People who live in big metropolises, like New York, London or Hong Kong, often say that they can always find someone within a few miles who has a special skill they need to complete some project or build a business. I’ve pointed out that the close proximity of millions of people with so many different skills is part of what has made cities successful economic engines during the industrial era.
When the population of your town is just a few thousand, there is a much smaller likelihood you’ll find the special skill you need nearby – and thus you’ll be less likely to achieve what you have in mind.
In the US alone, the Census Bureau has noted in its report “Patterns of Metropolitan and Micropolitan Population Change” that 10% of Americans live in one of the 576 small urban areas (where there is at least one urban cluster of less than 50,000, but at least 10,000 people). That’s about 32 million people.
Another 6% lived in neither major metropolitan areas nor even these small urban areas. That’s just under 20 million people.
In this century, with broadband Internet, physical proximity is no longer necessary for people to collaborate and share their skills in a common project. Yet the small towns of these more than 50 million people are mostly not connected to each other.
So here’s my wild idea for the day: why not create a virtual metropolis of millions from the people in the small towns and communities of the countryside?
Imagine if even half of those 20 million (or 52 million) people who live outside the big metropolises could work together and be combined to act as if they were physically next door – while not actually living in such crowded conditions.
Such a network or virtual aggregation of small towns would offer their residents a much higher chance of succeeding with their business ideas and making a better living. If someone, for example, had the engineering talents to design a new product, that person might more likely find the necessary marketing talent somewhere in that network of millions of people.
Clearly, anyone connected to the Internet can try to reach out to anyone else whether that person lives in a small town or a big city. But a network of small towns alone might encourage greater collaboration because of the shared background of country life and the perceived greater friendliness (and less wariness) of non-urban residents. In most small towns, people are used to working with each other. This would just be a virtual extension of the same idea.
Initially, of course, people would feel most comfortable with those in the same region, such as within North America. Over time, as people interact more with each other on a global basis, that comfort level will expand.
Whether on a regional or global basis, this virtual metropolis could compete on a more even playing field and even establish a unique brand for the people and companies located there. It would make it possible for rural residents to keep their quality of life and also make a decent living.
What do you think?
© 2014 Norman Jacknis