Monday, May 05, 2008

Density Matters

I have too much blog fodder on deck today. The semester is drawing to a close and I'm busy grading/creating exams/substitute teaching. So, I'll post a quick hitter from the CEOs for Cities blog:

How does Google fuel its innovation factory. CEO Eric Schmidt tells Business Week that the biggest obstacles to innovation at Google is the sheer number of offices the company has.

I think Eric Schmidt's point is that any project requiring inputs from more than two people can't be done remotely or virtually. Hence the title of the blog post, "Another Reason Proximity Matters." Instead of being another reason why we should celebrate the value of cities, I see this dynamic as a problem that we should be trying to solve. Why did Google aggressively decentralize operations in the first place?

What will drive density, thereby reinvigorating cities, are environmental costs of sprawl and rising fuel prices. But all the necessary retooling of the regional infrastructure will be expensive and the demand for space in the urban core will price out a number of people. To be able to collaborate with a group of people regardless of distance would be a huge boon to creativity. The trend towards urbanization needn't (and shouldn't) privilege a small group of alpha world cities. There will never be enough geographic mobility of human capital to sustain Spiky World.

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