The New Rules: Globalization, Air Hubs and the City of Tomorrow

The New Rules: Globalization, Air Hubs and the City of Tomorrow

H.G. Wells' futuristic 1933 classic, "The Shape of Things of Come," predicted a post-apocalyptic world in which humanity's recovery would depend on the airplane as the primary mechanism for both travel and political rule -- the benevolent "dictatorship of the air." The book reflected Wells' prescient fears of catastrophic world war and his faith in technology's capacity to tame mankind's worst instincts.

A book due out in March entitled, "Aerotropolis: The Way We'll Live Next," is the closest thing to a real-world vision to rival that of Wells. The book, written by journalist Greg Lindsay, is based on the visionary ideas of business professor John Kasarda, a latter-day Wells who dreams of building future cities around airports instead of the other way around.

At first blush, it's easy to be repulsed. Who wants the noise and the architectural "charm" of the hotels, office buildings and warehouses that congregate around such transportation hubs? The simplest answer is jobs. What rules in today's globalized economy is accessibility and speed, and modern airports are its fastest connection points -- the physical embodiment of our increasingly e-commerce-driven world. Yes, the vast bulk of trade still goes by sea, but already one-third of its value travels by air. Indeed, the value of air cargo has grown more than four times faster than global trade over the past several decades.

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