Lea Degen

About me:

I’m fundamentally interested in how to better unlock human potential in the context of governance, institution building, civic tech, and metascience. As an Emergent Ventures grantee, I run a series of conversations with people working on the frontiers of science, technology, and the arts, trying to make explicit the present state of knowledge in different domains, as well as reinforcing the belief that the future can be shaped through agency and definite optimism. Cities have a unique role to play as aggregators of talent and ideas—the speed at which thoughts can travel and find like minded others who are willing to engage with them has been key to many generative movements in the past. But besides their function as idea hubs, cities also reflect back the health of a nation— in our time, are they emblems of civilizational glory or of dysfunction and decline? I experienced the latter while living in San Francisco, which led me to think more about the role of cities, from the concrete experience of residents to the more abstract ways they might shape a country’s view of itself. As an undergraduate studying economics and philosophy, I care about both mechanisms and well-reasoned ends. We need clarity about our values to both inform and guide the practical tools at our disposal. Any discussion of cities is really a discussion about infrastructure; about what behaviors get encouraged by the design of roads, parks, transportation, and living spaces. Are there family-use buildings around? Are sidewalks wide enough to encourage walking? Are parks plentiful and transit cheap to encourage the mingling of different groups and serendipitous interactions? In which ways can we, if at all, engineer the conditions for serendipity to arise? And how can we build for function and beauty alike? Any discussion about the teleology of cities inevitably is a discussion about the values a society shares. Keeping in mind both the concrete and the abstract is my aim for this series. Only then can we gain a better understanding of how to shape cities toward our desired ends today.


🎙️ Upcoming Salons

🗓️ Ongoing series: Saving the City

💻 My Salon channel in the community forum