Thursday, August 08, 2013

The Fragile City

Over on the bitcointalk forums, people are (semi-seriously) talking about buying up run-down houses in Detroit. It's a no-goer, natch, but among $30 houses and tax discussion, some of the ideas and links provided in the thread really hit home. Right now, Detroit seems to be as close to a 'raw', skeletal leftover of a city as you can get.

For instance, this link runs through some crazy facts about Detroit. Around 50% illiteracy rates. 60% of children in poverty. And $11m a month comes to the city from casinos. It's gone all Bladerunner - anyone who can afford to get out has done.

What's amazing is how the decline and death of an urban centre differs in Modern World - it's not like cities haven't always come and gone as external factors force major shifts. But has the nature in which that death is dragged out fundamentally altered? There might be a certain "evolutionary" side to towns and cities flailing as there natural strengths no longer have any grip. But as financial manoeuvring has become the global business "model", the link between strengths and survival is becoming less and less clear.

Too many looking glasses, all being seen through dimly, so that one is never quite sure what's glass and what's the subject.

Looking through a list of other cities which could fall, and some which already have, should we be seriously reconsidering the role of cities? As more of the world's population flocks to the intense networking available in squeezed urban life, is there a need to seriously pick apart the physical, social, and economic building blocks that are currently muddied together under single administrations? What form of resilience do we have if living standards are so tightly coupled to financial vehicles? What will our cities look like in 30 years' time if infrastructure has to compete with shifting demographics?

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