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10
Jul 08
Thu

Cities and Ambition

Paul Graham wrote a great article on the different kinds of messages that US cities signal to their inhabitants.

New York tells you, above all: you should make more money. … What I like about Boston (or rather Cambridge) is that the message there is: you should be smarter. … As much as they respect brains in Silicon Valley, the message the Valley sends is: you should be more powerful. … Cambridge as a result feels like a town whose main industry is ideas, while New York’s is finance and Silicon Valley’s is startups.

One of the more interesting points from that article is that what gives a city its particular “strength” is the notion that everyone there values the same thing – the peer recognition factor and how everyone is on the same level and frame of mind. It makes certain cities sound like big special interest clubs.

It’s in these more chaotic fields that it helps most to be in a great city: you need the encouragement of feeling that people around you care about the kind of work you do, and since you have to find peers for yourself, you need the much larger intake mechanism of a great city.