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Interview with Greg Lindsay

Greg Lindsay delivers insight on his speaking engagements, the development of urban areas and his favorite experiences as a speaker. Read more below.

What is the message you hope people take away from your presentations?

That there are tremendous challenges and opportunities facing us in cities, which stand to be transformed yet again by technology and sheer numbers. Americans tend to think of cities as unnecessarily dirty, expensive, and crowded, but the truth is that cities are humanity’s most important creation — the places where goods and ideas are exchanged and where civilizations propel themselves forward. Understanding how cities work, avoiding the mistakes of the past, and building better ones — on a scale and at a speed never seen before — is vital if we’re to survive and prosper on a planet with 9 billion people by 2050.

 

How are your keynotes unique?

The aim of my talks is to expose audiences to the biggest picture trends a year or more before they read about them in magazines or books. As William Gibson once said, “the future is already here; it’s just not evenly distributed.” As a journalist, my job is to write dispatches from the places where the future is already thick on the ground. My talks combine fresh reporting with scholarly research and a storytelling style that’s anything but dry. I’ve sat through plenty of dry presentations — I try to do the opposite of that.

 

What direction is the development of cities headed?

Humanity is officially an urban species — more than half of us, some 3.5 billion people, now live in cities. Over the next forty years, that number will double, while the size of the built environment will triple. We will build more cities in the next forty years than we have built in all of history until now, which is leading to all kinds of urban experiments — “smart cities,” “eco-cities” and the “aerotropolis” (i.e. cities built from scratch around airports). The challenge is how do we design these places so they create opportunities for billions of people while staving off an environmental catastrophe?

 

How would you define effective urbanization?

The best cities are serendipity machines — they bring people together in close proximity to create new connections, which in turn spread ideas and create new work, new industries and opportunities. They are dense, educated, inclusive, places connected to networks of other cities and communities via strong transportation and telecommunication links. The question is how we should go about improving them — what combination of policies, investments, and technologies will yield outcomes that accenuate these strengths? And what are the urban networks that will reshape the economic geography of this century?

 

What is the message you hope people take away from your presentations?

That there are tremendous challenges and opportunities facing us in cities, which stand to be transformed yet again by technology and sheer numbers. Americans tend to think of cities as unnecessarily dirty, expensive, and crowded, but the truth is that cities are humanity’s most important creation — the places where goods and ideas are exchanged and where civilizations propel themselves forward. Understanding how cities work, avoiding the mistakes of the past, and building better ones — on a scale and at a speed never seen before — is vital if we’re to survive and prosper on a planet with 9 billion people by 2050.

 

What types of audiences benefit from your keynotes?

I’ve spoken to a wide variety of receptive audiences. Most recently I was in Portland addressing technologists at Intel who are trying to get a handle on what the cities of the future will look like. The week before that I was in Albuquerque, speaking to community leaders about global city networks and the importance of place; and I’ve recently given talks to architects at New York’s Museum of Modern Art; to policy-makers at Columbia University and Brown University, and to real estate professionals in Dubai and beyond. I’d like to think anyone interested in the future of the city would benefit from hearing me speak.

 

What is the best experience you have had as a keynote speaker?

I don’t know if it’s the best, but I really enjoyed speaking to thee audience of engineers and ethnographers at Intel. They peppered me with questions afterward and seemed genuinely curious as to how mobile computing will enhance cities rather than harm them — which is good, considering Intel is the one making the chips that make everything else possible!

 

Click here to see Greg Lindsay’s profile

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