Since the birth of the 20th century, progress has been synonymous with technology. It runs our global economies and keeps us united (or at least more connected) as a people. Technology is as much our future as it is our global culture. With every last aspect of humanity commodified in some capacity through technology, the safety and wellbeing of cities is often dictated by its efforts towards future-proofing. Which is to say, many cities are fostering a market that not only protects tech companies but encourages new growth as well. Incidental tech capitals are formed in places where there is strong mobility for startups and financial resources.
The strongest rising star in tech right now, in terms of shear growth, is Tel Aviv. Recently Tel Aviv opened its doors to Google to allow for servers and the establishment of Google's Middle East HQ location. Executive Chairman of Alphabet, Google's parent company, praised Israel in the Times of Israel saying,
“For a relatively small country, Israel has a super role in technological innovation...I am beginning to see companies that are on their way to being worth a billion dollars...I can’t think of a place where you could see this diversity and the collection of initiatives aside from Silicon Valley,"
Tel Aviv has a relatively small population when compared to other top dog tech cities, but this is working to their advantage. Because of its smaller size, it has more fraternal modus operandi that’s not as cutthroat as other tech capitals. This recent growth can also be attributed, in part, to global tech initiatives for clean energy. The Middle East is the number one producer of the world's crude oil, which has placed it on top of the world economy. But now with oil demand in decline, Israel is backing the tech sector to ensure that it remains near the top. Because of this, Tel Aviv is probably the example of future proofing.
Another leader in tech initiatives who is paving the way for technological growth is London. Britain has always been at the forefront of world commerce and, while others have risen to match its scale, London is still one of the top tech centers in the world. The U.K. government has funded the Tech City Investment Organization and the Technology Strategy Board in the last three years to help ensure a strong environment for tech innovation. Also in 2013, Level39 stepped into the European economic/tech sphere with its Financial Tech Startup Accelerator. With government backing and a large community of capital investors, London is now a hub for tech growth that is keeping its finger firmly on the pulse. Even post-Brexit, London is securing itself with these initiatives as the ever-expanding field of technology promises more jobs in a world where typically secure fields of work are increasingly threatened by tech growth. In the case of London, economic growth is tech growth.
London is home to the company that brought us Ubuntu, an open-source operating system that is one of the most widely used operating systems amongst programmers. Drone companies, such as Sky Future, are also calling London home. Drones will be a big part of our economy as they are increasingly used for inspection and asset security. They are even fortifying the traditionally lower-tech agriculture industry. The importance of this will be on the rise in tandem with population growth. DeepMind is also housed in London and is the U.K.'s response to IBM's Watson. DeepMind has been in the public eye as of late with seemingly innocuous stunts like beating professional players of Go (an ancient Chinese game), but we can expect to see this name come up more as the ethical debate of A.I. becomes more and more of a pressing global issue.
The original tech city is, of course, Tokyo. It's the first place most people think of when considering tech hubs -- and for good reason. Japan has always been a leader and trend setter for the world of technology. Being the first to champion true autonomous manufacturing and establishing a standard of living that's more tech dependent, Japan is perhaps the greatest tech city by seniority alone. They've been doing it better longer.
Capsule hotels, high-tech electronic toys, bullet trains, and automated restaurants are among some of the technology associated with Tokyo. But its tech influence goes beyond these mainstays. World powers are no longer profiting solely off of growing companies and their subsequent yields. Now, much of the wealth that is being exchanged is debt. While the majority of America's debt is held by "state and local governments, pension funds, mutual funds and the Federal Reserve", according to CNN Money, the latest tally reveals that Japan is neck-and-neck with China in U.S. debt ownership. Japan has the U.S. on the hook for a staggering 1.13 trillion dollars. Having that over our heads bolsters their global economic standing while guaranteeing high-profile contracts with American tech companies to provide microchips and hardware that power the majority of smart devices and computers.
There is absolutely no denying the influence of this single location as it is home to almost every major tech giant. The birthplace of Google, it is currently HQ for Facebook, PayPal, HP, Tesla, Skype, Pinterest, Waze, DoorDash, Intuit -- the list goes on and on. Just having Google, Facebook, and Tesla, Palo Alto easily holds the reins of the zeitgeist of Western Civilization and, in the wake of globalization, the world. As a result, property values have risen dramatically over the last few decades in Silicon Valley, averaging at 2.5 million per home. The mayor of Palo Alto himself has made a motion to curb this by actually discouraging tech presence in the area through a zoning regulation that prohibits R&D in Palo Alto as well as blocking the installation of cell towers. In a New York Times article, he is quoted as saying, "Big tech companies are choking off the downtown...it's not healthy." A stern message and a sobering warning to other Silicon Valley hopefuls.
While Palo Alto may seem like the obvious top tech city, at the end of the day it comes down to presence and economic fortitude. Because of this, Hong Kong is number one. Hong Kong is home to international tech giants like IBM, Texas Instruments, and Samsung, all non-natives but are well established there so as to be close to the manufacturing source. China is a manufacturing tycoon that has been supplying the world with everything from straws to the most advanced handheld devices money can buy. And it is because of this that they are so secure in the global economy. For decades they have been the leading manufacturer of things because of their reduced labor laws and slack environmental restrictions. And while our country keeps importing Chinese goods, saying, "Put it on my tab", we are now 1.3 trillion dollars in debt to them. This debt ownership is a key component to their success, giving them enormous economic leverage that they can use to push forward in the global economic arena, which means progress and greater advances in technology down the line.
Since cell phone manufacturing constitutes a huge chunk of the Chinese workforce, several employees are so adept at the assembly process that there is a whole subculture and market of custom cell phones. Many are made from toys or are gimmicky little novelties but nonetheless, they are incredible. They are number one in tech as you simply can't pass up a population that makes cell phones as a hobby.
The shift is happening and as we experience the growing pains of globalization. Technology is expanding to bridge the gap and carry us into the future. While it is very much the cause of these growing pains, it is also the solution. As tech and societies grow together, we will see the rise of cities all around the world with technology being more and more seamlessly integrated into our homes and workplaces. With even more advanced technology on the horizon, we will barely be able to see where society ends and technology begins.