Monday, May 14, 2012

Creativity in cities

Despite an unfavorable review in yesterday's NY Times, I enjoyed reading Jonah Lehrer's Imagine: How Creativity Works.  Creativity involves activities within and among brains. 

There are networks formed in our heads and there are networks that we form with others -- by which we get into their heads (and vice-versa).  In developing all this, Lehrer mentions the work of Jane Jacobs, Paul Romer, Ed Glaeser and many others who I have cited previously.

We get new things by discovering new combinations of old things (Romer).  But first we have to discover new ideas, which are new combinations of existing ideas -- from those ideas already in our heads as well as those in the heads of people in our network.  The latter is critical. Many of our social networks are formed in the urban spaces where we choose to live, work and play.

But spatial arrangements are also combinations of things we call land uses.  And the combinatorial space is again very large.  This last thought is not explicitly in Lehrer's book, but I have mentioned it several times on this blog.

In fact most combinatorial spaces are much too large for mere humans to identify a "best" or "near best" "solution".  That leaves a hugely important role for flexible land markets.