The Future According to Richard Florida

Last Updated Sep 23, 2008 11:02 PM EDT

Let me just say this straight out: I hate the name of Richard Florida's new book, "Who's Your City?" Has he confused his 'where' with his 'who'? Is he anthropomorphizing cities? Is he having a Pedro Martinez moment?

I hate the title so much I want to write his whole book off as pablum. But Florida is a creative thinker and he writes clearly about significant, data-driven trends in the economy, so I also want to take him seriously.

And BNET's excellent feature package The Next Boomtowns lets me do just that. It gives me the quick overview of his concept of megaregions â€" gigantic areas like the Boston-New York-Washington corridor, or Greater Tokyo, with big populations and huge economic power. It tells me which ones he thinks will dominate (most of them aren't in the U.S), where his top ten areas in the U.S. (other than dumping Phoenix and Vegas, they look strangely familiar) and their strengths, a look at how to pick your city (he says it's the most important thing in your life, other than picking a spouse and picking a career. In fact, he says he wrote the book because he wants people to think about how their location relates to their standard of living. Unless, of course, they're Warren Buffett or anyone related to the late great Sam Walton). There's also an exclusive interview with Florida, from which it becomes clear that we'll know his book has caught on if people start talking about 'spikiness.'

It's probably time to update Joel Garreau's "The Nine Nations of North America," and Florida would seem to have done that. But overall, I suspect this book will feel a bit like reading a horoscope and substituting 'where do you live' for 'what's your sign?' To wit: "You live in New York? Ah, you're neurotic and unreliable, but you're open to new experiences, which is good, because you really need to move to the West Coast."

Maybe I've judged the book by its title. Maybe I'm too wedded to the notion that great ideas will come from the fringes, not the center of the spike. Take a look at the package (or the book) and tell me what you think.

UPDATE: Here's my review of the book.

  • Michael Fitzgerald

    Michael Fitzgerald writes about innovation and other big ideas in business for publications like the New York Times, The Economist, Fast Company, Inc. and CIO. He’s worked as a writer or editor at Red Herring, ZDNet, TechTV and Computerworld, and has received numerous awards as a writer and editor. Most recently, his piece on the hacker collective the l0pht won the 2008 award for best trade piece from the American Society of Journalists and Authors. He was also a 2007 Templeton-Cambridge Journalism Fellow in Science and Religion.