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Developing great real estate is how to overcome 'Reality Privilege'

“Reality Privilege” is a real-world environment, rich in experiences, that is available to very few. It offers an environment with beautiful settings, plenty of stimulation and fascinating people.

I came across this term in an interview with Marc Andreessen. He is a brilliant entrepreneur who became a billionaire by creating companies that delivered great value to the world. He is the man behind Mosaic, Netscape, Opsware, and Andreessen Horowitz VC firm.

Andreessen explained Reality Privilege like this: "Reality has had 5,000 years to get good, and is clearly still woefully lacking for most people; I don't think we should wait another 5,000 years to see if it eventually closes the gap.

"We should build - and we are building - online worlds that make life and work and love wonderful for everyone, no matter what level of reality deprivation they find themselves in."

He argues that the vast majority of people lack Reality Privilege and an online world provides better experiences so we should not prioritize the real world over a virtual one.

I disagree.

The priority should be to build a better real world that makes life and work wonderful for everyone . . . through great real estate.

But what makes Andreessen think that reality is worse than it is? 

A ‘real world’ experiment, worse than a monkey throwing darts?

Did you know that a lot of what we believe about the world is inaccurate? 

Hans Roslin, a Swedish physician, professor of international health and renowned public educator, asked questions that anyone had a one-in-three chance of getting right (similar to a monkey throwing darts). Most of us humans got the answers wrong.

To test yourself, answer the following questions:

No. #1: In all low-income countries across the world today, how many girls finish primary school? 

  1. 20 per cent.
  2. 40 per cent.
  3. 60 per cent.

Only seven per cent of people got the correct answer. If you answered C, you are among the few that got it right.

No. 2: Of the world's population, what percentage lives in low-income countries? 

  1. 9 per cent.
  2. 36 per cent.
  3. 59 per cent.

When asked in Sweden and the U.S.A., the average guess was 59 per cent. What was your guess? The correct answer is only nine per cent of the world’s population lives in low-income countries. 

No. 3: Where does the majority of the world's population live? 

  1. Low-income countries.
  2. Middle-income countries.
  3. High-income countries. 

A paltry 26 per cent of Canadians surveyed answered the question correctly. The answer is B: 75 per cent of the world's population lives in middle-income countries.

Most of us in high-income countries are conditioned to think the world is divided between developing and developed. But that is simply not true. Today 91 per cent of humanity lives in middle and high-income countries. 

If it's hard for most people to get these answers right, can you imagine how difficult it must be for Marc Andreessen? As a billionaire, his world view is very different and sheltered.

“There's no room for facts when our minds are occupied by fear.” - Hans Rosling

The world has seen a transformational improvement over the past 50 years. Although it may seem bleak and difficult at times, there is hope for a better future.

As Hans Rosling said in his 2018 book Factfulness, "Level 1 is where all of humanity started. It’s where the majority always lived, until 1966. Until then, extreme poverty was the rule, not the exception." 

Real-world real estate development

There are many reasons why real cities have grown throughout history and will continue to grow. People from all walks of life want economic opportunities, cultural attractions, educational opportunities, transportation and quality of life.

The virtual world cannot replace the real world. The online world is limited in its ability to provide true human interaction and connection. It cannot replicate the sensory experiences and physical sensations of this world.

Our physical environment has a profound impact on our well-being and happiness. Studies have shown that access to green spaces, natural light and clean air can improve mental and physical health.

Being in a stimulating and engaging environment can also boost creativity and productivity.

Our priority should therefore be the real world. So let’s help build a better world through great real estate development. 

The how-to list for real-world RE developers

  1. Include natural elements in real estate development, such as green spaces, natural light and clean air. Natural light helps regulate sleep patterns and improves mood. Spending time in green spaces lowers stress and there are benefits from physical activity.
  2. Design buildings and communities that are visually appealing and engaging. Focus on aesthetics and functionality. Visually appealing buildings create a sense of pride and belonging among residents. This can lead to a greater sense of connection and engagement among residents and foster a more vibrant and cohesive community.
  3. Incorporate public art and other cultural elements into the design of buildings and communities. Public art can also have a positive impact on the economy of a community. More tourists and visitors can boost local businesses and stimulate economic growth.
  4. Create opportunities for social interaction and connection through amenities. Amenities are often used as public gathering spaces and for community events. Foster a sense of community through the creation of shared spaces and activities that bring people together. When we create a rooftop lounge area on a rental building, it is available to every tenant! The views are now available to all and people get to meet each other.
  5. Invest in high-quality public amenities and services, such as parks, schools and libraries.
  6. Encourage diversity and inclusivity in real estate development. Ensure that all individuals have access to the same opportunities and benefits.
  7. Promote the development of mixed-use communities, which combine residential, commercial and recreational spaces.
  8. Collaborate with local organizations and community groups. Real estate development does well when it aligns with the needs and desires of the community.

We should focus on developing the real world rather than spending most of our time in a virtual one.

The digital sphere is an addition to reality, not a substitute for it. We should therefore focus on building and improving our real-world communities instead of retreating into cyberspace.

Doing so will provide opportunities and experiences that cannot be found in the virtual realm while also creating a quality life for all – not just some. 

Reality is not a privilege, Mr. Andreessen. And it is better than you think.

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