Cities are alive

In the second last of my series of posts on Marilyn Hamilton’s 12 evolutionary intelligences for cities, I explore living intelligence.  For Hamilton, a city is considered alive because it is has the ability to:

  • survive
  • connect with its environment
  • replicate its capacities
This leads Hamilton to two critical questions:
  1. How can we optimize the life of people in the city?
  2. How can we optimize the life of the city in people?
The possible answers to these questions give us a sense of the kind of feedback we should be seeking as we navigate towards cities that serve us well (and citizenship that serves cities well).  Drawing on evolutionary biologist Elisabet Sahtouris, Hamilton asks a series of questions that I reframe here as qualities for our cities that serve as likely ‘destinations’.  We desire our cities to be able to:
  1. Sustain healthy bio-physical, psychological, cultural and social life
  2. Create and replenish the life conditions that support life
  3. Know where and how to renew
Our ability – collectively and individually – to do the above is an indicator of health, illness or death. The cycle of life is alive in cities, just as it is in us.
I believe that cities are alive.  Just as we can recognize in ourselves, they are “constantly learning to adapt and survive under all possible life conditions: stable, stormy/unsettled, turbulent, clear [1].”  Cities battle to be healthy and thrive.  Cities battle forces that work against them from time to time and when savvy will adjust to changing life conditions to survive and thrive.  This is complex work for cities, as they are complex systems.  Nothing linear is at work here.  It is a web of meshes that is full of both hierarchies and self-organizing systems.  Order and chaos.

My next post will explore the last of the 12 evolutionary intelligences – evolving intelligence.   After that, I sense that I will need to reorganize these intelligences to present them in a simpler format.  That will be my challenge for next week…

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[1] Marilyn Hamilton, Integral City, p. 95

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If you are interested in learning more about evolutionary intelligences relating to cities, you will be interested in the Integral City eLaboratory – Co-Creating the Future of the Human Hive

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