While traveling abroad across 27 cities in Asia, I spent a lot of time thinking about cities – how they work, how we build them, why they are important to society, and how we can make them better. I wrote a bit about them too, nothing particularly novel, I really just wanted to understand: why do some cities succeed while others fail? What makes a city successful? This was my base layer question. And though I have no clear answer, I do have some hypotheses that came from a number of different discussions I have had over the past few months.
First and foremost…what is a city? Really though, why do we care about cities in the first place? Are humans the only species with cities?
The answer to all of these questions is a book, but I will do my best to state simply: a city is humanity’s MVP (minimum viable product) for civilization. A city is a network of ideas and people, and gutters that flow between them. While this definition is fairly simple and broad, the implementation of it is fascinating. Depending on who you ask, from which time era, you would get a vastly different view of what a city is.
Today, many people would describe the “ideal city” as NY City as it is in 2018. They would describe skyscrapers and crowded streets and construction. A century ago, you would have gotten a completely different answer. And it continues to change as you go back in time.
My point in saying that is that the “mvp for civilization” is completely bound to our perception of what a MVP looks like. To take a completely different turn on this, what if we re-imagined our MVP? What does a good MVP have?
To me…the answer is ‘information density.’
Today’s cities accomplish this with physical housing density. Tomorrow’s cities will accomplish this with a combination of inexpensive transportation and telepresence.
Will explain / continue in another post , some time.
Also published on Medium.