By any cold-blooded measurement of pulse and heartbeat, cities are dead. Like shells, they provide a home for the living creatures who construct them.
But an intriguing post at Treehugger.com links to a video which says cities are alive. Not in the literal, breathing sense of the term – but in the interconnected, fractal, neural network sense of the word. Cities may not live and die the way we do, but they do exist as vibrant, organized webs of activity. Here’s the video which inspired the original post.
This quote from Steven Johnson sums up the idea beautifully:
“Coral reefs are sometimes called ‘the cities of the sea,’ and part of the argument is that we need to take the metaphor seriously: the reef ecosystem is so innovative because it shares some defining characteristics with actual cities. These patterns of innovation and creativity are fractal: they reappear in recognizable form as you zoom in and out, from molecule to neuron to pixel to sidewalk. Whether you’re looking at original innovations of carbon-based life or the explosion of news tools on the web, the same shapes keep turning up… when life gets creative, it has a tendency to gravitate toward certain recurring patterns, whether those patterns are self-organizing, or whether they are deliberately crafted by human agents.”
No wonder reading about news tools online is so entertaining. I’m watching a city of knowledge being built.
Extrapolating this idea to other environments could yield fascinating results.