Hey Cities, Slow Down
Complex problems require patience. They demand running starts, collaboration, learning from mistakes, and humility. Complex, or ‘wicked’ problems, like we now face as we try to house, feed and provide energy to an additional 3 billion increasingly affluent city-dwellers in an already over-stressed planet, won’t be solved in a cacophony of tweets. No matter how fast they come, or how clever they might be.
In her new book On Looking: Eleven Walks with Expert Eyes, Alexandra Horowitz of Colombia University makes a powerful case for slowing down and paying attention to the details of a neighborhood. The average person misses 80% of what’s going on around them as they text or chat on their cellphone and use Google maps to watch the world unfold. Walk with a geologist and you see the fossils in the sidewalk, a wildlife biologist and you see where the raccoons and rats may be hiding. Sounds and smells get short shrift as we stare at our screens, missing critical signs.
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