I’ve been thinking a lot about the pros and cons of living in a city since moving to Brooklyn at the beginning of this month. Recently, I came across a few stand-up sets that capture my impression of contemporary NYC:

I’ve basically identified three pros and fourish cons that describe my impression of the city.

pros

  1. in close proximity to people => more opportunities, easier to maintain lots of (in-person) relationships and conducive to new relationships
  2. in close proximity to a gym with (in theory) lots of workout options and great hours
  3. food options all the time (so no requirement to conform to rigid sleep schedules) and food service is relatively fast

cons

  1. in close proximity to people => congested public transportation that is severely underfunded and mismanaged resulting in some serious tragedy of the commons; the symptoms of overpopulation are epitomized by NYC’s public infrastructure
  2. gyms are crowded (see OBSERVATION)
  3. the air quality sucks and it smells like sewer frequently (not sure how people just ignore this or pretend like it’s just part of what they have to deal with)

OBSERVATION: Why do we pay for uniform monthly gym access if the quality of our service is dependent on the relative traffic of others and how that aligns with our availability? This is not sensible governance of a membership service; greater transparency is required to provide an honest product to users that intend to follow an ordered routine without adapting to sparse machine/space availability.

Along with (3), homeless people are always asking for money. The other day I gave a man 5$. For context, I was eating a sandwich in public with bose headphones on in an area of Brooklyn where I already stand out. Moreover, he asked me in a way that implied that I didn’t have a choice and it did concern me because he could escalate to confrontation and I’m unsure what support I would get from my surroundings.

To be clear, I’m not scared of living where I am – it’s not hard if you are aware of your surroundings and make a conscious effort to blend in. However, I think it’s sad that parts of human society have devolved to a state of begging even when there are more opportunities than any previous time in human history to make your own way. I am coming to the cynical conclusion that this fate might be inevitable for some small fraction of any population.

I’m not claiming that it’s easy to make long-term investments in useful skills, but the resources required to do so are easier to access today than any time before. This increase in accessibility has largely been offset by brainwashing of the masses, brought about by gradual addiction to dumb phone games and social media. Every time I see someone on the subway using complex touch maneuvers to snapchat a friend or scroll on a feed, I am reminded that a large portion of collective human brainpower has been diverted to addictive consumption.

This trend is much worse than if people were just sitting and thinking because it is reduces attention spans and thereby influences the patience with which people address new information and learning in general. The brain is so powerful, but so many people are wasting their brainpower by buying into a manipulative and dehumanizing information network. For each that joins, the social costs of resisting increase (for some things, not for others).

And here’s the zinger – this gradual sapping of attention spans will have a tangibly negative effect on my life. If people are thinking less, they’ll question new policies less and accept idiocy on more occasions. Over time, apathy will exacerbate ongoing shitty public goods coordination without any path towards real, collective improvement. If we’re not already there, we’re on that path now.

outcome?

I’ll probably stay away from cities in the future. I find myself more productive in quieter environments with less people and cleaner air quality.