The declining costs and quality advancements of video conferencing over the last several years, and information transmission costs in general, has stimulated more talk about the decline of cities. Other technologies such as the phone, email, and multi-line/conference calling led to similar statements. Yet the city remains.
In 1977, urban geographer Jean Gottman wrote that:
"The telephone provides, when needed, quasi-immediate verbal communication between all the interdependent units at minimum costs...It would have been very difficult for all these complex and integrated networks (in cities) to work in unison without the telephone, which made possible the constant and efficient coordination of all the systems of the large modern city. The telephone helped to make cities bigger and more exciting."
When I read this I wondered if new advancements in transmitting information will have a similar effect. Instead of making cities obsolete, cities will get larger and more complex. Video conferencing will make non-verbal communication quasi-immediate. Many people think that this will eliminate the need for workers to be near each other, but what if it has the opposite effect? I am not sure what form this would take, but if history is a guide it is a possibility.
As information becomes more readily available, people will be able to make decisions quicker and more accurately. User ratings will help us decide immediately who deserves our business and who doesn't; there will be little need to personally know any entrepreneur you interact with in order to build a rapport. City traffic will be alleviated by self-driving cars and smart traffic systems that can adjust on the fly. All of the urban amenities will be available with much lower congestion costs. Of course, if traffic into the city is also reduced it will allow people to liver further away while having similar commuting times, which would have the opposite effect.
I am inclined to believe that cities will continue to thrive along with advancements in technology. Technology has been advancing continuously and at a rapid rate for nearly 300 years and cities continue to grow. It will be interesting to see if this continues in the future.