“Grandpa!!! Look at me, I can fly!!!” My granddaughter, Zara, jumped from the roof and gave her new wings a try, a little bit unsteady for the first few feet, then she stabilized for a smooth, 20-second glide across the park, landing in a pile of leaves. A new human flight record for her.
My dad would have been in awe of this moment in which a kid can imagine a new way to soar, then sketch a pair of human wings on a digital tablet, test them in a digital flight simulator, tweak the feather design, iterate on the harness straps and wing geometry a few times, hit the 3-D print button, strap on the wings and then head to the roof for human trial.
And here’s the most important thing: all kids have access to these incredible tools and environments because our public park system first caught up with the digital revolution, and then became a leading force in digital and analogue innovation. Public parks started popping up everywhere because they were open source and 3-D printable. Cities provided empty lots and public printers, then the kids and the with-it adults started building their own parks from scratch or from a template. Everything needed could be printed on the spot, which created immediate gig jobs for construction and safety specialists to put it all together. Once built, the parks were constantly improved and added onto, like a physical manifestation of a wikipedia page. Elder communities started bioprinting Japanese gardens and miniature rainforests. Parks became the epicenter of every public neighborhood. They were a place where entrepreneurs came to build and test their prototypes, and investors followed them, hoping to start a conversation, hoping for a chance to own a small piece of the next big public thing.
The public-private divide was very real, but the gap was more aesthetic than it was economic, more like choosing between UC Berkeley and Stanford. Public communities were more dynamic and there was less empty space, but private communities were quieter. Private neighborhoods still had bigger houses and vehicles, but their parks were pretty lame because they couldn’t keep up with public, open source innovation. Most kids living in private communities paid into the public community development fund in order to access public parks.
How did we get here?
People started the revolution, refusing inequity, exclusion, and racism. Looting became widespread, sometimes from opportunists, but more as an intentional fight against unequal wealth distribution, but regardless, the looting shook communities everywhere to their core. Then, one city at a time, across the country the majority of looters stopped fleeing and demanded mass imprisonment. From prison, they organized and published a wiki manifesto. They wrote that it took individuals to start the revolution, those with willingness to stand up against unjust systems and break unjust laws to raise consciousness, but that it would take organizations to sustain the revolution. The manifesto was more of a technical document than a social one. It reshaped the function of profit, and it redefined shareholders, proposing that the only just for-profit organization is one whose majority shareholder is the public interest, the common good.
This formulation of a just for-profit organization captivated the public and the market for many reasons, and especially because people started refusing to buy anything that wasn’t Certified Public.
A new ecosystem of investors and entrepreneurs formed, and a new generation of public-private startups emerged. 3-D Printed Public Parks was one of the first.
I wish my dad and John Maynard Keynes would have been able to see this golden age.
Zara returned from her flight path with a big grin on her face, led me to the roof, strapped her wings on my back, and said, “your turn, grandpa.”