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Triumph of the City

How Our Greatest Invention Makes Us Richer, Smarter, Greener, Healthier and Happier

By Edward Glaeser
15-minute read
Triumph of the City: How Our Greatest Invention Makes Us Richer, Smarter, Greener, Healthier and Happier by Edward Glaeser

Triumph of the City extolls the virtues of the city as one of civilization’s greatest inventions. Cities not only connect people but also help them accomplish great things. And although many of today’s urban metropolises face real challenges in a new economic order, there are many ways for cities to succeed.

  • Anyone who has ever lived or will ever live in an urban environment
  • Anyone who’s interested in urban studies or urban economics
  • Anyone curious how today’s cities need to change to survive

Edward Glaeser is a professor at Harvard University, specializing in the economics of cities, housing, segregation and innovation.

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Triumph of the City

How Our Greatest Invention Makes Us Richer, Smarter, Greener, Healthier and Happier

By Edward Glaeser
  • Read in 15 minutes
  • Contains 9 key ideas
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Triumph of the City: How Our Greatest Invention Makes Us Richer, Smarter, Greener, Healthier and Happier by Edward Glaeser
Synopsis

Triumph of the City extolls the virtues of the city as one of civilization’s greatest inventions. Cities not only connect people but also help them accomplish great things. And although many of today’s urban metropolises face real challenges in a new economic order, there are many ways for cities to succeed.

Key idea 1 of 9

Cities are the engines of human progress. We think and create better when surrounded by our peers.

Whether Athenian thinkers creating the foundation for classical philosophy or Florentine artists ushering in the Renaissance, throughout history, cities have been hotbeds of creativity and progress.

What makes cities so conducive to visionary thinking? Cities bring people together, enabling collaboration and thus the spread of knowledge. This lively process often produces unexpected and paradigm-shifting creations.

Cities are such rich sources of inspiration that today, even though technology helps us exchange ideas and information regardless of our location, many of us still choose to cluster in dense cities. That’s because people prefer learning via face-to-face communication.

Consider Silicon Valley: Even though the tech industry is highly connected through the internet, programmers and inventors still want to be in the same physical location as their peers.

And as a result, since the world’s most talented software engineers are all concentrated in a tiny geographic area, there’s a natural sense of competition – which means everyone works that much harder to come up with the “next big thing.”

This gets at an important point. Ultimately, human progress in cities relies on three things: small firms, smart people and global connectedness. Silicon Valley embodies this kind of environment, as did industrial Detroit.

In the mid-twentieth century, it seemed there was a genius and a start-up on every street corner – think of Henry Ford, the Dodge brothers, Detroit Electric, General Motors – each obsessed with creating the next automobile innovation.

In addition to all this human capital, Detroit was also connected to the outside world via a major railroad and a waterway. These connections not only enabled the constant flow of goods to the city, but also brought a stream of eager entrepreneurs.

Although cities offer plenty of opportunity for work and innovation, that’s not all. As we’ll see in the next blinks, city dwellers also have a lot of fun.

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