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. a photo of Zurich, Switzerland
    Life

    Death to Livability!

    What does it really mean when certain kinds of cities keep getting ranked as the world’s “most livable”?

  2. A rendering of Quayside, the waterfront development now being planned for Toronto.
    Solutions

    A Big Master Plan for Google's Growing Smart City

    Google sibling company Sidewalk Labs has revealed its master plan for the controversial Quayside waterfront development—and it’s a lot bigger.

  3. A photo of Donald Trump in the Oval Office, with HUD Secretary Ben Carson.
    Equity

    Don’t Call Trump’s Housing Order a YIMBY Plan

    The president just signed an executive order calling for states and cities to pursue zoning reform. But affordable housing advocates aren’t celebrating.

  4. a photo of commuters on Oakland's Bay Bridge.
    Transportation

    Can Waze Convince Commuters to Carpool Again?

    Google’s wayfinding company wants to help drivers and riders find each other on its navigation app—and ease traffic congestion along the way.

  5. Design

    Revisiting Pittsburgh’s Era of Big Plans

    A conversation with the trio of authors behind a new book about the Steel City’s mid-20th-century transformation.

×