Societal norms often persist, even in cases when it is clear to most people that the established way of doing things is holding everyone back. The new cities that will emerge as a result of rapid urbanization present opportunities for people to experiment with different ways of doing things—ways of doing things that are different from existing societal norms but are less likely to raise typical objections because they are being tried in new rather than existing cities.
In this FAQ video, Paul Romer addresses the opportunity that he sees in the new cities, and particularly the charter cities (new cities established with the explicit intent to facilitate reform), that rapid urbanization enables:
In an existing society, certain things become conventional—become the norm, something that we expect. That’s very hard to change in an existing social group. If part of this urbanization comes in new cities, we can try things that are new in those new cities and attract people to those cities who believe in trying this new thing. Some of those new norms, some of those new ways of doing things might not succeed—so the cities that are built around that might not grow the way that they first anticipated. But some of them could introduce the most important large movements forward in how humans cooperate with each other. We’ve seen this historically with a few new cities that really transformed how people interact with each other. And the big opportunity this century is the last big chance that humans will have to create entirely new cities that can be the prototypes, the models for rapid progress and social reform.