Saturday, June 19, 2010


Or, as Eric Drexler calls it, "bloggy blogging."

First, new layout:
I changed the layout using Blogger's new(ish) template designer. I'm still not really doing any design, per se, because I have enough web designer friends to know that I'm not a web designer. But at least it looks different, and perhaps a little more interesting now.

Second, update on Idea a Day:
I kept the idea journal for two or three weeks, which was long enough to get me back into the habit of having ideas, capturing them, and trying to develop them at least enough to put them into words. It was also long enough to realize that an idea a day is way to often to expect good ideas that could actually be realized. It was a good exercise, though.

Third, some thoughts on someone else's big idea:
There's an article in The Atlantic this issue about economist Paul Romer's plan for neo-colonial charter cities, administered by developed nations using land in the poorest countries on earth, as a way to pull people out of poverty by giving them economic opportunities. In Romer's view of the world (which seems to be pretty enlightened, considering how influential he was as an economist and how successful as an entrepreneur) what separates rich countries from poor countries is not geography but rules. If the rules of rich countries were instituted in poor ones, the result would be the creation of wealth. I had seen Romer give this talk at TED a while ago, and was fascinated by the idea. I'm currently reading "Confusion," the second volume of Neal Stephenson's Baroque Cycle, which focuses mostly on the role of commerce in ushering in the modern age during the end of the 17th century. While the importance of commerce in wealth creation is now almost a trope, it's worth remembering that it wasn't (and isn't) always considered so important. The rules Romer talks about are mostly rules to encourage free trade. It's worth pointing out that most of the criticism aimed at his charter cities questions the likelihood of their social and political success, but Romer's goal was never to develop "ideal" or utopian cities. The only goal of his charter city plan is to provide economic opportunities in otherwise dead economies, thereby giving populations a chance to pull themselves out of poverty by moving to the cities. He makes it very clear that the way for the population of the city to address shortcomings of the political (or by extension, social) shortcomings of their charter city is to simply leave and go somewhere else. He's emphatically not saying that these cities will become desirable places to live comparable to London or Zurich. He's merely saying it will be a whole lot better there than living in a slum in a city whose economy is crushed by ineffective policies.

Fourth, upcoming posts (if I get around to them):
I've been thinking a lot about urban development lately, often inspired by a feature in the last issue of The Atlantic (hey, it's a good magazine) on the future of the American City. I've been applying a lot of those ideas to Ruston, Louisiana, which has been going through a big planning and development push over the past couple of years. I'll try to blog about it in the coming days or weeks.