TED Conversations

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    Sep 20 2013: Cities are the human equivalent of anthills. They fulfill functions. When they don't they collapse (cf Detroit). Posing the question as "How can we build cities that are sustainable, inclusive and truly just?" strikes me as analogous to asking an ant the same question. The ant is just a cog in the organism called the anthill; so to "we" are just cogs in the complex organisms called cities. Environmental conditions and constraints -- and the needs and wants of humans -- define the evolution of cities. It's not about what any of us 'ants' embrace or commit to that shapes cities. They just are. And they develop, rise and fall due to things we have no control over.
    • Sep 20 2013: Was it the City that failed to fulfill a function or the Big Three automakers? The function of transportation has not disappeared, rather the technology and corporations to deliver the function failed. First, the technology was the byproduct of designs embedded in engineers and managers who failed. Second, the corporation which produces cars increasingly overseas still fulfills the function, albeit elsewhere. If technology were democratized, the means of innovation, and an ecological industrial policy had existed, then we could convert some of the auto production capacity to mass transit. This is the larger institutional challenge which is ignored when one blames Detroit, i.e. the City really is the dependent variable, not the independent variable.

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