|Light map showing hyperconnectivity|
Yours truly is back after a very restful Independence Day break and is ready to write. A quick programming note, the Candidate Forum will continue its discussion of potential Vice Presidential Candidates and address the latest developments in "Those Emails" saga. Today, however will look at how hyperconnected cities are conquering the world.
In the days before the mass and social media, empires clashed and collaborated with each in the quest for more land. The end result was nations became the main characters on the global stage however this is no longer the case. Tanvi Misra writes in her CityLab article, "How Hyperconnected Cities Are Taking Over the World," "We're now moving toward a new era where insular, political boundaries are no longer relevant." Very true statement. Case in point, "More and more people are identifying as 'global citizens and that's because we're all more connected than we've ever been before." The result of of all this hyper-connectivity is cities are replacing nations as the main actors on the global stage.
"Geography is destiny," of the famous adages about the world, is becoming obsolete. Centuries-old arguments about how climate condemn some societies to fail or how small countries are forever trapped and subject to the whims of larger, are being overturned, Thanks to global transportation, communications, and energy infrastructure-highways, railways, airports, pipelines, electricity grids, Internet cables, and more-the future has new maxim: "Connectivity is destiny."
Parag Khanna sat down with CityLab at the recent The Atlantic's 5th annual Summit on the Economy, where he was one of the featured speakers. The following are excerpts from an interview by Tanvi Misra.
TM: Could you explain why cities are at the heart of this global shift in power?
PK: Cities are a key element to that evolution for many reasons. First of all, the world has become urban. If you understand where people are, people are in cities. Second: economics. Most of the world's economic power is concentrated in cities, and therefore, they become pivotal entities you need to analyze to understand the world economy. Thirdly, cities are increasingly connected to each other. They're forging their diplomatic networks..."diplomacity."...
So when I say "geography is not destiny." I mean it in two ways. First, in the sense that connectivity as whole liberates people from their geography...secondly, I mean that political geography is not determinant anymore,...
|Parag Khanna quote|
PK: Each city that...[has] gotten itself on the map by way of elevate itself in the supply chain of by having Special Economic Zones-like Shenzhen or Dubai-is instructive to everyone around them. The key is not that we view these cities as zero-sum, because my main arguments is that inter-city [networking] is a positive-sum game-...It's not a zero-sum game like risk.
Cities look up to other cities in their region. The fact that Dubai is the first Middle Eastern city to be considered to be a "global city" is very inspiring to the people of Cairo..Riyadh..Beirut...Addis Ababa It's very important that we have-in every region of the world-at least one global city with high-quality of life, high degree of connectivity.
|The cover of Smart Cities|
PK: My argument is that second-tier shouldn't get hollowed out and neglected. They should get more connected to big cities. The become back offices...
It's such a shame that cities [that] are actually relatively close to Chicago are so impoverished; or the state of Connecticut has some of the richest towns in American, but also some of the poorest towns, even though they're so close...
The difference is the degree of connectivity of those cities. How easily can their residents telecommute digitally or physically commute to jobs on high-speed rai? That is the difference. More connectivity leads to more distribution of wealth,...We need to see this not an opposition-"Here's our champion city, and here's everyone else." Everyone needs to be on a team
|"Evolution of Man"|
PK: Cities just [like] countries, have to think about balancing flow and friction. So cities want to have talent come in...They want to have capital come in, but not "hot money" that destabilizes their financial system...They want to have diverse food and fuel imports, but they don't want to have pathogens and disease...
That comes down to technologies, institutions, agencies that help...government and cities manage those things. There's no right answer;...The book is basically running through examples that are good and bad.
|The hyper-connective world|
Photography courtesy of Shutterstock
PK: I think the spread of technologies across leading cities, things C40, are very very important. TM:["C40 is a network of cities around the world working to tackle climate change."]...Meanwhile, what the C40 does...is lower the cost of technology. You don't get China to implement CO2 scrubbers just by telling it to do so. You have to devise an deploy the technologies to make it cheap, and to make the factory owners say, "That will not harm my output."
Investing in connectivity within megacities is how you empower people to have more economic opportunity, therefore, you reduce inequality.
|"Seven New Mega-Regions" map|
Map courtesy of Parag Khanna
PK: ...an argument all about competitiveness: How you do you physically build it, and what is required in terms of modern, political, functional geography to get to that more competitive, connected America? That was what the map...physically embodies.
... [if there's] a poor city in state X, close to a rich city in state Y, Congress need to help that [poor] city to the rich city.
We also have states competing with each other for low-wage jobs when they should be teaming up to be innovative, technology...I give the example of Kansas and Missouri fighting for state taxes when instead they should become a joint agro-business powerhouse...Only by aggregating on a functional scale are we going to get these regions of America to be more competitive regions...
|Connectivity Atlas cover image|
TM: You begin your book by talking about passion for cartography, and the books itself contains several beautiful maps. You also have an ongoing digital project called Connectivity Atlas (https://atlas.developmentseed.org), which maps open-source infrastructure data around the world. Why was visualizing the ideas in this book so important to you?
PK: We are a visual species. Maps are deeply instructive about our relationship with geography, that's one of...most visceral relationships we have as individuals. They're politically significant because of their legal value and propaganda value.
I'm only the latest in the line...of people who are producing maps to depict how reality is,...cast a vision for how future should. What is special...is that my maps are not about political geography; my maps are about functional geography. These maps are very grounded...but also a futuristic and evolutionary view of what the world's infrastructure are becoming...
|Global mega-cities and their economic value|
Map courtesy of Parag Khan
TM: Lastly, do have any favorite maps from the book you'd like to highlight?
PK: My favorite map would have to be...the global mega-cities and their economic value. This is simply the most accurate map ever made of where we located as humanity, how we are densely populated into megacity archipelagos, and the economic importance of those clusters.
And then the Eurasia Silk Roads map. Most of the world's population lives on this map. Eurasian is now being connected into a seamless megacontinent. This is literally the biggest story of the 21st century by far.
|Eurasia Silk Roads map|
Courtesy of Parag Khan
This interview was edited and condensed