The Semilla cafe and coworking space sits in the heart of the upscale Laureles neighborhood in the city of Medellín. It looks as if it were picked up in Silicon Valley and dropped into Colombia by a crane. Coders and digital marketers crowd the tables, drinking pour-over coffee and enjoying loaded avocado toast. Downstairs, in the coffee shop, a stylish woman with a ring light on her laptop chats with a client thousands of kilometers away. Upstairs, in the dedicated office space, an American wearing an Oculus Rift headset attends a meeting in the metaverse. Most of the workers here are employed in the U.S., but relaxed post-pandemic office norms permit them to work from anywhere. This is the mobile, location-independent lifestyle of the digital nomad. The Semilla is their oasis.
As their name suggests, digital nomads move around a lot. Medellín is one of the latest hot spots to join a global nomad circuit that spans tropical latitudes. Southeast Asia remains the preferred destination for nomads — on popular website Nomad List, four of the top 10 cities are from the region. The list also features less-expensive European cities in Portugal and Romania, as well as Latin American destinations like Mexico City, which share time zones with the U.S. The typical nomad might visit 12 or 13 countries in a year, all the while holding down a corporate job, usually in the tech sector. Of the workers I spoke to at Semilla, most intended to leave Colombia within a month or two.
Humans are an exquisitely intelligent and capable species of ape. Our physiology has been fine-tuned for efficient long-distance running; our hands are elegantly dextrous for manipulating and making; and our throats and mouths give us astonishing control over the sounds we make. We are virtuoso communicators, able to convey everything from physical instructions to abstract concepts, and to coordinate ourselves in teams and communities. We learn from each other, from our parents and peers, so new generations don’t have to start from scratch. But we’re also deeply flawed, physically and mentally. In many ways, humans just don’t work well.
We’re also riddled with defects in our biochemistry and DNA – data-corrupted genes that no longer work – which means, for instance, that we must eat a diet more varied than almost any other animal to obtain the nutrients we need to survive. And our brains, far from being perfectly rational thinking machines, are full of cognitive glitches and bugs. We’re also prone to addictions that drive compulsive behaviour, sometimes along self-destructive paths.
Many of our apparent faults are the result of evolutionary compromise. When a particular gene or anatomical structure is needed to satisfy several conflicting demands at the same time, no single function can be perfectly optimised. Our throats must be suitable not only for breathing and eating, but also for articulating speech. Our brains need to make survival decisions in complex, unpredictable environments, but they need to do so with incomplete information and, crucially, very rapidly. It is clear that evolution strives not for the perfect, but merely the good-enough.
TINA TURNER, THE raspy-voiced fireball who overcame domestic abuse and industry ambivalence to emerge as one of rock and soul’s brassiest, most rousing and most inspirational performers, died Wednesdayat age 83.
“Tina Turner, the ‘Queen of Rock & Roll’ has died peacefully today at the age of 83 after a long illness in her home in Küsnacht near Zurich, Switzerland,” her family said in a statement Wednesday. “With her, the world loses a music legend and a role model.”
Starting with her performances with her ex-husband Ike, Turner injected an uninhibited, volcanic stage presence into pop. Even with choreographed backup singers — both with Ike and during her own career — Turner never seemed reined in. Her influence on rock, R&B, and soul singing and performance was also immeasurable. Her delivery influenced everyone from Mick Jagger to Mary J. Blige, and her high-energy stage presence (topped with an array of gravity-defying wigs) was passed down to Janet Jackson and Beyoncé. Turner’s message — one that resounded with generations of women — was that she could hold her own onstage against any man.
KENNETH T. JACKSON began Crabgrass Frontier, his 1985 history of American suburbanization, with three assertions: that “the treatment and arrangement of shelter” reveals more about a country’s people than any of the creative arts; that “housing is an outward expression of the inner human nature”; and that “no society can be fully understood apart from the residences of its members.”
Those may have seemed like pleasing observations to readers basking in the “morning in America” optimism of the Reagan era, especially those ensconced in a prosperous suburb. Such readers may not have spotted the potential for searing social critique in the idea that our housing reveals who we are as a society. Hadn’t America steadily increased its rate of home ownership in the post-World War II boom years? Weren’t those ever-expanding suburbs proof the nation was succeeding in building a solid middle class with spacious homes and yards and patios, affordable mortgages, and safe, orderly neighborhood schools?
A few months ago, the writer Alice Sebold began to experience a kind of vertigo. She looked at a cup on the table, and it no longer appeared solid. Her vision fractured. Objects multiplied. Her awareness of depth shifted suddenly. Sometimes she glanced down and for a split second felt that there was no floor.
Sebold and I had recently begun corresponding, a little more than a year after she learned that the wrong man had been sent to prison, in 1982, for raping her. In 1999, she had published “Lucky,” a best-selling memoir about the rape and the subsequent conviction of a young Black man named Anthony Broadwater. Then she wrote “The Lovely Bones,” a novel about a girl who is raped and murdered, which has been described as the most commercially successful début novel since “Gone with the Wind.” But now Sebold had lost trust in language. She stopped writing and reading. Even stringing together sentences in an e-mail felt like adopting “a sense of authority that I don’t have,” she said.