The Promise and Peril of Investing in Emerging Tech

While the Internet has, to a great degree, collapsed the time and distance that historically constrained government service delivery, commerce, education and more, the conventional wisdom among many technologists and urbanists has pointed to cities as uniquely desirable places of opportunity to build the future.

But the literature around the smart cities movement, even the really compelling stuff, never asks whether we really want to do this, to build those future cities, forgetting Picard’s injunction that “You may test that assumption at your convenience.” Neither technologists nor urbanists asked, but a noted economist did.

MIT Economics Professor David H. Autor gave the prestigious Richard T. Ely lecture at this year’s American Economic Association, which showcased brand-new data that left the assembled group of hundreds of leading economists gobsmacked: Cities, it turns out, are only good places for as few as one in three people to live and work.