2021-05-03 3 min read


Notes, 2021-05-03.

New York City is starting to rumble back to life in tandem with ever higher vaccination rates. The pandemic has impacted many of the things I am most interested in: cities, buildings, and logistical systems. As a design architect by training, I have been impressed by how quickly buildings adapted - a mass industry popped up to design, build and manufacture temporary plexiglass dividers, social distancing floor stickers, and outdoor dining pavilions. Now as normalcy seems on the horizon, I wonder how much inertia these interventions will have. When the time comes, will businesses de-install these temporary pandemic measures with the same urgency as they were constructed? Or will we be quietly walking over “stand here” stickers spaced 6 feet apart forever? Our logistical systems tend to focus on efficiently supplying new products, rather than disassembling and removing the obsolete. I suspect the physical reminders of this past year will remain with us for a long time to come.

-Dan Hui

The most clicked link from last week's issue (~12% of opens) was a good explainer on wire wrapping. In The Prepared's Members' Reading group this week, we had a really excellent Zoom chat about the first few chapters of The Innovation Delusion. Topics included:

  • the danger (and power) of bringing concepts into adjacent fields
  • the length of a decision making process, and how it's distinct from the number of veto points the decision is subject to
  • how government doesn't exactly want to be innovative, but it does need to adapt to changing technologies & industry conditions - and often that results in hiring innovation consultants

Tomorrow evening we're holding our monthly Members' projects show-and-tell; please join us :)

Planning & Strategy.

  • America is behind in developing a backup for GPS.
  • The scanning rig that The Internet Archive uses to digitize books.
  • Why is everyone’s bookshelf on zoom better than mine? Some people buy their books by the foot.
  • America’s vaccine rollout has steadily delivered shots to every corner of the nation. In large cities, megastructures have been transformed into mass vaccination sites - the Javits Center in NYC, Dodger Stadium in LA, the Moscone Center in SF. Areas outside of major cities have instead relied on an abundance of closed department stores to deliver mass vaccinations. The pandemic saw the bankruptcies of several national department store chains, leaving behind large buildings in cities of all sizes - each still with a valid certificate of occupancy and functioning HVAC system suitable for public use. Soon, many of these closed buildings will be redeveloped into other uses, but the pandemic has shown how useful underutilized spaces can be as a form of flexible public infrastructure.

Making & Manufacturing.

Building and Unbuilding.

Transportation, Distribution & Logistics.



  • A family in Bangladesh has a genetic mutation that causes men to lack fingerprints, which makes it difficult to participate in the national identity card program, buy a SIM card, or travel internationally.

Carnival's over.

Read the full story

The rest of this post is for SOW Subscribers (free or paid) only. Sign up now to read the full story and get access to all subscriber-only posts.

Sign up now
Already have an account? Sign in
Great! You’ve successfully signed up.
Welcome back! You've successfully signed in.
You've successfully subscribed to Scope of Work.
Your link has expired.
Success! Check your email for magic link to sign-in.
Success! Your billing info has been updated.
Your billing was not updated.