The Urban Paradox

With all the benefits cities bring to their inhabitants there are also numerous drawbacks; drawbacks that could, if not accounted for and studied, spell the end of cities as we currently know them. That’s the view of Geoffrey West—president of the Santa Fe Institute—as he discusses what needs to be done to safeguard the future of our cities as sustainable, innovative centres of population .

Cities have traditionally been — and continue to be — crucibles for creativity, innovation, and wealth; as such, their extraordinary growth is often associated with a rapid rise in living standards, prosperity, and quality of life. […]

However, the dark side of urban life manifests an analogous “superlinear” behavior. Doubling the size of a city increases wealth and innovation by about 15 percent, but it also increases the amount of crime, pollution, and disease by roughly the same amount. Apparently, the good and the ugly come hand in glove, an integrated, almost predictable, package.