[ExI] Are Cities Dead? (was Re: moving bits, not butts)

Samantha Atkins sjatkins at mac.com
Wed Mar 2 12:13:23 UTC 2011

On Mar 2, 2011, at 2:54 AM, Anders Sandberg wrote:

> Kelly Anderson wrote:
>> If telepresence becomes good enough, and convincing enough, does that
>> obviate the need for large cities? Are there other justifications for
>> large cities?
> I doubt it. There are economies of scale to cities that are pretty amazing. Geoffrey West's papers show that not only are they efficient in terms of infrastructure (you need less infrastructure per person if they live close together), but their economic productivity and patents increases per capita as they get bigger.

Yes and no.  I can live for a about 1/4 as much away from the cities by say 45 miles.  If I do not need to commute to work then that is close enough to get most of the advantages when I want them without some of the drawbacks.  Further away is advisable if a collapse is as likely as I fear.
> More importantly, cities allow people to meet. This is the key point of Richard Florida's explanation of why some cities like Austin and SF are creative and booming. They attract the right kind of people who mingle, find unexpected new ideas or collaborations, and this is productive. One reason I live in Oxford these days is that I bump into interesting, smart and useful people all day, while in my native Stockholm the kind of people I would like to meet are very diluted.

San Francisco does have an incredible vibe.  

> In my RPG book "Cities of the Edge" I actually use these arguments to argue against the main setting claim that telepresence will dissolve cities into small towns. If it actually were to happen it would be bad news environmentally (think sprawl is bad now?

I am less concerned with what the masses do than with what is optimal for me. 

> plus, low efficiency) and perhaps socially (you would just meet people like you all day). Telecommuting is not going to threaten cities since it is more likely to improve them. Reducing needless commuting makes traffic better, allowing people to use the cities on their spare time.

Cities would improve a great deal if so much space was not needed for roads and parking.

- samantha

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