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

Rafal Smigrodzki rafal.smigrodzki at gmail.com
Sat Mar 5 14:32:39 UTC 2011

On Fri, Mar 4, 2011 at 1:29 PM, Damien Sullivan
<phoenix at ugcs.caltech.edu> wrote:
> On Fri, Mar 04, 2011 at 08:22:39AM -0700, Kelly Anderson wrote:
>> On Tue, Mar 1, 2011 at 8:25 PM, Damien Sullivan
>> <phoenix at ugcs.caltech.edu> wrote:
>> > On Tue, Mar 01, 2011 at 11:18:07AM -0700, Kelly Anderson wrote:
>> > Cities are also good for enabling you to live a mile away from your
>> > neighbor. ?If the population was evenly spread over the Earth's land
>> > surface in a square grid, there'd be a person every 140 meters. ?If
>> > you allow for families and specify clumps of 4, you'd have a family
>> > every 280 meters. ?A 3 minute walk to other people, no matter where on
>> > Earth you were, save the oceans. ?You get space because the rest of us
>> > clump up.
>> This is a fact that I am very grateful for. I just don't entirely get
>> why people want to do so.
> Well, quite obviously, telepresence today is NOT a substitute for real
> interaction.  Anyone who wants to taste different foods they haven't
> cooked, and hear live music, and touch other people, needs to be other
> people.  Ditto for getting most jobs being hear health care, having
> efficient services, and all sorts of other things.
>> This is interesting. I have a general theory that the more people get
>> involved in an activity as a group, the less efficient they are.
> "efficient" gets thrown around pretty casually, I think.  Efficient in
> what sense, maxmizing what variable and minimizing use of what resource?
> For lots of tasks, people are more effective in groups or large groups,
> because individuals cannot do the task by themselves.
>> Perhaps cities buck this general trend because they aren't as cohesive
>> as a corporation or government agency.
> analogy: city markets and ecosystems, where more size means more
> diversity and niches.
> analogy: bureaucracies (public or privae) and brains, vs. masses of
> individuals or amoebas, where some people or cells seem to provide less
> effort yet provide coordination that enables the other units to be
> productive at all.

### I agree with Damien here: although I personally hate cities (which
is why I live in an idyllic log home 2.6 miles away from the nearest
neighbor and accept a personal price for it by commuting daily 40
minutes to work in the nearest town, Charlottesville), I also
recognize that they seem to be associated with increased economic
productivity, and many efficiencies (defined as improved degree of
satisfaction of various human desires - that's what I mean when I harp
on "efficiency" in my pro-anarchocapitalist screeds). There is a large
and very convincing literature on the economic productivity of cities,
their association with innovation, improved survival of occupants. The
first two items appear to be nearly universal, the last item,
longevity, seems to be the case at least after the development of
modern sanitation and vaccination technologies. People in cities, even
controlling for IQ, education, wealth, and whatever other confounding
factors, seem to produce more economic output, more goods and
services, cheaper, seem to innovate their way to a better life faster,
realize their individual earning potential more equitably, and as a
result, come to enjoy more valuable consumption streams than people in
rural areas.

Of course, I prefer it my way - living in the boonies and working in a city.


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