Back to the future in Chicago: How new and old combine and collide

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Sometimes living experiences transcend business. I’m writing this note today from an Airbnb rental in Chicago and tomorrow will head to the airport with Eric (our son) to see the third NHL playoff divisional semi-final game in New York City. By the time you read this, the Ottawa Senators will either be well on their way to the Stanley Cup final, or beginning their summer vacation.

Although we have business in Chicago (we publish Chicago Construction News), this trip is almost purely a vacation and the work I’m doing could be done anywhere in the mobile economy, including the production of the weekly Chicago Construction News eletter.

With high-speed Internet and artificial intelligence, Building Information Modelling (BIM) and other new technologies, you would think that the changes would modernizer everything. However, sometimes the effects are the opposite.

For example, the Airbnb rental is in an old Chicago neighbourhood. It is one you wouldn’t expect to find as a tourist in the “old days” — certainly there are no hotels in this part of Chicago. The travelling experience then becomes much like a family or home renewal visit; where we live more like the locals than as tourists. It’s not a bad thing – but it certainly isn’t up-to-the-minute.

Technology, after all, doesn’t change everything and this is most apparent in research I’ve been doing on specification software and BIM. It turns out that enterprising software developers in both Canada and the US have been spending significant resources in developing software products to allow specification writers to connect their work to BIM models.

Seems like a logical enough idea – but as I researched it, even the most ardent early adaptors of new ideas are saying the developers have got it wrong; they haven’t developed practical resources that actually work in the real-world specifications environment.

So, new and old sometimes conflict, sometimes change, and sometimes create incongruities. I’ll use mobile apps to find my way to the train and the Chicago Cubs game tonight, and the old-fashioned (not self-driving) rental car to get to the airport tomorrow. We’ll live in touch with the future, but remain quite grounded in the past. Sometimes the more things change, the more they stay the same.

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