How Silicon Valley's Tech Reign Will End

Technology is people. And more people are choosing to live in cities.

800 silicon valley.jpg

Reuters

Why is Silicon Valley in Silicon Valley?

"You've got Stanford, you've got federal expenditures, and you've got an ecosystem" of start-up mentors and established institutions, said Bruce Katz, the founding director of the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program. But Silicon Valley's stranglehold on West Coast innovation is in danger, he said at the Aspen Ideas Festival on Friday. The main problem?

It's no fun to live in Silicon Valley.

"What's happening now is workers want to be in Oakland and San Francisco," he told Walter Isaacson. Young workers want to live in a city -- somewhere they can ride bikes, shop locally, walk to their favorite restaurants and bars, and live in a dense urban or urban-lite environment with nearby amenities. But Silicon Valley isn't like a city. It's like a suburb. "Silicon Valley is going to have to urbanize," Katz said. "[There is a] migration out of Silicon Valley to places where people really want to live."

The housing market might be on the march this summer, but Silicon Valley is still about as flat as a silicon chip. Mountain View, Palo Alto, and its kin aren't having a construction "boom," and that's precisely the problem.

Katz' new book, The Metropolitan Revolution, argues that there is no "national economy," realistically speaking, but rather a network of leading city economies whose density of talent and productivity drive the entire country's GDP. But in many of our richest and most productive metros -- not just around San Jose and San Francisco, but also New York and Washington -- housing costs and limited housing supply prevent some of the most smartest people from moving into the most productive cities.

In response to a question, Katz argued that untangling the web of NIMBYs and state and city zoning laws was intractable and won't be solved by outsider technocrats walking into City Hall with a memo saying: Build Higher. Silicon Valley's location isn't destiny. It's the result of a long and complicated series of decisions by various government agencies, companies and individuals over many decades. But new technology comes from people. And if people would rather live and work in dense and walkable cities, Silicon Valley's stranglehold on innovation in America isn't as strong as we might have thought.

Presented by

Derek Thompson is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where he writes about economics, labor markets, and the entertainment business.

Why Is Google Making Human Skin?

Hidden away on Google’s campus, doctors at a world-class life sciences lab are trying to change the way people think about their health.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register with Disqus.

Please note that The Atlantic's account system is separate from our commenting system. To log in or register with The Atlantic, use the Sign In button at the top of every page.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Videos

Why Is Google Making Skin?

Hidden away on Google’s campus, doctors are changing the way people think about health.

Video

How to Build a Tornado

A Canadian inventor believes his tornado machine could solve the world's energy crisis.

Video

A New York City Minute, Frozen in Time

This short film takes you on a whirling tour of the Big Apple

Video

What Happened to the Milky Way?

Light pollution has taken away our ability to see the stars. Can we save the night sky?

Video

The Pentagon's $1.5 Trillion Mistake

The F-35 fighter jet was supposed to do everything. Instead, it can barely do anything.

More in Business

Just In