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← Intro 10.4 Scaling in Cities (1)

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Showing Revision 5 created 04/05/2015 by ripstaur.

  1. The planet is now dominated by cities.
  2. And it is becoming very clear that the future
  3. of humanity--global sustainability
  4. itself--is now dependent on us having
  5. an understanding, a deep understanding,
  6. of cities and urbanization.
  7. You now have the greatest migration in
  8. history where billions of people are
  9. choosing to come to cities; to change
  10. their lives radically from what it
  11. traditionally was.
  12. Look, historically, the hallmark of
  13. any civilization is cities. In fact, some
  14. anthropologists and archeologists
  15. have even said that cities (and
  16. I agree with them) cities are actually
  17. one of our main inventions.
  18. The fact that China and India are
  19. building hundreds of new cities, and this
  20. is going to have an enormous impact.
  21. They are sort of the fastest, most
  22. spectacular social phenomenon that ever
  23. happened to our species and, perhaps, to
  24. biology on Earth.
  25. There's lots of research done on cities.
  26. There's lots of economists who study cities
  27. and sociologists and anthropologists, and
  28. even psychologists; and the work that we
  29. are involved in is bringing a predictive
  30. mathemetizable framework to that, to
  31. complement the traditional narrative form
  32. more associated with the social sciences,
  33. and trying to understand what is
  34. systematic of cities, so we can predict
  35. behavior, and have an impact on problem-
  36. solving.
  37. I think Jane Jacobs once said that one of
  38. the hardest problems about understanding
  39. cities is that they deal with dozens of
  40. quantities; they all intertwine. So a city
  41. is not just its economy, it's not factoring
  42. it's just producing something from inputs,
  43. it's not just a set of people interacting
  44. with each other without structure or
  45. context or economics; and it's not just
  46. an infrastucture, either.
  47. And cities, we recognize now, are the
  48. origin of what we perceive to be problems.
  49. Global climate warming, our environment,
  50. problems with the economy, problems with
  51. disease, with pollution. However, cities
  52. are also the origin of the solution. They are
  53. the places where ideas are created, they are
  54. vacuum cleaners that suck up creativity and
  55. Innovation. People are attracted to cities by the
  56. buzz of cities. So, we need to understand
  57. how these two things integrate.
  58. If I can give you the recipe to have a
  59. wealthy, innovative city, why is it so
  60. hard to recreate that recipe? What is
  61. really going on in San Jose? I can tell
  62. you San Jose is very inventive; it's very
  63. creative; but what is it about that
  64. place?
  65. One of the metaphors that has been used
  66. consistently for cities is to compare them
  67. to organisms. One often hears phrases like
  68. "the metabolism of the city," or "the DNA
  69. or the marketplace," or even the ecology
  70. of the urban system. So, one of the
  71. questions, obviously, that arises, is
  72. "is that just metaphor, or is there
  73. something serious and substantive in it?"
  74. So scaling is to look at how the
  75. properties of a system vary with its size.
  76. In Biology, we see that the bigger you are
  77. the less you need per capita; the less
  78. energy you need per capita, et cetera.
  79. So there is an economy of scale.
  80. Associated with that is the slowing of
  81. the pace of life. You live longer, things
  82. diffuse slower, hearts beat slower, etc.
  83. In cities, we see the opposite behavior.
  84. As cities get larger, what you see is a
  85. systematic increase in socio-economic
  86. products. So you find that wealth creation
  87. gets faster, innovation gets faster.
  88. So all of the things associated with
  89. social interaction increase in the same
  90. way, and that increase can be expressed
  91. very simply, and that is: If you double
  92. the size of a city, you get approximately
  93. a 15% increase in wages, wealth,
  94. innovation, and also the negative effects
  95. of living in a city...
  96. So in this sense you can see what a city
  97. is. The city is a concentration of people,
  98. with the infrastructure that allows you
  99. to basically concentrate interactions
  100. effectively--in terms of number of
  101. interactions per unit time--shrink time
  102. and shrink space, so that you create,
  103. essentially, a social accelerator, a
  104. social concentrator of human activity.
  105. So in Biology a network is, your
  106. cardiovascular system, your respiratory
  107. system, your renal system; whereas, in
  108. cities, it's the roads, the electrical
  109. lines, the gas lines, but it is also the
  110. social networks of interaction between
  111. people, and between groups of people.
  112. We believe that the reason we see these
  113. extraordinarily systematic behaviors in
  114. both biology and in social organizationsms
  115. - cities - is because of the constraints
  116. of networks.
  117. But there are specific ways in which cities
  118. can deviate from these averages, as well;
  119. in terms, for example, of how well they do
  120. economically. These have a lot to do with
  121. their history and some of the self-
  122. reinforcing cycles...
  123. The various historical events that took
  124. place; the multiple commissions of urban
  125. designers and architects; the role of the
  126. various mayors; the fact that the railroad
  127. may have suddenly come through.
  128. So I think now that we have an
  129. increasingly clear picture about what
  130. cities look like quantitatively - in terms
  131. of their statistics in terms of how much
  132. they can vary from this idealized generic
  133. city - I think what's missing now is to
  134. have a mathematical description that's
  135. predictive of what creates these patterns
  136. that we see in the data.
  137. The science of cities means that, in
  138. addition to just qualitative understanding
  139. of a city, that the structure, dynamics,
  140. organization, evolution, growth, can all
  141. be put in a mathematizable way,
  142. quantitatively, and therefore
  143. predictively.
  144. So the only way to understand all this
  145. together is to understand how these
  146. different aspects of the city condition
  147. each other and constrain each other to
  148. create sort of this magical dynamics
  149. in organization that is organization.
  150. I would say that if you care about the
  151. history of humanity, if you care about
  152. economic growth, if you care about
  153. innovation, you have to think about
  154. cities.