Detroit ruled a big chunk of America's first machine age, thanks to Henry Ford. Which city will be the "next Detroit" in our modern age? Geographer Jim Russell spent a month assessing that question, and he makes the case in Pacific Standard that the answer in Seattle. That's thanks to Jeff Bezos' Amazon, but it's not about how the company's employment boom has led to a corresponding boom in Seattle's population. It's about how the company is transforming our world in the same way that Ford's Model T transformed its world.
"Amazon's Model T is the cloud," writes Russell. "Amazon Web Services sells computing power, akin to Ford selling horsepower," a development that "breaks the link between labor and firms, labor and geographic job markets." An engineer in India, for instance, doesn't need to move to Silicon Valley to work for a company there. Russell's long view traces a line beginning in the 1880s from Pittsburgh (the steel industry, when physical geography was king) to Detroit (when the automobile made physical geography less important) to Silicon Valley (the second machine age and the computing revolution). A new shift is happening, however. "Seattle leading the way, the cloud is undermining historical happenstance," he writes. "We are living in the world of Jeff Bezos right now." Click for his full post. (Read more Seattle stories.)