Retirement Project website for its research briefs.  The economic influence caused by a higher percentage of the older people in the population we love to call the boomers will be with your organization for some time.  Try these brief papers:

  1. Will Retiring Boomers Form a New Army of Volunteers? (8 pages, PDF)
  2. Retaining Older Volunteers Is Key to Meeting Future Volunteer Needs (6 pages, PDF)
  3. Are We Taking Full Advantage of Older Adults’ Potential? (8 pages, PDF)

Get Strategic

Is this a Club of Rome Graphic?
I still do strategic planning. Mostly for fun or get even.

Planning .:.
Select objectives that measure the accomplishment of goals.

  • define policies that govern resource acquisition, use, and disposal
  • find resources to acquire objectives
  • adjust to changes in these objectives

Networking .:.
Key services and components for strategic action:

  • Scan the environment
  • Selection of “key” issues
  • State vision/mission statements
  • Conduct an external and internal analyses
  • Develop goals, objectives and strategies
  • Implementation actions selected
  • Monitor, update, and re-scan

Model Selection .:.
The strategic model is one that:

  • Emerges from a mutually beneficial partnership
  • Allows for meaningful participation throughout the planning and design process
  • Results in tactical implementation for a self-renewing design and planning solutions
  • Provides opportunities for innovation in the use of materials and methods
  • Promotes a “many-disciplines” discourse for collaborations to generate creative ideas
  • Fit appropriately in physical, social, economic and cultural context
  • Responds to concerns about environmental, operational and economic sustainability
  • Allows participants to build/own the project
  • Responds to concerns effectively and quickly


Additional information about publications with access to Adobe PDF documents where noted.

Good, Deeds, Good Design
Princeton Architectural Press, New York (2003)

Over the last twenty years, Rex Curry has taught a variety of urban planning seminars and studios in Pratt’s School of Architecture, the Graduate Program for Planning and the Environment, and in the Pratt Institute Center for Community Development.  As the former president of the national Association for Community Design, Inc. (ACD), he has furthered the development of this national organization by representing a combination of for profit and nonprofit planning and architectural practices in the United States.

One mainstay of community service through architecture is the community design center, some of which have existed for over twenty-five years and contributed a unique body of knowledge and great depth of experience.  CDCs have come to represent great potential for a new form of professional practice.  Read Article (pdf 365K)


In July 2000, a news headline described conditions in Chinatown in the following manner: “Boom times are the worst thing ever to have hit New York’s Chinatown.”  In January 2001, members of the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association (CCBA) invested in the development of a “working papers” project and a survey of public opinion.  Over a period of six months, beginning in March 2001, research and interviews identified the facts, defined issues and encouraged mutual action in areas of shared interest.  On September 11, 2001 everything changed. The papers became a resource for recovery.    Read Executive Summary (556 .pdf)

Community Design
as a Standard of Practice

While at Pratt Institute, I sponsored a Fulbright Scholar interested in design, community participation and development.  When I received a call from the editor of Time Savers seeking contributions to their first publication of Urban Design Standards, I asked our resident scholar Dr. Sheri Blake if she would be interested in the project. The article link is below. 

When trapped in the matrix of metrics, Blake points out that change does not occur without persuasion.  In this sense, when the facts do nothing but paralyze a community, other methods are needed to develop the courage to change and grow with uncertainty.  Read Article (pdf 366K)

Gowanus Research Leads to Zoning Changes in 2007-2008

The freight moving capacity of the Gowanus Canal defined Brooklyn’s economic growth for a century.  The material the canal delivered are the homes that surround it.  Today, it there is less a robust but steady investment in environmental protection and lack of decline in some businesses that hint at its new potential.  This combination of economic inputs implies significant changes to the adjacent “upland” residential communities such as Boerum Hill, Columbia Heights, Red Hook, Carroll Gardens, Park Slope and many others.

The choices outlined in the 1987 Gowanus Canal Development Study (GCDS) examine the potential for a sequence of land use changes into the future.  Data for local business and local nonprofit corporations provided measures of changing economic conditions.  A series of “sites” in the report offered probable development locations.  Several fragmented urban blocks over total area of 1.7 square miles, almost 467 acres define these locations.  The primary investment remains a public responsibility.  Making right a long series of past environmental wrongs has proven to take two decades vs. the 4 to 5 years originally estimated.  A subsequent analysis undertaken in 2000 identified the causal issues, but once again attempted to define and market development locations.

During the initial 4-5 year period the Canal’s ancient flushing mechanism was re-engineered using the same technology –  a pump to bring clean water into the Gowanus Canal to achieve “fishing and boating status” (level 7).  The next high level of need is the administration of environmental services to continue the process of land restoration and monitoring for intentional dumping and spills in the area.  This is where clean up efforts have stopped “dead in its tracks”.  Dumping is part of the Canal’s legacy, just putting clean water into it does not mean that CSO dumping has been reduced or the that the need for indemnification of past land owners by the public can proceed given the current status of the land and environmental protection reform. 

The 2000 report (a few of the pages are inserted below) included a detailed review of zoning history examining the last fifteen years of public land use decision making.  An argument promotes the “re-invention” of local business opportunities using a special district approach with financial incentives.  The vision is a revitalized canal business and industry center drawing on the substantial resource of design professionals in the area.  The challenge is it argued, is the revitalization of this part of Brooklyn’s waterfront landscape is through unifying the demand for employment with new affordable housing based on industrial product design and research. 

The community base of demand for “doing something” came from a visionay, a resident business man, and the unofficial Mayor of Carrol Gardens. Buddy S. Scotto’s saw a little bit of Venice, young entrepreneurs, and above all an end of its pollution. The central lesson here should be persistence. Any developer taking a modest look would require a fearlessness sense of risk. Since 1987, when I first started to take a serious look, I realize that position will hold through 2050 with a strong new group of advocates.

Survey of Outreach Programs 

This survey examined the relationship between graduate urban design programs and university-based community outreach programs.  The survey reports urban design programs in schools that included community outreach organizations.  In addition to those covered, six others, without graduate programs in urban design do have undergraduate programs:  Arizona State University, Tulane, University of Maryland, University of Tennessee, University of Oregon, and Yale.  To open and download the table (pdf 280k) Click Here

Mega Region Design

In November 2007, Bruce Katz presented the challenges of the “mega” urban world. The exquisite logic of Blueprint for American Prosperity was this century’s “Rachael Carson” moment. The truth is almost impossible to believe, and as it turns out, no one did. That is a serious problem.

Megaregion Design

The 2050 population estimate by the U.S. Census is about 440 million people.  This is a 60% increase from 2000 at 280 million and sufficient to sustain modest GDP growth were it not for one salient fact.  One-third of the population in 2050 will be 60 years or older.  They will need walkable communities, or they will ask to have everything delivered.

Where will the majority of this population decide to live? Economists think it will be in warm places that are becoming hot and dry or hot and wet. This brings many critical questions. One of them confronts an enormous labor shortage expected to begin around 2025. However, perhaps the most compelling policy question involves the demands of this population for elder care services concerning the quality of its provision in the marketplace.  The impact everything urban where the efficient use of energy depends directly on density.

Knowing how this population will decide to live also goes a long way toward knowing where density can work and be well received.  In order of preference, the following answers are probably accurate – people will be:

  • living the same way since settled, and will stay there until we drop dead, or
  • seeking a village-like setting with easy access to leisure– theater, movies, dining, and health sports such as running, cycling, golf, tennis, or name it
  • moving closer, but not too close to the kids, their kids, and some friends
  • be living with the children in their house as they become caregivers or receivers
  • be looking for elder care or nursing facility/hospice eventually

One way to resolve the conflicts of prediction is to define the population’s cohorts by the 2050 geography of megaregions from Brookings and work back to now. So say it is 2025 – you have a few years to arrange policy and resources.

Google “Overpass”

Change the Subsidy and Alter the Incentive

Planners and developers know the analysis well. Work in the context of the above categories and then modify a carefully selected yet thin wash of possible local development sites with existing services or links to centers of density most likely to provide specialized services. The question of where is then partially resolved. It is least risky to recognize high demand potential regressed to the mean of less predictable costs, including displacement events associated with the climate change event, including COVID-19. The choices also involve a broad landscape of existing housing, large to small retail districts, office parks, and industrial areas.  All megaregions will require analysis of the historically contrived municipal boundaries organization with rapidly changing demographic characteristics.

There is no reason to believe the economic and social forces that accelerated central city decay is not at work with similar consequences in the spread city. A guidebook called Retrofitting Suburbia: Urban Design Solutions for Redesigning Suburbs documents those who have taken this approach.  (see: Ted Talk by Ellen Dunham Jones). She observes how planners can diagnose low-density areas for possible problems. The failure of grey-field office parks, dead or dying malls, and housing subdivisions altered by illegal or loop-hole conversions are good examples. Suburban communities are feverishly working to stabilize or lower personal and property taxes by urgently digging for new options in more haphazard manners than ever before.

Face it, successfully injecting an urban design agenda into these communities will require a much sharper, top-down “Brookings, APA, AIA, Lincoln, ULI” coalition and a public focus on how impossible it is for local government agencies to direct development in a free market economy.  It comes down to one question. Why are people such as Bruce Katz and his team all alone on the significance of this make-or-break analysis? Where is the public capacity to ban all shovels until all projects proposed to comply with regional rules that clearly recognize the age cohort and highly disruptive displacement events? 

Mandatory rules in the following order of priority are available. The guidebooks and manuals for a more successful urban world are well written.  The missing element is a coalition level of political enforcement that would help assure community planning, urban design, and architecture will accomplish the following:

  1. a residential environment that is safe and walkable to meet convenience needs
  2. design solutions that allow for the routine use of human-powered and power assist vehicles
  3. provision of mass transit access serving all comparison goods, needs, interests, or desires
  4. zero footprint impact and plus-grid (micro) energy, natural and technologically advanced waste (of all kinds) management systems
  5. integration of open space systems responsive to natural environmental conditions of wilderness (preferably not fragmented).
  6. Oh, and end the crapshoot presented by the following image of Atlanta as it really exists.

Experience plus reflection produces knowledge. The Brookings Institute’s Metropolitan Policy Program back in 2007 presented the real challenge of the American urban world.  Why has it not taken hold in a way that ordinary people can absorb? I think the exquisite logic of Blueprint for American Prosperity failed to convince Atlanta. Except for NYC, nobody got it because the hard truth was impossible to believe. Time to repeat it, SAM.


The Synergy Project

Density and Compacity

Politics and Plans

Density and compacity are terms useful for places like the New York Metropolitan Area. Several technical measures produce components by volume and within these volumes, fine granular distinctions of enormous importance.

Volumes are also the subject of power in politics and plans. They distinguish one leader’s area from another, they reveal distinct responsibilities for services such as police, fire, and sanitation or how water, gas, electricity, and bytes serve your community.

Energy and Synergy

The lines are multi-linear. They can define you by a zip code, or the train or road used to a set of career routes to and from places that shape human life. People know exactly where they are in the NYMA and when not. Boundary lines separate one thing from another, and the stuff that makes the NYMA separate from everything else is tied to the density of things per unit of land or water. At some point, the area is not dense enough to be called metropolitan. Although these many densities combine to form measures of compacity, of everything we know, and to the detriment of humanity, it remains a vague notion.

The premise of combining stories and writing about the densities and compacity of urban life and the many opportunities it offers includes elements of personal political leadership essential to educate and inspire the will to create change on a scale so massive it appears impossible. It is not.

energy = infinity + entropy
energy = infinity – entropy

The Red Tail Plane

Toward the end of 2018, in New York City during blue sky days, several planes with red tails would catch my attention. Was this more than coincidental? I did what any curious person would do in this situation; I Googled it. The universe answered. People photograph, collect and share tail images. The phrase “red-tail plane” yielded a loyal constituency sharing photos of the tails and planes of the entire airline industry. Each tail is captured and graphically consolidated into the wonderfully thematic world. Lesson: a strange query can keep you going.

The desire to share observations, coupled with the capacity to do so on millions of free-to-edge platforms, yields a subset of individuals who have leaped from that edge to ask and answer one question. What do I want and need to know? As any economist will tell you, descriptions of the differences and links between want and need fill volumes of hard textbooks and soft, entertaining paperbacks. The “what to know problem” remains at the core of the debate in a world where there is nothing you can’t add.

The business of discovering how people, communities, even whole nations choose what they want and need to know begins with a helpful relationship with the world no matter what the experience. The ability to establish other relationships based on force is another where the red tail plane exists. What do these planes want from me? Why are they constantly in my line of sight? I eventually solved my planes with red tails problems like odors make your nose blind. I don’t see red tail planes anymore, and that is when it hit me like a slap in the face.

I got a hold of Chris Anderson, author of The Long Tail, to hear about his experience since his work at Wired and his book.  Jumping from “red tail” to “long tail” is a switch to allow yourself to use the power-law to focus on modern life. Anderson’s real-time number-driven vision of the world became future-driven by playing robotics with his kids and online. This is where the red tail and the long tail get interesting. He talked about meeting youthful engineers online and ended up building a drone factory in Tijuana. (Details).

When a sense of injustice threatens well-being, people flee, often in high numbers. Chris’s experience straightened me out.  He sees the importance of a north-south vision of the American continents and, in his way, foretold the futility of Xenophobia slapped in our face like a wall. Then I saw it, the long tail of a 4,000 km march beginning in San Pedro Sula in northern Honduras and ending along the Mexico border.

I know why the red-tail plane brought me to a 4,000 km long-tail walk through Mexico. People like Chris Anderson figure out ways to prevent bloodshed and make those numbers in the long tail work. Sí, se puede my brothers and sisters, Sí, se puede.