Bay Area Should Model Itself After City-States Hong Kong and Singapore, Futurist Said

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SAN JOSE, Calif. — “The Bay area is a city-state, and we should act like one,” said Paul Saf­fo, a tech­nol­o­gy futur­ist who explores and pre­dicts long term change. “We need to think like a region, not a mere col­lec­tion of cities.”

Saf­fo, man­ag­ing direc­tor of fore­sight at Dis­cern Ana­lyt­ics, said it was time for the Bay Area to rethink its rela­tions with coun­ties, states, and even the rest of the world. “The new order is not about shift­ing bound­aries, it’s about dis­solv­ing bound­aries,” he said in his keynote speech at the 2013 State of the Val­ley con­fer­ence in San Jose.

Paul Saffo

Paul Saf­fo speaks at the 2013 State of the Val­ley Con­fer­ence in San Jose on Feb­ru­ary 8. (Pho­to: Rachel Estabrook/ Penin­su­la Press.)

In Saffo’s view, the Bay Area is already at the fore­front of this chang­ing mind­set. “Dig­i­tal tech­nol­o­gy is the sol­vent leech­ing glue out of gov­ern­men­tal struc­tures,” he said.

Accord­ing to Saffo’s pro­jec­tions, the real nexus of pow­er this cen­tu­ry is mov­ing from nation states — large polit­i­cal bod­ies rep­re­sent­ing nations — to city-states, or small­er polit­i­cal units focused on coop­er­a­tive action.

Pow­er­ful regions are the new basic unit of gov­er­nance in the 21st cen­tu­ry,” he argued in his speech at Park­side Hall. The event was spon­sored by the Joint Ven­ture Sil­i­con Val­ley Net­work, an orga­ni­za­tion that works with local busi­ness­es, gov­ern­ments and com­mu­ni­ty lead­ers to assess and improve the area.

As pow­er devolves from state to local gov­ern­ments, Saf­fo said the key is to think like a region, not a col­lec­tion of cities.

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