Civilisation: What made us do it?

My travelling companion and favourite publication, New Scientist has a special issue on civilisation (vanity is posed as a prime suspect for the title question). Insightful as always, it still left open the question if there really is any new science to pre-history.

I got a more present puzzle: Why do US IT companies leave civilisation behind? I have arrived at a W3C multimodal working group meeting IBM is hosting in New York, but of course not in the city. Like any other event hosted in the US this is located deep into the suburban wasteland.

European events are in the city centre. Opera for instance is well placed in the middle of Oslo. Admittedly the company started in Kjeller (“Cellar”, if you ever get there you would agree the name fits), an out of place that can boast of being the birthplace of object-oriented programming, the first Internet node in the world outside of the USA, inventor of key mobile phone technology, and incubator of Opera. Opera still had the sense to move into my neighbourhood as soon as they got any ambition.

In USA the move would be in the opposite direction. It is not as if New York is a city to avoid, it is rightly recognized as one of the great cities in the world. The communications could be better, but the system is still fairly convenient and efficient.

Instead I am at a highway in the middle of the woods. Mercifully W3C meetings consume most of your waking moments, because the nightlife here is a vending machine.

Join the Conversation

  1. I’ve visited New York and Philadelphia. They are both inhospitible, crime ridden, and quite frankly filthy places.
    25 miles outside of Philadelphia, I have all the conviences of living in the city, while not being in danger of being a crime statistic. It used to be in south jersey you could leave the door of your house unlocked and nobody would bother your home. Too many people from the city have moved to the suburbs for that to be true, anymore. In a few more years, I will be packing up my satilite dish and moving to the mountains of Virginia where the nearest neighbor is a mile away. I will be very happy to leave so called civil-isation behind. There is NOTHING civil about big cities.

  2. You oughta try rural! No DSL. Wolves, coyotes, bears, eagles, and whales all in sight of the upstairs windows. Porcupines teasin’ the sled dawgs, there’s yer nightlife! Humans being the minority and not the biggest in the neighborhood. Thar’s the thrill of it all. w
    Well, we do have slow dial up. Nice of Opera to show the speed here, 500-3000bps. Happy vending machine hunting!(what’s a Vending Machine?)

  3. I like rural and wilderness, it is suburban I have trouble with, that is not a habitat fit for people or most anything else.

    Sled dogs? Sounds pretty Northern.

  4. Crime in a city is a design choice, there are cities (or quarters) with very high crime rate and there are cities with very low ones. Most of the unsafe situations I have experienced have not been in any city.

    Intriguingly cities are more often on a human scale than suburbs or sometimes even small towns are. You can walk from where you are to where you want to go.

    The New York W3C site turned out to be (near) some small towns, and not so bad as I feared. An area like Silicon Valley on the other hand is a place I wouldn’t mind never to see again in my life.


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.