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Why Living in a City Makes You More Innovative (smithsonianmag.com)
53 points by shnacker 1488 days ago | hide | past | web | 38 comments | favorite



"...in certain very specific areas." I grew up near quite rural areas and a certain level of mechanical innovation was expected. You need to use the power take-off on a tractor to run an irrigation pump temporarily until you can buy a new one? Break out the welder. The snow plow broke beyond reasonable repair? Break out the welder.

For further evidence, watch any TV show making fun of rednecks. You'll typically see things like an excavator used to create a waterfall for everyone to swim through, or someone fastening a lawn chair to a beefed-up, self-propelled push lawnmower to make a riding mower.

City life very well might increase innovation in certain fields. I'd posit that country life increases innovation just as much, but in different areas.


> City life very well might increase innovation in certain fields. I'd posit that country life increases innovation just as much, but in different areas.

Innovative people are everywhere - the benefit that cities offer is that for every unit of space you have a greater number of people, thus you're likely to find a few intelligent, like-minded people condensed into a smaller area. They become easier to find an collaborate with. To use a metaphor: you have a better chance of picking up in a bar if there are 50 members of the opposite sex than 5.


But not if the number of same-sex competitors increases by the same amount.


Amazing what you can accomplish duct-tape, bailing wire and WD-40.


This type of research is interesting and valuable. However, I can't help but wonder how much has changed over the last 15 years. The fact that you and I are discussing this article on websites like HN seems to be a great example of technology overcoming some of the barriers of location. A motivated person can easily find ways to interact and form ties. Maybe the impact of geographic location is higher among those less motivated.


Oh look, a fluffy article about how living in a city makes you more innovative. On a website primarily used by city dwellers that pride themselves on being innovative.


It reviews research on specifically what makes cities innovative.


On a website primarily used by city dwellers ....

How do you know that?


Because San Francisco is a city.


I have City associated mostly with high cost of living and lower life standard. In City I would probably spend 60+ hours/week in office and on commute just to break even.

Outside of City a can have big house for my family, spend 3+ hours/day on my hobbies. And even make enough savings for 1 year runway for my startup :-)


What about the environment? What about thousands of people getting killed by our government to acquire energy sources to fuel your house in the burbs?


You are barking at wrong person. I live in Ireland and drive 15 years old car. Also I doubt that large cities are powered by sunshine and rainbow.


I am 'barking' at the person who chooses to live in the burbs. I dont care where you live or what car you drive. Has nothing to do with you.


I still do not get how is large house at suburb related to environment.


Living in a large house in the suburbs has a far greater environmental impact than living in an apartment in a city by basically any metric you care to measure.


except that cities are incredible, giant islands of heat.


Sorry, I thought this was common knowledge.

Doesnt large house take more energy to heat? Don't people in the burbs drive more? Just google for 'suburbs environmental impact' you'll get thousands of hits/studies

http://www.nbwctp.org/resources/the_environmental_impact_of_... " if you want to be good to the environment, stay away from it. Move to high-rise apartments surrounded by plenty of concrete. Americans who settle in leafy, low-density suburbs will leave a significantly deeper carbon footprint, it turns out, than Americans who live cheek by jowl in urban towers."


I still do not think it is true. Money saved on housing and energies would be spend different way (new cars, holidays..).

Prague is like that, most people live at concrete apartments. But they also drive to summer house every weekend and go to holiday four times a year.


I don't see why this is being downvoted. The lack of urban development policy in the US is a problem. It's not natural that most city centers are hollowed-out, crime infested and surrounded by outer-ring suburbs without sidewalks and with gigantic setbacks to the road.

Phoenix, AZ is an abomination. Don't even get me started about golfing ranges in the Western desert while Lakes Mead and Havasu are running dry.


This made me smile. Why stop with the the man made golf courses; why not raise questions about allowing cities to expand to require monstrous man made dams blocking rivers to create lakes like Mead and Havasu (if you're not familiar w/ the environmental loss that is the Hetch Hetchy reservoir it's worth looking into). I get the economic benefits of damming up rivers for power, predictable water supplies, and flood control... it fuels economies which helps people earn more (I benefited from TVA and have read about what it was like in the Tennessee valley before TVA; I'm glad TVA exists even w/ all of its flaws)... but I still found it amusing that you picked one specific sign of the success of these programs to complain about.


Just curious - do you ever fly? The environmental cost of flights tends to dwarf living costs in most calculators.


why the downvotes?


because your comments are off-topic, ignorant, demeaning and churlish


Ignorant how?


Because all you know about him is that he has a house big enough for his family and that he lives in the suburbs. Just because the suburbs vs city has a trend for energy use doesnt mean that he uses more energy than you or even the average city dweller. For all you know, his abode could be 100% solar power and his commute is to his back yard shop where he is pioneering new cellulosic ethanol production methods.


The funny part is that I do not even live at suborbs, I wrote outside of city. I live in small town (4000 people) on west coast of Ireland. The closest city is Dublin 120 miles away. I work from home (zero commute) and I hope my startup will reduce power used by data-centres by a few percents.


Based on my limited time in Ireland, I'm guessing you can also get most of your daily needs serviced by very local businesses.


Yeah, local food is great. There is also multiplex cinema, gym with swimming pool and plenty of pubs. And people are just amazing. Pretty nice for small town. The only thing that sucks is weather and internet connectivity.


As I said I was not talking about your particular case. I dont care about where you live at all.

I was using an 'impersonal you'

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Generic_you


i would never say that living in a city or outside a city would make someone more or less innovative.

You deal with different problems in and outside cities. I think a mix of both is the best you can get to get more Innovative!

When i Study i live in a 2+Million City but when i don't study i life in a village with 50+ people.

You really cant compare them both...

It's like people trying to say which programming language by benchmarks... yes go is faster then ruby in some stuff but does this only makes go better? nobody can say because it is a matter of problems to solve and taste of the human that will write the code.

just my 2 cents


I'm a country boy at heart, was born in coal-country appalachians. But I live in Brooklyn now and it's great for my love of software. Everyone here is a go-getter and it inspires me. I have met so many others I can work with on side projects, it becomes quite impossible to ignore everyone and it drives you forward. I've seen many idle conversations lead to great things simply through circumstance.


Nope. Solitude is "the #1 habit of highly creative people". http://zenhabits.net/creative-habit/

Big cities are full of noise and distractions.


Attempting to refute an article about a scientific study by linking to a collection of quotes from Felicia Day and Franz Kafka doesn't seem like a very solid methodology...


Excellent collection of quotes. Thanks for the link!

It is possible to find solitude in a city, though. One has to make a point of it, but it can be done.

Also, don't overlook the #2 habit, per this same essay: participation. The mind does need raw material to chew on, and there's plenty of that in the city.


It also depends on the type of inhabitants in the city. Pre-war Vienna, Budapest, and Berlin were particularly innovative. Today Berlin is the most innovative city in Germany.

In the US, New York City/Manhattan and parts of Brooklyn near Manhattan are particularly innovative, again because of the type of inhabitants it attracts. San Francisco, SV, LA, Austin, Seattle, are all innovative in different ways.


Do you have evidence that Berlin is the most innovative city in Germany, or did you just derive this stunning conclusion from your gut feeling?


Correlation does not imply causation.

Relevant XKCDs:

http://xkcd.com/552/ http://xkcd.com/852/ http://xkcd.com/1138/


Paul Graham wrote on this same subject (http://paulgraham.com/cities.html). A bit more anecdotal, but convincing nonetheless.




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