Meet the Architect Predicting the Future of Our Cities

  • Futurist urban designer Cindy Frewen says future cities are likely to be more livable, and women-friendly.
  • In the future, buildings will have physical and virtual layers, which will make them disposable, portable, recyclable and temporary.

London had experienced deadly outbreaks of cholera, typhoid and influenza in the 1830s. But it took a stinking River Thames, its stench reaching the British Parliament, for the city to finally build a modern sewer system in the 1850s. Architect and urban designer Cindy Frewen is hoping the COVID-19 pandemic will accelerate some of the changes she’s been forecasting for our cities and transform how we live in the future.

After working as an architect for more than two decades, she realized designing cities in terms of space was not enough. The key, she concluded, was to think about them in terms of time. That was in the late 1980s. Now, 30 years later, Frewen is part of a growing wave of female futurists who are reimagining what the world will look like in a decade, in a century . . . and even in 500 years, finding ways to prepare for the changes before they happen.

“The future . . . is going to be completely different,” Frewen tells OZY. “We live in industrial cities and we are living digital lives . . . the two don’t match.”

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Past Imperfect, Future Proof

One of the most fascinating things about futurologists (believe me, I have spoken to many lately) is that they love talking about the past. They learn from it and find inspiration in it, picking out what worked from what didn’t while trying to figure out how new machines fit into the equation.

Imagining new technologies is, at least relatively, easy. Scientists can work on a blank canvas. They can dream and visualize without many boundaries. Urban design futurism is a lot more challenging because the canvas is packed with decades of often conflicting construction styles and visions of what a city should look like (more or less green spaces, for example). Building a new kind of city involves figuring out if and how to remove what was there before, and where to put the people.

So, what will our future cities look like? As digital technologies allow us to be in different places without having to physically move, older designs will once again make sense. “The benefit of the cities that are 100 years or older is that they were designed before we got cars and are now actually better for our modern lifestyles because everything is walkable,” Frewen says.

But if you’re imagining old cities like London or Vienna with some smart augmented reality as touch-up, think again. The real revolution will come in the way buildings — and the way we think of them — will radically change. They will have physical and virtual layers, with both modern construction materials and artificial intelligence as central building blocks. This will allow buildings to interact with us while making them disposable, portable, recyclable and temporary.

“We have to imagine the lives that we want, not just what we are given. People think that cities are untouchable, but they are really not.”

Cindy Frewen, architect, urban designer and futurist

“The buildings will become smarter, helping us connect — like phones but on a bigger scale,” the futurist explains. “They will know you are in the room, your height and weight, and whether you are hot or cold. They will respond to us.”

There’s another reason why our cities will look radically different in the future: The people designing them will no longer be white men of a “certain age.”

“I don’t think it’s an accident that walkability and liveability have risen so much since women have been an active part of the conversation on urban planning,” Frewen says.

A more livable and sustainable city of the future, she says, is likely to include more parks, green spaces and areas for community living for older women who are likely to continue to outnumber older men.

“We have to imagine the lives that we want, not just what we are given. People think that cities are untouchable, but they are really not. They have to be imagined and it’s rough because we build so much.”

Shara Evans, a technology futurologist, agrees that cities need to be reimagined, but she believes that cities of the future might not even be on planet Earth.

“If you start to think about humanity being a multiplanetary civilization, then you can start to take the pressure off good old mama Earth and start to spread, growing humanity among other stars,” she tells OZY. “To me, that is fundamental to the survival of humanity in the long term.”

A Tale of Two Cities

But back on Earth, there’s another side to this story. Technology, Frewen says, will inevitably grow. But she worries about how tech only seems to be exacerbating the gap between the haves and the have-nots. And nowhere is this more visible than in urban design. While tech drives richer cities, millions of people continue to live in informal settlements lacking even basic sanitation.

“Futurists are thinking about what the world will look like for 5% of the people. What about the other 95%, what about Afghanistan and Syria?” Frewen asks. “These people are still dealing with issues such as clean water and food. These are things we will really need to fix soon because there isn’t anywhere we can hide anymore.”

Latin America Is Defining the New Cool

When it comes to popular depictions of Latin America and its culture, shallow stereotypes of what is a profoundly diverse region abound. Which is why, to truly get Latino culture, you need to tune out of popular — and often sadly inaccurate — tropes and tune in to today’s Daily Dose. 

Indigenous rappers, quinoa sushi and cannabis-infused teas are transforming Latin America’s cultural and gastronomic landscape even as brave activists work to preserve the region’s astonishing natural beauty. Celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month by diving deeper than just salsa rhythms, Caribbean beaches and pisco sours for a sensory journey to a stunning part of the world that’s in flux. I should know: I’m from Argentina.

Watch

These films offer a window into the beautiful but gritty reality that defines life for many of the region’s people.

Don’t Cry for Me

There’s a myth that we Argentines are smug and dramatic. Check out classics Nine Queens and Wild Tales and decide for yourself. The films are the closest you’ll get to a fly-on-the-wall perspective of Buenos Aires’ culture and the quirky personalities of its locals, the porteños. In Nine Queens, superstar Ricardo Darín (Google him) plays a professional hustler who tricks people to make a bit of extra cash as he trains his mysterious new protégé. The actor also stars in Wild Tales, a series of six stories in which Argentines take their deepest frustrations over everything, from unfair parking tickets to cheating grooms and abusive bosses to extreme — and hilarious, levels.

Mind the Mexican Gap

You might have watched Alfonso Cuarón’s spectacular Roma, a black-and-white sublime tale of how two women (one Indigenous and one of white European descent) separated by 500 years of brutal colonial history experience the political turmoil of 1970s Mexico. But did you know the award-winning director hid messages in the story? Here’s one: When Cleo, who works as a maid, tells her boyfriend, Fermín, that she is pregnant, he dismisses her and screams “pinche gata,” a derogatory word middle-class people use to insult domestic workers. His using the expression signals how he feels he’s moved up the social ladder as soon as he joined a right-wing urban militia group and immediately started looking down on her.

‘7 Boxes’

Landlocked Paraguay is not particularly well known for its film industry, which is why this rare, yet wonderful, thriller is a must-watch for insights into this Spanish-Guaraní bilingual nation. The story: A 17-year-old market seller is offered $100 (30% of a month’s minimum wage) to transport seven sealed boxes to the opposite side of town. The condition: He cannot look inside. What he doesn’t know is that by accepting the deal, he instantly becomes involved in a mysterious crime. The film takes you through some of the most marginalized (and tourist-free) areas of Paraguay’s capital, Asunción, for a glimpse of what life is really like for its residents.

LA 2

Hear

You might know Latin America for its salsa, tango and reggaeton, but if you want to know what the local jukebox is playing right now, check these artists out.

Feminist Reggaeton

Made überpopular by the likes of Maluma, J Balvin and Karol G, reggaeton’s dancehall-meets-hip-hop-with-a Latin-twist rhythm is having its moment. But some of its more noxious elements are also being challenged — from within. A tribe of feminist artists has taken the style’s contagious beats, scratched the offensive language and replaced it with lyrics that speak to a new generation of women and girls. Among them, Torta Golosa is one to watch. This Chilean duo has embraced a male-dominated music genre to sing about gay rights, sex, abortion and their country’s social uprising.

Say What?

A new wave of Indigenous artists are also grabbing the microphone that’s long been denied to them, offering a unique take on old classics, elevated by their own new sounds. Take Kunumi MC. This Brazilian Indigenous artist mixes Guaraní with Portuguese and ancestral instruments with modern beats to sing about some of the many environmental issues affecting the Amazon. On the same train is 19-year-old Renata Flores, an artist who became famous for singing modern songs in her native Quechua, the language of the Inca empire that is still spoken in modern-day Peru. Now the queen of Inka trap, she raps about the struggles of Indigenous peoples, particularly women.

Trapping Millions

Counting soccer superstar Lionel Messi among his fans and amassing hundreds of millions of views on YouTube, 23-year-old Valentín Oliva — aka WOS DS3 — is the king of the Argentine music scene. Oliva is leading a generation of freestylers who have taken elements of the traditional payadores, artists who used to tell stories by improvising lyrics, and has added rap rhythms. His moment of glory came in 2019 when he released his debut album, Canguro, which criticizes the local political class and social inequality in his country. With a Latin Grammy nomination under his belt and a new album recorded during lockdown, you best get ready to hear a lot more from this trailblazer.

LA 3

Taste

Close your eyes, take a big bite and savor the region’s outstanding cuisine.

Arepas

There are several long-standing culinary fights in Latin America, and the origin of these ground maize flatbreads is my favorite. Both Colombia and Venezuela fight over ownership of what has been a staple in both countries since before colonial times. But it is the millions of Venezuelans who fled their country’s economic and humanitarian crises over the past decade who have recently made the cornmeal cakes popular across the world. Now you can find this yummy yet healthy street food (it’s gluten-free) in most Latin American countries — with each giving it a local twist.

Hipster Mate

There is a Spanish saying that goes “as Uruguayan as mate,” and a short stroll around any town of this small nation will prove it right. Mate, a drink traditionally made by pouring water into an herb-filled wood pot and drinking it with a straw, is widely popular in the southern corner of Latin America. But no one can beat the Uruguayan appetite for mate. The average Uruguayan consumes nearly 20 pounds of the drink every year. Now a new wave of hipsters is reinventing the traditional beverage (whose origins go back to Syria and Lebanon) by adding new herbs and even mixing it with cannabis.

Quinoa Sushi

Forget Mexico and Brazil, Latin America’s kitchen is in Peru. The gastronomic powerhouse has established itself as the home of one of the most exciting fusion cuisines in the world. It’s much more than the sum of its parts. Nikkei, as the style is called after the Japanese word for migrants and their descendants, is a cuisine that developed over generations, mixing Peru’s traditionally rich dishes with Japanese techniques. Think sashimi with spicy Latin sauces, quinoa-based sushi and Japanese curry-flavored Peruvian empanadas.

LA 4

PROTECT

Latin America’s gorgeousness is under threat. These brave women are standing tall to defend it.

Marina Silva (Brazil)

Growing up in a rubber tapper community in the Amazon forests, Silva (pictured above) taught herself to read and write at the age of 16, earned a university degree and began campaigning against deforestation. She later became Brazil’s minister for the environment before taking a seat as the first woman from her community in the senate. For a while in 2014, she even appeared poised to upset then-President Dilma Rousseff in federal elections. Frustrated with politics, Silva eventually returned to activism and is a leading voice against President Jair Bolsonaro’s lax environmental policies — in 2019, record-breaking fires turned over 17 million acres of Amazon rainforest into ash. She says the way to tackle deforestation is to combat illegal land occupation, create conservation areas for Indigenous communities, and invest in solar and wind power.

Luz Mery Panche (Colombia)

Defending the environment can be a dangerous job in Latin America. In Colombia, it can be lethal. But none of that discourages this Nasa Indigenous woman, who has been campaigning for decades to protect Colombia’s Amazon forests. Trained as an engineer, the 44-year-old says the problem is that authorities see the forest and land as a home to resources such as gold and oil to be exploited rather than protected. “As Nasa peoples, we see earth as our mother. It is our duty and mission to care for it,” Panche told Distintas Latitudes.

Bertha Zuñiga (Honduras)

Carrying one of the most respected names in the world of environmental protection, the 30-year-old is a daughter of Berta Cáceres, the activist who was murdered in Honduras in 2016. Today, Zuñiga carries her mother’s torch in a country that’s particularly dangerous for environmental activists. A descendant of the Lenca Indigenous people, she’s trying to draw the world’s attention to the crisis in Honduras, urging global firms to think twice before investing in a country with a troubling human rights record. 

The Hidden Wonders of Latin America

When it comes to popular depictions of Latin America and its culture, shallow stereotypes of what is a profoundly diverse region abound. Which is why, to truly get Latino culture, you need to tune out of popular — and often sadly inaccurate — tropes and tune in to today’s Daily Dose. 

Indigenous rappers, quinoa sushi and cannabis-infused teas are transforming Latin America’s cultural and gastronomic landscape even as brave activists work to preserve the region’s astonishing natural beauty. Celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month by diving deeper than just salsa rhythms, Caribbean beaches and pisco sours for a sensory journey to a stunning part of the world that’s in flux. I should know: I’m from Argentina.

WATCH

Don’t Cry for Me

There’s a myth that we Argentines are smug and dramatic. Check out classics Nine Queens and Wild Tales and decide for yourself. The films are the closest you’ll get to a fly-on-the-wall perspective of Buenos Aires’ culture and the quirky personalities of its locals, the porteños. In Nine Queens, superstar Ricardo Darín (Google him) plays a professional hustler who tricks people to make a bit of extra cash as he trains his mysterious new protégé. The actor also stars in Wild Tales, a series of six stories in which Argentines take their deepest frustrations over everything, from unfair parking tickets to cheating grooms and abusive bosses to extreme — and hilarious, levels.

Mind the Mexican Gap

You might have watched Alfonso Cuarón’s spectacular Roma, a black-and-white sublime tale of how two women (one Indigenous and one of white European descent) separated by 500 years of brutal colonial history experience the political turmoil of 1970s Mexico. But did you know the award-winning director hid messages in the story? Here’s one: When Cleo, who works as a maid, tells her boyfriend, Fermín, that she is pregnant, he dismisses her and screams “pinche gata,” a derogatory word middle-class people use to insult domestic workers. His using the expression signals how he feels he’s moved up the social ladder as soon as he joined a right-wing urban militia group and immediately started looking down on her.

‘7 Boxes’

Landlocked Paraguay is not particularly well known for its film industry, which is why this rare, yet wonderful, thriller is a must-watch for insights into this Spanish-Guaraní bilingual nation. The story: A 17-year-old market seller is offered $100 (30% of a month’s minimum wage) to transport seven sealed boxes to the opposite side of town. The condition: He cannot look inside. What he doesn’t know is that by accepting the deal, he instantly becomes involved in a mysterious crime. The film takes you through some of the most marginalized (and tourist-free) areas of Paraguay’s capital, Asunción, for a glimpse of what life is really like for its residents.

LA 2

HEAR

Feminist Reggaeton

Made überpopular by the likes of Maluma, J Balvin and Karol G, reggaeton’s dancehall-meets-hip-hop-with-a Latin-twist rhythm is having its moment. But some of its more noxious elements are also being challenged — from within. A tribe of feminist artists has taken the style’s contagious beats, scratched the offensive language and replaced it with lyrics that speak to a new generation of women and girls. Among them, Torta Golosa is one to watch. This Chilean duo has embraced a male-dominated music genre to sing about gay rights, sex, abortion and their country’s social uprising.

Say What?

A new wave of Indigenous artists are also grabbing the microphone that’s long been denied to them, offering a unique take on old classics, elevated by their own new sounds. Take Kunumi MC. This Brazilian Indigenous artist mixes Guaraní with Portuguese and ancestral instruments with modern beats to sing about some of the many environmental issues affecting the Amazon. On the same train is 19-year-old Renata Flores, an artist who became famous for singing modern songs in her native Quechua, the language of the Inca empire that is still spoken in modern-day Peru. Now the queen of Inka trap, she raps about the struggles of Indigenous peoples, particularly women.

Trapping Millions

Counting soccer superstar Lionel Messi among his fans and amassing hundreds of millions of views on YouTube, 23-year-old Valentín Oliva — aka WOS DS3 — is the king of the Argentine music scene. Oliva is leading a generation of freestylers who have taken elements of the traditional payadores, artists who used to tell stories by improvising lyrics, and has added rap rhythms. His moment of glory came in 2019 when he released his debut album, Canguro, which criticizes the local political class and social inequality in his country. With a Latin Grammy nomination under his belt and a new album recorded during lockdown, you best get ready to hear a lot more from this trailblazer.

LA 3

TASTE

Arepas

There are several long-standing culinary fights in Latin America, and the origin of these ground maize flatbreads is my favorite. Both Colombia and Venezuela fight over ownership of what has been a staple in both countries since before colonial times. But it is the millions of Venezuelans who fled their country’s economic and humanitarian crises over the past decade who have recently made the cornmeal cakes popular across the world. Now you can find this yummy yet healthy street food (it’s gluten-free) in most Latin American countries — with each giving it a local twist.

Hipster Mate

There is a Spanish saying that goes “as Uruguayan as mate,” and a short stroll around any town of this small nation will prove it right. Mate, a drink traditionally made by pouring water into an herb-filled wood pot and drinking it with a straw, is widely popular in the southern corner of Latin America. But no one can beat the Uruguayan appetite for mate. The average Uruguayan consumes nearly 20 pounds of the drink every year. Now a new wave of hipsters is reinventing the traditional beverage (whose origins go back to Syria and Lebanon) by adding new herbs and even mixing it with cannabis.

Quinoa Sushi

Forget Mexico and Brazil, Latin America’s kitchen is in Peru. The gastronomic powerhouse has established itself as the home of one of the most exciting fusion cuisines in the world. It’s much more than the sum of its parts. Nikkei, as the style is called after the Japanese word for migrants and their descendants, is a cuisine that developed over generations, mixing Peru’s traditionally rich dishes with Japanese techniques. Think sashimi with spicy Latin sauces, quinoa-based sushi and Japanese curry-flavored Peruvian empanadas.

LA 4

PROTECT

Marina Silva (Brazil)

Growing up in a rubber tapper community in the Amazon forests, Silva (pictured above) taught herself to read and write at the age of 16, earned a university degree and began campaigning against deforestation. She later became Brazil’s minister for the environment before taking a seat as the first woman from her community in the senate. For a while in 2014, she even appeared poised to upset then-President Dilma Rousseff in federal elections. Frustrated with politics, Silva eventually returned to activism and is a leading voice against President Jair Bolsonaro’s lax environmental policies — in 2019, record-breaking fires turned over 17 million acres of Amazon rainforest into ash. She says the way to tackle deforestation is to combat illegal land occupation, create conservation areas for Indigenous communities, and invest in solar and wind power.

Luz Mery Panche (Colombia)

Defending the environment can be a dangerous job in Latin America. In Colombia, it can be lethal. But none of that discourages this Nasa Indigenous woman, who has been campaigning for decades to protect Colombia’s Amazon forests. Trained as an engineer, the 44-year-old says the problem is that authorities see the forest and land as a home to resources such as gold and oil to be exploited rather than protected. “As Nasa peoples, we see earth as our mother. It is our duty and mission to care for it,” Panche told Distintas Latitudes.

Bertha Zuñiga (Honduras)

Carrying one of the most respected names in the world of environmental protection, the 30-year-old is a daughter of Berta Cáceres, the activist who was murdered in Honduras in 2016. Today, Zuñiga carries her mother’s torch in a country that’s particularly dangerous for environmental activists. A descendant of the Lenca Indigenous people, she’s trying to draw the world’s attention to the crisis in Honduras, urging global firms to think twice before investing in a country with a troubling human rights record. 

Latin America’s New Colors of Change

Street protests are a part of Latin America’s DNA, whether it’s over corruption, authoritarianism or basic human rights being trampled by the region’s elite. But something smells different this time. Independent sparks in different nations are coalescing to form a raging fire of change that’s spreading across one of the world’s most unequal regions.

From a young trans woman demanding social justice in Chile and Indigenous communities winning a criminal lawsuit in Ecuador to a friend of the pope who’s seeking radical land reform in Argentina, a new tide of peoples’ movements is surging across Latin America. That’s bad news for the right, but it’s not great news for the old, discredited left either. Today’s Daily Dose gives you a front-row view of dramatic changes that could redefine the region’s political landscape. 

COLOR IT PINK

Protest movements are taking Latin America by storm. The faces are new, and so are their ideas.

Chicago Comeuppance

Chile’s transformation from a neoliberal experiment led by Milton Friedman’s “Chicago Boys” to a powder keg of leftist activism is one not many saw coming. Then, in 2019, mass protests sparked by a rise in the price of public transportation became a moment of reckoning for the country’s economic model, which has resulted in growth but has also spawned deep inequality over the years. Fast forward through a brutal protest repression, and Chile is now on its way to embracing a new Constitution that’s being drafted by one of the world’s most diverse parliaments. Among those rewriting Chile’s statute book is 59-year-old Alejandra Flores Carlos, an Indigenous woman who was once jailed by the regime of dictator Augusto Pinochet and is now tearing down his legacy.

Read more on OZY

Third Time Lucky?

Public frustration could also help catapult the left into the highest office in Colombia, another nation where conservative politics has traditionally dominated the mainstream. Sen. Gustavo Petro, a former guerrilla fighter who grew up reading Karl Marx, is a favorite to win 2022’s presidential election, after twice failing to win the race previously. In April, mass protests triggered by opposition to a tax reform paralyzed Colombia for months, underscoring the fast-eroding popularity of the center-right government of President Iván Duque. Petro’s plans include creating a public banking system to give loans to small businesses and expanding free education. But to get across the finish line, the 61-year-old will need to convince Colombia’s youth he has fresh ideas that’ll work for them.

Lula 2.0

Former President Barack Obama once called Brazilian President Luiz Inácio “Lula” da Silva the world’s most popular politician. Now 12 years later, “Lula” — a two-time president — is poised to make a stunning political comeback. Exonerated of corruption charges, the former trade union leader is leading in polls for Brazil’s 2022 presidential race, even though he hasn’t formally announced his candidacy. Incumbent President Jair Bolsonaro’s disastrous management of the COVID-19 pandemic and rising unemployment rates in the country have caused the flame-throwing right-wing politician’s disapproval rating to rise to its highest point ever. Lula — if he returns to power — would likely follow a path similar to that of President Joe Biden, emphasizing a center-left agenda to lift South America’s largest economy out of its financial crisis.

Smoke and Mirrors

But in Central America, the current political landscape is a lot more complex: Think left-leaning economic programs mixed with abusive policies. In Nicaragua, Marxist Daniel Ortega first took power in 1979 with a promise to help the most marginalized. But his revolutionary luster has long since faded. What remains is a 75-year-old so scared of democratic elections that his government has jailed dozens of opposition candidates to prevent them from competing against him in the November presidential election. “Daniel Ortega is a dictator who wants to be a king. Any good intentions he had are long gone,” Gonzalo Carrión, a Nicaraguan lawyer and activist who was forced into exile, tells OZY. “He is holding the country hostage with repression and violence.”

BRAINS BEHIND BOLD IDEAS

Latin America is in deep trouble. These rising stars have some bold ideas on how it can be fixed.

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Juan Grabois

If he were French, his name would rhyme with bourgeois. But the Argentine lawyer is focused squarely on tackling a deep economic divide. The social activist — a friend of Pope Francis and Argentine Vice President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner — wants to tackle poverty and inequality by distributing unused land located far from big cities to those willing to use it to grow food for their local communities. His proposal, which he says was inspired by the Marshall Plan, can help redistribute wealth in the South American nation. How would it be financed? Easy, he says: Raise taxes on the wealthiest and limit politicians’ salaries.

Emilia Schneider

This transgender, feminist leader is one of the most influential young voices in Chile. She was at the forefront of the protest movement that led to the country’s Constitution being rewritten. Schneider says education — with a focus on gender and LGBTQ rights — is the key to long-lasting development, a sometimes unpopular idea in a deeply conservative country. But that doesn’t scare this 24-year-old. Defiance runs deep in her bloodline. She is the great-granddaughter of René Schneider, the military commander-in-chief who was killed in 1970 after refusing to go along with a CIA-backed coup plan aimed at preventing socialist Salvador Allende from coming to power in Chile. “We have to keep seeking new policies to generate fresh changes,” she told Reuters. “Protests alone will not get us there.”

Nemonte Nenquimo

In 2018, Ecuador’s government decided to open up 7 million acres of the Amazon rainforest for oil exploration, without consulting communities living in the area. Nenquimo, an Indigenous leader, led a legal challenge on behalf of her community, the Waorani — and they won, setting a historic precedent protecting 500,000 acres. Thanks to the ruling, the Waorani must now be consulted before any future project can be carried out on the land. Nenquimo is following in the footsteps of her community: Among the Waorani, women are the natural leaders who make the decisions. “It wasn’t until we had contact with the evangelical missionaries that we were told that God created Adam and that Eve came second and was created from Adam’s rib. That’s when the confusion [about women’s role] started,” she told the BBC.

THE GREEN WAVE

Women and LGBTQ people are leading a new type of revolution.

ARGENTINA-ABORTION-SUPPORT-DEMO

Her Choice

The pink tide might wane, but the green wave is fundamentally changing the face of Latin America. Born on the streets of Argentina, it refers to the green scarves people across the country wore during a campaign to legalize abortion, a goal that was achieved in late 2020, a first in the region. Feminist movements are gaining momentum in several Latin American countries. “They have been the most innovative and effective political movements of the decade in Latin America,” Fernanda Doz Costa, deputy Americas director at Amnesty International, tells OZY. “And their fight has been the toughest one because it requires deep cultural changes.” But the journey ahead won’t be easy. In El Salvador, for example, abortion continues to be illegal, even if a woman’s life is in danger.

Breaking the (Double) Glass Ceiling

Being trans in Latin America can often lead to an early death — the life expectancy of trans people in the region is estimated to be just 35 years. But things have been changing, with trans women conquering many public spaces, including TV, sports and politics, and even taking up leadership roles in some religions. Argentina now allows people to change their gender simply by filling out a form, without needing to undergo surgery as a prerequisite. By contrast, Bolivia, Uruguay and Venezuela require a physical and psychological assessment before a person can change their gender. “Today, a trans woman doesn’t have to be a sex worker or a stylist. Today, we can be anything,” Carla López Masilla, an aspiring social worker from Argentina, tells OZY. “We just need a chance.”

Read more on OZY

Revolutionary Sounds

Music and protest have a long shared history across Latin America. From Chilean Víctor Jara’s revolutionary lyrics to the hidden protest messages in María Elena Walsh’s songs for children during Argentina’s military dictatorship, the region’s major political events have often been accompanied by spectacular soundtracks. Today, a bold new generation is taking over. Check out Calle 13’s “Latinoamérica” for a taste, or watch the fearless women of Mexico sing about the shocking wave of femicides rocking the region. And if the future is what you’re into, go straight to the region’s freestyle artists who take some of the most traditional aspects of social protest songs and add a pinch of rap in videos that amass hundreds of millions of views.

Pinochet Jailed Her. She’s Demolishing His Legacy

  • Alejandra Flores Carlos is one of just 17 Indigenous members elected to a body tasked with rewriting Chile’s Pinochet-era Constitution.
  • For decades, Chile has served as a bastion of neoliberal economic policies. Now a popular protest movement is flipping the country’s politics on its head.

As a young student activist in 1986, Alejandra Flores Carlos was arrested and spent time in Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet’s notorious prisons. Now, 35 years later, Flores Carlos is among a select few handpicked by her country’s people to dismantle the very legal framework that justified that authoritarian rule.

An Aimara Indigenous woman, the Spanish-language teacher and social activist is one of the 155 people elected in May to draft a new Constitution that could replace the one issued during Pinochet’s brutal far-right dictatorship in 1973. It’s a change that would have seemed impossible just two years ago. 

For decades, Chile has been a laboratory of neoliberal policies pioneered by the so-called “Chicago Boys,” students of American economist Milton Friedman who were at the helm of the country’s economic policies. But a series of student-led protests against a sudden hike in the transport fare in the country’s capital, Santiago, in October 2019 quickly turned into mass demonstrations against the South American country’s deep seated inequalities and the lack of government action to tackle them. That movement has now turned Chile into an unlikely emerging beacon of left-leaning social movements, with a former student leader the current favorite to become the country’s president after the November elections.

It is such a responsibility to have the power to change things.

Alejandra Flores Carlos

Nothing captures that political shift like last year’s landmark referendum where Chileans voted to throw out the Pinochet-era Constitution, and the election in May this year to elect the constitutional convention that will write the nation’s new guiding document. In a country where Indigenous peoples have rarely had a voice, 59-year-old Flores Carlos was initially in disbelief when she was elected to the body. But these are no ordinary times. 

“It was a very emotional moment,” she tells OZY. “It is such a responsibility to have the power to change things.” Flores Carlos campaigned without any financial support from a political front. All she had were volunteers and WhatsApp, where she reached out to people as the nation was under lockdown. That she still won illustrates people’s disenchantment with traditional politicians, Flores Carlos says.  

alejandra-web-bio

Alejandra Flores Carlos is among a select few handpicked by her country’s people to dismantle the very legal framework that justified that authoritarian rule.

It also underscores the unique paradox that is Chile. On the one hand, the copper-rich nation has made great economic progress over the last two decades. So much so that it is the best-ranking Latin American nation in the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) Human Development Index while its poverty rate is well below regional standards. But its high inequality levels prevent a large part of the population from accessing essential services, fueling growing social frustration.

Underneath it all, activists and scholars say, lies the 1973 constitution, which through its liberal economic policies has contributed to the privatization of education, health and pensions, making them unattainable for many.

“Most people in Chile are in deep debt, using credit cards to buy daily groceries,” Flores Carlos says. “That led to anger and frustration which then made people take to the streets, demand change.”

The constitutional convention is a pathbreaking initiative that represents that hunger for change. It is the only parliament in the world to have equal gender representation. Also, 17 of the seats were reserved for candidates from Indigenous communities, rare in a country where they’ve long marginalized. They include Alisa Loncón, a 58-year-old teacher and member of the majority Mapuche people, who was chosen to preside over the process of rewriting the constitution. 

Her election was charged with symbolism. Chile’s current Constitution does not officially recognize Indigenous people (making it one of just a few countries in Latin America that does not). The astonishing diversity of representation is part of what makes this process historic, says Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International.

“This is the result of many years of unanswered demands from the most marginalized groups and represents a seismic change when it comes to the protection of Chile’s most basic human rights,” Guevara-Rosas says.

For Flores Carlos, meetings with the other elected representatives are filled with hope. She says her activism and experiences under Pinochet’s rule — including her time in jail — have shaped her political journey. “The anger for what was happening at the time, the disappearances, the deaths, trumped the fear we had … just like today,” she says. “The desire to change has always been our driving force.”

Not all is perfect. Flores Carlos says the constitutional convention lacks basic resources including computers, phones or even an office for the 155 parliamentarians to use. Time is also a challenge. The group has until early 2022 to put forward a proposal for a new text before every citizen over the age of 18 is asked to vote on it. 

But Flores Carlos is on a mission. She wants to ensure historically marginalized people, and their needs, are properly represented and that the new Constitution marks a new start for those previously ignored by her country.

“I never imagined this would happen,” she says. “But today, we are making history.” 

Can You Trust Judge A.I.?

When a lawyer friend of mine in Argentina shared a photo of herself on an otherwise regular-looking Zoom call a few months ago, it took me a moment to realize what was going on. From the comfort of her home, she was taking part in a hearing with a judge, himself Zooming in from his location, and the accused, a man listening intently from jail. It was clear: The future of justice has arrived.

Virtual judicial proceedings are only the beginning. From robot lawyers to artificial intelligence-determined legal rulings to open prison systems, the judicial landscape is shifting under our feet. What’s more, it’s poised to forever alter the way we think about the very concepts of right and wrong. In today’s Daily Dose, we lay bare what this new world could look like, and in case you’re wondering, yes, Minority Report may have gotten some things right.

THE DIGITAL LADY JUSTICE

What happens when you apply a whole lot of new technology to an ailing system?

SM1 gavel

I.Judge

AI is already making dozens of decisions for us every day about what to read, watch or buy. In the future, it could replace judges. A team of British and American computer scientists has developed a system that accurately predicted rulings by human judges in nearly 80% of the real-life cases it examined. The machine was trained with hundreds of court rulings and key words. The algorithm cannot yet make nuanced decisions in complex settings better than humans, although futurologists predict that too will change in a few decades. “‘Explainable AI,’ which is machine learning that can explain the steps it took to achieve a decision, is getting underway,” Amy Zalman, professor of strategic foresight at Georgetown University, tells OZY.

All Change

There’s more. From the questionable role of private forensic examiners to voice-recognition software designed to help police departments prioritize calls, new technologies are finding their way into every aspect of the judicial process. Even data gathered by devices tracking our steps and heartbeats has been used as evidence in court. In China, authorities are taking things even further. They are believed to be building a massive DNA database, which could easily, and dangerously, be used for policing. And it’s not just justice that is getting an upgrade. Crime is also evolving thanks to new, increasingly popular technologies (think cybercrime and drones that fly drugs across the U.S. border, for example).

Online Courts

One of the most radical changes to the justice system has meant making it much more accessible. The ability to join a court procedure from almost anywhere is particularly welcome news for those who cannot afford to take time off work. Some lawyers, however, miss the face-to-face action. They say effective cross-examination is impossible to replicate without everybody being in the same room. “The best part of an oral argument is what I call jazz: ​​There is improvisation, there is interruption, and the sense that you might change someone’s mind in the heat of the moment,” Kathleen Sullivan, a partner at Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, told Harvard Law Today in December. “Instead of jazz, you have something highly formalized, a kind of orchestrated chamber music.” Another potential downside to the new “Zoom courts”? If you’re not careful, you might turn into a cat.

Color-Blind?

A major problem with deploying algorithms in the service of the public good is that they are racist and sexist, often favoring Caucasian-looking faces. Why? One reason is that they replicate the same biases apparent in the data from which they are fed. Another, Zalman explains, is that these technologies are built by developers who, for the most part, are white and male. “Our social systems will always be created first by people,” she tells OZY, adding that ultimately, humans tell the machines what to think. But she remains optimistic that “there are ways in which technology can be helpful. There are experiments to blind hirers to what potential employees look like, for example.”

There’s an App for That

Your phone is already your office, cinema and personal spy. You know what else is in there? A lawyer. The DoNotPay app is a “personal attorney” that helps people with issues ranging from a contested parking ticket to an unfair banking fee. Created in 2018 by U.K.-based tech entrepreneur Joshua Browder, the app generates letters users can send to authorities, for a small monthly fee. That’s not all. In U.S. and U.K. law firms, so-called “robot lawyers” are increasingly being used to skim through large volumes of files searching for relevant information. These modern-day paralegals could change the face of the profession, compelling lawyers to swap law books for AI manuals.

Read more on OZY

PRISONS OF THE FUTURE

If a robot could decide your fate, where would it send you to serve your sentence?

Water ripple wave patterns with reflections

A Different Path?

There’s a prison revolution taking place, although not the type you might imagine. This one involves the use of voice and video analytics, applying real-time smart surveillance systems to predict antisocial conduct from both inmates and corrections officers. In the U.S., for example, Congress is pushing for more research into how AI could better analyze inmates’ phone calls. The idea is for AI to help identify words and phrases and even evaluate someone’s tone of voice, all of which can assist crime investigators. Civil rights advocates, however, say these technologies are prone to disproportionate error rates when interpreting the voices of people of color.

Virtual Punishment

New tech could also soon replace brick and mortar jails. New generation GPS locators would allow authorities to keep a closer eye on offenders while allowing them to live in environments that better support rehabilitation (think low crime areas). Imagine a prison that is less violent and cheaper to run. “More forward-looking jurisdictions will increasingly integrate online learning, skills training and mental health resources, transforming prisons into true reform institutions that can transform criminals into valued members of society,” David Tal, president of Toronto-based Quantumrun Foresight, tells OZY.

The Sci-Fi Take

In addition to the infrastructural changes set to take hold, the concept and understanding of punishment itself will radically change. Futurologists say scientists working with attorneys and lawyers will likely be able to separate the mental from the physical punishment. This could involve using brain manipulation techniques to erase the traumatic, violent and criminal memories that lead prisoners to engage in criminal activity, Tal explains. Looking further into the future, he says governments might one day sync prisoners’ brains to a virtual prison while keeping their bodies in a stasis tube, Matrix-style.

THE DILEMMA

Does the fact that we can mean that we should?

Water ripple wave patterns with reflections

Tech Is Your Friend

A line of thinking among futurologists suggests technology can, in fact, democratize access to justice to a degree like never before. Scientific advances such as AI will help people better understand their rights and navigate complex legal systems that at present are only accessible to lawyers. Also, robot paralegals can help make litigation cheaper and more agile, resolving the massive backlog of cases many countries struggle under (along with high rates of pretrial detention). Tal goes even further: “Police departments and court systems can use various AI solutions to automate bureaucratic functions to reduce costs and free up officer time for street patrols and community engagement.”

Probably Not (Yet)

But it’s too soon to celebrate the legal revolution. In many countries, the kind of technology required to implement these changes will be prohibitively expensive for decades to come. Also, the inherent racial and gender biases that attach to today’s algorithms demand a more diverse tech industry — and that too will take time, Zelman says. But even in countries where resources aren’t an issue, a major struggle going forward will be the need for law schools to dramatically change how they train the lawyers of tomorrow so they are better equipped to deploy these new technologies.

But Just in Case

In Europe, authorities have already been discussing the ethical implications of incorporating technologies such as AI into their criminal justice systems. The Council of Europe, which is in charge of the European Court of Human Rights, has warned against the use of predictive justice. The body argues that, aside from racial biases algorithms, new technologies are also unable to account for the context in which events take place. Before embracing data-driven legal solutions, the organization believes its important to ensure users fully understand these new systems. Only time will tell if the justice we get is the one we deserve.

Ethical Billionaires. Really?

The world’s richest people have also been donating billions of dollars to charities in America and beyond during the pandemic. But with the size of their bank accounts growing almost as fast as the number of poor people in the world, the big question is: Can big money ever really be ethical?

As it turns out, the answer is not simply a straight yes or no. Today’s Daily Dose tells you why.

THE 1% WITH A DIFFERENCE

Billionaires are getting richer. Some are attempting to do good with their cash.

MacKenzie Scott

One of the wealthiest women on the planet is following in the footsteps of steel magnate Andrew Carnegie by giving away her fortune while very much alive. Scott, the ex-wife of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, has donated more than 10% of the $59 billion she has made from her shares in the company. Last year, Scott donated an astounding $8.5 billion to hundreds of nonprofits working to tackle poverty and discrimination. Great, right? Not so fast, say the cynics. Scott’s fortune largely originates from a company criticized for its treatment of workers and that has reportedly dodged millions in taxes, two issues she doesn’t really discuss.

Luiza Trajano

Philanthropy is not just about donating money. Having amassed an eye-watering $4.4 billion, Trajano is the richest businesswoman in Brazil. She developed her fortune in the 1990s by turning her parents’ home electronics shop in São Paulo into a nationwide retail chain, Magazine Luiza, worth $25 billion. But Trajano has also been working with her female employees to tackle violence against women at work and at home, even setting up a hotline that victims can call to report abuse. In 2020, she launched a training program for Black Brazilians to bring more racial diversity to Magazine Luiza and is helping the government speed up its COVID-19 vaccination drive.

Gary Stevenson

This 34-year-old British economist is an unlikely pro-tax millionaire. Born into a working-class household in London, he had made his first million dollars at the age of 24 by trading stocks and betting on financial crises. Then he decided making money by speculating on other countries’ poor fortunes was not for him. He says donating money isn’t enough to help people and campaigns for countries including the U.K. to raise taxes on the ultrarich. “Billionaires often pay lower rates of tax on their income than ordinary workers,” he told Reuters. “But I don’t think it will be enough just simply to tax their income . . . it needs taxes that apply on wealth.”

money move

and yet, and yet . . .

The gap between the haves and have-nots has never been greater. Can it be narrowed?

What’s Mine Is . . . Mine

Billionaires are good at making money and taking risks. You know what else they are great at? Playing cat and mouse with the tax man. While the average American household pays around 14% in federal taxes, a ProPublica investigation in June revealed that money giants Jeff Bezos, Michael Bloomberg and Elon Musk have paid little tax, or none at all, in recent years. What’s worse — they are not actually breaking any laws. The tax system facilitates this loophole by requiring just a fraction of a person’s wealth to be taxable. Add some crafty accounting to the mix (including deducting all those donations) and the bill is reduced significantly. Less tax, however, means less cash for public services like health and education.

Charity Inc.

What about all those billions in donations? This “throw-cash-at-a-problem approach,” while constructive in the short term, can be problematic in the long run. First, it gives more power to the ultrarich, and not elected representatives, to determine a country’s policies. Secondly, allowing tax-deductible donations only widens the wealth gap. But there’s another way to look at charitable giving, Columbia University financial accounting professor Stephen Penman tells OZY. In some countries, including the U.S., authorities want the wealthy to donate money. “Instead of taking that money and putting it on hospitals or schools, they get the private sector to do it,” he says. “Whether that’s an efficient way to do it, that’s another question.”

The Nice Way or . . .

There are very few things that U.S. President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping agree on, except taxing the richest people in their countries. The U.S. president in April proposed a steep capital tax rate increase specifically to target the wealthiest 1%. Another idea? Ensure taxes are actually collected. In China, where a tech and manufacturing boom has birthed a new cohort of billionaires, Xi is thinking along similar lines. He has urged the superrich to give more back to society, while saying that “reasonable adjustments to excessive income” will be made. “The question is not whether to take money from the rich,” Penman tells OZY, “but about spending it well, allocating it well.”

Tokyo skyline at Night

HOW TO BE AN ETHICAL BILLIONAIRE

Because being loaded and being good is possible.

Behave Well

Vast sums of liquid cash can be a force for good, if used correctly. Big money fuels innovation, Penman argues. But for philanthropic money to be categorized as bona fide ethical, we must ask what was done to get it, says Erin Bass, an associate professor of management at the University of Nebraska Omaha. “The question is what behaviors did it take to make you a billionaire and whether those were ethical,” she tells OZY. What makes a business highly successful and ethical, then? It involves a great, innovative idea that is put in practice in a way that doesn’t exploit workers or the environment.

What Is Ethical?

That is a complex question, Santiago Villani, a sociologist specializing in economics at the University of Buenos Aires, tells OZY. “There is not one universal definition of ethical behavior,” he says. The challenge with extreme wealth, he believes, is that for some people to have a lot, others must have little. “Capitalism feeds off inequality,” he says. “Some own the capital and others only their work. As long as workers are exploited at work, no matter how much billionaires donate, the system will continue to be unequal.”

Pay Your Share

Wealth does not naturally trickle down from the rich to the poor, which is why taxes are important. While some billionaires are giving back, discussing sustainable capitalism and campaigning for more levies, others are more radical. Abigail Disney (granddaughter of Roy Disney, who co-founded the company with Walt) wants to cap the amount of capital any single individual can possess at $1 billion. The heir to the Disney empire, who is estimated to be worth around $120 million and has donated $72 million, is bold. “I don’t really know how you couldn’t figure out how to live a very nice life on $999 million,” she told The Guardian.

Get Involved

Experts tell OZY that, in order to be ethical, billionaires need to help tackle the causes of inequality — think gender and race discrimination and access to education, for example. Billionaire tech investor Robert F. Smith, the richest Black person in the U.S., donated $34 million to pay off the student debt of the entire 2019 graduating class at Morehouse College, a historically Black college in Atlanta. He said he was trying to even the playing field, but the move may not have been entirely in good faith. It is reported that Smith’s philanthropy has also helped him escape prosecution on a tax-evasion case.

Suits: The New Face of Latin American Crime

Drug lords switching out gold chains for bespoke suits, politicians proposing to legalize cocaine and judges acquitting cocaine traffickers on compassionate grounds. The criminal underworld in Latin America, the world’s most violent and unequal region, is changing faster than you can say Narcos.

Forget everything you thought you knew about its drug barons. Those glitzy TV shows are out of date — the reality is a lot murkier. This week’s Sunday Magazine takes you on a journey through Latin America’s modern-day drug underworld, highlights some of the boldest ideas for tackling trafficking and violence — and adds a dose of crime-ridden soccer.

HIGH STAKES

Unhealthy Living

Hard drugs, including heroin and cocaine, are as popular as ever across the globe and especially in North America and Asia. With the world’s largest cocaine producers, and some of the most powerful crime organizations operating from Latin America, this corner of the world finds itself trapped in a new cycle of lawlessness, government corruption, crumbling judiciaries and widespread poverty. The result: a region that’s home to some of the most violent cities on the planet.

Fewer Gold Chains, More Suits

Who is behind all this? Today, your typical Latin American underworld boss looks a lot less like the suave, showboating Pablo Escobar as depicted on Narcos and much more like a suited office worker. Why? Because a criminal flying under the radar is a criminal less likely to get caught. “The new drug lords are different. They have gone to universities, they have [legally qualified] accountants, they know about the law, how to present information to avoid justice,” Angela Olaya Castro, co-founder and researcher at the Conflict Responses Foundation, tells OZY. Crime organizations from Colombia, Brazil, El Salvador and Mexico are smart, well organized and very specialized.

It’s the Economy, Stupid

Traffickers know drugs, and also business. That’s why they are increasingly pursuing new consumers with deeper pockets in Europe and Australia. That’s not all. In Colombia, they are experimenting with new technologies that allow them to produce much more cocaine on smaller tracts of land. And when they are not making enough money from drugs, criminals in Mexico, Brazil and across Central America are diversifying and trading in anything from arms and gold to endangered animals and people, even during the pandemic. In the end, it’s all about making a quick buck.

The Billion-Dollar Answer

If you have been paying attention to the news, you’ll know drug decriminalization is a big thing across the Americas (look at the U.S., Uruguay, Mexico and Peru). In Colombia, senator Iván Marulanda is taking things a step further. In December, he proposed a bill to legalize cocaine, like in Bolivia. How would it work? The government would buy all coca leaves and give them to Indigenous communities to produce food, medicine and fertilizers. At a cost of around $680 million, Marulanda says this plan would cost half the money authorities currently spend trying to destroy crops, without much success.

The Exit Door

But don’t get too excited just yet. Decriminalization alone, experts say, is not a sure-fire antidote to Latin America’s organized crime problem. Héctor Silva Avalos, a researcher from El Salvador, explains that government corruption is what facilitates criminal activity. Without real political will, tackling it has been nearly impossible. Another problem? This is a very unequal fight, says Olaya Castro. “While organized crime can pay the greatest experts and quickly adapt to any situation, governments [in Latin America] don’t have enough resources to investigate and fight them. That is unlikely to change in the near future.”

drugs_1

THE FUTURE

Tailor-Made Menu

There’s marijuana, cocaine, heroin . . . and an endless list of new, illicit chemical highs. Medical advances unfolding in research laboratories, such as brain implants to manipulate moods and apps that provide digital highs (minus the risk of overdose), could potentially replace the current slate of illegal drugs. Does that mean the balance of power could shift from Colombia and Mexico to Silicon Valley? Don’t write off the criminals just yet. “If demand for one drug decreases, criminals will look for the next thing because there will always be a next [illegal] thing people want,” Olaya Castro explains.

Crypto High(Way)

Wanna know what else is going to change? The way drugs are bought and sold. Shrouded in secrecy, dark web markets already popular in Western countries are spreading across the digital globe, providing users with new avenues to buy their next high. What’s worse, authorities appear unable to shut them down for good. Can these markets replace the old-fashioned drug cartels? Not entirely, says author and expert Mike Power. He told Vice that drug sellers are unlikely to ever operate at the same level as large crime organizations, which effectively serve as wholesalers with connections on both sides of the supply chain.

The Cure for Addiction?

Off the streets, another “war on drugs” is being fought inside labs, where scientists have been looking for ways to make illicit drugs less harmful. Among the potential solutions is a vaccine that could tame a person’s desire to use cocaine. Another is early DNA sequencing, which could help professionals diagnose a person’s potential for becoming an addict. Other scientists are trying to develop drinks that can produce the same pleasurable feelings as alcohol, minus the negative side effects. Sounds great, right? Well, such advances carry many ethical implications (just imagine what governments could do if they had access to everybody’s DNA sequencing).

Crime and Punishment

Technology is already changing the way we think about justice (think online courts, police cameras, DNA databases). But in cash-strapped Latin America, where prisons have reached their breaking point and corruption is common, deploying such state-of-the-art measures to combat crime looks to be a long way off. While the region’s governments have relied on mass incarceration — even for nonviolent drug offenses — to tackle crime, there is still hope for new strategies. In Argentina, for example, authorities recently acquitted a woman who crossed the country’s border with Chile with 6.6 pounds of cocaine taped around her waist. The judge said she had been forced to smuggle drugs to cover the cost of surgery for her ailing son. Another example is Uruguay, where an “open” prison that allows inmates to work and receive an education has been lauded for its positive results.

SA 2

WHAT’S SPORTS GOT TO DO WITH IT?

Giving Soccer a Bad Name

Well before international soccer megastars like Lionel Messi became pristine pictures of health, the “wilder” soccer type was very much in vogue in South America. What changed? “Money is the new cocaine,” Silva Avalos says. “The [soccer] idol today is a professional who takes care of his body and his health.” Still, behind the scenes, not all is picture-perfect. Crime has been embedded in Latin American soccer for so long that it is practically a part of the game. From shadowy fan gangs controlling the sport in Argentina to accusations of top-level corruption among regional soccer executives, this sport has earned itself something of a bad name.

The Right Stuff

But before you burn your jersey, listen up: It’s not all bad. As the most popular sport in Latin America, soccer has also been deployed as an important force for good. From the marginalized communities of Colombia’s Medellín to the shantytowns of Brazil’s Rio de Janeiro, social organizations have embraced it as a means for getting kids off violent streets and away from the predatory arms of crime groups. “The principle [of those projects] is good,” Silva Avalos says. “The problem is that sports by itself won’t fix the root causes of crime and violence: the rupture in the social contract.”

Stars of the Future

Still, there is hope that kids in South America can be encouraged away from crime and drugs. Consider Thiago Almada. The 20-year-old soccer midfielder who currently plays for Argentina’s Vélez Sarsfield has already been dubbed the new Carlos Tevez — the Argentine superstar who grew up in an environment marred by drugs and murder. (Check out the Netflix-made dramatization of Tevez’s life here). Almada was born in the same marginalized Buenos Aires neighborhood as Tevez and sees football as the door to every opportunity he’s enjoyed. Now valued at more than $23 million, Almada appears to have attracted numerous international clubs eager for the young star’s signature.

What Does It Mean to Live Forever?

If 100 is already the new 80, what about living till you’re 150 years old? Growing up, my dad, a doctor obsessed with the idea of immortality, would tell how his grandparents back in Lebanon had lived well past the 100-year mark. How? They simply ate well, he used to say, as if their secret was no mystery at all. But back in the mid-19th century, they were the exception to the rule: People generally died much, much earlier.

Today, as humans continue to lust after any number of material and immaterial objects, scientists are researching radical life extension technology like never before. Amazing, right? Let’s see. Read on to learn about the great, the weird and the downright costly behind our quest for eternal existence.

Editor’s note: OZYs all about bringing you the new and the next . . . in fresh ways. Were trying a new look for your favorite newsletter to make your experience even more delicious. Please share your thoughts on the new look below.

DON’T STOP ME NOW

Is 150 the New 100?

Probably. Think about it: 200 years ago, there was no such thing as an active 90-year-old. Fast forward 20 decades, and photos of people breaching the 100-year barrier have become almost routine. Vaccines, antibiotics and a better understanding of what is good for our bodies and minds have taken us far. By 2050, the U.N. estimates there will be 3.7 million centenarians around the world, a major bump from the nearly 600,000 today. How can we push our biological clocks even more, keeping our minds sharp and bodies healthy for longer? One departure is to treat aging as an illness. That’s right. A tribe of scientists, including Steven Austad, a biologist at the University of Alabama, says the key to drastically longer life lies in altering the processes that prevent our very molecules from growing old.

Magic in the Lab

Scientific progress looks promising. Experts have already successfully applied an antifungal used during organ transplants to extend the lives of mice. Just think what that might mean for a human. That’s not all. A string of revolutionary health treatments on the horizon is poised to change how our bodies deal with aging. Heard of a pill that mimics the benefits of exercise? Or drugs that trick our internal clock into thinking it’s younger? How about nano-robots that find and destroy disease inside our bodies and cell reprogramming? The future of anti-aging medicine is mind-blowing. But don’t rush to your doctor’s office just yet. Despite such theoretical advances, some experts believe our bodies have a built-in expiration date. Not to mention there’s a host of issues preventing humans from living longer that must be tackled, starting with poverty, violence, pollution, climate change and traffic accidents.

New Life Trajectory

Can you imagine what you would do if you could live your peak years — your 20s and 30s, say — over and over? “Maybe we use the [extra] years to reimagine the trajectory of life, just like we did 100 years ago, when we invented childhood and retirement,” Austad said in a TED Talk. John Davis, a philosophy professor at California State University, Fullerton, brings a similarly philosophical lens to the question. “I think people get wiser as they get older,” he tells OZY. “Given time and life experience, people become more patient, more aware of what a wise choice and a foolish choice looks like, and less violent. So we might find that a society that lives longer is a better society.”

Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda

Now for the bad news. Increased pressure on already overstretched global health care systems and an inadequate supply of jobs, food and housing are just some of the challenges we face if we were to live for as long as we’d like. Longer, healthier lives translate to expanding populations worldwide, a change the planet might not be able to withstand. “We are already facing the consequences of overpopulation,” Davis says. “It’s called climate change.” The solution there remains controversial and might require something more radical than eternal life.

Living until 150 2

FOREVER YOUNG, OR OLD?

So, When Do We Start?

Outside the lab, futurologists have been putting forth their own takes on life extension. But be warned: you would need deep pockets to access them. Ray Kurzweil, a resident futurist at Google — a company currently investing in the study of aging — claims that by 2029, medical advances could start adding an additional year, every year, to people’s life expectancy, at least to those who can afford it. Researcher Aubrey de Grey posits that by 2036, many people with access to the right therapies (e.g., working to make our molecules younger) could avoid aging-related diseases or maladies entirely. Is there a catch? Unfortunately, yes. To reach the 150-year-old mark, you might need to live in an environment free of stressors — and a wad of cash to cover what will be costly treatments. Tempted by what’s being offered by Libella Gene Therapeutics, which claims to reverse aging by up to 20 years? Be prepared to fork over a whopping $1 million.

Mind the Gap

The price tag may be shocking, and it points to another disturbing truth: Longevity is set to become the new standard-bearer of inequality. And it’s not strictly a rich-country-versus-poor-country distinction, or even race, which is a major determinant of life expectancy in the U.S. A study by Northwestern University in Illinois found that Americans with a higher net worth at midlife live longer than their poorer counterparts. Even among brothers and sisters, those with greater wealth tend to outlive their siblings. That’s even taking into account identical genetic profiles, meaning the only factor that separates them is money.

Get in the Zone

Unless, that is, you happen to live in one of the world’s blue zones: a select group of countries in which people have been living longer for reasons unrelated to their bank account. Take Nicoya, for example. Centenarians in this lush Costa Rican peninsula say their secret to a long life is robust social networks and strong family ties. On the other side of the world, Japan’s super-senior citizens claim that healthy diets and exercise have paved the way to a lengthy and happy existence. Even if Kane Tanaka, the world’s oldest person at 118, admits she loves chocolate and soda. Money, however, can play a role. Just look at Monaco, the uber-wealthy principality where residents live on average to nearly 90 years old.

Upload You

Don’t live in any of those places? Don’t despair. Someday there may be another option for those who want to live a lot, lot longer: Upload your consciousness, Black Mirror style. While we are still far from transferring our minds onto a chip, Artificial Intelligence advances could make this sci-fi-sounding proposition a reality. Some people have already signed on to a program to freeze their brains and bodies in liquid nitrogen coffins to preserve the essential parts of their personalities. Cryonics preserves the body until science has progressed to a point where a person could be reanimated and cured of whatever diseases they suffered from. In 2016, a 14-year-old girl with a rare form of cancer won the right to be cryogenically frozen after she died, in the hopes she’ll be brought back to life once a cure for her disease is discovered.

Live to 150 3

THE SECRET SAUCE

Ditch the Red Meat

Yeah, we all know this one. Harvard researchers have found that increasing the amount of red meat you consume may, in some cases, raise the risk of early death. Participants in the experiment who increased their meat consumption by just half a serving per day (around 1.7 ounces) over eight years had a 10% higher risk of dying over the subsequent eight-year period. The study’s authors also claim a significant benefit to replacing a portion of your weekly meals with non-meat options. It’s not just good for you, it’s good for the planet. But Jeralean Talley, who lived to 116, might prove the authors wrong. This American super senior told Time in 2013 that one of the secrets to her longevity is a pork-rich diet, especially pigs’ ears and feet.

Every Step Counts

Walking an extra 1,000 steps a day could increase your chances of living a long life, according to the American Heart Association. The benefits of incorporating walking into your daily routine were consistent across people who took one long stroll and those who opted for shorter bursts throughout the day. That included going shopping or walking to your car. Heading out for a walk should be a priority for everyone, especially now that remote work is forcing many to park their butts for long stretches. Each increase of 1,000 steps was linked to a 28% decrease in the risk of early death.

Fruits and Veggies Are Your Friends

When American Loreen Dinwiddie died in 2012 at age 109, she was the world’s oldest vegan. She credited her diet for helping her reach that milestone and for giving her a pep in her step. It’s well-known that eating greens keeps you healthy day to day, but it also helps you live longer. Consuming five servings of fruits and veg every day translates to a 13% lower risk of early death. But don’t despair, some fun is also allowed. Misao Okawa, the oldest person on the planet before she passed away in 2015 at age 117, said the secret to her long life was simple: “eating delicious things” including sushi and noodles.

Are Kids the Holy Grail?

“You keep me young” isn’t just a sweet phrase. A study by researchers at the Boston University School of Medicine in 2014 found that late motherhood can lead to a longer life for women who delivered their last child after 33. In fact, they are twice as likely to live to 95 than those who had their last kid by 29. Furthermore, the New England Centenarian Study, published in 2014, concluded that women who bore children after turning 40 were four times more likely than younger mothers to reach 100 years old. There’s a caveat, though: Just delaying pregnancy won’t make you live longer; growing old depends on your genes too. Read more here.

Space Exploration Is Hot. What Came Before?

It seems like someone is shooting off into space every day. Last month, Messrs. Branson and Bezos strapped themselves in for historic space trips. Today, a mission to the International Space Station is set to take off with supplies and the contents of an experiment called “Cardinal Muscle,” a test to see how engineered muscle tissue performs in space. Lest we forget, these endeavors stand on the shoulders of the trailblazing men and women who came before — explorers who charted new journeys by putting one foot in front of the other right here on planet Earth.

Wacky, brave and oftentimes stubborn, the six American adventurers profiled in today’s Daily Dose let their passion for parts unknown run wild. From a legendary Black pioneer to the first woman to reach the peak of the tallest mountain in North America to today’s underwater mavens, let us take you on an inspiring journey of wild discovery.

go west

Ahead of His Time

In 19th century America, slavery was a tragic reality for half of the country. James Beckwourth stood out from the crowd. A Black man born into slavery in Virginia at the dawn of the 1800s, he was an unlikely pioneer, even at a time when westbound exploration was the order of the day. Everyone from government topographers and fur traders to missionaries imposing their beliefs onto Indigenous communities headed across the Mississippi River toward the Midwest. Beckwourth himself reached California by the end of the century. These myriad adventurers were something akin to today’s astronauts. It’s no wonder that this period coincided with the great transport revolution. America was changing at a dizzying speed.

Stamina and Charisma

Legend has it that in 1824, a young Beckwourth joined a fur-trapping company in a wild expedition across the Rocky Mountains in present-day Colorado. The rough terrain and high elevations were no place for the inexperienced, but what Beckwourth lacked in technical ability — at least initially — he made up for in charisma. He forged a reputation as a master storyteller and loved talking about his adventures. Not only did he quickly learn how to survive in the wild by tracking and killing animals, but during his travels, he also made inroads with the Crow Nation. Beckwourth became so close to them that in the late 1820s he married at least two tribal women and fathered several children. And that’s not all. Having developed a bevy of mountaineering skills, in 1851 he discovered a safe route across the Sierra Nevada Mountains in Northern California. At more than 5,000 feet above sea level, the area located in Plumas County is now called the Beckwourth Pass.

A Man of Firsts

John Colter was born to an Irish family living in Virginia in the early 1770s. Blue-eyed and tall, as a young adult he had a reputation as a troublemaker but quickly became sought after for his talents as an explorer. The original “mountain man” was a skilled hunter and fur trapper. This expertise earned him a spot in the infamous Lewis and Clark expedition, which in 1804 set out to explore the lands acquired by the U.S. from France west of the Mississippi River. It was another trip that earned him a chapter in history books.

The Right Turn

The Lewis and Clark adventure ended in 1806 when the team reached the Pacific Ocean. Colter, however, wanted more. A year later, the Missouri Fur Company hired him to guide it to a part of the continent known today as the state of Montana. The company’s goal was to make inroads with local Indigenous peoples and establish avenues of trade. The expedition settled at Fort Raymond near the Yellowstone River, and Colter was sent off alone on a grueling 500-mile solo trek to find said communities. What the company got instead were tales of the most magnificent landscapes, including the intense blue, yellow and green pools and craters, “steam coming from the ground” and “boiling mud.” Legend has it people did not believe him at first. It wasn’t until 1871, when the U.S. geologist Ferdinand Hayden made drawings and took pictures of the area, that people finally believed Colter’s tales. Yellowstone found itself designated the first national park, not only in the country — but the entire world.

this is a (wo)man’s world

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Double-Glazed Ceiling

If you think it may be hard for women to break the glass ceiling today, try being African American and Native American in the early 20th century. Bessie Coleman became the first Black woman to secure an international flying license. Her road was a rocky one. Born in Texas in 1892, one of 12 children, Coleman’s dreams usually took a back seat as she helped her mother make ends meet. Struggling (and ultimately failing) to earn enough money to pay for university, she moved to Chicago at age 23 in search of adventure. There, one of her brothers who had returned from serving in World War I teased her, saying that, unlike women in France, she would never fly a plane. Challenge accepted.

The Sky Is Not the Limit

Coleman had found her calling. As a woman and an African American, she also found that no flying school in the country would accept her. So she taught herself French and moved to France to pursue her dream. Fully licensed, she returned to America in 1921 and became a sensation. Her midair tricks such as “loop the loops” and the figure eight gained her a following rare for any woman, let alone a woman of color. Her shows drew huge crowds, though she refused to speak publicly at any venue that discriminated against African Americans. Tragically, the pioneer died in an accident in 1926 as a passenger in a plane that had no seatbelts or roof. Since then, the Challenger Pilot’s Association of Chicago flies over her grave once a year to pay respects to the original air pioneer. Her time on earth (and in the air) was short-lived, but her legacy lives on.

A 20,000-Foot-High Date

Barbara Washburn, the first woman to ever climb Alaska’s Mount Bertha back in 1941, was out of this world. Washburn wasn’t even a mountaineer. She got into climbing after meeting her husband, Bradford, at the New England Museum of Natural History in Boston in 1939. He was a keen mountaineer and invited Barbara to join him. Her lack of experience didn’t stop her. Nor did social norms at the time that screamed for her to stay at home and raise children. Fun fact: Barbara had to trek the mountain kitted out in men’s clothing because high-altitude attire for women was not available.

“I Just Had to Do It”

Washburn was invited on another expedition in 1947. This time, the idea was to reach the very top of Alaska’s 20,300-foot Denali, the highest peak on the continent. There are few things that capture an adventurer’s imagination like taking on one of the highest mountains in the world. Denali is most definitely not for the fainthearted. Picture what today involves an 18-day trip — and the help of detailed maps and state-of-the-art equipment — would have looked like 70 years ago. Back then known as Mount McKinley, the plan was to gather footage for a film being made to generate the public’s interest in mountain climbing. Only 15 people had succeeded in summiting before the Washburn team, and no woman had done so. “I was not trying to achieve anything. I was just there and had to do it,” Washburn said in an interview decades later. But don’t be fooled by her modesty: Washburn is the definition of a trailblazing badass. After completing this historic feat, she and her husband went on to lead an extensive mapping project on Mount Everest and a seven-year project to chart the Grand Canyon. Her greatest achievement? Living to the age of 99 and inspiring generations of women to follow in her footsteps.

look down, deep down

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Into the Deep

Where do you go when most of Earth has been explored? Down, obviously. Deep down. With around 80% of the planet’s oceans yet to be explored, the potential for finding new species and ecosystems is mind-blowing. Top of the list of exciting underwater pioneers today is Robert Ballard. This retired Navy officer’s track record is packed with highlights, including the Titanic wreck. The Kansas-born oceanography professor is also one of the original deep-sea archaeologists. “We only live on less than 20% of the planet,” Ballard told NPR. “Some 28% is above the ocean. So when you really think about it, we’re living on the peaks of mountains and don’t know what’s down in the valleys.”

All That Lies Beneath

What would the planet look like without its vast bodies of water? “We have better maps of Mars than of the deep ocean,” Ballard noted in a TED Talk. The son of a self-taught engineer, he caught the curiosity bug at age 17, when first setting out to explore the sea. Later, Ballard achieved fame for developing vessels that could travel at ocean depths far beyond the reaches of sunlight. Diagnosed with dyslexia as an adult, he explained how only recently he came to understand the source of his gift for exploring. “I am extremely comfortable in a world of total darkness because I see it in my mind,” he told i newspaper this month. “I just thought everyone else can do that but I’ve discovered it’s a gift and a very unique capability.”

What’s Left to Find

While thousands of new animal and plant species are still discovered above water every year, life in the depths is looking even more exciting. Only recently researchers have found an alien-looking sea blob nearly 13,000 feet deep in the Caribbean Sea off the coast of Puerto Rico. And don’t forget the “uniquely American whale” in the Gulf of Mexico. Dr. Tracey Sutton, a professor at the Halmos College of Natural Sciences and Oceanography in Florida, believes scientists are just getting started. “Every time we go out on a deep-sea research excursion, there’s a good chance we’ll see something we’ve never seen before,” she told CBS.

Finding Fish

Sutton should know. She was part of a team that found a new species of fish in the Gulf of Mexico in 2015. Inhabiting the sea at between 3,280 and 5,000 feet (the equivalent of 10 Statues of Liberty stacked on top of each other), the Lasiognathus dinema — a species of wolftrap angler — comes equipped with something resembling a fishing pole attached to its head. But that’s where the good news may end. While many 21st-century explorers are looking for undiscovered flora and fauna in the deep sea, another army of scientists is trying to keep track of all the species being lost every year (with 160 species gone in the last decade alone, they have their work cut out for them).