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Surprising Science

How Living in Cities Makes You More Creative

The lone-wolf vision of creative genius is giving way to a more community-friendly concept of innovation where the different talents of many create scientific breakthroughs.

What’s the Latest Development?

The lone-wolf vision of creative genius is giving way to a more community-friendly concept where the different talents of many, if cross pollinated, create scientific breakthroughs, especially in our era of increased specialization. One historical example of note is MIT after WWII, in which a temporary building designed to hold the overflow of disparate academic departments incubated some of the most important technological and creative developments of the modern era. Called simply Building 20, the confined space saw the creation of the first computer game as well as major advances in both microwaves and high-speed photography.

What’s the Big Idea?

The larger scale version of Building 20, say social scientists, is the modern city. “In fact, research published earlier this month by scientists from M.I.T. concluded that productivity and innovation in urban areas grow at roughly the same rate as population, largely because the greater density of people living in a city increases the opportunities for personal interactions and exposure to different ideas.” Researchers measured a variable they named “social-tie density”, defined as the number of different people each resident will interact with on a daily basis. The better the transport infrastructure, the higher the social-tie density became.

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Read it at Smithsonian

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