Davies on Cities

quotes cities emergence knowledge

26 Oct 2014

Jim Davies on emergent intelligence in cities:

If memories and functions can flow seamlessly across devices, people, and artefacts, then why can’t we consider an entire city to be a kind of genius? Like the brain, it is using stored information and solving problems. Chief among these is how people can stay alive, and even flourish, under high geographic density. This is a considerable challenge, and one that the city itself solves—in fact, the larger the city, the better it seems to solve its own problems.

As a city grows in population, there is more efficient use of infrastructure, higher productivity, and an increase in cultural expression.10 There are per capita increases in the numbers of patents and educational and research institutions. This happens according to a power law, faster than would be expected by linear growth. Perhaps increasing the number of technologies, people, and level of communication in a city benefits intelligence in the same way that a larger number of neurons makes possible the great intelligence of human beings.

This raises an exciting possibility: If people are to cities as neurons are to brains, and cities (unlike brains) do not have any known limit to their size, then gigantic cities of the future might produce innovations on a scale that wouldn’t be possible for the cities of today.

Read more here.