Why people are moving to cities more in the globalized digital economy

Why is this trend happening? Will It Continue?

Over the last few decades, we have seen the powerful advent of the internet. In today’s general mindset of 2019, automation is around the corner. Looking at the changes historically, we can see the industrial revolution spun us into the mechanization of nearly every industry in the world. Innovation is at an all-time high with exciting technologies such as drones, machine learning, automation, and many others changes to the world we live in. Even simple concepts like social media have fastly enabled people to be heard by millions within a few clicks. The game has changed. There are other trends which are pushing society at large into a more urban environment. These include wealth inequality, the specialized nature of the modern workforce, global networks, lifestyle changes, and the growing trend toward a service economy. All and all these trends are creating powerful counter features which I may explore later such as the drive towards extremism we see around the world. First, though, let’s take a quick look at why I think this trend is happening. There could be a number of reasons as to why the world seems to be becoming more city populated compared to the rural parts. The United Nations reports, “The number of mega-cities has nearly tripled since 1990; and by 2030, 41 urban agglomerations are projected to house at least 10 million inhabitants each” This staggering number is compounded by the fact that the 1900s saw the human population as a whole go from around 1.6 billion people to nearly four times those levels today at 7.5 billion people. Imagine if four times as many people lived in your household but with the exact set up it has now with its current members… it would be a disaster! Surely this is a hyperbole of comparison but it should make us at least stop and ask the question, what impact is this growing population having on the world around it? To zero in on one aspect, we have a larger and a higher percentage of people living in cities than ever before. According to another UN report, “Continuing population growth and urbanization is projected to add 2.5 billion people to the world’s urban population by 2050, with nearly 90% of the increase concentrated in Asia and Africa.” In other words, do not expect traffic to clear up in a city near you anytime soon. Basically, the trend of people moving to cities is only set to increase. Automation has hit the agricultural revolution harder than others historically speaking. With automation and innovation, we saw the farming population, as a portion of the total workforce, shrink to 2% from 50% in the late 1800s. This factor alone has reduced the number of jobs which are available in rural areas, a trench which is set to continue moving past 2020. What use to take 100 farmers to produce can now be produced by one with smart technology deployment such as sensors to alert if the soil has changed moisture levels or help to identify the disease. We see the lack of jobs in rural environments mostly compounded by the lack of high-speed internet today. If perhaps the world sees the advent of more reliable internet in rural locations, then we should see a large exodus back to the rural environment. In the future, where automated cars and farming techniques transport a fuel our world, the reality of living in a rural environment should become more feasible. Other changes are trending the world’s population to a more urban environment. One of which, the service economy is pushing us more towards a specialized workforce which leads to a broader network of individuals to operate a specialized system. If you can imagine the difference between the modern corporation, with specialized departments for nearly every activity the business partakes in versus the old school idea of a   man. A man who could do a multitude of tasks to complete their envisioned work. These two concepts are a great example of how the world has changed as the service economy becomes more of a norm. This trend is compounded by the fact that we live in the age of information. The age of information has created a world of specialization. Today companies can deploy a huge variety of services with a team who specializes in every aspect of the service. In times past, this may have been more difficult but with the advent of the internet, we all live in a hyper-connect world. With this, finding an expert in a particular subject has become easier than ever. It’s also easier for individuals in the world to study and become experts in more topics than previous technological advances would permit. This is generating lifestyle changes which are further pushing individuals towards urban environments more and more. Lifestyle and attitude changes throughout the world have propelled urbanization further. We live in a world where technology has empowered us to meet a friend or lover online with a simple swipe, ordering food, or a cab has all become a mobile app away but again only within an urban environment do these technologies properly function. The sharing economy brought forth perhaps through the need for instant gratification in the digital age has changed the underlying lifestyle choices many people make today. Infrastructure & Network opportunities are expanded upon exponentially when placed in a city versus a rural environment. Think of the network effect to this point. The network effect dictates that a network becomes more valuable as more individuals join and utilize the network. As more and more individuals enter an urban environment, the city itself sees an exponential rise in value. This has greatly benefited the world but put a large burden on cities across the world as they deal with increasing populations and strain on their public infrastructure.


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