I’ve just spent twenty minutes watching two fantastic videos covering issues of cities, of technology, of human progress and success, and of the path forward. I follow TedTalks on Facebook. Today, they posted a 15 minute clip of Lisa Gansky, author of a new book called The Mesh. The “mesh,” according to Gansky, is “a new way of doing business” – it represents a paradigm shift in business opportunity. As Gansky notes, the latest communications technologies are encouraging businesses to be more integrated with their consumers. Consumers are even more integrated with each other. Examples in transportation include ZipCar, RelayRides, Facebook, and Capital Bikeshare, but the trend is even more widespread into areas such as recycling, farming, community and government, and energy. She argues that ventures who ignore these trends are undermining business, as well as societal, interests – a powerful shift indeed.
In a separate video, John Stewart interviews Harvard economist Edward Glaeser, who has recently published a new book as well, Triumph of the City: How Our Greatest Invention Makes us Richer, Smarter, Greener, Healthier, and Happier. Glaeser laments that anti-urban policy is still so prevalent in the US (for instance, policies that encourage buying homes in suburbs and driving cars on over-provided highways). He claims that two-thirds of the stimulus funds went to our least dense places, leaving one-third for our most-dense, most-populated areas. These policies are undermining our ability to progress; anti-urban policy promotes low-return investments. It is the cities that make us richer, smarter, greener, healthier, and happier. Why would we invest anywhere else?
I thought the two tied together nicely, pointing out not only economic but also social justifications for living, working, and sharing in closer proximity than we may ever have here in the US. Now that these benefits have been established, perhaps individual behavior change will follow the lead of start-ups and government funding decisions in order to create more efficient, clean, productive, and livable places.