Cities in 10, 50, 100 Years

Last Week I was asked about my views to a number of questions on Cities in 10, 50, 100 years. The article is available at this link. More of my detailed thoughts are below:

How might our cities and rural areas evolve over the course of the lifetime of a baby born today - so over the next 10, 50 and 100 years? Will the dominance of the east coast of Ireland continue?

The resource of the past and of the future is ideas. Innovation is the long term driver of economic growth and the past 100 years has shown that Individuals need face to face interaction to transfer knowledge and to learn from one another. Because of this we are witnessing a large migration of people from rural to urban areas and we have seen the rise of the mega city like Tokyo, Seoul and Shanghai. The world is indeed spikey in terms of population, income per capita, productivity, and innovation. There are no indicators presently that the movement from rural to urban areas will switch the other way. And, our understanding of the factors driving innovation indicate that development is best left unspread. Firms and Individuals will continue to converge to core city areas. This means, a baby born today will more than likely be living in an urban environment in 100 years time and more likely again will be growing up in Dublin. No matter what interventions the government attempts at spreading development and the population - Dublin will continue to be the greatest magnet for development among the cities in Ireland. Government resistance of this will undermine national growth and lead to the misallocation of taxpayers money. Let's hope we will have realised the need for a Land value tax in 10, 50 or even 100 years as the tensions and costs associated with land in urban areas will exacerbate. Unless, we start to produce land!!

More speculatively, what will the cities of 100 years from now look like?

When people think of the future, some times they envisage flying cars and robots with artificial intelligence doing many of the everyday jobs that people hate. When one looks at the past 100 years we have been quite wasteful in our approach to the planning of our urban spaces. We have planned our cities around the motor car. Yes we may have flying cars in the future, but cycling and walking will be as important as any mode of transport. As humans, we have an inherent need to move, so these forms of transport should always be at the core of everything we plan for. Further, if flying cars are the future, then investment in roads and the separation of commercial, industrial and residential spaces will have proved nonsensical. Today’s planners have ensured we use separate spaces of our cities at different times of the day.

The overwhelming connection between people is we are the carriers of knowledge. Therefore most of the ideas for innovations are generated from the interactions and experiences that occur between people – we learn from one another. So people interacting is a crucial source of growth. Hence, we need to meet. And the need for meeting places between people will always be on the agenda because our enjoyment for life is largely determined by social interaction, having a drink or a meal with friends and meeting for sporting or entertainment events. Hence, there will always be a need for a meeting place and thus a need for a physical community in our lives.

What skills will be valued in the future, that are perhaps not so highly valued today?

As our purchasing power increases we will have more money for non-standardized goods and in particular for goods and services that involve experiences. Anyone associated with goods/services involving experiences, whether comedians, singers, musicians, artists, tourism etc will continue to be in high demand.

Some of the people I'm interviewing have said that innovations like Elon Musk's rockets and the hyperloop mean that, in the future, it's likely no two places on the planet will be more than 40 minutes apart. Again, asking you to speculate a bit, how will that impact on the way we live, work and think about our environment?

Identity, culture, connections, the need to meet, to be active will always be at the core of everything we do – so place, locations and community will always be important. You can only be in one place at a time. There will always be a place we call home – but the world will be overwhelmingly urban as we need to interact for ideas and for experiences.

What are the big challenges of the future in terms of geography, infrastructure, environment?

Following the ideas of Jane Jacobs, it would probably be best to stop our overwhelming planning focus on roads, car parks and the motor car as I expect we will be doing a u-turn in the future.