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The lure of super-places


If you’re a very talented person, you have two choices: you either move to New York or you move to Silicon Valley. This is the message that Peter Thiel delivered to a conference being held in Chicago earlier this month. Not surprisingly, it pissed a few people off.

Peter responded by saying that he was simply illustrating the “extreme version” of a metaphor about the impacts of globalization and technology. And while it certainly doesn’t sound very nice if you’re sitting in Chicago, or the countless other fantastic cities between the coasts, I can appreciate what Peter is getting at.

Saskia Sassen is known for coining the term global city. These are cities which play an important role in the functioning of the global economy. But what has happened, she acknowledges, is an even further concentration of activity within a select few “super-places.”

Here is an excerpt from a Financial Times article by Simon Kuper (2014) talking about Amsterdam’s position in the world:

“…a new, higher category of cities may now be emerging: global capitals. Amsterdam has risen but New York, London and Hong Kong have risen faster. The Dutch elite is moving to Amsterdam; but many ambitious Dutch people no longer want to join the Dutch elite. They want to join the global elite. That often requires moving to a global capital.”

Anecdotally, I can say that almost everyone I know who has left Toronto for an opportunity has moved to New York, Silicon Valley, London, and so on. They have moved up the rank of global cities/capitals.

So while Peter may not have chosen the right way to deliver this message, I do believe it is a message worth delivering.

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