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Cities

Shelter-in-place is no fun. I think everyone knows that by now. Russell Okung, the American football player, tweeted that “social distancing and home lockdowns are insanely anti-human”. And it’s true.

Ironically, during this time where everyone is missing social interactions, people are moving out of cities. The rationale is: “since we’re locked down and don’t see anyone anyway, why be in the cities and incur the extra cost of living?”

Some even went as far as calling the demise of cities. An article titled “NYC is dead forever”, by a comedian named James Altucher, has been making the rounds on social media. Balaji Srinivasan, a prominent Silicon Valley tech evangelist, who at some point proposed that Silicon Valley secede from the rest of the United States, creating its own nation ruled by tech, tweeted that “the future is going solo on wide open plains”. This time it’s different, TM.

None of this is new, of course. The age-old tension between the city and the countryside. The desire to be connected to other human beings, versus the desire to be away from them, perhaps reconnecting with nature.

For some reason, I’m skeptical. NYC, SF are far, far from dead. There’s a reason cities have attracted people since the dawn of time. Maybe it’s the feeling of things that never sleep, of ideas constantly bubbling, of the marvel of the many spontaneous free markets happening throughout a city. Or simply, of finding good food at 2AM in the morning. Whatever it is, Zoom is a piss-poor replacement for it.

There may be times in your life when you feel fed up with your fellow human beings, and that’s entirely normal. But I’ve come to believe that we are a deeply social animal. For me at least, the split is 60-40. Meaning 60% of the times I do want to connect with people, the other 40%, leave me the hell alone.

My prediction: cities will bounce back even stronger post-pandemic. If there’s anything for certain, it’s the human folly that takes the temporary as permanent, and the permanent as temporary.

Me and you won’t be roaming the open plains like the Mongols any time soon.