Q:Where is this technological or information revolution going to leave cities? If we look back at the industrial revolution, for instance, we see tremendous impact upon cities and the rise of the industrial city.

A: Cities have always been, in Lewis Mumford's term, symbols of the top. The question is, really: Are they going to be able to rise in this new wave? The information technology revolution has not, in many ways, been very kind to cities. Some like George Gilder believe that it will be the death of cities.

And certainly, if you look at many cities in this country, they have not really enjoyed the changes that are going on. One of the realities of both the computer hardware and software industries is that they have generally both chosen to locate outside of major cities. The growth of these has been overwhelming -- whether population growth or income growth. People talk about Bill Gates in Seattle. Well, Bill Gates is not in Seattle. He is in Redmond, Wash., which is quite some distance from downtown Seattle.

Right now three quarters of all the new office space in the United States is being built in suburban areas. Eighty percent of all the new jobs and most of the high-paid jobs are in these areas. Look at a booming area like Atlanta. The Atlanta area population -- the peripheral area -- has increased by 71 percent. The city of Atlanta, in the last 15 years, has declined in population by 6.8 percent. This is an indication of the real problem in urban America today. I think this new revolution, as it moves increasingly from hardware to software, represents great economic opportunity.

We have to realize that there really are two cultures emerging in the American high-tech or cutting-edge sectors. One is what might be described as the "nerd culture." You visit some place like the SAS Institute [one of the top IT providers in the world] in North Carolina. The techies love it, and I got bored in about 15 minutes.

If you ask the human relations manager at the SAS Institute why people come there, he says people love it because it looks like a college campus. He says that engineers like predictability. They like something that has no surprises. They don't want to go to that weird Chinese restaurant in Monterey Park where who knows what they are going to be served.

Now some of us like the unpredictability, the spontaneity that is part of living in a city like New York or Chicago or Los Angeles, but the nerd culture generally doesn't like that. And one of the key things that determines whether cities are able to make the great leap into the Information Age, and really take advantage of the Information Age, is whether or not we can create another culture, which I would call the "creative culture," which will be able to bring within it the use of technology.

If Hollywood remained, for instance, a community without technology and remained dominated by the usual things that have dominated in the last 50 or 60 years, then over the long term, Hollywood would lose its control over the entertainment industry. But thank goodness we have companies like Digital Domain, which did the special effects on the movie "Titanic," and others who are bringing new technology into that industry.

Q: What should cities do to ensure that they flourish and prosper in this new age? Is there a model that they can look to?

A: Well first, I think we have to realize that not all cities are necessarily going to survive. Not all cities have tremendous resources of technology. Not all cities have huge creative industries. Those are pretty well concentrated in certain areas. So we have to understand that some cities just

Blake Harris  |  Editor