Commentary

Urban romance

28 Feb 2012
Description

FOR a while there, the new technologies seemed to be promising us that we could, if we chose, live full and thoroughly modern lives as much from a hamlet as a high-rise. It wouldn’t matter how far we were from the action, because the action would come to us, on demand. We could move to the country and breathe clean air and drink clean water from a nearby aquifer and all the while have the city – its vibrancy and diversity and the opportunities it creates – piped in. Except that it isn’t quite working out that way. In Triumph of the City: How Our Greatest Invention Makes Us Richer, Smarter, Greener, Healthier, and Happier, the Harvard economist Edward Glaeser points to the ways in which “proximity has become ever more valuable as the cost of connecting across distances has fallen.” Hell may be other people, but we want to be near them all the same. In one of the many anomalies that characterise contemporary life, we are squashing up against one another at the very point in history when we could, without sacrificing too much of the way we live now, head for the hills.

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2012
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