Quality of Life

It’s a busy world we live in today. There are a lot of good things happening nowadays―leap and bounds in technology and medical innovation, the potential for autonomous vehicles and automated everything, longer lives lived, and ever-present connectivity, just to name a few. At the same time, a lot of problems are ever-present―the increasing wealth gap, the spiraling use of deadly weapons, the re-emergence of despotic rule across the globe, and the overall ecological demise of our planet. As the saying goes, “it’s a crazy mixed-up world we live in.”

Which leads me to ask myself: How is my quality of life? Typically, I have been a “glass half-empty” kind of guy―blame it on my being both a Capricorn’s Capricorn as well as an only child; I’m always willing to account for the downside of a situation. Yet, I do lead a really good life, and I consider myself one of the lucky ones. I guess you could call me “cautiously optimistic.”

Given this, I think there’s always room for improvement, even for a lucky one like me. That’s why I’m always on the lookout for ways to assess, then improve my lot in life. For a while I would attend TED-type conferences but eventually found them a bit too ‘lofty’ and self-aggrandizing; on the flip-side, I’d trek to Burning Man, but found the hedonism and general silliness outweighed the sheer force of the event, and soon the buzz wore off.

This year I found something that looks a bit different, a conference that contains a set of speakers who seem quite grounded in the realities of addressing quality of life in today’s world. No silver bullets or bombastic kernels of wisdom, but rather the tact of taking a particular city that treats its citizens well, in this case Zurich, Switzerland, and use it as a case study in context to demonstrate how aspects of daily life in Zurich, and beyond, are addressed and supported by its citizenry.

Hosted by Monocle magazine, the Quality of Life conference will be held this June 28-30 and is scheduled to address a diverse, yet interrelated, array of topics key to quality of life, including architecture, entrepreneurship, work, mobility, safety and security, health, aging, food, retail, and art and design. All of these Zurich does quite well, and the hope is that attendees see such demonstrations on the streets of Zurich, hear related stories from speakers at the conference podium, and discuss among themselves how such things can be brought back home.

Quality of life is a broad subject to tackle. Overall, I feel they’ve laid out a good breadth of perspectives to address the subject (though the absence of spirituality and/or self-discovery is sorely missed―but then again, I’m an American where nowadays such topics are de rigueur regarding quality of life issues).

Being ‘cautiously optimistic’ I also have a few doubts about the locale, given the Swiss legacy of secrecy, as well as the Anglo-monolithic demographic composition of the place. Yet, from a global perspective, Zurich has a lot of things to envy―the Swiss have a zeal to get things precisely ‘right’ and Zurich is their crown jewel.

Monocle has proven experience in hosting such conferences, albeit strictly from a pan-European lens (e.g., Lisbon, Vienna, and Berlin), though attendees are from further afield. One can hope those lucky enough to attend bring something home to their own little corners of the globe, making things a bit better for us all.

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