I heard Richard Florida speak at the Houston Unique Perspectives Conference 2010 (The UP Experience). Florida, who most recently taught at Carnegie Mellon University, Heinz College in Pittsburgh, is now at University of Toronto, Rotman School of Management in Toronto. He also heads the private consulting firm Creative Class Group.
Florida stated that we’ve just passed a key milestone: 51% of the world’s population now live urban. He added, that 20% of the population are to be found in 40 “Mega-Regions” (visible from space as light concentrations consisting of, for example, Char-lanta in the US, Am-Brus-Twerp in Europe, and Hong-Zhen in Asia (see Mega-Regions links below).
Furthermore, the 20% of the world’s population living in the 40 Mega-Regions produce 2/3rd’s of the world’s output. And what’s driving this trend is the economic advantage of being in a cluster combined with the increased opportunities for individual creativity to flourish.
Florida reviewed earlier transitions in society from the Agricultural Economy (where the bulk of the world’s population produced food) to the Manufacturing Economy (where the bulk produced products). And the debate on what to call this new, third phase we’re in – “Knowledge,” “Information,” etc. Florida calls it simply, “the Creative Economy.”
“Creativity binds us all,” Florida states. We now flourish most in open-minded communities that allow entrepreneurs, or as he characterizes it, “The Three T’s: Technology, Talent, and Tolerance.” We are no longer driven/constrained/trapped to geographical regions with natural assets such as minerals and rivers, but may expand/cluster wherever there is green space and there are parks. Indeed, we will be attracted most to those areas.
I am intrigued by Florida’s thesis. It ties in, in many ways, with my interests and experience (my graduate thesis was in World Modeling).
But wait, I think, what about the Internet and how we are all connected without having to live near each other. Is there a conflict in the data here?
While I live in the so-called Hou-Orleans Mega-Region, I work primarily with people who live elsewhere, albeit in their own Mega-Regions. What connects us are common enterprise interests, and we live and communicate in what might be called a Cyber Mega-Region. In fact, there are probably major identifiable Cyber Mega-Regions, although I don’t know if anyone is working on this yet.
To be fair, I’ve started to branch out in my area and physically meet with folks who live where I do. The UP Experience is, after all, a Hou-Orleans Mega-Region based phenomenon. But other conferences I attended this year were in Bos-Wash and Ireland, which does *not* have a Mega-Region (the closest is Lon-Leed-Chester).
Nevertheless, I think Professor Florida is on to something here. It’s a new way to look at the confusing world we live in, in terms we can grasp. I am also attracted to his emphasis on open-mindedness and tolerance as prerequisites for economic and every other kind of success in communities. And I don’t just mean religion or gender. Digital virtual environments, for example, remain ignored or looked at askance by the bulk of the world’s population. And digital virtual environments are my business.
- Richard Florida
- Mega-Regions of North America
- Mega-Regions of Europe
- Mega-Regions of Asia
- The UP Experience