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    Wednesday, January 02, 2008

    The Behavior of Infrastructure

    I used to be fascinated with process and i would continually reread this book by David Macaulay called The Way Things Work. I found it completely engrossing as he used clever drawings to illustrate the components, physics and behavior behind some of man's best and most common creations. Of how i love books that put the parts in the process! I think all strategically-oriented folks share some type of passion for the the how behind the what.

    This holiday season I was lucky enough to find this book under my tree. I was also blessed with the first time in ages to be able to read something not work related.

    The Works by Kate Ascher, is a magnificent book about the infrastructure of an urban environment, using my current home of New York City as a canvas. Kate has a deceptively simple illustration style which deep dives on the inner structures and workings of a city on a massive scale. She weaves graphics, and facts between mountains of data and topics we take for granted. From tracing the city's drinking water path to the number of riders on the subway at key times to the amount of manpower and scope to regulating trash or paving streets, Ascher brings a metropolis to life.

    Being a strategist i found the book an incredible lens on the behavior of consumers. Why do people live in certani places, or eat certain types of things, or how those water tanks really increase the quality of a consumer's life. Whats equally credible is the evolution of infrastructure due to population and behavioral changes such as widening streets, or how waste was once divided by trash, recyclable and organic waste in the 1800s. As my sister said, its city planning in an easy how-to guide, but for me, its a wealth of knowledge that provides insight to the "what" in now predominant lifestyle of metropolis living.

    I cant but help to only imagine in how our infrastructure will evolve now that we are all wireless and using information rather than horses and carts. Goodbye Interstates and hello internetstates. This book helped me visualize different types of micro-economies that are just beginning to emerge. It also helped me to dimensionalize key consumer behaviors from traveling to work to brushing your teeth. How often do we look at problems only within the context of the problem? Maybe the problem with the work commute isnt the shitty tires on the car, but really the lack of available public transportation? This book examines problems and solutions on a grand vista, always keeping the core problem within its sights as it scales outward.

    This book is highly recommended for all those with a curiosity of why things are the way they are and what lies beneath the surface.





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