Nautilus

San Francisco Is Smarter Than You Are

Its achievements are undeniable. Having hosted what some historians call the greatest creation of wealth in human history,1 the San Francisco Bay Area had the fastest growth rate in the United States in 2012,2 the highest per-capita gross domestic product,3 one of the highest average IQs,4 and has been called one of the country’s greenest cities.5 If cities were people, then San Francisco would certainly be called a genius. But are we willing to extend that term to a city, or should we insist that genius is contained within the confines of the human head?

To understand this question, let’s start inside the head. For the most part, there’s no single process in charge. Most parts of our brain work free from any conscious control, and intelligence is an emergent property of neuron behavior: A brain is intelligent, even though the individual neurons that make it up are not. At a higher level, human minds have different functions that are sometimes in competition with each other

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