In other words, a serious crisis of nonrenewable energy resources is likely to accelerate the urbanization trend, not derail it.

But despite the Secret Service-like behavior, and the regal nomenclature, there’s nothing hierarchical about the way an ant colony does its thinking. “Although queen is a term that reminds us of human political systems,

Like every big idea, Birdseye’s breakthrough was not a single insight, but a network of other ideas, packaged together in a new configuration. What made Birdseye’s idea so powerful was not simply his individual genius, but the diversity of places and forms of expertise that he brought together.

as the historian Tom Standage observes, they were “among the first to recognize the importance of trademarks and advertising, of slogans, logos…. Since the remedies themselves usually cost very little to make, it made sense to spend money on marketing.

Humans had proven to be unusually good at learning to recognize visual patterns; we internalize our alphabets so well we don’t even have to think about reading once we’ve learned how to do it.

If you worked for an hour at the average wage of 1800, you could buy yourself ten minutes of artificial light. With kerosene in 1880, the same hour of work would give you three hours of reading at night. Today, you can buy three hundred days of artificial light with an hour of wages. Something extraordinary obviously happened between the days of tallow candles or kerosene lamps and today’s illuminated wonderland. That something was the electric lightbulb.

Diverse, horizontal social networks, in Ruef’s analysis, were three times more innovative than uniform, vertical networks. In groups united by shared values and long-term familiarity, conformity and convention tended to dampen any potential creative sparks.

This is not mere sentimentality. The triumph of twentieth-century metropolitan life is, in a real sense, the triumph of one image over the other: the dark ritual of deadly epidemics replaced by the convivial exchanges of strangers from different backgrounds sharing ideas on the sidewalk.

From the very beginnings of human settlements, figuring out where to put all the excrement has been just as important as figuring out how to build shelter or town squares or marketplaces.

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