The science fiction writer discusses how technology is changing cities.

There are two types of cities, according to novelist William Gibson: cities where you can weld on the sidewalk and cities where you can't.

In this interview with Motherboard's Alex Pasternack, Gibson reflects on cities of the recent past, the current and the near future, and how they are affected by technology. Probably best known for his 1983 book Neuromancer and his coinage of the term "cyberspace," Gibson has long had a perceptive interpretation of cities and their interrelationship with human culture and technology. This interview, though not solely about cities, offers some of Gibson's thoughts on the significance of cities in a post-Occupy Wall Street/Arab Spring world.


He argues that "technologies are the drivers" of change in cities, and that both Occupy and the Arab Spring have shown that ideologies are merely an "attempt to steer."

Gibson also bemoans cities that no longer enable young, artistic, and often not rich people from being able to move in and spur change. He cites both London and New York as places that used to allow this but which have gotten too expensive to be approachable by young creatives and are on their way to being "cooked."

"Once a city is completely cooked, it's more like Paris, where the city's business is not to change," says Gibson. "But it's not a place that actually welcomes innovation."

Later, Gibson also touches on his work for consulting firm Global Business Network, where he worked on a team with Brian Eno and Bruce Sterling – the firm's "science fiction wing" – offering advice to companies and Hollywood production houses about the future. I wonder how many of that team's ideas about the future have already come true.

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. Life

    What Emergency Child Care Looks Like During a Pandemic

    What's a parent to do when all of the schools and daycares suddenly close? For some workers in some places, options are starting to emerge.

  2. Illustration: two roommates share a couch with a Covid-19 virus.
    Coronavirus

    For Roommates Under Coronavirus Lockdown, There Are a Lot of New Rules

    Renters in apartments and houses share more than just germs with their roommates: Life under coronavirus lockdown means negotiating new social rules.

  3. photo: South Korean soldiers attempt to disinfect the sidewalks of Seoul's Gagnam district in response to the spread of COVID-19.
    Coronavirus

    Pandemics Are Also an Urban Planning Problem

    Will COVID-19 change how cities are designed? Michele Acuto of the Connected Cities Lab talks about density, urbanization and pandemic preparation.  

  4. photo: a For Rent sign in a window in San Francisco.
    Coronavirus

    Do Landlords Deserve a Coronavirus Bailout, Too?

    Some renters and homeowners are getting financial assistance during the economic disruption from the coronavirus pandemic. What about landlords?

  5. Equity

    The Problem With a Coronavirus Rent Strike

    Because of coronavirus, millions of tenants won’t be able to write rent checks. But calls for a rent holiday often ignore the longer-term economic effects.

×