1/ Great cities seem to be practically immortal, but deliberately designed organizations seem to be mortal.
2/ Hundreds of ancient cities are still around, but comparably large corporations seem to age and die in <100 years.
3/ Geoffrey West studied this and discovered that cities, unlike corporations, get more more efficient as they grow bigger.
4/ They get more creative, more energy efficient and economically productive. This is the root of their immortality.
5/ In West's terms, cities are superlinear, while corporations are sublinear.
6/ Smart city enthusiasts, who head off to some barren desert to build a techno-utopia from scratch, fail to understand this.
7/ Large, old cities are like steadily burning suns. Superlinearity is like supercriticality in nuclear reactions.
8/ Past a certain scale, cities "ignite" and turn into true metropolitan furnaces of human potential.
9/ Just as the nuclear reactions powering reaction change as stars age, the economic engines of cities change.
10/ Seattle for example has seen phases powered by lumber, fishing, shipping, and aerospace. Now it is software.
11/ Cities can be very long-lived if their superlinearity is preserved, but can be killed too.
12/ When the urban-nuclear reaction powering a city changes, it breaks smart.
13/ Such breaking smart events are how superlinearity is preserved: through resurrection.
14/ Cities break smart by riding new technologies to economic renewal just as old engines begin to fail.
15/ To stop this process, all you need is a period of extended NIMBYism and regulatory choking.
16/ A smart city is not one with fancy new architecture, sci-fi infrastructure, and free wifi and burritos for all.
17/ Rather, it is an old superlinear city that periodically reinvents itself and resists NIMBYism and other choking forces.
18/ Is there room for entirely new cities on virgin territories to seriously compete with the old thriving cities?
19/ I believe not, for two reasons. One: all the prime real estate on our planet is taken.
20/ Geography, water sources and strategic concerns allow only a few thousand candidate locations.
21/ All these locations of our planet already host once-and-future smart cities.
22/ The second, bigger reason is simply that great cities are grown slowly over centuries, not "constructed" over years.
23/ To create a smart city, simply find an old, once-great city, and provoke it into breaking smart one more time.
24/ Stop dreaming about your ideal city designed from scratch in some non-existent new ideal location.