Stewart Brand addresses The Long Now Foundation on Cities and Time.
Cities are humanity's longest-lived organizations (Jericho dates back 10,500 years), but also the most constantly changing. Even in Europe they consume 2-3% of their material fabric a year, which means a wholly new city every 50 years. In the US and the developing world it's much faster.
Every week in the world a million new people move to cities. In 2007 50% of our 6.5 billion population will live in cities. In 1800 it was 3% of the total population then. In 1900 it was 14%. In 2030 it's expected to be 61%. This is a tipping point. We're becoming a city planet.
One of the effects of globalization is to empower cities more and more. Communications and economic activities bypass national boundaries. With many national governments in the developing world discredited, corporations and NGOs go direct to where the markets, the workers, and the needs are, in the cities. Every city is becoming a "world city." Many elites don't live in one city now, they live "in cities"- The Long Now Foundation
When I first arrived in view of the metropolis I am looking out, and down from a window hovering above. The room I am in is dark, and I am alone. Looking out and down, I see that this city is unlike any city I have ever seen before: all the structures seem to circle in towards the center- it is huge, expansive, intricately embroidered with technical diversity; architecturally abstruse the buildings are opaque extending to odd heights and angles- not unlike crystal formation. Out from the center the architecture starts to blend into buildings of mason, stone, and steel. As I look closer I notice long white cylinder trains spiral in and out from the city center. I move away from the window, to try now to adjust my vision to grasp this darkened room. I move with my hands sweeping the area in front of me, trying to feel something, arriving with my palms flat on a wall- that echoes ever so faintly with the rhythm of motion. I follow the feel of the smooth wall until I arrive back once again at the window. I look out and find that in my absence we had gained elevation. I could now see that the city was in fact circular- with a diameter approximately ten miles across. The entire inner city is environed by a garden/green belt maybe one mile wide. In this green belt I can see pebbled pathways, sculpted gardens, and courtyards full of activity, with the faint details of people in motion throughout. The trains continue to spiral outwards/inwards. We gain more elevation, I can now see for miles. Out from this green belt, is the agricultural belt, it is by far the largest area of the whole- approximately twenty miles wide- extending the entire perimeter of the metropolis. Lakes and streams are in abundance. I can see greenhouses, open farmlands, grain and orchard, other areas I see cattle grazing, horses, and other livestock. The trains continue their spiral inwards/outwards towards the last perimeter of the whole- the entire perimeter is environed by brick buildings, approximately five stories high. Beyond this outer structure- the perimeter that encloses the metropolis within- there are the natural landscapes. I imagine for a moment the wealth and pride each member of this society must enjoy as they look out their windows each and every day, and there is something inside me that yearns for our return. Beyond this city, heading off through natural landscapes, I see the faint detail of trains heading out towards other circular cites in the distance, and beyond. And then a voice resonates from within “You see our cities are circular as are the crafts we fly.”