What Technology Wants
By Arnold Kling
That is the title of Kevin Kelly’s new book. I am only about one-fifth into the book, but I wanted to share an excerpt on the topic of slums.
San Francisco was built by squatters. As Rob Neuwirth recounts in his eye-opening book Shadow Cities, one survey in 1855 estimated that “95 percent of the property holders in [San Francisco] would not be able to produce a bona fide legal title to their land.”
Hernando de Soto is known for decrying the lack of legal order in the slums of less-developed countries. In contrast, Kelly sees this as a natural phase through which all cities must pass. That is, as people flock to a city, order emerges only gradually.
Another point that Kelly makes is that people come to cities to provide a better future for their children. The early arrivals put up with terrible living conditions in order to give their descendants better opportunities.
I think that this is an important issue for the Charter Cities folks and for the seasteading folks. Natural cities emerge out of the attempts of poor, isolated rural folk to join an urban network that ultimately offers more prosperity. The social engineers who attempt to create artificial cities may not really appreciate these dynamics.
So far, Kelly seems to me to be offering a very Hayekian treatment of his subject matter. He seems to think of technology as an emergent order.