Cities as Revolutionary Technology

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Cities as Revolutionary Technology

Cities are a revolutionary technology of human spatial organization that forever changed the human career. The common perception of human evolution is that it took place during the time of Neolithic man. However, history shows human society transformed biologically, culturally, politically and economically at a greater pace once they began building walls around their communes. Cities can be considered evolutionary technological experiments that expose people to different environments. Urbanization is the largest and most recent form of human evolution that scholars can study. While the most convincing case of human evolution occurred when the natural world was primarily unaffected by human beings, more recent and influential transformations have occurred when people come closer together with coordinated spatial patterns and orientation arrangements.

Cities are revolutionary because human spatial organization began to materialize with their formation. A city can be described as a large human settlement with complex and hierarchical systems of governance and co-existence. According to the Diffusion Theory, cities originated from the ancient Mesopotamian civilizations before spreading to China and Greece (Algaze 68). However, these days, people do not believe in the Diffusion Theory. Skepticism over studies covering the emergence of cities led to the topic changing to conceptualize urban revolution. The contemporary understanding of cities is associated with urban life, transforming human settlements from agrarian systems to complex metropolitan systems characterized by trade and commerce (Smith 5). Cities represented a new form of social planning, from organic settlements to complex and planned urban spaces.

Cities paved the way for mankind’s sophisticated, large-scale, hierarchical spatial arrangement. Throughout early human history, ancestors resided in small, temporary, tribal villages and campsites (Gmelch and Zenner 3). Such settlements were well suited for simple agrarian societies. Once the Sumerians built Uruk in 3100 BC, society started experimenting with centralized political control, class stratification and economic specialization (Smith 5). Cities created an environment favoring the development of new skills, such as writing and measuring. The new and distinct crafts explain why most of the noticeable civilizations occurred within cities, including the ancient Egyptians, Mayans and Greeks. The first human revolution can be considered to occur after people resided in small cities to master political organization and food production.

Cities facilitated humankind’s second revolution, which was the emergence of metropolises or urban revolution. The Industrial Revolution shepherded in a novel age of human growth and social development (Flad 124). The growth of urban areas led to the development of institutions, including the bureaucratic state. The increase in financing and construction during this time signified the concentration of social surplus. Classes emerged to regulate and control the social surplus, as elites and the rich created systems for the specialization of labour. The concentration of social surplus in cities promoted the expansion of commerce, ushering in a new era of human movement, consumption and membership. The example highlights the role cities have played in the transformation of economics and commerce.

Cities are revolutionary in how they transformed the rules of human settlement. As aforementioned, early human settlements were based on familial or tribal ties (Algaze 67). With Gordon Childe’s conceptualization of urban revolution as the shift from agriculture to industrialization, society has recorded more human migration across political, cultural or geographical lines. Because of cities, membership in a community is no longer determined by kinship but by residence. Human beings nowadays reside in terms of skill specialization and differentiations in the division of labour (Smith 37). The emergence of cities has contributed to some of the major challenges we face today, including climate change and the centralization of wealth. A more revolutionary impact of cities can be seen in human biology.

Cities have had a significant influence on human biology. Scientific research indicates that diseases spread faster in cities than in open settlements (Bloom 205). Early drainage systems were a common cause of communicable diseases in early cities. The Black Death was associated with the accumulation of fleas and rats in European port cities. While urban areas made residents more vulnerable to infections, recent research suggests the exposure was vital in ensuring the survivor’s descendants built immune resilience (Bloom 207). Therefore, it can be said that cities promoted the evolution of human immunology. There is a tangible connection between the occurrence of particular diseases and genetic variants with the duration of city settlement. People living in heavily and long populated settlements tend to be more adaptable and resilient to infections.

The transformation of human spatial arrangement over time offers a different and unique view of human evolution. The emergence of permanent and long-populated areas facilitated the development of complex political, social and economic systems. Cities encouraged the rise of bureaucratic institutions, class stratification, specialization of commerce and the move away from agrarian-based societies. The connections warrant society to pay close attention to urban planning and how it impacts our sociopolitical and socioeconomic history. With the growth of smart cities, the effects of urban planning will only become stronger and more evident. Ideas of urban revolution provide incisive and moving ways for the current generation of scholars to comprehend the historical transformation of human societies.

Works Cited

Algaze, Guillermo. The End of Prehistory and the Uruk Period. In Sumerian World. T&F Proofs, 2012, pp. 68-95.

Bloom Howard. Instant Evolution: The Influence of the City on Human Genes. New Ideas in Psychology, vol. 19, 2001, pp. 203-220.

Flad, Rowan. Urbanism as Technology in Early China. Archeological Research in Asia, vol. 14, 2018, pp. 121-134.

Gmelch, George and Walter Zenner. Urban Life: Readings in the Anthropology of the City [4th Ed]. Waveland Press Inc., 2001. 

Smith, Michael. Form and Meaning in the Earliest Cities: A New Approach to Ancient Urban Planning. Journal of Planning History, vol. 6, no. 1, 2007, pp. 3-47.

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