It is clear that alternatives to our current state of capitalism has to be formulated due to major inefficiencies inherit within it. These inefficiencies manifest itself in inequality, inequity, and environmental unsustainability. We believe that we have progressed far from our ancestors and yet we still face the same issues that they have faced, if not worse. With all the technological and societal advancements we have achieved as a race, how have we not solved these issues? Is it part of our nature? I don't believe so. I believe that the root cause of these issues is how we perceive value and in parallel our commerce and economic system.
Our priorities as a species have been widely scattered believing that we are independent beings. Yet it is evident that is far from the truth. We are all connected within a system in where decisions of each individual affect everyone else and the environment we live in. Therefore, traditional modes of commerce must be redefined because our current one promotes scattered priorities. We need a new method of perceiving value that is in line with a vision of humankind. Therefore, I propose that our new form of decision-making must be based on the concept of wellness, a truly human principle
Wellness is defined as the complete state of health that is comprised of physical, mental, emotional, intellectual, social, spiritual, occupational, and environmental. It may seem to have the same issues because of its deceivingly scattered nature, but one must see it from as a singular concept. Wellness is not about the individual but about the whole. One cannot achieve true wellness through individual means. Therefore, there can only be a single approach. It has scalability.
I want to clarify that this proposal is not a utopia but an environment that will help cultivate the birth of one. If overall wellness of every individual is improved, we will free ourselves from the constraints of history and suffering. Corruption and crime will be a concept of the past because everyone will have no incentive to do so. True autonomy can be achieved, which is the capacity of a rational individual to make an informed, un-coerced decision. When you create a place where all human needs are met through wellness, you create a place in where people have actual independence and freedom. Society can then focus on extending its life and looking beyond.
In this manifesto, I will go through the different scales in where this concept of wellness can apply to, in hopes of creating a coherent overarching system.
No matter what kind of societies we envision, communal decisions will always be placed on a group of individuals due to the nature of aggregation. This gives birth to political structures. These are highly effective for the distribution of resources no matter the scale of the society. They must be responsible for protecting the interests of the group and not limited to individuals.
For this vision, I am proposing that democracy is still the right political structure to pursue. In its true nature, it provides and empowers individuals to have a voice and a say within larger decisions. This is highly important for the well-being of individuals. However, in its current state, there is a lot of room for corruption and inefficient distribution of resources. In response to that, this democratic system does not rely on a single presidency but on a council with several leaders with the same title. This prevents personal agendas and allows the citizens to focus on ideas proposed by the council rather than the personality of an individual. It also avoids outside influence as they are less likely to exercise their control over a group of leaders. These leaders must be chosen from various professional backgrounds that include medicine, research, engineering, and architecture. Thus, the group must be multi-disciplinary to responsibly tackle complex issues.
In terms of wellness, individuals must feel as if they have control over their larger environment. Therefore, access and transparency is crucial for this proposed democracy. Voting for major decisions made by the council will be done on computer apps or on social media. In response to that, civilians must have access to government information to make educated decisions and therefore must be made available to all. With this kind of accessible and transparent democracy, leaders will be empowered to make research-based decisions while giving citizens control.
Since this vision is a manifestation of beliefs that the current commerce system does not work due to inefficiencies, I am also proposing a parallel economic system. Within this system, there is an even distribution of wealth because all individuals are born with the same base minimum amount of resources. Very much like communism, there will be no currency or trade but each resident is given stock of the country. This provides the necessary incentive for growth but prevents inequality and inequity. When the whole nation improves, lifestyle and choices improve as well. Economic growth is vital to wellness and cannot be disregarded. In response to that kind of economic system, I believe that a sharing community would be brought forth in where resources will meet maximum utility.
Capitalist notions of owning and buying would be eradicated. Therefore, perception of value will be redefined and I am proposing for it to be geared towards wellness.
Just like the economy, business models will have to go through a paradigm shift as well. Since there will be no concept of ownership, one would think that new incentives must be designed to promote the success of businesses. However, I believe that within this environment, businesses will thrive on pure entrepreneurship and respond to demand and needs more efficiently. In this environment where everyone is on equal grounds, people will have to find ways to compete and stand out as that is part of wellness as well. These businesses will be awarded with metrics of wellness and seeing how much positive impact they have on the community. Individuals will then be given recognition. Therefore, business will provide a platform for that sense of competition without impeding on the rights and resources of others. Similar to how scientists compete to discover new theories, this system takes advantage of humanity's true competitive nature.
Furthermore, with the lack of monetary incentives, businesses that have the same mission will merge and create coops to better utilize resources. Game theory will cease to exist but rely solely on the law of supply and demand. The shift from individual to shared perception of value will promote coop cohesiveness and maximize resources. It will also make it easier for people with the necessary skill and knowledge base to enter the field improving occupational health. Without financial constraints, people will be free to pursue any field they want.
With wellness as the main concept of value in this society, I believe that healthcare will be pushed at the forefront as a vital instrument for research and maintenance of public health. The ideal healthcare system for a socialized economy such as this is a research-based centralized referral healthcare system with highly distributed levels of care, in contrast to the current commerce-based centralized fragmented system.
The proposed healthcare delivery system is research-based so that it can distribute its resources efficiently using information and data regarding disease burdens but also logistics. The proposed designed information system has a report and feedback loop using Performance-based Promotions (PBP) that creates incentives for practitioners to properly record data, but also have demerits in place if they fail to do so. Within this information system, healthcare workers are promoted to higher positions and responsibilities in response to their reports. This will create an environment for better reporting, which in turn will create better data. This data is then fed through the different levels of healthcare and finally to the central government in where they can make better decisions based on concrete information. Transparency is further propagated through patient feedback reports through the use of social networks. As previously mentioned, it is important for the wellness of people to feel that they have control.
A centralized referral system enables healthcare to be more efficient through proper gatekeeping. This means that only the very sick go to specialized care while others get attended through the many levels of healthcare. There is a clear hierarchy of responsibilities and decisions made within each level of healthcare providing clarity and accountability.
Infrastructure and architecture for healthcare must be part mobile to increase adaptive capacity and access to areas with not enough critical mass. Adaptive capacity is defined as the capacity of a system to adapt if the environment where the system exists is changing. Mobile units empower the systems to prepare for natural disasters but must be used in a constant basis to find a life outside these disaster scenarios. They can also respond to disease outbreaks by isolating diseases preventing the need of travel which further spreads the disease. These units can provide primary care and attach to hospitals to provide surplus services so permanent functions will not be affected. A logistics system of mobile units can respond to supply and demand with much more flexibility, which is a reflection of the aforementioned sharing economy.
Since there is no concept of currency, healthcare will be provided to all. By law everyone will be required to have a physician at birth that will then count as their family doctor. Without currency as a key to access and priority, resources will be equally divided and every patient treated fairly.
I believe that our current highly capitalized society is highly reflected on our current education system in where it is end-based. We believe that the end always justifies the means. Seldom do people care about how they get their grades as long as they get it. This self-propagates corrosive mentalities that deter us from broadening our scopes within problem solving.
I propose that without monetary incentives, education will radically shift as well. We have to re-imagine education as process-based in where there is no concept of grades. Merits will be given to process rather than the final solution. These merits do not necessarily have to accumulate. Based on gamification, children can be forced to solve difficult problems through trial and error using small and consistent incentives. Since there is rarely one process to a solution, education will be tailored to individuals and not by batches. Children will be grouped based on interests and skill level, and not by age.
However several themes must be incorporated into everyone's education such as wellness, sustainability, and design. These will prepare them to be contributing members of society when they graduate. I believe that design is vital within this new environment because it enables the youth to envision the proposed future within this concept of wellness and therefore prioritize their lives better.
Education will be provided for all levels including tertiary. Tertiary level should be designed in parallel to primary and secondary in where it is adapted to the interests and skills of the student. It is important to still have standardized testing but those would only be for entering specialized jobs like engineers and healthcare practitioners. However, even those will not be provided as it is now. They will be performed as simulations in where exam takers would get the chance to creatively deal with real scenarios. These simulations can be done using augmented reality technology.
A majority component of wellness is pieced together during a child's time in school and education. These years are crucial in building up one's wellness state especially intellectual, emotional, mental, and social. Education must be used as a space to generate wellness within students.
The current rate of urbanization will increase the rate of the construction of cities. This leads to a lot of environmental and social issues that are currently not being prioritized. In its true essence, cities are merely a reflection of the network of people’s social interactions. They are then the ideal vehicle of transforming the way we live and operate within our environment. If we can reverse the process of manifestation, cities can become places in where these social interactions can be controlled. Wellness can be used as the driving force to reshape our cities.
Cities operate like any other biological system through economies of scale. The larger you are, the less energy you need per capita. In reverse, cities absorb vital institutions like creatives and academics, in where you have more the larger you are. They have a critical mass unlike any other. If we take advantage of this system using innovation towards a singular metric of success, we can build cities that not harm the environment and society but can actually heal it. Cities must be used as the cure instead of the virus that it is now. We can only assure our survival as a race if we can reverse the flow of entropy.
Within our current capitalist system of ownership, zoning has become an important tool for governments to pursue larger visions. When you replace that system with the proposed economic system, will zoning still exist? Since the proposed system retains economic competition within businesses, construction of new buildings will still exist. Zoning must be used as a tool for architects to design and construct buildings that are in line with the concept of wellness.
The issue with current designers and architects are that they all have different visions of the future. As a designer myself and as I write this manifesto, it is inherit in our nature to be future thinking. Acknowledging this, much stricter zoning must be used by the new government so that every built project is in line with the true masterplan of overall wellness. Zoning as a way of regulation could educate designers on good planning. These rules must be research-based and scalable.
Environmental sustainability is part of my definition of wellness and must be reflected within this proposed concept of zoning.
As an architecture student, I understand the resources that are involved within the construction of a building. We often just perceive value of buildings through the lens of money. Yet, we often disregard material, human, and environmental costs that have much direr consequences. Currently, we perceive buildings to reach its peak performance right after construction. Can buildings evolve and adapt in where it improves its performance through time?
Buildings account for 40 percent of total U.S. energy consumption and carbon dioxide emissions. Designers must be held responsible for their decisions but without proper gatekeeping such as zoning, accountability is difficult. However, one must not see zoning as creative restriction but should see it as an enabler. It enables designers to deal with much more complex scenarios and situations, as base requirements are already given. They will be held responsible for the advancement of the field towards a singular direction.
Transportation, Streets and Infrastructure
Our current street and infrastructure system is historically built on the concept of cars. Unfortunately, our society's reliance on automobiles has proven to have an overall negative effect on our wellness. Aside from the obvious environmental concerns, cars have propagated capitalist notions of ownership and inequality. They have been transcended to being symbols of social status, which has led to major inefficiencies in the distribution of resources. Within a vision of wellness, cars must be rethought of as merely modes of transportation that is available to all. No individual would own a car and all modes of private transportation would be motor-less vehicles such as bicycles.
This concept creates a hierarchy of transportation that is reflected on street planning for cities. For this vision, I am proposing a layered system which enables different levels of priorities. Above grade/ground level will be a network of escalator bridges allowing people to transverse through space quicker and promotes walking. Grade/ground level will be reserved strictly for walking and biking. One level below would be for electric high speed cars as the main mode of public transportation. The lowest level would be for an electric train that businesses use for logistical purposes.
I acknowledge that this is a lot of built infrastructure that is only suited for cities with enough critical mass. I believe that cities are still the vision for the future because of that critical mass. Within this context of wellness, that critical mass can be used to its fully potential. As previously mentioned, the new economic system will bring forth a sharing economy, which relies heavily on networks. Cities shorten the distances of these networks creating quicker developments.
Therefore, my vision of the city for wellness is density of this critical mass. For said density, city blocks will be designed in a network of triangles within a grid. Triangles will maintain focus on wellness as it prevents monotonous paths and promotes street activity. Such as zoning, triangles prevent irresponsible design through endless sprawl. In nature, triangles have the strongest geometrical stability.
To take advantage of this critical mass and lack of private transportation, zoning will require a set of programs and uses within each block. A complete set of programs that meet all sectors of wellness must be met within a 10 min walking distance, which is about a 2,640 feet radius. For example, a sports facility meets the physical, emotional, and social aspect while an office meets social, occupational and intellectual. This concept of required adjacencies will bring forth self-sustainability and in return, resilience. Traveling farther distances would be reserved for leisure with unique assets as drivers.
Can we design and create spaces that make people healthier? It is evident that the built environment highly affects the nature of people either through their actions or in their mental state. Much of that experience is shaped through public spaces just as much as private spaces. Therefore, public spaces have to be designed and built with the same energy and priority as buildings. In alignment with the vision of wellness, a 1:1 ratio between public spaces and private spaces will be a zoning requirement. These are spaces in where most activities can occur when designed as a good environment. Unlike in private spaces, public spaces can offer a broader spectrum of human activities including a wide range of low to high intensity contact with other people.
Experiencing other people represents a colorful and attractive opportunity for stimulation which is vital for wellness. We have to stop designing spaces that alienate and isolate as it has already proven to be detrimental to mental and social health.
Taking it further, public spaces can be designed as green spaces, which further pursue the concept of wellness within the built environment. Green spaces not only promote sustainability but also an individual's physical well-being.
Being a restaurant and food supply chain owner, I have always believed that food is crucial for wellness. Yet from firsthand experience, there has been so little effort in improving the food chain. There are so many areas where food safety or nutritional knowledge issues are ignored. One cannot expect people to think well if they have not eaten well. Within this vision, the food chain will be focused on single and locally sourced all-natural products. When possible, all food within the system must be produced from within the country.
Within this context of no currency and required physician, residents will be given a food regiment depending on their bodily needs. This regiment will be flexible and non-restrictive giving peoples their needed freedom. This type of food regiment will allow the food chain to properly allocate its resources through rationing. Goal for rationing within this society is not to evenly feed everyone but to provide the best balance of nutrients for everyone's overall wellness. Rationing will be ingredient-based which still values the creativity of cooking.
I am also proposing the idea of urban farming as it has multiple benefits on wellness. Urban farms not only offset food supply and environmental needs, but it also helps educate the public on proper food etiquette. It also provides meaningful jobs and maximizes certain age groups that are historically idle such as the elderly. These urban farms will be placed within each development and community. They are not meant to replace the existing agricultural farms but to supplement and increase their perceived value.
Net-Zero Energy and Waste
We often think that sustainability is made up of components that you just add on a building. We have to evaluate and think of sustainability as strategies. Currently, buildings are designed to reach its peak performance right after construction. How can we design buildings that can constantly grow and evolve over time to maximize resources? Can we design buildings and spaces that heal not only the individual but also the environment? The first step is to design buildings to be self-sustainable through net-zero energy and waste. We cannot add additional environmental cost over construction cost. Within the zoning requirements, buildings will only be allowed to be built if it meets requirements of net-zero.
Research and Evidence-based Design
How can designers shift their approach in this new environment where it calls forth models of responsible design? The answer lies in research and evidence-based design. Traditionally especially in architecture and in its education, there are two major stages of design that we focus on: Design, and Construction/Manufacturing. This paradigm brings forth issues of its ability to accurately communicate both mistakes and successes, which promotes inefficiency. To remedy this, research and evidence-based design requires that two more stages of design be added.
Prior to the design phase, there should be a Pre-Design phase in where you research the context holistically. This enables you to tackle and solve a more complex set of parameters that reflect reality more accurately.
The fourth phase that goes after construction or manufacturing would be Impact Analysis. It is one of the most important phases that have been historically ignored due to lack of funding. When shared and made public, it teaches designers across the field what actually works and what doesn't outside the theoretical realm, in real world setting. This analysis can then feed into the Pre-Design phase which creates a complete feedback loop, which can lead designers to achieve a true research and evidence-based design.
From this, we can start designing an environment that suits our human needs and prevents us from being unwell. As a community of designers, we have to re-evaluate our priorities. We have to start designing buildings that house people, not buildings that just house architectural ideas.
Within this manifesto, I tried to tackle the many areas in where creating a single vision of wellness can remedy current contentious issues. Therefore, this may seem like a manifesto of a utopia, but again I want to reiterate that I only envision this as a place in where said utopia can be envisioned. Envisioning a utopia in our current environment is impossible. How can we conceptualize a utopia when our judgments are based on current issues? It has to be brought forth in an environment where human needs have been met through wellness. The future doesn't end when we have satisfied our base human design but it is only the beginning of one.
Written for Future By Design
Prof. Damian White