“In a knowledge economy, we are often told the smartest cities and nations do the best,” writes Richard Florida, Co-Founder and Editor at Large at The Atlantic Cities.
Florida is referring to old-school smarts, not smart technologies. But the way economists have traditionally measured smart cities has been fairly indirect, until now.
Researchers typically look at education level (percentage of college grads or people who hold advanced degrees), or occupation (comparative percentage of knowledge and creative workers).
Lumos Labs recently tapped directly into cognitive performance - specifically in the areas of memory, attention, problem solving, speed, and flexibility. Florida writes:
To measure the smartest cities, Lumosity scientists tracked the cognitive performance of more than one million users in the United States on their games, mapping them across U.S. metros using IP geolocation software.
The data was normalized into a basic brain performance index controlling for age and gender. Only metros with more than 500 observations were included. The data covered 169 metros.
At first glance, the new measuring system’s ability to transcend institutional determinants is exciting. For example, the man who works at the corner of my street may not have an advanced degree in convenience store management, but he could be a cognitive training game wiz.
But Lumos Lab’s agenda is not socially oriented. In fact, the results of the ranking are actually significantly similar to studies measuring for education level and the percentage of adults working in knowledge or creative industries.
“There’s a lot of college towns on the list,” but “the result is not driven principally by college students,” writes Florida.
According to Daniel Sternberg, the Lumosity data scientist who developed the metro brain performance measure,”Since our analysis controlled for age, the reason they score well is not simply that they have a lot of young people. Instead, our analysis seems to show that users living in university communities tend to perform better than users of the same age in other locations.”
The Lumosity metrics presents the 25 brainiest metros in the United States:
1. Charlottesville, Virginia
2. Lafayette, Indiana
3. Anchorage Alaska
4. Madison, Wisconsin
5. San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose
6. Cedar Rapids-Waterloo-Iowa City & Dubuque, Iowa
8. Johnstown-Altoona, Pennsylvania
9. Champaign & Springfield-Decatur, Illinois
10. Minneapolis-St. Paul
11. Boston-Manchester (Massachusetts/New Hampshire)
13. Rochester, New York
14. Gainesville, Florida
15. Fargo-Valley City North Dakota
16. Lansing, Michigan
17. Santa Barbara-Santa Maria-San Luis Obispo
18. Burlington-Plattsburgh (Vermont/New York)
20. Syracuse, New York
21. Baton Rouge, Louisiana
22. Columbia-Jefferson City, Missouri
23. La Crosse-Eau Claire, Wisconsin
24. Harrisburg-Lancaster-Lebanon-York Pennsylvania
25. Springfield-Holyoke, Massachusetts
Image: Lumos Labs